This year the Easter weekend snuck up on me.
That isn’t unusual. I struggle to keep track of the days of the week, so it makes sense that long weekends, like last weekend, often escape my awareness. I suspect it’s the plight of many people who are self-employed, especially if you live on your own.
Even though I’d forgotten it was Easter, I had plans that encompassed that time. I was excited and happy – until those arrangements fell through. Then I found myself feeling decidedly dissatisfied with life.
I tried to pivot and make new arrangements. I met up with a good friend for a few hours, but for the most part people were either away or spending time with their families. That just emphasized the fact that it was the first Easter in decades I didn’t have any family nearby.
Normally, I love having unexpected free time appear. But this time I viewed the expanse of unscheduled days like an empty void rather than a blessing. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dissatisfaction that plagued me.
I was probably feeling disappointed that something I’d been looking forward to, hadn’t worked out. Because I thought I’d be busy for a couple of weeks, I’d worked tirelessly to get all the things done that I’d been putting off.
My house was clean, and I was caught up on my paperwork. There was nothing jumping up and down trying to grab my attention. Life seemed boring and I was restless.
When I was younger, I would probably have blamed external factors for my feelings, but that leads to victim energy. I didn’t want to sulk or blame the universe for my feelings so, after indulging in them briefly – OK, maybe a little longer than that—I decided to be proactive.
What could I do to help myself feel better? I couldn’t magically create family or go back in time to prevent my plans from changing, so instead I decided to find out more about how I was feeling and ways to cope with it.
It turns out that boredom is the flip side to feeling overly busy. That fact got my attention because I’m far more likely to experience busyness than boredom.
Of course, busyness and boredom are subjective. Some people love cleaning, while others consider it a form of torture and avoid it at all costs. Having nothing to do can feel decadent or dissatisfying. Boredom comes when you believe you have too few quality things to focus on.
Busyness brings with it a belief there are good things to do but you don’t have time for them.
The answer to both problems revolves around finding high-quality activities to immerse yourself in. Your objective is to achieve a state of flow. This term describes times when you’re completely absorbed in a task.
This state was first identified and researched by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I recommend his book Flow, if this is something you’re interested in learning more about.
To achieve flow, your activity needs to be challenging yet doable. Things that are too difficult or too easy won’t provide the opportunity you’re looking for.
With the right mindset and a little creativity, you can find flow in almost any activity. Try listening to an interesting audio book while vacuuming or dusting or challenge yourself to get your entire house cleaned within a certain time limit.
If busyness is your constant companion, focus on the high-quality activities on your list first. This will soothe your belief that you don’t have time for the good stuff. It’s also likely to give you perspective on some of the optional activities that you keep telling yourself are vital.
It doesn’t matter how much personal development you’ve done, there’s always more growing to do. I believe in being proactive and choosing the life I want to live, but that didn’t make it any easier to banish my feelings of dissatisfaction.
I’d be lying if I said they’d disappeared completely, even now. I had to go back to basics and figure out how to increase my feelings of wellbeing. Don’t judge yourself when this happens.
I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to practicing happiness, and yet I struggled.
Choosing happiness involves having tools to help when life dips into unexpected ruts. Knowing what activities provide you with a sense of flow is a device that had fallen to the bottom of my toolbox and got lost. It’s now been reestablished.
Rather than waiting for life to force your hand, start thinking now about ways you can battle boredom or busyness. What high-quality activities float your boat?
I was also reminded of the importance of releasing resistance. I wish I could say I easily accepted my situation, but that would be a lie. I spent much of the weekend wishing things were different.
Resistance can’t be partially released. It’s all or nothing. You can choose to wallow in the negative emotions of your circumstances, or you can accept what is and make the best of it.
As with most things in life, the decision is yours.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.