WHEN LESS IS MORE: A STATEMENT ON SLOWING DOWN

“Wellness is not a 'medical fix' but a way of living - a lifestyle sensitive and responsive to all the dimensions of body, mind, and spirit, an approach to life we each design to achieve our highest potential for well-being now and forever.” - Greg Anderson

We have a productivity problem. As responsible, hard-working people, we pack our schedules nearly airtight. More often than not, compliments seem to be reserved for those who are most busy. Being a “workaholic” is a sign of success. What's not to admire about the person we judge as being industrious, hard-working, and ambitious? 

On the other hand, if you choose to make do with less in exchange for more free time (or peace of mind), it's hard not to be seen as a second-class citizen. Society tends to see these people as underachieving, disappointing sloths (this is a problem, apparently, because although sloths are adorable balls of fur, they have a reputation for being unable to hold down a steady nine-to-five).

This re-emerging trend seems to affect everyone today. The majority of businesspeople, parents, and even children are falling victim to this highly demanding “busier is better” mentality.

But is being busy really better?

Strangely, the answer seems to be “no”. Over-work might actually be productivity’s public enemy number one. Working is a fact of life for nearly all of us, but our false ideas about what it means to be responsible, contributing members of society could actually be limiting the value of those contributions. Research shows that longer work hours are actually undermining the gains in productivity employers dream the increased hours will provide. This culture of "busyness" sucks up more hours of our day, and in exchange it makes is less productive and less happy. 

There’s more: between 2004-2008 the cdc reports that “an estimated 10.2% of U.S. adults experienced 14 or more mentally unhealthy days every year" (Frequent Mental Distress or FMD).  And during 2009–2012, 7.6% of Americans aged 12 and over had depression (moderate or severe depressive symptoms in the past 2 weeks).

Sure, it’s normal to face the occasional moment of heightened stress, but when our capacity to regulate our emotional well-being is diminished, it can take a huge toll on both our mind and body.

If you find you are often stressed, anxious, worried, unsatisfied, or unhappy — or if you are constantly criticizing yourself — then there’s no better time to make a plan for your own wellness.

There’s plenty of evidence which seems to shows that emotional duress increases your exposure to immune problems, physical illness, and cardiovascular disease. 

Over the years I have observed (and sometimes fallen victim to) the all-too-easy “quick-fixes” which may be great at masking stress, but really only compound the problems.

Drinking, smoking, recreational drug, and my personal favorite: unhealthy or fatty foods. All of these things seem to help by numbing or distracting your emotions for a time. But none of these really sharpen your coping skills, or help you to get back on your feet.

After the pizza and ice cream and potato chips are gone, I find that the problem is still there, and sometimes it has gotten worse.

So how can we develop the skills to be mentally and physically strong when life’s challenges come knocking at our door? The best defense is to be ready - to prepare our body, mind and spirit to handle whatever waits for us on the other side.

BODY

Your body is the vehicle that gets you through this life; you need to make sure that it is running at its best.

We can all remember the times when we’ve felt our best in life and can most likely correlate those moments with a higher number of productive habits such as regular exercise and healthier food choices.

There are countless workout options covering a wide range of physical abilities that you can choose from. If running or biking aren’t for you, perhaps you’ll find swimming or yoga to be a better fit. Daily walks beat doing nothing, and even sixty seconds (as in one, lonely minute) of vigorous exercise can bring massive benefits.

Case in point: one of the largest studies ever undertaken in exercise science recently showed that the same health benefits can be had by the person working out vigorously for 1 minute as the person spending 45 minutes or more in endurance training. Let me say that for you again in case you missed it: 1 minute of vigorous exercise offers the same health and fitness benefits as a 45 minute workout. Don’t believe me? Check out the study for yourself.

And don’t forget that pretty much anything that gets you moving will help you feel better, as even light activity aids in your body’s natural release of additional endorphins.

If you aren’t ready for vigorous exercise yet, try some simple activities that get you out in the sun. Do some slow stretches, or get moving fast enough that you notice an increase in your respiration rate. A little light yard work will get your heart pumping, and just ten minutes of sunshine has amazing benefits.

MIND

Every day your emotions are getting pulled in a number of different directions. Everything you worry about, stress about, get excited or sad about — all of it affects your emotional health in at least some small way.

Remember to be mindful of how you feel. Recognize your feelings, and make it a priority to address them when they need your attention. Then take time each day to do something that replenishes your emotions and gets them strong and ready for whatever is next.

Find what works for you. Is it talking to friends? Reading a good book? Even just meditating for 37 seconds can give you an amazing reset. Taking a few simple moments for yourself will go a long way in keeping your mind healthy.

SEE STUNNING
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SPIRIT

Taking care of your spiritual well-being is more than just checking the religion box. There’s no doubt that religion does help many people who are seeking to fulfill their spiritual needs, but spiritual wellness is more than religious affiliation.

“The spirit is the aspect of ourselves that can carry us through anything. If we take care of our spirit, we will be able to experience a sense of peace and purpose even when life deals us a severe blow. A strong spirit helps us to survive and thrive with grace, even in the face of difficulty.”

Your spirit is the strongest when you know and appreciate yourself for who you are. That may include the less-than-comfortable activity of better aligning yourself with your life’s goals (aka self-improvement), but it’s crucial that you start today by being more accepting of the person you are now. How will you build on the good inside of yourself if you aren’t willing to acknowledge and accept that goodness? Serve others, Take time for yourself, do the things that make you happy, and recognize and be thankful for all that you have in this moment.

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

Being ready to face life’s challenges is a must for me if I’m going to be happy and well. It’s easy to buy into the lie that I don’t have time to devote to myself, but the truth is that if I want to be happy, I can't afford not to.

Trials will come and it is important that you are prepared to tackle them so you can keep moving forward. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you must be like Narcissus, eternally gazing at your own reflection at the expense of everything around you. Spending a few minutes each day can have measurable, profound effects.

I challenge you to start taking care of yourself today! Take time to do something that brings you joy; meditate, exercise, and be thankful for what you have. Doing this will lead to an overall increase in your well-being, and will empower your mind, body, and spirit to handle anything you need to face.

Do you have a secret weapon that helps you make caring for yourself a priority? Share it with us in the comments!