How balance stimulates health and happiness in us…
Balance is something we often associate with far off, mountaintop monks or gymnasts but not you or me. We don’t feel on a day to day basis that balance is important in our lives, I’d assume that most of us almost never think of the word, in either the spiritual or the sporty context.
The balance I want to talk about today is more in line with the aforementioned mountaintop monk than the gymnast, I’m not interested in how well you walked the balance beam in school but I am interested in how out of balance many of our lives are. In the sense that we often seek an excess of one thing while neglecting another. An obvious example would be chasing money while at the same time neglecting happiness, this is the type of balance I would like to highlight in this post.
Where money might be the most blinding example of an imbalance, there are plenty of others on show in every aspect of life. Plain and simple ones like food. A balanced diet is best for us, not an excess of one thing but a healthy mix. And not so obvious ones like time spent alone and time spent with people. Failure to achieve and maintain balance in any of these aspects of life, results in health problems, whether they’re mental or physical. Weigh the scales too much to one side and we harm ourselves. Oversleeping, overeating, overworking are all harmful to us. We are unconsciously self-harming when we do these things, just as we are when we under-eat, under sleep or under work. To restore ourselves to health we need to restore our lives to balance.
I have felt two main areas of imbalance in my life recently that serve as perfect examples for this post. The first is an imbalance between social time and time alone. I have always been a person who needs a certain amount of time alone each day and each week to function. Too much time with too many people gets me stressed and makes me cranky, I need to unwind on my own, in peace. This came into play two weeks ago. It was week 12 of my last university semester and I was naturally, very busy, meeting up with people each day for more or less the entirety of the day. I found it near impossible to spend time on my own during this week and therefore could not unwind my mind, so to speak. That alone time to me was crucial for de-stressing and decluttering my head. Without it, the clutter continued to grow throughout the week along with my stress. Too much time with too many people, no matter how much I like them, stressed me out.
The flip side of this is that being alone for too long damages us as well. Last summer when most of the people in my life left university for three months, it left me a little lost, a little bored and ultimately a little lonely. With little, or in extreme cases no human interaction we lose something in life and our mental health suffers. This extreme of one thing and lack of another never works, it’s always unhealthy. Now I notice it more, notice my needs more. In a week I probably need at least a couple of days on my own but I also love to have a few days with people. That’s the ideal scenario. Too much of one or not enough of the other and my mental health suffers in some way. Balance them and I am happy, getting the goodness I need from both things.
The second example also became evident in the last week of the semester. As mentioned previously, I had a lot of work to do in that week. Two assessments to be done, as well as work on blog, masters applications and then my job on the weekend. All in all, that week left me very drained and very burned out. Once again an excess of one thing and a lack of another had harmed me. Too much work with too little rest had completely done me in.
Though again it goes both ways. Too much rest also drains me in a different sort of way. Lounging around at home for too long will leave me feeling tired and lethargic, doing it all week would probably get me in a very depressive mood. I like having work to do, depending on what the work is of course but it gives me goals, motivations, purpose and a sense of productivity and progress. The key is just having the right amount of it and balancing it with enough rest. Work too much and you’ll hate working, rest too much and you’ll hate resting. Balance them and you can love both. Nothing in excess and everything in proportion.
Of course, many of us can’t always choose to work less, we need to work five days a week to pay the rent, but there are other choices we do have. In any situation we encounter in our lives where balance is required we can set the weights on each side, we can ultimately choose. Not necessarily a choice that will take immediate effects but we can make choices that will have lasting ones, that will change the scale entirely. If work is too much for us, if we need more rest but cannot afford it, we can change jobs, make our own money, find a cheaper home or a host of other options that we assume aren’t possible for us, but the only reason we can’t is because we tell ourselves that. Why can’t we get a better job? Why can’t we make money how we want to? The answer is we can if we choose to.
Seeking out a balanced life will be well worth the temporary discomfort of finding a new job or making new friends, changing a diet or sleep pattern. The discomfort that will come from change will soon turn into greater comfort and when you find your right balance you will feel greater peace, joy, excitement and happiness. A balanced life and a balanced mind allow us to walk through life without the unnecessary harm caused by excesses or lack and simply have just the right amount of what we need.
I notice a real difference in myself if any of my life aspects are imbalanced. Whether its work and rest or social and alone time, food and drink, indoors and outdoors, screens and no screens, weather, sleep, exercise and anything else you can think of. Even the things we recommend on this website, meditation, for example, need to be balanced. If someone meditated for 24 hours a day, they would not be living. Balance in all things will stimulate a healthy mind and the first step to finding balance is identifying its opposite. Perhaps sit down in a quiet space and just think about your life, identify any areas you feel are out of balance and note them down. With these targets down on paper, you can begin to go about changing them.
So even if there is an imbalance in your life that seems stuck in place and unmovable, know that it can be moved, it can be fixed, broken, unstuck, anything, but by you alone, with thought and action. Balancing each aspect of your life will improve your mental and physical health, so, let’s not think of balance as an exclusive vocabulary used by monks or gymnasts, but a vital component in the health and well being of all humanity. There are certain things we all need as human beings, metaphorical nutrients of life. By lacking in some and consuming an excess of others we are made unhealthy, but by drawing on a balanced diet of life we get enough of everything we need, not too much, nor too little, just the right amount to live healthy and happy.
If you know someone who is lacking balance in their life and feel that this post can help them, then please share.
Lastly, this article contains some great practical tips for bringing balance to our lives. Creating Balance.