7 Tips to Enjoy Exercise

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I’m not a fan of exercising. I pretty much hate it and then I kinda hate myself for hating it. So I try to make it fun. In fact, I try to make basically everything fun. And I find I can really enjoy exercising when I incorporate it into other fun activities.

Long dog walks. When I have the time on a Saturday morning and the weather is nice, I’ll take my dog on a 3 or 4-mile walk. As the Dog Whisperer says, a tired dog is a good dog. He enjoys it, I do, and everyone is better behaved.

Biking to work. Another way I incorporate exercise into my daily life is by biking to work during the spring and summer. It’s an invigorating way to start the day and fantastic exercise if you can manage it. It requires a lot of complicated gear and clothing transfers so it’s best to join a gym near your office with lockers for storing clean clothes.

Playing pickup basketball. Hoops is one of the best ways to stay in shape. There is the chance of the odd ankle twist and finger jam, but the consistent effort works out virtually all of your body. I try to play basketball one night per week at a nearby gym. It’s one of the few remaining bastions for male bonding in my community and a hell of a good way to stay in shape.

Getting out in nature. Hiking or taking a long walk in the woods- unless you’re in a rapey urban park- will do wonders for your spirit. If you have time, get well out of the city.

Swimming. I know it sounds boring, but I try to swim weekly by viewing it as a sort of meditation practice. I find that once I’m in the water, and especially when I’m underwater, I reach a deeply meditative mental state. It’s great when you really need to work through an issue you’re grappling with.

Find a partner. It always helps to have the accountability of friends. 

Build the habit. Once it’s a habit it becomes a lot less painful. Make time for exercise in your life and make it fun.

There are ways to make exercise a lot less unpleasant. Try them.

#7BadIdeas #1- Atheism

“Religion is a bunch of bullsh#t.”
-all of my liberal friends

ATHEISM. Yes, it’s difficult to believe in someone or something that you cannot readily observe or touch or communicate with. I, for one, have a personality rooted in what I can see, feel, or read about from reputable sources. I don’t automatically trust what people say. I assume a lot of it is nonsense and am correct 75 percent of the time. I only like to read nonfiction books, I don’t believe in ghosts, am most influenced by cold, hard facts, and don’t even trust my mirrors when I’m driving. I’m not too lazy to turn my head. Data and information that I (or more accurately, someone whom I trust) can measure is what I usually invest my faith in. That’s why the idea of God has always been so hard for me to imagine.

Further, religion seems so quaint and old-fashioned in our hyper-informed modern world. It made sense for folks living on the prairie in the 19th century or in small towns or ethnic urban neighborhoods until the 1960s. But nowadays, we live across the country and all over the world. We have never been more disconnected from our family members geographically. “Community” is a dying phenomenon.

“Religion seems so anachronistic. It reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a college kid wearing in the 2000s that said ‘VOTING is for old people.'”

So why not just stick with atheism? Why not proudly proclaim to be ruled by reason and logic? Well, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to look at life from a more pragmatic perspective. And I’ve found atheism to be deeply lacking. Specifically, I’ve struggled enormously my whole life with existential angst- frequently stewing in anger and depression- and during those times, atheism had nothing to offer.

And so, the pain of struggling to understand why the world is the way it is led me on a search for meaning. The hellish battle in my head for why we’re all here has long tormented me. Specifically, for decades I’ve been trying to figure out how an atheist makes meaning out of the world. And through that search, I came right back to religion and the Catholicism of my grandparents. I concluded that, generally speaking, when a person does not center his life around a concept like God, he inevitably fills that solipsistic worldview with self-interest or what he perceives as self-interest. His moral compass inevitably gets hijacked by the ego. From a practical standpoint, I came to the conclusion that atheism, agnosticism, and generally just checking out from religion are pretty terrible ways to live. I know. I did it for 40 years.

In the absence of a religion to frame how you look at the world, a person will inevitably succumb to the influence of the ego. It’s natural. It’s normal. And it may well ruin your life. Atheism or godlessness- in other words, not recognizing something greater than oneself- is a direct path to self-worship, narcissism, nihilism, depression, and ultimately, suffering. 

I’m not saying I don’t struggle with faith. My idea of God has evolved though. It’s something akin to the spirit or impulse of love for and kindness to others. The universal connection of every human being (love your neighbor) and the sense of fellowship with other humans that says we’re all children of God and we’re all in this together (love your enemies). What an amazingly brilliant idea. How could it have come from man?

I’ve also been doing something of a 40-year study comparing the lives of a large group of Catholic men and a large group of “secular” men. The Catholic men are all doing dramatically better than most of my lifelong friends who reject religion. They are generally married with good careers and stable families. After decades of observing these men, it’s clear to me that believing in God and ordering your life around God is a beautiful way to live. Religion offers structure, motivation, focus, an identity- important things you need to live a good life.

After all, what has gotten us to where we are as a society? What traditions, values, and institutions have enabled men and women to flourish like never before? Religion, Christian values, the nuclear family, marriage before children, basic common-sense concepts like these are scorned and undermined by the left at every opportunity. So much so that many of us have internalized that scorn and have an almost knee-jerk reaction to religion, viewing it as “a bunch of bullsh#t.” Not helpful.

And if the positive case for religion, and by this I generally mean Christianity, doesn’t convince you, how about the negative one? Where has atheism and more broadly, secularism, taken us so far? Low birth rates, high divorce rates, relentless competition between men and women, contempt and scorn for Christian values, a general erosion in confidence in all of our institutions, and loneliness, suicide, misery, at shockingly high levels in the West. Enough said.

To get by in life, I say whatever works. But it’s pretty clear to me, #AtheismHasFailed.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of ‘7 Bad Ideas That Will Ruin Your Life.’

5 Reasons Men Should Do Yoga

group of woman in yoga class

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There are many, many benefits to yoga, but here are a few in particular that men should really take advantage of-

  1. Meeting women. The first and most obvious reason to do yoga is the opportunity to meet lots of women. Every yoga class I’ve ever taken has had a ratio on the order 3 or 4 women per male yogi. This is kind of a joke. Don’t take this too seriously.
  2. Real estate insights. There is some evidence that the presence of yoga studios correlates to rising real estate values. When a yoga studio comes into the neighborhood, young folks with money follow.
  3. Strength & flexibility. Of course, there are many, many benefits in the form of improved strength and flexibility. Men with back problems should be careful, but if your doctor says okay it can really make a difference in your life.
  4. Stress reduction. A yoga class can be a calming, meditative refuge from the outside world. Men REALLY need that.
  5. An ethic of self-care. There are countless support groups and activities available to women to assist with self-care. Men rarely take advantage of these opportunities and it comes at a major societal cost in the form of stress, illness, and bad behavior. It’s time for men to do better about this. We will ALL benefit.

5 Reasons to Make Yourself Useful

Spring is a time of renewal not just for nature, but also for humans. It’s a time to shed old habits and develop new ones like volunteering or serving your community or being a better father.

I started coaching baseball again this spring. It’s a blast! Here are 5 reasons to make yourself more useful:

  1. People need role models. Not just kids, grownups do, too. The world needs ’em! Be one.
  2. Karma exists. Sometimes being a good person can get you in a lot of trouble. But generally speaking the more good you do, the more you are rewarded in life in terms of opportunities and kindness. 
  3. Connects you with others. Too many of us are shut-ins hiding behind devices, afraid to make eye contact for too long. Talk to people. Look them in the eyes. Get to know them.
  4. Strengthens your community. This country is fraying right now. But there are so many things we can agree on like serving our communities in some capacity. Build community wherever you are.
  5. Feeling useful and purposeful builds confidence which will make you more attractive to your spouse or potential target spouses.

7 Tips to Simplify Your Life

The modern world is enormously complicated. It can be like waking up in a whitewater kayak racing through rapids every day. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 7 tips to help you simplify your life:

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  1. Embrace a spiritual or religious practice. So many folks dismiss religion as a quaint notion in this hyper-informed modern world. But there is tremendous wisdom in the world’s great religions. One of the major benefits of this is simply the routine or habit of it. Atheism and secularism don’t offer any structure.
  2. Purge your life of too many belongings. Empty out those closets and storage units and unfinished basements. A lot of that crap you’ve completely forgotten about anyway.
  3. Keep the sabbath. This can be an absolutely wonderful addition to a person’s life. Having a quiet Saturday or Sunday on the schedule every week can be a wonderful period of quiet for an individual or a family. Learn to be with yourself or with others, but not racing to a practice or event of some sort. I love my sabbath. Sometimes I voluntarily give it up, but I miss it when I do.
  4. Express gratitude at every meal or, preferably, MORE often. Your actions follow your thoughts. Think good thoughts. Think grateful thoughts. For even in our worst times, there are always many more people who have it worse.
  5. Limit your time with screens and when you do, make it useful. My parents used to refer to the TV as the “idiot box.” They were right. Now, we carry idiot boxes around in our pockets. Try to cut out the time wasters that squeeze the rest of your valuable time. Or when you do, read something that teaches you something or makes you think. There are billions of options.
  6. Take a regular phone fast. I like to have lots of people over to my place and I tend to be very welcoming of all kinds of folks. So, occasionally I encounter someone who comes from a culture that is a bit more permissive of distractions and interruptions. In fact, it really pisses me off when I’m socializing with people and someone whips out their phone while I’m talking to them, even if it is to look up something that pertains to our conversation. So I’ve pretty much banned the use of phones in my house. I treat it like smoking. Go outside and do it. Another option is to set a time, say 8 pm, after which you do not look at your gadgets. Helps to have a partner in this.
  7. Say NO to too many activities. There are a million ways to spend your time. Driving all of the time should not be one of them. Factor in whether an activity is going to complicate your life or your child’s life in such a way that it puts a burden on the family and try to avoid that. Too often we are tyrannized by the idea that we or our children should be continually accomplishing something. Overall, yes, they should, but not every minute of every day.

5 Reasons You Should Swim

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There is a ton of advice out there. This bit REALLY works. Here are 5 reasons you should swim regularly:

  1. Your body will never feel better. Swimming utilizes your entire body and the repetition creates enormous flexibility and strength in your neck, back, and legs.
  2. It’s great for the mind, too. Swimming is extremely calming, even meditative. At the same time, it can help you focus your mind if you need to delve into an issue. After I swim, I’m usually unflappable for the remainder of the day.
  3. Beats a chiropractor. I used to have constant pain in my left shoulder blade stemming from an injury that occurred while moving furniture over 10 years ago. I would occasionally go to a chiropractor who was able to make the pain go away… for about 45 minutes. It wasn’t until I started swimming regularly that the pain finally went away.
  4. Lets out aggression. Like punching a pillow, swimming can be a safe outlet for expressing your frustration, even pretending to take a few swings at some imagined underwater foe. I’ve been known to let out a roar underwater from time to time and I urge others to do the same.
  5. It’s a good discipline. In addition to all of the aforementioned benefits, swimming, like running or bicycling, builds discipline that carries over into other areas of life.

If you knew something would take away your back and neck pain AND put you in a relaxed mood for 12 hours or so, why would you NOT do it?

7 Tips to Beat Depression

tan and white short coat dog laying down in a brown wooden floor
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Most people suffer from depression at some point in their lives or know someone who has. Here are seven things a depressed person can do to make life better almost immediately:

  1. Establish a morning routine. Do you wake up at your girlfriend’s one morning, on your couch the next, and occasionally in your own bed? Well that needs to stop. A morning routine is critical to healthy functioning and when you start the day in disarray it usually only gets worse from there. So, wake up at roughly the same time every day, drink a glass of water, and do what you need to do to have a productive day.

  2. Exercise. If you hate it, find a way to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be running marathons. Try rowing or swimming or bicycling. Again, just do something. And if you have a REALLY hard time doing it, then do it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!

     

  3. Build a spiritual practice. Buddhism, Catholicism, Quakerism, whatever. You might even be able to persuade me of the benefits of being a Wiccan. Most important of all, though, JUST DO SOMETHING. Create a practice that helps you stay centered every day AND serves as beginning or end point for every week. I know, I know, we all hate going to church. So add some fun to it like brunch or a giant latte or a poke or two on a vape pen. But it’s important for many reasons. Foremost, it connects you with other humans. As a society we are facing an epidemic of loneliness. We need connection to other people. Try church, synagogue, meeting house, AA, whatever. Just something.

  4. Make time for gratitude. You know when you’re sitting in Chick-fil-a on a road trip and you look over and the family next to you is praying before eating their meal? Yes, it’s awkward and a little embarrassing, but if you were to take 30 seconds 3 times a day to REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE it might improve your outlook.

     

  5. Figure out the patterns. We all have patterns of behavior that we repeat in our lives. Take some time to figure out which ones are holding you back. Are you overly focused on the superficial? Are you living up to your values? Do you keep dating the same types of people? It never hurts to work with a therapist, a coach, or even an app to help you figure things out.

     

  6. Make a change. Maybe it’s time to get a new job or end a relationship or get a pet or move to a new city. Sometimes a dramatic change can shake you out of a rut. Now, don’t do anything that will hurt you in the long run- run it by a few people first- but explore the possibility of changing your situation, even if only for a period of time. Another simple idea- plan a vacation. Having something fun to plan and look forward to is half the fun!

     

  7. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself is never easy and forgiving others isn’t always smart, but generally speaking, going down the path of forgiveness will only yield benefits for you. Explore readings and writing on forgiveness that might help you work through some of your thoughts and if nothing else works, try medicine.