Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about accepting the moment we are in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to judge, criticize, resist, or control it.
Focusing too much on happiness or the expectation of happiness, can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. Practicing mindfulness does not mean avoiding negative emotions or always looking on the bright side. It means accepting both positive and negative emotions and sitting with them. Accepting the dialectic; positive and negative feelings can share the same space at the same time. Our culture tends towards an “either / or” mentality. I feel either happy or I feel sad, yet reality is that we may feel both, as well as confused, overwhelmed, motivated all at the same time.
Practice today. Spend 5 minutes breathing mindfully and observing your feelings. Notice your tendency to begin applying judgments or solutions to the feelings you observe in yourself. Gently bring your mind back to just observing and describing what your feelings are. Many of my clients find that using an affirmation such as “just be” as they breath in and out can help keep them in a space of neutral observation. I find that this exercise of observing without judging can be applied during yoga practice as well. Whether we apply it to our feelings and thoughts about our emotions, our bodies, our relationships, there is power in mindfully, intentionally sitting and holding space for the feelings that are!
Happy Weekend to You!
If you are thinking of becoming a mom, are a brand new mama or a have been a mother for many years, you won’t want to miss this free online event which I am participating in!
I will be giving a talk about juggling motherhood with our multiple other roles of wife, friend, daughter, sister, and professional to name a few. I will touch on the challenges we face in our relationships, in parenting, and in managing our own stress. And as always, I focus on practical, in the moment exercises, skills you can take with you and apply to your day!
Plus, there will be a panel of brilliant experts interviewed about balancing hormones, awesome fitness routines, finally releasing the baby weight and even getting your sexy back! It’s going to be jammed packed with useful tips and I know you won’t want to miss it.
>>>Join me here!<<<
Most health and wellness seminars are pricey and time consuming. With travel, hotel and ticket prices it’s almost impossible to make it. The great news about The Zen Mama Health and Wellness Summit is that it’s all done online, there’s no travel required and it’s totally FREE!! Now can you see why I’m so excited about this and wanted to make sure that you reserve your spot?!
It all starts April 6th and I know you won’t want to miss a thing!
>>>Register here today!<<<
Can’t wait to see you there!
Give out compliments generously. There can be an awkward silence when you’re stuck in an elevator or waiting in a line with a stranger. Instead of staring at the floor, find something you like about the other person and compliment him/her on it. Not only will it make him/her feel good, it just might kick off a conversation with a new friend.
- Surprise your neighbor by telling him or her how pretty he/she looks today.
- Tell your boss how truly creative/effective he/she is – and mean it!
- Praise any subordinate who’s stayed late or done anything extra on the job honestly. Notice those things.
- Praise your child for her/his skills and good thinking. Identify something out of the blue rather than run-of-the-mill schoolwork or chores.
- Acknowledge the grocery clerk or bank teller for their helpful, quick service.
- Write a handwritten note to a friend or family member telling them how much you value your relationship with them.
Think about people who quietly make a difference to your community and thank them. Think of all the people in your life whose faces and names you’ll never know but who serve and protect you day after day. Talk to your children about all that these people do. Encourage their ideas, and have them participate in random acts of kindness!
- Send some prepackaged treats like donuts or pastries to your local police station, paramedics, or fire department, with a card letting them know how much you appreciate their service to the community. But make sure to also acknowledge the people we take more for granted that make things tick- consider thanking your garbage man, mail carrier or janitor. (Since homemade desserts could be contaminated, unless they know you such homemade treats probably won’t be eaten, so it’s best to buy something from a reputable bakery.)
- Send your child’s clean and good condition toys and books to a local preschool. Say thank you to the early childhood carers and teachers who do so much for young children.
- Send a thank you note with a flower to your child’s teacher detailing what you appreciate about them, the positive impacts they have had on your child’s learning.
- Pop over to your neighbor’s house with a freshly baked cookies. Your neighbors are an important part of your community and they make a difference just by being there. Acknowledge their importance and role in your life.
- Leave a potted flowering plant on a friends porch for no reason!
How have you been spreading the kindness? This week and always?
Did you know that it is officially Random Acts of Kindness week? (It is.)”Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas
And Valentine’s Day is fast approaching along with piles of pink and red hearts, balloons, flowers, and candy popping up everywhere you go. While stores capitalize on selling romance, and many couples make extravagant plans for the Valentines Day weekend, our family is currently just feeling thankful for each other’s presence. My husband’s mother experienced a major medical crisis recently, which has superseded any petty worries we may have been focused on or any plans we may have had. Nothing like a crisis to help you clarify your priorities, right?
My Mother in Law has always been generous and giving, and so rather then spending money on things, we are practicing kindness this week in honor of her and in recognition of Valentine’s Day. (And yes, baking heart shaped cookies with several of my daughter’s friends to give to neighbors counts). How can you practice meaningful acts of kindness in everyday life?
One easy idea: Share your Smile: When meeting a new person, or even chatting with an someone you know well, express joy. Show that you’re happy to be with them, and that they make you happy. If you meet someone who is grumpy and frowning, give them your smile. Ask them about their day, commiserate with them, and wish them well from this point on.
(look for future posts on ways to spread kindness!)
Cheers and Happy V-Day
So why do kids whine? In most cases, it’s because we let them.
Kids may whine because they’re overtired or hungry and these cases, it’s best to comfort your child and tend to her most pressing needs. But otherwise? Walk away.
Why? When kids whine and we respond, we provide reinforcement for the behavior and it continues. Kids do not whine to be annoying or intentionally irritate us – they’re often just looking for attention.
We are hard-wired with two basic emotional needs – attention and power. When kids aren’t getting as much positive attention as they need, they will seek it out. And to kids, negative attention is better than no attention at all. So kids whine repeatedly in the hopes that eventually they’ll get the positive attention they need. When they don’t get that attention, the whining and attention-seeking behavior will intensify into behaviors that seek power.
Children only continue behaviors that get results. When kids whine and parents give in, kids realize that whining gets them what they want – the attention they crave and maybe even that candy bar in the grocery checkout line. If you don’t address this behavior now, it will continue well into our child’s teenage years.
But giving in to demands – like one more television show or another scoop of ice cream – isn’t the only way we enable how our kids whine. Simply responding, even if it’s to reprimand them, gives a result. Picking up your child or responding with an annoyed remark, still gives the child attention – and now they know they can do this again and may get the same result.
So how do we deal with how our kids whine now? The first step is to remove the reward for whining. While it is not effective to have a calm conversation in the middle of a whining meltdown and the ensuing chaos, it is necessary to let your child know how you will be responding in the future. Pick a calm moment when everyone’s relaxed – maybe over lunch or a snack – to talk about the whining. Explain and model the difference between a whiny voice and a normal voice, and how a whiny voice hurts your ears. Let your child know how you feel when he whines and let him know that you won’t respond when he whines – you’ll just simply walk away. When he uses a normal voice, you’ll be happy to talk to him.
The next time your kids whine, stay true to your word. Stay calm and walk away – even our negative non-verbal reaction to whining can be a payoff. When your child uses her normal voice, be sure to respond right away, calmly and pleasantly. The first few times, the whining may be more intense, as she tries to see how long it will take for you to give in. But after a few instances of not experiencing reinforcement for whining, she’ll realize she’s more likely to get positive attention by using her normal voice.
Whining is an attention-seeking behavior, and may be a signal to parents that our child – whether toddler or teen – is craving more one-on-one time with us. I like to think of it as a gardening metaphor. Instead of fertilizing and watering our good plants with positive attention, we’re feeding the weeds instead with negative attention. And the weeds – the whining – get worse. Reinforce the plants/behaviors you want to cultivate and stop feeding the ones that are not helpful.
It can be as simple as spending 10 to 15 minutes twice a day having fun, being present, with your kids individually. Put your iphone away, stop doing the dishes, and be with them, in the moment. Do something they like to do, like reading, coloring, a puzzle or sports. My four year old is in a very tactile, physical stage, and often the best way to deal with her negative attention seeking behavior is to proactively ask her if she needs snuggle time, as soon as I read the early signs of her need for attention and connection. Ten minutes of undivided mommy time and she is usually off on her merry way to play happily and independently. Your investment in one-on-one time will pay off in well adjusted, well behaved and self aware children.
2014 is here. What are your intentions this year? Start a business? Complete your degree? Exercise regularly? Simplify? As a mother, it can be really challenging to make our own needs a priority, to move towards our goals and dreams. Here are six common obstacles that come up in my work with mothers who are struggling to create the life balance they seek. Which ones resonate for you?
(2) Exhaustion (Sleepless nights and long days leave us drained of any energy, let alone creative energy.)
(3) “It’s not my time”, “I will focus on it later” (We often feel like our dreams need to be put off completely while we mother our children and function as family coordinator.)
(4) “I don’t have the time” (Life is so busy with covering basic necessities that we can’t fathom finding or making time for any personal goals or pursuits.)
(5) Not enough support from spouse (It is hard for spouses to understand our needs and hopes and goals – especially if we don’t fully explain them and/or if we don’t support their needs, hopes and goals.)
(6) “I don’t deserve it” (It may seem noble to put our children, spouse, family, and friends needs ahead of our own – but what are we modeling for our children, and how are we teaching others to treat us?)
Need help clarifying your intentions this year? And more importantly developing a game plan to overcome these obstacles and move towards less overwhelm, improved self care, healthier relationships? Call or email me today for a complimentary consultation!
Let go of the past. Obviously, detaching from negative experiences in our past is easier said than done. If it were that easy, half of my clients would not need to work with me. But it is something we must all learn to do in order to keep living in the present. The clearest way to let go of the impact of the past, is to forgive, both ourselves and others. When you find yourself focusing on regrets, or hurtful memories, explore why it is important to hold on to it. We can not change the past.
What function is your guilt or resentment serving? Is there any benefit to keep reliving, or fueling your guilt or anger over past events?
What process do you need in order to let go, forgive yourself? forgive others? Forgiveness does not mean you condone the behavior or the choice, only that you move from anger to acceptance about it. It may be helpful to work with a counselor if you are burdened with the past and struggling to forgive!
To Grace and Mindfulness!
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Rarely do we take the time to understand how others feel. Instead we are quick to judge, blame, and become angry in the heat of disagreement or assumption. We don’t realize how easily we would resolve our issues with others if we simply put ourselves in the other persons shoes for just a moment.
The next time you don’t see eye to eye with someone or a person irritates you, hit pause on your emotional reaction, and ask yourself, “Do I know what this person has been through today or where they are coming from?” I am frequently guilty of reminding my spouse of this when he is suffering from frustration with other drivers on the freeway. “What if they are lost, old, upset, running out of gas….” While your spouse may not be open to your feedback, this exercise will help you to find compassion instead of intolerance.
Additionally, you can model this with your children. Share your process with them. Coach them to think about how others might be feeling. This is a simple and easy exercise to practice with siblings, playmates, or children on the playground when there are disagreements over toys, hurtful comments, or other misunderstandings. Teach empathy while practicing it yourself!
To your Mindfulness and Grace!
This is own of my favorite topics. Serenity. Make time for your serenity. Our hectic schedules don’t allow for much “me” time. We run around taking care of business, chores and others so that we often forget to take care of ourselves. Take 30 minutes out of your day (today and every day) simply to bond with yourself in your favorite way. Bask in the beauty of your own company. Take a walk, practice yoga, stretch, write down your thoughts or meditate quietly. Practice letting go of what you can not control or change. Do whatever helps you get back in touch with yourself. Gently allow thoughts of others, or tasks, or “shoulds” slip away while you focus on this time with yourself. Ponder your dreams, your goals.
I am reminded of a client who surprised herself by taking a short coffee break and while sipping away, taking in the coffee shop scene, she suddenly remembered her young self, her dreams, and the aspirations she had locked away for years. She was overwhelmed and amazed that she has so effectively put her own needs away, while tending to her marriage, young children and career.
Don’t wait 10 years to find your own serenity again! For a nice lengthy list of ideas for self care, click here!