This month’s post has actually been inspired by a podcast I did recently with Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges – a cracking podcast, which you can listen to here: Adventure, Freedom, Autonomy And Inspiration With Sarah Williams Of The Tough Girl Podcast

It really got me thinking – Sarah talked about one of the reasons she left her job in wealth management was because one of the biggest things she valued around wellbeing was autonomy, and I completely agree.

I will quite often think, while I’m looking at my laptop, “You know what, I’m kind of done for the day, even though it’s 2:30pm in the afternoon.” In my previous life, I would have had to sit there till 5:00pm or 5:30pm tapping away, looking busy or forcing myself to get on with it.

But one of the things I can do now is just say, “You know what, I’m going to go home. I’m going to sit in the sun, and I’ll get up early and finish this the next day, or over the weekend.”

Having autonomy is such a crucial part of wellbeing.

I know for many of you who work in corporate jobs where you can’t necessarily get up and leave in the middle of the day, that could be trickier. But what you can do is try and reclaim some time for yourself during the day or the week or even the month. Do something that you really love or connect with, something you used to enjoy – it’s what we call heartfulness.

Heartfulness for me is two things.

Firstly, a sense of contribution – doing something for somebody else. I volunteer for a charity called Diversity Role Models, and we go into schools and talk about the effects of homophobic, biophobic and transphobic bullying. And that’s very, very rewarding work to do – I love that. I do it for nothing, I give my time, I give it willingly and freely.

The other aspect of heartfulness is getting reconnected to something you used to love. For many of you as busy professionals, the convergent pressures of work and home would have squeezed out any bandwidth you may have to do things you used to love, like painting, like walking, like listen to music, or going to an exercise class.

So, don’t feel trapped in your job, or trapped in the humdrum nature of daily life. Seize back some time for yourself and do something that’s all about you. Regaining some autonomy will help you really notice the difference in terms of your wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be a long time; it can just be five minutes initially. Five minutes is better than nothing, or even half an hour depending on what your lifestyle (whether you have a family for example) can allow and how pushy you want to be about this.

Autonomy is a crucial part of wellbeing. We quite often talk about sleep, mental health, energy, body composition, digestion, fitness – the Six Signals, all of which are very important for health, but having some autonomy, feeling like you’re in control of your life, at least some of the time, is also massively important for our physical, our spiritual, our emotional, and of course, our mental health.

Leanne Spencer

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of SE22 magazine.