All posts in “Gratitude”

5 Ways to Stay (Semi) Sane Through the Holiday Season

The holiday season is already upon us! With so many errands to run, parties to host/attend, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, things to cook and Elf on the Shelf antics to manage no wonder people are stressed out.   The increase of to-do’s, as well as the internal pressure to make the holiday magical for our kids can be overwhelming.  It’s easy to get lost in making this the best Christmas ever, but remember there will be next year and the year after that so take into account the type of expectations you are placing on yourself.  Don’t raise the bar too high or it may be hard to out-do yourself next year.

Set up your holiday mindfully, so you can be truly present for those magical moments made up belly laughs, sparkly grins, and the look of amazement as children take in all the wonders of the season.

Here are my Top 5 Ways to Stay Semi Sane Through the Holiday Season:

1. Focus on creating quality time with the family instead of all the tasks on your to-do list.  Simply shifting your focus can lower stress levels and ignite the true spirit of the season!

2. Sometimes family traditions can feel more like obligations.  Don’t allow family traditions to overwhelm you, make the holidays magical by creating family traditions your family truly enjoys and let go of the ones you don’t.

3.  We all have those negative family patterns that trigger us and can make family time unbearable.  Shift away from those patterns by creating guidelines for what the family all can talk about.  Keep it positive!  Try only talking about dreams, love, or future excitement .

4.  Divide and conquer!  Don’t take the brunt of the holiday preparations on your shoulders.  Give up some control and get the family involved.  Get the kids cooking, get your partner wrapping, and get grandma caroling!

5.  Don’t “should” on your holiday!  There is a lot of pressure from the media showing idealized images of perfect families and perfect holidays. Don’t compare your family to how you think things “should” be.  Set realistic expectations and give yourself and your family a break.

Remember no one gets through the holiday’s without a little family tension, a broken ornament or a few tears. Just be grateful you are not having a holiday like Clark Griswold in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

How do you stay sane throughout the holidays?  Leave your suggestions below!

P.S.  If the Elf on the Shelf is not up your alley check out The Kindness Elves.  They are a new positive twist to the Elf on the Shelf.  Instead of focusing on who is naughty or nice the focus is on encouraging kind behavior. I have to say these Kindness Elves are definitely on my list of mindful ways to celebrate the holidays.


Innocence- Baby resting

5 Ways to Cultivate a Positive Self-image

Before we jump right into our children’s psyches, let’s run through a little psychology lesson so we can make sure we are all on the same page. After all, this psychology stuff can be confusing!

First off the subconscious/unconscious mind is a part of our consciousness that we are not consciously aware of.  It’s kind of like a broken record playing in the background of our heads, that repeats classics like, “you are not lovable,” “you are not valuable,” “you can’t do that,” “you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough or good enough.”

Wow! That song could go on forever!

Now, this is not to say that our subconscious only supplies us with this negative way of thinking. It does many other awesome things like, helping us remember our phone number or where we live without having to consciously think about it but for the purpose of this post we are going to focus on where we get these negative thoughts and beliefs from.

We gain these subconscious thoughts from experiences we have in our lives.

These negative beliefs are solidified in childhood because as a child the conscious part of the mind, which includes critical thinking, reasoning, abstract thought and logic has not yet fully developed.  Which is why children believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy as much as they will believe they are a “bad kid,” if that’s what they are told.

Once a child’s brain develops more, they will be able to use their advanced thinking skills to determine that Santa Clause is not real but unlike Santa Clause “bad kids” are real and that label may stick in their subconscious mind for a long time.  Until…hopefully, like most of us they hit 30 and realize that these thoughts have been playing in the background of their mind their whole life, ultimately holding them back from fully acknowledging the many gifts they have to share with the world.

Of course these negative messages don’t necessarily come from parents. They come from experiences with friends at a young age or interactions with other adults. These rotten seeds of negative thought and self-talk are planted in childhood and then strengthened as we grow up through experiences with friends, our intimate relationships, our work environments and so on…

By building self-esteem and cultivating a positive self-image we can give our little seedlings strong, supportive roots to blossom into healthy, happy adults.

Top 5 tips for a positive self-image:

1.  Be mindful! Fully embrace the impact words and actions have. Think about how every experience and interaction children have is literally laying the blueprint for their beliefs about them self and the world around them.

2.  Highlight positive qualities often.  It’s easy to get stuck on the negative, especially when there are some negative behavior patterns but when we shift the focus to positive attributes kids want to live up to those behaviors even more.  This directly relates to the self-fulfilling prophecy theory.  Which states that there is a direct link between belief and behavior.  So, when we expect a child to act badly he will and conversely we will get same result when good behavior is expected.

3.  Create positive affirmations that to say together, before bed. Here’s an example mantra, “I am loved, I am safe, I am special, I am happy, I am grateful”.   Added bonus! Saying positive affirmations daily can help you add some self-love into your daily routine too.  Get creative and find what resonates with your family and it will become part of your nightly routine. Want more ideas for mantras?  Click here for a list of 100 positive affirmations.

4.  Either at dinner or before bed try sharing at least 5 things each family members is grateful for. People who practice gratitude have been shown to be more loving, forgiving, feel a greater sense of self-worth and are more hopeful about the future.  Who doesn’t want that?! For more info on the benefits of practicing gratitude check out this excellent article by Dr. Kristina Hibbert.

5.  When a child has negative experiences with friends or others it’s important to talk to them about these situations in a way that builds them back up.  Explain to them that it is sad when others make us feel bad but that it does not change how special or how loved they are.

The “big picture” goal is to stop those negative messages from being added to their internal playlist. We want to make the songs playing in the background of their minds as positive and uplifting as possible.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” ~Hodding Carter, Jr.

Have any tips to add ? Please share your thoughts!


3 mindful ways to add quality to your conversations

Running through the same every day routine with little ones can become monotonous.  You wake up, wake the kids up (or the other way around:) you get everyone ready, make breakfast and rush out the door.   Then, the  same every day routine kicks in after school…pick the kids up, drive home, make dinner, bath-time and then off to bed.

Well, the key to making this everyday routine not so bland is to spice up how you interact with your family.  Although the routine remains the same, conversation with your children are where you can add some pizzazz to make those mundane moments feel more exciting.

Think about it!  The same questions and most always get the same responses.  Some of the best examples of these lack luster questions are, “how was your day?” or, “how was school?”, “did you have fun on the playground?” which usually gets the same old one word response (what I like to call robot talk), “good”, “fine”, “yes”, “no”, “uh-huh”.

This leaves no room for any actual conversation.  In fact it puts up a communication barrier because it begins to feel like pulling teeth to get any more information out of them.  You and your kiddos are left feeling disconnected from each others’ lives and often times this communication gap just widens as kids get older.

Conversation is defined as: The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions and feelings.  There is clearly none of that going on in the robot chat described above.  The following tips will help you lay the ground work for your family to begin communicating in a way that lends itself less to robot talk and more to real, quality conversations.

How to have more quality conversations:

1.  Ask Caring Questions that let your children know you truly care about who they are and how they feel.

a.  Instead of asking, “how was your day?”  try, “how did you feel today?”.  This gets them in touch with their feelings.  Emotional awareness is a great skill to have and the earlier they can understand their different emotions the better chance they have of being in control them.  You may need to give them some examples so ask if they felt lonely? excited? proud? happy? or sad?

b.  Instead of asking, “did you play outside today?” be specific about things.  Take something you know that matters to them and if that happens to be the monkey bars ask, “how did you do on the monkey bars today?” Being specific let’s them know you are paying attention to things that matter in their world and therefore they feel they matter.

2.  Gratitude Sharing – Before or after dinner have each person share something that they are thankful for that happened that day.  Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase levels of happiness, energy, empathy, optimism and overall well-being AND opens the family dynamic up to allow for REAL conversations.

3. Discuss Your Family Values – This is often something that parents assume is subconsciously understood by what they model as parents and expectations they set for their children.   The truth is that displaying the significance of your value system in this way does have an impact on your children but it is also super important  to have a discussion about what your values are as well.

Family Activity: Have each member of your family write down something that they feel is an important value to have.  Then create a Family Values Board and a few times a week have everyone share an example of how they carried out one of those values in their daily lives.

It may feel somewhat awkward to have these types of conversation in the beginning but that is totally normal.  As a society we interact with each other on a surface level.  Having truly meaningful and mindful interactions is something we have to cultivate and there is no better place to start than at home with our loved ones.

How do  you develop quality interactions in your home?  Please share your tips below!