How to Improve Emotional Wellbeing (with this one exercise).
Emotional wellbeing is like a teeter totter on a children’s playground.
Yet as adults we prefer to apply logic and systems to every aspect of life. Instead of something fun, we strive for the impossible ideal of work/life balance.
Let’s go back to the playground and play on the teeter totter. Have you ever sat on one end, with a child on the other? How did that work out for you? You were probably using your legs the entire time to drive yourself off the ground, and then to keep yourself from crashing to the ground. You artificially kept the teeter totter level to offset the imbalance of your adult bodyweight against that of the child’s.
If we use the abstract ideal of work/life balance on either side of a teeter totter, you begin to see the impossible dynamic. How can you balance just half of your work on one side, and the rest of your life on the other?
Surely there must be some guru out there who has discovered the secret of work/life balance? He’s probably willing to share it with you in his 12 week program for $497. 🙂
Seek to Be Flexible in Life instead of Balanced
Using the word balance as it relates to managing your life is a misnomer. We can’t achieve a perfect balance in any area of our life. Instead we are constantly adjusting where we put our attention. What works better as an analogy is to use a life wheel or a stereo equalizer.
With the wheel of life exercise you decide how satisfied you are with the attention you are giving to different parts of your life. Areas of life focus can include things like,
- Family & Friendships;
- Partnership or Spouse;
- Health & Fitness, and;
- Self-awareness or spirituality
When many people complete a life wheel their result is rarely round. If you put that wheel on a bike you’d have a hell of a time getting anywhere! I like to do this exercise every 90 days to see how things have change and what’s important to me, now. This exercise helps me to chose what areas of my life I want to focus on for the upcoming 90 days.
What about using the image of a stereo equalizer as a metaphor for life? On a visual level it’s more complex than the life wheel. There could be 10-20 knobs on the equalizer, all set at different levels. To achieve balance you would have to set each knob in the middle of each individual frequency. This is called “flat” in musical terms.
Have you ever heard music played flat? It’s pretty dull isn’t it? If you think you’ve achieved balance in your life, you’re probably bored. I’d guess you are coasting and not getting anywhere. Why? If your focus is flat you’re not putting enough attention into a few key areas that need attention for you to evolve.
How Do You Become More Without Becoming Unwell?
Want to excel in your career? Study, apply yourself, work extra hours, volunteer for more projects at work, etc. Yet what happens in other areas of your life when you put the majority of your focus and energy into your career? You have little energy and focus left over for things like family, your partner, fitness, fun, and so on.
What if you want to win the gold medal in a fitness competition? Focus on all things health and fitness, i.e. meal planning, eating 6-7 times per day, working out 1-2 times per day, following a rigid training and sleep schedule, etc. What will you have to give up in other areas of your life? Your career might suffer. You might need a job that gives you the flexibility to focus on your training. You might not go out with friends because you need to work out, or your diet is too restrictive for alcohol or restaurant food.
Neither of the scenarios above is right or wrong. Emotional wellbeing requires flexibility. Life itself is a “balancing act.” You can’t maintain a hyper-focus in one area of life for too long without causing damage to other areas. This is why doing a wheel of life exercise every 90 days is important. You can make adjustments before things get out of control.
Time is The Biggest Loser
Nearly everyone I meet says the same thing, “I don’t have enough time for…”
I’m just as guilty of making this statement. It wasn’t until I learned that it’s an excuse that I was able to take ownership of my choices. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Whether you are a fitness competitor, a business owner making $21 Million per year, a stay-at-home parent, or a monk meditating in Tibet.
How you choose to spend your time is up to you. Doing the wheel of life exercise is a revealing way to see how your choices are serving you. The visual nature of the exercise helps you to see how all the parts of your life are working together.
The Words You Chose Create Your Reality
When you say, “I don’t have enough time to eat right,” you’re not taking ownership for your choices and actions.
Instead, speak your truth. “I am choosing not to eat healthy at the moment. I am choosing to put all my focus on my career for now. ”
The first statement is giving up, and in some cases, laying blame on external circumstances. Don’t be “the biggest loser.” Recognize that your choices are your own and take ownership. Sure your current life situation may be challenging, stressful, or overwhelming. Yet no one forced you into that current space of being.
You are the person who brought yourself to this point in your life. You can make a radical break from your past. This may need patience and self-compassion to put in place. Yet small changes over time will offer slow and steady improvement.
It All Starts With You
In my line of work as a mind-flexing, thought-nourishing coach, I start with where you are, now. I need to understand what’s working and what’s not. I need to find out how you’re doing in the Four Pillars of Wellness (Frequent Movement, Healthy Eating, Sleep & Recovery, Emotional Wellbeing). How much focus are you giving to each pillar? Do you have a foundation of knowledge and healthy practices to support your wellness.
The Pillar of Emotional Wellbeing requires just as much attention as the others. Our wellbeing comes from our choices. If you’re overworked I’m sure that you’re also over tired and need more rest. You might find it difficult to make clear decisions. You might not be eating well or exercising often. The longer you are not supporting the other pillars, the more damage you cause to your emotional health.
We Are Each Alone Responsible for the Choices We Make.
To make healthy choices that serve you and strengthen the pillar of emotional wellbeing you need to have clear thoughts. This is where the Pillar of Sleep and Recovery comes into play. If you are not getting adequate rest your emotional wellbeing suffers. What are your priorities that result in limiting your amount of rest?
How to Nurture Your Emotional Wellbeing
I wrote most of the Four Pillars of Wellness Course sitting on my balcony. We live on the third floor and as I write I look straight into trees. Even though there’s another apartment building across from us, and we live downtown Toronto, the breeze, the warmth of the June sun, and the rustling leaves create a space of total calm. I slide into my zone of genius and I write.
While this writing project is my “work” it does’t feel like it. In fact, when I stop writing I feel happy, content, fulfilled, and centred.
Writing nurtures my mental and emotional wellbeing.
What Strengthens Your Emotional Wellbeing?
Do you need to plan some time away to reconnect with yourself or a loved one?
Can you make time for stillness, meditation, time in nature, or whatever you do to quiet your mind?
This doesn’t have to be a 10-day retreat. A short walk to the park for 15 minutes can make all the difference.
Book time in your calendar to do five minutes of mediation early in the morning before you go to work. It only takes a moment for enlightenment.
Make time in the morning or at the end of the day to journal. This is another great way to tune into what’s most important to you. I like to note what I’m grateful for, what I’ve accomplished, what lessons I learned, and so on.
Make 10-15 minutes, now or today to do the wheel of life exercise. This will help you to get a clear picture of where you’re putting your attention. It’s not about being good or bad. Instead it’s the opportunity to be flexible, to change, and to adapt. Recognize that you might have ignored areas of your life for too long and change that.
Tell me in the comments below what strengthens your emotional wellbeing.
Design a Strong Foundation to Support your Wellness: The conclusion of the 4 Pillars of Wellness course.
Eat healthy, move often, be well.