Two Things I do Every Night That Changed My Life

How the simplest of routines can make your day 100 times better.

Every night, I have four options. I either

  1. Work until after sunset.
  2. Do homework, work on this blog, or journal.
  3. Go home and spend too much time on my phone.
  4. Drive to my local Dunkin Donuts, get a strawberry sprinkle donut, pay for the person behind me, and watch the sunset from a specific spot on the side of the road from the roof of my car.

Option 4 far outweighs the other three in terms of long-term good and mental health. For one, after suffering from an eating disorder for almost three years, being somehow able to allow myself a regular donut counts as monumental growth for me. It sounds so illogical — the girl who can’t let herself eat peanut butter will genuinely make an effort to buy a strawberry sprinkle donut. However, for some reason, it works.

I also always struggle to balance spending and saving with bills and my general future, yet somehow paying for the person behind me, no matter the cost, makes sense. It’s the same way with Christmas and birthday gifts, as well as if I see some random something that would make someone’s day. Numbers stop mattering when it’s genuinely for kindness and kindness alone. I have this overarching peace of mind about it: if it’s for someone else, there can’t be a possible future that’s made worse by this grace.

It’s Not Just Me; It’s Science

Knowing I just made someone’s day that much better makes mine that much better. It’s not just me. According to Mayo Clinic, kindness is overall good for wellbeing. Psychologically, kindness releases dopamine and endorphins and lights up the reward center in the brain. Isn’t that amazingly weird? By giving, by losing resources and possibly threatening our future security, our brains feel rewarded. Physically, kindness can even reduce blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. Kindness is a literal stress-reliever and gift.

Another random tidbit: sunsets both make people happier and more generous (Penn State University).

I like having rituals in the middle of all the chaos, so taking about 30 minutes at the end of a day to slow down, do someone good and watch a heavenly color show is the perfect way to end a day. I also love to drive, so driving around sunset time after giving someone a gift is literally the best and most perfect way I could spend an evening.

Have You Ever Truly Watched A Sunset?

My sunset spot is high up. It faces straight east, and is a spot where the sun sets over suburbia, unblocked by trees or hills. It has almost a 360-degree view of the sky. I can see the sun setting in one direction and the clouds turning pink in the opposite. It’s gorgeous. Shades of orange, pink, gold, and the creamiest blues wash over the sky. I sit on my car wrapped in a blanket and eat my donut. I slow down and contemplate my life and the beauty of the world. I sit in awe of God’s amazing painting in the sky. And, when it’s all over, I get to night-drive home under newly-lit streetlights.

I started this tradition over a month ago. I used to let my nights waste away since I’d probably worked my butt off all day on school and at my job as a barista. Having this tradition taught me the importance of ending a day correctly, in gratitude and intentional peace. Not only that, but being in nature at all can lift anyone’s mood, according to Harvard. In a 2015 study, researchers compared study participants who walked 90 minutes; one group walked in an urban setting and one in a nature setting. They found that the group that walked in nature had less activity in the part of the brain that is responsible for loops of negative thoughts.

Cool, But So What?

Many people will read this and forget. I encourage you, dear reader, to figure out ways you can make the world a better place for yourself and others. 2020 was a monumental year in terms of international atmosphere. Now more than ever, people are yearning for and craving a world in which we all simply get along. Find ways to make that happen, whether it’s just going out into nature and making yourself a better person, or intentionally reaching out. Being kind can only bring good to the world, and to yourself.

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Written by Rachel Wilson


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