If you can barely manage to run to the store to finally make that return between meetings and soccer practice on a good day, it might be time to revaluate your jam-packed calendar. People who spend more high quality “me-time” not only have better psychological well being, but are also more engaged at work and experience improved work-life balance, according to a recent study by UK psychologist Dr. Almuth McDowall.
The benefits of “me-time” aren’t just reserved for people who spend time in solitude: dining, taking a walk with a friend, or even taking a dance class also qualify—as long as those activities enrich your life in some way. “Me-time is a much talked about concept usually because people lament that they don't have any. Interestingly we found that me-time doesn't have to be solitary and is more beneficial if it involves freely chosen activities,” McDowall said in a statement.
When we consistently give too much of ourselves to others and don’t carve out sacred time for the things that ultimately matter to us the most, then we’re not living a balanced life—and that starts to zap energy, says Derrick Carpenter, a positive psychology practicioner and advisor to happify.com, who is unaffiliated with the study. Choosing to do the things that matter most can help us recharge, he adds. Here, Carpenter explains the habits of people who find time for themselves, despite their busy schedules.
They wake up early.
When the whole family is awake and you’re juggling everyone’s needs (one kid needs his homework signed, another needs breakfast), it can keep you from making time for the activities you love. Wake up 30 minutes earlier than the rest of your household to do what makes you happy—whether that’s reading the news with a cup of coffee or going for a run. “By waking up while your family is still asleep, you create sacred time for yourself before the hectic day hijacks your schedule,” says Carpenter.
They keep the door closed.
Whether you work from home or head to the office every morning, it can pay to keep the door closed while you do your job. “As much as we like to think we can multi-task, our minds do much better focusing on one task a time,” says Carpenter. “By giving a clear ‘Do Not Disturb’ signal for part of your day, you can more efficiently check off your to-do list, ultimately creating more time for you to decide how to use.”
They actually take a lunch break—outside.
“Two great ways to use your time to boost happiness are spending time in nature and getting out of your routine,” says Carpenter. If you tend to eat lunch inside, shake up your normal routine by heading to a park. Plus, being around green spaces can reduce built up stress, Carpenter adds.
“Many of us turn to our devices as soon as we have some time to ourselves, but that rarely rejuvenates us,” says Carpenter. Rather than scrolling through your newsfeed, find other enjoyable activities that will reenergize you, like taking a walk or reading a book.
They make plans—with themselves.
Oftentimes, the things that make us happy—taking a favorite fitness class, visiting a new exhibit—are the easiest things to cut out of a busy schedule. “By scheduling a date for one on your calendar, you are mentally giving these activities the same priority you would an activity with a friend or colleague and are more likely to follow through,” says Carpenter.