12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

I have some annoying neighbors who play an outdoor radio seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, at full volume. I can hear it through my bedroom walls. My daughter hears it through her noise-cancelling headphones while she tries to do homework. We’ve started to avoid using the sunroom or front porch. After a year of this shocking disregard for others, it has become a daily challenge to keep my home the haven of calm and peace that I have tried to cultivate. It produces a kind of constant tension – much like recent national events.

It seems that everyone is in a turmoil. The volume has been turned up and left on. The political climate and recent events have everyone on an adrenaline roller coaster, with many of us feeling jittery and wishing for a quiet space to collect ourselves. Frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t care where you stand on current events, you have got to be feeling distressed about some part of it. I’m not here to debate for a particular side – in fact, I’m politically neutral – but the air that has permeated our culture affects us all.

I’ve been wondering why I continue to feel this way, and how I can return to a calmer version of myself.

There are numerous reasons for our current state, but here’s one that seems especially applicable. David Brooks, political pundit and author of THE ROAD TO CHARACTER, recently stated in an interview that he believes the media has made politics into a team sport, with citizens rooting for “my” side vs. the “other” side. Yet, government is not a sports league with winners and losers and scorecards (although the media presents it as such). He posits that society has become more interested in seeing their team “win” than in problem solving.

He also believes that for most people, politics have replaced morality. If a thing is politically acceptable, then it no longer matters if it is morally or ethically right. This means that no person can truly feel 100% affiliation with a party or person, because no one can admit that all political choices are also morally and ethically correct. This creates contradiction within the individual, which results in anger, resentment, fear, depression, and a host of other emotions. Which makes them act out, or be defensive, or hide, or whatever. I believe this helps me, at least, to put the world’s (and some acquaintances’) behaviors and point of view into perspective. We are seeing internal conflict projected outwardly.

For the person (like myself) who maintains Christian neutrality, I came across these interesting questions that I leave here purely for reflection:

  •   As a citizen of God’s kingdom, if I am not upset by the politics in Spain or Greece or Indonesia, why would I be invested in the politics of this country?
  •  If the end has already been determined, then God is not wringing his hands in anxiety over the affairs of the world. Why should I?

I also remembered a favorite quote attributed to just about everybody, but featured to good effect in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.

But until the end, how do we maintain a sense of peace, hope, and happiness while the neighbors are blasting their stereo at full volume? Here’s 12 Ways to Keep Your Peace that I am going to implement today:

12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

  1. Avoid news outlets and social media. These are a source of anxiety. When you want to catch up on world events, choose an appropriate method.
  2. When researching, consider only trusted, unbiased, and whenever possible, primary sources for information. If the source proclaims to be trustworthy and unbiased, you should triple-check this claim.
  3. Focus on positive, spiritual, nature-centered, and local/family truths. Also, being mindful of which things you have control over (and which you do not) can be helpful.
  4. Pursue a calm spirit.
  5. Spend more time in today than you do in the future or the past. You can only be in today. The past is gone, and the future unknowable.
  6. Return to (or increase time in) something you enjoy, a hobby, or art.
  7. Go to bed early. Your brain needs a break.
  8. Get some exercise. Your body needs to release some tension.
  9. Make a list. It relieves the pressure of carrying things in your head.
  10. Say no. You need more time to reflect and re-center. Accepting more noise and busy-ness in your life is counter-productive to the goal of regaining your peace.
  11. Be still. Take a nap, go for a walk in nature with no headphones, meditate, breathe.
  12. Break out of the negative emotional loop of others by countering with the opposite emotion. The opposite of hate is love. The opposite of anger is compassion. The opposite of despair is hope. Identify the negativity you encounter and consciously exercise its opposite.

Here’s a more attractive reminder I made for myself below.  I hope you can keep your peace, and if you have another method I haven’t listed here, please share it!

12-ways-to-keep-your-peace

H is for

The April Blogging from A to Z Challenge continues!

H

H (Photo credit: duncan)

H is for HAPPINESS

Happiness is more than just a word.  It’s a state of being.  I’m constantly amazed at how humans can be happy amidst the most horrific of circumstances (and conversely, how unhappy they can be in the lap of luxury and prosperity).

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

How do you maintain your happiness?  What are your words to live by?

Leave a comment for me, if you please.  Writing is a lonely business.

Also, visit some of the other few thousand bloggers participating in the A to Z challenge by clicking below:

The Happiness Project – Really?

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”.

  I admit, when I first looked at it, I thought, “Really?  Somebody has to have a project about happiness?  It was really the subheading that caught my attention – I’m always up for singing in the morning and cleaning out closets.

One paragraph with Gretchen, and I was hooked.  I love her conversational, this-is-your-good-friend-tellin’-it-to-you-straight style.  She lets the reader see her, warts and all, and you just love her all the more.

More importantly, Ms. Rubin writes about something everyone wants more of – Happiness.  Joy.  Satisfaction.  Contentment.  Like addicts looking for our next hit, we all want to feel another surge of elation, one more assurance that we are going in the right direction.  And we want it to be natural and rooted in our own lives.

Enter Gretchen’s many resolutions.  She begins with her Personal Commandments (individual code of ethics that every person lives by) and proceeds to her Secrets of Adulthood (facts of grown-up life every one learns along the way).  These are different for each individual, and lead to the highly personal Resolutions.

Resolutions can be big or small, last a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime.  She differentiates resolutions from goals, however.  Goals are something you ultimately achieve and quit striving for.  Resolutions are life-long practices.

Gretchen’s Twelve Personal Commandments

  1. Be Gretchen. (yourself)
  2. Let it go.
  3. Act the way I want to feel.
  4. Do it now.
  5. Be polite and be fair.
  6. Enjoy the process.
  7. Spend out.
  8. Identify the problem.
  9. Lighten up.
  10. Do what ought to be done.
  11. No calculation.
  12. There is only love.

There’s several of Gretchen’s Personal Commandments I agree with, but had to add a few of my own:

  • When people show you who they are, believe them. (Borrowed from Maya Angelou)
  • Stop wasting time with the wrong people.
  • Do what ought to be done.
  • Believe in Perpetual Kindness.

Of course, as we age we (hopefully) grow.  That’s where the Secrets of Adulthood come in…

  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.
  • It’s okay to ask for help.
  • You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you LIKE to do.
  • What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.
  • Soap and water removes most stains.
  • It’s important to be nice to EVERYONE.
  • You know as much as most people.
  • Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.
  • What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.
  • People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry.
  • Houseplants and photo albums are a lot of trouble.
  • If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

I would dare to add:

  • You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.  (Best kindergartner wisdom I ever heard.  Useful for cupcake icing color disappointments and adverse health diagnoses.)
  • The kind thing is always the right thing.  (Thank you, Mom.)
  • Never apologize for your intelligence, talent, or happiness.

Once you’ve outlined your Personal Commandments and identified your Secrets to Adulthood, now you can formulate a few Resolutions.  They could be the internal kind, like “Combat environmental negativity by re-framing my comments in a positive manner”.  Or the more noticeable “Get rid of things that don’t work”.  No doubt, like Gretchen, you will find that some are easier to keep than others (but keeping one of her handy Resolution Charts will greatly enhance your odds).

Because of the wild popularity of her book, she now has a fully-interactive website (www.happiness-project.com) and even better, a customizable Happiness Project Toolbox so you can get started with your own little happiness project.

You can log in to your personal inspirational quotes, images, and books.  Keep a one-sentence journal.  Join a Group Resolution, and just generally find new ways to be a little bit happier.  At the very least, you’ll be more mindful of what you and others are doing to make your personal space the best it can be.

I love it, and invite you all to give it a try.  There’s sure to be some nugget or pithy wisdom that you can incorporate painlessly into your everyday life.  And you’ll be that much happier you did.