Ready for something different? I’m not here to tell you to make big changes in the new year.
Instead, I want to share that you can actually make big changes to your life by taking time for yourself. Curious? Keep reading.
The Importance of Our Daily Choices
If variety is the “spice of life” and “a change of pace” is something we need, then we could conclude that we thrive on variety and multi-dimensional experiences.
The human brain likes to be challenged and stimulated. Over time, we have to learn that there are times when we have to delay gratification and practice patience. It is essential in life that we learn a degree of self-control. It is a prerequisite for success and psychological health. In the book Choose The Life You Want, author Tal Ben-Shahar writes about the importance of our daily choices and their impact on our happiness.
In our fast paced, complex and busy work/home roles, we sometimes delay gratification so much that our lives become dull, boring and on auto-pilot. If we delay gratification for too long, we end up with a life that we are chasing and not living to its fullest.
Taking a Mindful Moment
Taking a 5-minute mindful pause even if your phone is ringing and you have messages to answer; or taking 3 minutes to listen to your favorite song even if your in-box is overflowing. Spending an hour with a family member or friend despite having a looming deadline. These choices may seem irresponsible. You may second guess yourself. You may fight the urge to use your time in this way, but in reality this choice may be the best thing you could do for yourself in the moment! These brief activities – when we don’t delay simple gratification – are what we most often need to refuel our energy stores.
Infuse Instant Gratification Into You Day
Using mindfulness techniques helps us to pause and inject some joy and happiness into routine activities. Rather than waiting for the right time to stretch or take a break, incorporate some instant gratification on a regular basis to restore your energy. These mindful pauses make you feel better, but most importantly, they help with creativity and innovation.
- Take 5 minutes for yourself and just breathe
- When you wash your hands, take that moment be present and feel the warmth of the water
- Notice sounds, smells and sights that are pleasant
- Share an appreciation of something new and good in your life with a friend
- Watch a funny or uplifting video – a comedian, an adorable animal or baby, or even a peaceful nature scene
- Stop and listen to a friend or co-worker, then thank them for sharing their story with you
- Savor a small treat in silence, whether a cup of coffee or tea or a favorite snack
- Enjoy a few minutes outdoors, regardless of the weather
Finding the right balance is always a challenge. Start with bite-sized activities that make you happy and bring gratitude into your daily life and work. It’s not selfish – it’s self-respect.
Evelyn Sikorski, CSM, CEAP, is manager of Employee Health and Wellness and the Employee and Family Assistance Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Evy Smith, MA LCMHC, CTTS-M, is an EFAP Counselor & Tobacco Treatment Specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center.