There’s no question that Singaporeans enjoy a high standard of living. When it comes to cleanliness, safety and sanitation, we’re #1.
But when it comes to quality of life, I’m not so sure.
If quality of life to you means a high GDP, low unemployment and high life expectancy, then sure, we’re not doing too bad.
But if it means having time for leisure and social interaction, job satisfaction and overall happiness, then we might not be doing so well. Poor work-life balance is very entrenched, and we have some of the lowest levels of job satisfaction in the region.
Raising one’s quality of life is usually not simply a question of just working harder to earn more money, at least not for most middle income Singaporeans. Instead, try these six ways to raise your quality of life without spending much money at all.
1. Health: Commit to a sport or exercise of your choice
Singaporeans aren’t exercising enough, and even the government is starting to get worried due to soaring diabetes rates.
If you currently lead a sedentary lifestyle, only getting off your ass when you have to go to the toilet or travel to and from the office, getting into some form of sport or exercise will most definitely raise your sense of wellbeing and improve your health.
But it’s not enough to just promise yourself you’ll do it. You need to commit in some way—by signing up for a class, or making plans with a friend to go for a run or to the gym.
For instance, let’s say you’ve decided to go for a weekly hike at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Start jioing your friends, partner, family members or whomever you want to company you a week in advance, so there’s a lower chance that you’ll back out.
2. Leisure: Try a new hobby
To all those people whose homes are basically a showroom for their Gundam models, or who rush to their MMA gyms every day after work, this doesn’t apply to you.
But there are more than a few Singaporeans who simply have no hobbies or interests outside of work. If that sounds like you, instead of complaining that life is meaningless and boring, commit to getting into one new hobby you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time/guts to.
You’ll probably begin by looking up information on the internet, but it’s all too easy to let it die right there.
Instead, help yourself build momentum by signing up for a one-off class or workshop to get your feet wet, or if it’s the sort of hobby you practise alone at home, by buying one piece of equipment that will get you started (e.g. if you want to take up calligraphy, buy a proper pen and some art paper).
3. Money: Start working towards an alternative stream of income
One of the reasons Singaporeans are so dissatisfied at work could be because everyone depends desperately on their jobs to deal with the high cost of living. What’s more, with retrenchment on the cards for so many workers once they reach middle age, it’s no longer safe to rely on just one sole stream of income.
No matter how busy your job is, try to carve out some time to work towards obtaining a second stream of income. The psychological rewards can be tremendous, even if you’re not exactly raking in millions.
Take the first step by doing research on what income streams are open to you, and then make concrete plans to work towards it.
Your alternative income stream doesn’t necessarily have to be passive. It could come in the form of freelance work on the side—you could teach piano, be a wedding photographer, give tuition or make websites, depending on your interests and skills.
4. Personal relationships: Be the one to organise the next outing with your friends
Feeling lonely and unfulfilled because you have no friends, or you do but they’re never free? Well, if you sit at home every evening waiting for people to ask you out, it’s no wonder.
Take the initiative to organise the next outing with your friends. Being the one to link people up and decide on a place might actually make you feel empowered.
But what if your social circle has shrunk to the point where nobody other than your immediate family remembers you exist? Then commit to attending a series of events, classes or activities that will put you in regular contact with a group of people—sign up for Spanish classes or, if you don’t want to spend money, attend a free Meetup.
You may not meet your next best friend, but the contact with other human beings can be beneficial, especially if you’ve been hiding in a cave every weekend.
5. Rest: Designate one full evening where you make plans with yourself
Unless you work-life balance is so bad that you literally tumble into bed the moment you get home, you probably do enjoy some me-time every day.
The problem is that when you spend your time at home mindlessly surfing Facebook or Internet forums, you end up feeling more tired and unfulfilled than ever.
To combat this, designate one full evening where you make plans with yourself, and yourself alone. The catch is that you’ve got to have a plan to look forward to.
You might decide to go for a foot massage near your workplace, and then go home and watch the latest Game of Thrones episode while moisturising your skin with a face mask.
Or you might want to FoodPanda over your favourite bak kut teh which you then consume while listening to your favourite band, followed by a binge read of that book you always told yourself you’d find time to start.
6. Sense of purpose: Work towards one goal or cause you’ve always cared about
Life in Singapore can seem so robotic sometimes. You show up at the office every day at a job you don’t like or care about, plugging away without really knowing why.
Fortunately, you don’t need to know the meaning of life or discover your life’s one great passion in order to feel a sense of purpose.
All you need is to identify one small goal or cause that appeals to you, and then take that first step towards achieving or contributing to it.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to start your own business. Start small by exploring small business ideas with a low start-up cost. There are uni students who make thousands of dollars a month selling products from Thailand or Taobao on eBay, so there’s no reason you can’t find a simple business idea that works.
But your goal doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your career. Let’s say you’ve always loved animals and wanted to improve their welfare. If that’s the case, sign up to volunteer with the Cat Welfare Society or SPCA.
Again, you don’t need to know your life’s One Big Mission to feel a sense of purpose. It’s just about adding little activities to your agenda that make you feel like you’re doing something more meaningful than working, sleeping and shopping.
Are you satisfied with your quality of life? Tell us why or why not in the comments.