As someone who’s driven by productivity, keeping the Sabbath holy can sometimes feel like the one commandment that really cramps my style. It always seems like Sundays are the days I get inspired to jump into some new work project or frantically clean out all my closets. I find myself wheedling the Lord in ways I’d never dream the rest of the week: “Can’t I just scrub one toilet, pleeeease?”
And yet, there’s that still, small voice telling me to hold off on stressful activities — just for the day — in favor of rest. Over my years of following Jesus, I’ve gradually found that listening to this prompting reaps major benefits. When I actually slow down one day a week, not only do I feel closer to God, I’m less stressed and more level-headed throughout the week.
Of course, there’s the obvious biblical directive to not work one day a week—but a truly restorative Sabbath is so much more than not going into the office on Sunday. Here are five ways to add extra layers of refreshment to your day of rest.
Read a spiritual book
While I’m a hard-core book lover, I have a hard time allowing myself to simply sit and read during the day—especially when there are other tasks that beckon. Sundays, though, I try to give myself a pass. After all, there’s nothing like a good book on a lazy day to slow the head-spinning pace of weekday life. If it’s a book that’s spiritually enriching, so much the better. Some of my personal inspirational faves include “My Sisters the Saints” by Colleen Carroll Campbell, “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and “Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Liseux.”
Spend time in adoration or pray the rosary
Once I get my heinie in the pew on Sunday morning, I often find the hour of prayer leaves me wanting more time in God’s presence. I’m fortunate enough to live down the street from my church, which has an adoration chapel, so some Sunday afternoons I’ll slip over there to finish the convo I started with the Lord during Mass. I always leave feeling “prayed up” for the week ahead.
Want to take your spiritual development a step further? Make time during your Sabbath to pray the Rosary. The quiet rhythm of this prayer is a uniquely soothing way to connect with God.
Invest in a hobby
God may not have instructed us to go play in a garage band or take up paintball on the Sabbath, but this day is all about refreshment—and doesn’t having fun make you feel refreshed? Taking time for hobbies you enjoy is a surefire way to refill your mental (and even spiritual) tank. In fact, research shows that getting into a state of “flow”—where you’re completely immersed in an activity, such as a hobby—may reduce depression and anxiety.
On any given Sunday afternoon, you can usually find me working on counted cross-stitch (my latest project: a festive-looking llama for my daughter’s bedroom), baking cookies, or playing jazz standards on the piano.
Make it family time
The Sabbath presents an opportunity to get intentional about quality time with family—something that all too easily falls by the wayside on hectic weekdays. Haul out a board game that everyone can play, or go for a family hike on Sunday. If family doesn’t live close by or relationships are strained, reach out to close friends for a cozy dinner or movie night at your place. You might even consider taking a social media break to help you focus on whatever loved ones are in front of you in real life, rather than on a screen.
Skip the chores and errands
We all know we’re not “supposed” to work on the Sabbath, but to me, work goes beyond the kind I get paid to do. If I spend my whole Sunday doing laundry, wrestling my cantankerous vacuum, and running errands, have I actually rested? Well…not really.
We live in a busy world, and everyone’s schedules are different, so it may not always be feasible to skip housework or grocery shopping for a full 24 hours. In our family, though, we’ve made a commitment to frontload chores and errands on Saturday as much as possible. It’s sometimes a tall order, but it pays off in a full day of chill on Sunday. When we genuinely get a whole day off of work (in the home and out of it), we recharge our spiritual batteries to be God’s hands and feet in the world the rest of the week.
Originally published July 1, 2020.