Tag Archives: Meditation

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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Happy Book Launch

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Ringing the singing bowl to focus our hearing

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patiently waiting

 

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

my favorite part, reading the story and seeing smiles

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My friend, Margit has supported every step of my happiness journey and made these cookies for the book launch. She hand did each face!

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I think these cookies stole the show! 😉

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Happy drawings!!!

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Getting to write special messages was so fun!

 

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Margit’s cookies made everyone smile

untitledThis photo was taken at the next reading I did for story time at our library during vacation week. We used masks to act out the story. So cute!

 

 

We had a very happy book launch at my town’s library, thank you to all the librarians and a special thank you to Lindsey and Becky! Celebrating with my family and friends always makes me happy.  I always know I can depend on them to be as happy as I am to come together and celebrate, especially for something they know means so much to me.  A number one priority to creating your happiness is to strengthen your social connections. I hope they know how much I appreciate their support, especially at my happy book launch. Sharing “That Makes Me Happy!” and making Happy Rings with my family and friends was truly one of the happiest days I have ever had.

Twenty-five families attended and listened to the reading of “That Makes Me Happy!”.  All the children were terrific listeners and participants. The event was also attended by  Alison, a reporter from our local newspaper.  I look forward to reading the article and seeing the pictures. There was so much going on and I wished I could have chatted more and been able to talk to each child about their drawings. During the book launch children made their happy thought circles and then added it to a Happy Ring to take home. My friend Kim shared with me that her son’s happy thought was me! I was very surprised and almost cried! How sweet was that!James and Tiffany

It was also very heartwarming when one friend shared her enthusiasm for the “Happy Rings” and how her sons have been able to have fun using them for calming strategies. She was very kind to post this comment on “My Happy”:

“That Makes Me Happy! was read in my son’s preschool class and he loved it! He was excited to share with the family the Happy Ring he had created. To this day, I use the techniques described in the book and the Happy Ring as calming strategies for both of my boys. They always end up smiling and laughing with each other. Tiffany, I am so happy to share in your special day tomorrow as you launch the book. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment!” Amy

It was also important to me to explain some of the great research that led to my motivation to write “That Makes Me Happy!”. First, I explained the work of Richard Davidson. Richard Davidson is a neuroscientist and emotional specialist. At a recent conference hosted by The Mind and Life Institute, Davidson talked about his center’s work in the field of contemplative neuroscience.  He says one of the most important insights this work is leading us to is: we can train for well-being. “It is the neuroscientific evidence particularly which shows us that the circuits in the brain that are important to underlying well-being exhibit plasticity–it changes as a consequence of experience and as a consequence of training.  We know that the brain is constantly being changed, wittingly or unwittingly.”  “We can all take responsibility for our own brains and we can shape our own brains in ways that are more positive and can lead to the cultivation of well-being.”

Read more about Richard Davidson’s work at: http://www.centerhealthyminds.org

Next, I shared the information about the course given by UC Berkeley, “The Science of Happiness”. Not only does this course cover all the latest research in positive psychology, it also teaches students happiness practices to cultivate well-being.  Although it is a 10 week course, if you are not taking it to earn credit, you have the materials for six months and may take it at your own pace.  Between the discussion groups and Facebook page there is opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. Simply hearing the stories of others looking to learn more about positive well-being is very uplifting.

Read more at http://www.greatergoodsciencecenter.org

Local organizations that support SEL in other ways are

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http://www.friendshipconnectiononline.com/

http://www.artfullifecenter.org/

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http://www.mindfulschools.org

 

Lastly, I organized a “Happiness Bundle” for my town library. I have pictured the books I included below. I tried to think of everyone, whether you are an avid reader, a magazine flipper, a movie watcher or a parent looking for children’s books about happiness. I feel like this is the best grouping of books that I have read in the sea of new happiness books. If you live in my area, I hope you get  chance to borrow some of these finds. 🙂 If you are not, your own library may have some of these titles. If not, you can ask them if they could get them in.

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As you can see I have a lot to share! The title “That Makes Me Happy!” truly describes what all this is about, Creating My Happy! I hope that it also Creates YOUR Happy!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this day so HAPPY! 🙂 A special thank you to Olivia for taking pictures at the book launch and Lois for taking pictures at the story time. Thank you to Margit for the delicious custom cookies and to Alex, my excellent assistant at the launch.

 

Happiness for the Holidays

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happy holidaysJust like adults, children sometimes have stress, anxieties, or get overly excited during the holiday season.  Here are a few strategies to help yourself and your child enjoy the holidays and each other:

Be sure to do a self-check. If you are getting nervous, stressed or frustrated trying to “do it all”. It will surely trickle down to your children. Don’t be shy to ask for help! It’s okay to ask for help because it will strengthen your relationships.

Make sure you don’t get overwhelmed by keeping what is truly important in mind, your beliefs in the holiday your family celebrates, your family, and helping or appreciating others as well. It’s a great time of year to show appreciation to others who help your family in some way. Also, it is a time to help other families who may need it during the holidays.

Make lists and keep a journal. Making lists of items you need to buy or things you need to get accomplished. Be sure to write down a day you would like these tasks to be done. I also started to keep a journal of holiday giving to help me remember from year to year what we have given.

It’s also a good time of year to give to charities, food pantries, and shelters. Schools and stores usually have toy or gift drives. Wal-Mart, for example, has a giving tree with gift requests on it. You can select a tag off the tree, buy the request, and then give it to the customer service staff member. This is a good thing to do with your children so that they understand the importance of giving, even to other families they may not know.

A side note regarding donations. There are organizations in your area that need families to make donations which help your own community.  One way to make donating easier is by making a payment monthly for one year. Small monthly donations can be given automatically through your bank to the recipient.   This commitment is actually better for the recipient.

Strategies For Kids:

Give kids age appropriate “jobs” to help with holiday preparations. One idea is wrapping gifts. Cut paper to size of gift. Give your child sized paper, pieces of tape (or if old enough, the tape dispenser), bows, and a bag to place when finished. Here is the big tip for you: Love however they wrap the gift! Sometimes we have to “let go” of how we might do something because it’s all good. 🙂 The recipient will enjoy your child’s wrapping abilities no matter what. Other jobs may include: help with cleaning (socks on hands to dust is always fun), decorating, cooking, and making gifts.

Deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) and exercise daily.  Kids need to be taught how to take a deep breath. Elementary teachers sometimes  explain to their students, it is like smelling flowers and blowing out  birthday candles. Be sure to tell them to only do one deep breath, but remind them a few times during the day. If you practice this daily, your children will be able to use it more effectively when they really need it to calm themselves. Exercise is very important for your children to keep calm as well. An easy indoor activity is Freeze Dancing. Turn on your favorite tunes, but when the music goes off, you freeze! The kids really like this and they get some exercise.

Read and discuss holiday traditions along with their usual favorite books. (Bedtime is a great time for this. Kids are very open to conversations at this time. Especially if they get to stay up a little late. 😉 )

Emphasize Giving Make or buy gifts together for others. Include them in buying for the toy or gift drive you donate to. It will get your child thinking about how others need our support.

Teach expected behaviors for giving and receiving. For example, when receiving a gift always say “thank you” and something kind about the gift. When giving a gift watch the person open it and respond to a thank you with “you’re welcome”. This not only gives them the words to use, it provides the opportunity to learn about gratitude.

If you are visiting another home for a holiday party be sure to tell your kids beforehand the usual sequence of events and what is expected of them during the party. Remind them that expected behavior is important for everyone to have fun and stay safe. If you have a child who has difficulty in these less structured events, be certain to respect any concerns they have and help them to feel comfortable. It’s okay to request information from the host or bring something with you to help your child feel more comfortable. Don’t put your feelings or anxieties on them, however. Don’t ask or suggest anything negative, simply listen if they bring up a concern and reassure them that you will help them if needed.

Older kids need support, too. They would benefit by your sharing the above strategies with them (in your own words) and ask them what they might like to try this year. It may just be the conversation starter you are looking for. (Don’t forget…bedtime is a great time to ask and listen.)

Hopefully, you are also working on your happiness with visualizing, family cheers, exercise, getting rest, being thankful, being mindful, meditating, self-compassion, and thinking positive thoughts. Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to create amazing memories for your family and others. I hope this helps you and your children enjoy this special time of year. Please share some of your own strategies that have helped your holidays be happy in the comment section. I look forward to learning from you!

More to come……

 

 

Let’s Get Positive….Positive…

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Take time to add positivity to your life daily! I always knew that it was important to view experiences in our lives as “the glass half full” as opposed to  “the glass half empty”, what I didn’t realize is that we can actively infuse our lives daily with positivity! Here is the recipe:

A dash of Meditation (please read “Meditation is Concentrated Happiness Training”)

A sprinkle of Looking Forward (big or small, put it on the calendar)

5 Cups of Kindness (even small purposeful acts of kindness decrease stress)

Mix it up Outside (20 minutes daily)

Evaporate Negative television or any Negative media

Add Exercise (produces endorphins and helps keep stress at bay)

Whisk together money for Experiences (shift focus away from material things)

Grow your Signature Strengths

Bake until done and share with friends and family!

“Meditation is Concentrated Happiness Training”

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“Meditation is concentrated happiness training”  Christine Carter, PH.D.

The following paragraph is taken from Christine Carter’s book, “Raising Happiness” This is an amazing book. It is a guide for parents and caregivers  to teach their children happiness habits.  I will be writing and vlogging (video blogging) more about it on my Parent/Caregiver page.

“Take some quiet time for yourself.  What does a monk who has clocked thousands of hours meditating have that you don’t? Let’s see: he has peace and quiet.  His clothing is surely free from someone else’s spit-up and sandbox dirt.  Also, the part of his brain that is responsible for happiness is bigger.  This is because the brain is like a muscle, and if you train your mind the way monks do, you will change your brain.”

Sociologist and positive psychologist, Christine Carter and Shawn Achor, both write about the research that neuroscientists conducted with Monks.  Neuroscientists have found that after years of meditating, Monks grew their left prefrontal cortex, this is the part of the brain responsible for feeling happy!  The importance of this information is that Neuroscience of yesteryear held that our brains were done growing once we reached full height. Now, though, it is clear that we can change and grow our brains with practice and training! Therefore, meditation is concentrated happiness training.

Okay, now that you see how wonderful and important meditation is, you ask how can I do it? Some of you may have tried it in the past and did not keep it up. Maybe some of you simply think it is impossible for your busy mind to be still? Here are some ways you CAN be successful with meditation. (Notice that positive sentence…ha ha)

Positive psychologists say if you can take just 5 minutes each day, sit (or lie) in a comfortable position, and concentrate only on your breath going in and out, and stay non-judgemental.  While trying this, if your mind wanders don’t judge yourself, just use your self-awareness and bring your focus back to your breath. They say even if you do this 5 minutes a day you will have amazing health benefits. You should feel calmer and more contentment, be better able to cope with stress, and happier, of course.

I have tried relaxation meditation with my own children and they were very open to it…….at bedtime! Anytime you want to try something like this with your own children, bedtime is the perfect time. Tell them they get to stay up a little later to try something new. Relaxation Meditation works by teaching your child to relax specific parts of their body, one at a time, starting from their heads and ending with their toes. Also, it is important to show children how to take a deep breath to relax.  If a child is resistant still, try asking for them to try it for one minute. The next time, ask your child to try for two minutes and so on until they can do it for 5.

Another meditation that has worked for me is by using a guided meditation CD.  I found these for adults and children at http://www.healthjourneys.com by Belleruth Naparstek. You can find general meditation CDs as well as meditations for specific health issues.

If you try these ideas and it is still not working for you. Christine Carter recommends taking some quiet time and keep a gratitude journal. She states “people who practice gratitude” feel considerably happier than those who do not;  they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested and determined.”  It can also lead to being more optimistic about your future! There are even books written on this! Please let me know if you would like me to write a post on how to have an attitude of gratitude.

I would really like to read some comments about this post, especially if you try meditating or you are already successful at it. I would appreciate reading how it works for you. I want to thank my friend, Kim, who asked me if I was going to post about meditation. She shared her knowledge of it and felt like it would be helpful to blog about it. I admitted that I hadn’t used meditation consistently yet, but after writing this post I realize I should at least try for 5 minutes a day. Will you?  I will let you know how that works out.   I appreciate her support and for giving me a little push in this direction. 🙂

 

 

Keep an Open Mind

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928  After reading Principle #1, The Happiness Advantage, I realized that I needed to change my own thinking.  Most of us believe:  if you are successful, you will be happy.  My thinking needed to change to:  if you are happy, success will follow.  Decades of research has proven this, but we are still stuck in the other belief.

We all have experienced negative emotions causing physical changes in our bodies (upset stomach, back pain, increase of stress) well, positive emotions also affect our brain and body, but in a positive way.  Therefore, changing your thinking and realizing the importance to focus and practice happiness first, and probably foremost, changes how your brain works and body feels. Daily focus and practice towards a more positive attitude will cause you not only to feel better but to experience things like clearer thinking, more creativity, being more open to new ideas, and my favorite, happiness is catchy!  I posted that I am trying to “Lead by Example” because if I become happier and feel better, so will the people around me. Who doesn’t want that?

Even more interesting to me was the experiment I read about where scientists primed their subjects before hand. One group was primed to experience something happy and positive and the other was primed with something causing stress and anxiety. Not surprisingly, the happier group did better, but not only did they do better,  they were better able to problem solve, were more creative and more open-minded.

Positive emotions release chemicals in our brains that make us feel good.  Studies also show that these chemicals also increase our learning potential. The way we organize information, quicker and more creative thinking, the ability to see things in a new way, and longer lasting retrieval. Feeling happier also helps us to see more positives in our environment.

Some companies that Shawn mentioned who use this advantage are Yahoo! and Google. Obviously, very successful! They know that happier employees lead to a more successful company.

Shawn advises the following to use the Happiness Advantage in our lives:

Meditate
Looking forward to something (vacations are nice )
Acts of Kindness
Create positivity in your life
Exercise
Plan and use your money on activities that bring happiness
Exercise a signature strength

In my next post I will write more about these areas.