How to Improve Your Quality of Life, No Matter How Busy You Are

We live in a world that seems to be getting busier, nosier, and more tiring. We’re working harder and longer hours, and we’re retiring much later in life. In that context, doing what you can to improve your quality of life is more important than ever.

The good news is that improving your quality of life doesn’t need to involve making big changes. There are plenty of small things that you can do that will show benefits almost immediately.

What is quality of life?

To know how to improve quality of life, it’s useful to know what counts as quality of life first. It can vary, depending on where a person is in life. For example, people living in retirement tend to define quality of life be being in good physical, mental, and financial health, and that meaning that they can live independently for as long as possible. Younger people from gen Z entering the workforce for the first time, meanwhile, are far more heavily weighted towards the pragmatist goal of financial security. Millennials often have more idealistic goals than either group.

However, all groups can benefit from a series of quality of life “best practices” that will help get them in the mindset that they need to achieve these goals and feel better about themselves in the process.

1)     Declutter

This is what Marie Kondo has been famous for over a number of years now.  There is research that shows that keeping environments that are minimalist and decluttered actually improves the mental health. You don’t need to go hardcore with this, but moving through your home and remoting items that you no longer need will give you room to fill it again with things that do spark joy. Furthermore, the fewer things you own, the less time you need to spend maintaining, cleaning, and organising them.

If you can’t bring yourself to throw them out, then consider renting some storage space. With the right temperature and climate-controlled storage space (to protect the items), you can keep items that you don’t need in the immediate term somewhere safe and out-of-mind, while still decluttering the place where you live.

2)     Drink more water

This might sound like really silly advice, but in actual fact, almost no one drinks enough water. A full 80 per cent of us could be consuming more, and the lifestyle impacts of this are significant. A lack of water is connected to headaches, fatigue, and even weight gain (research shows that people often feel hungry when it’s actually just that their body wants water). So a really simple way of improving your quality of life is to drink more water.

3)     Learn things

For far too many people, the last day of school or their university course is the last day they formally learn something. Once they’re in the workforce, that’s it as far as adding to their knowledge bank goes. Sure, they might read the news or watch the occasional documentary, but they don’t gain demonstratable expertise in anything else.

This is an unfortunate, because learning new things can have a wide range of lifestyle benefits. It could potentially lead to promotions or new career paths, but even if it doesn’t, learning improves your mental faculties and provides a powerful sense of satisfaction that comes from getting measurably better at something.

Take a barista or cocktail making course for fun. Sign up to a book club at a community college or group. Take up a sport and hire a coach. Download an app like Duolingo and start learning a second language. Or go and do that MBA to supercharge your career. There are endless opportunities to learn out there. Rather than waste your time watching poor-quality TV or over-indulging in video games, give yourself some time to learn, for fun or profit.

4)     Take a break from the screens

Most of us use screens for work… and then use screens to catch up on social media during the commute home… and then use screens for entertainment in the evening. Our use of screens is exploding, and now, 90 per cent of people aged 18-29 actually sleep with their phone next to them in bed. It’s the last thing they do before sleep, and the first thing they do on waking up.

However, this is disrupting sleep and with so much of our well-being associated with getting a good night’s sleep, this disruption is affecting our quality of life.

The best solution is to give yourself an hour at the end of the day to read a book in bed – going to bed an hour earlier to do so, and making the bedroom a strict “no devices” environment. The phone and computer will be just outside the room when you need it the next day.

5)     Find time for a hobby

This is easier said than done, when you’ve got a busy career to deal with, kids that need motoring around, and whatever other obligations crop up through life, but finding time for yourself is so critically important, both to help centre yourself and to give you joy in your own life.

Hobbies can range from time in the gym or a sport, through to a collection, a creative pursuit (write that book!), or simply finding time for friends. You don’t necessarily need a lot of time for the hobby to do its thing in helping your state of mind and well-being, but it is something that you should protect, by actually scheduling it in if necessary.

These are just five techniques that can help deliver to you a better sense of wellness and quality of life. It really does come down to the basics – are you sleeping enough, eating well, drinking enough water, and creating an environment that is enjoyable to live in? If so, then you’re well on the path to having a great quality of life.

What Internet Speeds Are Right For You?

Whether you’re looking to game or video conference, work and study from home, or simply kick back with some Netflix in the evenings, the speed of your Internet connection is critical to the experience.

There are many different types of Internet connection available, and the first thing to understand is that depending on where you live, you might not have much of a choice in terms of what speeds are available. If you live in a major city, then generally choice will be available to you – especially if you are willing to pay. You’ll be able to access everything from 5G mobile Internet, to a range of fibre services to the home, and more – you’ll be able to tailor your Internet plan to your specific needs.

However, if you live in a regional area, you might only have one option for Internet, and it might not be as fast as you’re hoping for. There are technologies and solutions on the horizon that might cast a wider net and include more regional areas, but for now, you may need to make the most of what you can access.

Now, with that said, what is a good Internet speed?

Video is the benchmark

The most data-intensive application will always be one that uses video. Netflix, for example, recommends that people have at least 5 Mbps in order to stream video content at HD (which, for most modern TVs, is the minimum quality that you’ll want), and 25 Mbps for content in 4K (which, depending on your TV, is what you’ll really want to be doing).

What surprises most people is that almost any other application doesn’t require much bandwidth at all. People often assume that for playing games online, for example, the faster the connection, the better. However, most gaming applications wouldn’t need more than 3 Mbps – half that of lower quality video – to run perfectly well. There are other factors that might affect the quality of the gaming experience, such as latency, but that’s unrelated to the Internet speeds you need.

The most bandwidth-intensive application of gaming is cloud gaming – where you “stream” the game off a server like you would watch a Netflix film. For a service like this (such as Microsoft Cloud Gaming), you’ll need a download speed of at least 20 Mbps (and 5GHz Wi-Fi), which is still less than high-end video.

Now, if you’re going to be downloading a lot of games, there’s a case to be made for a faster connection. Video games can be as much as 100GB in size now, and obviously, the faster the Internet connection, the quicker you’ll be playing, but if you’re willing to wait a few hours from the point of purchase (or download the game overnight while sleeping), then a 20 Mbps connection will be more than sufficient there too.

So, in short, when figuring out which Internet speed you need, prioritise video. If your Internet connection can handle video, it can also do the rest.

More people = greater speeds needed

The second key factor to consider is the number of people that are going to be using the Internet at the same time. In a household, one person might be watching Netflix, while another is using the Internet to research a project, and a third might be trying to conduct a video conference. Each additional application using the Internet at the same time adds to the overall bandwidth required. If two people are using Netflix at the same time you need to double the bandwidth, and so on.

The best way to make this calculation is to look at the peak times that people are using the Internet – when everyone’s at home and connected at the same time – and assume that each of these people want to use video at some point. That’s an indication of when your Internet connection will have the most strain put on it, and from there you can figure out the maximum “peak” bandwidth that you’ll need.

For most families of 3-4 people, it’ll be around 100 Mbps, to ensure that there won’t ever be disruption to anyone’s Internet experience.

Also consider uploads

Often when we look at Internet speeds, we focus on downloads – the speeds that you need to have information sent to you from the Internet. This is because applications like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, gaming and so on are exclusively one-way traffic – you don’t need to send any information to use these services.

However, increasingly we do use the Internet to interact online. Video conferencing, for example, involves both receiving and sending video footage. Cloud gaming and applications involve a feedback loop – you make inputs and get outputs in return.

For this reason, it’s important to also look at the upload speed. In many cases, Internet plans are sold with what is called asynchronous speeds – you’ll get a bigger download speed than upload (for example, a common Internet plan is to offer 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload). Internet companies do this because traditionally the need for upload bandwidth is lower, so providing synchronous speeds would have been a waste of resources.

The good news is that video conferencing applications don’t require the same bandwidth as, say, Netflix. Microsoft Teams recommends around 1.5 Mbps both download and upload for a good experience. A more intensive application is Twitch – if you’re a game streamer than you’ll need around 6 Mbps to ensure that your audience have a good experience. But that’s about the cap, so run the same calculations for uploads as you do downloads, and make sure that your plan will be able to account for “peak” times when everyone in the house might be using the Internet to interact at the same time.

Find the right ISP

Once you know what kind of Internet speed you need to match your consumption needs, the next step is to find the right ISP to meet those needs. Not all ISPs are equal. As a rule of thumb (though there are always exceptions to the rule), be careful about the cheapest ISPs. They might provide the speeds that you’re looking for, but with strict data caps that limit how much you can use. Or they might cut corners in other areas (for example, a cheaper ISP might not buy enough bandwidth wholesale, and therefore struggle to provide enough bandwidth to its customers during peak times, resulting in a slower connection for everyone.

The best way to ensure a completely interruption-free Internet experience is, therefore, quite simple. It’s a matter of calculating the amount of bandwidth and speeds that you need, and finding the right ISP that you can trust to provide that.