Cynicism is our national religion

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The consequences of the 1960s and 1970s continue to yield vast cultural destruction. Our national identity is no longer clear or shared by anyone. The right emphasizes patriotic virtue-signaling displays. The left now starts to show its scorn for America rather openly.

Gen Xers were not taught that America is a great nation, but rather a deeply flawed and ambiguous force in the world today. And this was LONG BEFORE TRUMP.

For 60 years we’ve been steadily fed a barrage of reasons to lose faith in our civic institutions, our industries, our reputation as the land of opportunity, etc. Indeed, we’ve been taught AND given plenty of reason to hate our institutions- news media, religious institutions, “MEN!,” etc., etc.

But it’s taking a toll on us all.

Anything you want you can get delivered to you right now

That’s a problem for many of us. Whether it’s alcohol, weed, women, in large segments of the western world in and around cities, you can order nearly anything you want.

Why is this a problem and not simply an amazing thing? Because our brains were not meant for this many choices, this much discipline, simply to get through each day.

Modern life forces us to make too many choices. That’s why we’re all overwhelmed. Life used to be a lot simpler.

Everything you buy complicates your life

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No one thinks about this because we live in an ultra-materialistic society, but it’s true. Aside from food and toilet paper, pretty much everything you buy adds to the number of things you have to maintain and keep somewhere. It may also require getting rid of something old, another hassle you have to deal with. Then, if it is technology, for example, you need it to work consistently.

I love my wi-fi Bluetooth speakers. LOVE THEM. I can take them all around my house and on to the front and back porches. But… when they don’t work, about 5% of the time I practically fly into a rage. Obviously, this is my problem but you see the point.

The more stuff we have, the more we are weighed down by it. The less we have, the less we have to worry about. Lesson in there.

7 Tips to Beat Anxiety

Most of us struggle with anxiety from time to time. That’s totally normal. It’s when it takes over your life and alters your behavior for the worse that you need to take some steps. Here are 7 tips that can make a big difference:

Plan ahead. This is BY FAR the most important tip. Take the time to think through how your day is going to go and what small or large things you can do to make it all go more smoothly. Nearly every situation you can encounter may be endured with proper planning.

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Give yourself enough, or even extra, time. I used to be late all the time. Then I discovered the joy of planning better and started getting most places early. It’s wonderful. So relaxing. So calming. Try it!

Call out the negative voice. Simply point out to that voice in your head, “I’m sorry, but that’s not helpful right now.” Learning to control that voice will change your life!

Explore medication and therapy. Medications can really help and dismissing them is just foolish. So, consider a variety of medications from supplements to cannabis to help take some of the struggle out of your day. And get thee to therapy. We ALL need it. All of us. So figure out a way.

Exercise! This alone can have a major impact on a person’s anxiety level. Push yourself a little bit. Sweat some of that negative energy out and you’ll feel better.

Build a spiritual practice. Try to incorporate some moments of spirituality into every day. Say a brief prayer of gratitude before each meal. Take a moment to kiss your spouse or pet your dog. And once per week, as a family, go to church or synagogue or meeting house and give thanks.

Forgive yourself and others. We all make mistakes. Some of them really awful. But we do so out of ignorance or lack of self-control or confusion. So, forgive yourself. And forgive those who’ve… You get the picture. Again, religion serves to remind us so well of compassion, forgiveness, service, sacrifice- all of the things that humans really need to learn and which give life meaning.

Atheism is bad for your health

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Atheism is bad for your health. How, you say? Well, it forces you to fill up your time and worldview with something other than religion and that is usually something pretty incoherent. Let’s be honest. Religion is imperfect, but it gives a person some structure.

For another, atheism enables the flourishing of anxiety and depression. In a religious tradition you are supposed to put God first, never yourself. So the endless ruminating and dwelling in one’s own mind and about one’s own problems yields unnecessarily self-destructive thoughts.

Then there is the absence of moral guidance. For years I argued with my conservative religious friends about who was more “moral.” I was a liberal and I was wrong. In my travels I learned that without a religion humans are deeply confused about right and wrong. Not the big things. All but the sociopaths get the big things, but we are confused about the smaller ways that we choose good and evil, right and wrong, leaving us vulnerable in the modern world.

Without religion, most of us are lost. Even, perhaps especially, if we don’t know it.

7 Tips to Start Your Day

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A regular morning routine, with a few pleasant additions, will make you a happier, more productive worker bee. Here are 7 tips to get you started.

  1. Drink a glass of water.
  2. Meditate for 3 minutes or more.
  3. Read something inspirational.
  4. Give thanks for what you have and pray (or wish) for a good day for you and well, everyone else. It’s okay to be specific. Even for yourself.
  5. Plan ahead as much as you possibly can. This is the key to any important activity in life. Take a bit of time to plan ahead and everything will go much smoother.
  6. Take a few minutes for humor or fun like reading the newspaper or doing a crossword puzzle.
  7. Get as ready as you can the night before and you should probably get in bed by 11.

The Simple Pleasure of Arriving Early

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Growing up, my parents were always late. Late for every family gathering. Every Thanksgiving dinner. Every show or movie or event that was occurring. It was maddening and embarrassing. But I had no choice, I couldn’t drive myself to these gatherings.

As adults we often model our parents’ worst and best behaviors- smoking, committing suicide, being religious, being kind to our spouses, etc. So, for much of my adult life I was late to everything. Everything. It drove people crazy, put me in some serious binds, and made my life a lot more difficult and stressful. In my 40s, I’ve finally realized, I DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY ANYMORE.

So I started radically simplifying my life- focusing on faith, family, and self-improvement- and started arriving a little bit early to appointments and dinners and meetings. And I couldn’t believe how great it felt to do so. I could sit there, take a few breaths, and be free to focus on other things.

Plan ahead and plan well. Makes life a lot easier.