In the previous draft, I wrote about the importance of taking it one day at a time, and not getting ahead of ourselves by thinking too far out into the (uncertain) future. It would be wiser to live in the present without dwelling on the past or getting anxious about the future. It’s even more important during this pandemic to take care of ourselves in every which way, so we can take care of those around us. We need each other more than ever.
There are a few things I do every day (and week) to be at my natural best for most of my time. I write morning pages in my journal, study philosophy, and meditate. I try to eat right and do regular exercise as much as possible. I read for an hour most evenings. Most days, I’ll call 1–2 people in my phonebook to catch up (and to listen). Watching a funny TV show for an hour towards the end of my day reminds me to take life less seriously—to keep laughing and having a sense of humor as part of keeping that emotional resilience. I bring closure to my day by reflecting on how I lived and what I accomplished, in that order.
Together, all of these things constitute the four aspects of our overall well-being—spiritual, mental, emotional/social, and physical—which is a big part of living in the present.
Let’s talk about spiritual first. I try to do three things every day as part of my morning routine. I write morning pages, read some classic nonfiction, and practice mindfulness and gratitude. This is my solitude time. It happens before breakfast every morning. In the evenings, I take some time to reflect on the day, which helps bring closure to my day.
I am also taking a weekly philosophy course where we study as a group to learn to live in accordance with our higher (i.e. true) selves. Philosophy means “love of wisdom”. Contrary to popular belief, nothing is more practical in the world than studying (and applying) philosophy; there is nothing the world needs more. As philosophers (idealists/optimists), we can be in the world, and yet not of the world.
Together these things form part of my weekly spiritual practice, which is really a way of life for me.
Next is mental well-being. I inspire people to be their best selves, so that together we can create a better future. One of the ways I do this every day is by writing short essays on how we can live a better life. I have been writing for more than 5 years now. I decided early on I was going to block a couple hours every morning to do this creative work. Basically, I gave myself a reason to learn about the world (not that I needed one). It’s my time to think, write, and ideate; while some call it research, I call it learning. Of course, we learn the most when we share things with others.
For me, running my business also falls into my mental well-being. The creative work I do every morning acts as R&D for my consulting work. The business is only a means of advancing a higher cause, and profitability is simply a byproduct, never the goal. Above all, we are wired to feel useful to others, and it gives meaning to our lives.
I read selective nonfiction in the evenings for an hour most days. I like the idea of reading for an hour every day and making progress on my reading. This isn’t about reading a book each week or setting some arbitrary goal. This is about reading intentionally what you like and making it a part of your daily life. I’d rather read less but try to retain what I’ve read than read more for its own sake and remember nothing at all. Besides, reading without taking good notes is the same as not reading, but more on that in a future draft.
I think of taking daily walks as part of our mental well-being. There is no agenda associated with walking. This is not part of your daily exercise. There is no end/goal to reach here. This is a slow walk we are talking about. I think some time spent walking every day (without any devices) can do wonders for our body and mind. It gives us the space we need to be with ourselves. It keeps us calm and puts us in a meditative state. As far as I can remember, my grandfather never missed a day of 30-minute morning and evening walks, come rain or wind, but more about him later.
Next to physical survival, our need to be listened to is our biggest need as part of our emotional/social well-being. As humans, we always need to be listened to, but more so now than ever. I wrote earlier:
Listening is never about the content of what the person is saying, and is always about meeting their need for psychological air and their need to be understood.
As mentioned earlier, I try to call or email 1–2 people every day, to check in with them and see how they are getting by. I also send a fortnightly newsletter to my friends to keep in touch with them. Above all, I am reaching out to these people to listen to them, while other times I find myself going on a rant about things I’m thinking about, and they are happy to listen to me. Either way, it’s important we listen to others and also make ourselves heard.
I do things together with people in my life. For instance, a friend and I are reading nonfiction books together as part of our book club. We discuss a book each month. Together, we share our collective insights and discuss how we can apply those learnings practically in our lives. That said, this is more about doing something together with those you love, and less about the activity itself. Your relationship matters more than the activity you do, which is only a means to advance your relationship with that person.
Of course, it can be challenging living with our loved ones 24/7. This is not a good time to be having conflicts with our loved ones (or any time, for that matter), but particularly now as we remain confined at home with them. Having learned this lesson myself the hard way, it behooves us to see our situation as an opportunity to find ways to work with each other rather than resist. It’s a reminder to appreciate others for the good we see in them rather than think about their weaknesses.
Taking care of our physical selves is vital to taking care of our emotional states. When we focus on the fundamentals (eat, move, sleep), it goes a long way towards keeping us emotionally healthy and resilient so we can be at our best. I wrote in the previous draft:
We must remind ourselves of the fundamentals of renewal—eat, move, sleep. Remember, motion creates emotion. We need to pay attention to our physical well-being to take care of our emotional selves.
Nothing renews us more than quality rest that comes from a good night’s sleep. The quality of our daily sleep will reflect in the day that follows. This is more important than the other two areas of our physical well-being.
When we think of physical well-being, the first thing most of us think of is exercise, while ignoring our eating habits. I shared earlier:
Living a healthier life comes down to three things: eating right (70-80%), exercising regularly (20–30%), and doing them consistently (in that order).
Eating healthy food is a core part of our physical well-being. When it comes to eating healthy, perfection is not the goal. It’s about eating right most of the time, so we can get away with eating the “bad foods” some of the time; we are only human after all, and there is nothing wrong with some guilty-free indulgence every now and then, as long as it comes from a place of intention. Rather than feel guilty, make a conscious choice and tell it to your body. The same goes for overeating food sometimes.
I remember my maternal grandfather who perfectly embodied that mentality. He walked for 30 minutes twice a day for years. He ate everything (in moderation). He didn’t bother (or think twice) about carbs, fats, or proteins (I’m positive he didn’t even know what those meant), yet he remained healthy (and slim) his entire life without trying crazy diets. He focused on the basics (the fundamentals). He lived to be an octogenarian.
The truth of the matter is, what we eat will reflect in our outer bodies. Our actions will speak louder than words. So if we are having junk food most of the time, our bodies will show that we’re out of shape. There is no hiding from it. It’s not what we say, but what we do that reveals our choices.
It’s only when we eat right most of the time that regular exercise can accelerate our growth, though neither is a substitute for the other. It’s a lot like how “leadership” is to “management”—you need both, but the order matters.
It is no secret that we need at least 30 minutes of exercise 5–6 days a week. This is one of the first things I schedule in my calendar each week, which frees me up from thinking about which exercise I should do on a given day. I have made that decision upfront on the weekend. For me, this is usually the same every week (unless I’m traveling or sick), so there isn’t much weekly thinking involved on my part, but simply a matter of putting it in my calendar.
Next to getting a good night’s sleep and eating mindfully, probably the most important aspect of my daily renewal is my hour-long afternoon nap after lunch. It makes all the difference in how I feel for the remainder of the day. The days when I don’t have one for whatever reason are the days that I feel that something’s amiss and my energy is lacking, which affects my concentration.
For many people, there is a stigma or guilt associated with sleeping during the day. People think of you as lazy or a slacker if you get some rest during the day. This reminds me how my grandfather used to take an hour nap every day after lunch before returning to his office. The nap would leave him feeling energized.
Personally, I schedule time for some of these things, and eventually they become habits so you don’t have to think about them, regardless of whether they’re on the calendar. That said, it’s a good practice to put something in your calendar when you are going to do it on a specific day/time, particularly when you’re first starting out.
Another idea would be to use calendars for each of these areas to keep track of how and where we are spending our time each week.
I think it’s worth noting that the four aspects of our well-being map nicely to the three areas that form The Trifecta of Life:
- Self: physical + spiritual
- Work: mental
- Relationships: emotional/social
I think once we have a better understanding of our overall well-being, it enables us to make the most of our days (and weeks), and by extension, help boost the well-being of our loved ones.
I hope this draft gives you a nice overview of how I practice these four areas of well-being in my life. It’s imperative that we renew ourselves in all of these areas, every day, so we can better take care of ourselves, as well as others.
While all of these practices may seem like a lot to do in any given day (or week), for me it’s really the culmination of living mindfully over the years.
I suggest going in-depth by reading more from the writing I’ve linked to throughout this draft. The point is not to do everything in every area of life together. Instead, we can get started with something in one area and build on it one day at a time.