Since hitting my lowest moment earlier this year, as part of my recovery I wanted to commit to a few small things that I thought would help change my thinking... and therefore trail blaze a path that would help change my life; and the results for me personally have been amazing so far. Whilst much of this is a life long journey, the realisation of benefits, however subtle, have happened quite quickly.
There is much written about the daily routines of the most successful people, if you look on the various social platforms, web, etc. I used to look at this from afar and think, 'that sounds like a good idea but I just don't have the time to do it, with two young kids, busy job, blah, blah'. I didn't realise at the time that adopting some of these simple things would change the way I thought about myself.. and therefore change the way I thought about my time; and, importantly, how I was spending my time. Because we all have choices about how we spend our time; when people say they don't have time it is because they are choosing not to allocate the time they have to that very thing. The big difference between the two is that the first one is disempowering and the second one is completely empowering.
So I am committed on a daily (or regular) basis to doing the following; and these are the results:
1. Mindful Meditation (15 - 30 mins daily): This has been extremely beneficial for me. I used to have a very busy mind that would drift from thing to thing and therefore I struggled to relax when I needed to and struggled to concentrate when I wanted to be able to. I struggled to switch off from work outside of work time to the extent where it consumed most of my mind space, most of the time. In simple terms mindful mediation is about focusing on the present by anchoring yourself on something that is physical. The most commonly used thing is the breath because it enables you to focus on it in a rhythmic sense and this ensures you can zone into it. Over time, you develop the ability to observe your busy mind and your thoughts in a more remote way, without judgment. This then liberates you from being consumed by your thoughts, rather you become an observer of them and can therefore choose whether to let them pass by or whether to engage with them.
2. Physical Exercise (3 - 4 times a week): Whether this be light-to-moderate or high intensity, I find getting regular exercise to be great at creating positive feelings in me. I personally like spinning and weight training but it doesn't need to always be high intensity. For example, on a daily basis, I will always take at least 45 mins for lunch and make the time to go for a short walk. I find that it helps me feel better about myself and the side benefit is that I get more physically healthy too. I do believe in the old adage of ''strength of body, strength of mind'. This BBC article was also quite interesting on the topic; stressing that exercise is key but don't do too much: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45116607
3. Embrace The Task List (daily): To help further reduce my rumination of my thinking I created a spreadsheet 'to do' list that I can access either on my laptop or on my phone. I use it as a dumping ground for all my actions. This isn't a list where I take notes or jot down my thoughts, I only use it as a 'to do' list that signposts thinking time or an activity I need to dedicate time to. That way I am able to move the task out of my mind. Then, over my morning coffee, I go through the list and either action them or tick them off. It is a great way of not forgetting things and it is also amazingly satisfying to look at all the things I have ticked off; this helps remind me of all the things I have achieved and thus feeds my sense of purpose.
4. Learning Something New (daily): I love to learn new things, whether this be from something I read or listen to, or from someone I speak to. I find that an open mind with a learning attitude turns my mind into a sponge; so I become more attuned to what is happening around me; and this helps me engage more with people around me in a much more open way. I have also found a great app called Blinkist that offers great book synopses, enabling you to read or listen to new material bite size chunks; good to use at the start of the day either in the car or when I first get to work.
5. Create Work-Life Balance Boundaries (daily): I am passionate about my work. In the past I have given it my my all, and perhaps that has been too much at times. I didn't have reasonable boundaries and over time this played a part in wearing me down. As I have said in a previous post, the convenience created by digital technology can be great but it also has its draw backs of being able to, if you let it, infiltrate your life up 24 hours a day. Bluntly, if you need to work more than 45 hours a week (already an extra day over the normally contracted 37.5 hours), unless you are doing it for extra cash on an overtime basis, then you should do a rethink about whether you are doing something wrong or making some poor choices with your time. This is why I no longer have my work email on my phone. It has been said that, when on your deathbed, the last thing you will regret is that you didn't spend more time at work. You probably will regret, though, not spending more time with your family and/or friends; or not spending more time having fun. Boundaries are key to maintaining a healthy mind in our highly integrated and connected word; otherwise it will fully consume you and your life in an unapologetic way.
Well, these things really work for me. It may be that other things work better for you. The key message, is that you should afford yourself the mind space and allow your mind to relax; and creating a regular or daily routine of things enables this to be habit forming... and this is when you are likely to experience the most benefit.