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Life has a different meaning for each of us. Each one has his/her unique approach to navigating the ups and downs of life.
Often, we find that we are leading monotonous lives, moving from one point to another in a fixed routine. And we look for breaks from our routine lives. We believe that vacations and outings will provide us with the required respite. And, they do! But then we are again back to the same monotony.
Is this what we want from life?
Is it possible to lead an enjoyable life where breaks are not a necessity but just a part of life?
I believe our life shapes up based on what we prioritize.
Let’s look at what many people’s priorities are:
>> Most of us are looking for money, success, and fame. We believe that these will bring us the happiness we desire and make our lives meaningful.
>> We work hard, we multitask, and we do everything required to achieve these goals. Many a time, this pursuit of goals costs us our health, happiness, and relationships.
>> We miss out on the little things of life because we believe that when we achieve the larger goals, our lives will be successful.
>> We have become a race that wants perfection in everything we aspire to. For instance, when weight loss is our goal, it often becomes an obsession. When we lose weight or achieve a certain level of fitness, we want to better it. It becomes a never-ending pursuit.
>> Then some people have made acquiring wealth their purpose in life. The significance of everything else fades away when they are chasing wealth. Again, it is never enough. The more they have, the more they want.
>> Similarly, some people have made acquiring material possessions their goal in life. They indulge in mindless consumerism. They seldom pause to think whether what they want is a need or greed.
>> Some want to become successful at all costs. In many cases, things like health, relationships, happiness, rest, and so on, take a backseat. They are fervently chasing their goals with the hope that they will be happy when they achieve them. They do not have the time to be happy while they are pursuing their goals. They do not realize that while chasing their goals, they are missing out on the very essence of life. Life is just slipping away. In several cases, when such people achieve their goals, there is a feeling of emptiness.
>> Many people seek fame and glory and will go to any extent to achieve it. They believe that when they become the cynosure of attraction, they will be happy.
>> Our strife for perfection complicates several aspects of life. For instance, many people try to meditate with the expectation that they will achieve a state of “nirvana.” When they don’t achieve this state, they give up and conclude that they cannot meditate. I have even heard of people getting anxious while trying to meditate. We need to understand not many people actually achieve that state. Meditation helps improve focus and slows down the pace of thoughts.
>> Many people want power. They want to have the power to control their situation and the lives of others around them. Little do they realize that true power is taking control of one’s own life instead of trying to control others.
These are some common examples. Besides these, there are many other obsessions people have that mess up their lives.
Now let us look at the lives of celebrities who have it all. They have wealth, success, fame, material possessions, and so on. But are they happy? Far from it.
Many of them are addicted to substances and alcohol while there are several who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. This is a classic example of the fact that money, fame, and success do not bring happiness.
Does this mean we should not aspire for anything? We should not have any goals?
Certainly not. We must have goals, but we need to stop making these goals the focal point of our lives.
What this means is that we need to have a balanced approach to life. More specifically, we must try to attain whatever we are passionate about, but we should not forget our health, happiness, and relationships.
Studies have proved that factors like stress, inadequate sleep, and so on are the main culprits for several physical ailments. Also, happy people are generally healthy people.
We need to prioritize sleep, eating habits, mindful living, relaxation, and doing things that make us happy somewhere in our scheme of things.
Let us take each of these factors:
Did you know that nearly 70 million Americans have sleep disorders? I sure hope you are not one of them.
Insomnia can take a toll on the physical and mental health of an individual. Stress is a natural outcome of lack of sleep. Insomnia also impacts daytime activity and alertness. It is interesting to note that many people sleep less and work more to achieve their goals. But little do they realize that inadequate sleep directly impacts their productivity and makes it harder to achieve their goals.
Also, stress is a common cause of lack of sleep, and, interestingly, lack of sleep causes stress. So, we need to address both these factors to enhance the quality of our lives.
You can improve the quality of your sleep by following sleep hygiene.
Tips for sleep hygiene:
>> Do not drink caffeine late in the evening.
>> Remember your bed is meant for sleeping or sex. Do not indulge in other activities on your bed.
>> Performing other activities on the bed sends mixed signals to the brain.
>> Get away from blue screens such as mobiles, laptops, and so on at least two hours before sleeping.
>> Take a warm shower before going to bed.
>> Maintain the same timing for going to bed.
>> Avoid sleeping during the daytime.
These tips will help you get sound sleep. You will be fresh and alert in the morning and your productivity will increase by leaps and bounds.
2. Take a Break
Taking a break does not necessarily mean going on an exotic holiday. Taking a break implies taking a pause between your activities instead of going from one activity to the next in a mechanized motion.
You need to pause your activities and just “chill” for some time during the day. The break need not be a long one, just a short break. You will find that when you get back to work after a break, you will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
You can just have a casual chat with a friend or some light reading to take a break.
Many people believe that resting is a waste of time. They would rather use their time productively to pursue their goals. But if you consider the human body as a machine, you will realize that just like a machine, we need to switch off for some time. Resting means relaxing your mind and body. When you are resting, you should not be going through your emails or social media. Just relax your body. If you like to meditate, do it because it recharges your mind and body.
4. Me time
You know you must spend some time alone with yourself. This again means no social media, no emails, or telephone calls. It also means no TV or music. Some people might wonder, “Then what will I do?”
The concept of sitting quietly alone has become something unheard of in recent times. We are running from pillar to post trying to accomplish too many things. In this process, we lose touch with ourselves. We need to reconnect with ourselves and get comfortable with ourselves.
“The only way to develop a relationship with the self is by spending time with the self.” ~ Kanika Saxena
5. Taking responsibility for your happiness
We often believe that our possessions or other people will make us happy. We need to understand that no one else can make us happy. We are responsible for our happiness. We don’t have to do anything special to find happiness. Certain activities make us happy; just do them! Some people find happiness in pursuing a hobby; it may be reading or gardening. Just spend some time on such activities and you will find that you are less stressed and feel light.
I have realized that listening to music, singing, or writing helps me lift my mood whenever I am feeling low. What I am trying to suggest is that only we know what gives us happiness, and we just need to do those things.
6. Invest in relationships
We often take relationships for granted. As a consequence, many people feel neglected, and they try to find solace in substances and addictive online activities like gaming. Some people also get depressed. In many cases, relationships break because of this.
We need to make a conscious effort in investing in relationships and spending time with people who matter. Try to communicate effectively through physical interactions instead of virtual connections.
Then, of course, there are oft-repeated factors like healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, and sunlight. The importance of these cannot be undermined.
The key to all the above factors is mindful living.
Mindful living is leading a life of awareness. It is when you know what you are doing and why.
You are not unnecessarily chasing worthless things.
You are not ignorant of the things around you and the people around you.
You are aware of your emotions and feelings. You know what makes you happy and what makes you sad.
When you lead a life of awareness and know what makes you happy and what upsets you, you will know how to stay happy. You will know what you should do when you are upset to feel better without depending on others or turning to substances.
A life of awareness makes you alert to the signals your body gives, and things like exercise and healthy eating will automatically become an integral part of your life.
Now the question is how to live mindfully?
To live mindfully, you need to shift focus inward instead of outside.
Here are a few tried and tested tips for mindful living:
>> Spend time alone.
>> Regulate social media usage.
>> Minimize exposure to media (it is too noisy)!
>> Feed your mind rich information. This could be by reading good literature or watching informative channels of information.
>> Invest in face-to-face interactions instead of interacting through devices.
>> Nurture relationships that matter.
>> Follow sleep hygiene to get a good night’s sleep. You will wake up fresh and recharged in the morning.
>> Get fresh air and sunshine.
>> Meditate without too many expectations.
If you want to enhance the quality of your life, you need to rethink your priorities and find the right balance for a happy and healthy life!
All this is coming from personal experience. I spent a major part of my life worrying and getting stressed over trivial issues. It was during the first lockdown staying away from the external chaos that I discovered the secret to a happy life.
When all the noise was reduced, I had the time to spend time with myself. I read articles and watched motivational videos. I tried to implement whatever I saw and heard, and, to my amazement, I saw my life transforming. It is this experience that I share with my self-help books and blogs.