Today, the self-help industry is a huge business. Self-help books and videos are extremely popular, and many self-experts are in high demand. But when you really look at it, there are very few new ideas. That’s why you see so many short-form quotes from ancient philosophers showing up on 21st century social media accounts—and their wisdom still seems to apply. With that in mind, here are a few bits of long-lasting advice for living a healthier life. They’re not exactly new. But they’re powerful.
Treat others as you would want to be treated.
This command shows up, in some form or another, in all the major world religions. It’s hardly groundbreaking, but one of the best things you can do for someone is treat them with kindness. If someone is in need, lend a helping hand. Do it for the people you like and respect. But in addition, try doing it for people you don’t know, and if possible, and even the people you don’t care for. Not only is this beneficial for them, it is also beneficial for you. Everyone has inner battles and issues. Try not to judge people, and instead offer them the respect you would like to get.
A lot of us take ourselves too seriously. But laughter, smiling and activity—the things that came naturally to us as kids—have all been shown to be beneficial. You might call it “playfulness,” and as an adult it can have many benefits for our physical and mental health. It can improve your mood, improve the mood of those around you, and create a better atmosphere in general. It can also help you cope with stress.
Think about what you liked to do as a kid. Was it exploring outside? Riding a bike? Playing games? If you engage in those same activities or a version of those activities as an adult, you are more likely to both enjoy the activity and keep at it, benefiting your body and your mind.
Strength through struggle.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” We’ve all heard that statement, and while not always true, there is truth behind this idea. Researchers at Northwestern University looked at the relationship between experiencing failures early in a person’s career related to where they ended up later. They found that experiencing failure at their jobs early on led to greater success in the long term for those who try again. And researcher Richard Tedeschi found that after people experienced trauma in their lives, they developed “new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life.”
Take care of your body.
Staying physically healthy is a very important part of self-care. This includes getting enough sleep, relaxing, physical hygiene, eating the right foods, and seeking medical care when needed. We think of stress as being primarily mental or emotional, but all of these physical actions help manage stress and contribute to our well-being. Additional steps you can take are exercising, spending time in nature, and even expressing gratitude.
If you are having trouble getting started with a self-care routine, start small instead of taking on the toughest thing first. Pick one thing each week to start doing daily. Add in more self-care when you are ready.
When necessary, ask for help.
Here are two things I know to be true. First, trying to fix things yourself is hard. Second, you can’t always wait for someone to reach out to you and ask if you’re OK. (That kind of thing makes people nervous. Identifying a “problem” in someone else risks a negative reaction.) That’s why I’m such a strong advocate for therapy.
Our culture still attaches a lot of stigma to the idea of receiving or seeking out counseling. Many people think that seeing a therapist represents an admission of failure, or at least indicates there is something wrong with you. But I believe that everyone—at some point in their lives—can benefit from counseling. In fact, even counselors need counselors. This, too, is part of living a full and meaningful life.
It’s great to show kindness to others. But sometimes we really need to show kindness to ourselves.