Living a quiet life in a very loud world sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Peaceful, calm, tranquil.
I’d love to live there. Instead, I only seem to visit occasionally.
Sometimes it’s just me waving at a quiet life as I zoom past. My phone beeps and chirps and rings and vibrates and sometimes talks to me. And with every sound, I hop to attention to see what it is that I can’t live without knowing AT. THAT. MOMENT.
My own worst enemy.
And it’s stressful. The negative news, the soul-sucking social media, the misplaced priorities, and the expectations are all a very loud presence in my life.
But it is possible to live a quiet life despite the volume of the world around us. It’s all about taking control of what you can and learning to manage well what you can’t.
There’s truth in the serenity prayer, and it starts in our minds.
What does living a quiet life mean?
First, let’s talk about what it isn’t.
It isn’t taking a vow of silence. Or never again streaming movies or TV shows. Nor is it becoming a hermit, or giving up your cell phone, or moving out to the boondocks.
Living a quiet life is about intentionality and mindfulness. It’s making thoughtful choices about who we want to be each day and what we fill our day with. Just as the quality of the food we eat affects our health, the quality of the other voices we let into our lives affects our emotional and spiritual health.
That is to say, it’s all about our mindset.
Mindset is your most important tool for a quiet life
Mindset is such an enormous component of prepping and survival, it simply can’t be overemphasized.
Letting external circumstances get the better of our emotions is not a helpful mindset, but fortunately, we don’t have to be at the mercy of our emotions.
Say that again with me.
We aren’t at the mercy of our emotions.
However, that can be a tough one sometimes; emotions are powerful forces in our lives. But we must remember that we’re in control of how we respond.
We have choices, and one of those choices involves perspective.
How to keep fear and worry in proper perspective
Part of living a quiet life is about handling fear and worry and keeping them in proper perspective.
Although healthy fear can protect us, unhealthy fear can make us paranoid. And worry stems from how vulnerable we feel and the amount of control we feel in a given circumstance. Do we feel exposed and with little control? Hello, Stress, my old friend.
And it’s not just our minds that are affected. It’s our bodies and our behaviors, too. To combat this, we need to take action.
Create an action plan
Here’s a simple strategy for battling fear and worry:
- Write down each fear and anxiety. Getting them on paper corrals the wild thoughts.
- Determine the threat. The emotion is a symptom. Zero in on the cause.
- Identify actions you can take to address the threat.
- Implement those actions, or select a date to complete them.
We aren’t victims of our emotions, but sometimes we do need to get them out of our heads so we can reframe them.
How to not be overwhelmed by negative news
The news, regardless of the medium, can be a major source of angst. Much news today is thinly disguised opinion pieces masquerading as journalism. And the comments! Those are often worse than the news. You feel your blood pressure rising, your hopeful view of humanity dimming.
To avoid being overwhelmed, think of your news consumption as a diet. Not a crash diet, where your efforts are temporary, but an intentional approach to what your mind consumes. Just as long-term health improvements require lifestyle changes, so your news consumption requires thoughtful attention.
How can you do that?
- Choose news sources wisely; steer clear of those that regularly sensationalize stories and/or use clickbait.
- Avoid fake news.
- Be very selective about which social media accounts to follow. Include some that are uplifting and motivating.
- Limit the time spent consuming news.
- Engage in healthy hobbies regularly.
- Add beauty into your life on a consistent basis.
- Resist catastrophizing, a cognitive error that occurs when perspective is lost.
- Find a way to help; taking action is empowering.
- If you’re a person of faith, consider these strategies for facing the headlines. If you’re not, you may still find 6, 7, and 9 useful.
But what if that’s not enough? What then?
How to step away from news and social media (and when to do so)
NEWSFLASH: App designers use science against you to create an addictive social media experience. They’re not interested in turning down the volume of your world.
They know research shows that every notification and message, every *ting* of your phone is a drug dose, a shot of dopamine in your system. They WANT you getting hit after hit of it–the same pleasure and reward chemical released when injecting cocaine or eating chocolate–so you return over and over.
Just like Pavlov’s dog pawing the button to get a treat.
But are you on the Pavlovian merry-go-round? How can you tell?
How to know when you need a break
If you’re wondering if you need a break from the news and social media, ask some questions.
- How long have you been scrolling? Most phones have features for tracking usage. Take a gander. Does how long you think you’ve been using an app line up with reality?
- Why are you using the app? Are you bored? Frustrated? Lonely? Consider other means of self-care.
- Are you obsessing over likes and comments? How often are you checking for responses? Do you fly high when your online presence is noticed and plummet when ignored? If so, consider taking a break.
- How do you feel after using an app? Does Instagram give you comparitis? Is Facebook making you feel inadequate? Does Twitter raise your ire? If anxiety, depression, and discontent are common, let the app go.
- Can you say ‘No’ to using the app? Is the urge to use the app overwhelming? That’s a red flag.
One critical question…
If you lost your phone and your computer permanently, how would you spend your time?
If you can’t imagine what you would do with those additional hours, no scrolling or browsing whatsoever, you just might have an addiction. It’s time to step away.
How to step away
If your answers to the above questions suggest you need to create some distance to quiet your life, here are some recommendations:
- Disable app and push notifications on your phone and computer. App designers use them to convert us into Pavlov’s dogs.
- Remove the app icons from your home screen. Make yourself go through the extra steps to access the app.
- Take it even further and remove the apps from your phone. Many of them are still accessible from a laptop or desktop, so you’re not foregoing them entirely. You’re just making it less convenient to use them and harder to be psychologically triggered by them.
How to move in the direction of a more quiet life
Another aspect of living a quiet life is setting priorities for a rich, fulfilling life. So easy to say, not always so easy to do, though, right?
Our expectations, our family and friends’ expectations, societal and employer expectations can all get muddled in our brains. We end up living a life that doesn’t reflect our values, what is truly most important to us.
It might be because we fear missing out on opportunities and fun activities, for ourselves or for our children. We have dreams and our ambition drives us to work, work, work to achieve them. Being busy is still a badge of honor (and also an excuse) in American society, and the hamster wheel of consumerism is the national fitness routine, although it doesn’t have to be.
But when our values and our priorities are lined up with each other, we are grounded, centered, and more stable. And our daily choices, guided by those values, influence the volume of our lives. Granted, things happen that are out of our control, but our values are a solid foundation that supports our response to the inevitable chaos.
So, what are your priorities?
How to establish your priorities
- Set time aside to think. What are your values? What’s important to you? This could take some time. Teasing out your priorities can be tricky if you haven’t seen them for a while.
- Based on those values, what is important to you relationally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially? You’ll probably find there’s overlap; values are holistic. Or look at it through the lens of discontent; sometimes what we are most unhappy about points to the value(s) to which we aren’t adhering.
- Brainstorm and implement actions to shift your life to better align with your values. Perhaps you become a volunteer. Perhaps you resign from a volunteer position and use that time to focus on a higher priority.
- Take stock of the impact of the change. How’re things looking now? Better or worse? Why? Your analysis can guide you moving forward.
- Repeat Steps 3 and 4 as needed. It may take some tinkering to figure out how it will all look. That’s ok.
How do you live a quiet life in a big city?
Good question. Cities are inherently more populated, louder, and move at a faster pace. All things that on the surface seem the antithesis of a quiet, peaceful life.
But remember we’ve established that our mindset is the single, most important tool in creating a quiet life. Perhaps “curating” would be a better term. That’s really what we’re doing. Making intentional choices about what occupies the space in our daily life.
So the answer to the question is still the same. And we can do that regardless of where we live.
A peaceful life requires intentionality, determination, and perseverance. But it starts with knowing we have a choice about the kind of life we want to live.