Like many of us, I have long sought “balance” in my life. To me, it’s about finding an equilibrium between all the different priorities, demands and goals that I face every day, so that I can achieve all that I want to with minimal stress.

I’ve tried to build my life practices around promoting balance. Even my desert ultra-running career was about channeling “work/life balance”: carving out time from work to focus on training. Despite consuming ideas and strategies to help me achieve this, often the results I sought didn’t materialize, and I was left feeling “vacant”.

The litmus test was my moods, my general health, or even whether I could complete tasks I set out to do. My internal state sometimes affected my thoughts, actions and interactions. The people close to me (friends, colleagues, family etc.) also provided a gauge of whether or not I was in balance. They would let me know, both directly and indirectly, if I needed to pay more attention to my needs. This gave me clues as to how and when to hone my approach towards reaching a more sustainable state of being.  

It was during the onset of Covid-19 that I had a revelation on a possible route to achieve this goal. As the pandemic struck and the world plunged into lockdown, I observed that it was the people who focused on small routines of self-care who were managing to thrive. They were practising positive rituals: repeated habits that ultimately make us feel good in a way that’s sustainable. It could be making the bed, feeding the dog or going for a run. It may not be an inherently pleasurable task, but we know it will help lift our mood when it’s done.

Stringing together positive rituals balances our minds by creating continuous mental feedback loops that tell us we are forging constructively ahead. This in turn reduces anxiety and strengthens our confidence that we are in control, even in situations of adversity. I’ve found that when I’m facing a difficulty or feeling stressed, making sure I still find time to engage in XYZ helps me stay level-headed.

Creating “positive rituals” comes from a set of values and practices by how you want to live your life. They need not be overly strategic or challenging. They are deeply personal to you and like any good list, can be refined over time.

They may look like any of the following:

  • I make sure my partner and I have dinner together regularly
  • I read to help me fall to sleep
  • I have a hot bath to lift my mood
  • I lift weights three times a week
  • I always call mum on Sunday nights

 

However long your list of positive rituals, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is your discipline to complete and enjoy them – but trying to always achieve them mustn’t become a source of stress in itself. Rituals will come and go. You may frequently need to reassess, but by focusing on your rituals you should find yourself not only feeling happier but also far more balanced.

I no longer use remote deserts to test my physical stamina and find balance. Instead, I look to my positive rituals, practice and refine them continuously, and balance naturally flows from there.

Image Credit: Bawah Island Reserve   

 

Matthew Chapman

Matt’s passion for wellness has driven every aspect of his life. He started, and has grown, ChapmanCG into the world’s premier HR search company, which he founded and has kept completely virtual since 2008. His passion around HR and the future of work has fuelled his desire to invest in HR technology concepts and also to co-create the Thrive HR Exchange.

He is currently in training as a Founding Participant in the epic Snowman Race in Bhutan. He is a finisher of six 250 km desert ultramarathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

Matt now resides at Parihoa, his seaside farm in New Zealand, where he is attuned to virtual working and manages his global business interests from here. He is a Singapore Citizen and counts Singapore as his other base.

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