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How to Find Time for Yourself

How to Find Time for Yourself

    Do you ever find yourself longing for some time for yourself? Many of us are so busy with work, school, and home life that often there is no time left over to do something that you enjoy. What follows are some ways to carve out that essential time you need to slow down, enjoy life, and rejuvenate yourself.

    Scheduling Time with Yourself

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    1. Evenings with Yourself. Try to save certain weeknights just for you. If others ask you to do things those nights, just tell them you have plans. Use the time for gardening, reading, exercise, thinking, or the ultimate luxury of doing nothing!
    2. Monthly Treat. Schedule a treat for yourself once a month. It could be on your lunch break, a weekend, or it could be leaving work early. Maybe you get a spa treatment, go see a movie, a haircut, play golf, or whatever treat you’re always thinking about but rarely get to. Schedule it in and it will happen!
    3. Buy Tickets in Advance. Sports, theater, concerts, or any other event you would enjoy. Schedule the plans with a friend later. Having the tickets already in hand will force you to make it happen!
    4. Leave Work on Time. Huh? Yes, many of us stay at work late on a regular basis. If this is you, make it a point to leave work exactly on time at least once a week, if not more. And then enjoy that time! Leave work at work.
    5. Join a Group. Here are some ideas of groups that can allow you some time away from work and home: singing group, gardening group, astronomy society, book club, quilting (or any other craft) circle, biking/walking/running/etc clubs, ski club, etc. What are you interested in? Strike while the iron is hot. Look up a club in your area today and join! If you can’t find a club, consider starting one yourself!
    6. Take an Adult Education Class. Take a fun class. If accounting is fun for you, then go ahead. If not, then think about some of these ideas: foreign language, photography, art, creative writing, or sports (kayaking, archery, golf, yoga). Belly-dancing anyone?
    7. Exercise. For busy people it can be difficult to make time for this. But, you know what? You can do it!! All you have to do is decide today and then make it a reality tomorrow. A new habit is started with just one step. Take that first step tomorrow. Walk for 20 minutes in the morning. And then build on that success daily. Vary how you spend that time. On some days use the time for thinking and daydreaming. Other days listen to motivational audio and on days you want a real boost, listen to your favorite music! Here are a couple travel audio books you could borrow from your local library that will take you on a journey to a foreign land while you are walking or jogging: “Holy Cow:An Indian Adventure” by Sarah MacDonald or “The Places in Between” by Rory Stewart. If you’ve been exercising for a while and you usually listen to music, try go without any input for a change. Instead, let your mind wander and expand.

    On the Go

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    1. Commute Via Public Transportation. If you can, ditch your car, and let someone else do the driving. Use that time to plan your day, do some reading, writing, creative thinking, or even meditation.
    2. Driving in Your Car. Make the most of this time. Vary how you spend that time. If you always listen to music, perhaps also try: educational radio (NPR), positive audio tapes (suggestion: “Follow Your Heart” by Andrew Matthews) or even totally quiet time. Use that quiet time for brain storming. Either think in your head or even talk your ideas out loud. Bring a voice recorder. You could write a book via voice recorder over time.
    3. Waiting in the Car. If you find that you have a certain amount of “waiting time” in your life, change how you perceive it. Instead of “waiting time” you can instantly change it into “me time” by bringing along reading, writing, or entertainment items. Or if you find yourself waiting and you don’t have any of these things use the time for creative thinking about your life or try some meditation.

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    1. 2 Birds, One Stone. Look for ideas where you can fit in time for you within things you need to do already or that will have multiple benefits. See the ideas below to give you an idea.
    2. Walk to Work. This is a a great one because you’re accomplishing many things at once. You’re getting exercise, you have time to think or enjoy music/audio, and you’re helping to save the environment.
    3. Arrive Early. Any appointment that you have, plan to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Then use this time for you: reading, writing, meditation, relaxation, thinking, whatever.
    4. Volunteering. There are so many benefits with this. You make a difference for others, you escape work and personal worries, and you grow as a person. If you could help one organization or group, which would it be? OK, now go ahead and Google them and find out how you can help – even if it’s just once a year.
    5. Side Job. Find a side job at which you can make money, but that will also allow you to do something you love. Some ideas: coaching, teaching a class (art, writing, sport, hobby, anything else you know well), or training others (what special skills do you have that you could share with others? singing, windsurfing, math?)
    6. Lunch Alone. Try sneaking away for a quiet lunch alone on a park bench or even in your car. Enjoy some quiet time with no one to talk to and no audio inputs.

    Time Away from Kids

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    1. Organize “Mom’s Morning Out” Circle. If you have a friend or group of friends, you could arrange to share babysitting services a few times a month so that others in the group get some time alone.
    2. Babysitters. Make a plan to have a babysitter that you trust watch your children once a month or once a week so that you can get some time for yourself. The key here is to take action and make it happen. If you want more time for yourself, you can get it. Just don’t be afraid to ask.
    3. Gym with Babysitting Service. Find a gym that offers childcare so that you can take a yoga class, do some strength training, or even work with a personal trainer. Make sure you fully research the safety of their childcare program first though. Get some references.

    What are your secrets for finding time for yourself? Please share in the comments below!

    K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are 25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work, How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less, Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?, and 5 Big Secrets “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Investing.

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    K. Stone

    The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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