Tag Archives: health

Living a Joy-Filled Life

Why think about choices?

I’ve been soul-searching recently. Delving into my attitudes towards myself, my career, my relationships with friends and dating. I’ve reflected a lot on the nature of choice and motivation. Two questions continually resurface themselves.

  1. What are my values and beliefs?
  2. What does my ideal future look like?
  3. Is that ideal vision reasonably achievable and aligned with my values?

Where do our beliefs originate?

I’m slowly training myself to see the advice I’ve gotten from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, and books is not what defines me. This advice is important to me, but it isn’t 1) my belief system or 2) the belief system I need to rebel against. It is a set of beliefs I’ve gathered that help inform my personal beliefs and practices.

I’ve found I am often motivated to figure out ways to 1) satisfy others’ expectations or 2) rebel against others’ expectations. Neither of these is a healthy decision-making method. This realization is not a slight on the people I love and surround myself with. It is an acknowledgement that I am responsible for the choices I make and the lifestyle I live. I alone can be assertive, express personal integrity, make conscious choices, live purposefully, accept myself, and be responsible to my family, friends, community, country, and religious institution.

With this personal responsibility comes tremendous power. It requires tremendous vigilance against my inclination to satisfy others or to rebel against others.

Over the past few years I’ve leaned towards challenging the status quo of the communities I am a part of. I felt these communities (family, friends, church, political system) assumed that I would: wait patiently for an acceptable wife (because good things come to those who wait), give up everything for my eventual kids (because it’s my duty and I’m a selfish millennial if I don’t), buy a house in a boring neighborhood, severely restrict my ability to travel, deal with crippling anxiety over the fact that I don’t control anything in my life anymore, and live a life that was somewhat happy but lacked adventure and spontaneity. These are gross generalizations. Reality is never so simple. I don’t mean to discount these things. I do believe they are valuable. But they are valuable because I find them valuable, not because I either desire to express obedience or rebellion against the powers and people who preach these values. My association of my own life choices with a reaction to others’ is the source of the judgements I’ve made about those choices. Thus I hear others’ say things like “marriage is all about sacrifice” and “it’s not as easy to travel when you have kids” and my immediate reaction is to fight against these things because they sound terrible. A healthier option would be to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of each lifestyle choice from the way their ultimate impact on my life as a whole. The way people I see as authority figures and influencers communicate their “life advice” feeds into my reaction to them. However, it is my duty to take what they say in this context: people are naturally inclined to present themselves as heroes and martyrs and leave out the positive aspects of decisions. The positive aspects of marriage, children, and sacrifice are difficult to communicate because these are lived experiences, whereas the loss of one’s freedom is nebulous and easy fodder to fearmonger single persons.

Looking back at past choices

I can admit that I’ve certainly erred on the side of adventure and spontaneity. I’ve sought out travel, company, and activities that feed this desire. This desire was and is primarily based as a reaction to the beliefs I feel it is assumed I am supposed to have by those around me. Don’t misread this that I’ve destroyed my life or made destructive and dangerous decisions. I haven’t. But, I’ve lived and made choices with the fear that, if I don’t, my ultimate fate rests in a boring, pointlessly sacrificial life. I often allow fear, guilt, and respect be the benchmark for my choices, whether a benchmark to follow or eschew.

Short-term thinking

I was living for pleasure. Pleasure in rebellion. Pleasure in doing my own thing. Pleasure in feeling free from the belief systems which I felt had predetermined my life in ways that made me extremely uncomfortable. By pleasure I mean short-term reactionary behavior.

Reactionary Thinking

At the heart of these choices was reaction. I wasn’t doing what made me joyful and satisfied. I was was reacting. I am reacting. Reaction is not self-definition. It is not true freedom. It doesn’t represent respect towards oneself or towards anyone else. Reaction is not an act of personal integrity. It is a poor motivation to do something out of pure spite or pure obedience, without other reasons.

Joy and Pleasure

The contrasting, yet similar words, joy and pleasure come to mind. Pleasure is reactionary. It is a response we get from reacting to our senses. It can be a reaction to the way our bodies feel, the way we feel about a person, a belief system, or a reaction we want to have to any situation. Pleasure is not bad in itself.

Joy is a deeper sense of satisfaction that something we see or do aligns with the way we believe or wish the world would be. Joy lasts. Joy has a sense of personal ownership. If you feel joyful about something it is because you felt you a personal stake in  what happened. Joy can lead to pleasure. Joy is usefully pleasureable. But joy is deeper than pleasure. Joy can withstand periods of heartache and trials. Joy has no baggage. There is a fullness of meaning to it that you know when you feel it.

I don’t believe that pleasure is bad. Pleasure in a cold glass of beer on a hot day. Pleasure in seeing a pretty girl walk by. Pleasure in completing a paper or complex work task.

Identifying joyful things 

But all our lives need joy. Joy is an indicator that we’re living a life…

  1. Conscious of itself
  2. Accepting of itself
  3. Responsible for the impacts of our actions.
  4. Assertive
  5. Purposeful
  6. Wholly integrated between our thoughts, words, and actions.

Identifying the things in our lives that are purely reactionary (or purely obedient) to a set of rules or expectations others have of us will increase our sense of meaning and purposefulness and bring a sense of joy to our lives. This applies to people of any belief, religion, or lack thereof.

What brings you joy? What brings you pleasure but not joy? What in life are you doing to satisfy or react to others’ expectations?

In visioning one’s life. I believe we need to evaluate those things that bring us joy and double down on them. Then we should find the things that we’re doing for pleasure (i.e. reactionary or obedient). And these things should be evaluated. This exercise will help us live a happier, more sustainable, and more fulfilled life. It will help us find our own voice and desires within the context of a noisy society, community, and friend group, and family.

Owning your life

This isn’t to say you’ll end up with beliefs different from those around you. The point is that you’ll end up owning your beliefs. You will stand by them. They will bring you joy. Almost all of us have the ability to seek out what we believe to be true and just and valuable in this world and to strive to double down on those things. We also have a need to eliminate short-term, reactionary thinking.


Taking the journey to define one’s own values is important. It helps clarify where we can be fulfilled and where we are wasting your time. It will be evident in the things that bring lasting joy vs. things that are reactionary or obedient for a quick sense of pleasure.  Every person, despite having differing beliefs, can live a life that is integrated in thoughts, words, and actions. This life can provide deep fulfillment and joy that comes from within, not as a reaction to anyone or anything else.






17 Simple Ways to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

There are some basic things we can do to increase the chances of living and longer and more quality life. There are people who obsess over this stuff. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth spending a whole ton of time nitpicking over. So I grabbed info from the people who do obsess. Here is what they recommend to improve your quality and length of life. Much was summarized from this reddit post.


  • Cut out all refined sugar. Refined sugars make you unhealthy. Source



  •  Get 300min/week of vigorous exercise because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 39%, based on this scientific review which included 80 scientific studies and 1.3m participants


  • Don’t smoke because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 40%, based on this scientific review which included 7 scientific studies and 1.1m participants.


  • Drink ~4 glasses/week of alcohol because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 11%, based on this scientific review which included 87 scientific studies and 4m participants. Don’t do this if you have liver problems. 


  • Eat 7 servings/week of nuts because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 20%, based on this scientific review which included 2 scientific studies and 175k participants.


  • Eat 6 servings/day of fruit/veggies because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 26%, based on this scientific review which included 16 scientific studies and 800k participants.


  • Eat 4-5 servings/day of whole grain because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 24%, based on this scientific review which included 45 scientific studies and 700k participants.


  • Don’t eat processed meat because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 35%, based on this scientific review which included 6 scientific studies and 925k participants.


  • Limit all meat consumption, especially if you don’t have a perfect healthy lifestyle. Source


  • Drink 1 coffee/day because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 8%, based on this scientific review which included 21 scientific studies and 1m participants.


  • Sit ~4h/day because it is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 29% (vs. sitting 12h/day), based on this scientific review which included 6 scientific studies and 600k participants.


  • There’s also this scientific review which included 35 scientific studies and 1.5m participants showing that sleeping 7h/night is associated with a 20% lower mortality risk but I can’t function properly without 8-9h/night.


  • Take some good quality fish oil (Nordic Naturals). Source


  • Take some regular Vitamin D to get up to 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter blood levels (70% of the U.S. has gets too little Vitamin D.) Source


  •  Don’t text and drive. Distracted driving causes 20% of all accidents. Source

How to Plan Meals

Meal planning

Several of you asked how I approach meal planning. I break this into nutrition, budget, time management, taste, and quantity. Getting your meal planning in order will help inform many other weak points in your life’s organizational structure.

Meal planning- Burger



Most finance sites recommend you spend no more than 14% of your budget on food. You can use this calculator to see how your food spending compares to people like you around the US. My philosophy is to spend as little as possible while eating food that is healthy and appealing to your palate. I don’t pinch pennies when it comes to food. I don’t have to. I buy the food I want at the lowest price I can find while also looking for discounts. I follow a hierarchy of purchasing criteria which I’ll get to at the end. This ends up being temporally staggered as I run out of things in the fridge. By shopping at ALDI first and filling out the weekly haul with the higher quality stuff from the bigger chain stores one saves significantly.



We all have nutrition goals. What we eat impacts how we feel, sleep, perform, and look. It can indirectly impact our self-image. Thinking about nutrition is a necessary piece in living consciously. To eat without choosing thoughtfully is to acknowledge that how you feel, sleep, perform, and look is not important to you. It’s denying that our food choices impact our mental and physical states in profound ways. If your mind and body are not important to you, do you think it will be important to anyone else?

That being said, consider your goals. They are extremely important in meal planning. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to sleep better? Do you want to feel energized for exercise? Do you lag after lunch? Do you go to sleep distracted by hunger or being too full? I won’t answer these questions here, but think about them and think about ways you can address them. Food can be more than sustenance, it can be medicine. Use this web app to see what nutrients your diet is lacking. Get your levels lab-tested by a service like Spectracell or DirectLabs. Know about how many calories you want to eat and what your portions should look like. If you want to get it perfect, weigh your food with a simple scale. Your nutrition and health should set conscious parameters on what you buy and cook.



This one is all about trial and error. Using the insights you gain from your nutrition goals, what in your ideal nutritional diet actually tastes good? Identifying this will help you stick to your meal planning and help you get excited about meals and improving its structure. It is imperative that you keep an open mind during your initial meal planning stages. You may find that some things (like Kale for instance) suck in one form (raw) but are delicious in another (cooked and blended into a soup.) I eat a ton of blended vegetables because I find them much more pleasant like that. Try out restaurants and note how they prepare your favorite dishes. Do you understand salt/acid/fat and how they balance? Don’t even begin to add seasoning until you’ve got a handle on the balance of salt (e.g. table salt or Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning), acid (e.g. lime juice or vinegar), and fat (e.g. olive oil, butter, avocado, ground beef). Learn the way seasonings complement certain meats. The Flavor Bible is an epic resource for this. There are some great cookbooks that focus on learning to cook. I love Ruhlman’s 12, 4-Hour Chef, and How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Each in their own respect will teach you to think like a chef. From there, with a basic understanding of ingredients and flavors, begin trying out recipes in one of the classic “everything” books: how to cook everything or the more classic and just as ubiquitous middle age-mom cookbooks, “joy of cooking”.

Meal planning- Flavor Bible


Nearly one-third of all food in the US is thrown away. This constitutes a major ethical and financial issue. Don’t expect to buy the proper amount of food right away. Buy what you think you need and be observant of what you’re throwing away and what you’re keeping. Have an understanding of food expiry dates. Understand what bad food looks and smells like. After a few weeks of shopping, note how much you threw away. Being conscious of this will impact your purchase behavior at the grocery store.


Fresh produce and meat is great. But, it spoils quickly. If you’re trashing fresh produce now, chances are you will continue to do so. Don’t keep doing the same thing. Convert your fresh supply grocery list items into frozen. Frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Tend to purchase frozen vs. freezing fresh items. The professional freezing process is less damaging to food than your fridge.


How you prepare your meals is up to you. Consider how much variety you think you need. Do you really need it? I’m happy eating 2 different meals for dinner during the week and often the same things for lunch every day. It sounds boring, but it really isn’t. Food is satisfying when you’re hungry as long as it’s tasty. I sometimes prep meals in bulk (4-5 lunches) but I find that I end up wasting 1-2 portions each week. Batch cooking dinners and eating leftovers for lunch. But, I know that leftovers lead to uncontrolled snacking. To prevent between-meal snacking I prefer to have very little prepared food in my fridge. This is a personal preference as with so much of what I’ve written (perhaps not just here, but on this entire blog!)



Know your nutrition. Purchase with your budgetary standards in mind. Note your tastes. Note which fresh food items you frequently trash. Meal planning is an exercise in conscious living. Consider it an act in cherishing life.


My Meal planning purchase hierarchy


  1. Go to ALDI

    1. Is there something on deep discount that I’d enjoy? Buy that.
    2. Are there other items there I’d enjoy?


I usually end up getting a few deep discount items at ALDI, like

  • Eggs
  • Sauces
  • Specialty yogurts
  • Specialty drinks like Kombucha


I always buy there:


  • Avocado (1)
  • Onions (if needed)
  • Sweet potatoes (if needed)
  • Organic chicken
  • Organic ground beef
  • Staples like salt, oils, or flour
  • Jasmine rice
  • Hard cheese (Romano/Parmesan/Asiago)


  1. Giant or regular nicer grocer

  • Fresh herbs
  • Nicer pasta sauces without high sugar/HFCS
  • Wild caught fish
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Nicer salsas (I like Mrs. Renfro’s)
  • Ground chicken
  • Marinated organic chicken
  • Frozen vegetable blends (cheaper than ALDI).
    • I really like the Normandy blend
  • Frozen Kale (for Fiber and Micronutrients)
  • Strawberries to freeze
  • Bananas for smoothies
  • Better than Bouillon Chicken broth base
    • Very good for flavoring soups and sauces. (ain’t no way I’m keep a running frozen stock at my place with a fridge shared by 4 guys).
  • Ginger Kombucha

Meal planning- Salad


Consume Consciously


Think consciously about your meal planning choices. They impact you in lasting ways. Consider the impact your choices have on your budget, taste, and nutrition. Do your actions line up with your goals? Consider reflecting on the thoughts here to structure meal planning that caters to your overall tastes, health goals, and budget.