Would you like to feel steadier in a healthy, mind-body way that does not involve pharmaceuticals?
Is straddling a teeter-totter the last time you consciously considered balance in your life?
Today’s topsy-turvy world has us all running madly in every direction. We often feel overwhelmed with what’s before us – and that is, even, before our feet hit the floor in the morning. We are losing our joie de vivre; there is precious little fun and almost non-existent downtime in our lives today. We excel at doing.
Perhaps, it’s time to rethink the ways we choose to have a life and the ways we choose to fill a life. The life you are leading now is the life you passing on to your children. Is that what you want?
Here are five strategies to help you refind your happiness and rebalance your life. Most likely, these concepts will be familiar, but, hopefully, they will register with that part of yourself that has had enough and wants a way out to a happier and more balanced of being.
1. WAKE UP
I don’t mean just get out of bed or off the couch, I mean become m-i-n-d-f-u-l. Happiness studies tell us that being mindful is the number one factor in creating a happy life.
If we are mindful, we are paying attention. We can savor every moment. We are no longer robots or automatons beating down the hours as the days slip by. The philosopher Kierkegaard talked about the “tranquilization by the trivial.” That’s what happens to many of us; we get lulled by all the details and non-essentials and forget what is really important to us.
Remember the 80/20 sales rule. You get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers, but your spend 80% of your time on the 20% that does not yield the results you want. Apply that to your mind. Where do you focus your attention? Do you feed your time and energy into your priorities? Or, like most of us, do the shiny things distract you and you head off in your own trivial pursuit?
Discern what is important to you and place your powerful attention and intention there. Think about it, our choices — where we place our energies and focus – determine our days and define our lives.
2. CHANGE ONE THING
Choose one thing you will do differently. Commit to making that change every day for 30 days. Want to do even better? Extend that commitment to 60 days. Really go for the gold, make that 90 days. Seriously, you will be a changed person after those 90 days.
What happens when you commit to yourself and you keep that commitment? You learn to trust yourself. We are very good at giving our word to our boss, our family, and our friends, but what about ourselves? Do we keep our promises to ourselves? Frequently, we do not. Thus, it becomes harder and harder to trust ourselves. We degrade our personal will and lose the stick-to-it capabilities that we inherently have at our beck and call … with a little retraining.
If we want to be happier, we need to build up some energetic muscle tone and personal will power that says, in essence, I can do this: I want to; I am committed and I have given my word to myself. No matter how tiny the commitment, the dailiness and faithfulness to yourself creates an avalanche of well-being.
Happiness is knowing that you can count on you.
I know, it’s a unique thought. To be happy and balanced, I suggest you need to stop and allow yourself to course correct and refind your center.
Yes, stop right now and take a deep breath. Good, now take another. Is it possible for you to take a few minutes and give me 10 deep breaths? Fabulous. Look, your color is better already.
May I suggest you take a few deep breath breaks during your day? You will bring yourself back to center, re-oxygenate your body, and tap into the here and now.
Ready for more ways to refind some balance in your life and increase your state of happiness – and creativity, too?
• A few hours before bed, unplug all technology — nighty-night smart phone, sweet dreams computer, deep sleep I-pad. You get my drift. Unplug and untether from all that electronic umbilici. Give yourself some time when you are not required to respond, react, or do. End the mental gymnastics for the day and wind down.
• Employ a daily ritual of quiet time. This can be 20 or 30 minutes of quiet time where you sit with yourself. You can journal, meditate, watch the flickering of a candle, listen to beautiful (melody only) music, and the like. As one mom likes to say – smilingly — to her family, please, do not interrupt me unless there is blood or smoke. Draw a perimeter around your sanctuary of quietude.
[I have been recommending this to my clients for many years. And guess what? The folks at Harvard have confirmed this idea with research. Simple, easy enough to do, and proven by research, this is a win-win-win.]
• Take at least one day off a week. Have a full non-work day where you can play, have fun, rest, relax, or just be a slug. We all need time to refill the well. If we run consistently on empty, our ideas, energies, and creativity become compromised. Be inventive, and find revivifying ways to nurture your overworked self.
• Say “No” – or, at the very least, “I will think about it and get back to you” — to all non-essential, people-pleasing, backside-kissing, energy-draining, and time-eating requests. Ask yourself, does this request make me feel happy? Does it nourish or feed me in some way? Does it excite me? Think twice. Life is short. And you hold the key to your personal well-being.
4. DO SOMETHING EXPRESSIVE
Do you dance to the oldies in your living room? Do you like to create penguin cupcakes on your day off? Do you find great satisfaction in watering the garden and talking to the birds? Are you the queen of collages and vision boards? Do you make jewelry, paint watercolors, noodle around with song lyrics, play Bach on the piano, sew quilts, design clothes, or love your acting class?
What lights us up and turns us on is important. We all know that life does life. When we get exceedingly busy, those activities that feed, comfort, nurture, and soothe us can slip through the cracks.
Here’s a great example to illustrate my point about the salubrious effects of taking time to put yourself first and feed your soul:
Decades ago, psychologist Lawrence LeShan wrote a book entitled Cancer as a Turning Point. LeShan was a psychologist in a NYC hospital; it was the day when the C word was not said aloud. The doctors who gave their patients cancer diagnoses were at a loss of what to do next – remember this was a long time ago and treatment options have exponentially increased — and referred their patients to LeShan, almost as a last ditch effort.
LeShan asked his new patients to get out of the waiting (read: waiting to die) room and come into the living room. He asked each person to commit to a certain amount of time every week, whatever was doable, be it one hour or one day, and seriously commit to an activity that fed their soul … whatever made them happy. Their time was inviolate.
Guess what? After months of regularly doing what made them happy, number of LeShan’s patients experienced remissions from their cancers. As LeShan’s patients prioritized themselves and did what infused them with life force, they became healthier.
Sounds good to me, I’m headed off to the living room. Care to join me?
5. HONOR THE BODY
It’s time. We all know it’s time, no matter how much we struggle, pout, and resist. It’s time to be pro-active and support our physical selves. So, let’s begin slowly and work ourselves up to a more optimum way of being. We know we will feel much better; we know we feel happier, stronger (in both mind and body), more productive, and balanced. Really, what’s to lose, outside of some old bad habits?
Here are a few reminders to help you kick-start some new choice points:
• Remember the importance of getting enough rest; going to bed before midnight really helps those adrenals. If your body continues to run on empty, you will eventually go clunk.
• Eat well and sensibly most of the time. Aim for 80%; it’s a good target. You know the drill: Remember to have some protein with breakfast; limit sweets to after a meal; limit caffeine; and choose colorful, whole foods. You and your blood sugar will remain steadier and more stable throughout the day.
• Move your body in any way that makes you happy; regular physical activity is a definite biochemical boost to happiness and balance.
• Make choices based on what totally resonates with you and your body. This requires that you become mindful of what energizes you and turns over your engine. It can be an “and and” not an either/or. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it, too – just not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• Create some space and time to treat yourself well.
The greatest gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones is a life well lived.
Try these five strategies, maybe, one baby step at a time. They are proven techniques with big rewards. They cannot hurt, and they can clearly help.
And in today’s world, where change is the by-word of the day, you can increase your effectiveness, creativity, and productivity by trying a little mindful tenderness, happy movement, creative expression and allowing yourself to take the pauses that refresh.