Six Things You Need to Recover From Every Day

Written by on December 11, 2017 in Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Benjamin P. Hardy | Uplift Connect

The Importance of Detaching

Less than 1% of people are living according to the principles/science described herein. However, I’m confident that if you apply these recovery principles to your life, you’ll live a more engaged, meaningful, and productive life.

Being busy and being productive are far from the same thing. Most people are trying to do too much. The desire to ‘keep up’ has them doing more, living less, and deceiving themselves into believing they’ve actually made progress.

True growth and success are always sustainable. It’s not a short sprint with an inevitable physical, mental, and emotional crash. All goals are means, not ends. Each succeeding stage of your progression should clearly build one-upon-another, leaving you stronger and more able, not weaker and permanently damaged.

In order to do this, you must properly ‘recover’ from the following things, on a daily basis:

  • Work
  • Technology
  • People
  • Food
  • Fitness
  • Being awake

Unless you adequately recover in these areas, your life is a mess. Moreover, by adequately recovering, you’ll be empowered to more fully engage in these activities. Recovery is essential to success in all areas of life.

For the rest of this article, I’ll detail the scientific findings and applications related to proper recovery.

1. Recover from Work

‘Overcommitment’ is a heavily studied concept in psychology. It happens when you have inflated perceptions of work demands, and when you see your own ability to handle those demands as far superior to your ‘less involved’ colleagues. For most, this perception is a ‘distortion’ which prevents you from accurately making a cost-benefit analysis of work behaviors.

The following questions come from a psychological measure assessing overcommitment. On a scale from one (low commitment) to four (high overcommitment), how would you rate yourself on the following questions?

  • I get easily overwhelmed by time pressures at work.
  • As soon as I get up in the morning, I start thinking about work problems.
  • When I get home, I can easily relax and ‘switch off’ work.
  • People close to me say I sacrifice too much for my job.
  • Work rarely lets me go, it is still on my mind when I go to bed.
  • If I postpone something that I was supposed to do today, I’ll have trouble sleeping at night.

Although most people are finding it difficult to ‘unplug’ from work, recent science in the field of Occupational Health Psychology is showing how essential it is to unplug, daily.

This article is about setting proper and healthy boundaries/constraints upon yourself. Unless you do, you are not living a sustainable lifestyle. Unless you create healthy boundaries—your work, health, and relationships are being compromised. For instance, research in several fields have found that recovery from work is a necessity for staying energetic, engaged, and healthy when facing job demands.

‘Recovery’ is the process of reducing or eliminating physical and psychological strain/stress caused by work. One particular recovery strategy that is getting lots of attention in recent research is called ‘psychological detachment from work.’ True psychological detachment occurs when you completely refrain from work-related activities and thoughts during non-work time.

Without question, work in a global environment is highly competitive, and thus highly stressful and demanding. Consequently, the stresses of today’s work—which create negative emotions, negative physical symptoms, and psychological impairments—are often fully-consuming, which make it very difficult to psychologically detach.

Proper detachment/recovery from work is essential for physical and psychological health, in addition to engaged and productive work. Yet, few people do it. Most people are always available to their email and work. Millennials are the worst, often wearing the openness to work ‘whenever’ as a badge of honor. It’s not a badge of honor.

Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:

  • Less work-related fatigue and procrastination.
  • Far greater engagement at work, which is defined as vigor, dedication, and absorption (i.e. ‘flow’).
  • Greater work-life balance, which directly relates to quality of life.
  • Greater marital satisfaction.
  • Greater mental health.

Interestingly, other research shows that when a parent has irregular work hours, there can be devastating effects on the development and well-being of their children. These problems are compounded when the parent has depressive symptoms, low-quality parenting, reduced child-parent interaction and closeness, and a less supportive home environment.

Again, the likelihood of experiencing some forms of depression are dramatically increased if you don’t properly detach from work. Furthermore, if you don’t properly ‘unplug,’ you’ll lack engagement while at home. Put more directly, you’ll be distracted and burned-out. As a result, you probably won’t have quality interactions or closeness with your kids, spouse, or friends. It’s a vicious cycle.

In his book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts—Becoming the Person You Want to Be, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith explains that people who are successful in their work are often content being ‘unsuccessful’ in the other areas of their lives—particularly their relationships. In other words, most people are okay with being mediocre spouses, parents and friends, but are not okay with being mediocre in their jobs.

Huge disconnect.

When you’re at work, be fully absorbed. When it’s time to call it a day, completely detach yourself from work and become absorbed in the other areas of your life. If you don’t detach, you’ll never fully be present or engaged at work or at home. You’ll be under constant strain, even if minimally. Your sleep will suffer. Your relationships will be shallow. Your life will not be happy.

The belief that you must work 8+ hours a day reflects an outdated mental model. The nine–five work schedule was developed during the industrial revolution for factory workers, whose work was mostly physical labor. Yet, most of today’s work is mental, not physical. According to psychologist, Ron Friedman:

Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well.

Research has shown that addiction to stimulants, such as caffeine, is largely the product of the nine–five work shift. Mental work is far more taxing than physical work. Again, you only have a few (probably less than five) really good hours each day. But if you focused more on recovery, the energy you would put into various responsibilities would improve ten fold. This would allow you far more time to rest and enjoy life.

Rather than spending eight–ten hours in low-focused and high-distracted work, spend three–five hours in engaged and absorbed flow. You’ll get more done in one day than most people get done in a week. You’ll also be able to more fully engage in the other essential areas of your life.

In order to do this, you must set clear boundaries and expectations with yourself and others. If you set things up clearly, people at work will respect that when you’re away, you’re not available except in case of emergency.

2. Recover from Technology

In our technology-overwhelmed world, the only way to properly recover from work is to set healthy boundaries on your technology. For instance, a recent study found that constant smartphone use stops people from properly recovering from work (and life). In a sense, people are always ‘on’ to distraction and connection. They never disconnect. Most people keep their smartphones on them constantly, and admit to experiencing withdrawals if they don’t have their smartphone for more than a few hours.

In the study, the experimental group, who became more conscious of their smartphone use and took adequate breaks from it, were able to experience psychological detachment from work, relaxation, and mastery.

Smartphone addiction is reflected in impulsive behavior, withdrawals, and impaired functioning. One study found that the average person checks their smartphone over 85 times per day, and spends more than five hours browsing the web and using apps. People check their phones more than twice as much as they think they do. Thus, more often than not, people are unconsciously triggered to check their smartphones.

This lack of consciousness is reflected in all other areas of most people’s lives—as we are holistic systems. No one component of your life can be viewed in isolation. If you spend several hours unconsciously using technology, how could you expect to be fully engaged in your work and relationships?

Here are some of the outcomes of unhealthy smartphone use:

  • Increased depression, anxiety, and ‘daytime dysfunction.’
  • Decreased sleep quality.
  • Decreased psychological and emotional well-being.
  • Decreased emotional intelligence (this study also found that if parents are reflective and thoughtful about smartphone use, their children experience less detrimental effects).
  • Increased stress (which lowers life satisfaction) and decreased academic performance (which lowers life satisfaction) among students.

One study found negative effects of using laptops and cellphones within one–two hours of going to sleep. Specifically, the study found that individuals who stopped staring at screens one–two hours before sleep:

  • Experienced substantially higher sleep quality and less sleep ‘disturbances’.
  • Increased ability to maintain enthusiasm to get things done while working.

The authors/researchers of the study concluded simply by saying:

We should restrict the use of mobiles and laptops before sleep for sound mind and good health.

According to Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of, You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work, highly successful people such as former US President, Barack Obama and Bill Gates are known to read for at least a half hour before bed. According to Kerr, the last thing most successful people do before bed is work (often displayed by checking our email).

Interestingly, other research has found that if you associate your bed with work, it’ll be harder to relax there. In order to sleep well, keep your bedroom as a place for sleep. The triggers in your environment directly influence your behavior. If you have a TV in your bedroom, your sleep will suffer. If you use your smartphone before bed, your sleep will suffer. If you check your smartphone immediately upon waking up, your engagement in the rest of your day will suffer.

Like work, proper boundaries must be set on technology–particularly smartphones–if you want to live an optimal life. You need to recover from your technology and smartphones.

Rather than checking your smartphone, do something productive with your morning, which for most people is the best time for creative output and learning. Many of the world’s most successful people avoid checking their cellphone, email, or social media for several hours after they’ve woken up. Instead, they engage in creative work, physical exercise, strategic planning and goal setting, and spending time with loved ones.

Furthermore, boundaries on technology should happen after work as well. If you have your smartphone on your person, you’ll unconsciously check it, even if you have the best of intentions. The unhealthy triggers are too strong.

Instead, recover from your technology. Set a time at night when you’re done with your smartphone, social media, and email. Create other boundaries on technology so you can more deeply engage in your relationships and other areas of life in the real world.

Here’s some solid benchmarks which you can use to adjust your usage:

  • Best practice to avoid technology for the first 30–60 minutes of waking.
  • Best practice to avoid mindless internet use as well as email and social media (i.e., inputs) for first two–four hours of waking.
  • Best practice to avoid smartphone use and internet for one–two hours before sleep.
  • Best practice to keep your smartphone away from your person when you’re with other people (leave it in your car, at home, or in a different room).

Get in the habit of not always having your cellphone with you, especially while you’re at home with your family. Very few people experience the gift of your full and uninhibited attention. Give them that gift. Keep your smartphone away from yourself as much as you possibly can. Your whole life will get better.

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