As we move through our lives, most of us are working to make our lives better: happier, healthier, and more meaningful. We may work on these elements consistently, or we may follow fads and have multiple false starts along the way. In the midst of our busy lives, it can be quite challenging to pay attention to what is needed to achieve our most basic goals in life. But without accomplishing these goals, we are considerably less likely to achieve our more lofty ones. How many of us pay attention to the foundation needed to work on those basic goals—the elemental pieces of a happier, healthier, more meaningful life? It’s not complicated—eat right and exercise, get plenty of sleep, keep your stress level down—but it is onerous. It takes discipline, proactivity, an open mind, and consistency. We have to be intentional about our foundations or they will not happen. Although everyone’s foundation may be slightly different, we all have basic requirements that include sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental/emotional health. Many would also add spirituality to this list. But whatever our foundation consists of, it’s important to be specific and intentional and follow through on our goals for each of these elements.
What do you need to live?
The question is not “What is comfortable or tastes good or is convenient?” Rather, it concerns those things without which you wouldn’t survive. Many people in the world are faced with this question every day. For those of us who aren’t, it can be interesting to think about it as we eat, shop, or reflect on our lives. It is also interesting to reflect on those things that enrich our lives—that make our lives more meaningful or more fulfilling. There may be a lot of things that we consume or pursue that we think will enrich us but that ultimately don’t add anything of substance.
Times like these can feel like a slow car accident. You’re in a skid and you know the crash is coming, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
Reading the news and learning about the severity and extent of the disease—the number of deaths and the impact on the economy—can cause a state of extreme stress and anxiety. Then you go about your day, and you experience all the typical sounds of your house. You see cars going by as if nothing has changed. You run into people you know at the grocery store and chat about your kids and how your families are holding up. You stop and get gas on your way home. Even though circumstances are inexorably changed, so many aspects of our lives feel exactly the same.
Taking care of yourself is not optional.Many of us, when prioritizing our time and assessing our demands and opportunities, put things like exercise, meditation, and communing with nature pretty low on the list. They might feel that they have to take care of tasks that are required or necessary before activities that they might feel are luxuries or are self-indulgent.But self-care is not “time off” or down time. It is a critical part of living a healthy and balanced life.
Man, I am starving!
You hear people with relatively affluent suburban lives saying this. Although it might mean that the person is actually hungry, it’s more likely that they just want some food, either because they’re looking forward to a meal, they’re thinking about a certain food, or they’re just bored.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people who are actually starving in the world.
Whenever my son says this, or something like this, I remind him that he’s not actually starving and ask him if he actually feels hungry. I ask him to pay attention to the signals his mind and body are sending him and to identify them intentionally. I also tell him that it’s OK to periodically be hungry. Maintaining a hungry feeling can be healthy—it can train us to not immediately start wolfing down food when we have that feeling. We’re not meant to be full all the time.