The world, as we all are painfully aware, is in turmoil. Protests have become a constant, white supremacists and Antifa clash in the streets, and fears of nuclear war have returned as relations with Iran and North Korea become newly uncertain. It's easy for ordinary citizens to feel helpless. Here are some free or low-cost ways, from the personal to those with a wider scope, to do something to promote peace in the world.
TAKE A MINUTE
It all starts from within. Make time each day to meditate. It doesn't have to be a big production complete with mat, shrine, and bells; simply close your eyes for whatever time you can spare, gather your thoughts, and focus on peace.
LOSE THE NEGATIVITY
We all go through tough times, and we want to be there for our friends -- but when occasional complaining turns into a nonstop litany of woes, it brings you down, too. Ease yourself out of spending time with a personality whose negativity affects you.
Stress leads to poorer health. Check with a doctor and make an effort to exercise more. Overall health will improve and the meditative nature of running, walking, or repetitive exercise can help as well.
GET IN TUNE
Music relaxes. Make the time -- even if you zone out to just a single favorite song or composition -- and expect to be surprised at how refreshed you feel.
Before heading into a potential political debate, dedicate yourself to reading widely and observing more to grasp the nuances. Being better informed can add calm to a conversation.
You will never feel fully at peace near a stack of unpaid bills, hamper overflowing with clothes, or garage that no longer fits a car. Declutter surroundings and declutter your mind.
CREATE A SANCTUARY
Home is sanctuary, where you refuel and connect with inner calm. Invest in simple things such as scented candles or mini waterfalls -- though it may sound clichéd -- and they can add serenity, if you let them.
CARVE OUT FAMILY TIME
Designate one night a week, or a weekend breakfast, to family conversation. The rules are simple: No gadgets, no gossip. Talk about plans, concerns, issues. It's a great way to create a "safe haven," especially for kids.
Gardening, by nature, slows you down. It's a methodical, tranquil process that ideally results in something delicious -- or beautiful.
Spend time together regularly doing simple things -- chores, maybe, or something more fun -- and promote an underlying sense of security.
There's a power to be found in attending a religious service, no matter your faith. Joining together with a community spiritually can bring a sense of cohesiveness and knowledge that others are equally committed to peace.
MAKE SOMETHING FOR OTHERS
Spend time making something tangible to help someone else. It could be baking a cake for a new neighbor or making holiday decorations for a local nursing home.
Take a return journey into some time-honored literature, whether a childhood favorite or a literary classic. It's reassuring to revisit characters or see how generations have faced -- and often overcome -- similar problems.
Sign a petition, offer to staff a booth, donate your time to a local organization that has a mission aligned with your values. It could help education, the environment, social causes, health... anything you believe in. Helping out reinforces your commitment and your support will be valued more than you know.
ADOPT A PROJECT
Think about dedicating yourself to one organization and giving it your all, or seeing a project through from start to finish. You may like the feeling better than doing a bake sale here, a walkathon there. The organization will relish the commitment too.
GET OUT A PEN (OR LAPTOP)
Instead of just spouting off ideas, go a step further: Send off your solution to an issue to an elected official in a letter or email, or make a phone call.
TAKE A BREAK FROM SCREENS
Turn off all devices and leave social media behind. Any break makes a difference: You'll see things in a different way, and notice things you never do. The constant beeping and ringing will be replaced by something unfamiliar: peace.
CURB THE ROAD RAGE
Driving is no joke, and today, the roads seem more unsafe than ever. Be kind to yourself and arrive safe and sane: Next time you get behind the wheel, promise yourself you won't mutter, shout, make obscene gestures, or worse.
OFFER AN EAR
Today's young people have issues to deal with we never dreamed possible. Offer your own children, younger relatives, or neighborhood kids an ear. Share your wisdom (and hear theirs), answer their questions, and maybe even change their outlook.
CLEAN IT UP
If your community is filled with litter, clean it up. This doesn't have to be part of a formal "clean-up" project, though it might not hurt to contact the town or parks department and offer to help. A little sprucing throughout the year will make you proud, and let others know people care about where they live.
It's easy to stay wrapped up in thought while hurrying to an appointment or waiting in line. Try offering a stranger a simple hello, accompanied by a smile. It might turn their day around, and give you a boost too.
GIVE A COMPLIMENT
Take a simple hello to the next step: Compliment a stranger, or ask how their day is going. It will take them away from the drudgery of their day, and you may hear a great story.
SWITCH UP ENTERTAINMENT
Instead of catching the latest blockbuster, expand your horizons and watch a documentary or foreign film. The change in perspective can not only broaden horizons, but instill respect for things far out of your own everyday experience.
DONATE TO CHARITY
Skip the daily designer coffee or weekly night at the movies; take the money and donate it. What you'll miss (a few bucks at most) can make a world of difference to a charitable cause that probably relies on modest donations from loyal supporters.
JUST SAY 'THANKS'
It's easy to get wrapped up in our own problems, whether it's canceled lunch plans or being passed over for promotion. Really, most of us have an incredible amount to be grateful for. Focus on the positive.