“If you want to change the word, start off by making your bed” – Admiral William McRaven
Dare I say that one of the greatest gifts of this strange moment in time, is the gift of time itself.
We have been given permission as well as the opportunity to enjoy more time set at a lower frequency; a chance to be still, to review, recalibrate and think about our lives when many of us were feeling like our speed-dial was turned up beyond our control, the world spinning faster than ever before, hurtling us into a new way of being.
The ‘hurried child’ was fast becoming a new kind of normal for so many of our children – eating breakfast on the go, wilfully clinging to their playtime, whisked from one activity to another, and under pressure to be doing what even adults find difficult on any given day, sleeping less, and having to keep up with ever-increasing high expectations and demands. This unusual, maybe even once-in-a-life-time offer of more slow time comes with our need to be more ‘response-able’, more agile and flexible than ever before. Confusing maybe, but also very exciting. For this is the very moment to start to grow new habits that are both meaningful and useful, and habits that will hopefully stay in place when things return to a familiar pre-lockdown normal.
Did you know that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit – and an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic? There are no exact number of days, and for some people forming a new habit is far easier than for others. If we choose to use this time to think about what we want from life, and work to implement what we need to do to achieve our goals, we are more likely to make these goals a reality now, than at any other time of our lives. Lockdown becomes our chance to slowdown and just what we need to develop these new habits, mindfully and purposefully, with the best opportunity to make deliberate choices, calmly and rationally.
The well-known and highly acclaimed Dr Stephen Covey in his life-work ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ shares that “whilst we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can choose our responses.” Covey explains that we immediately become more effective when we decide to change ourselves rather than asking things to change for us. He encourages us to apply timeless principles like fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity when we set ourselves new challenges and establish new ways of being.
If we have the capacity to change our lives, for the better, and to possibly change the lives of others, because we are intuitive humans wanting to leave the world a better place, inspired educators who can touch the hearts and minds of those who we work with, or responsible team-mates working towards a common goal, thoughtful and evolving parents wanting the best opportunities for our children , or children who are determined to be a part of the solution to creating a better world, then now is the time to create those good and life-long habits that will set our hopes in motion.
When Admiral William McRaven delivered his message to the graduating students at the University of Texas back in 2014, he shared his experience of the power of influence one person may have on others, the ripple effect, not only outwards, but downwards into future generations. McRaven shared 10 lessons learnt during the intensive training of the top-ranking United States Navy Sea Air and Land (SEAL) Teams. The first lesson he said, is to start our day by making our bed! For the simple task of making one’s own bed has a profound influence on the way we will live our days (and sleep our nights). If you have not heard this speech, or would like to hear it again, please click here.
So, with this in mind, living through these days I like to think of slowdown, rather than lockdown, perhaps you would like to consider planting the SEEDS of a life well-lived (an acronym my daughter Cara has taught me) for sowing a bed of a life in balance, one that values and promotes personal wellbeing.
Sowing the SEEDS for wellbeing is not as hard as you think. In times like these, it is easy to feel run-down and stressed. It’s important to take extra care of ourselves and our families, forming healthy habits and meaningful connections.
Everyone knows what it feels like not to have a good night’s sleep, but we don’t always set up the healthiest habits to make sure we catch enough z’s. Here are some ideas to help promote healthy sleep routines:
- Plan and prepare for a consistent sleep schedule, even over the weekend
- Establish a calm and inviting bedtime routine – dim the lights, talk in softer voices, create an atmosphere of calm and quiet that feels different.
- Turn off screens at least an hour before bed (even more for younger brains)
- Keep your bed for sleeping and keep all other activities such a working, eating and watching TV outside of your bedroom.
- Make your bed too every morning. Encourage (and help) your child to make their bed each morning too. This simple task can teach children about routine, independence and signals the start of the day.
- A short day-time cat-nap or rest can enhance your night-time sleep.
The link between mood and food is well established. Eating well and enough is fundamental for long-term wellbeing and health. Start by:
- Noticing how certain foods affect your mood, both negatively and positively.
- Remember to stay hydrated, (seeds need water to grow!)
- Involve your child in the preparation of the meal – this is a great opportunity to spend some time together, to teach children about healthy eating habits, and to think about where food comes from, and what we do with food that is left-over.
- Positive mealtimes are not only about nutrition, but also a time for connection. Family dinners can be a beautiful ritual that give space for all members to share and be heard.
Get those endorphins up! Exercise may be harder for some than for others. Try to exercise out in the fresh air – we are blessed to live in a city that promotes this and provides different ways to get our bodies moving, with safety and surrounded by beauty.
- To begin or end the day with exercise is a great way to increase your mood and set you up for a happier day –
- Whether it is a walk or a bike ride, this will not only promote good health, but it is also a fun way to connect with your child.
- The focus for eating and fitness should always be on the way we feel, not the way we look. Remember you are modelling good habits by joining in. Our children look to us for cues and guidance, the best way to teach them is to show them.
Downtime is important. It is a chance to give yourself (your body and your brain) a little break each day.
- Listen to music, do a jigsaw puzzle, lay on the grass and watch the clouds float by, gaze out the window.
- Try to meditate or daydream
- Downtime helps you to notice your feelings and gives you a chance to figure out what to do to respond to them.
Many of us may be feeling isolated right now.
- Start to see your family members as new friends – find ways to play and have fun together.
- Tap into your support networks and allow your child to tap into theirs, ensuring that they have time to regularly connect with friends, even if now it means chatting to a friend on the phone or Facetime.
- Take a trip down memory lane – look at photographs of times with dear friends and think about what to plan when lockdown is over.
- Arrange drive-by greetings – at the end of drive-ways or in parking-lots –seeing a friendly familiar face is enough to sustain us for some time.
So, for now, whilst we have this gift of time, let’s try to create a better world together, one bed at a time, one day at a time, one human at a time.
About the author
Cathy Milwidsky is the Head of Early Learning and Development at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW