3 “Quickie” Ways to Live a Better Life

That sounds like a big promise. After all, how can just three things give me a better life?

But we have to start somewhere, and I get overwhelmed with the many “self-help” articles and podcasts I take in every day. There’s NO WAY to do all the things I want to do to make life better.

These three, however, make the top of the charts for me. Anything else is what we call in Louisiana, “Lagniappe,” or, a little something extra.


1. START THE DAY WITH GRATITUDE. Whatever we focus on expands. This is an absolute law of consciousness, and WILL NOT FAIL when practiced consistently.

This morning, for example, I skipped my usual half hour of journal time, spending that time hand writing four THANK YOU notes. Two were to clients, one was to someone who helped me through a real estate crisis last week, and one was to a new friend, who invited me to breakfast and shared some gardening secrets.

Sending actual thank-you notes in the mail is a lost art, and has huge impact these days on the receiver – and the sender. I picked some beautiful notes from my collection, put aside everything else, and wrote notes of sincere thanks, with detail, to each of these four people, and used my “wine country” stamps to mail them in their linen envelopes. This made me feel old-fashioned and thoughtful and kind. And it expanded my outlook for the day into creating new reasons to give thanks, based on my inbox.

Whether it’s taking time to write in a journal, a quick “gratitude walk” around the block, or a simple gesture like sending a “thank you” note… start every morning with a deep breath and a review of the wonderful things that have happened – and thank anyone who helped make good things possible. Without fail, when I do this, I am given more than I need throughout the day.


I’m drinking bone broth, doing smoothies for breakfast, trying to eat only organics, and taking collagen supplements right now – plus trying to remember all the beauty routines I’m supposed to be doing for clear skin, a tighter butt, better flexibility, and more energy. NO WAY am I ever going to make it through the whole regimen of self-imposed responsibilities for a healthier me. I have about twenty daily things I’m supposed to be trying!

So, rather than beat myself up about what I forgot to do consistently, or feeling ashamed of not taking any of it seriously enough… I’ve committed to start each morning with a banana smoothie, because I am dangerously low in potassium right now – and everything else will fall in place as I go through the day.

I don’t do any of it perfectly, and things fall by the wayside as quickly as I commit to them; but just by starting my day with my banana smoothie, I find it easier to drink the bone broth at lunch, then I feel like I’ve accomplished two important diet goals, and I just find myself eating a more sensible lunch – then I feel I can eat whatever I want for dinner. I’ve earned it.

It’s an imperfect system, but just ONE right choice leads to many others throughout the day. By the time I settle in for evening, I feel like I’ve stayed on track, I tend to exercise before bedtime more often, and then that leads to more mindful skin care, etc. It all starts with just one thing. Without that, it’s easy to fail all day.


This is really hard for someone like me, who is always dissatisfied with something.  It always seems I SHOULD be working harder at something, progressing on a project, seeking enlightenment, whatever…

But lately, I have been forcing myself to enjoy the “lazy moment.”

I actually set a timer for this.  30 minutes in the afternoon before I pick up my son from school.  I don’t read.  I don’t work.  I don’t allow myself to think about what I haven’t done today.

I simply go outside and “chill” in my garden and drink juice or coffee.  I close my eyes, listen to the noise of the city, force myself to be still and listen deeper, for the birds, conversations, the swaying of trees and the rustle of leaves.  All the sounds of the country exist in the city, too, if I make myself be aware.  Mindful.

Then I breath in and note the smells.  I drink slowly and savor the taste of my drink.  I try to name every color I can see without turning my head.

I just sit there.  It’s very hard to do, but once my 30 minutes is up… I feel like I’m starting a brand new day, with plenty of energy, and I look forward to getting moving again.

This is real progress toward the more mindful life I long for.  It’s all right here, I just have to notice it by forcing myself to be lazy.

Progress, Not Perfection

As a recovering alcoholic, I give credit to my roots in AA for many of my “zen” moments.  So many times, life gets in the way of my positive thoughts and best mindful practices… and I remember quotes like, “We seek progress, not perfection.”

That simple idea gives me permission to let go of my own impossible standards, accept a few failures in my journey toward better health and spiritual growth, and just move on and make improvements tomorrow.

As an example, I included a picture of the back landing off my kitchen.  Eventually, this will not be here.  My husband intends to put a balcony across the entire back of the house, so the stairs extending from this little porch will be moved, the roof line will change, and the railing will be replaced.  Of course, the floor will be different as well.

So… imagine this space as if I had taken a “before” picture.  Unfortunately, I didn’t.

If you look at the top left, you’ll get an idea what the whole area looked like… just scrap wood holding things together, the floor had been patched with two overlapping pieces of sheet metal (dangerously tacked down with nails into the rusty pieces).  The iron railing is peeling and corroded.

Since it will all be replaced next year, it really didn’t make sense to spend any money fixing it up, but I couldn’t stand that this little pocket of peace overlooking our back yard was pretty much impossible to use – a complete waste of a great spot for enjoying the mural I’d painted on the garden wall!

With just $200, I decided there was no place for perfection in this moment.  I just needed to do what I could for now.

I totally cheated.  I threw a coat of paint around the edges of the porch, bought an indoor/outdoor rug to put down, nailed around the edges, and an inexpensive little table and chairs, along with a few hanging plants and planters.

So… far from what it will eventually be – but it’s fine for now, and a happy place to be!  I spend cooler mornings out here, enjoying a cup of coffee and gratitude journal time.

Like me, it didn’t have to be perfect, just useful.  By letting go of “I’ll do it perfectly tomorrow,” I was able to piece together something that the whole family uses in different ways.  Bryce does homework here sometimes, and Bobby likes to check out his progress on our evolving yard, and even cooks out on the terrible grill we bought to fit the space.  The steaks, burgers and fish taste just fine!

The lesson in this for me is to realize, once again, that just getting started and doing the best we can with what we have is enough.  Abundance flows not from the end result, but the little steps we take along the way to make things around us better.

All the little things add up to our whole lives, and the more I let go of perfectionism, the more I see things like this little haven in my life, coming into reality as less than perfect, but beautiful anyway.