Are you feeling frustrated? Lacking motivation? Blocked? Burnt out? The answer might be as simple as checking the balance on your mental input/output (I/O).
A Personal Experience to Explain
Quite a few years ago, I was working on a short film contract in Los Angeles, and bunked with a colleague (Brad) who was somewhat older and wiser than myself. One of my tasks was to rewrite sections of a screenplay which I’d already worked on for two years. It was a massive personal project and I was running on empty, but needed to make the script changes for a pitch the next day. I tried and tried, but couldn’t make anything work. I could barely string together a sentence, spending more time pacing around the apartment hurling expletives at the walls.
“Oy! What’s your problem?” queried Brad from a nearby room (clearly he’d had enough of my tantrums).
“I can’t do this bloody thing” I replied in frustration.
“Garbage. You just need some input boy!”
Input. A term I hadn’t heard before, used in this particular context. I asked Brad what he meant, and he explained the importance of balancing mental input and output. Like a fuel, if we constantly output without drawing anything back in, we eventually run out of expression. And that’s where my ‘block’ had come from. In fact, that’s where most “writer’s block” comes from.
And of course, it makes perfect sense. Why should our mental health be any different from our physical health? If we take in food without burning it off with exercise, we’ll gain weight, eventually become obese and unhealthy. Alternatively, if we exercise without enough nourishment, we’ll tire and burnout, potentially putting our bodies at risk of ill-health. Our mind is no different. It needs a good balance of input and output to function at its very best.
So, the solution was relatively simply. On Brad’s instruction, I hopped on a bus, made my way to Santa Monica, and sat at the end of the pier for a few hours taking in all the senses – the spectacular views, the sound of waves, the smell of the sea, the feel of the wind. It was all input. I knew when it was time to return because there was a sense of replenishment. A sense of calm and completeness. And when it came to the task of rewriting my script, it worked a treat. I quickly finished the changes with little disruption.
Check Your Balances
So, where are you now? Do you feel out of balance? Think about your daily activities. Could it be that you’ve been spending too much time on your mental output and could benefit from more input? Or, is it the other way around?
If you’re short on input, perhaps it’s time to do a few meditations, start reading a book, research a new project, watch a documentary, listen to music, walk along the beach. If you’re short on output, write a blog or some poetry, redesign your garden, cook up a feast, teach your children something new, volunteer or go and help out a friend.
Whatever you choose to do, make it something that interests you. Something you enjoy and want to do. Because, like many things, we create patterns and routines. If we’re stuck in a routine for too long (whether it be a mode of input or output), it can become a habit which is difficult to break. And so, the best way to break it is to do something you enjoy.
Another little hint too. Variety helps us to remain stimulated. So, look at ways to engage your non-dominant senses. For example, if you’re someone who usually reads or watches movies for relaxation (visual), perhaps you might take some time to close your eyes and listen to the environment around you (sound), stop and feel the wind or sun on your skin (touch), or breathe in the aromas in the air (smell). Notice it, immerse yourself, and allow it to bring you back to the moment. All of these little changes can help to restore your balance and bring you back to centre.
Regularly take the time to balance your mind – your input, your output, and all of your different senses. It’s such a simple thing, but I promise you. It will make all the difference when it comes to your everyday health and wellbeing.