The pace of the Western world is ever-increasing. It seems almost everybody wishes they had more time. Many people feel overwhelmed, and for some enjoyment has decreased. Essentially, there is less opportunity for connection and depth in our moments. Life is packed full, but not necessarily fulfilling. Kids are growing up faster than ever as we rush them from soccer to ballet – all in the name of “enrichment.” It seems we are trying to fit more in than ever. Inevitably this has a negative effect on mental health, as it can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
There is a movement called “slow parenting,” which involves the idea that “unplugging.” It emphasizes more connection and encourages parents to observe, savor, and soak up their children. It brings the family focus to more mindful activities that place importance on being present, together and connected. Here enters the concept of mindfulness, bringing our attention to the moment without judgment so we can soak in the preciousness of what is happening right now. Mindfulness helps us slow down and be present. It also improves memory function, meaning that the moments we have together can be cherished – impacting your life experience overall. While this concept has become popular, let’s consider it something besides a trend. Slowing down is a lifestyle choice, a family value. It is something that we catalyze to change our lives profoundly.
There is a spiritual fulfillment in slowing down and being present. Recent research indicates that mindfulness impacts the perception of time. Time is reported as being “longer or slowed down”. Scheduling less, unplugging from technology, and reducing stimulation make it easier to plug into the moment and leave room for an organic, spontaneous flow and unfolding. So just what does it take to engage in a slower, more mindful way?
Try This – Examining Your Mentality
Do you have to do everything at a specific time? How important is efficiency to you, over savoring and reducing stress? Is the thing in the future more important than the thing right in front of you? Where is your mind? Are you doing more than one thing at a time? Are you trying to get to the next “best thing?” How are you valuing the moment? Do you ever feel like you have “arrived” anywhere? Are you always “busy”?
Breaking it Down
The “Have To’s”: Sometimes we are so driven by what we think will bring us life satisfaction, that we lose touch with the reality it may not be working. We often think we “should” do things (the gym, the swim lessons, the homemade meal) in order to be a fulfilled person, a responsible parent, or a loving spouse. It is easy to get caught up in the ideas of what a “good life” is and then lose touch with how we are actually experiencing our days. Where do these ideals come from and whose voice is that inside your head pushing you forward? Is this a value you grew up with or something you have learned from society? When we examine what we really want – to slow down, to enjoy life, we just may realize that what we are missing is literally right in front of us.
Valuing the Future: Our minds tend to jump to the next thing. If we don’t monitor this tendency, we end up trying to be somewhere we can’t really be – in the next moment. When we are somewhere else besides here, we miss out on all the good stuff available to us now. We end up worrying about things we can’t control and moments that have not happened. If we live in the future, we live in ideas, not reality. In this way, we are saying that what we think is more important than what we are experiencing. It’s astonishing when we stop to consider how much time we lose being somewhere other than here.
Multi-Tasking versus One-Mindfulness
The Power of Focus: Many of us think that without multi-tasking, we would fail to get anything done. Let’s do a reality check though – is this true? What if you brought more focused attention to your day? Research suggests doing one thing at a time is possibly more effective – especially if it is an interpersonal or complex task. This is called “one-mindfulness”. With one-mindful, quality attention not only could you possibly get more done but time might slow, chaos might decrease and the voices in your head might be replaced by what’s actually happening.
Not only does how you physically relate to the moment matter, but what you are thinking can also add to the “busyness”. It’s a wonder with all the mental noise we can engage in that we have any real connection or authentic moments with our child – or anyone for that matter. Mindful attention also has to do with what’s going on in your head during the day. This largely determines how you “show up” and are willing to meet the moment. Even if we aren’t multi-tasking we can still be somewhere other than here.
Sometimes being busy can be a distraction, or a form of avoidance. It can be very helpful to ask when perpetually over-scheduled, easily pulled in multiple directions, or addicted to our connection with social media what being so distracted might serve to keep you from looking at. When we look at our pace, habits and our busyness in this light, we can then take the much-needed time to tend to things we might have unintentionally not been dealing with. This kind of examination can be powerful, leaving room for fresh perspective and a re-focus of what’s important.
5 Steps to Slowing Down:
- BREATHE: Take a breath (OUT LOUD) and check-in. Life is happening right here, right now. This is “it”! The journey IS the end-point; it is the “goal”. Honor the process, the now. All of life happens only in the now, including parenting.
- DROP IN: Step into the moment. Embrace what is unfolding right now. Make room for “doddling”, exploring. Take a moment to dive into the strange bug you just saw, the storm clouds in the sky, the way you are holding hands. Life is not “out there”, it’s right here!
- SIMPLIFY: Take each step, each moment, one at a time. Don’t over-schedule things. Reduce multi-tasking and internal chatter. Choose your words, leave room for silence, and keep focused on what is in front of you. Refuse the temptation to pack just one more thing in the day. Ask what’s most important?
- GO WITH THE FLOW: While following a schedule may help you feel “in control” and “organized”, make room for an organic unfolding too. Cut out what feels too difficult as the day goes along. Honor moods, hunger, the need to rest or stop altogether. Run life not only by what you “think”, but how you feel.
- GRATITUDE: Appreciate just being. We don’t need conditions on our life to “be happy” – happiness is present in the moment – yes, THIS moment. So say it if you feel it: “I love this moment we are having!”, “Wow, what a sunset!”, “Feels so soothing to listen to those crickets sing.”
Consider a few additional things:
Consider incorporating more mindful activities. While this could look like meditation or yoga, it could also just be more time spent in nature. Children don’t need complicated and elaborate plans to make them happy – and neither do we! Studies show backyard activities, picking flowers, berries, or flying a kite are amongst some of the most enjoyable. It can be chaotic enough with children, keep things simple. Activities which foster a being/flowing versus planning/doing are more conducive to mindful connections- unhindered by logistics.
Being slower paced means taking an attitude of mindfulness to your life. If you establish a mindful approach, it is easy to slow down into your day. Whether it’s brushing your teeth, taking a walk, eating, or saying goodnight, you can take these moments as opportunities to drop in, get authentic and pay attention with new focus. Pick a special time to slow things down or start up mindful rituals to ensure you do this: bath time, dinner time, picking your child up from school, regular check-ins, and morning tea or coffee can be especially rich if we just take on this intention to be slow and present.
Consider a breath or a family bell to help put a pause in your day. A singing bowl, tingshas or really anything that makes sound (dare I say an app on your phone even) is a beautiful way to take a pause and encourage stopping, getting mindful and slowing. It is a chance to join in a moment and invite peace and calm. We place our singing bowl where it is conveniently and accessible for everyone to ring so that when the desire strikes, anyone can create a pause!
Whether you need a re-evaluation, a lifestyle adjustment, or just something to contemplate, we hope this helps you slow down, breathe easier, reduce stress and hopefully get more out of life. We hope that by slowing down just a little and dropping into the moment that you are able to access the kind of parent you want to be and the life you want to live, moment-by-moment. Happy journeying!
"5 Tips to Slowing Down" was originally posted on MindBodyMama.com on July 22, 2016 by Jessica Killebrew, Psy.D.