Look, I get it OK? After a long day at work, looking after your kids or (and I really feel for you poor sods) someone else’s kids, you just want to put your feet up and relax. Maybe you’ve got the dinner to make as well, or a couple of chores to take care of. Before you know it the sun is down and you’re beat.
So what do you do? Watch some TV or a film? Play some videogames? Anything to just switch off for a while before it gets to that point where you know if you don’t go to bed in the next 30 seconds you’ll be useless when tomorrow rolls around and you have to do it all again. I know this routine well. I lived it for a good few years and, every now and then, I start to slip back in to it and it’s really easy to do that.
This routine, whilst it might be attractive on the surface, isn’t likely to be doing your mind or your body a whole lot of good. I’m not saying don’t watch TV or that videogames rot your mind, what I’m going to take you through here is 3 ways you could use some of that time differently to provide long term benefits.
Before I do though, I want to talk about this tendency people have towards ‘switching off’ and why it doesn’t make as much sense as you might think it does. To do that, we’re going to use an analogy we can all relate to – phones. Yes, that insidious little shit you carry around with you all day that will gobble up all your free time if you let it. But that’s for another day, right now I just want you to think about what you do when it runs low on battery.
If the answer is ‘switch it off’ then we’re pretty much done here. Literally no one does that because then you wouldn’t be able to find out what your friends have been up to for the past 4 minutes or who is going to be in the celebrity big brother house this year (spoiler alert: a bunch of people you’ve never heard of and a porn star you almost certainly have).
No, you charge it up don’t you? When your phone is going to run out of power you recharge it. Why do we not instinctively do the same thing when we are running out of power? That’s a big question which we’re not going to answer here, my point is that we should. Surely this is better than switching off when our power is at its lowest ebb?
I’m using the word power in an abstract sense here, it may be easier to think of it in terms of mental ability or even spiritual energy. If you just recoiled in disgust at the two words at the end of that sentence then I have this to say to you: get with the fucking programme mate because it’s 2018 and you don’t have to be a monk or faith healer to be thinking about your spiritual energy. It’s a thing.
And it’s a thing that deserves some investment because that investment can pay huge dividends down the road. Again, I’m not saying that you can’t have free time or time to switch off any more. There are people out there who never switch off, they live in a constant cycle of exerting huge amounts of power, recharging, then exerting huge amounts of power, then recharging again and so on. These are the people that are changing the world. We’re looking at this on a much smaller scale.
‘So what are these three things that can recharge your power?’ I hear you ask (having fully embraced the concept of spiritual energy as you undoubtedly have).
Kind of an obvious one this but a lot of people severely underestimate the value of getting their 8 hours every night. OK, 7 might be more like it for most of us but if you go much below that on a regular basis then you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of problems. I have some super cool and definitely very interesting facts about what a lack of sleep can do to you;
- Being awake for 18 hours straight has the same effect on your brain as necking a pint of beer. Except you’re not down the pub, you’re on your own in your living room when you should be in bed.
- Not getting enough sleep throws the chemical balance of your brain out and one possible outcome of this is that the chemical that tells you to stop eating because you’re full stops being produced, opening up the risk of unhealthy weight gain.
- Your sex drive drops through the floor when you’re overtired. Which is obviously not ideal.
- An overwhelming amount of medical evidence points to a close link between insomnia and depression and 90% of insomniacs suffer from a second health condition also.
- During sleep is when your brain clears away protein and other waste produced by the day’s activities. Not getting enough sleep is like not cleaning your kitchen after using it. Sooner or later, someone is getting really nastily sick.
Arianna Huffington is great in many ways, but one of my favourite things she’s for is sleep. The first step in her 12 steps to Thrive is go to sleep half an hour earlier. What’s half an hour? So you miss The Big Bang Theory, so what? It’s shit anyway.
If you had said to someone ten years ago that you’re thinking of getting in to meditation they would probably have looked at you like you’ve gone mad. Times have changed though and you know something is mainstream when there’s an app for it. Or, in the case of meditation, about 1,000 different apps.
From personal experience I can recommend 2 of these as god places to start if you are going to give it a go. ‘Calm’ which offers meditations for a wide range of things including stress relief, confidence building and anger management. It’s free to download but for full access you’ll need to pay a subscription. The other is Headspace which offers a simpler interface with daily guided meditations, a wide range of more specific ones and even some designed specifically for kids.
I am not affiliated with either of these, I just think they’re good, especially if you’ve never tried meditation before.
Meditation is not necessarily about achieving Nirvana or learning how to punch holes through rocks, it can just be about having 5 or 10 minutes in the day when you allow your mind to be free and clear and quiet. It’s an experience I wouldn’t want any of you to pass up so please at least give it a go.
Interestingly, it’s a combination of this and the first thing on this list, sleep, that form what some think is our ideal rest cycle. There’s a great little TED talk on the subject from Jessa Gamble that explains this in more detail, I’ll put a link to it at the bottom of the article. It’s only 4 minutes long and packed with info, well worth a watch.
If you’re still really not keen for whatever reason then I’d encourage you to try just having a little break for yourself and some quiet reflection. Go have a sit down, do it outside if it’s nice, and just sit and listen and resist the urge to whip out your phone. Do this for as long as you want, but at least a couple of minutes.
The effect of quietening your mind is that is improves your ability to calm yourself and it allows your subconscious to sort through the stuff that is clogging up the conscious mind and adding to your overall stress levels. This is a great way to recharge your cognitive batteries, and if you can keep to it regularly, you should notice a big difference.
Or, as those lovely chaps from N.W.A. put it ‘express yourself’! Actually on that track Dr Dre also says that “some don’t agree with how I do this, I get straight and meditate like a Buddhist” – so, y’know, Dre was literally all over this spiritual energy shit. As if you needed any more convincing that it’s cool now.
Being creative doesn’t mean you have to produce masterpieces or that you should be put off doing anything because you’re not ‘good’ at it. It’s less about the end result of your creativity and more about just being creative.
You can stick to the conventional forms of creativity like writing, be it a diary or a blog or some erotic Power Rangers fanfiction, whatever you’re in to. Drawing and painting are both excellent, as are other forms of art like music and singing. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ‘good’ by any standard, that’s not the point.
My whole life I have been a horrible singer, but that doesn’t stop me busting out the odd rendition of ‘The Other Side’ with my 5 year old and loving every second of it. If you don’t care, no one else will.
There are less conventional forms of creativity you could explore as well, and some of these are being used to great effect in business today. Lego, for example, is not only great for building spaceships when you’re 8, it’s apparently also great for management training when you’re 38. You think I’m joking? Put ‘Lego Serious Play’ in to Google and realise that I am not. I am serious. So is Lego.
Creativity can take up a little or a lot of your time. Personally, I lean towards a little alongside a little more sleep and a little meditation. I could do more, I probably should do more. I encourage all of you to do at least a little. It really is an investment in yourself that’s worth making.
If you can get yourself to bed a little earlier and take half an hour away from other activities, you’ll find yourself enjoying the remainder of your free time a lot more, and your mindset and attitude throughout your day-to-day will massively improve too.
Link to Jessa Gamble’s TED Talk: HERE