If you’re reading this, you’re probably lucky enough to have a fridge full of food, a computer and an internet connection, and a level of comfort and luxury that vast numbers of women in the world would long for. And yet, for many of us, being able to actually relax and enjoy life feels like an impossible challenge. (Which we promptly feel more guilty about…).
A famous 2009 study, “the paradox of female unhappiness” showed that women reported their levels of happiness to be declining overall, even as they gained equality and economic power during the 1970s. So if you’re feeling unsure about how to get some joy back into your life, perhaps it’s reassuring to know you’re not alone.
Finding happiness: where to start
If you’re struggling to find any motivation at all, or feel that you’re in need of extra support, it might be time to get some more tailored help. Chat to your doctor or give the office a call if you think you need support beyond the simple tips I’m going to share now.
But if you’re just feeling a little flat, and would love to get your “mojo” for life back, these 5 questions can make a real difference.
After all, finding out what makes you happy and discovering ways to bring more joy into your life wasn’t on the curriculum for most of us at school. And the archetype of “Superwoman” – the mode so many of us find ourselves trapped in – is characterised by a constant state of striving towards the next (often unattainable) goal.
So what’s the answer? Here are 5 quick questions to ask yourself if being able to relax and enjoy life is something you’d love to know the trick to.
1. Are you playing to your strengths?
When it comes to how you spend your time – at work, with your family, or with friends, are you the proverbial square peg in a round hole? Perhaps you’re a creative free-thinker, and yet your role in your team has you cracking the whip to meet deadlines and tick boxes. Or you crave security, and yet are stuck on the freelance rollercoaster, desperate for some consistency in your income and your workload.
For high achieving women, the tendency is often to blame ourselves if we’re not happy. We think we need to work harder or adopt new habits. But it may simply be that you’d be more in flow, feel more valued and in control, and find everything easier, if you were doing activities that suited you better.
Knowing your strengths is the first step here. When you understand what makes you tick, you’ll find it far easier to make decisions about what might be beneficial to change.
2. Are you being too hard on yourself?
Perhaps you’re pretty sure your work is a good fit for you. In fact, it might be something you’re so passionate about that it’s starting to be a problem – when you find you can’t switch off and nothing you do feels like it’s enough.
Feeling constantly inadequate is a sure symptom of Superwoman. The truth is, we’re all human, and there are limits to what we’re able to achieve. High standards aren’t a problem per se, but if your expectations are unrealistic you’re setting yourself up for exhaustion, overwork and even burnout.
Talking through what’s on your plate with a coach, peer or trusted friend can be a good way to gauge if you’re overstretching yourself. Or try writing out a big list of everything you’re aiming to achieve in the next month or so. Is it realistic? Does it leave time for you to rest and replenish your energy? Be honest – creating a more achievable framework might radically reduce the pressure you feel.
3. Are you building in time to relax?
We often need more rest than we think. And one of the key ways to make sure that rest is as effective as possible is by paying attention to your natural energy cycles. If you’re menstruating, that might mean scheduling in extra downtime around your period. And if you don’t have a menstrual cycle, you’ll probably still notice an ebb and flow of your energy at different times.
Whether it’s as simple as taking a walk after lunch or getting an early night the day before a breakfast meeting, paying attention to the rest you need and allowing the time you need to replenish your energy can pay dividends.
Fresh air, movement, time to connect – the exact replenishment you need will vary. The key is to make time to ask yourself what you need – and then do it.
Good relationships lift you up and support you. In the words of Michelle Obama:
“Good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourself with.”
If the friends you spend time with, the people you follow on social media or the team you work with are draining, unkind or just not aligned with your values, it’s bound to feel challenging. Our online community is a great place to connect with likeminded women – or perhaps there’s a local group you could meet with in person. From sport to knitting to personal development, there are countless groups where you might find the support you really need. Get that warm support in place, and you might find your outlook begins to change.
5. How can you bring more pleasure into your life?
I’m a big fan of “bridging rituals” – ways of marking the transition from one way of being to another. For example, taking a walk round the garden on my way to my home office; pulling an inspirational “goddess card” to set an intention, or having a bath to relax at the end of a long day.
Part of the function of these rituals is to act as a marker that I’m shifting from one energy to another. Perhaps I’ve been having a difficult conversation with a team member, or been deep in a financial meeting where we’re making projections for the future, and it’s time for me to transition into “Mum” mode. Or I might have been down on the floor playing Lego with my son, and now it’s time for me to spend some quality time with my husband outside of our work and family responsibilities. These little rituals help make me more effective and present in each of the different activities that make up my day.
But the other thing they do is act as small mindful moments. They’re pleasurable things in themselves – a scented candle, the fresh air of the garden, a delicious bath.
There’s no rule that says life has to be difficult or boring. If you’re finding it hard to relax, ask yourself what small pleasures you can bring into your day. Could you get some photos of happy times printed and framed, to brighten up your desk? Buy yourself some gorgeous stationery to brighten tedious admin tasks? Or find an inspiring podcast or audiobook to make a long commute something you look forward to?
Want more help to enjoy life?
Knowing how to make life more fun starts with knowing who you are: what lights you up, what feels natural and easy, and what challenges, blocks or frustrates you.
Your Women’s PowerTypes Profile™ is a personalised report into your unique balance of PowerTypes and the insight it brings is remarkable. It can help you:
- Get clarity on your motivations, reactions, and natural strengths – why you behave the way you do (and why that varies in different situations)
- “Change the channel” and choose a fresh approach whenever you encounter a new challenge – one that feels good
- Step away from triggers, flare-ups and frustration without getting caught up in drama or switching off your emotions
- Understand why other profiles or personal development tools might have felt incomplete or failed to “stick” – and what you can do differently
- Feel more in control, relaxed, and able to express yourself fully in every area of your life
Sound good? Click here to get your report today.
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