Mak­ing the most of or­di­nary days

Good - - CONTENTS - with Dr Alice Boyes Psy­chol­ogy ex­pert Dr Alice Boyes is the au­thor of the book, The Anx­i­ety Tool­kit.

In re­cent years, we’ve all heard the ad­vice (dare I say it, ad nau­seam) that we should ap­proach our days mind­fully, and be fully present in our ex­pe­ri­ences as they’re oc­cur­ring. “Be grate­ful” is an­other pop­u­lar edict from self-help writ­ers like me. While these tips are all well and good (and are part of mak­ing the most of your life), there are nu­mer­ous other ways you can fill up your cup ev­ery day. Here are a few prac­ti­cal ideas.

Re­move bar­ri­ers to plea­sure. When I have a bath, I some­times like to re­lax and lis­ten to a pod­cast or au­dio­book. How­ever, my phone vol­ume isn’t loud enough to hear over the bath­room fan. This is an ex­am­ple of a bar­rier to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a sim­ple plea­sure. Get­ting a cheap Blue­tooth speaker (and a bat­tery pack to charge it) solved this prob­lem. What ex­am­ples do you have where you need a tool, or a bet­ter sys­tem, to pre­vent silly, small bar­ri­ers from get­ting in the way of things you en­joy?

De­ci­sion mak­ing is a com­mon plea­sure bar­rier. For ex­am­ple, hav­ing a reg­u­lar friend-date at a spe­cific time and place can solve the prob­lem of de­cid­ing when and where you will get to­gether with a good friend.

Have a “plea­sure fun­nel”. A “plea­sure fun­nel”, as I use the term, is some­thing (or some­one) that/who brings a stream of new plea­sures into your life. If you like to read or watch TV, hav­ing a friend who gives great book or TV-show rec­om­men­da­tions is an ex­am­ple of a plea­sure fun­nel. My tod­dler is part of my plea­sure fun­nel be­cause she’s al­ways do­ing some­thing new and cute. Ev­ery­one is dif­fer­ent. My sis­ter loves her weekly My Food Bag, be­cause she gets new din­ners to try and doesn’t need to make gro­cery shop­ping de­ci­sions. Iden­tify three or four things/peo­ple that are part of your plea­sure fun­nel.

“Do some­thing ev­ery day where you won’t ex­pe­ri­ence the ben­e­fits for sev­eral years, but where the ben­e­fits will

ac­cu­mu­late.” This is ca­reer ad­vice from NYU pro­fes­sor Scott Gal­loway. How­ever, in my view, this prin­ci­ple goes far be­yond the ca­reer do­main. When­ever I’ve learned a new skill or per­sisted through the anx­i­ety-pro­vok­ing stage of be­ing a be­gin­ner at some­thing, it has al­most in­vari­ably paid off, of­ten years later. What you ac­com­plish in a day can seem very small, but your ac­com­plish­ments will add up mas­sively over a pe­riod of years.

Learn what to se­lec­tively ig­nore. One of my self-sab­o­tag­ing habits is be­ing “pen­ny­wise but pound fool­ish”: for ex­am­ple, spend­ing 40 min­utes re­turn­ing a $5 item, or mak­ing a spe­cial trip to re­turn a li­brary book to avoid a 50c fine when I could take the book back the next day when I’m pass­ing. Know your habits, and

aim to be less com­pul­sive.

You can have ev­ery­thing, just not ev­ery­thing at once. We’ve all heard the long list of things that are good for us: ex­er­cise, yoga, home cook­ing, sex, see­ing friends, etc. It’s ex­haust­ing to even think about it all. If you’re feel­ing over­whelmed, try ask­ing your­self what you most need that par­tic­u­lar day. Some days you might need to push your­self to do some­thing scary (or te­dious) that you’ve been avoid­ing – or the most mun­dane er­rand (such as buy­ing hair ties) that puts your­self first in­stead of re­spond­ing to other peo­ple’s pri­or­i­ties. Other days, you might need to just chill for the day and ig­nore your to-do list. If my mind is rac­ing or I feel very scat­tered, I might do a med­i­ta­tion. I like do­ing 30-day projects for skills like yoga and mind­ful­ness, where I do that thing for 30 days straight, and then just do it when I feel like it. De­vot­ing a pe­riod of time to daily prac­tice of a skill can give you the knowl­edge base and com­fort you need to dip back in and out later on.

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