Finding Balance in Your Life for 2020
The new year is here along with the age-old tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. Yet studies show that only about 8% of people have success sticking to them. So, how can you make this year different? Learning to create balance in your life may be the key to success that can help you reach any goal you set.
Life is busy and it is easy for anyone to get overwhelmed. Too often dreams of a balanced life get dashed as deadlines come too soon, health problems rob us of time or other situations arise that we didn’t plan for. In fact, no matter who you are, life probably has a curve ball to throw at you. But it is possible to break from the cycle of work and stress and finally create a life that is healthy for your body and mind.
Make this year different by striving for balance instead of focusing on one goal. When you plan for balance, you may find your life has more order and harmony, while you have more control. Balance helps reduce stress and can help you live a happier life as you control your future instead of letting circumstances control you.
With a little effort, you can make this year productive and enjoyable by setting your intentions to do so. And the best part is that bringing balance into your life can be as easy as creating a schedule. When you learn the art of balance, you will find that life’s upsets are manageable, and you are able to navigate them with ease. In fact, planning ensures that you have time for all areas of your life and even helps you find time for the unexpected. Let’s break it down and see how you can create balance in your life for 2020.
Write Out Your Plan
Life is busy and can often feel chaotic. But a practice as simple as writing out a plan can reduce stress and help you feel more in control of your life. In business this practice is called implementation planning, and it is the act of scheduling tasks that need to be accomplished. Doing so can help you stay focused on your goals and reach them, in spite of any mishaps or unexpected events that may take place.
One study took this practice a step further and proved it to be an effective method to reach fitness goals. During the study, it was found that those who wrote down the day, time and planned workout helped participants get started with a fitness routine and stick with it.
In 1999, psychologist Peter Gollwitzer coined the term “implementation intention,” as he found that when a goal is planned in response to either a cue or future event it will more likely be followed. The cue or future event may be written as the day and time you will perform the task or may be more abstract such as, “before work.” Since then various researchers have found that this practice is helpful in all areas of life.
The implementation intention method involves simply writing out where, when and how you plan to reach a goal. For example, write your intention where you can see it; preferably on a wall calendar. Include the day and time you will exercise along with the routine you plan to do. Many people choose to write a statement such as, “For the next month I will work out for 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30am.” The idea is to create a tangible plan.
Other ways to use this method are to write out your new, healthy meal plan or schedule the steps you will take to begin a new business venture. Adding your plans to a calendar with your work schedule is even more effective as the visual aid becomes a reminder to stay on track. Planning what you will do if obstacles like fatigue or time constraints arise, can help you even more.
As you create your weekly or monthly schedule, try not to cram too much into one day. The goal is to make daily and weekly organization a habit that becomes easy to follow. By sticking with your routine, you will soon become more productive.
A healthy diet is important for a healthy and balanced life. A diet that consists of wholesome, unprocessed foods provides the energy and focus needed to get through life’s stressful times. With the right diet, your energy can remain high for workouts, you will gain mental clarity to solve problems and keep a more positive outlook. And a wholesome diet gives you a much better chance of remaining healthy through cold and flu season, so you keep down time to a minimum and enjoyment levels high.
Eating healthy is easier if you make small commitments before you make large ones, and implement changes slowly so you are not overwhelmed. For example, incorporate healthy eating in steps, beginning with refraining from all restaurant and fast food. When you get used to this step, then incorporate a healthy diet plan. Some small steps you might incorporate include:
- Begin each day with 2 pieces of fruit
- Have a green salad with every lunch and dinner
- Abstain from alcohol for a month
- If you really need to feed your sweet tooth, experiment with healthier, home-made treats
- Keep a food journal and strive to get 4-7 servings of fruits and veggies each day
- Drink fresh water in place of sugary or fake-sugar drinks
Try adding one healthy eating step each week. Each person is different and so will have their own version of what they can include in their healthy eating plan. To help determine the foods that are right for you, keep a food journal of what you ate and how it made you feel. You might uncover food allergies that cause brain fog or feel more motivated to stick with healthy foods that energize you. Eating well in the new year doesn’t have to take extra time and can become a habit that will help you feel motivated and energized in all areas of your life.
Finding time to exercise is important for overall balance. You don’t have to be a weightlifter or an athlete, but daily exercise has many benefits that can help you live a happier and fuller life. One of the best perks of exercise is improved mental acuity as it stimulates the growth of new brain cells and even new blood vessels throughout the brain. Here are some more exciting benefits of exercise:
- Manage insulin levels and blood sugar
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Strengthen bones
- Balance hormones
- Reduce internal inflammation, which in turn reduces chance of disease
- Tone and shape muscles
- Control or lose weight
- Improve outlook and mental health
- Ward off depression
- Improved sleep
- Improved sexual health
The trick to fitting exercise into a balanced lifestyle is to schedule it into your current daily routine and do not overdo it. Many people are enthusiastic when beginning a fitness routine, only to burn out a few weeks into the new year. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest issue seems to be time. When other areas of our lives get busy it is easy to forgo a workout because you have other things to do. But the key to stick with your new routine is balance.
If you are new to regular exercise, keep in mind that you don’t have to work out for 60-90 minutes every day. Begin by scheduling shorter time slots of 15 to 30 minutes for exercise with time to shower and change. If you have extra time to work out, then great! But if you get busy you can still fit in your workout, because less committed time is easier to stick with and leads to less stress. When you begin slowly and allow yourself an adjustment period, exercise can become an enjoyable activity that you will soon look forward to.
Meditate or De-Stress
Meditate for 20 minutes each day and if you’re busy, meditate for an hour. This is an old Buddhist saying that makes a lot of sense. Meditation helps quiet the mind and helps the brain and body destress. Traditionally, research on meditation has been limited to stress relief, but recently studies have expanded and are uncovering more benefits. Some of these include the ability to control impulsive behaviors, improved sleep, improved mental discipline and willpower.
There may be a very physical reason why meditation seems to help create balance. When stressed and busy, one may end up using one side of the brain more than the other. As this takes place on a regular basis, it can lead to confusion and more stress, and even block us from finding solutions to problems.
But it turns out that meditation helps the brain make cross connections, linking both sides of the brain together. The ability of your brain to from these new connections is called neuroplasticity and can help open your mind to see new possibilities and solutions. (1) This may be why those who meditate seem calmer due to less stress. And those who are calm have an easier time finding balance and room for all areas of their lives.
Take some personal time out for yourself every day and a little more once a week, if possible. Taking a mental break can help you avoid burnout, while creating quiet time for yourself is important for good decision making. And it turns out that feeling stressed and rushed does the opposite, and can make problems seem bigger than they are. But, how is the average busy person supposed to find time for relaxation?
Recreational and relaxation activities of the past have been replaced with social media scrolling and video or online games. Unfortunately, overuse of these activities can be unproductive, may create unnecessary stress and interfere with sleep patterns. Identify any unhealthy habits that do not serve you and resolve to replace them with healthy habits.
Some examples of activities for your personal time out include taking a walk during your lunch break, listening to positive affirmations while sitting in traffic or implementing a deep breathing routine that can be done in a few minutes, anywhere. Schedule small, daily increments of time in which you will do something positive for yourself. They will quickly add up and you will feel more relaxed, yet productive at the end of the day.
Journaling is the act of writing out your thoughts. This can be done at the end of the day, during your lunch or counted as part of your personal time-out. While often associated with a teenager’s diary, research shows that journaling is beneficial for everyone. It is a way to express thoughts and struggles without fear of judgment. In fact, studies show that writing about stressful or emotional events a few times each week for four months can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (2)
The time used for journaling can also be the time to reflect on your goals, evaluate your routines and update your food or exercise journals. Reading back on your journal can help you identify concerns or uncover fears so that you can deal with them. It can even help you identify negative self-talk that can sabotage goals.
Relaxed writing for just 10 minutes at the end of the day can help you destress and sleep better. And when used with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, you will feel yourself more balanced and motivated as you track your progress.
Make Good Habits an Easy Choice
We all desire to stick with healthy habits that serve us, but actually sticking to them can be difficult and sometimes feel time consuming. In fact, one of the biggest reasons people skip exercise and healthy eating is they feel there simply isn’t enough time. But there is a way to easily implement both in a way that can save you time.
Researchers have found that environment is an important factor when implementing healthy habits. And changing your environment will make it much easier to stick with your health goals so you can have more time for other things. Here’s how this works…
In one study, Dr. Anne Thorndike, MD influenced the eating habits of cafeteria visitors simply by changing the location of certain foods. Coined with the term “Choice Architecture,” she made healthy food and drink choices more prominent and easier to access than unhealthy foods. (3) This led to a reduction in soda sales, an increase in water sales and decrease in junk food sales.
Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg said that one should focus not on “doing Behavior X,” but should make Behavior X easier to do, while making bad habits more difficult to implement. His example was to put snacks on a shelf in the garage where a ladder is required for access. As it turns out, most people will forgo the snacks when too much effort to obtain them is involved. Use this laziness principle to your advantage to help cut or remove undesirable habits.
Change your environment with some slight alterations in your home. Clear junk food from your pantry and refrigerator and replace them with healthy food options. Make fresh, whole fruits easy to grab along with cut vegetables ready to dip and eat. When you are fatigued, these will be right there waiting for you instead of a bag of potato chips. Having meals at home will also save you time. While hitting a restaurant drive-through seems like a time saver, it is just as easy to have meals ready at home; and you will have more control over your diet.
Use this technique in other areas of your life, as well. For example, exercise will not interfere with your life if you schedule only short time slots at the beginning or end of your day. Other ways to keep exercise simple is to have your gym clothes ready to put on, take them to work so it is easy to go straight to the gym or keep a pair of gym shoes at work for your lunch break.
Making desired routines easy to follow can help you create positive habits in all areas of your life. For example, if you want to learn a new instrument, leave it out where you can see it and practice 15 minutes each day after work. Have your computer set up and ready to do research for a new business venture, or schedule just 10 minutes to organize your closet after work. Keep your goals visible and schedule time for them in manageable time slots, so they are easier to stick with.
As you find ways to make goals easier to implement, you are more likely to stay on a path to reach them. Scheduling is key so you can prioritize tasks and remember to do them. And with a little planning, you will learn to bring balance into all areas of your life.
To recap, here is what balance might look like in your life.
- Write out your plan that includes each of the following;
- Eat well
- Time Out
- And remember to keep it easy
Above all things, be flexible with yourself, as it might take time to get used to your new schedule. The above suggestions may feel like a lot of planning but when life is more organized, we can get more goals accomplished and feel less stressed doing them. Planning will help you direct your life and experience the outcome you desire. And you may find that balance will help you become happier and even more productive.
1 Kurth F, MacKenzie-Graham A, Toga AW, Luders E. Shifting brain asymmetry: the link between meditation and structural lateralization. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015;10(1):55–61. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu029
2 Davidson, K., Schwartz, A. R., Sheffield, D., McCord, R. S., Lepore, S. J., & Gerin, W. (2002). Expressive writing and blood pressure. In S. J. Lepore & J. M. Smyth (Eds.), The writing cure: How expressive writing promotes health and emotional well-being (p. 17–30). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10451-001
3 Thorndike AN, Sonnenberg L, Riis J, Barraclough S, Levy DE. A 2-phase labeling and choice architecture intervention to improve healthy food and beverage choices [published correction appears in Am J Public Health. 2012 Apr;102(4):584]. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(3):527–533. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300391