Mornings, for a Christian, are a new opportunity to contribute to the world. For example, this morning (5/13/19) I may have saved a woman’s life. It was raining when I was about one block from my office and noticed a car coming into the intersection after the light had changed. Simultaneously, a woman standing next to me wearing a hooded raincoat that blocked her vision stepped out and started walking into the intersection, not seeing the car. As I saw this unfold, I yelled out, “Watch out! Watch out!” The woman stopped, looked over at me, and the car whizzed by within a couple of feet of her.
I didn’t intend to save a person’s life today. It just happened because I am continually aware of the world around me and generally walk around exhibiting my Christian instincts. A Christian starts his day with a positive attitude, an optimism for the day and the world in general. He sees every day as a new opportunity to show the world what it means to be a good Christian. Even when everyone around is kind of a bummer, his optimism and enthusiasm are infectious. I say this as someone who is not very positive by nature, believe me. Sometimes you have to fake until you make it. Or else, honestly, people won’t want to be around you very much.
So he wakes up early, makes time for prayer and meditation, makes time for the important things in life- God, family, relationships- and goes on his way.
In your own life, see if you can change any depressing culture you encounter whether it’s your sad, boring office or a gathering with your relatives. Maybe create a new family tradition? Don’t wait for others to fix things or make things better, take action yourself. You may save a life or more likely, many lives.
The modern world is enormously complicated. It can be like waking up in a whitewater kayak racing through rapids every day. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 7 tips to help you simplify your life:
Embrace a spiritual or religious practice. So many folks dismiss religion as a quaint notion in this hyper-informed modern world. But there is tremendous wisdom in the world’s great religions. One of the major benefits of this is simply the routine or habit of it. Atheism and secularism don’t offer any structure.
Purge your life of too many belongings. Empty out those closets and storage units and unfinished basements. A lot of that crap you’ve completely forgotten about anyway.
Keep the sabbath. This can be an absolutely wonderful addition to a person’s life. Having a quiet Saturday or Sunday on the schedule every week can be a wonderful period of quiet for an individual or a family. Learn to be with yourself or with others, but not racing to a practice or event of some sort. I love my sabbath. Sometimes I voluntarily give it up, but I miss it when I do.
Express gratitude at every meal or, preferably, MORE often. Your actions follow your thoughts. Think good thoughts. Think grateful thoughts. For even in our worst times, there are always many more people who have it worse.
Limit your time with screens and when you do, make it useful. My parents used to refer to the TV as the “idiot box.” They were right. Now, we carry idiot boxes around in our pockets. Try to cut out the time wasters that squeeze the rest of your valuable time. Or when you do, read something that teaches you something or makes you think. There are billions of options.
Take a regular phone fast. I like to have lots of people over to my place and I tend to be very welcoming of all kinds of folks. So, occasionally I encounter someone who comes from a culture that is a bit more permissive of distractions and interruptions. In fact, it really pisses me off when I’m socializing with people and someone whips out their phone while I’m talking to them, even if it is to look up something that pertains to our conversation. So I’ve pretty much banned the use of phones in my house. I treat it like smoking. Go outside and do it. Another option is to set a time, say 8 pm, after which you do not look at your gadgets. Helps to have a partner in this.
Say NO to too many activities. There are a million ways to spend your time. Driving all of the time should not be one of them. Factor in whether an activity is going to complicate your life or your child’s life in such a way that it puts a burden on the family and try to avoid that. Too often we are tyrannized by the idea that we or our children should be continually accomplishing something. Overall, yes, they should, but not every minute of every day.
Most people suffer from depression at some point in their lives or know someone who has. Here are seven things a depressed person can do to make life better almost immediately:
Establish a morning routine. Do you wake up at your girlfriend’s one morning, on your couch the next, and occasionally in your own bed? Well that needs to stop. A morning routine is critical to healthy functioning and when you start the day in disarray it usually only gets worse from there. So, wake up at roughly the same time every day, drink a glass of water, and do what you need to do to have a productive day.
Exercise. If you hate it, find a way to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be running marathons. Try rowing or swimming or bicycling. Again, just do something. And if you have a REALLY hard time doing it, then do it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!
Build a spiritual practice. Buddhism, Catholicism, Quakerism, whatever. You might even be able to persuade me of the benefits of being a Wiccan. Most important of all, though, JUST DO SOMETHING. Create a practice that helps you stay centered every day AND serves as beginning or end point for every week. I know, I know, we all hate going to church. So add some fun to it like brunch or a giant latte or a poke or two on a vape pen. But it’s important for many reasons. Foremost, it connects you with other humans. As a society we are facing an epidemic of loneliness. We need connection to other people. Try church, synagogue, meeting house, AA, whatever. Just something.
Make time for gratitude. You know when you’re sitting in Chick-fil-a on a road trip and you look over and the family next to you is praying before eating their meal? Yes, it’s awkward and a little embarrassing, but if you were to take 30 seconds 3 times a day to REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE it might improve your outlook.
Figure out the patterns. We all have patterns of behavior that we repeat in our lives. Take some time to figure out which ones are holding you back. Are you overly focused on the superficial? Are you living up to your values? Do you keep dating the same types of people? It never hurts to work with a therapist, a coach, or even an app to help you figure things out.
Make a change. Maybe it’s time to get a new job or end a relationship or get a pet or move to a new city. Sometimes a dramatic change can shake you out of a rut. Now, don’t do anything that will hurt you in the long run- run it by a few people first- but explore the possibility of changing your situation, even if only for a period of time. Another simple idea- plan a vacation. Having something fun to plan and look forward to is half the fun!
Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself is never easy and forgiving others isn’t always smart, but generally speaking, going down the path of forgiveness will only yield benefits for you. Explore readings and writing on forgiveness that might help you work through some of your thoughts and if nothing else works, try medicine.