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Last winter, I was riding a chairlift at Copper Mountain with my then eight-year-old daughter, Hadley. It was a classic Colorado day, with skies so blue they could have been painted, the air still and slightly scented by the evergreens. Hadley and I watched in silence as skiers and boarders cruised down the slopes—far enough below us that we could only faintly hear them swoosh through the snow. About halfway up the hill, she leaned over to me and whispered, “Mom, it’s so…peaceful.” She was right—and I felt myself breathe a little more deeply.
I’ve visited that memory countless times this year, and reading our cover story reminded me of it once again: In “Peace Out,” 5280 Health senior editor Julie Dugdale explores how Coloradans can find serenity amid contentious public discourse, personal struggles, and everyday stress. The story explores tactics (like taking a break from technology daily or weekly to connect with the human beings in your life), places (such as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a designated dark sky area where you can relish the serenity of a galaxy of visible stars), and examples of the changes some of our fellow Coloradans have made in order to chill out. Dugdale describes the story as a kind of toolbox, from which you can pick and choose strategies that might work for you.
My own toolbox changes a bit every year. It’s anchored by a regular rhythm of prayer and downtime with my husband and our two kids. A few other approaches I’m using right now:
- I avoid major conversations before bed. Unless we’re dealing with an emergent issue, my husband and I don’t launch into major problem-solving mode after the kids are asleep, because Important Conversations can lead to minds that won’t shut down until 3 a.m.
- Related: I prioritize sleep (and I leave my phone in the kitchen when I head to bed).
- I’m learning to sit with discomfort or heartbreak—and not to confuse happiness with contentment. Happiness can be like a slice of cake: here for a few minutes, enjoyed, and then gone. Peace is less situational, less fleeting, and I’m working not to let momentary highs and lows rule my mind and my mood.
- I try to know—and spend time with—my neighbors. When the world gets unwieldy and I feel powerless, hanging out with and helping the people whose front doors are mere steps from mine gives me a sense of agency.
- I think about how small I am. Sounds weird, maybe, but I find a lot of peace in knowing that the sun rises, the mountains stand, and the snow falls—all without my help.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but I offer it here as an invitation to consider—really consider—how you can give yourself a chance to breathe deeper as this new year begins. We have more than our fair share of resources here in Colorado (bluebird days included), and I hope you find some that work for you.