It was world mental health day recently, and #worklifebalance has been trending on Twitter. I have always been a bit troubled by the idea of work/life balance as if they were somehow opposites or alternatives. Isn’t work an essential part of life?
Sure, when I think of work, I can think of its stress and how it can demand too much effort. I know about the anxiety it causes and the bullying it breeds. But I can also think of how it offers companionship of the most profound kind, the opportunity to be intensely creative, the chance to care for others and to be cared for and the stupendous gift of laughter. Sometimes, the posts here and other social media characterise work too much in terms of struggle, stress, overcoming adversity, bias, and prejudice. ( And I have been guilty of this!)
We celebrate too rarely perhaps, how work can help us flourish as human beings. Of course, work for some is just a crushing, monstrous struggle, but for those who can make choices then assumptions about work should be challenged. The fundamental question is not what but how I work and how I live the rest of my life. How do I engage with both? How do I make the choices that enrich me? It is perhaps too easy to see work as a functional necessity that enables someone to do other things, things for which ironically, they find themselves because of work too tired and stressed to do! In my book How to Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World, I wondered about the idea of an ‘artisan’ approach to life that would encompass work.
By an artisan approach, I am suggesting life is something you craft. Something in which you need to be close to the raw materials you are dealing with, in this case, the potential in yourself and the potential in the world around you. It is about you being inspired. Inspirare is the Latin origin of the word, and it meant to breathe or to blow, bringing life to something. An artisan brings life to everything they make. It is your calling to bring vigour and vitality into your life. Finally, you are a good artisan when you are authentic. You are not here to make copies of someone else’s life: there is something of you in everything you make.
How To Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World is now also available as an audio book. (see https://adbl.co/3Bwsh83 )
#mentalhealth #work #creative
Taking a walk today may just be the best thing you can do for your mental health and your well-being. It might make you just a bit cleverer and creative too!
It has been known for some time that walking of all sorts is beneficial for our sense of well-being. But more recent research is emphasising just how important it is. We are, it seems, walking animals, we have evolved to walk and think as an integrated and contiguous activity. We should not think of our brain as some sort of captain directing all our actions and behaviours but rather that our bodies and brains are continually interacting to make sense of the world that we are in and to enable us to survive. For example our feet have pressure sensors which communicate directly to our brain when we were walking with our full weight on them to increase the blood supply to our brains to enable it to function more effectively.
It seems that if we don't walk enough, we lose a lot: creativity, memory capacity, cognitive skills and computing power. We are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Our sedentary life, stuck in front of a computer, tablet or phone screen may be behind two disturbing trends in human potential. One is a global trend in which performances on intelligence tests having risen consistently decades has during the last two showed a significant decline. The other is an accelerating decline in our ability to be creative. Kyung Hee Kim, who is professor of psychology at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg has demonstrated that standardised scores on creativity tests have been declining significantly for the last few decades.
There could be reasons other than more sedentary lifestyle for these effects but controlling for these factors does suggest that our lack of locomotion is not doing us any good at all.
Good news! It's not just fast-paced, power walks that are required, in fact it may be that slower paces can be specifically beneficial. In my book How to Survive and Thrive in an Impossible World, I suggest that "sauntering", may be the best thing of all. Sauntering at 1 mile every 20 minutes seems to dramatically improve our mood and our ability to think clearly. It can lower depression, anxiety and pain severity. Latest research has shown it is also very useful psychologically to be aware that you are moving forward.
If I think about, it most of the ideas and insights I ever have are gained when I have put one foot in front of the other and kept going. And it is not just my experience that the problems of the world seem to diminish as I walk away.
Sign up to my mailing list
I'll only send out newsletters every so often, so you won't be bombarded! And you can unsubscribe at any time.