How scheduling limited, relaxed physical activity can help you live a balanced life

Written by: Taly Matiteyahu (CEO of Blink, an audio-only blind speed dating app)

Even when life is going well, there are so many challenges and the grind of daily life, complete with cycling between tasks rapidly or multi-tasking constantly can leave us feeling scattered and on edge.  Although there may be no escaping some of the pressures and craziness of modern life (for all of its faults, the internet really is a great tool) we can still find ways to achieve a peaceful life with balance and harmony. 

How one can achieve balance and harmony is a question many have tried to answer.  Websites, television programs, podcasts, and entire bookstore shelves are filled with opinions, recommendations, and guides about how you can achieve enlightenment and happiness.  By all means, you should explore these offerings and see what might appeal to you! In the meantime, I’d love to suggest a small step you can take in your daily life that can bring peace and harmony into your life at a low cost in terms of time and effort: incorporating 10+minutes of physical activity into your day. Even a small amount of physical activity can work wonders for your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.  Throughout the rest of this piece, you’ll find descriptions of how building a physical activity routine can help you and recommendations for how to make your routine successful.

Plan it out

For many of us, our days are packed with activities – work, school, making meals, family time, seeing friends – from when we wake up until we are finally able to go to bed.  One benefit of a daily physical activity routine is that it can be a break from your non-stop responsibilities and engagements.  Taking even a small amount of time for some form of physical activity can be an opportunity to calm down, focus on yourself, and let go of all of the active worry or stress you might be feeling. 

In order for this to be successful, however, you need to set aside time for your activity.  How you do this will depend on what motivates you – for some people, pre-scheduling the time does the trick, while for others, having an accountability partner and letting them know one’s activity plan helps keep them going. Find what works for you so your activity doesn’t get put off in favour of more “pressing” items.  Your regular responsibilities aren’t going anywhere, so find that time for your activity!

Start slow

It’s ok to dream of running a marathon or being able to do a handstand, but unless you’re an experienced long distance runner or the most experienced of Yoga with Adriene students, you should set small, attainable goals for yourself.  Rather than pushing yourself too hard too fast, start off with the simple goal of just doing the activity, whether it’s getting on the yoga mat or getting outside for your stroll. If you start with running for 15 minutes, you’ll be able to gauge how challenging it is for you and figure out how to build from there, if you want to go beyond that at all!  Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Don’t try to ‘make it productive’

Other areas of our lives, primarily work, have built the expectation that everything we do needs to be tracked, measured, and then analyzed to understand whether we’re meeting some unspecified level of productivity.  Try to resist this urge and let yourself enjoy your activity without expectations, pressures, or dreams of something greater.

Physical activity, at its most basic, is rewarding on its own; it doesn’t need to build to something greater, it doesn’t need to impart life lessons, and it doesn’t need to make you sharper or more capable in some other area of your life.  Weighing your activity time down with expectations or needing to measure its “success” can crush your enjoyment of the activity and blind you to the benefits to be gained during the time you’re active.

Switch it up!

Don’t trap yourself into a single physical activity.  Maybe you start off running but quickly find that you hate running and it’s agonizing to lace up your shoes and get out the door each day.  If that’s how you feel, stop running and try a different activity! You might decide that you love swimming or rock climbing.  You don’t owe anyone anything when it comes to what activity you choose to do and no one is judging you if you decide not to stick with something; all that you should be thinking about is what you enjoy most or are most curious about.

If you have multiple activities that you enjoy, plan to rotate between them to keep yourself engaged.  Remember, you aren’t necessarily looking to build expertise or experience in a particular activity; rather, you’re looking to get active and build time into your life that isn’t dominated by your regular responsibilities and commitments.

Above all, stay positive

Remember: we’re generally our own worst critics. Our inner critics usually don’t take a nuanced approach to judging progress or outcomes. When doing anything for yourself, it’s important to stay positive and ignore that inner critic.  Efforts to improve your life aren’t zero sum and there is no such thing as “failure” here - you get as far as you get and you can always try to improve from there.  No amount of critiquing or second-guessing is going to make your past progress any different. Indeed, critiquing oneself will probably just discourage you from taking action in the future. So, as a more productive strategy, go easy on yourself, stay positive, and celebrate your successes no matter what form it comes in.

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