5 life lessons a 1 year old taught mePosted: June 17, 2011
I can be moody and my moods affect my happiness levels.
I can have bad days when all I want is to stay in bed and sleep.
I can also get very upset and say hurtful things to people I love. And that affects not only my happiness, but theirs as well.
I don’t believe that I can control all of that, but I believe that by making small changes into my daily life, I can become more mindful, more grateful and a better person.
So I will start with lessons I learnt from my 1 year old friend.
1. Mastering a skill takes repetition and a cheerleader . A baby keep repeating the same gesture over and over again until he gets it right. Fitting the circle through the triangle hole doesn’t work. He tries and tries until he discovers that it can only fit thought the round hole. The baby does that over and over again, fascinated every time with his discovery. The mother is always there, encouraging and praising his abilities.
I tend to do something once or twice and expect to master the skill immediately. I look around the yoga class with envy at the flexible woman who can reach her toes and I get frustrated when I cant run more than 10m. How many times have you tried something new and gave it up soon after just because it was taking too long to get good at it? Or how many times you beat yourself up for not performing perfectly? Keep on repeating over and over again will eventually improve that down-facing dog, running on the beach or pronouncing properly the ‘Hij spreekt Nederlands’
Most important however is to surround yourself with people who will cheer you and your progress with love, patience and support.
2. Laugh. A baby laughs every time he sees something funny or new. Babies squeak with pleasure as they take a bath, laugh until they drop as their mother is trying to make funny sounds. They laugh when they are excited and they translate every pleasure into laughter. As we grow in age, we laugh less and less at ourselves, our discoveries, and we find less and less stuff funny.
3. Curiosity brings the greatest discoveries. A baby will go around the house or the playground bravely searching for adventure. They will find a piece of paper and inspect it on all sides. They will try to fold it, taste it and find its use. What amazing things would we find if we had the same approach? I find this particularly useful when traveling. Don’t stick to the beaten path. Explore, be curious. If you get lost, you can always give the card of your hotel to a taxi driver or a local and you will get back. We found the most amazing sunset scenery at a little temple on top of a hill in Sri Lanka. And it was romantic as no other tourists were there to spoil our moment. Or the best burger of our life in NY in a small restaurant that we entered just because we got lost looking for the ‘guide recommended’ one.
4. Cry. A baby cries when he is uncomfortable, too hot or cold, hungry, upset, or just in need of some love or attention. Letting it all our once in a while works wonders. It is like an under pressure boiling water. Eventually the cover will blow and the entire content will be spilled. A good cry once in a while calms down. I was never cryer so I eased into it by watching sad movies. Or maybe I found them sad so I can cry. Even Shrek 3 made me start the waterworks. Find what works for you. If you need a friend or your spouse there for comfort, just do it. Crying helps. And when the tears are dry, you can deal with the rest.
5. Sleep early and eat at regular times. A baby will get grumpy and irritated if he doesn’t get his nap time or his bottle of milk when he is hungry. Why would it be different for adults? We get used to sleep less and less and accept that our food is not always there when we are hungry. Or food is there all the time and we eat even when we are not hungry.
I made a commitment to go to sleep every night at 10. It was hard at first, but after a week, I found that the quality of my sleep was improving and the mood of the day was more energetic and positive.
I also found that having a daily eating ritual makes me eat less. It is a pavlovian reaction: it is noon time and by the time i meet my husband for his lunch break, I start feeling hungry. This will keep me going until dinner without much snaking in between.
So rediscover the child within and look at life with new eyes. You might find something surprising…