Five things my granddaughter taught me that make for a happy life.
You never know where your next life lesson might be coming from
I have been blessed with the most precious Granddaughter, and get to spend time with her almost every day. There is a quote "Out of the Mouths of Babes......" that really speaks to my thoughts to of how I am learning important life lessons from a one year old child.
I like to believe that our lessons in life are coming from all over the place if we just listen and pay attention. Our "teachers" can be as unlikely as a child, a pet or even more obscure than that.
It is lovely to me to realize that I am growing as a result of time spent with this little girl, not only keeping her safe from harm, but observing how she views the world from her innocent, young perspective.
I want to share just a few of the biggest life lessons that my dear one has taught me with hopes that you can learn something new as well.
#1. Celebrate all of your Accomplishments
Babies learn more in their first year of life than probably at any other time in their life span. If we are lucky or smart, we can grow our own knowledge exponentially by paying attention to some of the little behaviors that shape them into functional little beings.
When we play with our baby we are eager to show her encouragement as she learns. So, in our experience that means a lot of hand clapping and saying "yay!" when something new is learned or accomplished. It goes a long way to encourage her to keep trying and striving to learn and achieve more.
What I have noticed recently is that I will often clap my hands and say "yay" for something I have done! For instance, I practice Yoga most days. I have been working as long as I've been practicing at going deeper in poses and being more successful at experiencing the depth of what I can get from better posture. When I am able to fully extend in a movement that I've been working hard at I will have a little celebration! It makes me smile and feel accomplished! When I first started doing this I would briefly feel a bit self conscious and now I just revel in my child like joy!
2. Don't sweat the Small Stuff (..and it's all small stuff)
Another lesson that my dear one has taught me is to be like a Duck and let stuff just roll off my back. Life is a festival of frustration for a toddler; they fall often, hit their heads, get told no, can't reach something they want and so on.
But, it is in how they cope with their frustration that set's them apart from their elders. We both can get vocal and even physical in showing our frustrations. But the difference is, when the toddler is done crying or pouting over their pique, they are done! We, the adults are much less brief in our upset. We tend to hold on to the feeling even after we've already ranted. It might even ruin our mood or even our day! But, the toddler recognizes that it is just part of their life to not always get their way and that once they make a fuss and don't get any different results, they let it go and move on. That's not to say that the next frustration won't be brewing rather quickly but again, they feel it, express it and let it go.
How wise it is to react in this way versus letting one's whole mood or day be disrupted and become unhappy.
It is easy to see all these little challenges and denials as earth shattering, life changing situations when in fact most of this stuff is really small and transient and hardly worth the initial outburst, let alone ruining one's mood for the remainder of their day.
So, when I find myself wanting to have a little tantrum over something I will allow myself to express my frustration and then I do my best to just let it go and move on to whatever's next. I think we can become better with practice at letting things go before they have us ensnared and brought down.
3. See life with curious eyes
It is very easy as we get older to become jaded and disenchanted with our day to day, routine lives. As adults, I think we get very adept at memorizing our daily rituals and becoming like zombies just going through the motions without even thinking about what we are doing.
Have you ever been driving a route that maybe you've been driving for many years, and suddenly you see something that you are sure was never there before today? This has happened to me on numerous occasions and I've even asked a passenger if they remember this site, only to have them assure me it's been there all this time. We are so used to seeing that we simply stop registering what we see!
But, to the toddler, everything they see is still new and to be discovered. There is no sense of "been there, done that" as they are open little sponges and eager to see all that they can.
How wonderful it would be if we, as adults tried to adapt that kind of innocent mindset that we are here to see and taste, feel and explore everything we encounter. We can learn something new even if we are doing something for the one millionth time! We simply need to let go of assuming we know it all and be open to seeing something with fresh eyes.
I enjoy watching my granddaughter take in a food, or a scent or an image with wonder and appreciation. I like to pretend that I am eating a food for the first time or seeing a new flower with a new fragrance that I never smelt before, even though neither experience is new.
Maybe we can experience all things as new when we allow ourselves to be more open to it.
4. The best things in Life are Free
Have you ever been to a small child's birthday party? Do you watch them open their gifts and then get so enthralled in the paper and ribbon along the way to forget about opening to find the gift?
I love this attribute and want to emulate more of it for myself. Not that I think asking people to buy me only boxes wrapped in paper instead of putting a gift inside is the way I want to go! But, I think if we are conscious of the entire picture and not just the end result, we appreciate so much more. The toddler is like this; they are just delighted by the colorful paper, the crinkling sound it makes and all the potential for throwing it, wadding it into a ball and then keeping it as they go further to explore what the paper originally covered.
Life is like the wrapping paper on a box. We are often more concerned with how we "wrap" our external selves with clothing and makeup and accessories, than we are with making sure what's inside is whole and healthy. What good is pretty trappings externally if what's inside is ugly and unhealthy? I like to think that we can work on filling the "box" of ourselves with the qualities of a good human being; one who is concerned for others, not only themselves.
We can still appreciate pretty coverings, but not in replacement of solid qualities inside.
5. Eat when you are hungry; stop when you're full.
In keeping with my Health Coach background, one quality I'm impressed with in toddlers is that they eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they've had enough.
There is no emotional eating, or binge eating or gluttonous sprees. The toddler takes in the food it needs and is offered and they stop opening their mouth for more when their bodies have signaled that they are full.
As adults we learn to ignore the satiety signal's and to eat for all kind of reasons that have nothing to do with physical hunger. As adults we eat to celebrate, to socialize and to numb emotions. We eat to have something to do when we are bored and eat even when we are feeling unwell. We seem to forget that food is simply that; food!
A toddler is often quite adventurous about eating and if they enjoy a flavor they certainly will eat with more gusto and vigor. But, they just know that when there tummy's are full, they need to stop eating until another time.
Surely, we can learn to help toddlers grow into healthier adults by keeping this habit in place for them. We can ruin their natural tendency to stop because we ourselves keep eating beyond our satiety. But, if we can help them to follow their body's natural instincts, it's possible that they won't develop the bad habits of stress eating, gluttony and binge eating.
We all can take a page from the toddler in regard to heeding their bodies signals.
Don't worry, be happy
In summary, remember that sometimes less is more. Take life one day at a time. You don't see a toddler stressed out because it's 200 pm and they haven't had their second nap! Or they aren't losing sleep wondering what Mommy is going to feed them for breakfast.
Nope, the toddler just lives in the moment and goes with the flow. They don't have a concept of worrying about what isn't or if there will be enough.
Obviously, as adults we have to kind of unlearn a lot of ingrained behaviors in order to live this way. But, we can do it if we really desire a more peaceful happy life.
Just remember to take time to appreciate what you have and celebrate the good. Don't worry about the niggling details and know that life has so much to offer. Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired.
Lastly, love with all your heart and open your heart to receive all the love it can hold. I can guarantee you'll feel calmer and freer and happier as a result.