People always think that they need to make sweeping lifestyle changes to reap real benefits. However, it is often the little things that have the biggest impact.
I have struggled to find that work/life balance. I would wake up with my teeth clenched and wonder why I had neck pain. I would pass people sitting on a bench enjoying the day and wonder “who has time for that?” as I stormed off down the street in usual “woman on a mission” mode, often grumbling to myself as to why these annoying people can’t walk faster (I am a New Yorker after all…).
Then I realized that this is not normal. I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window once day and I had the grumpiest look on my face. I thought “this isn’t me!” I pride myself on being a fun, happy person and I think most of my friends would agree with that. This was not the me I wanted to project to the world, so I decided to make a few simple changes and honestly they have made a world of difference.
1. Just Breathe
I know…who doesn’t know how to breathe?! However, most of us are pretty lazy when it comes to breathing…taking short breaths, which utilize only the upper portion of the lungs. It is amazing the benefits of taking full, complete breaths.
“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.” – Dr. Andrew Weil
I decided to take his advice and started doing his 4-7-8 breathing technique twice a day. It is amazing how something that takes a couple of minutes can be so powerful. And the best part is that it can be done anytime and anywhere! Now instead of fuming at my desk after a frustrating meeting, I take a moment and just breathe – it’s like a instant reset for your body.
2. Put Down The Crackberry!
We live in an extremely fast-paced world and technological advances have made life easier in many respects. Can you imagine life without Google? I realize I am dating myself here, but I totally remember having to look everything up in my trusty Encyclopedia Britannica, which were likely out of date as soon as they were printed! Now you can buy your groceries, order take out, pay your bills and tell your closest 1000 friends the news of the day all without leaving your couch!
But all this technology means we are accessible 24/7. Gone are the days when you left the office and if someone needed something, it would just have to wait till the next day. I was a bit late to the techie craze, but even I have gotten sucked into. I catch myself sometimes and it’s like Pavlov’s dog…I hear that ding on my phone and I immediately grab it. Or I check my blackberry before even getting out of bed, often spending the next hour frantically getting ready for work, responding to anything urgent and am completely stressed out before the day has even begun.
So I now have a rule: no checking email after 7pm or before I go to work. Whatever is happening will still be happening once I get there. And no checking emails on the weekend. Sunday night I take a quick peak, just so I know what Monday looks like, but other than that the blackberry goes on the charger in the back corner of my kitchen, so there is no way I can see that taunting red light beckoning me to pick it up.
3. Acknowledge Strangers
I know New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly, but in general I disagree with that assessment. Remember back to the days of cassette tapes and how a song sounded on fast forward? That is what New Yorkers are like to the rest of the world, perpetually on fast forward.
So I did a little experiment; instead of racing from place to place with my head down, just trying to get through my errands as quickly as possible, I actually made eye contact with people, talked to store clerks…this actually is how I always used to be, but somehow the daily frustrations of life had just worn me down.
I must admit, it took a lot of effort to slow down my walking pace and I can’t say that I have totally stuck to that one. Nevertheless I do continue to be as present as possible, even when just walking down the street. It is amazing how much more pleasant even boring errands can be when you approach it with a good attitude and yes even smile at strangers.