“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone, and all your friends will read them, but all that’s going to matter is that little dash between them.”Kevin Welch
Life is short, especially when we don’t feel like we can live life exactly how we want to. Too often, we get caught up in the minor problems, worries, and stressors and forget how to live each day to the fullest.
As Kevin Welch points out, we only have one life and our life is the dash in between our birth and our death.
In that short but eventful time, we’ll go through thousands of joys and thousands of sorrows on the greatest adventure we know of – a human life.
In this article, we’ll help you understand why it’s so crucially important to live your life to the fullest every day. Even if you think that’s impossible (I have to work, I have too many responsibilities!)
Living your life to the fullest is not about leaving behind your responsibilities. You don’t have to pack your bags and become a globetrotter to live your life to the fullest (although traveling is a wonderful thing to do and can expand your horizons.)
What does it mean to live life to the fullest?
As mentioned earlier, living a richer life does not mean foregoing all your responsibilities and throwing caution to the wind.
Doing so can be fun and is a great way to boost your life experience, but it is not the only way to get the best out of this short but eventful life of ours.
Living life to the fullest each and every day means living in the moment. How do you live in the moment? By being present and grounded as much as possible.
Life is full of distractions and responsibilities, and without taking the time to step back and cultivate some peace of mind and mental clarity, we may quickly become lost in the world around us, drowning in images, symbols, stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations.
Living in the moment, being present, being in the here and now. They all mean the same thing – Experiencing this present moment for all its richness, its pain and its joy, its sensations, its positives, and negatives.
You may think such a way of living is reserved for spiritual gurus and meditation masters, but this is far from the truth.
Living with presence in the here and now, experiencing each moment for what it is, is entirely possible. In this article, we’ll explore how it’s possible to live a fulfilling life this way and the myriad of benefits that come with it.
Ways to live your best life to the fullest
1. Start fresh every day to enjoy life to the fullest
Each morning, before you get up and make breakfast, have a coffee, workout, or start working, take some time to breathe and rest in the new day.
Let go of what happened yesterday and see today as a fresh start. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the fact that you’ve woken up this morning and have yet another chance to live a full day.
Often, we get so caught up in our lives that each day blends into the last. It’s as though we live our lives on autopilot, rarely taking the time to notice the miracle of simply being alive.
As much as you can, get some fresh air, start each morning with a fresh perspective and a sense of gratitude.
It’s a new opportunity to look into your inner self and find your center. When life gets overwhelming, do some grounding activities and retune your focus back onto what you really want to do with your life because you are the only person who can decide that.
2. Identify your values
In your unique life, what’s most important to you? Is it your health? Is it your family or loved ones? Your children?
Is it making lots of money? In matters concerning your professional life, is it working in a job you love rather than a dead-end job that only pays the bills?
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”Roy Disney
Take some time to sit with yourself, engage in quiet reflection on your life, and identify your core values.
Understanding what you value will ensure a more fulfilling life because figuring out what really matters to you helps you orient how you live life, so you can engage on those that matter and stop wasting time on those you don’t really care about.
Turn off autopilot and get back in the pilot seat. Identify your values that will shed light on your life journey and potential destinations.
To help you identify your values, get out a journal. Write in this journal as much as you can – it may help to keep it by your side, in your backpack, or the glove compartment of your car – and write in it whenever you have a realization or epiphany on what matters to you.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out all your values at once. They may only rise to the surface and even vie for your attention in times of stress or uncertainty.
As such, keeping a journal or even making notes on your phone helps you solidify these values and assign them to your memory.
Rather than having a life-changing realization and then forgetting about it when you feel less stressed or when you’re back in your comfort zone.
3. Cut down on complaining
Do you ever get the uncomfortable feeling that you’ve spent a lot of your life complaining? Do you complain about your life more than you actually live it? Most of us are guilty of complaining a little every now and then.
Perhaps work has become stressful or frustrating, and your boss or your coworkers aren’t pulling their weight. Perhaps you can’t seem to catch a break, and you’re going through another break-up or loss.
Maybe you just can’t find the energy to get up and live your life to the fullest because you’re too stuck in your comfort zone.
Complaining feels good; that’s why we do it. We justify to ourselves why our lives are not how we want them to be, which serves the purpose of making us feel a little less guilty about not taking charge and actually living fully.
If you want to live a full and happy life, the cold truth is that you need to stop complaining. It serves no other function than to justify procrastination and self-pity.
Understand that if you don’t complain, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in your life that you could complain about.
Rather, you understand that there are injustices and difficulties in your life, as there are in everyone else’s life, but you choose to spend your mental energy in other ways.
You find things for which you are grateful, or you focus on the things within your control that you can change to improve your circumstances.
4. Make life happen
Just like complaining, many of us procrastinate. We sit back and wait for life to happen to us, after which we’ll respond.
It’s fine to take a back seat sometimes and surrender yourself to the flow of life, but taking the back seat for too long is more of a risk than taking action.
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you want to reach old age and realize that you could have been more proactive in your life? Do you want to feel inundated with regrets and what if’s?
Or would you rather look back on your life and remember it as a wonderful adventure, full of risks, change, and excitement?
Make life happen for yourself by figuring out what you love and what you really want to do, and stop at nothing to create your ideal life for yourself.
Of course, we must take time to rest and rejoin the flow of life, but if you can balance it with positive emotions, decisive action, and focus on moving forward, you’re sure to give yourself the best chance of living a full, happy life.
5. Cultivate gratitude
Maintaining a positive mental attitude, also known as gratitude is the feeling of appreciation, and thankfulness one feels for the good things in their life, such as friends, family, loved ones, nature, or simply being alive and breathing in fresh air.
Of all the tips on how to live fully outlined in this article, gratitude is among the most powerful. It is a feeling but is also a skill. Like any other skill, you can develop and cultivate gratitude.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”Alphonse Karr
Research even proves the physical and mental health benefits of practicing gratitude.
Practicing gratitude on a regular basis elicits the release of dopamine and serotonin on the brain – key neurotransmitters in the brain linked to happiness and well-being and two of the four feel-good brain chemicals. The other two are endorphins and oxytocin, but more on those later.
So, spend time everyday living your life with gratitude. Even just a few minutes a day will make all the difference in your life.
6. Practice mindfulness
If gratitude is a power, then mindfulness is how we cultivate that power. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts and your life from a place of calm, clear, non-judgmental witnessing.
The practice is rooted in ancient spiritual practice, but you don’t need to follow any religion or spiritual ideology to reap its benefits.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, often touted as the father of the modern mindfulness movement, is one of a handful of pioneers and practitioners to have traveled east in the mid to late 20th century and learned about the miraculous healing benefits and properties of cultivating a mindfulness practice.
The healing benefits associated with mindfulness are profound and are backed by science.
Research has found that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, and chronic pain in people with physical illness.
It can also reduce the severity of symptoms in those suffering from a broad range of mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Through mindfulness, we learn to live each moment for what it is, unhindered by the past and unbothered by the future.
It is the practice of attuning our focus and attention onto the breath, noticing each breath for its qualities and sensations, and retiring our attention to the breath even when our mind gets lost in thought.
The goal of mindfulness is to completely eliminate thoughts but to return again and again to the breath.
Life is too short to hold grudges. In order to live life to the fullest every day, it’s wise to let go of those things and people in your past that hurt you.
Forgiveness is by no means easy, especially if the person who hurt you left a lasting impact on your worldview but understand that forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not the other person.
It does not mean you are okay with what they did or that it doesn’t matter. It means that you choose to free yourself from the burden of holding onto the past and instead allow yourself to enjoy your life as much as you can.
We can forgive others, but what’s most important is that we forgive ourselves. Many of us hold regrets for mistakes we’ve made in the past, whether they involve another person or were completely our own.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner and discover that the prisoner was you.”Lewis B. Smedes
To forgive yourself for your mistakes is an important step on the path to a healthy and happy life.
Again, forgiveness does not mean that your mistake was justified or that it wasn’t that big a deal – it means you’re choosing to release the weight of regret so you can make the best of the present and the future.
It means releasing the worst case scenario and allowing yourself to set goals, find ways to change things and live your life free from guilt.
8. Connect with people
Healthy relationships are key to living a happy and fulfilled life. Earlier, we mentioned two of the brain’s four feel-good chemicals – dopamine and serotonin.
The third feel-good chemical in the brain is oxytocin and is released through social bonding and closeness with those we love.
Our internal programming is designed so that we thrive in communities. We’re hardwired to spend time, connect with, and serve each other for the greater good of each member of the tribe, and scientific research agrees.
Recent research published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine highlights that people who enjoy strong connections with others tend to live longer than those with fewer close social ties.
Renowned psychologist Martin Seligman also highlights in a study that people who have strong social bonds with friends and family tend to be much happier than those without.
9. Help others
Since we’re hardwired to connect, helping others makes us feel good and can give life a sense of meaning and purpose.
Each day, there will always be one way or another you can help someone and make a difference in someone’s life.
It doesn’t have to involve money or even going that far out of your way – you can help someone by making them feel better about themselves.
A smile, a compliment, or a display of gratitude and appreciation can go a long way in making someone feel good about themselves. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if everyone tried to help someone just a little every day?
Did you know scientific research proves the value of helping others? A meta-analysis study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin examined the results of hundreds of studies on the benefits of kindness and altruism.
The study found that helping others offers a myriad of rewards to the helper, including, but not limited to, improved mental, greater life satisfaction, and greater overall health and well-being.
If you aren’t sure who to help, you can also look into doing volunteer work as a way to help other people and impact someone’s life.
It is important to remember that the little moments in life are often the ones that leave the greatest impact.
10. Nourish yourself
It’s incredibly difficult to live each day to the fullest if you don’t look after yourself.
To get the best out of each and every day, be your best yourself, and be as present and here as possible, it’s key to nourish your brain and body with a healthy diet and sufficient exercise.
There is a strong connection between the gut and brain, as proven by extensive scientific research. One of the four feel-good chemicals, Serotonin, is largely produced in the gut microbiome (up to 95 percent!).
The quality of that serotonin, which will eventually travel to the brain and take responsibility for governing mood and well-being, is affected by the quality of bacteria in the gut.
Therefore, if you choose to nourish your body with good food containing healthy bacteria, your body will flourish and you’ll be in the right mood to enjoy your day.
If, however, you don’t feed your gut with healthy foods but instead fuel it with sugars and unhealthy fats, your mood will probably take a turn for the worse.
Exercise is also a fantastic way to keep your physical and mental health in check! Remember the brain’s feel-good chemicals? So far, we’ve explored dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Last but not least, we have endorphins.
Endorphins are known as the body’s natural painkillers and are released in large amounts when we run or engage in other types of exercise.
Endorphins are the neurotransmitters responsible for the high that many runners experience.
11. Memento Mori (Remember death)
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the fullest, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”Pope Paul VI
Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that translates to ‘remember death’ and is a popular term throughout Stoic philosophy.
The message of the Stoics is that we are all going to die sooner or later and we only have one life, so there’s little point in worrying about things that are outside our control.
To the stoics, the point of life is to live life and live everyday as virtuously and fully as possible in the short time we’ve been given and not waste our energy on trivial things.
The good news is that every day, we have a choice to start our lives afresh, live life to the fullest and be our best self.
Even those of us who wake up to a family of young children, a barking dog, a long commute to work, and a stack of tasks and responsibilities can spend time to do what is necessary to make the best of life.
Your future self will be much happier for it and life today will feel incredible, as you start living for each moment!
As mentioned, living each day to the fullest is not about shirking your responsibilities – it’s about being so immersed in what you’re doing that you’re not living in the past or anticipating the future. You’re simply here, now.
To encourage you to live a full life, let’s finish with a quote from renowned writer and speaker, Alan Watts:
“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.“