I took a lunchtime walk yesterday on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, as I usually do during the workweek. The day was moderately sunny, although it had begun rather cloudy and certainly cold-a chilly 6 degrees Fahrenheit at my house. It was around 30 degrees at noon.
I started out bundled up with my heavy winter coat, knit cap, and wool mittens. I usually shoot for a 30 minute walk. By the time I was five minutes in I had to remove my cap because I was heating up. By the time I reached the half way mark, I had also removed my mittens, and shortly thereafter I had unzipped my coat. I actually had worked up a light sweat by the time I got back.
Here’s the thing: I had prepared myself for my noon walk based upon expectations I formed at 6:30 in the morning regarding the temperature. What I should have done was check my smartphone for updated weather information prior to my walk, instead of relying on outdated expectations. As it turns out this principle applies to a lot of things in life: make decisions based upon reality not preconceptions.
I admit that I am a creature of habit. For the past year or so I have been getting up at 5 AM Monday through Friday. I started doing this so that I could be more consistent in doing my workouts. When I was doing them in the evening I found I was being inconsistent. Not wanting to be fat again, I knew something had to change. Thus, I began going to bed an hour earlier and getting up an hour earlier.
Now I am very much in the habit of getting up early and streaming my workouts on my laptop. As a side benefit, I found that doing my workouts early in the day made my mornings much more enjoyable, even at work. Plus, I also stopped watching the morning news (unless there’s a winter storm and I need updates). Instead I listen to classical or worship music, or jazz, and I relax for a while before I head out to work.
Even if you are not inclined to exercise at oh-dark-thirty, I encourage you to adjust your schedule an hour as I did. If there is some really great TV show you don’t want to miss, DVR it or stream it a couple days later. Take the time for a leisurely shower, do some reading or writing, and relax with a cup of coffee while you watch the sun rise. The thing is, by giving yourself a little breathing space at the start of the day you can reduce your stress because you aren’t blasting around at warp speed from the moment your feet hit the floor. Try it!
Several months ago I stopped watching the morning news on TV. This developed as I got into the habit of rising at 5 AM to do my daily exercise. In turn, I had started that habit because I was being inconsistent in my evening workouts due to church committee meetings and other evening commitments. But I digress.
Instead of watching the morning news, I listen to classical or contemporary Christian music and read online newspapers on my tablet. The advantage here is that instead of being inundated with all manner of nastiness on TV I can pick and choose what I want to read.
The world is a scary place. Believe me, I get that. Horrific things are happening every day all around the world. Some of them seem much more immediate and relevant to us though, even if it really isn’t. I believe this is largely due to the various “news” media running on a 24 hour cycle of ratings-driven “if it bleeds it leads” programming.
In pursuit of personal simplification I choose to not participate any more than necessary in the deliberate over-exposure promulgated by CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. and yes, the local affiliates. By opting out of the unending fright-fest, my days begin much more calmly. At the end of the day, literally, I can lie down and rest easier. Not because the world is any safer but because I no longer allow it to dominate my heart and soul.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2015? I did not, nor do I plan to do so for any forthcoming year. Let’s face it, the custom of making and breaking resolutions has gotten to the point where the concept of making resolutions at the beginning of the year has become a threadbare joke.
Between you and me, I have better things to do with my time and energy. That is why I made myself three promises for 2015.
I promise to cut back on refined carbohydrates. I freely admit that I love bread in all its forms, and pasta too. I’m going to start things like using the cauliflower pizza crust I have seen online, and I’m going to get a vegetable mandolin so I can make veggie “pasta”. I will also actively avoid any carb that is not whole grain, with a preference for organic items.
I promise to be more diligent about working out six days a week. The past month or so has not been conducive to my usual 7:00 PM workout schedule. Between various church committee meetings, holiday outings, and a cold my schedule was all messed up. So I am going to start doing early morning workouts-which I frankly hate-on those days when I know there is an evening conflict. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying I’m doing the toughest or longest programs in my library but I will do something.
I promise to accelerate my decrappification and simplification efforts. I need to make a concerted effort to catch up on my self-imposed program of eliminating that which is unnecessary from my home and life. That being the case, I am going to do a room each weekend when I can devote uninterrupted time to the process. I will use the “three pile” method: keep, sell, and donate. Once I’m done in any particular room, nothing that serves no purpose will be allowed in.
For the record, when I make a promise it is as good as kept. So, you can take these three promises to the bank!
It is all too easy to focus on material possessions when decrappifying your life. Make no mistake, reducing the number of things in your life that own you is integral to the process. But it is not, and should not be, the only consideration. Here are three other equally important considerations.
Make time for yourself each day. I feel this is really important given these hectic times in which we live. Even if only for 30 minutes, spend some quality time with yourself. Turn off the phone, the TV, and the computer. Take a walk, read, write in a journal, practice yoga, engage in exercise, meditate or pray, or anything else that lets you focus on something besides the distractions of the day. Heck, take a nap even!
Take steps to improve your health. Upgrade your eating habits to include more fresh fruits and vegetables. Cut back on refined sugar (in all forms) and white flour. Ditch the artificial sweeteners-they have little redeeming value. Exercise in some way at least 30 minutes, three days a week. Make water your primary beverage. As your health improves, so does your outlook on life, and stress will take a back seat. Basically, feeling good will make you feel…good.
Develop discernment. The ability to separate that which is important from that which is unimportant takes a lot of practice. It involves skills including being able to tell the difference between need and desire, and prioritization. As you grow in discernment, you will feed the innate inner wisdom with which God has blessed each of us, but which frequently goes un-nutured. You will with practice come to a point where the bud of wisdom will bloom, and you will be in a position to appreciate it.