I just wrote about spending time connecting with what really matters at the WOMADelaide festival on the weekend. There is such a crazy amount of stuff to do in life and a competitive edge to the social media highway. Sometimes you feel like you want to jump off. Mr Recycled and I have been talking a lot about how we want to craft our lives in the next couple of years. I know I am permanently connected to technology and often running at a fast pace, and this can make me feel disconnected from everything else in my life. Do you feel the same?
Our third child, sweet Maxwell, is just 7 years old and has a lot of years ahead, and James is now 17. Our oldest son Cameron is 22 and lives independently. In some ways this feels free, we only have one small child left to grow, but part of me feels sadness. The years of having babies, of experiencing that amazing first few years of growth and development are finished for me. Having a 17 year old and a 22 year old I know there are many other wonderful experiences to come, and Mr Recycled and I don’t want to miss a thing.
You may know that I live with type 1 diabetes and this coupled with my experiences of depression and panic attacks in my past, have made me face death in some ways. Living with these things was very much like dealing with a near death experience. I was so disconnected from what holds me to this earth that I considered leaving it. My first son Cameron, then just 2, was one of the things that anchored me to life.
I have also seen some horrible things in my life. My first job out of university as a social worker was in child protection, and showed me some babies are not wanted and some are treated so badly, it broke my heart over and over again. I always wanted to be a mum, yearned for this. This yearning became stronger when I was told as 12 year old girl when I got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, that I would probably never have children and if I did ever dare to get pregnant the baby may be born dead, or deformed. At first this devastated me but eventually, I think it made me more determined to prove them wrong! Yes I am totally a rebel!
To me the most important parts of a home are the people who live in it. The ones who sometimes drive you crazy, but who mostly hold your heart. The ones who wake up in the night and sneak into your bed, even at 7 years old! The ones who sit down and tell you all their troubles. Eat all the food before you get time to unpack it. Have discussions on the couch about politics, holidays, dreams. Chase you around the house for some “wifey” time when all you want to do is crawl into bed (after checking your Instagram feed for the final time). Family is the people who fill your home and your heart. They may not be your blood relations. They may be people who don’t live with you but are still “home”. They are your people. They are the ones that you are connected to.
I am constantly amazed at how lucky I am to have 3 miracle sons, despite 37 years of life with type 1 diabetes. I know many women who are not as lucky as me. Yet life gets on top of me and can get in the way of this. I am so passionate and involved in my working life that I can feel annoyed, pressured, strung out when trying to juggle kids against work and every responsibility. However on days when I sit and watch Maxwell climbing in the playground while the wind blows, with the beautiful coloured parrots calling from the silver green gum trees to each other, or see him paddling in the sea, sand grit between my toes while the pelicans float by – when I stop and watch just him, I remember that yearning I had for babies. I remember how lucky I am. I am trying hard as my children all grow and the rest of us get older too, to stay connected with what matters. To enjoy this lucky, full to the brim and overflowing life I have, while remembering to stay connected. It is not always easy.
Do you also struggle with this?
So here are 10 tips to help you reconnect with what matters and increase your happiness :
1. Technology disconnect: Technology is everywhere. I adore it but I have to remember to switch off for a time each day, and each week. Everyone is expected to be accessible at at all times but you don’t need to be! It can be hard to do something without getting out your smart phone to share it. Often on Sundays I try to experience the whole day without Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Try it this weekend. See how it feels. Don’t look through a lens or screen, eat it all up with your eyes, heart and mind. We also have 4 nights a week where we sit to eat together and there is a no screens policy.
2. Get into nature: it is proven that you feel better when you get outside into the fresh air and what better time of year to do it than autumn. Go for a walk, take the kids to the park, jog, walk, wander. Pick flowers. Dig in the sand at the beach. Visit the local Botanic Gardens or potter in your own garden. Breathe deeply and take it all in.
3. Organise: I prefer this word to “declutter” as despite not liking clutter on surfaces around my house (I hate a dining room table drowning in crap), I also like to collect and to display treasured things, which could kinda be seen as clutter by some people. But organising stuff is really important to me and makes me feel a lot calmer and more connected. I like to take an hour or so on a Saturday to organise and sort most of the main rooms in the house, or at least the living areas and my own bedroom, so I feel more organised and energised.
3. If you live in the city, get out of it for a bit: This is not always possible but even a drive to a suburb you don’t usually visit can be like going away. We took a drive to a beachside suburb we had never been to a few weekends ago, visited the beach, a couple of open inspections and drove through the back streets. We finished with afternoon tea in a gorgeous strip of funky coffee shops we did not even know existed. If you can get out of the city for a drive somewhere slower and more relaxed, then do it as often as possible.
4. Take some time out from people who suck you dry: There are often people in our lives who take all of our energy and give nothing back. It is important to take time out from these kinds of people in your life. Perhaps even cut ties with them altogether if you need to. This includes “friends” on social media. How many people on your Facebook or Instagram feed do you actually know in real life? Or at least feel a real connection to? I love meeting new people online and getting to see inside their lives, but social media is all about being social – which means give and take. People who constantly blow their own trumpet but never comment on your special moments, or awful ones, may not be helpful to your own wellbeing.
5. Talk to your loved ones face to face: It may sound silly but we often rush around and don’t sit down and really talk to each other, or really look into each others eyes. Try to make at least 3 times a week a sit down family dinner. Sit with your partner and really look into each others eyes for a few minutes – try it, it can be really hard to do! If you live alone, make sure you have a dinner or two each week where you don’t have the television or other distraction on and sit to enjoy a special meal. Make it special, put candles on, play some music. Call or skype a close friend or family member, or invite them over to share the meal with you.
6. Look outside of yourself: Research shows that people who spend time doing something for others are much happier and more connected. Volunteer time for a charity, at your children’s school,or the local hospital or nursing home. Founding a charity I know that we were always looking for people happy to donate their time and there is nothing like the feeling of knowing you have done good for someone else. I believe we are given life to make a difference.
7. Do something for the environment: There is no doubt at all that climate change is well and truly upon us, but you can make a difference. There are always ways you can play a part in reducing the impact. Join a local national park landcare group, get out and help in the school working bee to plant trees, add more native and local plants indigenous to your area in your own garden, grow some vegies, set up a compost heap. Find out about how you can personally make a difference.
8. Change your thinking: thinking that you “should” do things all the time just leads to stress. Stress gets in the way of enjoyment of the here and now. Worry takes you away from your current experience and into the stress zone. Learn about mindfulness and how to be more present, less stressed and stop beating yourself up all the time.
9. Don’t give in to pointless anger: You know the scenario, stuck in traffic, your heart rate is rising, you get angry, tense, strung out. Instead of feeling like this when you are stuck in traffic or the line at the check out, use this time as an opportunity to be present. Notice 5 things that you can see around you. Do some deep breathing cycles and imagine you are sitting on a tropical beach, or by a mountain stream. Make the most of these small moments of down time that you can not change or control.
10. And finally, find things in life that matter to YOU:What are your passions? What floats your boat? It may be knitting, cooking, going for bushwalks, painting, or upcycling. It may be reading a book, writing poetry or playing scrabble. Maybe it is blogging! 🙂 Op shopping, building things with your hands, flower arranging, singing, playing the guitar or going to bands. Whatever it is, the things that give you pleasure, that remind you life is short, not all that complicated and really about living in the here and now, being a decent human being and caring for yourself, each other and the planet – that is what life is all about.