The new year is upon us bringing hope and a fresh start for many people. New Year’s resolutions will be made, yet studies show that only about 8% of people have success sticking to their resolutions. 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 for yourself.
Life is busy and it is easy to get overwhelmed when work or other areas of life become stressful. Too often our 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. 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 in all areas 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 the most productive and enjoyable by setting your intentions to do so, and beginning can be as easy as scheduling time for yourself, family, friends, and health. When you learn the art of balancing, you will find that life’s upsets are manageable, and you are able to navigate them with ease. Planning a balanced life ensures that you have time for all of your goals. Let’s break it down and see how to create balance in your life for 2020.
Write Your Own 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 a step further and proved it to be an effective method to reach fitness goals. In this case, it was found that those who write down the day, time and their workout plan helped them get started with a diet or fitness routine and then 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 is to simply write out where, when and how you plan to reach a goal. For example, write out the day and time you will exercise along with the routine you plan to do. You could also write out your weekly meal plan. Adding these plans to a calendar with your work schedule is even more effective because the visual can act as a reminder to stay on track. Planning for obstacles, such as fatigue or time constraints, and dealing with them can help you even more.
As you create your weekly or monthly schedule, try to not 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, you could vow to stop eating restaurant food and “practice” this for a couple weeks. When you get used to it, then incorporate a healthy diet plan. Begin by clearing all white flour products from your pantry and replacing them with whole grains or more vegetables. Or make a vow to only have dessert or a sweet treat once each week. Other ideas 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
- Remember to drink fresh water in place of sugary or fake-sugar drinks
These are just some ideas to try. 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 could uncover food allergies that cause brain fog or feel more motivated to stick with healthy foods that energize you.
Finding time to exercise is important for overall balance in anyone’s life. 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 the 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 exercise 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. The key 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 some exercise is better than none. 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, studies on meditation have 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 and a more balanced life.
The last one might be a bit surprising, but turns out to have validity to it. When stressed and busy, one can fall out of brain balance and use one side of the brain more than the other. This can lead to confusion, 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 which opens your mind to new possibilities and solutions. (1) This may be why those who meditate seem calmer 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, these activities are unproductive and instead of helping one relax, they can easily stress a person out and interfere with sleep patterns. Identify these unhealthy habits 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 mentioned previously. While often associated with a teenage 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 situations that have caused stress or identify activities that do not serve you. It can even help you uncover fears and concerns so that you can deal with them or help you identify negative self-talk.
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 they simply don’t have 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. 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 goal 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.
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. Actively taking part in the planning of your life will help you direct your life and experience the outcome you desire. You may find that balance will help you live more productively and happier.
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
Body Cleanse and Detoxification Specialist with over 22 years experience; BSc in Holistic Nutrition, C.C.T. Colon Hydrotherapist, Cert. Holistic Health Practitioner, Spiritual Guide, Energy Work, Reiki, Author, Holistic Health Researcher
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