Is less really more? Or is it better to go the extra mile? Gabriella Farkas, MD, PhD, says neither is the answer and that you should instead abide by another rule: balance is key. Farkas, Founder of Pearl Behavior Health and Medicine and Pearl Medical Publishing LLC, Visiting Scientist at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Attending Psychiatrist at Northwell Health Physician Partners Telepsychiatry, stands behind the notion that balance is key to living a healthy and happy life. With this ideation in mind, she recommends you follow a 4-step system for living an overall better life:
Step 1: Clean and De-Clutter Regularly
The first step is to get into the habit of regularly cleaning and de-cluttering your space and, more importantly, your mind. “Miscellaneous items pile up in your home, then an endless to-do list grows in your mind, and you find yourself overwhelmed—a cluttered home and a cluttered mind make for a cluttered life,” Farkas explains. “Whatever the degree of clutter that you possess, take the time to go through your belongings and assess their true value and purpose. Start small with easy decisions, a few per day or week, and work your way up. If it has no value, throw or give it away; if it is nostalgic with no current use, consider saving a picture of the item or passing it on to a family member who wants it.”
She advises that you also, “make to-do lists and reminders (on your phone or sticky notes). Note the task, about how long it will take and when it must be completed. Go through your tasks in order of due date, as best you can, and check them off once completed. Take some of the stress off of your mind by putting it on paper. Make and/or review your list at the start of every week, and check it daily so as not to miss anything.”
Step 2: Make Your Daily Routine Enjoyable
People typically don’t enjoy following a routine, but it’s a good habit for our minds and our bodies to get into. Now, to make it a little more enjoyable, complete the second step of the process and spice up your daily routine with some fun activities. Farkas further explains the purpose and significance of this step: “Many people don’t like routines and/or find them boring. Unfortunately for them, the human body likes a normalized routine (in regards to food, sleep, health, etc.). Yet, on the other hand, the mind prefers novelty. Thus, it’s good to have a general routine, but there are ways to make that routine more fun!” Here are a few of Farkas’s ideas:
1) Do what you love.
Simply incorporate something you love into your routine: “Start your day on the right foot; make time for an activity you enjoy during your morning routine. Don’t simply sit and watch TV, but take at least 30 minutes to do something both productive and pleasurable. After a couple weeks, this activity will become physically routine while remaining mentally engaging. Prioritize and make time for these activities, even if it’s 5 minutes here and there.”
Another of Farkas’s suggestions is to redecorate or make changes to your space: “Once you’ve cleared out your clutter, make your spaces brighter, more open, and more personal. Start where you spend most of your time (i.e. work, living room, or kitchen) and also give your bedroom attention.”
Her last tip for making your daily routine more enjoyable is allocating time for exploring and trying new things. “Try out new activities and variations to your schedule,” Farkas says. “Take dance classes, play sports, attend or host parties, reconnect with or make friends, or travel. Of course, traveling is a diversion as opposed to an addition to your routine, but your ‘yearly routine’ should include at least one vacation.”
Step 3: Indulge, Indulge, Indulge!
The third step to living a more balanced and enjoyable life, according to Farkas, is allowing yourself to indulge. “It is important to unwind and indulge oneself every once in a while, and there are several great ways to do so,” she says. Here are her tips for splurging and spoiling yourself:
- Use essential oils, detox baths, meditation, and or/relaxing music for a sense of luxury before falling asleep; extra comfortable pillows and blankets are also indulgent.
- Cook your favorite meal or treat yourself (and your family) to an expensive dinner.
- Be willing to be nostalgic—resume activities and hobbies you have forgotten about of haven’t had time for.
“Feel free to indulge yourself as much as you wish,” she says. “But it is recommended to keep it occasional. Overindulgence dilutes the effect it will have when you’re stressed or celebrating and need it most.”
Step 4: Challenge Yourself
And finally, challenge yourself day-in and day-out. “Take your physical and mental health to the next level by challenging yourself every day,” Farkas says. “Stay motivated to improve your physical health by working out daily and challenging others to do the same. Make a team of family, friends, and/or coworkers, and start a friendly competition to encourage one another. Aside from workout routines and going to the gym, you can participate in ‘challenges’ like those for walking, planking, and biking.
For mental health, boost your cognitive functioning with puzzles, games, crosswords, etc. It is also recommended that you continue learning throughout your lifespan. Some experts claim that by spending one hour each day learning something new, you can become a near-expert within three years. Pick any interest—hobbies, fun facts, academia, languages, etc.—and take it one hour, one day at a time.”