When it comes to achieving balance, there’s an inclination to believe we don’t have enough time for it.
It feels like something we need time for, right? To fit in the exercise. To make the healthy meal. To learn how to meditate. To do anything other than work and manage the kids and household.
This belief is understandable. Women carry a heavy and busy load and so the idea of fitting one more thing in to an already crowded, over-stuffed schedule is too much to contemplate. It just feels too hard.
The downside is of course that we continue to live life in a chronically imbalanced state – always feeling stressed, busy and tired, while the idea of doing something to resolve it is just another item on our to do list that adds pressure.
Enter the power of 10 minutes: a period of time that’s short enough to feel doable and not taxing, able to be frequently ‘found’ during the day, and long enough to get something of relative significance done.
When 20 minutes is too long and an hour an eternity
Juggling all the things, I found I would put off the walk at the beach, put off making a healthy lunch, put off the yoga or Pilates class – put off anything I needed for me because I didn’t have time. I felt the 30 minutes to an hour, or more, was too much time out of an already tight schedule.
When you work school hours, you need those hours to count. The idea of anything eating in to those hours made me anxious and resentful. Still does.
And so I would stay at the computer.
But that’s not an answer and I really needed to do something about managing my hormones – mainly, lowering stress and cortisol. And creating a feeling of balance is essentially a process of reducing your stress. You feel more balanced when you feel less stressed.
I committed to taking just 10 minutes for what I needed, knowing full well that 10 minutes often and easily becomes 20 or 30, but 10 minutes is not a hurdle to my brain or motivation.
I looked for the health habits that would be most beneficial for lowering my stress and cortisol, improve my mindset, and give my body a boost – movement, meditation, journaling, healthy food and being outside in nature.
What transpired is my #balancedin10 practice – the 10-minute habits that I try to practice daily so I lower my stress (and cortisol levels), and feel more balanced.
I call them the Daily Devotions, and doing them for just 10 minutes a day gives me a burst of feel-good hormones, energy and peace.
Be balanced in 10 with these daily devotions
10 minute mind – journaling
Did you keep a diary as a kid? I had one with a lock and key on it when I was a teen and I loved it.
It turns out that writing out your thoughts – or journaling as we adults call it – has many psychological and health benefits including reducing stress. The health benefits, including improved immune system, come from the psychological benefits because a reduction in stress brings about a reduction in the inflammatory reactions it causes in your body.
There are different approaches to journaling, from long form mind clutter clearing like Morning Pages, to short form bullet journals, and the much talked about gratitude journaling.
Personally, I have three journals – one for my morning mind clearing and thought processing that I mostly do when I sit down to start work; a gratitude journal I keep near my meditation space in which I scribble various random thoughts of gratitude in; and a small dot point journal I keep on my bedside table where, before I go to sleep, I can list three things that went well that day. Research shows that contemplating the positives in your daily life trains your brain to look for the positives, rather than the negatives that it’s hard-wired to do – so you develop a happier, more positive outlook.
It rarely takes me the whole 10 minutes.
10 minute body – smart exercise
I am not a fan of exercise and I find the idea of having to do it for long amounts of time really de-motivating.
But 10 minutes? Yeah OK, I can do that.
In 10 minutes I can walk briskly around the block. Or do a HIIT workout. Or walk up and down the stairs a gazillion times. Or do some yoga and stretch – 10 minutes of sun salutations will have your heart rate up. Or just move in general – lunges, planking, star jumps.
And I can do it once, twice, three times in a day without changing my schedule.
Now 10 minutes of dawdling isn’t enough for your health by any scientific measure I’ve seen, but 10 minutes at a higher intensity a couple of times a day can be.
So 10 minutes on its own probably isn’t enough (although I feel it’s better than nothing), but 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch time, and 10 minutes in the afternoon is going to do you good, and it’s eminently doable.
Even getting up every hour and moving for 10 minutes is a good idea. In an 8 hour work day, that’s 80 minutes of movement, so if you powerwalk around the block every hour, you’ll be smashing it.
Or it might be you already exercise but you aren’t a yogi – and that is your 10 minute body devotion.
10 minute peace – meditation
There is a ridiculous amount of research and anecdotal evidence that shows how good meditation is for you. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It can improve your focus and concentration and even beginners who meditate for just 10 minutes see improved attention.
It’s been shown to lower stress-caused inflammation in the body and it can improve sleep.
There are times when my 10 minutes feels impossible – I struggle to get my mind to settle (I just cannot imagine doing a vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat!). Other times, it seems to go really quickly.
There are many, many apps to help and ways to meditate. You can do it in the car waiting for the kids, instead of scrolling social media.
I include simple meditations in the Balanced in 10 Club to encourage members (and me) to take it up.
10 minute meals – real fast food and mindful eating
It’s easy to think you don’t have time to make a decent meal. It’s also easy to mindlessly scoff something when you’re in a hurry. Or to be so busy you don’t even pay attention to what you eat over time.
And so you rely on snacks, junk, sugar and caffeine and eat on the run.
But 10 minutes is long enough to make a green smoothie, a simple salad, an omelette.
It’s also long enough to sit and practice mindful eating – which is essentially just paying attention to your meal rather than watching TV/working/driving while you eat.
Mindful eating is good for your digestion – there is a mind-gut connection so when your mind is focused on what you’re eating, your digestive system is stimulated and therefore works more efficiently.
You’re more likely to eat less and eat better – you can listen to your body’s cues and not overeat – and you will also switch off your internal stress response and switch to the ‘rest and digest’ part of your nervous system. When your body is in stress mode, it doesn’t digest properly and it stores excess blood sugar as fat. So mindful eating can help with weight loss.
10 minute Gaia – nature time
Gaia was the Goddess of the Earth in Greek mythology, and so I use this term to remind myself that nature is our natural home and nurtures us in many mystical ways.
If that’s too woo for you, then fortunately, science backs it up – as little as 10–20 minutes spent sitting or walking outside in nature has been shown to help with mental health.
Being in a green space, or blue (near the water), has been shown to lift your mood and improve your feelings of wellbeing. Then of course if it’s also in the sun, you’ll get a dose of Vitamin D.
In our highly urban lifestyle in which we spend many more hours inside and under artificial lighting, we can go days without being outside and in natural light.
Taking 10 minutes – take your lunch, have a walk and combine two other 10 minute habits – to take in Mother Nature is time well spent.
Start a balance practice today.
Take the free #balancedin10 mini course – here.
Or join The Balanced in 10 Club for weekly inspiration and support to reduce your stress and live better.