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Personal journey: Finding my sweet space where stress is low and happiness is at a peak.

We had a lot of reasons why we decided to uproot our family and move to France, many of which are quite obvious and most people nod and agree with. The list is lengthy…learning French, reducing stress levels, spending more quality time with our kids while they’re young, giving them an unforgettable life experience, being closer to family to name just a few. Of course, since we arrived, there have been a lot of other benefits to being here, that I hadn’t anticipated.

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In the short 4 months of settling in, I’ve had to get use to how I spend my time without having a job to go to. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? No office, no deadlines, no boss, no stress. Yes. It’s amazing and it’s really helped me reduce my stress and focus on what’s important in my life. I’m a natural doer and thinker though, so I spend time thinking about new business ideas, projects and possibilities. I also spend time reading more than I have in the last 10 years, following blogs I feel are more aligned with where I am now, watching Ted talks that inspire me. I never feel like I’m sitting around and have mini-projects that feel good to accomplish.

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One of the things that was probably suffering more than I thought before we left Australia, was my health. It’s not to say there was anything wrong but it wasn’t really a focus or at its optimum. I’m sure if I’d kept on the path I was on, it could have become the focus for the wrong reasons. One of the most significant, unhealthy by-products to our super busy lives is stress. I believe that when you are surrounded by stress everyday, you become numb to it. You don’t realise it’s impact on your body, the shortness of your breath, the tightness in your shoulders. Your brain is restless and never really calms. It becomes the norm.

We’ve had the incredible opportunity to flip this on it’s head, and almost reduce stress to zero. In a short period of time, I can see that I sleep better and feel more grateful for what surrounds me. Other than changing our environment, what surrounds me, really is the same. Husband, kids, nice food, time outside, good lifestyle – these are all consistent with what surrounded me in Australia. However, for a long time, it’s as if I had glasses on that kept me from seeing and feeling these things to the best ability. Now, with a clearer head and vision for our family, my senses are far more attuned to what’s going on around me. I hear, see and feel better and as a result, am far more content with my life.

The other health benefit to making this change, has been with eating. We are certainly taking advantage of the best that France has to offer with beautiful cheeses, meats, wines & pastries. In the world of the 80:20 rule, 80% of the time we are eating fresh vegetables we buy locally, meat we get from the gorgeous local butcher (who have a truck that comes to your house on a Friday!) and everything is sweetened with the magic ingredient. Time.

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Having (or simply making) time to plan our meals, choose these ingredients at the market and make them each day makes the whole process more enjoyable. Foods taste better when stress-producing hormones like cortisol, are not getting in the way. Dinner times when we had little time or were not well organised, use to be a matter of just getting something on the table, and taking the path of least resistance. Now, it’s more considered and more varied. A side dish of quinoa, lentils or tabouli are more the norm than the exception and whilst they’re not always gobbled up, at least they are there and one day, they’ll be eaten.

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I also get a lot of joy out of trying new foods and have been taking more time to explore this myself. I’ve been making the Hawaiian delicacy of Poke quite a bit, exploring Budda bowls, poaching fruit and making all sorts of types of porridge. Baking is also a hobby I love and makes me feel as though I’m doing the right thing by my kids. All in all, this is part of the journey and the dream of living a more simple life in France. I do contemplate life-after-France quite often, and what a busier life looks like for all of our friends and family.  I know what we are doing is a unique opportunity, that many never get and I’m super grateful for it. I believe there are ways to integrate a lot of what we are doing, into a busier life, and often think of how we can continue these new habits, when we go back to Melbourne.

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I get a lot of emails, messages and comments from friends, family & the Habitots community about how they love following our journey and find it inspiring for their own lives. I can only hope that by telling our story, you too can learn what your life priorities are, think more deeply about what makes you smile and feel good, and perhaps start to integrate more of these things into your daily life. We get one chance at this life, and I know that not many will do the 360 that we’ve done. What you can do though is make small, conscious decisions and changes to your lives and hopefully find that sweet space where stress is kept in check and your happiness and fulfilment are at their peak.

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