I don’t think anyone wants to be a robot. But as we grow older we find ways to “automate” our lives in various ways, to make things easier, to be more efficient. It begins with the alarm clock. Then it may seep into how we shop at the grocery store — “Think in meals” — and you buy a specific amount of food that you consume throughout the week. Or it may be in how we dress, cue Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck.
But these automations have a certain cost. Serendipity can be lost. You can lose a sense of what makes you you, or what makes you most happy, balanced, and content.
To keep my humanity in a highly automated world, here are five things I need to do — some daily, some weekly — to stay balanced, to stay most me:
1. Spend me-time
Some people get energy from being with other people for long periods of time. Not me. To keep my energy and stay level-headed, I need time alone to think, to ponder.
It took me a long time to accept this. When I was in college I used to go out until 5am with friends because otherwise I’d be the outcast of the group. I’d think that if I didn’t hang out with them, then I would somehow miss out. But now, sometimes I go home right after having a great dinner with friends — they walk towards the clubs, I walk toward my bed. And my friends have learned to be fine with that. To be true to what I want, I need me-time.
Growing up, I’d spend a lot of time dancing alone in my bedroom. I loved putting on my headphones and going nuts.
As an adult, I thought this was childish, or just not what you’re supposed to do in your own apartment, when you’re not drunk or at a club. But I’ve realized in the past few months that I am much happier if I put on my favorite tunes and dance. I love doing it, it makes me happy, and this happiness makes me feel more like me.
3. Writing every day
Writing is a way for me to think. If I don’t write, my thoughts get cloudy; I become moody. Sometimes when I’m stressed I grab a paper journal out of my backpack and find a quiet place to write about how I’m feeling.
Since I started writing regularly on Medium and on this blog, I’ve been a lot happier, much more clear-headed. Writing is a way for me to connect with the world, and to connect with myself.
If I don’t work out within five days, I begin to feel antsy, like I have too much energy welled up inside my chest and I need to get it out. It doesn’t matter what I do — yoga, swimming, lifting weights — I just need to do something physical.
5. Shul go’in
I grew up religious, and since the last year and a half I’ve been going to shul regularly. It’s as if my soul knows where it needs to be and walks me directly to synagogue on Friday night, because it knows it needs to be there. If I don’t go to services for longer than a week, something feels off.
So, there you have it: my five things that keep me feeling happy and healthy.
And what about you? What do you need to do regularly to make you, you?