TIME Life & Style

What 10 Things Should You Do Every Day To Improve Your Life?

Spending time in nature daily can help improve livelihood.
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1) Get out in nature

You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’s research that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.

2) Exercise

We all know how important this is, but few people do it consistently. Other than health benefits too numerous to mention, exercise makes you smarter,happier, improves sleep, increases libido and makes you feel better about your body. A Harvard study that has tracked a group of men for more than 70 years identified it as one of the secrets to a good life.

3) Spend time with friends and family

Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified this as one of the biggest sources of happiness in our lives. Relationships are worth more than you think (approximately an extra $131,232 a year.) Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. The longest lived people on the planet all place a strong emphasis on social engagement and good relationships are more important to a long life than even exercise. Friends are key to improving your life. Share good news and enthusiatically respond when others share good news with you to improve your relationships. Want to instantly be happier? Do something kind for them.

4) Express gratitude

It will make you happier.

It will improve your relationships.

It can make you a better person.

It can make life better for everyone around you.

5) Meditate

Meditation can increase happiness, meaning in life, social support and attention span while reducing anger, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Along similar lines, prayer can make you feel better — even if you’re not religious.

6) Get enough sleep

You can’t cheat yourself on sleep and not have it affect you. Being tired actually makes it harder to be happy. Lack of sleep = more likely to get sick. “Sleeping on it” does improve decision making. Lack of sleep can make you more likely to behave unethically. There is such a thing as beauty sleep.

Naps are great too. Naps increase alertness and performance on the job,enhance learning ability and purge negative emotions while enhancing positive ones. Here’s how to improve your naps.

7) Challenge yourself

Learning another language can keep your mind sharp. Music lessons increase intelligence. Challenging your beliefs strengthens your mind. Increasing willpower just takes a little effort each day and it’s more responsible for your success than IQ. Not getting an education or taking advantage of opportunities are two of the things people look back on their lives and regret the most.

8) Laugh

People who use humor to cope with stress have better immune systems, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, experience less pain during dental work and live longer. Laughter should be like a daily vitamin. Just reminiscing about funny moments can improve your relationship. Humor has many benefits.

9) Touch someone

Touching can reduce stress, improve team performance, and help you be persuasive. Hugs make you happier. Sex may help prevent heart attacks and cancer, improve your immune system and extend your life.

10) Be optimistic

Optimism can make you healthier, happier and extend your life. The Army teaches it in order to increase mental toughness in soldiers. Being overconfident improves performance.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Life & Style

A Jewish Girl’s Love Letter to Loehmann’s

Loehmann's Shoppers In New York City
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Saying goodbye to the discount emporium where I learned how to shop, among other things

Loehmann’s is closed. Last week, the famous discount designer clothing store, shuttered the last of its remaining 39 shops, including one in Los Angeles where I live and four in New York City, where it first opened its doors in a former automobile showroom in 1921.

Like legions of other Jewish girls over the decades, I first went to Loehmann’s with my grandmother in what was a generational rite of passage. From her I learned how to navigate mountains of surplus couture, avoid the sharp elbows of fellow shoppers ravenous for a deal and withstand the sea of uncompromising eyes in the communal dressing room, where everyone was more than happy to answer the age-old question: “Does that make my tush look big?”

That first time I went to Loehmann’s with my Grandma Fran, and most every time thereafter, my Grandpa Mitch was in tow. No sooner did we walk in then she deposited him like a sack of potatoes with all the other Jewish men sitting against the wall with their wives’ purses perched neatly on their laps.

My grandma then took me under her wing as she expertly combed through the endless racks of clothing, cherry-picking this and ruthlessly discarding that. Finally, she held up an Yves Saint Laurent peasant blouse against my chest, grinning in approval at finding such a gem.

After the hunt, we headed to the dressing room with dozens of garments to try on. There, countless ladies young and old, in various stages of dress and undress—with their waist-high panties, bullet bras and girdles—were trying on their finds, bragging about nabbing the last Armani skirt in their size. And at 40% off, no less!

For the next few hours, we tried on various outfits: me, flat-chested, hiding in a corner; my buxom grandmother easily exchanging opinions with other shoppers about what looked good and what did not.

Loehmann’s was not for the faint of heart. There were no saleswomen here trying to persuade you that something was flattering when it wasn’t. Instead, an army of yentas occupied the dressing room, eager to deliver their unvarnished opinions.

Indeed, it was in a Loehmann’s dressing room that I first heard the disparaging term “Bar Mitzvah back” to describe the flab that rolls over and around a heavy or older woman’s bra, spilling out from her underarms and shoulders: “You can’t wear that dress, honey. Everyone’ll see your Bar-Mitzvah back!” Of course, any one of these yentas could be quick with a compliment, as well, telling a total stranger, “You look absolutely gorgeous in that outfit, darling,” causing dozens of heads to turn and nod in agreement.

My mother, no amateur when it comes to bargain shopping, would take me to Loehmann’s, too. These were not your usual back-to-school shopping expeditions. No, with my mom it was straight to Loehmann’s legendary Back Room, where experienced saleswomen stood guard, saving items from Paris and Milan for their favorite customers. With patience, an expert eye and the moves of an NFL running back, you could unearth one-of-a-kind designer clothing here—a dress for a special occasion, a cashmere winter coat, a really great bag.

Skilled as my mom was, however, there were certain Loehmann’s shoppers in our circle who could put her to shame. One friend—who “could afford to shop anywhere,” as my mother liked to note—would choose Loehmann’s every time. Mom would tell stories about what a “great Loehmann’s shopper” she was. And make no mistake: Being a “great Loenhmann’s shopper” was in a class of its own, setting the bar for never paying retail.

But while the thrill of the deal was certainly part of the allure, quality also mattered. My mom and these other mavens were after authentic high-end clothing from Seventh Avenue, and with a touch of the hand across the fabric and close scrutiny of linings, hemlines, zippers and buttons, they could quickly tell a Chanel from a shmata.

My mom was the first person to take my daughter, Emma, to Loehmann’s. Whenever she came to visit us in L.A., a mother-daughter-granddaughter excursion was always on her agenda.

But by the time we started to take Emma there, Loehmann’s just wasn’t the same. Sure, it was still a destination for middle-class shoppers looking for a bargain on designer goods. And there were still a few bubbies here and there, ready to run you down if you got between them and the Gucci bag they had their eye on. But it was no longer—God forgive me—a secular version of going to temple, where everyone was in the tribe and the thing you prayed for was the perfect dress in your size.

There was no long bench anymore for husbands to wile away the time, reading newspapers and impatiently glancing at their watches. In an effort to keep up with the times, private stalls had been added to the dressing rooms—a change that made Emma happy since she always thought the let’s-get-naked-together thing was kind of creepy.

But in the end, Emma and her generation—and me and mine, too—were never going to be dedicated Loehmann’s shoppers. The truth is it’s probably customers like me who hastened its demise; I haven’t been a regular there in years. These days, there are simply too many good alternatives tugging for our attention: a mix of edgier knock-off stores like Zara, upscale boutiques and online retailers.

Then again, Loehmann’s was never just another clothing store. It was a family tradition, handed down across four generations.

When the last store closed earlier this year in Miami, where my mother lives and where I grew up, she visited her closet and reminisced about all of her fantastic finds—the time, for example, she bagged a great Valentino jacket (and spent three hours unsuccessfully looking for the skirt).

“An era is gone, and I’m in mourning,” she said. “But at least I’m wearing my black crepe Prada dress—the one I got for half off.”

TIME

The ‘Mad Men’ Problem at Home

Dish Washing
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Closing the wage gap begins with remedying the housework gap first

When President Obama addressed the gender-based wage gap during his State of the Union address last week, women cheered and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro even gave out high fives. Obama called on Washington and businesses to help women succeed at work and “do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.” However, the President forgot to name a key constituency in his call to help women succeed: husbands.

All the workplace policies in the world aren’t going to get women to parity unless we do away with our Mad Men-era policies at home, too. Despite the fact women are the sole or primary source of income in a record 40% of U.S. households, they still do the majority of housework and childcare. According to the Pew Research Center, during an average week[OK? The study, if I’m looking at the right one, seems to have measured weeks rather than days.], women spend more time cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing food then men do. Men, on the other hand, spend more time watching television than women do. And even in households where the woman is the sole breadwinner, the labor division is far from equal. Men who stay home average 18 hours of housework per week, while their working partners average 14. Stay-at-home mothers, though, average 26 hours of housework. Their working partners average just a third of that time. America has a housework gap, and it’s fueling the gender gap at work.

Research indicates there is a direct and negative correlation between housework and the wage gap. One theory, from research in The Journal of Human Resources, suggests this could be employers’ negative reactions to women who appear dedicated to household activities. It could also be that many employers believe mothers are less committed to their jobs than other employees, as Shelley J. Correll, a sociology professor at Stanford University, posits. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire them and offer them high salaries. The “mommy penalty” is real. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than that between women and men, according to the advocacy group MomsRising.

It appears that in 2014, we have high expectations of what a woman can accomplish at work, but we still have 1950s expectations about her role at home. But it’s time to rethink and renegotiate who does what where. Men who have opted out of housework should lean in at home so their wives can lean in at work. And they should advocate for, and take advantage of, family-friendly policies such as paid sick days, paternity leave, and flex benefits in order to create a more equitable arrangement at home.

If we truly believe that, as Obama said, “when women succeed, America succeeds,” then we need to stop ignoring the housework gap. Laundry and dirty dishes may not be standard agenda items for our legislators and business leaders, but they should be. After all, a woman can’t have it all if she’s too busy doing it all.

Liz O’Donnell is the author of Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman.

TIME psychology

Failed Your New Year’s Resolutions Already? Try These Less Ambitious Ones

16 microresolutions to help you accomplish everything you set out to in 2014

If you’re like 90% of people who resolve to change at the New Year, by the end of January you have probably already bailed on your resolution, or will in the next few weeks.

We blame personal weakness for these annual failures, yet research shows that willpower is not a function of character but a limited mental resource that is easily exhausted. Classic New Year’s resolutions—to be slim by summer, to be organized, to be on time—are closer to wishes than action plans, and so demanding that they rapidly deplete willpower stores and hasten failure.

If your “wannabe” resolution was a bust, there’s still plenty of time to achieve significant change in 2014. The microresolutions below provide instant benefits and are sustainable. These strategic behavioral shifts require focus to succeed, so make them just two at a time and practice them for at least four weeks before attempting new ones.

Fitness
New research shows that small is powerful when it comes to fitness. If your vow to blast yourself out of couch-potato-hood by visiting the gym daily didn’t pan out, try one of these microresolutions:

  • Stand for all or part of your commute if you travel to work by train or bus to increase core strength, up your metabolism, and improve balance.
  • Get up and walk around 2-3 times an hour if you sit for much of the day. According to the latest research, such limited activity mitigates the lethal effects of sitting better than an hour at the gym.
  • Walk to work all or part of the way one day a week. Set the day and stick to it—if it’s Monday, it’s walk day.
  • Go to the gym once a week and exercise for 15 minutes. The key is to establish an absolute routine; lowering the bar will help you get there.

Diet
According to new weight loss models, for every 10 pounds you want to lose, you’ll need to cut 100 calories from your daily diet. Here are some microresolutions that trim calories without overstressing willpower:

  • Eliminate one slice of bread from breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At nearly 100 calories per slice, that’s 10 pounds right there.
  • Stop eating after 8:30 at night. Research shows that calories consumed late at night result in weight gain more often than calories consumed during natural waking hours (extra bonus: more sleep, because we eat late to stay awake).
  • A resolution to be hungry for meals will lead you to better manage the size and timing of snacks and ultimately reform eating patterns by associating food consumption with hunger.
  • Eat only from your plate to eliminate hundreds of calories from eating while preparing food and clearing up leftovers with little loss of satisfaction.
  • Always leave something tasty on your plate.
  • Dine leisurely and savor your food and drink. You’ll slow down, enjoy what you eat more, and be satisfied with less.

Organization/Neatness

  • Cull mail before bringing it into the house.
  • Make the bed before leaving the house in the morning.
  • Review your priority list as soon as you sit down at your desk and before you check email.
  • Hang up your coat immediately upon arriving home. Once that habit is firmly established, your other clothes will find their way into closets over time with little mental effort.

Sleep
Sleep is the self-improver’s secret weapon, restoring willpower resources, balancing hormones, increasing physical powers, and upping productivity. A shift in routine that results in more sleep could be the most powerful behavioral change you make this year.

  • Give up leisure computing after 10 p.m. Those quick email checks often turn into two-hour surfing sessions, and the bright light from the screen disrupts circadian rhythms.
  • Get ready for bed mid-evening so that you can slip between the sheets as soon as you feel dozy without having to slog through a lengthy bedtime routine.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that such microresolutions are too limited to make a difference. We live in the age of the small and powerful, where micro computer chips, tablets, iPods, smart phones, and their apps drive productivity at work and at home. Microfinancing is eliminating poverty one family at a time. Nanotechnology is revolutionizing medicine. Critical communications arrive in 140 character tweets, hitting global distribution lists in microseconds. A small, sustained behavior change is powerful and significant. Working two at a time in four-week increments, you can make 20 of them in 2014.

Adapted from Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Yourself Permanently by Caroline Arnold. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Caroline L. Arnold. Arnold is a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @CarolineLArnold, and on SmallMoveBigChange.com.

TIME

Wrinkles and Red Lipstick Don’t Mix

woman
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No doubt about it, we are living in the age of wrinkles. The population of “elderly” in America and in almost all areas of the world is growing fast—faster than the overall total population. It is no secret baby boomers are hitting age 65 in big numbers. In America, already roughly one out of seven people is 65 or older. That number will be one out of five people in 2030, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Bring on the wrinkles. And no doubt more and more suggestions, options, and procedures to try to beat the clock and present smooth “youthful” skin.

(MORE: Quiz: Find The Best Diet For Your Personality)

Yes, we are living longer, but the cult of youth has made women (and men) more and more self-conscious and obsessed with looking younger than we are. Certainly images touted in today’s media, often of celebrities and then globalized, have made things worse. Too often, it seems to me, giving up seems like the easy way out. Too many women 40 and up se laissent aller, let themselves go. Look around: fat is becoming scarily acceptable, so is dressing down, poorly and distastefully (sometimes under the so-called umbrella of “comfort”).

A great number of women tend today, I believe, to behave in extremes; they are “all or nothing” in their approach to dieting for instance, which I think parallels how some women approach aging. Once they feel old, many give up. Or they have a moment of firm resolve and want almost instant gratification at the physician’s office. Liposuction and full or partial facelifts are choice items on the menu, with the former far more popular than the later, in part because facelifts are so expensive. And there are, of course, habitual Botox injections.

What is troubling is that facelifts have seemingly become the first choice magic option rather than the culmination of a skin care, nutrition, grooming and dressing program for life that pays attention to gravity and aging.

Embracing aging and developing a positive mindset, an attitude that results in a healthy lifestyle is the anti-aging magic bullet. It is the powerful mental medicine that can cure some of our ills and enhance our pleasures through life.

(MORE: It Is Now Legal for Women to Wear Pants in Paris)

Women should stop trying to dress like their daughter or younger self. At a certain point, they should cover up arms. Throw away the bikini. And go lighter on the makeup. Too much makeup as we age generally makes us look worse not better. Think thrice about drawing attention to sags and wrinkles. And, oh, consider retiring the red lipstick.

Pre-school colors draw attention to us—as sexy and attractive as red lipstick can be—and should invite us to look into the mirror and see who we really are now, not kid ourselves by seeing our younger or lighter selves or who we think we are or want to be? Want to draw attention to face and especially upper lip wrinkles, try red lipstick. Red is the attention color. That is not really debatable…ask any bull.

(MORE: Reversing Aging: Not as Crazy as You Think)

Before the facelift bell goes off at, say, 60 (though for some it seems to ring at 40), there are a lifetime of simple skin-care rituals people can follow that will delay the bell—from keeping the skin moist through good hydration (drink water, water, water) to cleaning one’s face and pores at night religiously, to using a light moisturizer daily, to avoiding too much sun. Basic routines not rocket science.

Keeping yourself well-groomed can also shave years off your appearance and years off your mental outlook, and nothing is more revealing than one’s hair. Lots happens to our hair as we age, so get a smart cut that fits your age and face and keep it looking good. It is an easy way to look younger and generate compliments that give you a boost.

Certainly in my native France, a woman in her forties and fifties is still alluring and seen as an object of desire and acts the part. She feels it and acts it, but doesn’t pretend she is ageless. She pampers her face with creams and lotions and wants her face to look natural and not tired, and she wants to think of herself as sexy and not old. Sounds good to me.

It is called living bien dans sa peau, comfortably in your own skin.

Mireille Guiliano is the author of French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude.
MORE: Google’s Calico: the War on Aging Has Truly Begun

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