70 Life Lessons I Learned From Reader’s Digest

To celebrate 70 years of being Canada’s most trusted brand, we’ve rounded up Reader’s Digest’s best advice ever. These life lessons are as valuable today as when they first appeared in the pages of Reader’s Digest magazine.

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Mother and son reading Reader's Digest
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1. Goals have to be attainable. If they’re not, why set them?

2. The best decisions are made with a combination of intellect and instinct. Good strategists collect information based on these two things until they feel they can make a good decision.

3. When you’re spending time with your family, consider putting your phone on airplane mode. You can still snap pictures or check the time, but you won’t be distracted by texts, email and social media notifications.

4. Try telling your kids it makes you happy to see a stellar report card but even happier to know when they have done something kind.

5. When travelling in China, tipping in restaurants is considered rude (unless you’re in a Western establishment).

6. When you’re on a date, don’t talk about your ex, whether it’s in a complimentary or disparaging way.

7. Coast to a stop when driving. Take your foot off the gas when you approach a yellow or red light. You’ll use less gas and reduce wear and tear on your brakes and tires.

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Men shaking hands
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8. There’s an art to the perfect handshake:

Extend your hand mid-point between yourself and the other person; grip their hand firmly and squeeze; lock eyes and shake no more than three times.

9. Quitting smoking? Go for a run! Studies consistently show that cigarette cravings are reduced after an exercise session and can also temper tobacco withdrawal symptoms.

10. Tip hotel housekeepers $2 to $5 each day, instead of a larger amount at the end of your stay. (Housekeepers tend to work on rotation, and this way, each cleaner gets their fair share.)

11. Whether it’s sweet nothings or a play-by-play, talking during sex can intensify the experience.

12. When driving in the winter, keep your fuel tank at least half full at all times.

13. When meeting someone for the first time, be conscious of your body language. Don’t cross your arms, don’t slouch or fidget, and maintain eye contact and nod to indicate you’re paying attention.

14. Don’t be afraid to unfriend or unfollow someone on social media—and don’t be offended if you’ve been unfriended or unfollowed. Often, it’s simply a matter of pruning old relationships, both online and off.

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Woman running
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15. Physical activity is a great way to get out of a funk.

16. Determine a car’s popularity among thieves—a factor in car insurance cost—before you buy by consulting the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s annual list of the 10 most stolen vehicles.

17. You can save 90 calories by spreading margarine on your bagel instead of cream cheese.

18. For a do-it-yourself home fragrance, add cinnamon sticks and apple wood chips to a roaring fire. For a citrus scent, burn orange and lemon peels.

19. Set incremental deadlines for long-term tasks, especially gruelling ones. It’s easier to start a project when you see it as a series of smaller tasks rather than one never-ending assignment.

20. Instead of frying bacon, bake it: excess grease collects in the catch pan, not on your plate.

21. Don’t be afraid to say no. We’re hard-wired to say yes, but part of time management is learning that every hour has value. If an opportunity arises that isn’t worth your while, turn it down.

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Picnic lunch in field
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22. When packing for a picnic, keep the sweet stuff to a minimum. (It’ll only attract wasps.)

23. The best time to negotiate a deal on your smartphone service is when your plan is up for renewal. Boost your chances by avoiding a threatening tone; just let them know you’re shopping around.

24. Most packaging—plastic, foam, paper—from boxed goods ends up in landfills. Instead of purchasing cereal in cardboard boxes and plastic, for example, consider buying it at a bulk-food store where you can bag your own items.

25. For a calorie-reduced cake, replace the eggs, oil and water that you’d add to a packaged cake mix with a 14-ounce can of pumpkin puree.

26. When flying, drink at least two glasses of water every hour to combat dehydration caused by the plane’s dry air. Keep moving to improve circulation and prevent swelling.

27. Buy less clothing (and better quality clothing!) and learn how to do simple sewing repairs. Darning socks and mending sweaters will cut down on the number of items you’d normally toss in the trash.

28. Some of the best blues-busting foods are rich in vitamin D, such as fish—salmon, black cod and sardines, for example.

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Messy cords
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29. Organize tangled cables and power cords by running them through paper towel rolls.

30. To sleep on a red-eye flight, use over-the-counter melatonin, a hormone that’s thought to help induce sleep. (Other effective natural remedies include valerian, passion flower and L-theanine.)

31. Handwashing your lingerie will help your pieces last longer—agitation from the washing machine can damage bras.

32. Always use a soft toothbrush to avoid scraping at your gum line (unless you have artificial teeth or dentures). Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle, with bristles pointed at your gum line, and move in a circular motion.

33. You can turn a Mason jar into a soap dispenser by drilling a hole in the lid to fit a pump from an old bottle.

34. When shopping on eBay or another online auction site, bid strategic atypical amounts, such as $11.02 to trump $11. If you’re serious about an item, place your final bid about 10 seconds before the auction closes to outrace any consumers also watching closely.

35. Hungover? Eat a banana. It will help replace any potassium that you lost overnight.

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Meeting with the boss
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36. Asking for a raise? Here’s some advice:

Start with 10 per cent more than what you’re seeking, and prepare to negotiate down from that number.

37. For a healthy lawn, set your mower blade to its highest level. Longer grass is more drought-tolerant and will help shade out young weed plants.

38. To build a roaring campfire, start with a flammable base of newspaper strips, paper towel and kindling (small, thing pieces of wood). Top with more kindling arranged in a teepee or log-cabin shape. Pile on one or two large logs to give the fire lasting power. Light the base and watch it burn.

39. Buying something online that’s shipping from the States? If you’re not in a hurry, ask the seller to ship via United States Postal Service instead of UPS—you’ll save on brokerage fees.

40. Even adults only need to use a pea-sized dot of toothpaste when brushing their teeth.

41. For perfectly al dente pasta, salt the water after it boils, not before.

42. Rotate between two or three different pairs of shoes to give them time to dry out after each wear, since each foot sweats out about one cup of moisture a day.

Check out 19 More Simple Fixes for Smelly Feet!

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Shoe shopping
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43. To find the perfect fit, shop for shoes later in the day when feet tend to be a bit swollen.

44. When buying steak, stick with cuts that are 2.5 centimetres or thicker—anything less risks being overcooked. The meat should be bright red in colour.

45. To give a compliment without seeming creepy, it’s important to be sincere and specific. Focus on performance. Use the person’s name. If you can’t resist complimenting his or her appearance, frame the praise professionally, not sexually.

46. Leave your grass clippings to decompose on the lawn. They’ll boost soil organic matter and provide nutrients to the grass.

47. When your boss tells a terrible joke, you don’t have to laugh, but you do have to smile. (A poker face looks rude.) They key to a genuine smile is in the eyes. Hike up your cheekbones to produce the crinkling effect of crow’s feet.

48. Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. Remember: you—not your mortgage broker—know your budget best. Don’t forget about closing costs, legal fees, property taxes and insurance.

49. To prevent ingrown toenails, trim in a straight line using sharp clippers, and not too short.

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Renovating a kitchen
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50. Kitchen and bathroom renovations will give you the highest return on your investment of any home improvements.

51. Most foul baseballs are hit down the first or third baseline. At Toronto’s Rogers Centre, sections 113 and 130 are the sweet spots. With little competition, fans who show up for batting practice an hour or two before game time increase their chances of pocketing a home-run ball.

52. To attract hummingbirds to your garden, plant honeysuckle, bleeding hearts, blue irises and red flowering currants.

53. Most flea markets are a roundup of vendors and antique dealers, some of whom have travelled a great distance and don’t want to take stuff back with them. That leaves ample leeway for deal-making.

54. Don’t use cotton swabs to clean your ears. Instead, wipe the entrance to the ear canal gently with a warm washcloth when you take a shower.

55. People say that when you’re pregnant, you get to eat for two. Really, it’s more like 1.2, so enjoy an extra 300 calories daily.

56. If you’re considering buying a condo, research its board members and management company to ensure their reliability when it comes to scheduled maintenance and repairs. Minutes from the board of directors meetings can help give you a clear picture.

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Hotel receptionist
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57. For the best value on accommodations, call the hotel directly:

A manager or booking agent will usually match or better the best price you found online.

58. Don’t approach your doctor with an idea of what you think you have. Tell him or her your symptoms first, and focus on reporting instead of diagnosing. Come prepared and chronicle when, how often and how severe your symptoms are before your visit.

59. It’s not just caffeine that can interfere with a good night’s sleep, but your sweet intake, as well. Excess consumption can cause a quick drop in sugar levels a few hours later, leading to restlessness, irritability, anxiety and insomnia.

60. When grieving the loss of a loved one, plan ahead for triggers. Anniversaries and holidays can exacerbate feelings of grief, so decide in advance how you’d like to honour the occasion and communicate that to your support system.

61. For travel within North America, Wednesday is generally the least expensive day to fly, since most vacationers bookend their trips with weekends. Tuesdays and Saturdays are the next best days.

62. Prevent cold-air leaks at home with a draft snake—a plush door-stopper placed in entryways to stop drafts. If you’re crafty, make your own, but something as simple as a rolled up towel will do.

63. Pick brightly coloured suitcases with an identifier (ribbons work well) to stand out in a sea of black bags at the airport. Attach ID with contact info to the inside and out.

Check out 5 More Ways to Get Through the Airport Faster!

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Man and woman in sunglasses
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64. Don’t scrimp on sunglasses:

Pick a pair with 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection. Those flashy drugstore shades reduce the brightness of the light hitting your eyes, so your pupils open wider. If the lenses don’t filter out UV, radiation floods your retinas and can cause long-term damage.

65. Almost every major city has its own mini off-seasons, when rates drop and last-minute specials apply. Visit New York following Fashion Week, go to Venice after the film festival or head to New Orleans post-Mardi Gras. Hotels lose a huge percentage of their guests on the final day of a major event, and top restaurants have vacancies.

66. Setting your thermostat back by 4 to 6 degrees Celsius for eight hours each day can shave up to 15 per cent off of your heating bill.

67. Never add pasta to water before it’s boiling—dumping it into a cold pot guarantees a sticky disaster.

68. When you’re in a relationship, it’s important to find ways to be together, even when you’re apart. A text or email (or love letter, if you’re the ultimate romantic) reminds your partner you’re thinking of them. This helps to foster a sense of security, the underlying factor in a long-term relationship’s contribution to good mental health.

69. If you find yourself stuck at the airport for any length of time, consider buying a day pass to an airline lounge. (The WiFi access alone makes it worthwhile.)

70. Never second-guess your decision to call in sick: Staying home for one day cuts the flu virus transmission likelihood by 25 per cent. Staying home for two days cuts it by 39 per cent.

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