Don’t you want to feel like a kid again? Who wouldn’t miss a time where you didn’t have a million tasks on your To-Do list, where you could daydream all the time, and you only had to look out for yourself? Childhood was a great time for sure but just because you’re an adult now doesn’t mean that everything from childhood should be excluded from your life. Here are three bad things that adults aren’t supposed to do that are actually good for your well-being. Maybe being a kid again isn’t so hard.
3 “Bad” Things that Are Secretly Good for You
An English and Linguistics professor of mine once told the class that procrastination didn’t always have such a negative connotation as it does in modern times. Before the Industrial Revolution, taking time to make a decision was considered a good thing. As I read the best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I realized my professor was not the only person to notice the demonization of procrastination. Cain discusses how people in the pre-industrial time period valued integrity over productivity. Of course, hard-work has almost always been considered a virtue but at that time in history people were taught to strive to have an internal sense of character or integrity, not just be the most productive or successful person. To pre-industrial people, it would seem wrong to do something before they developed the character to handle the task or make the decision.
Google “How to Beat Procrastination” and see how many search results come up. Go on, I’ll be right here. I bet you found hundreds of thousands of articles telling you how to stop procrastinating. But has anyone actually taken the time to think there might be a good reason to procrastinate? Now, I’m not giving you permission to shirk all of your responsibilities or put everything off to the last moment. I am recommending that when you find yourself putting off a particular task, you take some time to reflect on the source of that procrastination. When you were a kid, it was easy to tell what you really wanted to do (of course, you wanted to play outside before finishing your homework). As an adult, you get so used to trading what you want to do for what needs to be done that you lose touch with your true wants and needs. Procrastination might be a way of your intuition telling you there is a deep reason to not wanting to do a particular task. Maybe you’re having trouble getting that graduate school application in the mail because deep down you aren’t sure that program is the right one for you. Maybe you keep putting off dinner with an old friend because that friendship died off years ago for a reason. Instead of forcing yourself to always be productive and blast through feelings of procrastination, slow down and find the emotional root of those feelings.
2. Spacing Out
I’m sure you’ve spent a large chuck of your school days daydreaming while your teachers rambled on in the front of the classroom. Even though you may have been scolded for not paying attention in class, it turns out a little spacing out isn’t so bad for you.
Back in the adult word, it seems like Mindfulness, the Eastern practice of focusing on the here and now, is all that most articles seem to talk about these days. Don’t get me wrong, Mindfulness does have a lot of great benefits: cultivates acceptance, enhances attention, and calms you down when you start to feel nervous. All of those things are great, but it’s impossible for you to be mindful every minute of every day. It turns out that spacing out is just as good for your mental health as mindfulness. When your mind wanders it often drifts towards things you want or problems you haven’t resolved. Since the mind is relaxed and not being forced to focus, it can let your thoughts work at these issues unhindered.
This state of “spacing out” is crucial for creative insights. Surveys of artist have noted that most artists feel the most creative and have the best ideas when they are not focusing on anything in particular. So, let yourself space out and see what kind of creative solutions come to mind.
I have come to terms with the fact I will not be winning any humanitarian awards for this article as I’ve just told you to put things off, not pay attention, and now, to be selfish. As a child, you only had to worry about yourself; you didn’t have a job to do or family members to care for. As an adult, you can get so focused on taking care of other people that you forget how important it is to care for yourself. Of course, I’m not advocating for some type of Gotham-inspired state of anarchy where people only look out for themselves. However, a lot of emotional and interpersonal conflict emerges when one or both parties seek to people-please too much. In an article about common traits in recovering addicts, the author points out that one of the most common traits of people who have an anxiety disorder and/or addiction issues is people-pleasing. The desire to make sure they don’t upset others around them can escalate negative emotions leading to panic attacks or the desire to remedy the bad feelings with alcohol or drug use. This shows that caring too much about others and not enough about you can have negative consequences.
I bet some of you reading this are getting a queasy feeling just thinking about being a bit more selfish. Relax. There are ways of adding “positive selfishness” into your life without turning into a terrible person.
Many people-pleasers are willing to give up a huge portion of their time in order to be with or help other people. One way of adding positive selfishness into your life is to schedule “me” time as often as you can. This is a time for yourself and should be treated with the same importance as everything else on your schedule. Another way to be positively selfish is to trust your gut when you start to feel that sense of discomfort. If someone is offending you or is pushing your boundaries, you owe it to yourself to listen to that gut feeling and stand up for yourself. Unfortunately, there are people out there who are already too selfish and won’t hesitate to take advantage of nice people. Be selfish about your personal boundaries. Don’t continue to stay in a bad situation just because you’re afraid that the other people involved might view you as rude if you left.
The Golden Takeaway: Get out there and procrastinate, space out, and be selfish! When put to extremes almost anything can be bad for you but if you learn how to use these three “bad” things to your advantage you could end up a happier and healthier person.
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