How to Lighten Up

“Man, unlike the animal, has never learned that the sole purpose of life is to enjoy it.” ~Samuel Butler

I love my work. I really love it deep down in my bones and could sit at my computer all day writing and creating and connecting with other people.

Yes, I realize how wonderful it is to feel passionate about my work, but I’m also learning how important it is to step away from it — frequently.

A healthy lifestyle requires balance, which means we have to lighten up sometimes.

It’s so easy to get bogged down, wrapped up, intently engaged.

Even if you don’t like your work, fear or obligation can keep you immersed in completing projects and putting in the “required hours” to appear productive and useful.

Tasks multiply like bunnies, and they have a way of seducing us into believing we will eventually conquer them if we just keep working.

One of main the reasons I started my own business was to have freedom and flexibility. Now, ironically, I find myself drifting back to my computer in the evenings, on Saturday mornings, and yes (yikes) even on vacation.

But recently, I’ve been recalibrating my lifestyle. I’m really a firm believer in the power of fun and relaxation. They are the B12 shot for your mental and emotional energy and creativity. (Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek,
was a real eye-opener for me!)

Remove Your Hands from the Keyboard and Step Away from the Computer

I have to remind myself of this regularly. I have to get my butt out of my chair and do something else. Something light and breezy — with body movement involved if possible.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here’s the deal about sitting  for long hours at your desk  staring at the computer.

According to an American Cancer Society study:

  • Women who sit more than six hours a day face a 33% higher risk of early death from cardiovascular disease compared with women who sit fewer than three hours a day. Long-sitting men have an 18% increased risk of premature death from heart disease.
  • Failing to exercise plus sitting for long stretches proved even more hazardous. The combination of little physical activity and long periods of sitting was linked to a 94% higher risk of premature death for women and a 48% higher risk for men compared with those who sat the least and exercised the most.
  • Uninterrupted sitting may cause large muscle groups to shut down and lead to damaging metabolic changes.
  • There is also a potential increased cancer risk in long-sitting women (not so with men).

Too much time at the computer can also cause problems with posture, back and neck pain, eye strain,  headaches, circulation, and digestion. It can also lead to insomnia and depression. Yowsa. That’s reason enough to step away.

If you read my post of last week about the future of technology, you know that we will become increasingly engaged with computers on every level. Many jobs that now require some movement, physical labor, or one-on-one interaction will be handled by computers. The temptation to disengage from the “real world” and tend to work or other online pursuits will be even stronger.

I had a coaching client tell me recently that she feels guilty when she’s not doing something productive or income-generating. I used to feel that way. Now I’m so very grateful that the scales have been lifted from my eyes.

I’m so relieved to know that loosening up, lightening up, and living life are not only OK, they are essential.

How to Lighten Up

Do you agree with me on the value of lightening up? I hope so. Work is important, but I believe lightness is equally important. Lightness provides the time and space for fun, movement, relaxation, or doing absolutely nothing.

Lightness is stepping out of intensity, stress, and hard work, and into pure freedom of mind, body, and soul.

Here are some thoughts on lightening up:

  • If you work in a job with long hours, is this your choice or a requirement? If it’s a choice, then choose to work less. You will be far more productive by lightening up than you’ll ever be by overworking. If it’s a requirement, there are ways to negotiate your in-office work hours. Tim Ferris offers some great strategies on this in the aforementioned book.
  • Will it be catastrophic if you work less? Really? Or will you just feel weird about it? Most of the time we overwork to impress someone or make ourselves feel important and useful. These beliefs are chimeras that trap you on a treadmill.
  • You can create boundaries for yourself and protect your lighten-up times. You don’t have to answer every email, phone call, or text the minute they come in. You don’t have to allow yourself to be interrupted or pulled into another project. It’s your time and your choice. Even if someone else gets their panties in a wad about it.
  • Sometimes we think we might miss something important if we don’t stay connected or available 24/7. This might happen, but do you want to stay vigilant and “on” all the time just waiting for an off-chance opportunity? If you’re respected, needed and wanted, they’ll wait.
  • Do you feel there is some nebulous “rule” that you have to work long hours and be constantly available? Do you feel like you won’t be good enough, smart enough or reliable enough if you don’t live up to that rule? Remember, you’re an adult and can make the rules for yourself. So make the rule that life balance is a priority for you. Then define what that balance is.

Here are some of the things I like to do to lighten up:

I love to read. It is a great escape for me, especially if I’m reading a really engaging novel. I just finished Stephen King’s  Under the Dome (long but a real page-turner), and I’m currently reading The Passage by Justin Cronin — supposedly this summer’s blockbuster novel. So far, I carry it with me everywhere.

I also like to have a motivational book on hand. Right now it’s Time Warrior by Steve Chandler.

I ride my bike. I’ve written about this before in a previous post. It makes me feel completely free and happy. And it’s great exercise.

I take a walk with my friend. We walk through my very hilly neighborhood and hardly notice that our lungs are about to explode because we’re yapping so much.

I go to the movies. I much prefer going to an actual movie theater over watching one at home. This weekend I saw Horrible Bosses (silly but very funny) and the new Harry Potter movie (same characters with even more of He Who Cannot Be Named).

I drink coffee and sit on my front porch. I do this in the morning. It is so quiet and peaceful, and that first cup of coffee is just heavenly. I just sit and sip.

I regularly share a meal with friends. I live on a cul de sac and have several lovely friends right next to me. We are on a drop-in basis and frequently share meals together and of course laugh a lot. They share my perverse humor.

What do you do to lighten up? Please share your ideas for fun and relaxation.

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30 thoughts on “How to Lighten Up”

  1. here are some of my idea and practises. i am lucky and spend a lot of time relaxing. I lay on the trampoline and cloud gaze, i paint abstact paintings dont worry about the outcome just enjoy the process they are usually beautuful to look at. i try to open my heart and be in a wonderful space to do this as i paint, it really makes a difference to allow this i listen to motivational or self help teachers guy finley or tapping world summit tony robbins brendon burchard plus many more and listen to wonderful classical music think of Creation and how lucky we are to be part of it or go into my body and appreciate my body parts hello lungs thank you thank you heart for beating etc of course this is accompanied by deep breathing. i talk to myself and challenge my negative thoughts and there is always amazing answers and solutions its just beautiful.
    play with modeling clay be creative, dance alone for humanity send love to the world, send love to those who have been nasty in the news etc.. as by hating them we add to the thought forms that help them stay as they are, by sending them love and healing and asking for help for them we not only give oursleves a better feeling but we send loving thought forms that will hlep humanity, instead of adding to the hate and rage that grows out of crime.
    read Ekhart tolle or in the light of truth by Abd-ru-shin
    think of everything i have to be grateful for, all my achievments even tiny ones. realise that i am a spiritual zillionaire, i have such strength and belief in my values and belief systems that i am calm safe and responsible for myself and it allows inner peace. remember that which you dwell upon you will experience so i always tap away negative thoughts or talk to them and challenge them until the feeling has become a positive peaceful one. i’m writng a book that i dont care if it ever gets finished the writing is a tool for inner peace and relaxation. walking bike riding and exercise are also my relaxation friends too

    • Wow Valerie. What a great list! You’ve got the lightening up practice perfected! Thank you for sharing so many wonderful ideas.

  2. I read that report too Barrie. It got my attention. I know I often spend too much time sitting in front of my computer and I am consciously trying to balance that with stretching and exercise. I’m fortunate to be able to ride my bike during the warm weather and take long walks anytime of year. It’s just getting up and doing it that sometimes is the problem.

    We all need to take ourselves and our ‘work’ less seriously than our ultimate well being. Ironically I find it more difficult now that I’m doing what I love and not having to answer to anyone but me.

    Thanks for the post and the reminder!

    • I find it harder too Barbara. Maybe because there isn’t a clear line for the end of the work day since I work from home. It’s easy to let the time pass. But I’m trying to make myself stop and step away. I guess it’s a good problem to like your work so much! 🙂

  3. How did I lighten up? I put all my passions and created a job I love….so i feels like I am not working at all. I do believe in a balanced life so I pull myself away and get fresh air, go out with friends and acknowledge all my blessings. I agree with Valerie that we are spiritual millionaires and taking time to be with our spiritual self is the best way to lighten-up and get to know your authentic voice.

    • Hi Cris,
      Good for you! When work feels like play, that is truly peak living. But I’m glad you are balancing the work with other pursuits. Balance is the key.

    • I fully agree with you Dr. Chris Green!
      Beautiful compilation of of a perfect relaxation body and mind, Barrie! I love this post! Even just Reading it made me all relaxed. Thank you for sharing this. It’s awesome!

  4. Isn’t it funny, how when you make a decision about anything, you suddenly find all sorts of articles, etc., to support that decision.
    I had just made the decision to take a short vacation away from my home computer. I was in the process of telling all of my cybernet buddies that I won’t be around for a whole week, when I decided to read one last email from Ms Davenport. I’m glad I did.
    I sit at work in front of a computer, I come home and immediately get on my computer. So, I sit all day long in front of one computer or another. But I realized that I’m not getting anything done. So starting today until next week Monday noon, my home computer AND my TV will be shut down and covered up. I will do some sculpting, which I am actually pretty good at… don’t ask me why I haven’t created anything lately… computer addiction…LOL
    So, Thank You very much Barrie for a wonderful article that helped me firm up my decision to get up and do something different.

    • Hi Chris,
      I love hearing about posts arriving at just the right time. Good for you. I hope you are enjoying your sabbatical from technology.

  5. One very distinct advantage (there are many :-)) of growing older is that we can lose the sense of urgency about getting things done NOW! It may take a little practice for the more compulsive types, but slowing down is good for body and soul! So what if a deadline or two get missed? A good sense of humor also serves us well!

    • Yes Jon, I agree. It’s better to take the “immersion” journey through life rather than the “cram it all in” option. A good sense of humor is the cherry on the cake!

    • Smiling is a very “light” thing to do. It makes other people light as well. Keep it up David.

  6. Love your post. I’m also a big believer in Fun and relaxation We must have the balance of work and play – work hard, play hard.
    Fun for me shows itself in many ways – from leisure activities like biking, walking, canoeing to going for an ice cream cone. Going on vacation and doing adventuresome things like, I just went hot air ballooning for the first time.
    I also recently took a laughter workshop – boy was that FUN!!!
    But the key point is, whatever it is you enjoy, make the time for it. Time won’t simply appear; we must build in the time for bringing joy into our lives; for doing what we like and that brings us pleasure.

    • Oh my gosh Harriett! You do know how to have fun. Hot air ballooning sounds thrilling. You are so right about making time. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. Keep us posted on more of your adventures. 🙂

  7. Hi Barrie,

    You post resonated with me. I find that now that I’m blogging, it is easy to be at the computer for long hours, with always one more thing to do. I lighten up by practicing yoga, playing tennis, walking my dog and visiting with friends and family.

    I agree we all need to make a conscious effort to take breaks and stop sitting. I sometimes even stand and work on the computer, as I feel that is better for you than sitting for long periods of time. Great reminder.

    • Hi Cathy,
      Standing at the computer is a great idea — I might try that. I just have to find a good place to put the computer. I saw a tv program about an office setting up work treadmills with desktops mounted to them so workers could walk very slowly while they worked. They lost a bunch of weight doing this. Wish I could figure out how to do that!

  8. That beginning quote is BEAST! It is so very true. We are here to ENJOY life to the fullest. Most never get that ideology, because most weren’t taught this way. Truthfully, some find out when they go through so much pain, that they realize, happiness is all that matters. Joy is all that matters. It’s about being happy NOW and happiness is where it’s AT!

    • Hi Jonathan,
      Yes, we are taught more about being productive than being joyful. Somehow we need to teach our children how to find the intersection of those two!

  9. gee…so we bloggers are prone to cancer then…we sit almost all day…but maybe it’s besides the point?……
    We work so hard…and we forget to relax and pamper ourselves …no matter how busy one could be, there shld be a schedule for some relaxation..

  10. Yes, bloggers and anyone else who sits at a desk all day. So that study alone is enough to get us out of our seats. It would behoove employers to allow desk-sitters to do the same. A healthy, rested, and calm employee is going to be more productive!

  11. Those are some sobering findings, I spend a lot of hours in front of the computer. your suggestion to lighten up makes a lot of sense, I find being sedentary increase my risk of feeling heavy, both physically and mentally.

    I make it a point to get out every day and do something physical, luckily I have my two young sons to chase after so there’s plenty of opportunities there.

    I also do a lot more writing in my notebooks–that’s where my first drafts all start off. It really helps me to spend less time in front of the screen, and I can get out to a cafe, or into the garden for a bit of fresh air while I’m at it.

  12. Helpful and important information. Thank you. Myself, I try to feed my mind, my body and my spirit each day. I am far more productive and happy when balanced this way.

  13. I hear you! I love the line about tasks multiplying like bunnies. So true! I always like to work hard then play later, but how great it is to start the day with play and relaxation just to keep me light. My daughter has taught me the joy of a slow morning, where we stay in PJs, lingering before I get myself in high gear.

    And, at the office, I sit and sit and sit. If I don’t take a break, even 15 minutes to rest my mind, I’m wiped out by the end of the day from concentrating so hard! I close my door, slip my shoes off, and do some yoga moves (even in my dressy clothes). No ones looking. 🙂 A few breaths and a few moves makes quite a difference. For some moving is hard, for others it’s the slowing that’s hard. It is all about balance…

  14. What if you’re not an adult? Leo has mentioned this but no-one else has 🙁 It’s so much harder what with homework, school and studying to get a lot of time to do other stuff.

    Although I don’t get much time, I do go outside for a while nearly every day and make time for a minute of deep breathing and relaxation. It helps that my “oracle cards” tell me it would be amazing for my health etc.

  15. Very enjoyable article (and even the comments!). I’ve always been the typical Type A working long hours and taking in every problem on the job on a personal level, but what’s changed for me is last year I left the corportate world and a job that was crushing me physically and emotionally … while I still work many hours each day and often weekends, now I’m working at home (BIG difference!) and I’m doing something I truly love so it doesn’t feel like fulfilling a passion than working. Still, I know it’s important to create some balance, so several times a day I break, take a short walk, play with my little dog Lucy, or just read a chapter or two of a favorite book.

  16. I have read in this blog, that according to the American Cancer Association, there’s an increased cancer risk for long-sitting women. Then how come most of the things you do to lighten up involves sitting – read a book, sit on the porch with a cup of coffee, meal with friends, go to the movies?
    I’m just confused.
    If your work requires you to sit all day and then the things that you do after will still involve sitting, then you are already on the long-sitting women category and are now at a greater risk for cancer.
    Then I don’t think that doing all those things will lighten me up.

    • Good point Beth, but I think you mix it up. If you have a job that requires a lot of sitting, then you get up frequently and move around. You take exercise even more seriously. You find balance in your activities.

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