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How to be your authentic self

Good’s psychology expert and columnist Dr Alice Boyes shares her advice on tapping into your authentic self 

Words Dr Alice Boyes. Illustration by UNA studio

Life can get busy but when you feel like you have balance, this helps to create feelings of calmness and having a sense of control. Having balance does not mean devoting equal amounts of time to work and leisure. It’s more about being mindful of what makes you as an individual happy or content and allowing yourself these moments. Here, we cover how to authentically craft your own version of lifestyle balance. I say ‘craft’ because true lifestyle balance needs to account for what you personally find rejuvenating, what opportunities you realistically have for energy-boosting activities, and what your energy drains are (e.g. if you switch between day and night shifts, or if your work is particularly busy on certain days or weeks of the month). 

1. Deeply connect with what you enjoy and what makes you feel in equilibrium 

Everyone is wired slightly differently in terms of their biological rhythms and how much activity, novelty/routine, sensory stimulation, sleep, exercise, and social activity feels “just right” to them. Pay attention to what leaves you feeling good versus what leaves you feeling tired, irritated and in need of replenishment. What do you need to transition smoothly between activities? What evening routines help you feel ready for bed? What types of food, exercise, and sleep routines work for your body? What do you enjoy that you’ve always enjoyed? Author Gretchen Rubin, who writes about happiness and habits, recommends asking yourself what you were passionate about as a 10 year old. You can then use that self knowledge to guide your thinking about what you might enjoy doing more of now. 

 Ask yourself what you were passionate about as a 10 year old. You can then use that self knowledge to guide your thinking about what you might enjoy doing more of now.

2. What’s fun and relaxing for you might not be for other people

Some of the best mood and energy boosters are those that are very specific to us as individuals. Pay particular attention to activities that feel fun or relaxing to you but might feel like a chore to someone else. A treat for me is to spend time figuring out something new I can do with my phone, or with IFTTT, a free platform that allows you to do computer programming-like tasks. That might not sound like fun to you. Your goal is to identify what feels fun specifically to you. It could be gardening, folding clothes or even ironing. 

3. Try linking treats to stressful activities

Whenever I go on an international flight, I take peanut butter sandwiches. I rarely feel like peanut butter sandwiches at home, but they’ve become a comforting and pleasurable part of long haul flying. What simple treats could help you balance out the stress peaks in your life? 

4. Sometimes doing the opposite of your natural inclination works 

When you’re very busy, it can be rejuvenating to do an activity more slowly than you usually would. If you’d normally rush something try doing it at a relaxed pace. This could be as simple as sorting through your mail or making a cup of tea slowly. When you’re leaving work, consider whether you’d enjoy going somewhere briefly on the way home e.g. a café or the library, instead of rushing straight home. This can offer you the chance to decompress before you get home. Even if you have very limited time, the five minutes to grab a takeout coffee may be enough to help you transition from your work day to your home life. 

For more advice on other issues you’re finding in life, click here. 

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