Being calmer, happier and more content is something we all aspire to, yet there seem to be so many obstacles in our way. In this, the first of our ‘instant self-improvement life-hacks’, we talk you through a simple plan to help you achieve life-affirming goals with almost no effort at all.
If you thought retirement was going to instantly transport you to the laid back life of your dreams, you may have found yourself disappointed. Although no longer ‘working’ in the formal sense, many retirees discover life can actually become more complex. Suddenly, you can find yourself landed with more grandchild care than you actually want, or you may find yourself regarded as a ‘ready and willing’ volunteer for any community jobs that come along. You can be viewed by siblings who are still in the workforce as ‘the one’ to care for ageing parents. You may even have a partner who requires care. Then there’s the very real fact, as we age ourselves, our energy levels are lower, and many of the household tasks we once achieved in minutes, can drag on – and on.
This unwanted pressure can result in a chaotic home environment and an out-of-control daily schedule which leaves you stressed and exhausted. However, while it’s not possible to change everything for the better in one quick hit, you can create for yourself a mini haven which will help you rest, unwind, and find mental and physical calm for short periods. From this place of refuge, you’ll not only be able to recharge, but also quietly plan the bigger changes you need to make to improve your well being.
Creating a mini refuge starts with building a small physical space in your own home that literally turns its back on the rest of your day. To do this, choose a comfortable chair, and turn it to face a clean sunny window (yes, you may have to clean the window, but just the one – not every pane of glass in the house!). Vacuum the floor around your chair, and clear away any stressful objects (such as unopened mail or days-old newspapers). Physically define the perimeter of your space with items such as a coffee table, a magazine rack, a small book case, or a potted plant on a stand.
Next, ‘dress’ your space with two or three small, attractive items (such as a vase, an ornament or a trinket) you can focus on. Don’t be too concerned about getting this perfect, because part of the fun of a ‘me space’ is you can redesign it again and again. In fact, many people who use a mini refuge discover they adopt a new, enjoyable weekly or fortnightly routine of visiting their own storage shelves or an op-shop to return their objects and choose new ones!
Add to your ‘me-space’ some relaxing occupation. What this is will depend on your interests, but whatever you choose, be sure it doesn’t involve ‘work’. For example, if you are a reader, go for easy reading material such as a favourite magazine (rather than a self help manual). If music is your pleasure, choose a soothing play list.
Now comes the hard part. This ‘me space’ is a refuge only if you choose to turn your back on whatever clutter and chaos is going on around you, and sit in it. The choice is yours – to slip into that chair and purposefully relax, or to continue at the pace of life you are not enjoying. To make it easy for yourself, set a timer for no more than 10 minutes. At first, you might achieve this only once a day, but with practise, you can aspire to enjoying the calm for longer periods, and more often in a day. Use the time to listen to your own wishes, and contemplate ways to act on them.
If you have any doubts about your new routine, remember this: research shows mental breaks increase productivity, focus attention, and encourage our creative selves. Rest isn’t a luxury, it’s something we all need to mentally recharge. We dare you to try taking these essential mini breaks!