As I sat in meditation this morning, Jack came to me. I asked him: What should I write about today? And the word came to me. Balance. Balance? Yes, balance. Wow. That’s a doozy. How can I sum this up in a blog post?
So many people, especially in American culture today, have nailed the art of life imbalance. We’re such a “Go! Go! Go!” culture, it’s literally, LITERALLY, driving us insane! My husband, Rob, said to me a while back that people wear this ‘badge of honor’ working 50, 60, 70+ hours a week. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Well, I believe part of it is the fear of looking inwards. If I stop, breath, chill out, I might find out something scary…about ME! EEEEP!
So, how do we slow down, chill out, and get zen in this fast paced world? Here are some tips. Don’t worry, they’re easy-peasy!
1) Take five minutes a day to quiet your mind and meditate
I know the ‘meditation’ word scares people. “I can’t shut off my brain! Are you kidding me?” Trust me. I got it. When I first started meditating, I literally set my alarm for two minutes, and just sat there with my eyes closed as my monkey brain ran all over the place. Eventually, I was able to train it to shut up. Yes, there are still tons of times I have my grocery list running through my head (I am human after all), but the benefits are amazeballs. So take 2-5 minutes a day, play some calming music, listen to a guided visualization, stare at a candle, whatever, but just sit…and see what happens. If nothing else, you weren’t playing Candy Crush.
There’s a ton of scientific research on the benefits of meditation, including a decrease in hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and addictive behaviors, just to name a few. A study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people feel calmer but also produced positive changes in various areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation.
2) Eat healthy, colorful, foods.
I’m no nutritionist, but I know when I eat healthier, I feel better. Next to breathing, eating is our most vital bodily function. To create a healthy body and mind, our food has to be nourishing. Ideal nutrition focuses on eating a variety of fresh and freshly prepared foods, while eliminating or at least limiting items that are canned, frozen, microwaved, or highly processed. These are “dead” foods that weaken health and accelerate aging. Ewww.
3) Move your body and exercise!
Regular exercise creates amazingly healing benefits for your body and mind. Not only does exercise keep the body young (who doesn’t want that?), but it also keeps the mind sharp and promotes emotional well being. Exercise can reverse the effects of stress and lift depression. Trust me, it helps! Exercise is one of the things that keep me afloat in my grief ocean.
Find an activity that you enjoy and can do three to four times each week for twenty minutes. Too much? Walk around the block, take the stairs, just start moving. The key is to start off slowly, find activities you like, and do them regularly (baby steps!). You will be surprised by how quickly you increase your endurance and enthusiasm for moving and breathing.
Our bodies were meant to move. On an energetic level, when we’re stagnant physically, our emotional/psychological/energetic bodies are stagnant too. When we physically move, those bodies move too and release toxins on all levels! Cool, huh?
4) Start loving sleep!
When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly, yet sleep is often neglected. Some people are even proud about how little sleep they get. We are conditioned to keep going, the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude, and because of this, our nervous system is totally out of whack. In reality, over time, inadequate sleep disrupts the body’s innate balance, weakens our immune system, contributes to weight gain and depression, and speeds up the aging process. Who wants that?
5) Release emotional toxins
Many of us hold on to emotional toxicity in the form of unprocessed anger, hurt or disappointment. This “stuff” from the past contributes to toxicity in our body and mind and needs to be released. You can begin by asking yourself, “What am I holding onto from the past that is no longer serving me in the present?”
Once you have identified what you want to release, journal about how your life will be different. I notice that once I journal my “crap out”, lots of cool insights and A-ha moments flow through me. Think of journaling like a garbage truck that comes and takes your no longer helpful thoughts and feelings and dumps them in the Universal landfill. Once all the garbage is released, clarity, insight, intuition, and creativity can pour through. Sweet!
6) Cultivate loving relationships…and release toxic relationships
Research shows that a healthy social support system has a ton of physical and mental health benefits. I recently heard “If you want a healthy life, surround yourself with healthy people”. When you’re around your friends and loved ones, do you feel lighter, happier, not as stressed? GOOD! Or do you feel drained, resentful, or heavy when they’re around? You may have some energy vampires in your life. Learn how to set good boundaries and not take on their toxicity. One trick I like to do is put myself in a bubble. It sounds woo-woo, but it works when I’m around toxic energy. If your network of friends is small, think about volunteering, joining an outdoor activities group or trying an online meet-up group to make new friends. Is there someone at work that makes you feel light and at ease? Cultivate that relationship!
7) Laugh out loud at least once a day!
From the scientific perspective, laughter is an mind-body phenomenon that reduces stress hormones and boosts the immune system. Researchers in Japan found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who watched “rakugo” or comic storytelling experienced a significant decrease in their pain and stress hormone levels. So go ahead, turn on Seinfeld, hang with your funniest friend, LOL, and feel that stress melt away.
So there you go. Your baby steps to a more balanced life. Even if you follow just one of these tips, your hectic, plate-spinning life will begin to balance out. Which one will you try first?