It’s rather ironic that I live such a stress-free life in such a stressed-out country. But I don’t feel even a little guilty. I can’t imagine trading my life with anyone, or selling my lack of stress for any dollar amount.
Some may feel that, unless there is at least a modicum of stress in your life, you’re lacking in ambition or character. Perhaps, but it may be just that I actually enjoy doing what others call work. Currently I teach a few hours a week, do a bit of programming and dabble in design. If I did any one of those full-time, I’d be annoyed. However, these 3 activities satisfy my natural needs for social interaction, mental challenges and creative ventures, respectively. None of them feel like work.
In addition to my career choices, there are habits in my life that also contribute to this feeling of stress-free contentment. Let me mention a few.
- Minimal Work Hours: I seldom work more than 30 hours a week. While this restricts me to a modest lifestyle, I have all the time necessary to include other activities that alleviate stress.
- Measured Promotions: I’ve taken several promotions in my life, but have also refused several. If the position in question will involve an environment of unhealthy tension, I unashamedly turn it down. I am very fortunate in my current position. I had a total of 2 meetings with my superiors last year. I have full autonomy in most decisions.
- No TV: I have not had a television for several years now. Therefore, I don’t experience any guilt stemming from spending hours watching programs that add little to my mental and social well-being and personal development.
- Healthy Escapism: While I have no TV, I immensely enjoy a good movie now and then. I usually go by myself so I can lose myself in the emotions of the story. The dance floor is another excellent place to zone out.
- Spontaneity: I seldom plan ahead for non-critical events such as movies. This might be problematic if I had few friends to call on a moment’s notice for coffee, pizza or a movie, but as I have a very large social network. I’m confident I can, after a few phone calls, find someone willing to hang out.
- Expansive Social Networks: My network of friends is so extensive, I can head to nearly any district of Tokyo at any time of the day or night, and expect to bump into friends and have a good time. I seldom feel lonely.
- Quality Friendships: I don’t waste my time with people who are incurably negative or critical of others. At times I’ll accommodate such a person with the hope that I can positively influence them to change their perspective, but I’ve learned that you can’t change everyone. If you’ve friendships that only offer you stress, move on. Life’s too short, and there are too many good people out there to waste your time on the hopelessly negative.
- No Conflict Theories: If you approach your social world with the attitude that there is and “us” and a “them”, you’re headed towards stress and most likely disaster. Life is not a competition. Let others define their world, and be content to gently coax them towards behaviors and attitudes that you think would benefit them. The happiest people have a high degree of altruism. That does not mean, however, that you must put up with stupidity.
- Honesty: Altruism does not mean you put up with stupidity. If someone’s behavior affects you or others negatively, nip it in the bud with a firm but gentle rebuke. There is, unfortunately, a natural human tendency to take advantage of the kindness of others. Being altruistic does not mean you have to accommodate cruelty or stupidity that will have negative consequences for you or others. This is especially true for romantic partners.
- Measured Reach: Don’t try to fix everything. The world is a very big place with injustice and suffering everywhere. The noble human emotions of empathy and guilt cease to be noble when they have overwhelmed the psyche to a point of incapacitation or persistent discontent. Pick your roles in the world well. Understand your limitations. Plant your feet well, and reach out to only as many as you have strength for.
- Adequate Exercise: I’ve been pumping a few weights and riding my bicycle fairly regularly recently, and I feel great! And I dance about 2 times more a week than most men my age.
- Adequate Sleep: Alright, this has been a recent weakness. I need to get back into the mode where I am getting 7.5+ hours of sleep nightly at regular times. I’m most creative when I’ve sleep well, but this creative spirit is then what often has me blogging into the night.
- Intake Moderation: This applies to food, alcohol and tobacco. Do what it takes to eliminate habits that control you.
- Fresh Stimulation: Explore. This can be geographical, social or academic. Ride you’re bicycle into an unknown district and see if you can find your way back. Walk into a club and talk to the first person you see. Walk through a large bookstore and pick up a book on a topic you’ve never studied.
- Image Redefinition: Don’t let others define who you are. Don’t let your fear of change define who you are. Try a new hairstyle, glasses and style of interaction. Become an actor and project a new image. Very often, this acting is sublimated and becomes a part of a new image that can become part of your image arsenal.
Well, I’ve mentioned more points than what I had expected. These have worked quite well for me. Now I better get that sleep I was talking about.