Continuing on from part 5 of our Living a better life series, this week we're exploring psychological well-being. How can we build psychological resilience? These tips are a little more complex than what we've discussed earlier, and I've used some previously published content to help explain some of the points. We're going to look at how to avoid getting angry and simple ways to practice patience, and we'll talk about why consistency is so important and how to prioritise and be more productive.
1. Be productive with your time
If we can learn to be more productive with our time, we will inevitably spend less time in negative and destructive spaces; physically and psychologically. This means less TV, social media, gaming, music or whatever your vice is. Use the time to learn something new, or refresh your knowledge about things you know. Time is all we have in life, isn't it? How we use our time defines our reality, creates our opportunities and shapes our future. We feel busy with work, busy at home, and then the rest of the time we're busy trying to not be busy and enjoying some down time, whatever that looks like.
If we look at an average day, there's probably time we aren't utilising well enough. The time might not even fit in either of the three categories I mentioned above; work, home, or true down time. How can we be more productive?
Productivity really starts with better planning. Calendar blocking is a great tool to utilise our time better. I use a Google calendar for calendar blocking my time.
If you're able to be flexible with your working hours, try working for shorter periods of time. For example, give yourself three focused hours to complete dedicated tasks rather than working for eight hours straight which can result in a lot of time spent not getting much done.
One way to be more productive is to read, or read more. When we read we learn and develop ideas and new ways of thinking which helps us navigate our work, our relationships and our lives better - all contributing to better psychological well-being.
Have you noticed how much lack of sleep affects your mood? If we sleep well we're likely to be more focused and happier throughout the day, and that means more productive. Read more about segmented sleep in 5 tips for a healthy Muslim.
2. Take you time
Not the unplugging or reflective writing type of you time - the distractive, entertaining, take yourself on a date-type of you time. If you don't live alone, you probably don't get much time to indulge in things you enjoy by yourself. Eat out alone, or watch a movie or see a show. Enjoy yourself!
3. Know that you can always do something, even when you feel hopeless
We can only do what we can do. Sometimes we can find ourselves in that headspace that's beyond sadness or anger; despair. Making dua in this state helps us recognise and walkthrough each troubling situation, whilst realising gratitude. We can't fix everything and not everything is meant to be 'fixed', but we can identify actions that can be taken to improve it, even if only a little.
Sometimes the situations may seem beyond our ability to make a difference and the possible actions might be limited to supporting other people. This might look like monetary support, time, critical or kind words, reminders - whatever it is, it's something.
Some situations call for action that's more difficult to name and commit to. Some decisions might cause more chaos at first, before we start to see any positive changes. But sometimes to fix a thing we have to break it apart entirely before we can start putting the pieces back together the way they are meant to be.
4. Be consistent to avoid chaos
Consistency opposes and prevents chaos and it's key to sustaining good actions, productivity, good health, well-being, and clarity. When we're consistent we can maintain a healthy balance in life. Consistency means sustaining the good - being consistent in doing that which makes our journey a good one. Without consistency we get overworked and underrested, or so high on life that we eventually crash. If we do too much at once we overburden our routine and eventually fall out of it. Whether it's eating right or increasing our workload, if we change too much too soon we can't keep up and eventually loose the positivity we were aiming for, whether that's a better diet or an increase in productivity - we can't sustain it. Creating or improving consistency comes with choosing to make small, meaningful changes that we can sustain. Too much too soon wont last. Too big of a change can take the rest of our life out of consistency and towards chaos. Change is constant, and change is often necessary, but change is only worthwhile if it's sustainable.
5. Prioritise what gives you meaning
Do you wear lots of hats and struggle to say no to opportunities? Are you over-ambitious when it comes to personal goals like studying, reading, writing or exercise routines? Having lots of things on the agenda makes it easy to justify bouncing between several tasks or projects without giving the right ones priority. We should choose to finish what we start by prioritising better in order to complete more things, more often.
Just like we prioritise tasks and projects at work (read: projects that we're paid to do), we need to give other things in our life the same attention. This could mean prioritising specific tasks or activities, ie. finishing a specific book (task) or pencilling in more general reading time (activity). When we prioritise properly we complete more tasks and projects in less time, because when we're completing tasks, we're motivated by the sense of accomplishment and are likely to do more.
So how can we prioritise better? To effectively prioritise we need to identify our necessities and compete any outstanding tasks. For on-going necessities, we have to be consistent in doing them so they don't pile up and become harder to get on top of. For tasks that are more recreational or less important (not to be understood as unimportant) we can use a less strict routine and larger time frame for planning. For example: a necessary task might be studying, for which we can have a set amount of time each day to work on it; a less important task to us might be exercise, for which we could have a set amount of time over the week. This means our necessary tasks take priority over our less important ones, and less important ones get done only when our necessary tasks have been given their due attention.
6. Shift your anger into patience to increase in mercy
Patience is a virtue, for sure. Our ability to practice patience makes us better parents, partners and friends. But of course, this isn't always easy - sometimes it's incredibly difficult to not get angry in certain situations. How can we learn to shift our anger into patience to increase in mercy?
The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger. (Sahih Bukhari)
Nothing is heavier on the scale of the believer on the Day of Resurrection than his good character. Verily, Allah hates the shameless obscene person. (Sahih Tirmidhi)
Ways to Avoid Anger and Practice Patience
How can we avoid becoming angry and learn to practice patience?
Try identifying the things that happen as you are becoming angry - the signs - and consciously make the decision to stop feeding your anger when you recognise it. This might be mean walking away from a conversation and returning when the 'I'm getting angry' feeling has passed, and/or making a verbal affirmation. Eg. "I'm not going to continue this conversation/situation in anger." Often we are able to control our responses, our anger, better in some situations more than others. For example we may be able to navigate our responses better at work with our colleagues more than with our children! Think about why this is and how we achieve this control, and practice it in other situations.
Listen. This doesn't only mean letting others speak, it means truly listening and considering what is being said to you, pausing to reflect and then responding in a way that doesn't escalate the conversation. This can be harder than it sounds.
Learn to take losses. We don't need to win them all! Although we may be sure that our way of thinking and our desired outcomes are what's right and what's good for everyone involved - we may not be correct and even if we are, trying to impose that on others (especially children with immature minds) may be impossible at that exact time and only result in a level of immediate chaos for everybody.
Finally, let go of what has passed. In other words, don't hold grudges. Have you noticed that sometimes minor issues turn into massive (verbal) fights that all logic and compassion seem to be absent from? This is probably because we are holding grudges of some kind. The grudges may not even be with the person that the confrontation has happened with! It might be resentment or disappointment (with ourselves or with others). It could be a repetition of the same or similar small issue that sets us off when it arises. Whatever causes these blow ups - it's important for us to recognise the reasons and move past them.
Bonus tips: Read these posts about the benefits of reading and writing.