Choose Health, Happiness, and Creativity: Start by Taking a Deep Breath

Choose Health, Happiness, and Creativity: Start by Taking a Deep Breath

Psychology June 10, 2014 / By Dona Matthews
Choose Health, Happiness, and Creativity: Start by Taking a Deep Breath

By slowing things down, you can enhance your own health, happiness, and creativity, as well as your kids’. Getting started can be as simple as taking a deep breath or making time for reflection, or as dramatic as taking a sabbatical.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I’m seeing signs of a growing backlash against the crazy-busy imperative that has driven ambitious adults into overdrive, too often at the expense of their children’s health, happiness, and achievement.

I respect the satisfactions of achievement and recognition, as well as the financial necessity of a paycheque. But as a psychoeducational consultant who works with children, I’ve become painfully aware of the increasing incidence of social, emotional, and attentional problems. Too many children are experiencing mental health issues—depression, bullying, aggression—or just chugging along not as happily productive as they should be.

There are many factors that contribute to the rising number of kids with problems, and I’m not saying there’s an easy fix, but when parents are too busy to give their kids much of their time, that exacerbates kids’ problems. Yes, quality time is important, but so is the quantity of that time. Some of the saddest and loneliest kids I’ve worked with have lived in big houses with two parents with high-powered careers.

This situation is further complicated by the fact that the kids are often overscheduled themselves. On top of school and homework and pressures to get good grades, they’ve got lessons and playdates and sports teams and tutoring and more. No one in the household has time to take a deep breath and reflect on what matters.

It’s not just my clinical experience and personal observation; there’s lots of evidence that living life at that kind of pace is stressful, and that it takes a big toll in health, happiness, and creative fulfillment, both in the short term, and over the life span. So I was delighted when I read Jacoba Urist’s analysis suggesting there’s an increasing number of parents choosing not to be so busy (“'Overwhelmed’ Moms Choose NOT to Be Busy” in She writes about Brigid Schulte’s book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.” According to Schulte “It’s become an American value or a status symbol to overschedule yourself and your kids.” But, according to both Urist and Schulte, there is a quiet backlash happening, parents reclaiming their own humanity, and giving their children time and space to discover why life is worth living.

Here are some ideas for slowing things down, and moving toward a saner, happier pace of life. You will almost certainly see benefits for your kids. And you might be surprised to find your own health, happiness, and creativity increasing, too.

1. Take a deep breath. Practice mindfulness techniques. Breathe deeply when you notice yourself stressed, or see signs of stress in the people around you. Practice yoga. Meditate. Listen to your children, your environment, and yourself. Think—and take at least one good thoughtful breath—before you speak.

2. Make time for reflection and connection. Reduce and limit screentime, both for yourself and for your children. Reduce scheduled obligations, both yours and theirs. Set aside time every night before bedtime for a quiet conversation, one on one with each of your kids. Have dinner together—and not on the run in a fast food joint.

3. Take good care of yourself. Eat well—healthy and local whenever possible. Get enough physical activity that your body feels good. Get enough sleep. Take naps when you need them.

4. Take a hike. Try to find time for a walk—preferably in nature—every day. Even if it’s only twenty minutes, you’ll experience many benefits, including stress reduction and increased sense of well-being.

5. Take a sabbatical. This is the big one: take real time out from the action. More and more people are choosing to take time out from high-demand jobs. Sometimes they establish slower careers; sometimes they travel with their families; sometimes they create gentler lives for themselves, at least for a while.

There are ways to push back against being too busy. In a culture that prizes overscheduling, it takes courage and confidence, but it is very much worth doing. By thoughtfully slowing down the pace of your life so you have time to breathe and listen and take care of yourself, you gain access to your own creativity and enhance your kids’ chances of creating happily productive lives for themselves.

For more on this topic:
'Overwhelmed’ moms choose NOT to be busy 
How overwhelmed moms can lessen stress
Angry Kids & Stressed Out Parents
Play Outside! Twelve Ways to Health, Happiness, Creativity, and to Environmental Sustainability
The Wonder of the Ordinary: A Crucible for Creativity, Talent, and Genius

Slowing Life Down to a Child’s Pace


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