I am not a good patient. If the doctor tells me to rest, I get up. If my girlfriend tells me to unplug my electronic toys, I can’t help but sneak a peak at my BlackBerry.
This past week has been my time to relax. It’s something I know I need to do. I owe it to myself to recharge my batteries as I leave a full-time association career to begin a new venture, right? Only trouble is, I’ve never given myself a break between jobs; I’ve always plunged right into new projects; and I’ve never taken the time to decompress and ponder my life’s work. So I don’t even know how to relax. Is that pathetic or what?
From what I’ve been reading, I’m not alone. It’s not easy to extricate yourself from the “rat race,” even for a short while. I’ve encountered a word, “dysphoria,” that I think is an apt description of our modern plight. It means a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. We’re not happy with the fast pace of our lives, the awful feeling of being overwhelmed by too many e-mails, the endless projects; but, then again, when all of that goes away, we start to feel useless, listless and directionless.
So here I am at Myrtle Beach, trying to unwind. Okay, I admit, I took a short editorial assignment at the beginning of my stay. But that’s behind me, and over the last few days I’ve actually concentrated on trying to relax—no agenda, no schedule, no to-do list, nothing.
I’ve been giving some thought to relaxation and the therapeutic value it can have. Here are some observations—some rules of the road, if you will. It’s kind of funny because why would you need rules to relax? But, hey, that’s dysphoria for you.
Rule 1. Unplug. If you’re on vacation, you’re on vacation. Do not take phone calls. Do not check e-mails. Really, really unplug yourself. BTW, I violate this rule all the time. But in the last few days, I’ve really been trying hard not to.
Rule 2. Do what you like to do. This should be self-evident, but how many times have you gone somewhere on vacation you really didn’t want to go? Don’t go to the mountains if you don’t like the mountains! Don’t be afraid to go somewhere by yourself, either, if that is what you need. Don’t be afraid to tell others you need some time for yourself.
Rule 3. Learn to meditate. Practice breathing. Listen to yourself. Ground yourself and do some true introspection.
Rule 4. Listen to others. On this trip, I have enjoyed spending some time with an older couple who have many life stories to tell. Take the time to engage others. It gets you outside of yourself.
Rule 5. Play like a child. Do something silly. Approach the world with child-like wonder. John Bradshaw was right. There is an inner child within each and every one of us.
Rule 6. Pamper yourself. I rarely do anything nice for “little ole me.” It seems to go against my philosophy that everything I do has to be practical or have a purpose. But every once in a while, it’s okay to treat yourself to a trip to Cold Stone. 🙂
Rule 7. Be happy. I sincerely believe happiness is a choice that we make. Use your down time to revel in joy, happiness and contentment. For those of you who love smart phone apps, there is an “I Journal” app that allows you to put into practice the journaling principles of Shawn Anchor, the former Harvard teaching fellow who wrote the popular book The Happiness Advantage. I recommend giving it a try.
As Anchor suggests, only 10 percent of our long-term happiness is predicted by the external world (e.g., career success); 90 percent of our happiness is determined by how our brain processes the external world. The more control you exercise over those processes, the more likely you are to have a positive attitude. And isn’t that what it’s all about?