Care of Oneself
The Spiritual Transformation programme encourages people to live a holistic and healthy lifestyle. It is essential that we look after our own mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Here are a few ways we can achieve this:
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night (parents with young kids are exempt from this requirement!) Forming good sleep patterns greatly benefit our spiritual lives. Remember that “the decision to stay up late at night is a decision not to pray in the morning.” (Fr Bob Bedard) And the moment we get up in the morning is the ‘heroic minute!’ (St Josemaria) as it requires a lot of discipline to get up at a set time.
- Get more exercise – As a nation, we are becoming more aware of the importance of regular exercise. We should make a realistic exercise plan for the coming few weeks and stick to it. Our personal fitness plan is relative to where we are starting out from, but we must still challenge ourselves. The experts say that for exercise to have an effect, we should be out of breath but still be able to maintain a conversation!
- Try to eat only healthy and nutritious food
- All forms of technology is a wonderful gift and a great resource to us. It enables “people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters” (Pope Francis). As a people of faith, we have a responsibility to evangelise the ‘digital continent.’ But we also must acknowledge the negative effect that technology can have on our relationships. Technology becomes a “hindrance” if we use it to “avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest.”It is thought that the modern person spends over half of their waking life in front of a screen! This cannot be good for our overall wellbeing. More alarming is the result of a survey that found that Irish children now spend an average of six hours a day on the internet. (See www.newstalk.com/Irish-children-spending-over-five-hours-a-day-online (accessed 10 February 2018)) Do we really want this kind of lifestyle for our children and our children’s children? Many people in the secular world are becoming increasingly concerned about the negative impact that the technological explosion is having on our culture and society. Unfortunately, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), or Problematic Internet Use (PIU), is a reality in our country where “a person’s internet usage interferes with their daily life.” We only need to look to our streets or cafes to see people totally engrossed in their phones to recognise that we are overly dependent on technology. Every time we do something that feels good, dopamine is released in our brains. It is said that we get many dopamine rushes or feel good rushes while browsing the internet. This unfortunately, makes technology use very addictive. Technology has become a “sociably acceptable drug.” (Pope Francis)
It is advisable then that we take control of our internet use, before it takes control of us. So as part of the Spiritual Transformation programme, we are encouraged to evaluate how we use technology. We ought to include in our Spiritual Transformation Plan clear steps on how we aim to ‘unplug’ from technology, “to look up!” so that we can ‘plug into’ God, improve the quality of our relationships and discover something of our authentic selves. “May we never look at the screen of our mobile more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord.” (Pope Francis) Here are some suggestions on how we might practically do this (Don’t forget to write your goals down!):
- Have technology free mornings – Try not to look at a device until we have been up for at least an hour (unless we need it for prayer)
- Try not to look at a screen during the hour before bedtime.
- Have one tech free day/evening every week
- Refrain from clicking into a particular website, blog or social media site that we are attached to.
- Only use the internet for work/study purposes during Lent.
- Avoid looking at our mobile while in the presence of others. (P.S. I once saw a sign in a restaurant saying: ‘No, we don’t have Wifi. Talk to each other!’)
- Reduce the amount of time in front of the television or on the internet. Maybe have a set amount of time for browsing and don’t go over it.
- Only listen to music that lifts the soul to God or has a calming effect on our souls.
- Fasting might have gone out of fashion these days but it is just as important today as before. We all have a base appetite. We all have a love for food, drink and pleasure. Due to original sin, our appetites can control us a lot of the time. We can often feel like a boat out at sea, being tossed about by our appetites and desires. We can be like St Paul when he says “the things we want to do, we do not do, while the things we don’t want to do, we end up doing.” But when we fast, we place order and discipline back into our lives. When we starve our base appetites of indulgences, our higher faculties, ie, our intellect and will, begin to take control of our lives and our decision making. They begin to steer the boat. When we fast, we can discern more clearly what the right thing to do is. When we fast, we also cultivate the willpower to do the good. So fasting really has many benefits for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The world is constantly telling us to indulge yourselves and do what feels good and that this will make you happy! But after mature reflection, we realise that this is not the case. Over-indulgence is never a healthy way of life. It is only when we introduce order into our souls and detach ourselves from unhealthy practices that we begin to experience true freedom and joy within ourselves. Fasting is always difficult. None of us look forward to it! But it is so worth it. Again, choose specific and realistic goals in this area and write them down. We can always review them as we go along and increase or decrease our fasting. Below we will find a few ways in which we can fast:
People traditionally fast on Fridays and sometimes on Wednesdays. Maybe we could consider not eating meat on one or both of these days or just having 2 small meals or go the whole hog and fast on bread and water (N.B. We must attempt this only when it is safe to do so. Fasting should never be undertaken if it has a negative impact on our health)
Other suggestions of things we can fast from:
- Soft drinks
- Desserts/sweets/crisps/biscuits etc
- Eating between meals
- Secular music (Listen only to music that lifts the soul to God)
- Certain books/magazines (read ones that will help you grow spiritually)
- Negative thoughts
- Foul language
- Leaving things until tomorrow