Living in the modern world means there is ALWAYS something to do! Life is so full of demands that we are constantly encouraged to engage in some activity or other. Amid the pressures of work targets and demands at home, it is easy to lose sight of our wellbeing. The result is that we forget how to feel good.
Taking time for rest and recovery involves stepping back from the urge to ‘do’ and taking a moment just to ‘be’. These moments allow us to recover from stress and gain a sense of calm and contentment.
What’s wrong with doing?
In our success-orientated culture, we value purpose and achievement over more calm or serene emotional states or activities. The high worth we place on tangible attainment makes us overfocus on ‘doing’. Whether it’s meeting targets, collecting certificates or ticking off things on the to-do list, we are so interested in accomplishment that taking care of our mental wellbeing is easily overlooked.
When we are engaged in ‘doing’ a system of emotion regulation known as Drive is activated in our bodies. As we strive to achieve or get something we want, this system releases dopamine into the brain. When we get what we were aiming for, dopamine gives us a small buzz of excitement, rewarding our behaviour.
This is great in the short term. It can help motivate us to manage our expanding list of jobs and can keep our worries about getting stuff done at bay. And the more we get done, the greater sense of accomplishment we experience. This fuels the fantasy that maybe, just maybe, we could actually get everything done!
But, of course, there is always more to do. And over the long term this pattern of striving and achieving can quickly develop into a habit, causing us to become busier and busier.
As we struggle to step off the treadmill, we begin to burn out. Constantly ‘doing’ undermines our health and wellbeing and reduces our personal resilience. Our ability to focus and concentrate is diminished. And this, ironically, makes it harder for us to keep on ‘doing’.
How to just be
- Put down your phone. Step away from screens. Put aside your to-do list.
- Spend time in nature, whether this is sitting in the garden, in a park or taking a walk. Notice the sounds and smells around you, notice the sky and the clouds or the feel of the sun, rain or wind on your skin.
- Mindfully explore the present moment, whether you are in motion or sitting still. Focus on your breathing, notice what you can hear, see, taste, smell and feel.
- Listen to music.
- Do something soothing, like taking a bath, snuggling into a soft blanket or reading a book.
Remember, the experience of ‘just being’ might be so unfamiliar to you that it may feel disconcerting at first. You might notice a strong urge to keep ‘doing’. But try to stick with the ‘being’ state, just for a few moments. These opportunities are crucial for your health, wellbeing and ability to thrive.
If you found this helpful and would like to read more bitesize tips to boost your health and wellbeing at work and at home, check out some of the other blogs in this series. You might also like to join our Facebook group UR Resilient, where members are busy sharing creative and inspiring ideas to build personal resilience and maintain a positive mindset during this challenging time.