I want to take the time to write about 6 aspects of life that I feel put together a complete picture of a balanced person. By focusing on these different dimensions of life we can determine which areas need work and which areas we already have a good handle on. These six aspects include physical, mental, emotional, social, financial and spiritual. If any one of these gets out of whack it can send ripples through our life. That is why it is important to exercise balance and stay conscious when we begin to drift too far one way or another.
The physical aspect of life includes our health and the way we treat our bodies. This includes what we consume, how often we exercise, keeping our bodies clean and fresh, as well as our posture and how we carry ourselves. Our body is the most precious gift we have and without it we can’t exist. If we don’t stay healthy we certainly can’t enjoy all the other aspects of life. For that reason, love of our bodies is the very first step on the road of happiness. No matter where we are starting from, no matter how irreversible we think our bad health may be, it is never too late to start changing our habits. A healthy body is a healthy mind, and by taking better care of ourselves we will feel more confident, more motivated, and more controlling of our life situation.
Things to do:
- Find a way to be physically active everyday. This could be anything from joining a gym to just dancing by yourself in your room. Find something that you are comfortable with, make it fun, and seek out new challenges. Don’t forget those sports you used to like to play as a kid, and if you really have to, you could even borrow your girlfriend’s Wii Fit.
- Keep yourself clean. Don’t be lazy and not shower or skip out on shaving. Treat your body as a work of art. Keep it in mint condition and make yourself presentable to the rest of the world. Also, stop wearing the same piece of underwear for two weeks straight. Frankly, its rather disgusting.
- Pay attention to your diet! Seriously, cut back on the fast food already. Aren’t you sick of all those gases bubbling your stomach and intestines all the damn time? Focus on eating more vegetables, and cutting out all the fried food and saturated fats.
- Quit the bad habits and especially work on cutting back on those cigarettes. I know, I know – you are a badass, you like smoking them, and you are tired of everyone telling you to quit. But don’t do it for us, do it for yourself. You do not want to end up in a crippling state within the later years of your life. This is true for all harmful drugs. At least find a way to better moderate your consumption. It is a start, and you feel much better once you have done so!
Please do not underestimate the importance of keeping your body in shape. It is more than just looking and feeling good about yourself – it is also about living a life of longevity and limiting the suffering from potential illness and disease. You can have everything else in your life figured out, but if you don’t maintain your health there won’t be anyone around to enjoy it all.
Just like if you don’t take care of your body then it will deteriorate, the same is true for your mind. Just because you don’t have to go to school anymore doesn’t mean you can’t learn new things. I feel it is especially important to stay up to date on news and politics, but even doing Sudoku puzzles is a great way to keep your cognitive abilities sharp. Keeping your mind active has shown to prevent the onset of Alzheimers, other forms of dementia, and I presume other cognitive abilities we risk losing if we don’t exercise them.
Things to do:
- Puzzles, board games, videogames, and other problem-solving activities are great ways to keep your mind active. The best part is you can usually find something you really enjoy, so you can keep your brain healthy, and at the same time enjoy life a little more.
- New technology has kind of replaced many peoples’ interests, but I still recommend reading books every now and then. I prefer non-fiction material like science and philosophy books; the idea of gaining more knowledge about our vast world has always been appealing to me. But even reading fictitious stories is a great way to keep yourself engaged. The ability to follow a deep, unraveling story for 300+ pages is actually an interesting mental feat in and of itself. Just by reading words you are creating a whole new world inside your head. This helps you to build your imagination, your ability to follow complex relationships between characters, and to evoke reality in a way that may not have been possible within the limitations of your own life.
- You may not be a reader, but there might be something you have always wanted to learn more about – why not go see if there is a documentary on it? Our generation is very big on visual learning, so this may be the most comfortable route to go if you want to expand your understanding on a particular subject.
- There are also a lot of great college lectures you can watch over at Academic Earth for absolutely free. You can check out various subjects on science, math, computer science, law, history, economics, psychology, religious studies and more. That is, if you are not afraid to put yourself back in the role of a student again.
It is very easy to forget the importance of managing our emotional world. If we neglect it we may feel unfulfilled and not understanding certain feelings of emptiness. Therefore it is crucial that we allow ourselves to engage our feelings, seek to understand their origins, and allow them to play themselves out. By bottling our feelings inside we are only hurting our psyche and not letting it resolve itself. Try thinking of emotions, not as something irrational, but as a kind of intelligence.
Things to do:
- Consider the health of your relationships with others and especially loved ones. If we have an argument with our parents or girlfriend then there may be guilt or sadness. The best way to move forward is to apologize for our actions. Also, use experiences like this as a reminder to treat others better in the future.
- Exercise forgiveness towards those who have hurt or disappointed you. It takes a lot of wasteful energy to hold grudges against others, and it is never worth the effort. If you still have the option to forgive them in person then do it. If not, then say a little prayer or send your good intentions to them. Practice this with all your enemies, and sincerely hope that they find happiness.
- Try meditating. Sometimes it is nothing but the everyday frustrations of life that take a toll on our emotional being. Take the time to sit there, observe those feelings, let them manifest, and then let them go. This practice can help remind us that we are humans after all, we are emotional creatures, and part of our health is letting ourselves be. Emotions have a tendency to work themselves out once we express them. Have you ever let out a good long cry and then felt infinitely better afterward? Sometimes that is all you need.
- Show compassion to a stranger. When we serve someone out of love we feel much better than when we are only self-serving. A big lesson in life is that we are all interconnected, and we all share a responsibility for how we treat each other. Therefore, our happiness and mental well-being is also dependent on the happiness and well-being we spread to others.
Our happiness expresses a need to connect to others. Even our personal identity can be dependent on how others see us within the realm of our social world. It is therefore important that we spend time with friends, family, other loved ones, and even strangers. I don’t believe it is ever appropriate for us to stop meeting new people or creating new relationships, whether it is for business, friendship, or intimacy.
I notice that many people on the so-called “spiritual” or “personal growth” path, which includes many readers of this blog, have a tendency to neglect their social relationships. It isn’t something they do intentionally. It is just that they have been putting too much focus on developing themselves that they forget that a big part of it all is how we develop our relationships with others.
Things to do:
- Go out places to meet people. Bars, clubs, coffee shops, yoga workshops, music shows – whatever interests appeal to you most.
- Plan an event. Think of something that you and your friends like doing, then find a date that works for the most people. It can be something as simple as going out to a new restaurant to throwing a costume party at your house. Invite as many or as a few people as possible. If your goal is to meet new people then have your friends bring other friends.
- Re-connect with old friends. Now with the internet and social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, it is actually possible to stay in touch with virtually everyone you have ever known. Ask how people are doing, and see if you still share any common interests.
- Go to meet-up or dating sites. I don’t necessarily recommend this one, but this is now becoming a legitimate way to meet new people so I figure it is worth mentioning. When I was younger I met about 15-20 people through Myspace. Some of those people I am still good friends with today. The great thing about the internet is that you can connect easily with people who share your tastes, even if they are a bit quirkier than the norm. Finding people with similar music tastes is a particular area of my life that the internet has helped me out with greatly.
You cannot ignore the economic realities of life no matter what part of the world you are in. In any system, whether it is capitalist or socialist, you are going to be called upon to offer something of value to society. In some cultures they call this a “job,” although I have come to hate the word completely.
Things to do:
- Simple answer: go to school and then pursue a career. Of course it is never that easy. You need to find something that interests you. You can start by asking yourself, “What can I do that will make me enough money to live comfortably but that I still enjoy doing?”
- Do you want to be an entrepreneur? I personally think we do not ask ourselves this question enough. We take it for granted that we need to go to college, only to later enter the corporate world. But is this really the case? You may have a particular talent or skill that you can capitalize on without having to have a boss who dictates your every move. Wouldn’t that be nice and worth pursuing?
- Many people who aren’t entrepreneurs or CEOs still enjoy their work life. You can certainly work for a corporation and still love your job. Find a good company to work for. You are worth it. The best part is that you will be more productive when you enjoy your job. This then gives you a sense of achievement that every good job should provide.
- A healthy financial life also includes knowing how to set a budget, not spending beyond your means, and being a good saver. You can have the best paying job in the world, but you can still spend your way to bankruptcy. Prioritize your spending. Needs come before luxuries. Savings are the best way to minimize financial risk for the future.
- Avoid making bad economic decisions. You can start by reading a great article published in 1998 in the Harvard Business Review regarding Hidden Traps Of Decision Making (11 page PDF file). This one goes over the most common biases we share when making decisions about money.
Spirituality can sometimes be the most overlooked aspect to life. I define it as “the relationship between our self and the world.” In many ways, our spiritual life is what defines our core, our foundation, our purpose, our identity, and our reason for living. It permeates in all that we think, say, and act. It is also how we view ourselves in relation to the world. Our spirituality determines our position of personal power. We can let the world crush us, or we can let it sit in the palm of our hands. Our relationship with our self has a deep impact on our relationship with others.
Things to do:
- Be creative. When we express ourselves through things like art, music, or writing we are developing an emotional and spiritual intelligence; we are turning our ideas and intentions into reality. We are drawing upon the creative energies of God himself.
- Spend time in solitude. It is really not as depressing as it sounds. Dedicate some time alone for prayer, meditation, or even something as simple as watching the sunrise. Learn to appreciate these moments because they are composed of the same fundamental things that make up our whole matrices of existence. It is a way to be in better touch with your most basic self, something so simple, yet the source of all our happiness and suffering. Learn to love it for everything that it is.
- Have faith that life is good. Faith may not have any role in science, but it does have an important role in good living. Don’t underestimate the importance of seeing the good in things, even our very worst experiences can be valuable, as they are only lessons yet to be learned. Every moment is a source of wealth. Practice living richly.
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