Embrace a less-is-more attitude and start living your best life.
Canadians are busy – the demands of work, family life and running a household leave little room for downtime. The quest to have it all and do it all means many people are cramming as much as possible into jam-packed schedules. Some even wear busyness as a badge of honour. But according to Statistics Canada, nearly one-quarter of people aged 18 to 34 years old said they felt “quite a bit” or “extremely stressed” most days. That number rises to nearly 30 percent among those 35 to 49 years old.
What if everyone just slowed down a little?
Making the effort to simplify areas of your life can drastically help to improve mindfulness, happiness and overall well-being. The theory is that we all have limited resources: energy, time and mental capacity. Having too much going on can leave you feeling weighed down and anxious. Getting rid of what doesn’t serve you can improve your focus on what really matters for truly enjoying life. Here are some tips to get started.
Take stock. Spend a few moments daily to reflect on your values. What’s most important, and what makes you happy? Perhaps it’s more time with family and friends, improving your physical wellness or volunteering for an important cause. In an ideal world, how much time would you devote to these?
Schedule downtime. Look at your calendar and consider if all those commitments really align with your values. If not, cut back and even set aside some time to do nothing at all. Practise saying no, so you’ll be ready when last-minute requests pop up. And stop multi-tasking: focusing on one job at a time is more productive and fulfilling.
Unplug. Research is emerging that shows the effect of device usage on mental and emotional health. Constantly checking a smartphone and receiving a barrage of information can prevent you from relaxing and being present. Mindlessly scrolling through social media eats up valuable time, plus you might find yourself comparing your life to others’ and feeling as if you don’t measure up. Try taking a digital break, even for part of each day.
Declutter. A home full of stuff can be visually overwhelming and an energy drain. By contrast, paring down possessions can make us feel lighter, as well as making it easier to find things and get jobs done. As organizational expert Marie Kondo advises, if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.
Find your zen. Make the effort to introduce more exercise or mindfulness practices into your routine. Try yoga, meditation or simply getting outside for a walk. Or join a group fitness class or recreational softball league – whatever clears your mind for a little while. Practising gratitude can also help to focus your thoughts on the good things in life.
Let go of bad habits. Complaining, feeling sorry for yourself and dwelling on the past are a few examples of unhealthy behaviours that drain your energy and alter your mood. Being around negative people can also have a damaging effect. Give yourself permission to set boundaries with less-than-helpful people in your life, and challenge yourself to quiet your own negative thoughts and refocus on more positive self-talk.
Streamline. Eliminating the need for small, everyday tasks and decisions can simplify routines and free up mental space for more important things. For example, have a set of “go-to” work outfits, try meal planning or automate bill payments.
Aim for “good enough.” The idea that everything must be perfect, or as close to it as possible, is a huge source of pressure and can lead to feelings of failure when that goal is not met. Cut yourself some slack and let go of impossible standards in your work, at home and in your relationships.
By releasing yourself from a frantic pace and endless demands, you can turn your attention to the things that truly matter. It may take some practice and commitment, but you can embrace a slower pace and a happier existence.
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 Statistics Canada, “Perceived life stress, by age group,” Table 13-10-0096-04, www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009604