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Thursday, 11 September 2014

5 tips for living slow as a parent (or not)

If I’m not being mindful, I so easily feel the pull of more; of moving hurriedly from one moment to the next, to do more, acquire more, be more. Surrendering and accepting where I am right now in these intensive early years of parenting, as well as working on goals for the future is a constant balance. Do you feel that too?

We live in a society that constantly tells us we’re not enough, but we could be if we buy XYZ product.  And of course there’s the lure of the quick fix; “Don’t let pain or discomfort interfere with your busy life; take a pill or polish off this tub of ice cream; you deserve it”. 

It’s a world where busy-ness is almost a badge of honour; because busy = success. But the pace we move means that many of us are hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them.

In his books ‘In Praise of Slow’ and ‘Under Pressure’, Carl Honore examines how the world got stuck in fast-forward, and the rise of the Slow Movement in response.

“Slow” in this context does not mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. It means doing everything at the right speed. That implies quality over quantity; real and meaningful human connections; being present and in the moment. The Slow creed can be applied to everything we do: work, sports, medicine, food, sex, design…and, of course, child-rearing”

It’s no secret that childhood has become the latest casualty of the quick-fix, consumer society. The seemingly endless hours of unstructured, free play that characterised our parents’ childhoods is a mere blip in the average childhood of today that is governed by schedules, TV and extra-curricular activities. Cultured by the world of advertising, we want the best for our children, which usually translates into more ‘stuff’, not more meaningful time with their parents which is really what most children yearn for.

Here are 5 things that work to bring slowness into my day:

Get out of your head and bring awareness into what you're doing in the moment - It's pretty normal as a mum (and a woman!) to have fifteen things going through your head at once. Mindfulness techniques such as consciously observing yourself in what you're actually doing in the moment and how it feels in your body, are powerful ways to invite a sense of calm into a busy mind. When washing the dishes, pay attention of the feeling of the suds on your skin, and the rhythm of cleaning and stacking plates, for example. 

Look at your world through the eyes of your child, and move at their pace - When we have somewhere to be, it can be frustrating waiting for a toddler or young child who wants to explore. But if we can make the time, it's a perfect invitation to slow down and be mindful. To look at the tiny flower or piece of bark with the same sense of wonder and intrigue that they must feel in discovering something they've never seen before. 

Scale back the to-do list - It's a running joke in our house how much I think i'm going to get done in a day. It's great to have a goals and plans, but not if they're a source of anxiety. Look at what you really value getting done, and is realistic with the time you have, and ditch the rest. Most of the time, what we 'have' to do isn't really as important as we think it is. 

Brooke at Slow your home reckons that 'finding balance' every day is unrealistic and instead we should 'tilt' towards activities and commitments we find meaningful while being aware of the changing pressures of life and being flexible. I wholeheartedly agree. There's freedom in tilting.

Breathe properly - when your mind is going at a crazy pace or sending you down the rabbit hole of worry or anger or fear, do you ever notice how this affects your breath? It's probably quick and shallow and may not feel like you're breathing at all. Bringing your awareness to the breath through conscious, deep breathing, gives you focus, calms the nervous system and lowers the body's stress response. 

Play outside - fresh air and nature are the perfect antidote to feeling anxious or in a funk. Whenever I notice my patience level is waning, or i'm too caught up in my thoughts, I saddle up the dog, Hugo hops in the pram and we head out for a brisk walk. If there's no time for a walk, we play some laughter games in the backyard. Laughter and sunlight are like soul food.

I'd love to hear what works for you?

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