Every time we wake up, we face another day to live through. We each manage an organism, a mind-and-body, which has various needs and preferences. It’s our job to construct a day which works for us, which feels sufficiently constructive, fulfilling, and peaceful.
What does a well-balanced day contain? What needs do we need to keep in mind? Here are five types of activity which a mentally healthy day might include.
#1 – FOCUSED ACTIVITY
Our minds and bodies thrive on purposeful, focused activity. It absorbs free-floating anxiety. The activity does not need to be grand, just something simple. We can clean a pair of shoes, or a window.
#2 – REST PERIODS
When we are active, our minds and bodies build up toxins, and certain parts of us get overused. Rest periods allow us to balance this out. Much of this rebalancing is unconscious; but it needs space to happen.
#3 – TIME WITH OTHERS
The company of others is important for a social creature like a human. We can take ourselves to the shops, or a cafe – anywhere where other people are around. We are programmed to respond to the presence and gaze of others: we become more alert and attentive. We are also reassured when we are part of a herd.
#4 – SELF-DIRECTED TIME
We need some of our time to be made up of what we have decided to do. This prevents us feeling trapped and controlled.
#5 – OTHER-DIRECTED TIME
We also need some time to be made up of what we need to do to fit in with others. This prevents us from getting lazy and lost in ourselves.
FINDING A BALANCE
A balance of the five above elements is helpful.
Potential imbalances include:
- The ‘black hole’ – too much time in self-directed, restful activity, such as watching TV or lying on the sofa. It can make us feel lonely, unproductive and selfish. We become less and less able to fit in with others, take instructions, or develop projects.
- The ‘tornado of activity’ – too much time in other-directed, focused activity. It can make us feel tired, enslaved and craving escape.
These two extremes can wear us down if they go on too long uninterrupted. A bit of both is very helpful. In fact, they can be a good antidote to each other:
- Some self-directed, restful time can be helpful if most of our time is usually spent helping others in a very focused way.
- Some other-directed, focused time can be helpful if most of our time is usually spent in rest and self-involved recovery.
Get a piece of paper out. Try to design your day in answer to the following questions:
- Have I included a period of focused activity?
- Have I included a rest period?
- Have I included time in the company of other humans?
- Have I included some self-directed time, where I am the one to decide what to do next?
- Have I included some other-directed time, where I have to fit in with others, or with a project plan?
If a day if too long to contemplate, then perhaps just focus on the next hour or two. Try to include each type of activity in your design.
Living a mentally healthy day involved a degree of planning and conscious management. We are wise not to leave things to chance.
A good day is a balance, and should include some focused activity, some rest, some time with others, some self-directed time (pleasing ourselves), and some other-directed time (fitting in).