“Sorry, I can’t. I’m too busy” has become the mantra of life in modern society. I’m not exactly sure how everyone became so busy or when our leisure time all but disappeared, but one thing is for sure: the only person who can give you the lifestyle you want is you.
Wishful thinking won’t change anything, but neither will resignation. If you feel that your lifestyle lacks purpose and brings you little joy, start by taking these three simple steps to help you take a more active role in your life:
Get regular exercise
Now you’re probably thinking: “If my schedule is already packed, how is adding one more thing to the list supposed to help me“? It’s simple: investing in your health is never a waste of time. A stressful work environment can take a toll on your physical and emotional health – both of which are imperatives for living a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
Regular physical activity has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, slow down the aging process, and improve memory and thinking skills. Since exercise stimulates the production of ‘happy hormones’ oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, it’s also one of the most effective ways to naturally lower your stress levels and boost your mood.
Making exercise a part of your lifestyle doesn’t have to involve regular gym sessions. It’s best to pick an activity that you know you’re going to enjoy doing most days of the weak. It can be anything from hiking, jogging and riding a bicycle to playing a sport and swimming. Remember: it takes 21 days to turn an activity into a habit, so be patient and stick with it! Last but not least, don’t forget to fuel your muscles properly and get enough protein to help them repair post-workout. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, try adding protein powder to your diet as a convenient way to ensure a sufficient intake of protein.
Start living in the present
Do you often have trouble falling asleep because you’re beating yourself up over a mistake you made at work months ago? Does your fear of failure keep you stuck at a job you hate? Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future are common triggers of stress and anxiety. Most of us spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about the past and future, while the present moment – the only guarantee we have – passes unnoticed and unappreciated.
If you want to become the curator of your life, start by being truly present in every waking moment. Take the time to savor the good and practice gratitude for the positive things in your life, but also make sure you work through the negative experiences with a mindful approach. This will help you free yourself of regrets and take control of your time and life.
Start by making small everyday changes such as decluttering your home, eating your meals without distractions, and learning simple breathing techniques to help you relieve stress. Remind yourself that the right moment doesn’t exist: all you have is here and now and living in the present is the only way to identify the sources of dissatisfaction in your life and start designing the lifestyle you desire.
Listen to your body
Strange aches and pains of unknown origin, frequent headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, skin problems, forgetfulness, moodiness… these are just some of the ways your body is letting you you’re your busy lifestyle has got out of control.
Learn about the warning signs of stress and keep a journal of your symptoms. Don’t wait for stress to take over your life: if you feel you’ve already tried everything in your power to become more relaxed and you still feel on the edge, make an appointment with a trained mental health professional who can help you come up with effective coping mechanisms.
Even if you don’t feel any of the physical symptoms of stress just yet, you might still get the feeling that something is simply not right. Did you know that a whopping 70-80% of our immune system is located in the gut? But that’s not all. The digestive system is also known as the ‘second brain’ because it contains around 500 million sensory neurons and over 30 neurotransmitters responsible for your general sense of wellbeing. In fact, over 90% of the body’s serotonin is found in the stomach. This is why you should never dismiss your gut feeling: it’s actually smarter than you think and can be a reliable predictor of stress and anxiety.
That small changes bring big results is an important truth you should always keep in mind. While getting enough exercise, living mindfully, and paying attention to what your body is telling won’t transform your life overnight, the cumulative effect of these small steps will eventually lead you on the right path to living the life you want.