Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living”. So let’s begin by asking ourselves some basic questions: are you living the life you want? Are you constantly in a ‘should have’ mode? Are you going through the motions of living to gain approval or because of conditioned perceptions of how life should be lived? Is there a deep sense of discontentment or resentment or feeling of emptiness within? Are you just drifting along and letting life happen to you? Just an introspection of these will pave the way for the 12 steps that you could take to a better you and make life and living a rich and fulfilling journey.
- Define and prioritise your role as a woman. It is true that women are great at multi-tasking. But the myriad roles that we play as a woman – be it daughter, sister, mother, wife, companion, friend, and many more – need to be lived and played with a purpose for it to energise and sustain our faith in ourselves. It is only then that we can thrive in our roles. For this we need to spend enough time to think, analyse, nurture and grow in the roles. A useful exercise to achieve this is to maintain a fluid list. Like life itself, this list can never be static. It is ever changing with the change in demands, needs, opportunities and energy levels. Making the list should be a purposeful but fun exercise. Otherwise the list will look like an overwhelming basket of duties and would create stress even before take off.
- Health for a woman has to be the highest priority. A woman is so conditioned to have a very strong ethic of care and caring for others that she tends to neglect herself till it is too late. Your health is your life. Nobody can take care of your health except you! Regular health checks are a must. Visit your doctor to have a periodic check for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other female related issues.
- Incorporate some form of physical activity in to your life. Taking a break from your daily chores and
responsibilities does not mean that you sit in front of your television with a bag of crisps! That will only add to your woes of inadequacy that could come with lack of will power, lack of exercise, obesity, and inertia. Keep a healthy weight. Join a gym. Work out for an hour. There is nothing more satisfying than sweating it out in an aerobics or spinning class. If you feel you need a little push, get yourself a good, responsible personal trainer. It works brilliantly!
- Just as much as we need to be physically healthy, we need to give equal or even more attention to our mind and emotional health. Don’t underestimate the power of the mind. It’s an immensely powerful tool that can shape the very quality of your life. The easiest and the most natural way to nurture and nourish your mind and mental health is through some deep relaxation techniques or meditation. Don’t for a moment think that meditation requires any effort. The beauty of meditation is that it requires no effort and no concentration. It is actually a process of de-concentration giving the mind the much-needed release from stress and anxiety.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. The body and mind have an innate and natural structure and system of functioning. If it is confronted by anything that it cannot understand, it rebels in the form of illnesses, stress and dysfunction. The body is designed to eat foods that it can easily break down, assimilate, and eliminate. Hence, it’s important that we are aware of what we consume. Most of us are not aware that the foods that we eat, and the fluids that we drink affect not just the body but the mind too. They can affect our temperament, attitudes, behaviour, and focus – all attributes that are so important to make life productive and fulfilling. Smoking is a huge problem in the world today. According to the fact sheet published by WHO, tobacco kills six million people every year. Tobacco addiction occurs because of the temporary relief from stress that smokers/users experience. The simplest way to kick the addiction is to find another way, a more sustained and healthy way, to find relief from stress. And that is through yoga and pranayama (breathing techniques). This is a sure-fire way to be stress and addiction free.
- We all love to receive – be it love, gifts, time, leisure, etc. But there is something else that gives greater joy and sustained satisfaction. And that lies in the art of giving. Nothing is more satisfying than unconditional service. Serve those who don’t have. If you are miserable, serve those who are more miserable. If you feel you lack something in life, serve those who have a greater need. And do so, without any expectations, be it appreciation or acknowledgment, or whether your services are being used properly, or even whether you will get another opportunity to do something similar. All that matters is you served and enjoyed that moment. Such service will eliminate misery from life.
- Learn to love your body. While it’s important to maintain the right weight and be fit, let it not become an obsession. Don’t let your body control you. Keep the control in your hands. And love yourself. Your love and respect for yourself will reflect in everything that you do in life. It will help you to love others and love life.
- Work on your relationships. All relationships, be it within the immediate family, extended family, at the workplace, in society, among friends, need you to invest your time, energy and emotions. But when done judiciously and intelligently, it will help in building the support framework that we all need throughout life. And very importantly, it will give your children memories for when they are older. Children of mothers who are social, friendly, and good networkers tend to be high on confidence and strong in their interpersonal relationships.
- With other forms of entertainment and use of gadgetry, reading has taken a bit of a backseat. To immerse yourself in a book and losing oneself in the narrative is an incomparable joy. Similarly, there is great joy in cooking, not as a chore but as an adventure. And when you share that joy with others, either through a shared meal or recipes or just talking about food, the joy grows.
- Make it a point to travel as often as you can. Travel with family or friends or alone. But travel, you must. There is no greater school or finishing school than travel. It will open your eyes to a bigger world outside and most importantly to a world inside you. There is a world of talent and opportunities in you that you will realise when you travel. And what is most beautiful is the realisation that we are capable of a lot of joy, appreciation and gratitude.
- Make sure that boredom is a word that does not exist in your dictionary. If whatever you do in your life is done with hundred per cent passion and dedication and as if you are doing it for the first time, then you will find yourself feeling as if your day has been productive and happy, even if it includes watching TV for some time! Remember, happiness is an inside job! If we depend on any extraneous factors to be happy, it will make the very foundation of our life fragile and shaky. Be busy but make time for leisure, and don’t feel guilty because you are taking time off for yourself.
- And last but not the least, work out exactly where you want your life to go. Anticipation is a great thing! But don’t let it tie you down to one place. Know that life is dynamic and changes can come in unannounced. So, write your life plan. Put in your full effort to accomplish it. Allow them to change, as they will. Rejoice in life and rejoice in yourself.