A rich life has many elements. Work, family, friends, recreational activities, volunteering and other commitments fill our days, connect us to others, and keep us mentally and physically fit. Ideally, all of these pieces work together to enhance our lives and help us grow into the people we want to be.
Sometimes, though, one or more of these elements takes on too much importance. Before my accident, I know I sometimes found myself working at the expense of my relationships with family and friends. And even still, I sometimes find I’ve forgotten how to say “no” and am giving too much of my time and energy to service, regardless of my own needs or desires. I suspect many of you have experienced something similar.
Living a life out of balance leads only to stress, illness and disease. But through aligning my various activities and commitments with my values and goals, I’ve found I can maintain a healthy balance. I like to focus on keeping it simple and cultivating an awareness of the abundance in my life.
Keep it Simple
When I discover I’m missing out on the things I love most – for me that usually means quiet times with friends and family, or an evening at home with the dogs – I start by taking a deep breath. Then I take a look at my calendar. If every moment of the day is booked, I know something is wrong. If I find myself forcing stuff, or just basically feel like I don't have a sense of peace, I know my life is definitely out of balance.
All of this means it’s time to simplify, and practicing these three mantras is the best way I’ve found to do that:
- Say no and mean it. I have to remind myself it’s OK to do less and instead focus on doing things well. I believe it’s even OK to say no to friends sometimes, especially when doing so gives me the breathing room I need to live a happier, healthier life. When I’m overbooked, I look more closely at requests and invitations, and give myself permission to turn down a few.
- Less is more. In my experience, when junk would pile up around my house, it almost always reflected an internal mess. By that I mean stress, distraction and other mental signs of a life too “full.” Getting rid of things I didn't need and putting away things I didn't often use not only cleaned up my physical living space, but it also swept away some mental cobwebs.
- Book some white space. I need a little time to myself everyday to breathe, or meditate, or just “be.” I think of this as “white space,” and I actually schedule it in advance. Of course, I can’t always keep all my white space dates, but by scheduling them, I’m consciously making personal time a priority. As a result, I usually end up with enough of this time to myself to keep my life in balance.
The idea of abundance, or having plenty of something, may not seem to have much to do with saying “no” or finding balance in a full life. But I think of abundance as a mindset—as a practice of seeing the goodness in the world and being grateful for it. And in that way, it’s very relevant.
If I start to feel overwhelmed, that usually means I'm trying to control things. That's when I take a deep breath and focus on abundance because it reminds me that I’m busy because I have many friends, lots of interesting work and plenty of volunteer opportunities. It allows me to tackle my busy days from a place of strength and hope, rather than a place of fear and anxiety. I trust the process.
I still need to focus on being present, saying no and scheduling white space, but recognizing abundance and practicing gratitude helps me keep everything in perspective and enact the changes I need to maintain a healthy balance in my life.
Dr. Michelle Robin is an international speaker, best-selling author, radio host and practicing chiropractor. She's the founder of Your Wellness Connection, P.A., one of the nation’s most successful integrative healing centers. Dr. Robin also consults with businesses and nonprofit organizations developing wellness programs. She has spoken on improving individual well-being as well as creating a culture of wellness to a wide variety of companies, organizations and conferences across the U.S. and Canada. Listen to her podcast, “Small Changes Big Shifts,” which provides valuable inspiration and information to help you start and stick to your wellness plan.