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What's the one thing you must do most days or things will not go right with you? The one thing that you will not give up for time or money or sex. (Okay, maybe for sex, but stick with me here.)
The one thing that will:
Make you smile more
Reduce your stress like an eraser disappearing a heavy black mark on a whiteboard.
For me, it's the gym. I like to lift weights. No, let me rephrase that: I need to lift weights. Time with the iron is my nonnegotiable.
See, there's just something about hoisting 190 pounds on a barbell on my back and rising with it that makes my ever-loving day. There's something about using my strength to deadlift 280 pounds off the ground that makes me smile.
Without the coping mechanism of lifting several times in my week, I feel a little unbalanced, a lot worn, and a whole bunch of cranky. These weight-lifting activities keep me from becoming unhinged. They are useful for stress management, but they do more—they center me.
They are mental activities as well as physical ones. On the platform, I find peace. In movement, I find mindfulness.
Now I know the gym isn't everybody's basket of joy. Some folks prefer:
Walking the dog in the cool morning air before the noise of the day begins.
Some folks need that first cup of coffee in the darkened kitchen with just a small light and their Bible or something like Thich Nhat Hanh's Your True Home. I know those folks. I can respect what they do because I appreciate all those things too. Reading and walking add to my day, but (for me) the nonnegotiable is physical movement of some sort. I'm a soul but I'm a physical being too, and I need to express that physicality almost daily and find my soul in it.
I guess what I'm saying is that we're all different people reaching for different things, yet we're the same in some ways, searching for connection with the spiritual inside us, somewhere we breathe and think and try to find the light and good in a world that can sometimes seem full of the dark and bad. It's important that we find what works for us on a deeper level and create space for our souls to expand, even if just for a minute or an hour in the most incongruous of places, where the only silence is in our minds, just for a moment, while our hearts and bodies might strain and sweat and soar (or do nothing at all). As Deepak Chopra says, "In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you."
Whatever your nonnegotiable is—whatever that thing is that helps you manage stress and cope with concerns and connect back to yourself—make sure you do it and make sure you protect the sanctity of that time. Allow no one to take it from you.
Scratch meetings off calendars to do it.
Ask someone to drive your carpool/run errands/cook dinner/do what needs to be done today, at least.
Find a pocket in this day of life just for you.
A nonnegotiable is, by definition, not a thing to be negotiated. So go do it. You'll feel better if you do, and so will everyone around you.
Lisbeth Darsh is the Digital Marketing Manager at 1440 Multiversity, as well as the author of six books and the popular fitness/inspiration blog Words With Lisbeth. A former executive at CrossFit Inc, she has also been a fitness coach/gym owner, an English professor, and a military officer, with degrees from Vassar College (BA) and California State University at Dominguez Hills (MA). You can usually find Lisbeth with a book or barbell in hand, looking to lift spirits and weights.