Way back in the 1960’s when some of us were growing up, our vision of the future was idealistic. Labor saving devices, new machinery and technology would surely give Americans many hours per week of leisure time. It was predicted, even, that the work week would shrink to four, or even three, days. There were plans to add leisure studies to college curriculums because surely Americans would need to be educated on how to use their newly added free time.
Well, now we all know it didn’t quite work out that way. Along with the addition of the fax machine, cell phones, wireless internet, PDAs and Blackberrys, Americans are now working over 50 hours a week, according to recent surveys. In the 1970s the average work week was 37 hours long, so somewhere life got busier.
And a lot of people are finding out that busier isn’t always better. If you are one of the Americans looking to simplify your life, and yet the idea of quitting your job and living in a log cabin somewhere isn’t appealing, here are some easier to apply solutions that will help restore balance.
Take a positive approach. Simply rephrasing things that happen to you can calm you and help you to cope. When you pass a traffic accident, take a moment to be thankful for your good fortune, instead of being angry that traffic is delayed.
Pass up Starbucks once in awhile. Caffeine might give you a much needed boost, especially if you are overworked and not getting enough sleep like the rest of us. But too much caffeine can increase stress by causing shakiness, irritability and restlessness.
Stop buying. Or at least stop making impulse buys. Buying things that you aren’t likely to use just makes your home feel cluttered and makes you feel guilty. We all know the exercise equipment being used as clothes hangers. But what about all the kitchen gadgets, fondue pots, knitting needles and other items you will probably never use?
Get into nature. As much as possible, spend some time outside. Now obviously, if you work outside, this doesn’t apply to you. But most of us could use five minutes walking around the block and paying attention to the birds, bushes, and even people that we see. And most of us would benefit from eating one or two meals outdoors in nice weather. Nature is good for our bodies and our minds.
Find a calling. Nothing is more stressful than a job that you feel trapped in. We all get trapped by a mortgage, by car repairs, even by our own families. But when your job is something that you feel called to do, you are going to feel less stress. And you will still be paying the mortgage, making car repairs, and providing for your family. But you will also be modeling a fulfilling life for your children.
Just say “no.” One reason we become so stressed, resentful , and tired is because we haven’t learned to say no when we are asked to assume yet another task. Simplify by prioritizing your time, and saying no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t worth the hassle.
Let music ring. The power of music to change moods has been well documented for centuries. Let technology work for you by loading an Ipod or MP3 player with music: relaxing music with harp or nature sounds when you need to unwind, and maybe some music from whatever era it was when you were in high school to brighten your mood.
Let go. I used to hate the saying ” I learned there was only one way to be a perfect mother, but a thousand ways to be a good one.” I thought that was simply implying that mediocre parenting was good enough. Since then, I have learned the peace that derives by simply being “good enough.” Take a look at your life, and see in which areas you can just be okay instead of perfect.
We might not ever have the three day work week that fifty years ago we dreamed of. But by simplifying our lives now, we can destress and enjoy the life we have.