It had been a particularly challenging day — tasks stacking up, technology hassles, the hangover of a few issues I’ve been chewing on lately… cue the cow and its cud… and just enough back pain to nudge me beyond my steely powers of concentration toward a realization.
What do I mean by usual?
Oh, you know. Yoga (which I can’t do), meditation (which has never worked for me), copious amounts of chocolate (hardly a rational long-term plan; woe to the waistline and zits).
Then there’s walking — such a delicious activity in the crisp autumn air, were it not pouring rain for the umpteenth time in the past few weeks. There’s also sleeping soundly, of course, and eating tasty and eye-indulgent nutritional meals.
Happily, there’s color! Red is invigorating, blue is soothing, and whether enjoying one’s surroundings or a painting in a museum, color can always impact our mood.
Might it be time for me to dig out my ruby and burgundy colored tops, my cerulean scarf, and my favorite purple sweater?
Tools to Temper the… Temper?
I always know when the routine stresses of daily life are starting to squeeze out my sunnier disposition… I’m irritable, I’m quicker to anger, I lose my sense of humor.
Sure, there are spirit-nourishing elements of self-selected well-being tools like reading or simply “chilling” that are more available to the non-restless (can you spell shpilkes?). And as one who loves to write (self-evident, I realize), I wondered if there might be something creative I could do that might engage my mind and also my emotions in a fully relaxing, yet productive, and preferably creative way.
Perhaps a variation on my journaling (I said to myself), an activity I’ve resumed with regularity in recent months. Might I be able to take it in a direction explicitly intended to enhance well-being?
Bullish on the bounties of The Google, I suddenly found myself here, at the publication by that very name, The Well-Being Journal. Perhaps some of you are familiar with this publication, but it’s new to me.
Lo and behold, it seems like all kinds of topics are addressed, including the challenges and harmonies of balance that enables us to experience greater overall well-being.
As I pondered this last, the way feelings may run our lives at various points in time, I wondered. I was struck by the article on savoring life, something a believe in ardently. Yet pushing myself beyond the words, I realize that acting on it is far more of a challenge than believing in its importance. Like many of us, I am caught up in the pressures of the day (the need to make money), the demands of relationships, the household chores.
At least the years of chauffeuring kids here, there and everywhere are behind me!
I savor if I can schedule a few minutes to do so. (Admittedly, not the best approach.)
Specifically, the article by Michael Finkelstein, MD reminds us:
Most health challenges are the result of an imbalance in our bodies and lives, and most quick-fix solutions actually exacerbate these imbalances…
… As many of us are beginning to understand, health is not just the absence of disease but, rather, a state of wellness. Sadly… the more-more-more drive of our materialistic lifestyles—more money, more status, more stuff—is slowly killing us from a combination of stress, isolation, and emptiness…
Rat Race, Anyone?
Well… We aren’t all in more-more-more mode. Some of us are working pretty hard at enough-to-get-by. Still. His point is well taken that our rat race seems more crowded, more competitive, and more nonstop than ever.
If you pop by the article, and I recommend it, you will see that the doctor’s next point is that we should slow down and savor, something I have always been able to do when living in or visiting France. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case in my home country.
Aware that there are significant cultural differences that make savoring simpler overseas than in Ambitious America, I’m nonetheless kicking myself that I can’t seem to create that grounded space in my life here, on my own turf, in my own little burg of residence. Reminding myself that the definition of crazy is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result, I ask myself: What can I do differently?
I have in fact achieved a solid change in my sleeping, which is an enormous accomplishment for me. But that’s only a beginning, and not even scratching the surface of the benefits I hope to achieve through more significant change.
Is Well-Being a “Possible” Dream?
I want a sense of sufficient well-being as my norm, not my exception, understanding that it is an integral part of overall health. And health allows us to create, to contribute, to love, to give — not only to and for our families, but with regard to others.
So how does any of us reach this presumably “possible” dream that ought to be a little bit easier to grasp? How do we get there knowing that pat directives like “simplify your life” are frequently patronizing and unworkable?
Dr. Finklestein continues:
… Getting healthy does not need to be a chore; rather, it can be an adventure. By getting creative about how to expand into the life we have right now, and by truly savoring this life—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—we chart new paths to wellness that leave us feeling better on every level. And that is what health is all about…
How to expand into the life we have now… I like the way that sounds. It seems to me that “expansion” would require reaching outward and likely inward simultaneously — thinking of others, serving others, stepping into the mindsets and concerns and pleasures of others, and in the process, filling the well of self. Yet this isn’t the only way to fill that well. Certainly not for many of us.
So what does this mean in concrete terms? What path might this lead each of us to take?
Can You Simplify Easily?
Tell me. Can you simplify your life easily?
Pas moi. And I’ve tried numerous times over the years. While I recognize pockets of progress in various “radical simplicity” initiatives, I recognize that I’ve slammed into specific barriers time and time again. They fall into two categories — money matters, which can be surprisingly sticky, and obstacles to do with confidence that I beat back successfully more often as I grow older.
As for the first category, like any self-employed person, I must navigate economic currents and stay flexible; sometimes the juggle that results is logistically complex and not as adaptable to a simplified schedule as I might like. As for that second category, I find that when I take better care of myself, I’m far more likely to knock down, go around, or simply step over obstacles I might otherwise discover in my path.
Well-being, which for me means eating right, walking regularly, and getting six hours of sleep a night, helps me identify solutions, alternatives, and opportunities. While that doesn’t necessarily lead to simplifying, it does take me to places I want to go.
What Helps You Relax and Unwind?
Beyond vacationing in France four months of the year… Hello? Pipe dream? Fantasy Land?… I can conjure a few more practical ways to enhance my less than well-developed capacity to, as my sons would say, “chillax.” Certainly, most of us would turn to some of these activities and methods to restore well-being that seems to seep out in the busyness and boisterousness of our daily lives.
Typically, we turn to:
- Music and art
- Reading and writing
- Other people; family, friends, lovers
- Our pets
- Community and causes
Now, while I may be known for being susceptible to therapeutic shoe shopping — now, now… a girl needs a vice or two… and I openly admit that Real Housewives of New York, of Orange County, and of Beverly Hills may provide surprising powers of temporary relaxation (I know, right?)… I hesitate to consider these tools as the entirety of my available variety pack of well-being boosters.
Reading and writing will always serve me well; I return to my opening notion of a well-being journal, and wonder what that might mean, and how I could use it to brighten what has begun as a somewhat gray and very rainy season.
How do you restore the balance? Have you learned to savor? Are you still chasing more-more-more or are you running the race for just-enough-to-get-by?
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