- How this philosopher discovered the Good Life
- This 300-year-old secret of happiness will help you avoid post-COVID burn-out
- Why you need to indulge in these four activities every day
In 1726 a young man named David Hume embarked on a mission.
He was going to teach himself law.
For hours and hours every day, he pored through books, memorised texts and pushed himself to learn as much as he could.
But within a few years he was sick of it.
The whole thing made him feel mentally and physically nauseous.
So he abandoned his plan in order to pursue some philosophical ideas that were playing on his mind.
Yet again, though, he threw himself into hard work so aggressively that he burned out within 6 months.
“All my Ardour seem’d in a moment to be extinguisht,” he wrote, “and I could no longer raise my Mind to that pitch, which formerly gave me such excessive Pleasure.”
In short, Hume had become depressed.
These were the days before you could reach for some pills, go to therapy or find any real help for this issue, so he decided to come up with his own solution for his malaise.
That was to study less intensively, exercise daily and make time for relaxation and socialising.
It was the young philosopher’s ideal formula for the Good Life!
Later, in his book, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume wrote: “The mind requires some relaxation, and cannot always support its bent to care and industry.”
And in his final years, the ageing philosopher would tell his eighteen-year-old nephew, “Every day, fair or foul, you ought to use some exercise.”
It’s remarkable to think that 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution had begun, this famous philosopher had developed a form of self-help to combat the demands of modern life that still apply today.
More so, in fact…
Getting that balance right is tough.
But never more important!
How the pandemic ruined the ‘good life’ for millions
For the past year, during the pandemic, many of us have lost any sense of life balance whatsoever.
We’ve not been able to socialise… many sports and activities were cancelled… we got stuck at home for days and weeks on end… back pain and joint pain increased… loneliness and isolation became rife.
Those who worked in the frontline, or struggled to keep businesses afloat, ended up burning out because of long hours in insufferable conditions.
So here we are in summer 2021 and Britain is, mentally speaking, ‘out of whack’.
Now, with everything opening up again, there are new risks of overloading our lives. We risk partying too much… working too hard… or doing both without relaxing or exercising enough.
So my advice over the coming months (and this goes for me too) is to try and find the kind of balance that worked for David Hume.
Even if you work a full-time job, make sure that every single day you:
- Find some time to just sit in a quiet place, if you can, and let your mind wander. Stare out of the window if you like. It’s meditation but without the need to ‘learn’ the skill or get into the philosophy of it – just find 60 seconds a day to sit still, that’s all you need to help relieve stress. It’s amazing what doing nothing can do for you.
- Take the time to enjoy something properly, like listening to a piece of music, baking a cake or pottering in the garden. These fulfilling past-times stimulate your natural feel good chemicals. To give you an example of why this helps, researchers have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neuro-chemicals that improve brain function and mental health.
- Talk to someone you love, even if it’s just on the phone, Skype, Facetime or Zoom. It’s so important to stay connected to people. Loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline and depression, as well as heart disease.
- Do some exercise. Go for a short jog, a swim, or do a living room workout. Even a brisk walk will do the trick. Back in 2012 a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that walking helped ease depression. And in 2017, researchers found that the impact of your foot on the ground sends pressure waves through your arteries when you walk. This helps increase the supply of blood to your brain, improving alertness and concentrations.
These four activities are often pushed out of the way in any given day because we feel that we are too busy or that we should wait until we find proper time to do them.
We assume that these things should take a back seat because they are low priority or ‘indulgences’.
But actually, by making sure you add these to your schedule every day, you can INCREASE your productivity in the long run, because you won’t burn out.
You’ll also find yourself in a generally happier frame of mind and more able to deal with stress and anxiety.
The key is not to put these activities off until you get some mystical weekend where you suddenly have all the time in the world, but to build them into even your most hectic days.
It’s about making them part of the fabric of your daily life, not saving them up for holidays.
I won’t pretend it’s easy…
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be amazed at how hard it can be to find a few minutes to relax, do nothing or speak to a friend. You really have to force yourself to stop!
But try it, nevertheless. It works wonders for me – and I think it could do a lot of my readers some good too!