My simple ways to be a happier, smarter 30-something

Do this stuff, and I guarantee you will literally be happier, smarter, more productive, live longer, and most importantly you will not feel like you’re missing out on life.

Don’t eat anything that’s nasty at room temperature. It’s OK if it’s not ideal at room temperature, it just needs to be not nasty. Real ice cream is melted at room temperature, but it’s cream and sugar; not gross. But if a Wendy’s Frosty melts, it’s weird. If fast-food french fries are cold, they’re suddenly not even food. That’s because they never were food.

Only have 1-2 drinks/hour. What’s fun about drinking? (a) forget problems, (b) be more social, (c) feels good, (d) laugh more, (e) easier to get laid. What’s not fun about drinking? (a) hangovers, (b) vomiting, (c) messed up sleep, (d) doing something regretful, (e) kill brain cells, (f) expensive. Now realize: maintaining a steady buzz gets you 100% of the good stuff and 0% of the bad stuff. Going past “buzzed” is dumb. Either save your money, or spend more on better quality stuff, and drink less of it.

Pay attention to how you feel after eating something. Everyone’s body reacts differently to foods, so just pay attention. Do you feel energized or lethargic? Bloated or tight? Hungry in 4-6 hours (good) or not hungry after 8 hours? Then act accordingly.

It probably isn’t that good; save it for next time. Unless you’re at a great restaurant, every item on the menu is not as good as it sounds. The burger is probably not as tasty but still 1500 calories. The enchiladas are probably not amazing but 1500 calories. The rice and beans are probably not something you’ll remember in an hour but they’re 750 calories.

So don’t waste the calories. Get something smaller and/or healthier. Save up for the next meal which you might enjoy more, or might come with a drink, or anything.

Don’t drink soda, not even diet, and minimize HFCS. If you stop drinking soda for three weeks and then have one, it’ll taste like nasty chemicals. That’s because it is nasty chemicals. Same thing goes for high fructose corn syrup — you’ll find not only that foods heavy in HFCS taste weird, you’ll find they taste the same as each other. Bizarre. “Bizarre” isn’t the sort of adjective you want describing things you stuff into your body.

Eat a full serving of veggies daily. You should be eating one serving per meal, but if you don’t have the fortitude, you can at least agree that eating no vegetables at all in a day is ridiculous. Getting it at lunch is often easiest, because you can pack it or pick it at the restaurant. Especially if it’s a working or meeting lunch, you probably won’t notice the food much anyway, so get a salad and don’t use much dressing.

20 x 3 cardio makes you happier and smarter. Three times a week, get your heart rate elevated for twenty minutes. It’s idiotic to say “I don’t have time” to spend a total of one hour per week for the benefits:

  • It releases endorphins and makes you happier for the next few days. I notice mood changes dependent on whether I’ve exercised in the past 48 hours. Happiness is the point of life. Few things automatically make you happier; this is one.
  • Study after study shows it feeds the brain. You do better on tests psychologists invent, which also means you’ll improve at tweeting and writing code and blog posts and pictures and support tickets and crossword puzzles.
  • New studies show exercise grows new brain cells. Good, that counteracts the ones you killed with Jågermeister.
  • Your metabolism goes up so you can eat and drink more. Fun!
  • Maybe you won’t die of heart disease, the most common cause of death in the Western world.

Don’t drink on the same day that you exercise. Let your body repair. Eating more than usual, even bad stuff, is better than drinking and bringing down your metabolism and getting less sleep. You’ll wake up the next day less bloated.

Don’t drink more than the Aspirin bottle says. Every bottle of medicine in your house says to consult a doctor if you have three or more drinks a day. So drink less than that.

Sleep enough. Cramming a few hours more work into a day, after you’re already tired, costs you 50% productivity over the next day or two. Obviously not worth the trade, just on the basis of pure productivity. Then there’s the health and psychological benefits of sleep which surely you’ve heard about by now. Stop ignoring the facts.

Eat lots of protein and no carbs for breakfast, within an hour of waking up. You’ll feel awesome and not bloated. Some people say to eat this way always. Maybe, but even just for first meal it’s amazing.

I’m sure you have more ideas: Let’s add more to the comments!

41 responses to “My simple ways to be a happier, smarter 30-something”

  1. something that i swear by is not to eat anything (esp carbs) after 9PM. Have an early dinner and later if you feel hungry (if you are up till midnight) have a cup of milk!

  2. Totally great advice.

    Some of this reminds me very strongly of “Primal / Paleo” of which I am a fan.

    Reducing or eliminating HFCS and any fake sweetener is such a wise move.

  3. I was obese for about 8 years after graduating university. I never understood why because I didn’t eat much more than most people. I tried exercise, counting calories, everything. I was always starving and went back to the standard American diet.

    That changed when I found something called “keto” which is similar to Atkins in some respects.

    I lost just shy of 100 pounds in a year and I am back to the weight I was in high school. I completely agree with two things here: no soda, no sugars, no grains and veggies every day.

    The best thing about this new diet is the complete clarity of thought. Complete clarity. Unbelievable.

  4. If you’re having an urge to grab some sweet candy go with fruits instead. They are also delicious but healthier.

    Eat nuts (different kinds) – they give you great quality fat. Your brain is built with fat, your body uses fat to fuel itself.

    If you drink milk cut off the fatty one, use 0,5 % fat milk. Milk’s fat is bad, saturated one.

    Run a journal, each day write all the good stuff that happened to you. You’ll start to notice more and more good things happening all around you.

    • Saturated fat is not bad for you. I know it’s hard to believe, but vegetable oil, which is polyunsaturated fat is the real killer.

  5. > Eat lots of protein and no carbs for breakfast…
    This doesn’t make sense to me. Carbs give you energy. What better time to feed your body some energy than at the start of the day?

    • The protein makes sense to me, as it is a complex and therefore long-lasting energy source and will keep you from crashing at 10am. Carbs break down faster and give you a surge of energy but without anything long-lasting (remember you haven’t ate for 8 hours) you run out of fuel and the higher brain functions shut down. I think both can have their place but whenever I only have carbs for breakfast (pancakes, cereal etc) with no protein (eggs, ham, nuts) I never make it to lunch.

      Whole-grain is also of course heartier and longer lasting if you’re going to do carbs. I end up eating less and lasting longer as opposed to any refined white flour. A couple homemade whole-grain muffins made in advance are easy to grab on the go and work well for me.

      • Hmm, the carbs I had in mind are more of the non-grain variety – non-protein-rich veggies like pumpkin, butternut squash, beets, sweet potato, etc. So, I was speaking to complex carbs, definitely not simple sugars.

  6. A good way to improve your eating is to pay attention to chewing. Chew thoroughly, and chew consciously, experiencing not only the taste but also the consistency of the food. The latter is also a great way to tell “good” food like veggies from the “bad” things like fast food fries. The good stuff feels crunchy, the bad stuff feels gooey. There is some scientific underpinning to this, like well-chewed food mixed with saliva being more efficiently processed by stomach and intestines. But you hardly need to know this; you’ll know the difference. Caveat: be sure not to annoy other people with ostentatious chewing. If you saw the movie “Bernie,” you know what I’m talking about.

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  8. Here is a big one I share with my project management and business analysis students frequently: When something frustrates you long-term, like people not responding to email, *STOP* expecting them to respond and change your tactics. Surprising how effective making change yourself is as opposed to expecting change from others.

    • Good one!

      To pile on, there are other things too. You can change your expectations. Just knowing what to expect makes it easier to plan around or at least not get riled up and unhappy about it.

      You can also take responsibility. You can say “This is because *I* am not communicating my expectations.” That immediately relieves stress and might very well be true.

      • Practically speaking, taking responsibility is the only way to get results. If you view yourself as a victim of other people’s actions, it breeds passivity and leads to zero effective change.

  9. Not quite the flavour of the post, but I’d say much of our happiness can be grounded in family, if we’re willing to invest the time. If you’re a 30-something you might have small kids. Don’t constantly make them take a back-seat to your work. They’ll loathe your company soon enough, then you can go hard(er) after your chosen career goal.

  10. Eat powdered protein with your cereal to get 30 grams of protein immediately in the morning. Also, read at least one book for entrepreneurs per month.

  11. I eat tortilla chips and salsa for breakfast. I started doing it about 8 years ago and its basically the only thing that gets me going in the morning. I get a little salt, a few corn based carbs, but mostly vegetables and fruits from the salsa. Throw in a few black beans to the salsa for protein, and I am already ahead of the curve for the day.

  12. It seems your just cross 40:) good article ..but did not expect such a article here..:)

  13. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of pure, reverse osmosis filtered water. How much is up to you, but I bet you aren’t getting enough. When you go #1, it should be almost clear. :)

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  15. I am thin. I sleep early and get up early everyday. I like eating. I have a tranquil life in a beautil city far from my hometown. by the way I work for

  16. Take 10-15 seconds before a meal to think of the things you are grateful. Grace, if you will, even if you are agnostic/aethist, etc. It will make the meal and the day better.

  17. I recognize that advice on drinking from…somewhere. And I absolutely agree. The sooner you get over the college binge phase, the more you will get done and you’ll be actually happy, as opposed to fake happy.

    • Comes from the Harvard Medical School Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.

  18. Take up triathlon casually. Getting up at 6 on Saturday to race is a tremendous disincentive to drinking on Friday. Note that the incentive really only kicks in after you’ve raced hungover at least once.

  19. Sugar is poison – try to avoid any food that has sugar added to it. There is a direct correlation between increased levels of heart disease in the USA and increased sugar consumption.

  20. Great advice! I second the breakfast thing. I actually did the whole slow carb diet for 4 months and lost about 25lb. Still eat that breakfast – it gives ridiculous energy through the day.

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