7 Steps to a Balanced Life

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If you're like the average person, chances are you feel like some part of your life is out of balance. Maybe you work too much, play too much, or are overly devoted to something. Being out-of-balance not only affects your emotional wellbeing - it also leads to physical stress, which can take its toll on your health. In severe cases, lack of balance results in aging quicker, losing memory and can even increase your chances of developing certain diseases like hypertension. You may think that in this unstable world, you have to live your hectic life no matter what. But it turns out that with just a few considerations and challenges, you can take a little more control over your life, and it may be easier than you think. Here are seven steps to take to balance your life:

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Make A List. Figure out what areas of life need to be modified in order to get the right amount of balance. If there are things in your life that you are putting your time towards that don't bring you much joy, now is the time to admit it. Make a list of these things. Make another list of things you'd like to make time for but for whatever reason have been put on the backburner (this often includes leisure time or relaxation activities). What would you really like to do that you haven't done? What are the first steps? The point of this exercise is to help determine what your priorities are so that you can move forward with your goals.

Cultivate Optimism. Get into the habit of thinking about what you are grateful for on a regular basis - no matter what the situation is. Developing a positive outlook on life naturally leads to making the changes necessary to achieve balance. When you find the positive in any given situation, it not only affects your outlook, but can have a profound effect on others. If, like most of us, you are used to focusing on what you can improve rather than what is already good, try to alter your thinking a bit. Instead of making yourself crazy by trying to "improve" things, appreciate your life as it is.

Work More "Fun" Time Into Your Schedule. This one is pretty self-explanatory: do more of what you enjoy. It's easy to feel guilty about setting time aside to just have fun, since fun is often not seen as "productive." But it's extremely important when it comes to health. People who experience joy are less likely to suffer from serious health complications and mood disorders. You don't need to get too fancy here - just think about what entertains you and makes you feel a sense of lightheartedness. It could be watching a funny movie with your spouse, or going to the beach, or getting together with friends. Whatever it is for you, work it into your schedule.

Avoid Negative People. This is a hard one because it involves reevaluating your relationships. Is your best friend actually good for you, or does she say things that make you feel inadequate? Are there certain members of your family who you spend time with out of obligation, but cause you to feel drained of energy afterwards? People who send out negative energy in any way - whether it's through insults, complaining, or general negativity - can be toxic to be around. Make sure you're surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good, motivated, and secure.

Rethink Your Eating Habits. No matter how you live your life, it involves eating several times per day, and it's easy to forget that what we eat affects how we feel to a large extent. The saying "you are what you eat" very true, yet in this rushed American culture, we often don't give this saying the truth it deserves. You already know that a good diet involves a healthy mix of whole grains, protein, fruits and vegetables, and avoiding fatty foods and excess sugar. If you want your life to be in balance, it's impossible to ignore your nutrition habits. If there's a certain area that has gone awry, let this be the time that you admit to it, and make a conscious effort to change.

Learn To Say No. If your life balance is out of whack, it's highly possible that you have committed to an overabundance of obligations. One of the hardest things to learn is to simply say no. If your schedule is full, and you'd really like to fit in that afternoon yoga session, say no to the friend who asks you to volunteer your time to something new. It's not your responsibility to be there all the time for others at the drop of a hat. You need to do what's right for you, and if that involves turning people down, don't be scared to say no. Your mental health will greatly benefit.

Be Creative. You're probably thinking, "like I have time for that." But being creative doesn't have to take up a lot of time, and it's crucial for a good life balance. Whether your mode of expression is art, writing, gardening, singing, or another form, it can be very therapeutic and a good counterpart to work and family life. Plus, you may just end up being pleasantly surprised at what you come up with.

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