Our days are often split between doing the things that we want to do, NOURISHING activities, and the things we have to do, which are DEPLETING activities. It’s a tight walk, a balance, where the aim is to ensure that our days are heavier on the NOURISHING side.
If we stray into being overburdened by activities that deplete us that’s when we find ourselves feeling exhausted, anxious, unhappy, angry, or frustrated. If every day is overburdened with depleting activities we can find ourselves sliding into a negative mindset where we’re grumpy all of the time. When the neural pathways that lead to negative emotions are well worn, it is literally easier for us to be unhappy than happy. That’s a very dark place to live your life.
TAKE A SNAPSHOT OF YOUR DAY (NOURISHING VS DEPLETING)
To get a grasp on where your average day lies on the spectrum of nourishing to depleting, and find where you can enhance or reduce those qualities, take a piece a paper and a pencil and outline your daily activities. Remember this is your average day. You’re looking for activities that make up MOST of your days. Focus on a Monday through Friday type day, weekends are rarely average for most people.
An example may look like:
TAKE A SHOWER & GET DRESSED
DRIVE KIDS TO SCHOOL
DRIVE TO WORK
CONFERENCE WITH BOSS
STOP AT THE GROCERY STORE
BRUSH KIDS’ TEETH
PUT KIDS TO BED
READ A BOOK
GET READY FOR BED
Now that you have a general picture of what makes up your daily life, go back to that list. Next to each activity that you’ve listed write whether you think that activity is something that’s nourishing or depleting to you. There is no right or wrong answers here. Someone may find a daily shower completely nourishing. Someone else may find the rushed in and out of a morning shower to be depleting. This is completely unique and custom to your own thoughts and feelings. So go back right now, and next to each activity that you’ve written jot down whether you feel it nourishes you or depletes your energy.
Nourishing activities may be something as simple as: a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, or indulging in our favorite hobby.
The point is to make sure that we’re keeping a balance between things that nourish us, and things that deplete us.
When we cut out or are lacking things that we enjoy and that nourish us in our lives we only serve to concentrate our unhappiness and discomfort. In that state it is more difficult for us to concentrate, function and succeed. Ultimately what we succeed in doing is exhausting ourselves emotionally and physically, leading to depression and detachment.
WHEN DID YOU STOP DANCING?
The overburdened and exhausted notion of success so prevalent in western culture is completely unique to us. It’s not “normal” to feel depressed, exhausted and unsatisfied with our lives. In other parts of the world, when a patient goes to their doctor because they’re feeling depressed doctors don’t ask, “When did you start to feel depressed?” Instead they ask, “When did you stop dancing?”
Doing the things we love keeps the balance, and our optimal levels of living and performance, somewhere in the middle of WANT TO and HAVE TO. Living any other way is a misguided notion of responsibility. There’s a reason entire cultures take afternoon breaks from work every day. There’s a reason entire cultures have huge festivals with colored powders, or tons of smooshed tomatoes, or fireworks and parades in the street.
It should be understood universally that human happiness, every single day, is a requisite to our success. Joviality, entertainment, release and creativity aren’t baser notions. They aren’t wastes of time. They aren’t something unsuccessful people dally in. To be a balanced and successful HUMAN BEING you must have a balanced daily life that caters to both work and play.
REBALANCING YOUR DAILY LIFE
You have your list, and your typical day mapped out with decisive “nourishing” or “depleting” qualities assigned. Now spend a few minutes reflecting on how you can begin to redress the balance between the nourishing and depleting activities in your days.
If there are situations that you cannot fundamentally change, like responsibilities at work that are depleting but also a necessity, then you have 2 options.
- You can try, as best as you can, to increase the time and gentle effort you devote to nourishing activities and to decrease the time and effort you give to depleting ones. Or,
- You could try to approach the depleting activities in a different way, to practice mindfulness during them, being present in the moment, even if you find them boring or unpleasant.
Your aim is become progressively more accepting of the good and reduce the impact of the bad points of your day.
An example from my own life: I hate dishes. This isn’t a simple dislike. I detest dishes. They’re gross, and wet, and dirty, and THEY NEVER END. I have a husband and four children. There is not a single moment in our house where there is not at least one dirty dish, even if I’ve just finished washing the rest. It’s truly like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill every day only to have to do it again day after day after day. It’s soul-sapping. Dishes are probably the most depleting activity of my day. And guess what, there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t have to do them. To regain and retain the balance in my daily life I took a two-fold approach. First, I increased the amount of, and time spent, doing activities that I love. I started a daily meditation practice, I set time aside daily to read more, my morning runs are nonnegotiable. I increased the positive nourishing activities in my day.
Secondly, I approached the dishes differently. With a mindfulness mindset the drudge and unhappiness of washing dishes changes. Instead of grumbling and muttering unhappily to myself, I saturate my mind with sensations and observations. The feel of the sudsy bubbles between my fingers. The play of the light as a thousand tiny rainbows sliding across a rinsed plate. The synchronistic perfect fit of the glasses into my dishwasher. The tinkering sound of the bowls when I tap my nail against them. The smell of the soap, and sometimes the smell of the leftover food as it slides off into the sink. The play of the water as it wooshes down the drain. By the time I’m done playing with the minutiae of dish washing in my mind, doing the dishes is over.
Yes, I still have to complete the depleting task. But it’s less depleting because I’ve injected a playful, curious, observant, mindful appreciation for the task, and so I’m less miserable for my efforts.
If meetings at work with clients, or the boss are your depleting activities approach them differently. Take a laser focus to their tie. Notice the stray beard hair they missed while shaving. Examine the colors of their eyes for uniformity or not. Can you pick out notes from their cologne that you recognize – vanilla, musk, mint, or the like? Take your time that you have to spend in those situations and make it yours. Make it playful and interesting.
A PLAN OF ACTION – FIVE EASILY ACHIEVABLE THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO ALTER THE BALANCE
- Assign chunks of time during your days dedicated to doing the depleting activities (dishes, laundry, etc.) Adjust those times if, through experience, they don’t work. Why do this? Because when it’s not the assigned times to do the depleting tasks, you’re not thinking about them or feeling as though you should force yourself to do them. You’ve set assign time for those things, and they’ll stay in those boxes so that the rest of your days are spent in nourishing ways.
- Embrace your hobbies, and do them more often. Find ways to weave them into your days, even if it’s in small ways.
- When you’re bored, instead of watching television or eating, work out instead. Or add a truly nourishing activity that you enjoy, instead of just filling your time. It’s never that we need more hours in the day, it’s always that we need to use the time we already have more wisely.
- If you know there’s a depleting activity you have to do coming up, inject a quick nourishing activity just before it. It bolsters your emotional and mental reserves that will carry you through the depleting activity without affecting your emotion and outlook.
- Forgive yourself and allow times without guilt when the depleting activities just DON’T GET DONE, like doing the dishes or washing the laundry. Mental health days are as important as sick days when you’re working on rebalancing your life.
This list is just suggestions. Sit down with your pen and paper and make your own list. What are five things you can do RIGHT NOW in your life to effect the balance and increase your nourishing moments throughout your day?
I hope you found some helpful information about rebalancing your life. So often finding a path to success is by breaking a problem down into its working parts and adjusting them individually. Rebalancing your daily life is the simple act of moving your time and attention to more equally embrace and reflect the activities you love to do in your days as much, if not more than, the depleting ones.
Never feel guilty about doing activities that you enjoy. The misguided notion that a day is better spent suffering and doing work will only lead to unhappiness. Embrace your humanity, your full potential, and incorporate the things that help you grow into your every single day.