The run-up to Labor Day is always a bit of a letdown. I feel like summer is kaput, vacation is over and Instagrammed, and it's time to sharpen my pencils, buy new notebooks and head back to school.
Who uses pencils? Or notebooks? And what school? I haven't returned to the classroom since computers were the size of a Starbucks, but that's how many of us are hardwired to feel when Labor Day comes and goes.
So lesson up. Back to school isn't just for kids, and that's a good thing. If you're keen on boosting your well-being -- and who isn't? -- then please welcome this seasonal shift into back-to-school mode. Use it to study and learn new stuff that informs and improves your own vision of living a healthier, happier life.
In other words, you can alter your course ... but it requires continuing self-education. Here are four electives to consider:
Stress is unavoidable. It's part of life. The news is scary; you're feeling squeezed for time; your roommate sneezes on your cereal bowl. Stress happens.
When there is too much unrelieved stress in our lives, we get sick, depressed and unhappy, as science has been proving to us for the last 50 years.
So here's your assignment: Find a good teacher and learn healthy ways to consciously release, transform and move through your stress.
You have many choices: Meditation, tai chi, yoga and deep breathing may lead the list of stress-releasers but fishing, needlework and cleaning out the garage can also calm your brain, ease your anxiety, and focus you back to the present moment. It's there, we keep discovering, that stress and worry give way to joy and gratitude.
*Learn How to Eat Well
Your medical doctor probably knows very little about nutrition, so why should you? I'll tell you why. Until you study and understand what it means to nourish your body with real, clean, unprocessed food, you'll be bamboozled by every fad diet that arrives in your junk mail.
We're talking billions of dollars spent on belly fat removal schemes that are insanely unreliable. It's a scam, a fraud -- "lose 10 pounds while you sleep!" -- and still we're surrounded by an endless parade of weight-loss ads that prey on our collective ignorance.
Forget quick fixes. End the drama. Dump your gimmicky diets. Instead, make this the semester you learn to cook, or assemble and eat balanced meals that are healthy and delicious, based on real food. (Anyone who tells you that eating smart is only for wealthy people is passing on misinformation.)
For top grades, learn to read food and drink labels. Acquire the knowledge that will guide you away from added sugars and toxic additives and steer you back to your own kitchen, where you can prepare yummy meals with real ingredients in sensible portions.
For extra credit, cook with your kids. It's a terrific way to be creative together and raise healthy eaters.
*Go Deeper Into a Practice You Love
Wisdom is like coral; you layer it on, bit by bit. Now that you're in the back-to-school mindset, ask yourself: What do I enjoy doing now that I want to learn more about?
If you're good at golf, for instance, but want to get better, learn some exercises -- mental and physical -- to calm your mind and strengthen your torso. If you're a yogi, take the next few months to explore a slower, deeper practice. Whatever activity sparks joy with you now -- playing piano? bridge? pickleball? -- crank it up a notch over the next few months. The more you know, the more you grow.
One thing we're all learning these days is how disturbing, distracting and destructive our devices can be. Loved ones disappear into their screens. Relationships suffer. We can't go a day without checking our messages 50 times or more. We're all addicted ... pretty much ... so now what?
Time to sign up for a lifelong course of study called "Untethering from Technology," starting today and continuing for the rest of your life.
We can't live without our devices, but how can we live with them in a way that leaves the time and energy to pursue our own well-being?
On this subject, dear reader, you are your own best teacher.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! BOOK ON IT
"Education is not preparedness for life; education is life itself." -- John Dewey
Marilynn Preston's weekly column, "Energy Express," can be found at creators.com.