Mother’s Day and Brain Science?

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I recently read an interesting article on the Greater Good Science Center website: Why “Mom Brain” Is Good for Mothers and Babies by Elise Proulx. The article explains that a woman’s brain actually changes after having a baby. The change is a decrease in gray matter! Hold on, don’t laugh dads! I know what you are thinking.

Mom’s tend to share with each other their “fuzzy brain” feeling while pregnant or becoming more forgetful than usual after having children. However, what research is showing is that the decrease in gray matter actually creates a mother who will connect with their child and will be more aware of their children’s needs and feelings.

“The researchers found that the change in gray matter “significantly” predicted the quality of mother-to-infant attachment, as assessed through a survey. The more gray matter lost, the more positive the mothers felt about interactions with their baby.”  Elise Proulx

However you became a mother, father or caregiver, I believe our children shrink our gray matter. 🙂 What I mean to say is, our children are deeply connected to us and we completely grow into warm, nurturing people because of them. Our children shape who we are far greater than I ever imagined.  I am beyond grateful for my three beautiful children who are making me the mom I am.

Happy Mother’s Day to My Happy readers! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day!

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_mom_brain_is_good_for_mothers_and_babies?

Happy International Day of Happiness!

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Happy International Day of Happiness!

International Day of Happiness

Monday March 20, 2017

This year I am bringing you a video which explains the International Day of Happiness. Happiness is for each of us. Let’s take even the smallest action today, like a blog post, time for fun, extra hugs, or any act of kindness to encourage everyone with ways to be happy and positive. Being negative or neutral doesn’t take much effort, unfortunately. Being positive and happy takes effort and time. Remember to take time for yourself to focus on the things that help you to be happy, you deserve it!

Please take a minute to watch this video to be inspired by people around our beautiful world.

Take the pledge: I will think happy thoughts and I will do what I can do to make the world a happier place. 🙂

You can also visit http://www.dayofhappiness.net to learn more about 10 Keys to Happier Living

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The United Nations, UNICEF and The Smurfs have teamed up to teach that even the smallest smurf can make a difference! You can watch this video to learn more…

Visit http://www.globalgoals.org/worldslargestlesson To join UNICEF and Team Smurfs to make the world a happier place visit http://www.SmallSmurfsBigGoals.com and celebrate World Happiness Day with the United Nations and Team Smurfs on March 20th.

I hope this made your day happier! Thank you for reading “My Happy”!

#happyacts

 

 

 

Tiffany’s Holiday Picks for 2016 Gift Giving

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MarbleMist Glass Ultrasonic Diffusing Mister in China Blue Aromatherapy

These MarbleMist aromatherapy beauties fill the air with fragrance that can uplift your mood or calm your mood. So pretty! I found the Marble Mist at http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Mindful Magazine December 2016 issue

Mindful Magazine

Give Mindfulness! Mindful is a mission-driven, reader supported non-profit. Not only does the magazine bring you an understanding of mindfulness meditation with a step-by-step guide. It will continue to give you practices for using mindfulness in your everyday life. I personally enjoy Mindful Magazine’s e-mails that keep me mindful! http://www.mindful.org/magazine

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Clothing with positive sayings are popping up everywhere. While buying these for my children, I had the opportunity to share with them why I like the sayings on these shirts. In this picture the red shirt has “Kind People Are My Kind Of People”. It is a great way to remind our children that kindness is something we value in our family. Not only to be kind to family, but to show kindness to everyone. I was happy to see one for me, too. “Inhale Exhale Love”! Exactly! I found these shirts at Target by the new clothing line “Cat & Jack”. The white “Peace & Love” shirt is from Walmart. I have also noticed shirts with positive messages at Children’s Place clothing store.

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This is my favorite gift pick to write about this year. Our family enjoys shopping at antique stores in our area. My daughter discovered this gingerbread man a few weeks ago while looking for treasures in one of our favorite antique stores. She brought it over to me and asked if she could buy it for her Mimi as a Christmas present. I asked her why she thought her Mimi would like it. My daughter smiled and said “Mimi told me that when she was a little girl she loved to eat gingerbread man cookies.” How special for her to remember what her grandmother had shared with her and to know that this would be a special gift for her Mimi. I would love to hear how other families encourage their children to pick thoughtful gifts. 🙂

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My twin little ones found this You Tube video and we just loved these little snow babies! It was easy to find the materials. We had so much fun making these and it will also be fun to give them away! We obviously made mistakes, got paint on ourselves, spilled rice, and laughed a lot! We still think our snow babies are adorable.

 

 

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A great book for all ages! In fact my good friend, Lois gave this to me as a gift. It is fun to read, beautiful pictures, true happy facts that explain the latest scientific research! It is sure to bring a smile to anyone on your list. I have shared it with students, my own children, and Madame Corinne brought it into her happiness project. Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project

Happy holidays to all of you.

May you find peace, love, and kindness during this season.

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What’s In Your Cornucopia?

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Thank you for reading My Happy! Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Here is the pdf to print and color your own. 🙂  scan_20161122-3 Send it to thatmakesmehappy@yahoo.com and I will share it on “My Happy”.

Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project

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Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project

A Happiness Project taught in a classroom in France brings happiness to a classroom in Spain and to me! Two students taking “The Science of Happiness” course given by the University of California Berkeley were unaware that their paths would happily cross and be mutually beneficial.

My new friend, Madame Corinne, a caring teacher in France to six and seven year old creative students and I connected when Madame Corinne did a Google search and found “My Happy”.  Madame Corinne was kind enough to leave a comment sharing that she was a teacher in France. After reading her comment I was eager to ask Madame Corinne if she would like a copy of That Makes Me Happy! I noticed that her e-mail address came up with her comment on the “My Happy” comment page. I thought about sending her an e-mail, then decided not to. Yes, self-doubt held me back. In the past I would have simply given in to my self-doubt. Instead, I reminded myself how far I had come since my first blog post. I felt good about the writing, the volunteering,  and the learning. One question I now ask myself when I am presented with an opportunity is: “Why not?” I again found myself looking at Madame Corinne’s e-mail address. This time I e-mailed her. I asked if she would like a copy of my story to read to her class. Madame Corinne was so kind to say yes! She was already planning a wonderful Happiness Project for her new class and the story fit right in.

Madame Corinne began her new school year by focusing her students on happiness. I was very honored that she read “That Makes Me Happy” and had her students make Happy Rings as part of her project. Madame Corinne asked her students to think of “3 small happinesses” each morning. Students created pictures and  posted their drawings to a bulletin board.  Below are the pictures Madame Corinne shared with me. Her students were very creative with the Happy Rings. I especially liked how they personalized them, even the smiley faces! Happy Ring total has now reached 127! I also enjoyed looking at all the pictures on the bulletin board.

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Madame Corinne shared her project with a teacher in Spain. Senorita Berta will be teaching her students this happiness project and all the students from each classroom will share their ideas this year! How wonderful!

I was excited I had written that e-mail and in a small way I was apart of these terrific projects. I am still amazed at how simply reaching out has connected me to fellow happiness creators so far from my home. Creating happiness is making a difference to Madame Corinne, Senorita Berta, and their students this year. Madame Corinne’s Happiness Project not only teaches students they can create their happiness, it also teaches students even though we may be living in different countries, we CAN connect, and we CAN make a  POSITIVE difference. Everyone’s ideas are important and we can be happier by sharing them!

Thank you Madame Corinne and Senorita Berta for teaching your students about creating happiness! Thank you for sharing my story. Please thank your students for making Happy Rings!

That Makes Me Happy!

More Pictures 12/5/16

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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!

A Bird’s Eye View

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A Bird’s Eye View

A unique opportunity presented itself to our family this past June.  Having a lovely Forsythia Wreath on our front door was not only appealing to our visitors, but to two very intelligent nest builders. My family discovered a bird’s nest carefully crafted on the wreath laying against our front glass storm door giving us a bird’s eye view of 4 baby birds! It was a perfect spot for the family of birds as it provided much shelter. The birds inspired learning, a song, kindness, and amazement.  My family and I learned baby birds grow and leave the nest within a matter of weeks. My daughter was inspired to sing an original song to the baby birds, our kind construction crew worked around the birds until they flew away, and lastly it was truly amazing to watch the baby birds’ journey from newborn without feathers to feathered fliers.  This was definitely an experience that created much happiness!

Watch their transformation paired with an original song by Juliet.

 

20160610_145257We discovered the new baby birds.

20160610_152751Our cats were also very interested.20160616_162123 20160620_113538 Each bird’s beautiful feathers came in.

20160621_134538 This was the last bird to leave the nest. 🙂

Please feel free to share your happy experiences, I would love to hear about them!

 

A Custom Bracelet For Me?

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A Custom Bracelet For Me?

Have you ever wanted a piece of jewelry that you could see in your imagination, but could not find in a store? I was feeling this way as it has become increasingly important to me to be mindful. I could imagine a bracelet to be worn as a reminder of what I hold important.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”  Greater Good Science Center

This is not an easy task in our day to day lives. It is unfortunate, but sometimes my mind wanders, I worry needlessly, I react instead of responding, yes, it is true. As much as I am aware how much better life can be when we are mindful, it takes practice not to fall back on old habits.

I learned the Chinese symbol for mindfulness means “presence of heart”. This reminded me of all the hearts that have been given to me since I was a child.  When I was a tween my friend, Susan, gave me a small porcelain heart jewelry box with blue flowers on it. In fact, oIMG_20160512_173125041_HDRver the years, I received many heart boxes and I still have the small collection. I was also given heart necklaces in all shapes and colors. Another kind friend, Carolyn, gave me a her own heart precious stone because she knew I was going through a tough time.  IMG_20160512_173153239_HDRHearts have been present in my life and thoughtfully given to me with love, leading me to visualize a heart bracelet with the words “presence of heart” written on the inside.

I was looking for a piece as an expression, a way to remind myself to be mindful, to follow my heart, and a simple way to start a conversation. With that said, I asked Lisa, a jewelry designer I am fortunate to know, to design this bracelet idea for me. I was unsure of the cost or if she could visualize what I was trying to describe.  Lisa listened, sketched and we discussed what I wanted. We also discussed a “price point”.  A “price point” is the range you would like to spend. Depending on the metals used the price could be higher or lower. I also wanted a specific heart shape incorporated into the piece. A heart with a lattice type of design. This would have increased the cost if Lisa needed to design that heart shape. Luckily and surprisingly, Lisa had heart charms from Australia with the design I was thinking of. After discussing my book, my thinking behind it and all the work I have been doing with my blog and volunteering. I wanted a low cost version of my bracelet idea, as well.  A similar piece that would be a reminder to following one’s heart and dreams.

Lisa surprised me by having the bracelet ready quickly as she knew I would love to wear it at my book launch which was coming up at the time.

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When I got her call that it was ready, I was very excited to see it. Driving over to the jewelry store I felt so fortunate that “little ole’ me” would have a very own custom piece of jewelry designed by Lisa Scala!IMG_20160512_172904037

IMG_20160513_094432998It was BEAUTIFUL and even better than I had imagined. Lisa stayed true to what I had described, adding her flair to it.  I love wearing the bracelet, it really does remind me to stay mindful, follow my heart, and opens conversations with children and friends. Lisa also designed these necklaces and bracelets for me.  I hope my work encourages others to follow their heart and dreams.

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Lisa Scala

About the Artist

 

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“Lisa Scala is a gifted designer whose unique collection of handmade jewelry and accessories has delighted customers for over 25 years.

Her one-of-a-kind pieces reflect a life-long passion for art, natural beauty and vintage charm. As she puts it, “The refined simplicity of my designs is inspired by my observation and love of nature, combined with my upbringing in the antiques trade.”

A recognized jewelry artist—with a degree in Jewelry and Metalsmithing—Lisa has received awards from multiple arts organizations, and her works have been featured at high-end galleries across the US.” Lisascala.com

If you love these pieces, like I do, please visit Lisa’s gallery or visit her website at http://www.lisascala.com to see more of her unique designs or to create your own custom piece of jewelry.

Having a custom piece of jewelry possible for myself was a happy surprise!

Happy International Day of Happiness!

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Happy International Day of Happiness!

 

Enjoy your day with people who make you smile and laugh. My family is lucky to be spending a fun day celebrating a special friend’s 5th birthday!

 

I am sharing the following from Action for Happiness which is a movement for positive social change.

“We want a society that prioritises the things that really matter. Join us and help spread happiness – at home, at work or in your community.”

Source: Let’s put the things that matter first

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Have a great day! 🙂