It's Summertime…and the Livin’ Should be Easy! And if it’s not, you are doing something wrong. Well, not wrong, exactly, but you are missing out on what gives life depth and keeps it interesting. What doesn’t keep life good and juicy is the modern pace of life; human beings are designed to appreciate beauty, to have a good laugh, to nap in the sun (with sunscreen), to enjoy deliciousness, to create, to daydream, to stare at the stars.
Okay, okay, you’re busy. So what? There are 168 hours in a week. Let’s assume you get your 8 a night, which you probably don’t. That leaves you with 112 hours. Take out 40, or even 50, for work. More than that and you need to stop it. That leaves you 62 hours. Sixty-two hours! Three thousand, seven hundred and twenty minutes to play a game with your kids, to plant a garden, to sip a glass of wine and watch the stars come out. Two hundred and twenty three thousand , two hundred seconds to smell your baby’s head, teach your dog how to dance, hold your husband’s (or wife’s) hand and walk around the block, paint a picture, make pancakes and sit down with the family to actually eat them. You do have time; you just need to take advantage of it.
Okay, okay, you are way too important to have fun. Just try adding something, any small thing, to your schedule that serves no real purpose other than allowing you to relax, to reconnect, to enjoy. Your company will not fail and zombies will not take over the world if you take a break.
Now, I obviously write blogs for a company that specializes in leisure products, and it would be logical for me to give you a list of all the things you need to buy to make this summer a memorable one. However, I’m not going to do that; although I will encourage you to sit down, pour yourself a cuppa and window shop at familyleisure.com
. There may be something that will be just what you need to inspire you to take a step back and relax. In fact, there is undoubtedly something at Family Leisure that will do that. So yeah, give the website a gander. They have great products for making the most of your downtime.
What I am going to do is tell you to slow down. Slow down! Take a minute and think about the last thing you did that made your life (not just your bank account) genuinely better. Something that lifted your spirits, that made you smile, that made you feel connected, and that created a beautiful memory for you to mull over on a dark day.
Maybe you don’t know where or how to begin; here are some suggestions to ease your way into a more mindful and joyful life.
1. Make at least one meal a week a time to connect with your family (and/or friends). Turn off the television, ban phones from the dining table and have a genuine, face to face conversation. Put your food on real plates, even if the Colonel cooked it. Notice what you are eating; chew slowly, enjoy the flavors and textures and the way your body begins to relax. Don’t think about what you are going to do later, or tomorrow or next week. Pay attention to where you are and who you are with right now.
2. Practice the art of single-tasking. Multi-tasking is over-rated. Seriously, you might manage to accomplish is several things, but none of them get all of your attention, ergo; none of them get your best. Ritualize bedtime, bath time, coffee time, meal time by giving it the benefit of your entire brain. Even making a cup of tea can become a tiny little sea of tranquility in your day if you focus on what you are doing.
3. Turn off your phone, laptop, pad, whatever it is that makes you slack jawed and blurry eyed. You knew this one was coming; it is so simple and soooooo difficult. Treat yourself to a few minutes of freedom. Yeah, freedom. Think about it. You are enslaved by your electronics; they dictate the entire shape of your day. Grasshopper, this is not good for your soul or your stress level. Power down.
4. Make friends with the quiet. Listen to the sounds of your house, your body, your backyard, even your car. It is amazing how clear your thoughts become, how your pulse slows down, how your mood levels out, how your breathe becomes regular, how your spirit sighs when you just spend a few moments being still and listening to your own heart. Remember lying in the grass, listening to the breeze rustling in the trees and watching the fluffy clouds waft along in a bright blue sky? I didn’t think so.
5. Get a hobby, or, if you have one already, spend some time doing it. I have a garage full of potential works of art, languishing away, waiting in vain for me to stop binge watching Hulu. When I actually do decide to get creative, it allows my brain to put to use those parts that don’t see much action these days. Time spent creating is satisfying, it is soothing, and it is sacramental. So dust off that old guitar and try playing Stairway to Heaven again. You’ll get it one day!
6. Sign your kids up for one less activity. Seriously. They need downtime as much as you and you need one less practice or game or recital to attend. This is not bad parenting. This is freeing up time for your kids to be kids and for you to be a parent. Cook dinner together, walk the dog together, play a game or read a book. Use the extra time to get to know each other. Your kids change constantly; if you don’t pay attention you will be looking at a stranger one day.
7. Set a time for your work day to end and end it. Parkinson’s Law says “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Don’t give it every minute of every hour of every day; it will literally take over your life. Make some periods of your day sacrosanct, completely work-free periods. No checking emails, no reading texts, no answering phones, no working on proposals or projects. Own your life.
8. Say no. Say it. No. No. No! No!!!!! You do not have to volunteer to be involved in everything that is going on around you. You don’t have to host every family holiday, or bake cookies for every bake sale or be on call as your tweenager’s chauffeur. You are not a bad person if you only participate in one fund-raiser this month. If you don’t pace yourself, you will be no good to anyone anyway. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
9. Allow yourself plenty of time to get things accomplished. We all do it; sacrifice a peaceful morning for 10 extra minutes in the sack. You get up late, you rush around to get dressed, to grab a bite, to get the kids out the door, to hit the highway for your commute. You honk and swear because everyone else is making you late. (Of course it is their fault you got up late!) You finally get where you are going and you are angry, stressed and set up to have a miserable day. If you think it is going to take you 30 minutes to get somewhere, give yourself 45 minutes. If the project you are working on will take an hour to do, give yourself two hours. If you get finished early, yay! If it takes longer than you thought, you have the time to do it without losing your mind.
10. Learn how to do “nothing.” Just relax, pay attention to what is going on around you, to what is happening inside of you. Notice how the light looks slanting across the trees in the late afternoon. Take a walk with no purpose or destination. Color. Close your eyes and think about everything that is good in your life. Pet your dog or cuddle with your toddler. Thich Nhat Hanh, in his spiritual guide, Planting Seeds, says “Not doing anything, just enjoying ourselves and whatever is around us, is a very deep practice, because we all have an energy within ourselves that constantly pushes us to do this or that.” Or, as one of my favorite philosophers, Winnie the Pooh, advises “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Who are we to argue with them?
Take control of your summertime and spend some time not bothering. Your friends, your family and your own over-stressed and under-relaxed self will thank you for it. Life that is lived exclusively in the fast lane will take you nowhere really quick; pull over and enjoy the scenery. SaveSaveSaveSave