This week in small group we are studying SLOTHS! Until we slow down in the moment, and during life in general, relaxation practice isn’t effective or even very possible. Slowing down in the first step in the relaxation response, it is a signal to our Central Nervous System that we are going to calm down, regulate our emotions and get back to feeling settled, present, and at ease. Slowing down is also the first step in all emotional regulation and mindfulness, I can’t emphasize enough how healthy it is for the nervous system to intentionally practice slowing down.
A fun, and exaggerated, example of slowing down can be seen in the following clip from Zootopia. It provides rich discussion points to open your group. Talk with your students or child about what they observe in the video. What do they notice about rabbit? How does fox’s humor affect the situation? How does the sloth seem to feel? What do they notice about the sloth’s speed and interest in getting things done quickly? What can this say about how we respect others and their needs?
Video: Zootopia Full Sloth Scene
Learning From the Experts
So I got to thinking? Who are experts in slowing down? Sloths of course! We can learn a lot from a sloth.
- A sloth knows how to hang around and wait their turn!
- Sloths seem to always have a smile on their face because s/he is focused in the present moment.
- A sloth thinks before speaking so is able to speak with care and thoughtfully choose what he/she has to say.
- A sloth doesn’t rush to get his work done so is always doing his best.
- A sloth has perfected the pause. If she is unsure, she pauses. If she is upset, he pauses. If she needs to calm down, she pauses and takes a breath before acting.
I created this sloth worksheet for a student who needs to slow down and monitor his impulsive behaviors.
Every time throughout the day, he demonstrated a “sloth moment,” he was able to use a self-inking sloth stamp to stamp the box, (if you click the picture below, it will take you to Amazon where you can get some stampers too!) It’s a wonderful tool for learning and self reflection.
The next step in slowing down, is to modify your behavior to BE slow throughout the day. I taught my little friend how to take sloth steps as we walk in the hallway to and from his classroom. It does like this: Quick step, quick step, quick step, 1 SLOW step, 1 SLOW step. Then we repeat: quick step, quick step, quick step, 1 SLOW step, 1 SLOW step. Walking like a sloth takes practice!
A final way to support students in slowing down is to give a Sloth Hug. I purchased a long-armed sloth stuffed animal (https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Republic-Hanging-Stuffed-Animals/dp/B00J68ZBWY/ref=sr_1_7?crid=3479YHZJ3YJQR&keywords=sloth+stuffed+animal&qid=1571935839&sprefix=sloth+stuf%2Caps%2C488&sr=8-7 )\from Amazon. This stuffed animal serves as an AWESOME visual to slow down.
A variation on the Sloth Hug could be to teach a self-hug squeeze when a student needs a little self-directed and delivered deep sensory pressure to calm down. The sloth stuffed animal can demonstrate how easy it is to pause, give ourselves a squeeze, and pay attention to how our body feels as we begin to calm down.