Being a mother is essentially a 24/7 job. From the moment we wake up in the morning until the moment we sleep, we’re there supporting and caring for our children (and often in the wee hours of the night).
But often enough there’s also a second job thrown into the mix. You know, the one that pays the bills.
So what affect does this have on our health?
A recent study has shown that working mums experience 18% more stress than other people, and for full-time working mums with two children, that figure rises to 40%.
So there’s no doubting that motherhood can be stressful, even as our children grow older and become independent. But what can we do to combat the stress?
There are many factors in our lives that we have little control over, but there is one thing we can influence; our happiness.
From research into neuroscience, we now know that happiness is far more than a great feeling that comes and goes. Happiness is wired into the physiology of our brains. It is a skill we can all develop through practising mindfulness.
Glen Schneider, in a little book called “Ten Breaths”, offers a group of simple practices that help us to ‘literally rewire our neural pathways to experience deeper and more lasting fulfilment and peace.’
When we think of activities that make us happy, breathing probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. It’s an automatic function that’s humming in the background of our lives throughout the day. But amazingly, neuroscience has found that we can actually use our breath to increase happiness in our lives. We can use breathing practices to enrich our everyday experiences.
Schneider’s “Ten Breaths” practice is simple. Basically, we are invited to focus our attention whenever we encounter something beautiful or have a meaningful experience and take the time to take ten breaths.
The science behind it
Studies in neuroscience show that it takes about thirty seconds to build a new neural-pathway. If we’re taking ten breaths while savouring a positive experience on a regular basis, we’re slowly rewiring our brains for happiness. This way, ‘patterns of happiness become habitual and deeply nourishing.’
Practising this simple exercise regularly (on a daily basis) gives our brain an opportunity to move from its default reaction of protection to one of appreciation and openness. When something delightful affects us, we savour it by giving it ten full breaths. By paying close attention to these times, we become aware that opportunities for happiness present themselves many times every day.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, stop whatever you are doing
- Close your eyes, place a hand on your belly and take three deep breaths to calm yourself
- Open your eyes and focus on your special object/person/experience
- Stay focused on whatever has caught your attention as you ‘count with your body’; take ten slow breaths and if possible, rest both hands on your stomach. With each new breath, gently press and release one of your fingers in turn on your belly
- If you are still entranced by your special moment, repeat the ten breaths practice again
- Look for opportunities in your day to repeat this practice.
So the next time you see, smell, hear or feel something wonderful, pause, take a breath and give it your full attention; ten breaths.
By doing this we are using our breath to deepen the experience so we can truly ‘savour’ it. Some examples you might give ten breaths to this week include:
- A sunset or beautiful cloud formation
- A photo of your child/ren
- Your spouse preparing dinner in the kitchen
- A favourire song or soundtrack
- The smell of your favourite flower/candle/perfume
- Your grandchildren playing in the backyard
Because our breath is always with us, always available to us, we can use the ten breaths any time, any place and with any positive experience to increase our happiness. As Schneider writes, ‘Please don’t limit yourself.’
This Mother’s Day, take some time out for yourself to appreciate the little things in life. And think: what can I give ten breaths to today?
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