For those of you following this blog recently, you know that I have just returned from a week-long vacation to the sunny island country of Jamaica. What a fun time I had with my lovely lady, Margie. Today is my first full day back. Tomorrow I return to my day job at the Post Office. It was my first real vacation in 4 years and the first time I have taken a full week off of everything since…well…I can’t even remember when.

Ironically, when I was looking for things to write about, I came across this picture. It reminded me of something I think we could all benefit from. Stress, anxiety and overwhelm seem to be the status quo these days. Especially in “developed” countries. I put that word in quotes because we must ask ourselves what really is developed. Sure, our technology might be advanced. Does that make up for the lack of low-tech enjoyment? Our productivity might be at record levels, but what about the self-care that we all seem to sacrifice to get ahead? If our work output is developed, does that even matter when our spirit is not? It is time to change the focus.

Take the first item on this list. Humans were not meant to sit at a desk from 9 to 5. We really were not. We are meant to be physically active creatures. We were meant to move. Not only does physical exercise help reduce stress and release natural feel-good chemicals in the brain, it helps prevent and reverse many of the health conditions we all suffer from. You don’t have to slave in the gym for an hour, although I enjoy the feeling afterward. You can incorporate walks after dinner, bike rides with friends or even creating a dance routine to your favorite song when nobody is home. Moving helps us both mentally and physically.

The answer must be more relaxing right? The answer to that is both yes and no. While taking some time to unwind is something we should all invest in, how we do so becomes very important. Coming home to relax and watch a little television or a movie is not a bad thing. Bing watching for several hours every night is not healthy. Not only does it deprive us of the movement that is so valuable that we mentioned above, but it deprives us of time to accomplish things that will give us a feeling of pride and self-confidence. Again, this is not to say we should never relax with our favorite streaming service, just that we should do so with moderation. We should also mix in reading our favorite book, spending time with friends, taking a leisurely walk in nature and other relaxing options.

How about only exploring the world only 2 weeks a year? As discussed earlier, I am as guilty of this as anyone else. We need to get away and experience other cultures and people as often as we can. Not only will this broaden our knowledge of people and their circumstances, it may shed new light on our own lives. Look at this beautiful sunset picture I took over the ocean. A scene like that refreshes the soul. Talking with many of the Jamaican people, I learned that they were truly happy with a life that included a lot less than I was used to having. How did they do that? By focusing on being grateful for what they had. Seeing the poverty that many of the islands people lived in, reminded me to be grateful for all that I have. Even just hearing what is important to them and to their families allowed me to see life in a completely different light. Their friendly hospitality everywhere we went was amazing.

How about creativity? Adults seldom, if ever, spend time on creative pursuits. I believe this is for one of two reasons. First, they view such endeavors as wasted time. What does coloring a picture accomplish? I will tell you what it accomplishes. It helps save your brain from a meltdown! That is why I am happy to see the popularity of ‘adult coloring books’. Why do more people not do this? I think another reason is that adults are afraid of not doing things perfectly. If they look worse than their neighbor, they think they have failed. Not true. Picasso had people with square noses and he was considered a great success. The point is to just have fun and let lose. Keep that right side of your brain healthy. If I had to worry about being better than my neighbor, I would never do much. Margie is a very accomplished artist and can do almost any art thing better than I can. Still, I understand that we all have our own unique talents and shine in our own way. Speaking of Margie, she provides another clue to maintaining a creative outlet – surround yourself with creative people. The other night at dinner she stared at her blank placemat and exclaimed, “I need crayons!” She was serious. You need someone like that.

This plays into our last point. Not to have all your aspirations beaten out of you. In a world of online critics, this can be more difficult than ever. Remember this, someone who is truly happy with themselves will never criticize others. One of the most difficult critics to defeat is the one between your own ears. I remember when I thought about starting a blog, writing my first book, starting a YouTube channel or starting a podcast, I did my best to talk myself out of it. Luckily for me, I also had people in my life that pushed the issue. You want to write a book? Give it a shot! You want to become a fashion designer? Try putting together a few outfits. We function best when we are pursuing a dream. Never give up on yours!

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