If the optimism with which you began your New Year’s resolutions has met the solid reality of limited time, limited energy, and limited resources, you might be wondering if this really can be the year in which you feel better and have stronger relationships. But take heart. One simple rule has helped our family in both areas: Make at least one weekend day off-limits to work and tech and spend as much time outside as possible.
For over twenty years, our family has lived by this rule and reaped its benefits. I might work like a dog all week, but on Sundays, we turn off our alarm clocks and cell phones, unplug from technology, spend time with each other, and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Science supports the benefit of aligning your body to a more natural sleep-wake rhythm by spending more time outdoors in natural light and letting the morning light wake you up gently. For example, you can read the discussion in The New Yorker about how avoiding artificial light and alarm clocks made it easier for campers to both fall asleep and wake up. We don’t totally take to the woods on Sundays, but we do spend as much time outdoors and in natural light as possible. We let the morning sun wake us up. We have a long, lazy breakfast. We read the whole paper, even the out-of-town editions that always seem to pile up during the week. We catch up on books and magazines. We play with the dogs. We explore the garden and woods. Unless there are very extenuating circumstances, we extend no invitations and accept no invitations. We run no errands, do no housework and don’t get in the car except for church. We observe no deadlines. I turn off my computer. My office knows not to expect a return call or email on Sunday. I take an afternoon nap. I might find vegetables in our garden for dinner or forage for wood sorrel or dandelion greens. Weather permitting, campfires or grilling are our only solid dinner plans. Any house or garden “work” that gets done is purely a result of piddling around, a weed pulled here or there, a drawer organized, a garden plan jotted down. If I find some interesting foliage on our walk, I might do a flower arrangement.
If the figs are ripe, we eat them right off the tree. We listen to the crickets and the birds. We breathe in the subtle scent of gardenias or tea olives or moonflowers or winter daphne. We notice the phase of the moon. As we drift off to sleep, we feel relaxed, refreshed and ready for the week ahead.
Sounds impossible? Just try it for one week and see what a difference it makes in recharging your energy and reconnecting your family. And that provides a solid foundation to help you achieve any of the other goals you’ve set. What better way to start the new year?
Article and photographs by Jo Hackl.