All posts in “Positivity”

Fight Parental Overwhelm – How self-care can be the cure

“It’s important to make someone happy, and it’s important to start with yourself” – Author unknown

In early motherhood it is a natural occurrence that your personal needs come second to your baby’s.  I mean who has time to mix in self-care when you barely even have time to sleep, let alone brush your hair and take a shower. But after you move through the sleepless night phase it’s time to change things up.  Let’s flip the script and really dive into the importance of putting your needs FIRST.

I know some of you are already cringing at the thought, thinking “what?? that’s selfish!” but ultimately everyone wins when you put yourself first. For some reason we have all been taught to think that putting yourself first is selfish. This is simply NOT true, it is actually  very mindful because when you are fulfilled you have more love to share with those around you. Just think about the in-flight safety instructions, who do they say to give oxygen to first? Yes, the answer is YOU.

This idea translates to every aspect of your life. If you are putting work first or your relationship first and not taking of your personal needs then those other aspects of your will suffer because you are running on empty.

The equation is simple: self-care + self-love = an abundance of love to share with those around you. Otherwise, you’re just hanging out in the negative.

Self-love means setting boundaries so that you can take the time you need for yourself. This can be on a large or small scale.  Meaning that there will most definitely be times when you need to let other’s needs in your family come first but that in general you continue to take the time to do the things that make you feel happy and whole as a person.  Think about this as inner management, you have to manage, organize and clean up the clutter  inside before you can take care of what’s on the outside.

Over the years I have been inside many different family units.  I gained a unique perspective from observing the inner workings of each family.   I learned many things along the  way but one major component stuck out for me, which was that many women feel it is their duty as a mother to put their children first.  I saw first hand how this affected their relationships with their husbands and also gave the children a great sense of entitlement. Often times I saw a sense of defeat in the dads.  It was as if they did not feel that they had special place in their own home.  The environment revolved around mother and child, this ultimately  left the dads floundering on the outside of the family unit.

Now of course, every family is different but the lesson here is in the importance of nurturing your relationships so that you can effectively share your love with everyone.

By putting yourself first and your partner second, your little’s will then receive more love all around and you will have a happier, more connected family unit.

6 Ways to Add More YOU Into Your Daily Life:

1. Write down a list of things that make you feel good.  Maybe dancing, singing, being silly etc. whatever it is try to do at least one of those things a day.

2. Think about your strengths as a mom and build on them. Whether your strength lies in being a stay at-home mom or working mom, think about how you most effectively operate so that you can maximize quality time with your children.

3.  Remember it’s ok to have help! If you allow all the pressures of raising your children to fall on your shoulders it will ultimately become a load you can no longer bear.  Find a babysitter leave the kids with

4.  Get at least 20 mins of ME time in everyday. Try taking a bath, reading, maybe doing yoga. Whatever it is you enjoy turn it into a daily ritual.

5.  Try and turn menial tasks into expression of your love for your family. This is especially important for those moms who feel they don’t spend enough quality time with their family. Transform things like folding laundry, doing dishes, cooking, into a more meaningful task.  While you’re at it get your family members involved so it’s a group activity and get more quality time in.

6.  Let go of the guilt and the idea that putting your needs first is selfish!  Remember when you let your light shine, your children will shine even brighter.

How do you get in your self-care?  Please share any rituals you have that help you nurture yourself!

 

 

Yoga for Children – Benefits are Endless

The practice of yoga is holistic in that it is designed to bring balance to the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional components that influence our overall well-being.

This trans-formative practice has the ability to impact mood, self-awareness, self-acceptance, cognition, stress levels and overall mental health because it provides a calming effect to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS).  The HPA axis and the SNS are triggered from psychological or physical stressors and when continually fired can lead to host of negative psychological and behavioral effects.

Ok, but what the heck does that mean?? Let’s break it down into terms we can all understand…

In today’s society most of us (including our children) are running around in fight or flight mode without taking time to slow down.  Our lives move a mile a minute and so do our thoughts.  This “energizer bunny” type of lifestyle leads to anxiety, stress and a whole lotta unhappy people. So, what can we do about this?  Just except that we have to live this way?  I think not!

Yoga and meditation are mindful practices that allow us to break down this pattern.

In order to bring more happiness, love, connection, mindfulness and community into our world we need to start nurturing ourselves from the inside out and begin to teach our children the same.  If we can first empower ourselves with the knowledge that through practicing yoga and meditation we can be in control of our thoughts and emotions, imagine what that can do for our children!

Having children who understand how to slow down the racing thoughts, lessen the intensity of emotions, calm their bodies, truly love themselves and are able to be mindful and present in each moment would be truly profound. The benefits behind getting children involved in a yoga practice are only beginning to fully be understood, but from what has been discovered so far it seems the positive implications are endless.

Check out what happened when researchers did a study that focused on the perceptions of yoga among 3rd graders in a low-income neighborhood.

In 2010 a yoga/meditation program that was designed to be a preventative measure in reducing stress and improving behavior for students who were at risk for learning problems was implemented. The 24 students did weekly 45 minute yoga sessions during their normal school day and 4 days a week their classroom teacher led a 15 minute yoga session in the classroom.  The program was made up of background music, specific yoga poses, mental imagery, and a creative activity that brought it all together into a learning experience that the students could take away.

After the program was completed the students were given a crayon and asked to draw a picture of the yoga program. They were then asked questions about their pictures.  Three themes emerged: (1) participants felt calm and focused, (2) had a sense of control over their behavior, and (3) had a positive self-concept.

These  outcomes were also very apparent in the self-report the kids gave about the program.  When one student was asked about his drawing he said, “Inside your body it feels like it’s calmed down, it’s smooth”.  Another student, said, “It helps me, like when I get mad it helps me calm down.”  He talked about how he used what he had learned at home when his brother would pick on him, and when asked how often he used it he said, “I use it all the time.”

Students also reported how it helped them concentrate in school.  One student said, “When I concentrate on like the laying down part, it helps my brain and stuff, it helps me relax so I can get all the hyperness out of me, so I can be good at studying.”

On top of that students reported feeling, “free”, “in my own world”, “happy” and “makes me feel good”.

One student even said, “It changed me from bad to good. I started from bad and went all the way up to good from yoga.” And that yoga, “gives you power, and you can be strong…you can be strong in the whole wide world by using your power.”

Overall, the participants described yoga as an escape from their otherwise stressful lives and would often try to and get parents or other family members to practice with them at home (Case-Smith, Sines, Klatt, 2010).

These self-report statements are not only profound, they are powerful and this POWER needs to shared!

As a children’s yoga teacher I have learned many things, but the one lesson that sticks out is; teaching yoga to children is truly the definition of “Namaste“.  Meaning hat, “the teacher in me honors the teacher in you”.  There is so much we can learn from children. Be present, allow space for silliness, laughter and the simple joys of childhood and let the worry over following directions or having perfect alignment fall away.  These are the moments you will remember for a lifetime and so will your kiddos!

The most important thing we can do is get children engaged in these practices so they become intrinsically motivated to continue their practice as they grow up.  Yoga is a life-enhancing gift that can change the way the next generation not only feels about themselves, but how they interact with each other and the world around them.

Get your family involved in the mindful revolution!

How do you add mindfulness into your home life?  Please share your thoughts!

Case-Smith, J., Sines, J., Klatt, M. (2010): Perceptions of children who participated in a school-based yoga program.  Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 3.3, 226-238. 

Jump Aboard the Health Food Train

Feeding your little monsters can be extremely frustrating especially when you have picky eaters who only want to eat unhealthy carb-filled snacks and meals. You may often times find yourself wanting to implement a healthier diet but fighting that battle seems tougher than winning it.  As a whole our society has been brainwashed by the food industry into thinking that foods are healthy that are not.

Of course we would assume that products that display packaging saying “low-fat”, “no-sugar”, “all-natural”, are good for not only ourselves to be ingesting but great for kids.  Well truth is that hidden behind many of these labels are the most unhealthy ingredients of all.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a microwave queen, canned veggies, fast food type of girl.  Until I personally experienced the repercussions of eating this way. This nutritionally deficient, no doubt GMO filled diet left me feeling totally depleted of energy, dizzy, having constant, sleep/life disrupting indigestion for over two years.  During this time I spent a lot of time at my doctor’s office, in fact we became good friends.  He suggested that maybe I have an ulcer, then it was possibly a parasite or maybe even Crohns Disease.  The list of possible diagnoses went on and on and so did the tests, all to turn up negative.  I was given drugs that only masked my symptoms which I gained a tolerance to only to have to up my dosage.

After seeing specialists and depleting all possible causes of the symptoms (according to Western medicine that is), I was experiencing, I began to feel hopeless.  It was as if people thought my health problems were all in my head and that was something I just could not accept.  So, I decided to take things into my own hands and start my own research.  I began talking with Naturopathic and Ayurvedic doctors and this is when I started to learn about the negative effects of gluten.

Totally removing something from your diet is not easy, especially when it is a staple as bread products are in most American diets.  There is also an emotional and social attachment to it is as well. I knew what I needed to do but it is even harder to let go of all the attachments to gluten without something stating that you cannot eat it.  So after a little more research I discovered that there was a blood test to determine gluten intolerance.  I quickly made an appointment with my doctor friend and after a week I finally got a positive test result.

Funny, I doubt there will be any other time in my life where I actually hope to get a positive test result stating there is something wrong with me.  Needless to say after about 6 months of being gluten-free and re-balancing my system (by taking Betaine HCL because the drugs they had me on depleted my stomach acid) I was back to feeling like myself.

Now this is not to say that everyone who eats a gluten filled diet will end up with a gluten allergy.  In fact the research on what causes a gluten intolerance or allergy is limited but like Hippocrates said, “let thy food by thy medicine”.  There is great wisdom behind this… If we are filling ourselves and our children with nutritionally deficient food then we are not treating our bodies as we should be.

Nourishing your body from the inside out and modeling that for your children is a sure-fire way to improve health and overall well-being. Making an effort to move towards a less processed more veggie filled diet is a mindful decision that will instill healthy eating habits, ensure your children are getting proper nutrition and motivate your children to make healthy decisions as they grow up.

Here are my top 6 tips on getting your children to cut the carbs and up the greens:

1.  Don’t force veggies and fruit on your kids.  We all remember something our parents forced us to eat and most likely we still don’t like that food.  Let your children think it’s their idea by getting them involved with grocery shopping and cooking.

2.  Try to stick to a 5 ingredient limit for packaged foods.  Just think, “the more ingredients, the more processed the food”.

3.  Try to replace pretzels, bars and all those fun shaped kids crackers with a fruit or veggie of your kids’ choice at least once a day.

4.  Don’t assume you can trust what the label says.  Remember, “all-natural”, “low-fat” and “sugar-free” don’t necessarily mean Healthy.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed decision on what you buy.  Here’s a great article on 11 Food Label Lies.

5.  We all know eating totally organic can be expensive.  Try sticking to the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 rule to save some money.  This is a list of fruits and veggies that should be organic and ones that don’t have to be…check out the link above for more information.

6.  Check out these great documentaries on healthy eating:  Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Hungry for a Change, Food Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

HH Family Activity: Make it a movie night! Choose a documentary to watch with you kids and have a discussion afterwards.  Come up with ideas about how to improve your families nutrition and get everyone on board with the health food train!

HH Family Activity:  Make grocery shopping a hands on learning experience for your little’s.  Talk with them about them different fruits and veggies, let them hold them and pick out what they want to try.  Ask them if they want to help make a salad and I bet you will get a resounding “yes!”.

 

Happy Eating!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

If you watched Mike and Bob Bryan the famous twins who won Wimbledon last year then you’d know they give off a positive, caring vibe towards each other on the court.  Having over 62 professional titles the Bryan brothers are no doubt talented.  Part of this may be due to the fact that their parents Kathy and Wayne never allowed the boys to play each other in tournaments.   When they met in junior tournaments they had the boys alternate, forfeiting to each other to cut down on sibling rivalry and unhealthy competitive behavior. Instead Kathy and Wayne focused on building each child’s strengths through the power of positive reinforcement.   In fact Wayne went on to write a book called, “How to Raise a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics.”

The theory behind positive reinforcement called Operant Conditioning was first developed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. He conducted an experiment where he placed rats into boxes with levers which released food when the rat accidentally ran into it.  Quickly the rats learned to go directly to the lever when placed in the box.  The consequence/reward of receiving the food when the rat pressed the lever, guaranteed that the rat would repeat this behavior every time it was put into the box (McLeod, 2007).

Just as Kathy and Wayne used this strategy to guide their boys into success, positive reinforcement can be used to change your child’s behavior in both minor and major ways.

Behavior charts are a great example of using positive reinforcement to change your child’s behavior.  Typically behavior charts are best recommended for use at age 3 but I’ve used charts with children at 2 1/2 with great success.  You can use a chart for any behavior that you would like to change or one you’d like to encourage.  In my coaching practice I have recommended the use of charts for things like sleeping through the night, not having a melt down when mommy leaves and of course potty charts and chore charts. This system works just as the reward of food worked with the rats, except in this case the reward is the sticker and of course we’re talking about our precious little’s and not rats:)

A few HH tips on behavior charts:

1.  Be creative together – have your child help make the chart and actively talk with them about using it.  Example:  “This is your potty chart, when you go potty you get a sticker”, “Now Tommy tell mommy how you get a sticker for your chart?”.

2.  Make it special – You may already have some stickers lying around the house but for the reward to feel special it’s important to truly make it feel that way.  Plan an outing to pick out “special stickers” for your child’s chart.  Make sure that those stickers are only used for the chart.  This will give your child more motivation in wanting to earn their “special sticker”.

3.  Be consistent– Take the time to allow your child to choose a sticker right after they have displayed the positive behavior.  If you wait the reward will not have the same effect.

4.  Don’t get chart happy – Having success using this approach can lead to the idea that this will work great for everything.  Too many charts at one time is no good.  This desensitized the reward and reduces their motivation because the child is getting too many rewards at one time.  Stick to one chart at a time or at the utmost two.

5.  Praise and communication – These two components are key in changing a negative behavior pattern.  As adults it is easy to subconsciously get caught in the idea that your child is too young to understand certain concepts so we just don’t talk about it.  Well the truth is kids are smarter than we think.  Engaging in active conversation with them by making statements and asking questions get’s them to feel more comfortable about situations and transitions.  Praise is always necessary in guiding them to continue on the path to more positive behaviors.

6.  Be patient –  It can take 3 weeks to change a behavior pattern so be patient, follow these tips, add in some coaching support to get you through the tough times and you will be sure to see positive results.

Below is an example of a Happy Day Chart used with a client.

The little guy (2 and 1/2-year-old), got a sticker for not crying when his mommy went to work and the nanny came.  On first use of the chart along with actively talking with him about the transition, he no longer cried in the mornings.

Example:

 

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

 

Toddlerhood – Impacting your Child’s Neurological Development

It’s no doubt that those toddler years can be down right, make you wanna pull your hair out frustrating!  When a child throws a tantrum we often feel confused, embarrassed, frustrated and fed up, thinking or sometimes even saying, “what on earth is the matter?”  and “this is just ridiculous! I can’t deal with this right now!”.  Every parent has had those moments,  these thoughts and feelings are totally ok and normal.   What can help in these intense moments is to first off have an understanding of what your toddler is going through physiologically, biologically and neurologically.  This knowledge can arm you with better ways of handling these outbursts.

Most parents have a  basic understanding of the different developmental stages their child is going through i.e. sitting up, crawling, walking, teething etc. But many people are unaware of what is going on neurologically during these first few years that allows these major milestones in development to occur.

From the early embryonic stage until around 2 years of age new neurons and synapses are being formed at an astonishing rate ( i.e. 40,000 synapses formed per second).  That’s a lot of synapses!  This ultimately leaves the child with many more neurons and synapses than are actually needed which causes the brain to begin Synaptic Pruning.  In synaptic pruning the extra synapses are eliminated allowing for more efficiency in the neural network.  Meaning that once those extra synapses or “roadblocks” are pruned the child can move on to the next milestone in development.

This process starts around 2 years of age and lasts until the child is about 10 years old.   The imperative piece in understanding these neurological changes is the knowledge that as a parent you can  impact this process.  A child’s synapses are either strengthened or pruned based on what their sensory, motor, emotional and intellectual experiences are. Therefore, as a parent if you are continually reinforcing positive, challenging, supportive and loving experiences at home then those synapses will be strengthened and preserved during the pruning process.   Just as optimism and positive thinking has been shown to reduce stress, improve health and create peace of mind for yourself, this same positive attitude can influence your child’s growth and development.  In the video below Dr. Masaru Emoto, a researcher and alternative healer, demonstrates the power of  positive and negative thinking on rice granules and points out how this can affect children…

Now that you are armed with this knowledge be mindful of your interactions with your children and remember that as their parent you have the power to guide them into being happy, healthy, loving humans.