It’s easy to become complacent with your life. It’s easy to be content with your current situation, to be okay with everyday annoyances, to never think about many of the routines and habits you’ve built throughout life. I have some back pain that bothers me but doesn’t everybody? It seems normal. Why would I change the breakfast I eat everyday? It’s quick, easy and delicious. Don’t you have headaches after a workday too? That’s when you know you’ve worked hard.
It’s only when you step back and reevaluate your situation that you realize there’s so much you could be doing better. And sometimes, these improvements can be made with so little effort! It just takes a little thought, perspective and creative thinking to improve. To better. To optimize.
Like many people, I’ve struggled with back pain. Probably for 5-10 years now. But, unlike most people, I spent about two years troubleshooting and attempting to find the root cause of the problem. This was only after ~5 years of thinking back pain was normal though… But after questioning this idea, I spent a lot of time researching, tweaking my routines and changing my habits. I went through a litany of self-tests to relieve the problem.
- I started performing routine core workouts to strengthen my abs, obliques and lower back. Didn’t resolve the issue.
- I bought a new mattress, changed my sleeping position and used a body pillow for proper sleep alignment. Back still hurt.
- I started stretching more to loosen my hamstrings and glutes. No relief.
- I bought a standing desk, and then a treadmill desk. By increasing my walking time and decreasing my sitting time, this did help relieve some pain. Maybe 30% relief.
- I went to my primary care doctor who sent me to a back specialist. They recommended injections or surgery. Both of which I denied.
- I saw a chiropractor that suggested I stop cracking my back and implement core stability exercises. I experienced about a 15% relief in back pain from this.
- I saw a podiatrist that made me custom shoe inserts and bought recommended shoe insoles. This didn’t help my back either.
- I then saw a couple different physical therapists. The second one spent a couple months with me and was able to provide me with a number of unique back extension stretches that did help. I would say another 30% relief.
Overall, my back pain has been reduced by about 75%. Although I haven’t completely corrected the issue, I took a big step in relieving a problem I once thought was normal. And, the process of attempting to find the root cause and implementing healthy, long-term routines has taught me a lot.
- Buying a new mattress, changing my sleep position and using a body pillow has increased the quality of my sleep. I thought I was sleeping fine beforehand but it turns out it could’ve been better.
- Working from a treadmill desk has made me more active throughout the day. I’m more focused and engaged with my work. My energy levels are more constant throughout the day. Who would’ve thought?
- My podiatrist-recommended shoe insoles has helped relieve heel pain I forgot I had. One of those annoyances I had gotten use to.
- I’ve stopped cracking my back which I’ve learned can be harmful to my spine in the long run. This is something I’ve done since middle school and never questioned it.
- The core exercises have reduced the effect of my side stitches when running. Another annoyance I sort of forgot about.
- I’ve relived 75% of my back pain. Pain which I thought was normal.
Even the changes I made for my back pain that didn’t work, have been helpful/useful in other ways of my life. I’m glad I’ve spent the time I have to find healthy long-term solutions. I’m also surprised by how many things I was able to optimize in my life that I never thought of or questioned before.
Below, are three more examples of ways I’ve optimized my life by reevaluating the things I do, and striving to improve them.
- I’ve eaten the same breakfast every morning for the past ~10 years. Peanut butter on Ezekiel bread with V8 light juice. One morning my girlfriend asked why I drink V8 light juice which has sucralose (known to cause cancer) and has been stripped of all fiber. I didn’t really have an answer. I decided that was the best beverage choice for me 10 years ago before I understood all the health ramifications and I haven’t reevaluated it since. But, now that it’s been brought up, there isn’t a good reason I can use to justify drinking V8 juice. There’s no real reason other than it tastes good and is quick to get. So, I did some research and switched to a whole foods plant based smoothie that I now consume everyday. It’s filled with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t have artificial sweeteners that cause cancer. What it does have, is extra fiber, vitamins, and nutrients that have actually made my morning better. This is a great example of how we get use to things in our life that can be vastly improved if we identified it, and researched healthy solutions.
- I use to get headaches everyday after work for about a year. I thought it was normal to have this after being at the office for 8 hours of hard work. And so I never thought much of it until I decided one day that it wasn’t normal. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to work an entire day and leave feeling just as great as when I started. I figured there had to be a way to fix it. Long story short, I was constantly dehydrated. I never had a bottle of water with me at work and the office humidity is pretty low. It sounds stupid now but it’s just another example of how we get use to annoying things in our life without taking time to identify and address the issue.
(This silly thing reminds me to drink and I love it)
- When I was ~16, I opened a savings account and credit card at my local credit union. They were great for me at the time since I was new to banking and new to credit. But a couple years ago, I started to reevaluate my accounts. I kind of assumed all savings accounts were the same and I knew credit cards were somewhat different. But, was anything substantially better than what I was using? Turns out the answer was a definite yes. So, I did my research and opened a new savings account that accrues 2.1% interest compared to my old one at .55%. I also opened one of the best cash back credit cards that provides me with 1.5% cash back compared to my old card without any cash back. If I would’ve reevaluated my situation years ago, instead of being complacent with my current situation, I could’ve saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars more over the past 4-7 years.
In summary, challenge and question your routines and habits every so often. What worked once, may not still work anymore. What was once great, may just be average now. Do your research to see if there are ways you can improve. Making a number of these small improvements will add up and create a lot better life for yourself.
What’s one thing you can optimize today?
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