Updated: May 17, 2019
Read more here for some "simple" strategies and practical ways to calm down and effectively handle your life.
Simplicity is such a calming word, it rolls off the tongue and even saying it out loud has a calming effect, [ sim-pluh-fahy ] . Maybe you all are familiar with that famous, old saying, “there is beauty in simplicity.” I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about simplifying life, of slowing down, de-cluttering, appreciating what you've got – you name it, there’s a book or blog post for that. Words and thoughts are nice, but if there is not action to back them up, they’re meaningless.
Our culture is busy! We pride ourselves on our busy-ness. We buy phones and wear watches and download a gazillion apps to do things like track our steps for the day and make sure we are drinking enough water– we are slaves to time. I think that we’ve become so obsessed with controlling time, that we are letting life pass us by without focusing on the beauty we are given in the everyday, without seeing all the simple acts of joy that surround us.
I’m the first to admit my guilt here. I pack my days. I wake up at five am to make sure that I have enough “time” to do everything on my to-do list, and in the spirit of complete honesty, it never all gets done. Instead, I am left with a glass of wine and spinning head at the end of the day. Most days I have just enough energy to zone out while watching Parks and Rec episodes for the umpteenth time. I feel empty inside because I’ve given all the things to all the people, but they’re just as busy as I am – zipping by just long enough to get what they need and then carrying on.
And we all do this right? We interact long enough to take and then speed by without really seeing other people. We pack our days, but we live them in fast-forward.
Although there are million strategies to help you simplify things (I’ve linked some of my favorite strategies at the end of this post), I’d like to focus on the why we should simplify – or put another way, what we lose when we don’t. First, if you haven’t spent some time studying the book of Ecclesiastes, sit yourself down with a hot cup of coffee and your favorite highlighter. People really look at me funny when I tell them this is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, but GIRL – it speaks to me.
Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, one of the richest, powerful, and most wise kings of the Bible. Although he made some questionable decisions (like having a bunch of concubines and gluttonous parties), Solomon ultimately learned that everything this world sells you – money, pleasure, wisdom – it’s all going to let you down, it will never make you happy. That’s right, never…make…you…happy.
Well, I think one point we can walk away with here is that all that stuff you’re chasing in the day to day isn’t going to make you happy and it’s ultimately not going to matter as much as you think it does right now. So what does matter? The Bible gives us an answer to that, too – love matters, relationships matter, being content where you are no matter what stage of life you are in matters. Sounds awesome, right? Simplify. See the beauty in the everyday – practice joyful living. All these things are much, much easier said then done.
But as you think (and I hope pray) about them, I recommend integrating some daily practices into your life to help get you started down the path of simplifying:
- Start a gratitude journal: Recently, I started keeping a daily gratitude list, where I write down 5-10 things from the previous day that I am thankful for. Seems hokey, but the practice has helped me to focus on the things that matter to me and to give less to things that don’t.
- Spend more time with the people you love: A LOT of my work professionally revolves around social media, so I had the best excuse in the world to be on my phone all the time. But I’ve found tuning out has left me feeling depleted. When I looked up and purposefully put my phone down, I realized I was missing so much! Sunrises, conversations, the satisfaction of a sip of a coffee, kisses from my kids – you name it. Slowing down requires you to become more observant of the world around you. Maybe your kid is having an attitude because they want to spend more attentive time with you. Maybe your best friend has been distant because she’s going through something she can’t verbalize – slowing down helps you become less selfish, a better listener, and ultimately will leave you feeling more fulfilled and less depleted.
- Invest in relationships, true relationships: Building on my last point, I hear a lot nowadays about “being the best version of yourself” which is awesome and I totally believe in, BUT if you are spending all of your waking hours honed in on yourself, then you’re missing out on sharing the joy and hurt of everyone around you. Both are important components to being a good human. Life is about relationships – about LOVING other people. It’s great to love yourself, but don’t let it consume you. God created you to give, but it takes time to notice.
Do yourself a favor, spend some of the precious time you have on other people (and not just because it will benefit you to do so), you won’t regret it.
- Do something for someone else: Another common trait in our culture is to only build relationships or do things that benefit us or those we love immediately. That’s selfish, but its human nature. We’ve all had that one friend who only calls when she needs something, or comes to hang out when it’s convenient for her. Heck, most of us have been this person at one point. Well, you know what, we can stop it. Challenge yourself to do more for other people without expecting anything in return. Just do something nice. Pay a compliment, make a meal, send a gift. Pick up the phone and CALL. Check in on people, make sure they are okay – be there for them when they're not okay and celebrate with them when life is going well. Again, you won’t regret it.
- Do something for yourself: This one may seem contradictory to several others, but it’s for all my people-pleasers out there. Girl, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will have nothing to give other people. Pay attention to the water you drink, go get your hair done, leave the kids at home and do nothing, and do not feel guilty about it. This self-care thing is real, everything in moderation and balance.
- Cut out one bad thing (the thing you know you don’t need to or shouldn’t be doing) from your life per week/month/whatever (set a time period and stick to it): Now if you’re like me, you might be thinking – GREAT, I’ve just added a bunch of stuff to my do list instead of detracting from it. TRUE, but my goal here is to help you identify what you are doing that you don’t need to be doing. Learn to say no – to the ice cream, to the toxic friend, to your phone, to the thankless activities at work. Where are you wasting time? Evaluate and regroup. Find God’s purpose and eliminate the distractions. This task looks different for each of us.
The time may go by fast, but we are in control of how we spend it. I’ll leave you with the words of a king far greater than I to motivate you:
“I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. “ Ecclesiastes 10-12