Rules to Live By

September 22, 2009 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

Eating and Drinking in Florence

Eating and Drinking in Florence

Rules to live by . . . we all have them on some level. While most people might be hard pressed to articulate their “rules,” they’d certainly claim to have values or principles that guide their decisions. I, too, have such principles. In addition, though, I’ve got a short list of rules that are sure-fire and easy to follow. When it comes right down to it, I know these few rules will keep me happy. It’s as simple as:

  • Eat when I’m hungry.
  • Drink when I’m thirsty.
  • Sleep when I’m tired.

. . . .
Sounds too easy, huh? Exactly my point!

These rules are strikingly basic, I agree. Perhaps it is because they’re so basic that I overlooked their importance for so long. But once I started applying them to my life, I quickly realized their power. By following these three simple rules everything else comes together for me.

Eat when I’m hungry
I’ve never been much of a dieter. I’m blessed with good genes, and rarely experience the sensation of hunger. However, when I’m hungry, I can think of nothing else. I recall a time in my life – when I was a child and my family was large and our resources limited – I’d often go to bed hungry. I’d close my eyes thinking about fried chicken, my favorite food; or remembering the delicious smell that wafted from my neighbor’s kitchen, imagining what they’d had for dinner. Consequently, and oddly, hunger became my comfort zone.

Now as an adult, even when times are lean, I never have to go to bed hungry. But I kept finding myself doing it occasionally. It was when I noticed I was doing it more often than not – going to bed hungry, or waiting until 5 pm before my first meal of the day – that I decided to explore the reasons.

I discovered my rationale was faulty; it was non-existent really. I was aware that I was ignoring my hunger, but at a near sub-conscious level. And when I stopped ignoring it (and ate), I was not only more productive, but truly happier. That’s when I made the rule for myself. On the flipside, I don’t allow the clock to tell me when to stop what I’m doing, and prepare and eat a meal. In other words, I don’t eat out of obligation. I only eat when I’m hungry.

Drink when I’m thirsty
I understand that water is the element of life and is vital to good health; but to drink it by the quart? I’ve not only found this advice difficult and impractical to follow, but I never felt any benefits from the effort. Yet, I’d find myself feeling guilty and irresponsible when, at the end of a day, I’d realize that I’d drunk only two glasses of water.

How silly to feel pressure – and worse, guilt – for not drinking! Even though my circle of friends are healthy and wise, and often remind me to drink more water, I’ve decided the best advice is to just listen to my body. I don’t worry about keeping track of how many glasses of water I drink. I don’t panic if I don’t have a water bottle with me when I leave the house. I rarely find myself where there are no faucets or fountains, so I don’t worry about it. I just drink when I’m thirsty.

Sleep when I’m tired
This is probably my most important rule. From the day I was born I have always loved to sleep. My mother says that as a baby, I was content to lie in my bouncy chair and could snooze through anything: a kitchen full of friends talking and playing cards, the vacuum cleaner running, siblings playing and making noise in the same room. As a young adult I had minor surgery, after which I spent an unusually long time in the recovery room because I didn’t come out of the anesthesia as expected. My mother said she wasn’t even worried because she knew I just wanted to sleep as long as I could.

To this day I require 7-8 hours of sleep a night. However, I regularly wake after four or five hours, ready to work – write or do research; make progress on a project. But then I allow myself to go back to bed and get those last few hours of rest. This, again, is a matter of listening to my body. By doing so, I find I can be more productive, more creative, and happier.

If I’m under pressure to get something done – particularly if it requires deep thought or creativity – and I’m tired, it’s absolutely no use for me to force myself. I know now that I’m much better off to lie down and sleep, even if only for 20 minutes (but sometimes up to three hours!), before trying to produce something of any quality.

One of the benefits of napping, is that I’m a morning person. I wake feeling inspired and energized. If I take a nap during the day, I get two “mornings” in one day! If I can’t nap when I’m tired, I’m miserable. I’m even more miserable when I could nap but am criticized for wanting to, or denied the privilege by someone who doesn’t understand the value. The ideal situation for me is to be able to sleep when I’m tired.

This simple set of rules are all “do’s.” As such, if I follow them, they contribute to my happiness. The rules are also “don’ts.” I.e.:

  • I don’t eat when I’m not hungry.
  • I don’t drink when I’m not thirsty. (This rule comes in handy particularly when it involves alcoholic or soft drinks.) And
  • I don’t sleep when I’m not tired.

As “don’ts”, these rules tend to contribute more to my health – which in turn affects my happiness.

Rules to live by: Easy to remember. Easy to follow. Hard to live without.

What “rules” make your life better? Help you to be the best you can be?

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Entry filed under: General.

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