A series of practical solutions and simple interventions to help you de-stress and re-set your life.
Now that we have a strong foothold in 2019, how are your resolutions coming along? Often by this time of year, people’s good intentions have fallen by the wayside. I’d like to share some advice that will help you stick to your goals, naturally.
When we consider stress, we don’t usually think of meaning and purpose. But living a life devoid of these qualities is inherently stressful. So often, the poor lifestyle decisions people make, such as bad dietary choices or drinking too much alcohol, have their deepest origins in them not being in touch with their true purpose. If you work in a job you hate, with colleagues you don’t like and a commute that drains and enrages you, is it any wonder that, as soon as you’re home on Friday, you seek solace in wine or chocolate?
I could talk to you about alcohol and sugar being bad for you, and it might help you stick to your resolutions for a week or even a month or two. But if drinking too much or eating unhealthily are compensation for the lack of meaning in your life, you’re always going to struggle. Research proves people with a strong sense of purpose enjoy significantly better health, including less likelihood of developing heart disease, strokes and depression. They sleep better, live longer, feel happier.
Finding your purpose is one of the key life skills I describe in my new book The Stress Solution, along with a four-step strategy to help you get there. I call it L.I.V.E., which stands for love, intention, vision and engagement. Once you get started, I believe your life will start brimming with meaning and purpose. You’ll be happier, calmer, less reactive and, crucially, more resilient in the face of those inescapable daily stresses.
LOVE: Find something you love doing, so it becomes your reason for getting up in the morning. Something you want to do, rather than something you need to do. It could be a sport or a subject to study. It could be painting, playing a musical instrument, astronomy or bee keeping! Immersing yourself in what you love – entering what psychologists call the ‘flow state’ – encourages the growth of your rational brain, making it extremely difficult for your emotional brain to take over and trigger negative thoughts.
INTENTION: Most of us live day to day without much thought, on the never-ending treadmill of life. This second element to L.I.V.E. is all about trying to break out of that trance. I want you to do something each day, no matter how small, with real mindful intent. Cook a meal without distraction, have a shower while being mindful of the warm water flowing down your body. Start paying attention to and taking pleasure in the small things in life, and the big things begin looking after themselves.
VISION: This is to do with the long-term roadmap of your life. Your brain is always planning ahead. If you have a specific and clear long-term vision, it will always be helping you get there. When we know the ‘why’ of our lives, we automatically reduce our stress load. Write down a goal that you would like to achieve over the next 12 months. Think about the steps you’ll need to take to get there. Then, most importantly, take that first step.
ENGAGEMENT: This is about engaging with the world around you. I’d like you to do at least one thing every day for someone else. Something extra that you don’t have to do. It could be saying hello to the cashier in the supermarket and asking how they are, picking up some litter in the street, even some voluntary work. These small acts of kindness will boost your self-esteem and help infuse your daily life with purpose. As time goes on, you’ll come to view your existence as profoundly valuable.
Give some of these techniques a go and let me know how you get on. Find out more about the L.I.V.E. framework and how we can use it to reduce stress, order my book The Stress Solution: The 4 Steps to Reset Your Body, Mind, Relationships & Purpose, here.