Living a Balanced Life: A Real Person’s Guide
In an age driven by social media, there are plenty of people weighing in on how to live your best life. They usually present themselves as good examples, complete with an ultra-cool photo of themselves posing on a mountain top. And yes, fresh air clears the lungs, and a nice view never hurt anyone. But there can be obstacles to achieving the Instagram version of balance. Maybe a tight budget prevents you from being able to buy all-organic produce. Or, besides work and your home life, there’s a multitude of stresses, obligations, and inconveniences that keep you from feeling blissful. Or, let’s face it, taking a picture of yourself on a mountain top is hard to do without the help of a professional photography team.
Despite these realities, there are actual, realistic things that you can do to shift your every-day life onto a more balanced keel. Here’s a list of easy, approachable tasks that can help you feel better right away, and can become sustainable habits over time.
Eat an in-season vegetable salad
For me right now, that means tomatoes. I try to buy organic when possible, and to choose produce that’s not wrapped in plastic. I love pairing tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, a little basil, salt and pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Simple is always delicious. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you get at least one genuine vegetable in your system during the day. Maybe you won’t reach for the potato chips because you’re feeling so great. And if you do, at least you had a nice salad first.
Five minute meditation
Just spent thirty minutes on hold with the phone company? Or your boss set some ridiculous new deadline? No worries! Sit down somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and for the next few minutes, turn off your brain. Breathe in and out of your nose. Focus on making your breath slow and even. Feel your shoulders drawing down your back, and the crown of your head pulling up to the sky. Relax your tongue, and your jaw. If you hear sounds around you, or your mind starts to wander, draw your attention back to your breath. All you need is five minutes to re-set your perspective. There. Feel better now?
Brisk walk outside
I’m always most sluggish right after lunch. So, without weighing the options for too long, I try to go outside for a quick walk right after eating. Twenty minutes is best, but even once around the block will do the trick. This isn’t a leisurely stroll, you should walk briskly enough to get your blood moving. Take in the fresh air, look at the leaves on the trees, smell all the smells. Don’t think about what you need to do, or what you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll get to that in a second. For now, just get your legs moving.
Call your parents
Any simple task that’s easy to do, and where not doing it gives you excess stress, belongs in this category. You know you should do it. You’ve been meaning to do it. You said you would do it yesterday. Do one of these things every day. The relief you’ll get from actually doing the thing you’ve been putting off is instantaneous. And, you’ll be the model child who called her parents!
Take your vitamins
Similar to the effect of the daily vegetable, taking vitamins and supplements every day will make you feel great about yourself! Of course, they’re not a replacement for a balanced diet. But making yourself aware of the things you put into your body is an all-around positive thing to do. And you’ll be proud of yourself for doing something good without your mom telling you to do it!
Make pizza dough
It’s so easy for convenience to be the number one priority. But making something with your own hands is just as valuable. You’ll be amazed when you see how easy pizza dough is to make, and how few ingredients it requires. All you need is flour, a little salt, dry yeast, lukewarm water, and olive oil. You can find videos online to show you details, but really you mix it all together, knead it with your hands adding flour or water until you’ve got a soft but not sticky consistency, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise (to double in size) in a cool place for at least an hour (or overnight). Making pizza at home is fun and satisfying, and it all starts with the dough. Add some nice in-season vegetables and whatever toppings you love, pop it in a hot oven, and Voila! Look at you! You made pizza!
A do-able to-do list
There’s no point writing an epic list of to-dos for the day if it’s impossible to achieve them all. If you set a few small goals for yourself each day, you’ll be so much more likely to actually get them done. I recently started writing out tiny lists like this for each day in a whole week. Then, if I manage my few goals for the day, I can feel like an over-achiever for starting on the next day’s goals. Great job!
Set out clothes and pack bag the night before
Pretend you’re back in kindergarten, and get yourself ready for the next morning the way your mom used to do for you. Put your lunch together if you take it to work, and keep it in the fridge. Set out the clothes you’ll wear, and pack your bag in advance. Any effort you can put into preparing your next morning is less energy you’ll have to spend using your brain when you wake up. You’ll be able to focus on eating a decent breakfast instead. Bonus!
Digital Detox at bedtime
It’s really true what they say. You’ll sleep better if the last thing you did before going to bed is anything other than staring at a screen. So before you get in bed, put your electronics away. I can’t put my phone out of my room because I use it as an alarm. But I charge it on the other side of the room so that I have to stand up to turn it off in the morning. Whenever I make a conscious effort to turn off all screens before going to bed, I fall asleep earlier, and the quality of my sleep is better.
Wake up early
Nobody wants anything from you if they’re still asleep. Take some extra time in the morning to set yourself up for the day ahead. Write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. Drink your coffee in peace and quiet. Do that five minute meditation. Give yourself extra time to get ready. Enjoy this time with yourself before things speed up. You’ve got a great day ahead of you!
About the author- Lucy Van Cleef
Lucy is an American who works as a professional dancer in the United States and Europe.
She enjoys exploring ways to share movement as a universal language
through performance, teaching, yoga, choreography, writing, and more.