Ever wake up and realize that your life is a bit lackluster; your career at a plateau, and your daily agenda unexceptional? Despite your financial success, do you sometimes feel an emptiness, or a churning at the pit of your stomach that makes you feel like an over-processed product of the American Dream?
Perhaps you gave up on living out your wildest fantasy of becoming a Sports Illustrated centerfold, or the next “Bachelorette,” and settled on a more attainable career, like what you actually studied in college.
Congratulations, you’re perfectly normal.
As it turns out, you earn a good salary, which fulfills all of your financial needs and a good portion of your online shopping, too. Those eight to ten-hour work days sure seemed worth it . . . when you were still ambitious and salivating for life.
So what happened?
Lately the workload is more stressful than usual and the extra hours of drive time to and from work are more noticeable than ever. It’s not because work is any more difficult than it ever was. It’s simply because everything seems a lot more complicated and obligations are a lot less tolerable when we’re unhappy. Settling into any situation we aren’t fully satisfied with often creates contentment which can become a substitute for happiness. So when work transforms our lives into a weekends only gig, the stress and boredom of a lacking routine start to weigh heavily upon us.
Consider that the average work year spans over 261 days, with 52 weekends in between. Ask yourself: when was the last time I did something new and exciting on an average day and outside of a planned vacation? If you had to think back further than 60 days, keep reading.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an American time use survey revealed that adults living in households with no children under the age of 18, engaged in leisure activities for 4.5 hours per day. Of that time, television was the leisure activity that occupied the most time, 2.8 hours, accounting for more than half of daily leisure time on average. To put it plainly, that’s 14 hours per week, 56-60 hours per month, and a whopping 728 hours per year spent watching television.
While those intense episodes of The Walking Dead, and reruns of Modern Family, keep us tuned in for suspense and laughter week after week, do they really contribute to our overall happiness? Or are they just the crutch we need for our unhappily-ever-contentment? And while the angst of that long-awaited, lavish vacation may help to relieve some stress, is it really enough?
Is there more to life than this?
Of course there is, and you’re not alone. Many believe that money creates happiness, and to a certain extent, it can. But despite popular belief, what we do in our daily routines can have a more profound effect on our overall mental health and long-term happiness. Unfortunately, some people live the most exciting moments of their lives— in retrospect. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is all about living each day to the fullest, building and maintaining options as you go along. So here are a few ways to spark up your daily routine and bring some luster back into your life.
If you’re one of the fortunate ones who has the option of driving, carpooling or taking public transportation to work, why not switch it up from time to time? All travel has its pros and cons, but a good rotation has its benefits. For instance, utilizing public transportation can score a bit of free time to catch up on a good read, or time to mentally prepare for the workday. Carpooling once or twice a week can save on gas, lessen the traffic burden, and it offers an opportunity to socialize, which according to Psychology Today, has its own benefits. And while driving to work may feel overwhelming routine, it offers an opportunity to explore different areas and spot new places to visit. Take an alternate more scenic route, even if it does add ten minutes to your commute. Who knows, changing your navigation settings could be the quickest route to a new and pleasant adventure.
Try something new for an evening. Change the tv channel. There are so many cooking shows that teach us, step by step, how to cook and introduce fresh, healthy foods into our daily diet.
Try a new recipe, invite family or friends over for a pot luck or a friendly cook off. And if the recipe scores well, save left overs for tomorrow’s lunch—Subway will survive.
Though it may feel dire, the consequences of missing an episode of your favorite tv show is not as severe as it seems. Even if you don’t have a DVR, the episode will air again, truly, it will. So why not take advantage of a different activity, maybe an art showing at a local gallery, or a wine tasting nearby. Not only is it an escape from your normal routine, it’s an opportunity to give your palate a taste of something new. Most importantly, it’s a chance to meet new people.
It’s no secret that technology has changed our moderately paced world to a sometimes overwhelmingly fast paced one. Every once in a while, we need those nostalgic moments that remind us of good times passed. And there are those certain songs that bring back the feeling of those summer days of fun, and cozy winter nights spent with the ones we love. It’s okay to reminisce, especially when we find ourselves alone, or in a new place in our lives that doesn’t make much sense. So, break out that “Old Time Rock N Roll” or some 90’s R&B and sing like no one is listening. It might just bring you back to the present with that same positive attitude that you had long ago.
It’s easy enough to download the latest Stephen King or John Grisham novel to your kindle book collection, but I recommend trying something different. When was the last time you visited an actual bookstore? It’s a few thousand square feet of brick and mortar filled with books, magazines, and music of every genre and kind. There’s something about mingling with millions of pages of information, humor, and imagination that inspires the desire to read. If not the plethora of options, it may just be the sheer atmosphere, complete with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and fresh ink from the pages of thoroughly researched works and thoughtful entertainment, sustaining eager reader, wanting to refresh and entertain their minds. Much like movies and tv shows, books offer a temporary escape from the reality in which we reside, and a small window of opportunity to input our own imagination and implant ourselves in other worlds. So even if you’re short on cash, your local library will lend up to ten books for up to 21 days absolutely free. Bonus tip: If you’re a reader, it’s safe to say that bookstores and libraries are a good place to meet other readers.
A college degree may have landed you a good paying gig, but that doesn’t mean that your life’s education is over. No, we’re always learning and should be constantly seeking to better ourselves. When we hear the word class, almost automatically, our minds hear toward mathematics, history, and other subjects that were less than delightful back in school. But continuing education consists of a lot more than that. Many community centers and college continuing education programs throughout the US, offer classes that teach foreign languages, dance, personal finance, film, and sports like swimming, tennis golf, and more. Even if that doesn’t strike your fancy, invest in your career and keep up with career oriented events in your area. It’s as easy as checking out your local listings, or easier, a google search.
For all of the gym lovers out there, it’s easy to understand that missing a day from your regular workout routine can not only be a physical downer, but also a mental one. Some of us count on that natural release of serotonin to keep our eyes on waist slim and our energy level up. But did you know that walking is actually an effective workout, too? Fact: Regular cardio at any level can keep the body healthy, improve your mood, and energy levels. So the next time Mother Nature blesses us with a beautiful day, skip the sweaty smelling, air conditioned gym, and take a nice scenic walk or run for an hour or so. Enjoy the warm sun and a natural dose of Vitamin D. Take in the scenic views of nature and try to gain a new perspective on overall health.
We can’t always afford to give financially, but there are so many ways to give back to our community, and to ourselves. You can volunteer any day of the week, with little to no commitment. There are many organizations throughout the U.S. that are in dire need of volunteers. Ongoing programs like Meals on Wheels and Catchafire allow you to volunteer whenever you can. There’s also countless mentoring programs that run only on the kindness of volunteers and these programs are available in just about every major metropolitan city. So the next time you’re feeling bored, put your time to good use.
Nothing gets those creative juices flowing like a fun project. Not everyone likes to get down and dirty for yard work, but everyone could use a creative challenge every once in a while. Take a look around your space—what needs work? Too many books cluttered on your desk? Try installing floating books shelves. Tired of the same dull color on the walls? Give it a splash of vibrant color. Still trying to figure out what to do with that old box of photos? Create a scrapbook. DIY projects can be anything from fixing a problem to creating solutions. For more creative ideas, check out Pinterest.
Every so often, we all need to take some time to reflect on life. We need to evaluate our mental and physical health and overall well-being. We have to assess the goals we set for ourselves and measure our progress. We need to visit with our emotions and internalize how we truly feel about everything that’s going on in our lives. Most important, we need to be honest with ourselves, recognize the good and bad in our lives, and focus on changing things for the better. I propose a tea time, about an hour or two of self-reflection at least once a week. Give yourself something to look forward to, add a hot bubble bath with aromatherapy and some good ole’ organic tea to aid in your rejuvenation.
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