In theory, evening is a glorious time of day — a time to eat and spend time with loved ones and then unwind before bed. In reality, though, it’s often a stress fest – feed the kids, put the kids to bed, answer some emails, fall into bed. Or simply lost time – eat whatever, channel surf, cruise the Internet, then look up and wonder how it got to be 11:30 already.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to transform your evening hours into the respite they ought to be. Here are four of my favorite tips for a peaceful evening. I’d love to hear yours!
1. Breathe in the car
If you do nothing else, do this: Take three deep breaths while you’re still sitting in the car, before you go inside. Even just three little breaths will help you slow way, way down, and enable you to head into the house with a fresh perspective. Don’t believe me? Try it. Then leave a comment and let me know what you noticed.
If you have kids, you know that transitions can be especially difficult for them. Well, adults are just grown-up kids! Giving yourself a little quiet time during that transition between work mode and home life will help you leave work behind and be more present for what goes on at home.
2. Set an intention
This takes a couple seconds, but it can make all the difference in your evening. Before you leave work, decide what your main goal for the evening is going to be. Maybe it’s relaxing, connecting with friends, or savoring your kids’ cuteness. Setting an intention is like creating a force field – it sets up a boundary against chaos. Then, when you’re overwhelmed by the homework-dinner-bedtime rodeo, you can remember to focus on the funny quips your children make at the dinner table, or how they still look like little kids when they’re in their jammies. Noticing what’s going right changes your energy and draws your focus back to the positive. There’s just not enough space in your brain to get stuck on anything negative that happens.
3. Cook, mindfully
If cooking or cleaning up after the evening meal is stressful to you, turn it into an opportunity to decompress. While you’re chopping, stirring or sweeping, tune in to the physical sensations of what you’re doing. For example, notice the smell of the garlic as you chop it, the sizzle as it hits the pan, the feel of your feet on the floor, your hips pressing into the counter, the vibrant red of a pepper. When you learn how to make household chores mini mind-body practices, you’ll always have a refuge — even on those days when it feels like you only have time for obligations.
4. Get down on the floor
I’m not going to tell you to turn the TV off (although I find listening to music in the evenings to be supremely peaceful). When you’re watching your nightly TV, get off the couch and onto the floor. Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees (or with your feet on the floor and knees bent up toward the ceiling) and a small stack of magazines under your head lets your spine find its way back to its natural curves, which unkinks and de-stresses the back, making it a great way to add a whole lot of relaxing oomph to your vegging out.