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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Finding what is meaningful to you ⟩
October 6, 2010, by Austen

Life Hacks School/Life Balance

Occupations are the activities we fill our time with, the things we do daily. In our Occupational Therapy program, we have read a lot about how important occupations are to health and well-being, and why engaging in meaningful activities positively influences our overall quality of life. It seems obvious that doing things we enjoy helps us live healthier happier lives, but I did not really think about it until we discussed it in class. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to incorporate activities I love doing in each and every day. As a result, I am happier and more satisfied with my life.

I danced on my high school’s state champion dance team for four years. We practiced for around 15 hours a week, learning and perfecting our routines to compete. Sometimes I could not stand walking into that gymnasium room any more, I was sick of our music, and annoyed with our coach yelling at us. But when I was dancing in front of hundreds of people hearing fans cheer me on, I remembered why I love dancing. My muscles would take over and they knew exactly what to do, my mind would go blank, and time seemed to fly by. I reached what we call “flow.” But when I went to college, I stopped dancing. I started freshman year as pre-med, and had no time for it. I lost one of my most meaningful occupations. Looking back, I can see how negatively it affected me. I was low on energy, not as happy, and felt like something big was missing from my life. It is almost as if I did not realize how important and influential dancing was to me until I lost it. It was not until years later, during the first year in the OT program, that I was inspired to pick it back up again.

I joined the USC Repertory Dance Company through the School of Theater on main campus at USC. Having dance back in my life has made a huge difference in my wellbeing over the past year. I have a social network of friends in my company, I get lots of exercise, and I have a creative outlet for expression. It is a wonderful right-brain activity to balance out all the left-brain work we do in school. It is a chance to get lost in music, explore new movement, and step into the character of whoever I want to be. I can leave my problems, concerns, and anxieties at the door and forget about them during rehearsals. Picking up dance again helped me experience for myself what it is we have been learning in OT school. I now understand the role meaningful occupation plays in one’s life. Experiencing the negative effect of not dancing solidified the importance of pursuing things I enjoy doing as often as possible. I am going to continue to engage in meaningful activities such as dance because they truly make me a happier, healthier, more motivated and curious person.

What do you enjoy doing? What makes time fly by for you? What do you look forward to doing everyday? If those question bring specific things to mind, hold on the them and continue engaging in those activities. If nothing comes to mind, go out and find something that makes you happy and excited. This will make each day fulfilling and help you achieve overall wellbeing.

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