Creating and Maintaining Life Balance

Creating and maintaining life balance is something of a holy grail for us. When our lives are in balance, things just flow. It’s tempting to think that a life full of sunshine and roses will leave you fulfilled and happy, however it’s just not the case.

Yale University professor June Gruber has studied happiness. Professor Gruber, compares happiness to food, it can nourish and sustain us however it can also lead to disease and suffering; likewise, happiness can have negative consequences. “Research indicates that very high levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats,” Gruber states.

We need challenges, setbacks, struggle to make the wins all that more sweet. Not only does sour make sweet all that much sweeter, struggle can actually lead to greater achievement.

Our take is that balance is crucial for not only continuous healthy development, but also feeling content.

Stacked rocks sit balanced by a river in a forest.
Image source: Syed F Hashemi, Unsplash

It seems like all of our blog posts of late have centered around one thing, the global pandemic and its effects. Covid-19 has brought no end of sour onto the world’s stage. We don’t for a second intend to downplay an event that has brought immense suffering, however there are silver-linings to be found. These include, “more time” do the things otherwise ignored, finding a new appreciation for “what truly matters,” and enhanced creativity and learning new ways to connect.

For me personally, a silver-lining has been that I am more much more mindful of what I do that makes me genuinely happy, and what brings be down, and to consciously monitor how I’m feeling. In other words, I take stock of if I feel in or out of balance. This has been brought on by feeling immensely depressed at times. By my own admittance, I am very fortunate to know when I begin to feel this way, this has come from years of what is probably mild depression. I know when I’m going down the hole, and that I need to pull myself out before I get in too deep.

Sunshine comes through green trees in a forest
Image source: Liam Charmer, Unsplash

Here is my list of what I find brings me down, and what brings me up, (some of these were surprising to me):

Brings me down

  • Social Media
  • Traditional media
  • Screen time in general
  • Junk food/sugar
  • Being indoors for too long
  • Procrastinating

Brings me up

  • Cleaning
  • Knocking things off my to-do list
  • Making a to-do list
  • Building things or fixing things around the house
  • Exercise
  • Spending time in nature
  • Healthy, nutritious, real food, especially vegetables and cooking
  • Work work
  • Gardening

The biggest curveball for me was consumption of traditional media. It’s pretty common knowledge that social media and ‘screen time’ in excess isn’t healthy, but I’ve always prided myself on being well informed, I’ve always valued consuming ‘the news’ and being up to date with world affairs. But as the pandemic crept along, when I took stock of what I had been doing preceding feeling down, on thing I noted was that I was consuming news media in great quantities. I experimented and I consciously made an effort to limit my screen time in general. I downloaded an app which allowed my to set limits of how long I could be on my phone, and what apps I could access and for what duration, this helped immensely. Not only did it impose limits, but it also helped me be conscious of just how much time I was spending on my phone.

A large tree with impressive roots grows out of the forest floor
Image source: Brandon Green, Unsplash

New York based psychotherapist F. Diane Barth, lists five suggestions for helping to bring balance into your life, she has collected these suggestions from people in her life who she views as being more balanced than not:

  1. “Balance is not a final goal, but an ongoing process. Being balanced does not mean being calm, relaxed, and content all of the time. Balance often occurs only for a fleeting moment, but it can reappear over and over again. Rather than trying to stay balanced, think of yourself as practicing balancing, over and over again. I love that many yoga teachers talk about yoga as a “practice”—the goal is not to become great at it, but to keep practicing it. You often hear the comment that it’s good to fail—it means you were trying. The same is true in life. As long as we keep practicing finding balance, we will find one. Of course, we will lose it. But we will find it again.
  2. Prioritize. In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker talks about the importance of setting goals, deciding which are most important, and then, doing the most important things first. The problem is often figuring out just what is most important. On any given day, in any given moment, what is your priority? Is checking your email more important than calling your grandmother? Is taking a hot shower more important than talking to your best friend for the third time today? In order to stay on course, you may have to re-examine your priorities regularly. But Drucker’s point is that once you decide what’s important, focus on it and get it done.
  3. Set both long and short term goals. In business, this is called “Tactics and Strategy.” Strategy is the longterm goal, the big picture. Tactics are the combination of short term goals that will help you get you to your longterm goal. For example, if you want to be a successful writer, your short term goals might be to get your first article published in any newspaper that will take it. Then you will need to break down that into even smaller steps, tactics to get to that first goal—for instance, taking a writing class, writing for 30 minutes every day, joining a writing group, or submitting something you’ve written to a local newspaper.
  4. Be specific. It’s more useful to say, “I’m going to spend an hour alone with each child sometime this week,” than to say, “I’m going to have quality time with each of my children.” Quality time is a great concept, but it’s also a vague one. And since it’s so vague, it’s hard to know whether or not you’ve accomplished that goal, which makes it hard to feel in balance. The same is true if you say that you’re going to eat healthily or exercise more. Set something specific—for example, this week you’ll add kale to three meals, or you’ll have fruit with your breakfast every morning; or decide that you’ll run for thirty minutes on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
  5. Remember that it’s often easier to find balance with another person. Imagine a balancing act that involves not only individual strength, but interactive support. The keyword here is interactive—if you’re bearing all the weight, you can’t get balanced. But if you’re not carrying your share, you won’t get balanced either. What’s most important is not how much weight one person carries at any given time, but how you interact with one another, drawing from and giving energy to each other. That’s balance.”

The best advice I can give regarding finding balance, is to make sure you are as mindful as possible as to how you’re feeling and what you do to make you feel this way. Once you have a checklist, you have a quick way to assess what you can do to bring yourself back into balance.