Be a More Patient Parent With These Two Simple Exercises

By David Willans

Patience, or impatience started my journey to explore what it means to be a great dad, this website and many, many workshops with other parents on patience.

Patience can be broken down into two chunks. The first is setting your expectations at a level that’s closer to reality. The second is learning how to recognise and catch yourself before you snap.

These two exercises are about the second chunk. One of them is an obvious one. The other isn’t.

The obvious one is some form of meditation, because meditation is just practicing noticing your thoughts and feelings, choosing not to react to them and letting them go. Which is exactly the same as realising you’re getting angry and choosing not to react to it. There are tons of ways to do this, Headspace is a good start; I’ve heard good things about Calm too.

The second one is where it gets a bit weird. It comes from Wim Hof, also known as the ice man. He’s set world records for swimming under ice, and still holds the record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow. It’s a breathing technique that does the same job as meditation. Building your muscles of noticing your knee jerk reaction, but not actually reacting to it. The guy is eccentric, and makes some pretty outlandish claims, some of which are probably rubbish. But having done the breathing exercises regularly for a few weeks I certainly felt it easier to be patient.

This is the basic version of it –

  1. Controlled hyperventilation: The first phase involves 30 cycles of breathing. Each cycle goes as follows: take a powerful breath in, fully filling the lungs. Breathe out by passively releasing the breath, but not actively exhaling. Repeat this cycle at a steady pace thirty times. Hof says that this form of hyperventilation may lead to tingling sensations or light-headedness.
  2. Exhalation: After completion of the 30 cycles of controlled hyperventilation, take another deep breath in, and let it out completely. Hold the breath for as long as possible.
    You’ll feel your mind and body screaming to breathe after about 20 seconds, because it’s not used to not breathing. But your blood is fully oxidised, so you don’t need to breathe. It took me a few times to get through this, but after I did, I could hold my breath for 1:30–2 minutes.
  3. Breath retention: When strong urges to breathe occur, take a full deep breath in. Hold the breath for around 15–20 seconds and let it go. The body may experience a normal head-rush sensation.
  4. Repeat for three rounds.

This post was previously published on What it means to be a dad and is republished here with permission from the author.

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