The insistence of parents that young children should extricate themselves from a jumble of pillows, sheets and blankies (yeah, I said “blankies”… like a boss) and then immediately turn that mess into an aesthetically pleasing picture of old-timey bedding perfection has always seemed to me the greatest injustice in parent-kid relations since the dawn of time. Perhaps the dawn of beds. Because I know and you know and they know and the imaginary monster under that messy bed know that the bed-making charade if futile because the bed is just going to get messy again.
What is this injustice!? What is this stupidity? Room cleaning likewise ground my gears as a child. I was not showing my room to the public at large. It was my solitary space used for the accumulation of dirty clothes, very pointy toys and a varied amount of lost foods and deadly fungi. What should messiness matter?
Well here is goes: Making your bed makes you better at life.
No, no, no, no, no. Unacceptable. Right? Making your bed every morning just makes you lame.
Making Your Bed
Apparently it makes you lame and more productive, gives you a greater sense of well-being and imbues you with stronger skills at sticking with a budget… according to studies by so-called scientists.
If we go back to Charles Duhigg and The Power of Habit, he would call this a keystone habit. Keystone habits are (like you might surmise) are little changes in your daily routine that help bring about a bunch of other positive changes in your life. Now, I know, correlation does not imply causation, but Duhigg isn’t the only person shouting that making your bed makes life better, he sights a flurry of other sources in the back of his book and the writer Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project notes that bed making was “the number one most impactful change that people brought up over and over” when she researched the book, a book about creating happiness in life.
I have been attempting to make my bed every morning.
I am on a self-betterment kick, after all. Is it making my checkbook balanced? Not that I’ve noticed. Am I more productive? Hrm. Maybe? Am I happier? How do you even quantify that? But… it is nice to come home to a made bed at the end of the day. To a clean room. To an organized life. And granted, when the shit hits the fan my room cleanliness starts to take a hit, but I do think it makes a different to keep it on the priority list.
Even though making my bed and cleaning my room is lame.
What other lame things have I been rolling my eyes at?
To call exercise “lame” might feel like a stretch to some of you, but given the fact that only a handful of my friends read this blog (and the fact that most of you are really very oh so nerdy), I believe you will understand.
When I grew up as a tubby blonde child in the desert, sports and exercise were the worst thing. Beyond the simple fact that it was the DESERT and exercise happened OUTSIDE (the fuck?!)… I was also not “sports kid”. When you have giant coke bottle glasses with suprisingly sharp metal frames you don’t get to be “sports kid”. One good basketball to the face (which will happen because glasses severely limit your peripheral vision) and you become “bleeding profusely from the face kid”. Plus, every movie since ever pretty much told me what team I was on. I had glasses, was smart and could break and put back together every piece of electronics in my house. Team Nerd. When you deal with stereotypes, exercise easily gets lumped into the realm outside of your stereotype. Exercise belonged to the realm of the dumb, the evil, the judgemental, the violent, the jocks.
Running around in circles, lifting heavy things only to put them down in the same damn place and playing with balls didn’t just sound childish, it sounded like the pastimes of a sad, sad, demented mind. Also, pretty fucking lame, dude.
Guess what Charles Duhigg says? Keystone habit.
I’ve mentioned this before, but studies have shown that people who exercise regularly (even just once a week) start changing other patterns in their lives without realizing it. They eat better, become more productive at work, smoke less, show more patience with colleages and family, use their credit cards less frequently and experience less stress.
Of course, I don’t care about any of that. I just care about these puppies…
…which I hope to someday have.
Regardless, have I attained some of these residual benefits since beginning my dance with exercising regularly? Well… yeah. At least some of them. I have been eating better and a good run is a nice zen moment that blows off excess energy, reducing my stress. Plus it generally makes me feel better about life, which helps when I want to stab co-workers in the face. Sure the shop is on fire and the lighting plot just got hung backwards, but at least I went for a run today. It’s a small win. Or at least that’s the nice way to put it.
Sometimes it feels better to think of it as a small “I’m better than you”. The sky is falling because of that asshole over there, but I bet that asshole didn’t make it to the gym so he’s just bad at life anyway. My pity for his existence keeps me from stabbing him… this time.
I’m only going to give those two big examples of lame habits, but there are more good habits that might apply:
-Eating with your family
-Getting up at the same time every morning (even weekends)
-Keeping a planner
-Setting a strict diet (not super restrictive, just set a few rules and stick to them)
-Keep a food/drink/emotional journal (dieting, binge drinking, depression?)
-Not shitting on your roommate’s piano
-Stop watching The Jersey Shore (that’s right, I see you there, turn it off)
I realize for some of you these things are no-brainers. “They’re not lame, they’re responsible.” But the American mentality definitely has a happy trigger finger when it comes to chastising what we consider high maintenance. People with pocket protectors aren’t smarter than you and less likely to have pen stains all over their shirts… they’re dweebs.
I can’t speak for other people, but I have often gotten caught up ignoring certain ways of going about things because I associated the activities too strongly with the people carrying them out or the type of people carrying them out. People who jog every single day seem a little nuts balls… a little high maintenance, like they don’t know how to relax. People who have to account for every penny they’ve ever owned seem like insufferable misers who can’t enjoy life because they’re stuck thinking about money. People who have to have their houses spotless seem like overbearing OCD automatons.
But… maybe the jogger just likes being in shape and it make them happier. Perhaps keeping a good checkbook in order eliminates a lot of stress and allows the person to happily focus on other areas of their lives without the financial cloud raining down on them. OCD guy might just have a lot on his plate and keeping the house in order is perhaps enough to make him feel like he exerts some level of control over his life.
Finally, something I never realized before recently is that if you start picking these habits you want and actually start making them habits, you don’t really have to worry about them all that much. Sure, getting your ass to yoga every week seems like a burden. You have to shift your schedule, you have to remember your yoga clothes, your mat, etc, etc… but that’s only the first time… well, I lie, maybe it’s the first fifty times. But eventually, going to yoga every week is just… what you do. You do it every week. It’s part of your life. It feels strange and foreign to not go to yoga every week.
So pick a good habit. Just one (don’t go crazy). And see if you can make it a habit.