Our society has made incredible strides forward in the past century. We’ve become more accepting. We are living longer than any previous generations. Wonderful technological advancements have changed our lives.
But one thing we can’t lay claim to is balance. If anything, we live less balanced lives than ever. Some of us spend too much time working and neglect our families. Others do the opposite and compromise their jobs. Youths are becoming more and more “allergic” to work. And even those of us who find enough time for every aspect of our lives end up spending the most precious times looking at our phones.
There are a number of factors to blame. We’re constantly bombarded with problems we cannot fix, and we look for distractions in work or on our smartphones. Relationships suffer because we’re never trained to make them work. Youths may be finding jobs, but generally it’s not in the fields they worked so hard towards.
All of this is made worse by the fact that our attentions have been shortened by all the brilliant inventions we carry everywhere we go.
While some of these issues are deeply existential and have no simple solutions, there are some very simple things you can do to improve your mental health and live a balanced life. Existential problems become a lot less pressing and far more manageable when you’re living in balance.
I have a 10 step checklist that I aspire to completing on a daily basis. Every item on the list is central to optimizing mental health and consequently finding balance.
Take Time To Be Present
No one has anything aside from the present. This is a fact that gets lost in the hussle and bussle of daily life. Taking five minutes to focus on nothing but what life right now puts everything else in perspective.
Those five minutes of presentness should be followed by some time spent feeling appreciation for the things you love about life. Even on our worst days, we can still appreciate the people we love and the things we love doing.
Work On Your Health
The better you feel physically, the better you will feel mentally. Good physical health does not fix all of your problems, but no one can deny that you feel better about yourself when you’re healthy. Make sure you have a general attitude of giving priority to physical health. Exercise as often as possible and eat healthy. And if you’re not gonna manage that today? Do something small, like a few minutes of stretching, and an extra vegetable on your plate.
Locate Your Feelings
Feelings are neither good nor bad. But we tend to love certain feelings and hate others. Regardless of whether you like your feelings or not, they don’t go away unless they’re acknowledged. Often, you end up feeling completely off balance because of a feeling you haven’t even realized was there. A good way to ensure your feelings don’t build up is by locating them in your body. Even when your mind is doing its best work at blocking them out, your body is less likely to lie to you. Spend a few minutes locating your feelings and feeling them, then let them go.
Identify Deeper Issues
Most days, you can feel your feelings without exploring why they’re there or even identifying exactly what they relate to. But you should regularly check in with yourself whether there are any deeper issues you’ve been avoiding. Mental illness creeps up on people because we do such a good job of pretending we’re fine. Open yourself to the possibility that you’re not fine, and regularly evaluate your life for signs that something has gone wrong.
Locating your feelings and identifying deeper issues – both great starts. But if you don’t share with anyone, you’re setting yourself up for failure. We all need someone in our lives to share with, whether it is a loved one or a therapist. This world can be very difficult. There are very few people who can go it alone.
One thing that tends to lead to a feeling of imbalance is a lot of time spent indoors. Spending some time outdoors is incredibly important. Aside from the important health benefits of getting sun and fresh air, it’s a simple way to disconnect from all the little issues that have been dogging you all day. Give yourself that break. Your indoor life does not need all your attention all the time.
Do Something You Love
Most people let go of their hobbies as soon as they reach “adult life.” We do this because of this misconception that they’re not important. We feel guilt for putting effort into something we enjoy, when we think we’re only supposed to put that effort into work and family. If you have a hobby that you’ve neglected, find time to get back to it. Whether that’s ten minutes of gardening, playing an instrument, singing, or anything else that you love doing.
A lot of attention has been given recently to the benefits of meditation, and for good reason. The act of meditating is not the same thing as being present, although they do overlap. Being present means taking in whatever is going on. Meditation puts emphasis on letting your mind clear as you focus on something simple like breathing, sounds, and walking. Start small. Ten minutes is going to be tough – don’t try diving in the deep end.
Get In Touch With Friends
Once you get caught up in the work world, it’s common to forget how important your friends are. It’s hard to meet up because of conflicting schedules, and when you do have the time, you’re exhausted from work. But you should never go too long without social activity. Even if it’s only a call, catch up with friends. They’ll help break you out of your workday spell and you’ll end the conversation feeling much more balanced and at peace.