Monthly Archives: August 2016

Summer Reading

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Summer Reading

Happy News

This summer dive into these good reads! While reading a Happy blog (ha ha… yes, many others are sharing their happy stories), I learned about this great newspaper:  “The Happy News”.   A newspaper to celebrate all that’s good in the world…The Happy Newspaper is a platform to share positive news and wonderful people. The line up in this issue was: General News Stories, Everyday Heroes, Celebs/Showbiz, Poems, Lifestyle, Food, Travel, Your Year, New Year Tips, Meet the Writers, From me to You. All written from a positive perspective.

One of my favorite sections included positive news about celebrities. It was great hearing about good news like Pharrell Williams turns ‘Happy’ into a children’s book. Malala Yousafzai, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize celebrates her 18th birthday by opening an all girls school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Prince Harry and Prince William join BBC home improvement program ‘DIY SOS’ in renovating an abandoned street in Manchester into 26 homes for homeless war veterans. Another section I enjoyed reading was Everyday Heroes. There you can find people and organizations trying to make the world a happier place.  One organization, Free Cakes for Kids UK network is a community organization of volunteer bakers who provide birthday cakes to families who are struggling and find it difficult to provide a cake to their child.   www.freecakesforkids.org/uk  The paper includes many websites and other resources to lift you up.

Emily Coxhead  had the idea to begin a newspaper that “added sunshine to a person’s day”. She and other volunteers collaborated on this fun and enlightening newspaper. To learn more about it or order the next issue go to:  http://www.thehappynewspaper.com

9781611800586_p0_v3_s192x300[1]Sitting Still Like a Frog” Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel is a fun way to encourage children (and their parents) to meditate. Eline Snel is a therapist who has been working with Mindfulness for 20 years, developing training programs. She is the founder of the Academy for Mindful Teaching in Leusden, Netherlands.

Bedtime “shenanigans” led me to try meditation with my children. Does anyone still use that word? I think it is a nice way to explain the silliness that occurs at my children’s bedtime. Sometimes..er..okay a lot lately my little ones have difficulty settling in. Even after their bath and stories, they are still playful. I find having them lay down in their beds and talking them through a relaxation meditation can be very helpful.  “Sitting Still Like a Frog” helps parents and teachers use meditation at various times during the day and it also includes a meditation for bedtime, “Sleep Tight”.

Eline Snel uses the description of a frog to develop an understanding of the importance of stillness.  My children found it interesting and fun.  There are positive reviews from teachers who have used it in their classrooms. You will find an Introduction to Mindfulness, Parenting with Mindfulness, Weathering the Storm Inside, Handling Difficult Feelings, It is Good to Be Kind, to name a few. The book includes a CD of 11 mindfulness practices you can do with your child. Our children LOVE to spend time with us. Sometimes simply role modeling  gets children interested enough to try a new thing. I realized, though my children preferred  my voice over listening to the CD at bedtime. My friend, Kathleen noticed that with her daughter. Familiar voices are the best, of course. Your children may prefer you to do the narrative for the bedtime meditation.

Let me know what YOU think! You can share what you like about the “The Happy Newspaper” or how your children respond to “Sitting Still Like a Frog” by commenting on this post. I would be very interested in your feedback!

Happy Reading!

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“That Makes Me Happy!” News

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“That Makes Me Happy!” has really done just that. It has made me happy.  Many of you have been asking how things are going with my children’s book. After the book launch, opportunities for volunteering to share my book and teach the lesson it holds fell into place. Volunteering and focusing on my family filled my time and this blog took a back seat.  Now it is time to catch up.

My enthusiasm for the science of happiness resulted in writing “That Makes Me Happy!” a story that teaches children they can cultivate their own happiness. At the end of the story children can make a “Happy Ring” to practice the strategies which are deep breaths, smiling, and thinking a happy thought.  By reading the story to children, adults can show children we value well-being as much as academics and achievements.

This past school year I volunteered to teach the lesson from my story at my oldest son’s school. As I had read the story in my youngest children’s class the previous school year.  His school had a set time every week to bring health and wellness education to their students. Awesome, right?  The science behind happiness lesson fit right in.  Not ever having taught more than a classroom size of 31 students it was a new experience for me. I was asked to teach the lesson to each grade. There were 100 students in each grade.  Keeping a group that size engaged and interested definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wished that I could simply read my story and make “Happy Rings” but that wouldn’t fly with these older students (4th, 5th, and 6th graders).  20160802_122551

 

While creating the lesson, I thought back to what really amazed me in the research.  Richard Davidson’s research with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was top on the list. thRichard Davidson’s research focuses on the brain-emotion connection. When the Dalai Lama heard of his research he urged Richard Davidson to study kindness and compassion. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear.  Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’  Data from brain scans of Tibetan monks were studied. The monks observed had a regime of meditating 8 hours a day, some had done so for 20 years.  The findings led to the understanding that meditative practices and practicing kindness and compassion result in a brain that is more capable of change, in theory becoming more resilient.

“Rather than think of the brain as a static organ, or one that just degenerates with age, it’s better understood as an organ that is constantly reshaping itself, is being continuously influenced, wittingly or not, by the forces around us.”  Richard Davidson 

Brain plasticity, mirror neurons, and calming jars…oh my!   I brought the lesson to life by using student volunteers.  Teaching a group of 100 students was a challenge for me. Did I already say that? Teaching your own class is much different from teaching a large group of students you do not know. Using strategies like positive self-talk, visualizing the lesson going well, deep breaths, and having a growth mindset kept me on track.  I also had support from a few teachers with each grade.  Once I had taught the first group of 100 students, I felt proud of myself and realized it helped me to grow. It felt like such an accomplishment to have taught this lesson to my son and his peers.  Thank you to the staff and students of Proctor Elementary School.

My cousin, Helen, a third-grade teacher was very excited about my story. I offered to read it to her class. In April Saint Joseph’s school welcomed me to share my story with 4 classes, kindergarten, first, second, and third grade! Reading my story, sharing author secrets, and creating “Happy Rings” together created my happy! Seeing the smiles, the interest, receiving inquisitive questions, the excitement about using “Happy Rings” is truly priceless! Thank you to Mrs. Fitzgerald, all the staff and children at Saint Joseph’s school.

My more recent news for “That Makes Me Happy!” is it has traveled overseas! “That Makes Me Happy!” will be read in classrooms in France, India, and possibly Germany!20160802_131341 (1)

 

 

 

“That Makes Me Happy!” is doing just that, making me happy. I hope it is making many people happy. In fact if you have read the story and made “Happy Rings” please e-mail me how many children made the “Happy Rings” at: thatmakesmehappy@yahoo.com.  I will be keeping track of how many are made. So far, there have been a little over 100 Happy Rings made. I look forward to seeing that number grow. I am also happy to have taught over 400 children that they can cultivate their own happiness and a few strategies to begin with: deep breaths, smiling often, and thinking happy thoughts.

Did I imagine all this when I took my first “baby step” which was starting this blog? No, I did not. I knew I wanted to share this wonderful information with friends, family, and especially children. I am glad I found a way using many of the strategies I have been writing about!

Thank you all for reading My Happy, you are a big part of this!