“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton
Permit me to open with (and groan if you will) the time-honored saying, “Everything in moderation.” It’s been attributed to many though most often with Aristotle or Socrates. For me, it’s grounded in the mother’s advice column.
With life fleeting, the temptation to overindulge is ever-present. We’d like to derive as much pleasure as possible from everything such as what we eat or what we do, Or, conversely, we are so driven to stay healthy that we throw ourselves into exercise or work with abandon. And there are those who would say the true means of achieving what you want lies not in overdoing it, but in moderation.
The ancient Greeks practiced moderation in many things, believing that in excess, virtues became vices. And so it is. Things that benefit your body or soul in one amount, whether it is eating, thinking, drinking, sunbathing, political expression, or medication, can be harmful in higher amounts.
The concept of moderation simply means avoiding extremes; finding strategies and habits that can be maintained over the long-term without cycling between one extreme and the other. Think of it as a source of steadiness. Cases in point: sleeping in for hours may seem a wonderful idea until you consider the time lost and the difficulty you may have sleeping later. Or, avoiding all sweets feels like the healthiest choice, but it may not be if it’s making you feel deprived.
This isn’t easy work, yet on a deeper level, moderation allows you just enough of any one thing for it to be satisfying, but not enough for it to be detrimental. Thus, it unlocks a healthy lifestyle without denying any pleasures, any ambitions, or your changing will – though equilibrium in all things.
How can moderation benefit you? Consider these three perspectives:
Listen to How You Feel. If you’re complaining about your weight, your budget, or something else, don’t just keep complaining – take action. Make a concrete plan for how you’re going to improve your life; one that sets goals and deadlines yet has some flexibility. A moderate (versus extreme or rigid) plan will help you stick to it long-term.
- Moderation helps with clarity. Being moderate implies you can clearly distinguish between the necessities and unnecessary luxuries in life. When you ask “Do I really need this?” “Do I have enough in life?” you become more mindful and you learn to appreciate the balance that you can or already possess.
- You become less of a mindless consumer. When you are moderate, you lessen your focus on “the more, the better.” You can enjoy more of your life without huge sacrifices or undesired consequences.
In practicing moderation, maybe you’ll even find the means to be more generous with your time, happiness, thriftiness, and vigor.
(Author disclaimer: I cannot vouch for how this applies to the consumption of dark chocolate.)