I have been thinking a lot about happiness lately – along with writing more and being more proactive in my business (Ok, I didn’t go into yoga teaching and therapies to do marketing and accounting, but I do have to accept that they are necessary evils!), taking steps to live a happier and higher-energy life is key for me this year. It’s so easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by the many demands of life, and before you know it, you can feel less than your best!
Luckily for me, most of the things I teach – and use regularly – are hugely effective at lifting my mood. Some energetic or relaxing yoga can work wonders, as can a bit of reflexology, and Jin Shin Jyutsu in its simplest form is really the art of identifying and then balancing the subtle shifts of our moods. And ultimately, for me, the key to feeling good, day by day, is to take time out for things I enjoy, and to live my life being ME – by my own standards, not anyone else’s. Even when you teach others ways to relax, to energise, to feel brilliant, it can be easy to forget to do this consistently, day by day, moment by moment. Despite my daily meditation and yoga practice, I felt that this year there was even more I could do….more reading, more writing, more looking after myself and earlier nights. I have been taking a few minutes to light candles and nightlights around my home in the early evening, and have been doing a major decluttering, after reading the amazing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo. There’s still a way to go, but clothes, books and paperwork have been having a complete sort out – the recycling bin and the charity shops near me have benefitted too!
In Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life,
Arianna Huffington writes of the critical need to reevaluate what we mean by success. Her moment of realisation came when she collapsed from exhaustion, two years after setting up the Huffington Post. She writes:
…after my fall, I had to ask myself, Was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted? I was working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build a business, expand our coverage,and bring in investors. But my life, I realized, was out of control. In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way.
The book goes on to look at the many ways we could redefine success, to include our wellbeing, and making room in our lives for wonder, wisdom and giving to others. So whilst there is nothing wrong in living a ‘successful’ life, in terms of status and money, if that is the kind of life that makes us feel fulfilled, we need to make sure we look after ourselves as well.
Sometimes it is argued that looking after ourselves is just a form of selfishness. But I would argue that we are unable to look after others if we do not sometimes put ourselves first. Yes, as parents we care for our children, as therapists we treat our clients to the very best of our ability, as professionals we do our job the best we can. But, how can we do this if we are drained, exhausted, and lacking in energy? How can we be our kindest, most loving selves when we are tired and aching and just longing for sleep? I’m certain I’m not alone in being more empathic when I feel good in myself, rested, vibrant and healthy. Have you ever tried being the perfect parent, partner, friend, employer or employee when you’re feeling rubbish? With the best intentions in the world, it’s just not going to happen.
So, it’s time for us all to stop feeling that it’s wrong to take a break. We owe it to ourselves – and everyone else! – to live life to the full. To explore our human potential to the limit, rather than trudging along, robot-like, just trying to get through the days.
Taking time out, being the best you can be….those are my keys (for myself, and those I work with!) for this year. Let me know the steps you’re taking to look after yourself!