For many of us, the work week is a never-ending cycle of commute – work work work – stress – cooking and cleanup – take care of kids/animals. If you are focused throughout the day, you might be rewarded with an hour of quiet time before bed–only to wake up to another work day. When weekend finally arrives, you might be exhausted and in need of sleep, or feel pressured to squeeze out as much fun and getting ahead of tasks, so that you actually lose out on spontaneous sense of joy. Leisure time even becomes a source of anxiety. Who hasn’t sat through brunch secretly worrying about doing laundry later in the day?
The key to overcoming this cycle is to bring joy back into your daily routine. Being a textbook Type-A striver, I used to think that one has to be irreproachably efficient at work. Then one day, while on the phone with my best friend, I had an epiphany. My super-driven and ambitious friend admitted that since she’d gotten sick from overwork, she makes sure to relax and find her “me” time, instead of worrying that she’ll be looked down upon. “When you get sick from trying so hard, no one cares. You’re not rewarded or sympathized with–they just remember you missed work.”
The lesson from that call is that you shouldn’t compartmentalize your week into your “work” and “play” days, and accept joyless grind days in exchange for few precious hours on weekends. The work week should also have moments of joy and playfulness. Here are 5 ways to get more joy out of your day, so you stay balanced and happy in the long run.
1. Get outside first thing in the morning: Instead of waking up 20 minutes before you have to leave for work, set the alarm so that you have plenty of time to get ready for your day. Create a relaxing morning routine that works for you. My favorite thing to welcome a new day is to take some fresh air–nothing is more glorious than standing on your terrace, porch, or stoop, wearing something cozy and drinking your first cup of tea!
2. Look pulled together: It’s called a “bad hair day” for a reason–if you don’t feel confident about your presentation, you will feel like missed a button or two, all day long. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exhausting–try this 5-minute brightening makeup routine for work-ready prettiness. If you need extra oomph (say, on a Monday morning or a rainy day), put on a statement necklace, eye-catching cuffs, or bold coral lipstick–something that will add a little sparkle to your day.
3. Make your tasks/play look like a piano key board: Your “work” or anything you don’t enjoy (or have to get done by deadline) should be the white keys on the piano. The fun stuff gets to be black keys. This doesn’t mean your white and black keys get equal amounts of time, but rather that they should be staggered so you don’t end up feeling like all you did that day was work. For example, after a highly focused work session, take lunch outside with your friend. After grocery shopping, reward yourself with a little treat. And try to remember and appreciate those nice moments, too!
4. Create a mood: Being productive is so much easier when you create a pleasant mood around it–so imagine if you are a set designer or art director to the movie that is your life. Bring a little zen to your morning yoga stretches with the right meditation music and subdued lights. Don’t have TV in the background as you cook or clean; instead, listen to soothing music so it can seem like a pleasant movie scene rather than everyday chore. Light a candle for dinner because, why not? Watching a movie after dinner? Have a proper cinema night with some easy vegan popcorn! Little details like these make mundane parts of the day feel richer and more joyful.
5. Have some quiet time: this is easier said than done. Quiet time is the ultimate luxury, since what we always seem to be in need of most is more time. There is always something more to do, but you don’t need to do it all in one day–they’ll be there tomorrow. Turn off all electronics for at least an hour before bed. No TV, no laptops, iPads, cell phone…It’s crazy, I know, but it gets easier. Start with 1/2 hour if you really can’t do 1 hour. With all that extra time, actually spend some time with your family or pets, read a new book, write in your journal, or even have a really good DIY facial session. You will feel so indulgent about this little treat, that even weekdays will feel 10x more like weekends.
Also in Balance: Self- Love: Are You Giving Enough to Yourself?
Photo: Lethacolleen via Flickr; titubeo via Flickr