The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘awareness’

Stress and Children

Kids experience stress just as much as the rest of us.

And sometimes more intensely than the rest of us.

I hope you’re all wondering why this is, because I’m about to share it with you.

It all originates in the field of child development. Or more specifically, brain development. When I began this series on stress we talked about the Triune Brain. We discussed how the brain processes stress and a little bit about the ages at which the different parts of the brain develop.

I’d like to discuss these age differences in a little more detail.

When we are born the only part of the brain to be fully developed is the brain stem, which is responsible for our physiological responses such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. If this part of the brain is damaged in some way, your survival may be threatened and it is possible that you would be looking at support from machines to stay alive. The brain stem is also responsible for the physiological aspects of the stress response – elevating the heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure.

The limbic region is the next part of the brain to develop, usually completed at around 3-5 years of age. This controls our emotions. The amygdala lives in the limbic region and if you remember back to my previous post on this, its job is to make an assessment about whether your life is at threat. So when we perceive our life to be in danger, our emotions, such as fear and anxiety, are activated.

The final part of the brain to develop is the neocortex, which is responsible for our ability to think, reason and solve problems. This begins to develop properly in our teens but isn’t completely developed until we reach our mid 20’s. When our stress response is activated, the blood flow to the neocortex is reduced, and therefore our ability to think is impaired.

Here is a simple diagram that shows this relationship.

triune brain 4

Let’s think about these facts in relation to children. As adults, when we become stressed we can sometimes use our reasoning ability to calm this response and get back to our balanced state (homeostasis). Remember though, by the time we reach our mid 20’s, all 3 areas of the brain are fully developed. This means that the sizes of the limbic region and the neocortex are somewhat even, thereby making it easier to reason things out when we’re stressed.

Children, however, do not have this. Because of their brain development, their limbic region and neocortex are different sizes, which means that their emotions have much more control than their thinking and reasoning ability. So when their stress response is activated, they are unable to down-regulate, or calm the response. This is not only due to the size difference, but also because the blood flow to the neocortex is diminished. So they have all these emotions running through their mind and body, but are unable to use logic to bring themselves back to a place of balance.

I hope this makes sense, because it is an integral part of why children’s behaviour can become volatile at the smallest things.

Sometimes their parents or another adult is able to “talk them down”, particularly if they combine some simple breathing techniques with ‘loaning’ out some logic or reasoning power. But sometimes the stress response is engaged to such an extent that the only way to calm it is to allow it to burn itself out. In this way kids are able to burn off any adrenalin with physical activity. Most of the time you’ll probably find this happen with the use of some pretty intense tantrums, complete with throwing things, yelling, hitting and so on.

The key to helping your kids to manage their response comes by making them more aware of their body and the signals it gives out to indicate stress. Look for a post on this in the next few days. In the meantime, try reviewing an article I wrote back in August about some secret kids business. In it I discuss how kids can learn to manage their own self-care by creating a box in which to keep some special things to help them calm down.

A special note for children who have experienced trauma or abuse, particularly at an early age. Neurobiological research has found that these kids often have an amygdala that is enlarged. This means that it is much more easily activated. And this in turn means that there is a larger difference in size between the limbic region and the neocortex, making it even more difficult to regulate their emotions. For these kids (well, for all kids, but especially for these ones), the key is safety and security. More than anything else, they need to understand that they are safe. So the best thing you can do is to remain calm, firm and completely sure in your attempts to support them. As you work at calming their response, regulate your own breathing using the belly breathing techniques we have already discussed. We all know that children pick up on our energy and moods, so the calmer you become, the easier it will be to help regulate them. And please consider seeking psychological support for these kids. Not only can a professional teach them how to regulate their emotions, they can work with you on specific strategies to use with them.

mirror neurons

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Boosting self-esteem through physical activity

As the next in our series of guest posts on self-esteem I’d like to introduce you to Glenda. As a clinical nutritionist, neuroscientist, Personal Trainer and Positive Wellbeing Coach, she knows a little something about healthy living. She has joined us today to talk about how you can boost your self-esteem by moving your body. And I think most of you will be pleased to know that you don’t have to smash yourself at the gym to get the benefits! Most of the time it’s the simplest things that make the biggest differences. So check out what Glenda has to say and visit her site. 

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Self-esteem is quite an interesting concept that many people misunderstand. You see, most people think of self-esteem as an all or none thing, where you either have it or you don’t. But really, it works on a sliding scale that can be nudged one way or the other depending firstly on what life throws at you, but also on how you perceive and react to those events.

 Sometimes it’s something massive that either boosts or decimates your self-esteem, for instance receiving an award or commendation for doing an excellent job, or on the negative side it could be caused by a failure or loss. Yet your self-esteem can also be affected by many little things over and over that push you a bit one way and then another, so that it’s the overall balance of these little pushes that decides where it finally settles.

 Another thing that’s often misunderstood about self-esteem is that it’s possible to have a lot in some parts of your life while having very little in other areas. As an example, you could be very confident in what you do for a living and have no issues in your professional life, yet you may have low self-esteem on a personal level because you haven’t yet had a ‘successful’ relationship and are being constantly hounded by your family on when you’re going to settle down.

 Regardless of how much self-esteem you have, or in which parts of your life that it exists, there are ways to boost it. But before we talk about how you can do this, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to what self-esteem is. There are a number of definitions, but here we’ll consider self-esteem in terms of the Oxford Dictionary definition: “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities”.

 If you’re able to directly pinpoint where your issues exist, it may be possible to work on boosting your self-esteem directly by improving your abilities, or your confidence in those abilities, that relate to that particular issue. For instance, if you had low self-esteem about your cooking abilities and your confidence to cook meals that your family would enjoy, you could directly work on this by taking cooking classes, reading cookbooks, and practicing tried and true recipes until you could cook a number of meals with confidence. In this example, boosting self-esteem for a particular activity is relatively easy because you can readily define the activity that’s of concern.

 But what if your self-esteem issue is a bit harder to pin down? What can you do then to improve it?

 It may seem a little bit counterintuitive at first, but you can boost your self-esteem by practicing and mastering activities that create an overall sense of confidence, strength and powerfulness within you. While there are many types of activities that can do this, I’ve personally found that exercise, fitness and other physical activities are excellent ways to create these feelings within you and to boost your self-esteem.

physical activity boosts self-esteem glenda bishop

 Alright, so how does physical activity help self-esteem?

 Firstly it teaches you to listen to your body, creating a mind-body connection that keeps you centred during the activity. This helps to strengthen your understanding of what you’re achieving at that time, bolstering your knowledge of your abilities and thus your confidence in performing them. It also helps to stop your mind from wandering away and getting stuck in any negative thoughts that might otherwise have you questioning your abilities – and when you don’t question your capabilities, you more naturally learn to respect and acknowledge them for what they really are.

 The next really important part about physical activity and exercise is that it strengthens your body. This physical strength creates a feeling of power and capability that lets you move through the world with more ease and grace. Knowing that you can trust your body to do what’s needed is incredibly powerful. It helps you to stand tall and move with purpose. There’s also something special that comes with the confidence of physical capability that can’t be taken away from you. It helps to create an “I don’t care” attitude within you – not so much in the sense that nothing is important to you, but more in the sense that the little things just don’t bother you as much as they used to.

 A huge bonus that comes from physical activity is that it decreases the amount of stress hormones in your body, i.e. adrenaline and cortisol. When you exercise and get your body moving, your stress hormones get chewed up during the activity, so that when you’ve finished moving, your overall stress levels are considerably less than when you started. If you do physical activity on a regular basis (daily or every second day), this can go a long way to modulating stress. This is also one of the reasons why regular physical activity also helps to manage depression and anxiety. When you’re less stressed, you’re more resilient to the unexpected things that life throws at you. Not getting stressed out every time something little goes wrong means that there’s less of that constant battering to your self-esteem.

 If the physical activity that you choose to do is something new, then this allows you to learn new skills. Even if the skills seem unrelated to anything else you do in your life, there’s an incredible amount of confidence boosting that comes from simply being able to say “I did that!”. It could be finally being able to run 5km, hiking up to the top of a mountain, being able to shoot a basketball from the 3-point line, being able to hit a baseball for a home run, learning how to punch or kick correctly in a martial art, learning how to stand up on a surf board, or even learning a new dance routine. It really doesn’t matter what it is (or whether it matters to anyone else), it’s knowing that you did it and that you were able to master a new skill that counts. Reminding yourself that you can learn new things can give you the confidence you need to try out something else in another part of your life.

 There’s an important caveat though about learning new skills to boost self-esteem. It’s really critical that when you set out on a new activity that you keep your goals very manageable and that you restrain them to a beginner level for that activity. So this means that it’s best not to attach time limits or standards to the goal. For instance, if your goal was to run 5km, then make that the goal – simply to be able to run a distance of 5km. Don’t put any additional criteria as to how fast you have to be able to run that distance. Only after you’ve achieved the distance should you consider trying to improve your time – but even then, you should only do that if you want to. It’s perfectly okay to be able to say “I did that” and then switch onto another activity to gain a new skill. Maybe running is something that you will choose to enjoy occasionally but never want to run a race, and that is perfectly fine!

 So as you can see, there are many reasons why physical activity is so valuable for boosting self-esteem. It’s also one of the reasons why I recommend that everyone tries out a new type of physical activity that pushes their body just a bit further than they normally would push it. It strengthens the body, but also strengthens the mind at the same time, creating a mental resilience and confidence that boosts self-esteem which can transfer across other areas of your life. The trick is to find an activity that you will enjoy and then to set yourself a small and achievable goal. Not only will you boost your self-esteem, you’ll boost your physical and mental health too.

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Glenda Bishop healthy stories 2Author Bio:

Glenda Bishop is a neuroscientist, Registered Nutritionist, personal trainer and positive wellbeing coach. She helps women to reconnect their mind and body by creating a strong foundation of physical health that supports and strengthens their mental health. Glenda’s Mind & Body Reconnect Program creates a gentle strength and confidence from the inside out, leading to positive mental wellbeing that promotes joy and happiness. Click here to find out her 7 Little Secrets for a Healthy Mind and Body.

Finding the Time

Natalie is a mum of 3 from Melbourne and spends most of her time taking care of her family. In her spare time she shares her experiences of discovering the benefits of slowing down the busy-ness that is life and learning more about the things that are most important. You might like to read more about her experiences on her blog and you can find the link below her article.

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Somebody said to me the other day that they wished they could be 20 years younger but know what they knew today.

I, on the other hand, love being the age that I am but wish that I could have the same energy, confidence and self-esteem that I had when I was 15. Sure, I was naïve, idealistic and a bit more self-obsessed than I am nowadays, but the dreams, ideas and passion that I once had before the “real world” took over is what I long for today.

As a society, we are more consumed with living life at full speed and meeting unrealistic expectations of what our lives should look like that we forget who we really are, and we forget the dreams and ambitions we once held during the prime of our youth.

Our busyness means we don’t have the time to look within ourselves to find the love and gratitude that we already have that’s now hiding behind a veil of stress, anxiety and low self-esteem perpetuated by the external world. Those everyday distractions, routines, to-do lists, schedules, appointments, calendars and obligations are blockages that prevent us from attracting a life that we so desire.

What would our lives look like if we stripped away all the busyness, the distractions and comparisons we cling onto?

Prior to becoming “unbusy” over a year ago, I was living up to society’s expectations of what a mother and a wife should be that I lost the confidence, passion and determination I once had. What was important to me was hosting the most fun and coolest kids birthday parties, ticking off all the tasks on my daily to-do lists, going to gym classes and watching my diet and keeping up with what everyone else was doing.

I was looking to the external world to help boost my happiness, my self-esteem, my self-worth.

But over time, something about my life did not feel right. I had everything to be grateful for but why was I still unhappy? Why did I feel like crawling into a hole? Why did I feel like a shadow of my former self?

Because I was too busy to realise that all I had ever wanted was already within me, I just had to take the time to find it.

So I decided to unbusy myself!

busy life Natalie

I began my unbusy journey by decluttering my home over a 6 month period, room by room, and in doing so created more time that I previously wasted on household chores. My kids also started to learn to appreciate having fewer toys and clothes, and learnt about the importance of donating to charities and trying to reduce the environmental impact of having too much stuff.

My focus then moved onto analysing where I was spending and wasting time, so I did a “time stocktake”; I spent a week keeping a diary of all the activities and tasks I spent my time on. This allowed me to see exactly what was creating my busyness: spending too much time on social media, wasting time engaging in gossip and meaningless conversations with others, thinking and planning too far ahead into the future and not focusing on the present moment.

Here are some key things I have discovered about myself during my unbusy journey:

  1. By removing stuff and people from my life that did not serve me well, I was able to move the focus from the external world into my internal world, and I discovered that my confidence and self-worth is dictated by ME.
  2. I have more time to enjoy new pursuits in life, including things I have never tried before- this gives me a sense of satisfaction and pride.
  3. I have more time to serve others who need help, and by doing so I feel a sense of gratitude and humbleness.

We have the ability to control the way we feel about ourselves and how we live our lives by focusing on what’s most important and removing the blocks to our happiness. To be able to do this, we need to live at a slower pace, which will give us the time to look within ourselves to find the confidence and strength we need to create the best versions of our lives.

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Natalie Alleblas created Unbusy Me to offer a different perspective on living, and to give inspiration and tips to those who want to become unbusy but don’t know where to begin, or are unsure how it will help them live a more meaningful and satisfying life. She writes tips and inspirational ideas, and shares stories about how she lives an unbusy life along with her husband and 3 kids in suburban Melbourne, Australia. You can find her blog at www.unbusyme.com and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/unbusyme.

Influencing Boundaries

I’d like to introduce you to Ellen, a Psychologist from Victoria. She is a blogger, author and mum and loves to inspire others. Here she shares her take on boundaries and how they impact on us and our sense of SELF. I really hope you come and join us again later in the week, as Ellen will be back to help us learn how to establish healthy boundaries and increase our self-esteem. I’d love for you to go visit her website after you listen to what she has to say.

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Recently a friend of mine, apologising for being a bit out of sorts, explained that she was upset about her 20-something daughter.  She and her daughter had always been close but recently there had been trouble; arguments and disagreements, tension.  According to my friend, the boyfriend was the problem.  Well … not the boyfriend exactly.  She had quite liked him and had certainly made him welcome as the two of them stayed with her during the weekends while working away from home during the week.  It was not him exactly.  Rather it was his influence on her daughter.

Apparently he had a lot to say about who she should be friends with and how much time she should spend with her friends and her family.  Apparently little things that upset him became big things to her and if friends and family were part of his issue then she went in to bat for him, causing tension in her own relationships.

Her mother, my friend, was quite distressed.  She sensed a wedge being driven between her and her daughter and she was quite sure that it was not of her daughter’s doing.  She could see the influence that this man was having.  She didn’t like it but she was at a loss as to what to do as any mention of it to her daughter was met solely with defensiveness.

At the time I expressed empathy for my friend, tried to console her and we brainstormed a few ideas and options.  I related my own experience of being in my 20s with a much-loved partner whom, on reflection, I also went in to bat for perhaps more often than was warranted. I tried to solve his problems and appease his worries when really that was his job.

I was pondering this later when I realised that this was perhaps an issue of blurred personal boundaries.  Personal boundaries, in psychology-speak, are the limits – physical, mental and emotional – that we establish around ourselves to differentiate ourselves from others.  They allow us to separate who we are and what we think and feel from the thoughts and feelings of the people around us.

Givers have to set limites ellen jackson

Personal boundaries are critical to healthy relationships but it can be very easy to let them blur, particularly when we’re young, inexperienced, or perhaps haven’t had clear boundaries and healthy relationships modelled to us in the past.

Signs of unhealthy boundaries include:

  • Feeling guilty for saying no
  • Doing things for others that we really don’t want to do
  • Allowing unwanted physical contact
  • Not speaking up when others treat us badly
  • Giving endlessly to others in order to please them
  • Taking endlessly from others because we can
  • Rescuing others or allowing ourselves to be rescued instead of solving our own problems and encouraging others to solve theirs.

Personal boundaries are critical to our self-esteem.  If we forget that we are each unique individuals with our own feelings, need, interests and values – or we were never clear about these things to begin with – it is so easy to take on board the needs, feelings and desires of our partners, children, friends and even the boss.  It is so easy to forget your importance as a special, unique person and to start to feel and behave as though everyone else is more important.  Do that for too long and your self-esteem – your confidence and belief in yourself – can easily disappear.

My friend’s daughter is still young and she has a strong mum.  With time I think – I hope – she will come to realise that she needs to look after her needs and her relationships and let her boyfriend fight his own battles.  If not, her mum and I agreed that a session or two with a good counsellor or psychologist will be the next course of action.

Stay tuned for my next post to learn how we establish healthy personal boundaries …

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ellen jackson

Ellen is a Psychologist, author, mum.  Melbourne-born, she spent most of her 20’s and 30’s in Sydney and now lives in beautiful Ballarat, in the Victorian Goldfields. Ellen writes stuff to inspire and sometimes to challenge.  She knows a lot of stuff about how people work at work, how people are different and unique and how people make the most out of life.  Ellen writes at www.potential.com.au or if you’d like ask a question or share a story she’d love to hear from you! You can email her at psych@potential.com.au.

Finding your Passion

I found this video on my Facebook wall. Looking at the title, I was a little nervous about watching it at first. But my anxiety eased as I realised what it was. Rather than being about pushing your body to the limits as I thought, it was more about finding your passion and persisting in working toward making it a reality, even through the routine of day-to-day drudgery. Especially through the routine of day-to-day drudgery.

Take a look. When I watched and really listened to the audio track, I heard about how to achieve your dreams and follow your passions.

I think many of us travel through our day focused on just getting to the end of it. And the following day we do the same thing. And we do it the day after that too. And the day after that. And even the day after that. When we get to the end of all those days, what do we have to show for it? How do we feel?

Tired? Bored? Empty? Like a mouse running around on an endless treadmill? Maybe like a robot on autopilot?

How do you feel about what you’re doing with your life and about yourself as a human being?

Is there any variety and excitement in your life? Chances are if you’re just going through the motions of your day, there probably isn’t much variety at all.

However, if you could wake up and know that you were heading into a day filled with meaning, passion and excitement, how differently would you feel? And if you could finish the day with a sense of achievement knowing that you have made a difference to the world in some way, would you want to recreate that the following day? I’m betting the answer is a resounding yes!

If you had a reason to jump out of bed to get a head start on your day, would it make a difference to how you approached the sunrise?

I’m guessing that if you absolutely loved what you do, were passionate about it, and wanted to create changes in the world that really made a difference, your life would feel completely different.

So how can you make that happen?

By doing what you love. By following your passions and living your purpose.

Do you know what that is?

If not, consider these …

  • Think back to when you were a kid. What did you love to do? What were you really good at?
  • If money weren’t an issue in your life, what would you do each day?
  • What’s the first thing you think about doing when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think about before you go to bed?
  • If you were to write a creative story (or novel), what would the primary story-line be?
  • Try out a few different things that appeal. Join some clubs, talk to some people and see what they like, then try a few of those things too. Give these new activities a chance to see whether you really like them. Remember that for every activity you dislike, you’re one activity closer to finding what you love.
  • Get really clear on your values. What are the things in your life that you couldn’t live without? What are the things that make your heart sing? What makes you feel grateful and blessed?

When you follow your heart and your passion, your life starts to flow. Everything feels easier, you feel better about yourself and your self-esteem sky-rockets. Which way of life would you rather live?find your purpose

Self Comparisons

I’ve had this song on my iphone for a while but rarely listen to it as I am generally too busy. Today I was playing some music and it came on. I’ve always loved it so I searched for it on youtube and when I watched the lyrics cross the screen they got me thinking …

For a long time I’ve been one to compare myself to other people. Their appearance, their accomplishments, their size, their friends. Their everything really.

I’d make judgements and usually it would be me that came up short. I’d always be lacking in some way. Worse. Not good enough. And I’d consequently feel bad about myself and who I was.

The thing is, I knew that everyone was different. People told me again and again. We all looked different. We all had different personalities. We all had different likes and dislikes, we all thought differently.

But I still made comparisons between them and myself. Continuously. With everything, especially the things I found difficult. Academic work, sports, cooking, cleaning, and so on.

In more recent years as my self-esteem has improved those comparisons happen less often. I don’t feel the need to compare myself with others because I feel much more content and in control of who I am. I know I am worthy and I don’t need to compete with others in my head to prove it.

With the education I now have in psychology I understand that we are all programed with a neurological need for self-esteem. It’s a survival mechanism that goes back to the origin of human life. By nature we are a social species and we depended on others for protection against things like attacks from animals and other tribes who wanted our resources. We needed our tribe to survive and if we didn’t have skills in specific areas we were at risk of being banished, which opened us up to a higher likelihood of death. So, this neurological program compared ourselves to other tribe members to enable us to continually adjust our behaviour and improve our skills so that we were acceptable to the tribe.

These days in reality we generally no longer need to justify ourselves and our existence. In our modern society we aren’t threatened by packs of animals in the same way we were so long ago, so we don’t need to rely on our tribe for our physical existence. But our brains haven’t yet caught up and the neurological programs are still there. So we continue the pattern of comparing our worth to that of others.

And this can bring on some seriously destructive patterns of thinking and behaviour that keep our self-esteem low and us wondering why we aren’t “as good as” other people. The more we compare ourselves, the more likely it is that we feel badly about the person we are.

self comparisons

Understand this …

  • Our tendency to compare comes from neurological programming that has been inside the human brain for many many years, which means that we do it naturally and usually without any conscious thought.
  • Every person has a unique journey. We all have a unique mind, body and spirit. We all have unique neurological programming that is wired in a unique way. At each moment in time we are each in a different place. We think differently, we have had different experiences. We have different beliefs. Our brains are wired differently. So when you compare yourself to someone else, you are comparing a vacuum cleaner to potatoes. Each is a different beast. You use them for different purposes. You may prefer one over the other, or you may love (or hate) them both. But comparing them to each other is pointless and serves no purpose other than to mess with your head.
  • The best thing you can do to support the development of your self-esteem is to compare yourself with yourself. Examine where you are in your own life and journey, and if you aren’t satisfied with what you see, consider making some changes. Seek new information and support. Do things differently. Learn new ways to change the way your brain is wired.

hero own story

It IS possible. I know, because I’ve done it. And my future has completely opened up as a result.

Self-Esteem

bowl of self esteem

Self-Esteem is a “respect for or a favourable opinion of oneself” according to dictionary.com.

The second part of this is probably the easier to explore, so let’s look at it first. A “favourable opinion of oneself”. To think and believe highly of yourself. To know that you are worthy. To understand that you have skills and talents that the world would miss if you weren’t in it. To understand that you deserve love. To love yourself, and every part of you. Even the parts not usually “acceptable” in society – the flabby bits on your body, the tendency to say things without thinking first, or even the habit of procrastinating on doing the things most important to you. Whatever it is you hate about yourself.

Let’s have a look at the first part. A “respect for oneself”. Do you respect yourself? Enough to stand up for your rights? Enough to walk away from people who mistreat you or take you for granted? Enough to create and enforce boundaries? Enough to take the actions necessary to protect your time, energy, space, body, emotions and spirit? Do you respect yourself enough to find and follow your passion? To share your special gifts with the world? Enough to allow your unique and wonderful spirit to soar?

I believe all of these to be the most important things we can do for ourselves. I have personally discovered that without them, one lives a half-life. We simply exist, instead of live. We experience dissatisfaction, negativity and often self-hatred.

Self-esteem is multi-faceted. It is complex. It’s dynamic and changing. It will fluctuate as things happen in your life. Your sense of self as a child was certainly different to when you were 20. And that was certainly different to what it is right in this moment, here and now.

Are you happy with the way you feel about yourself right now? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there anything about yourself that you would like to change? Is there anything you’re unhappy with? Your size? Your appearance? Maybe your finances or the way you speak to your family? Your education or employment?

Whatever it may be, the chances are that the answer is not in fixing the things you’re unhappy with.

If you learned to love and accept yourself unconditionally, you’d look at the world differently. You wouldn’t need to shed weight to be lovable. You wouldn’t need to change your body to be beautiful. You wouldn’t need to get a better job or earn more money to be worthy. And you wouldn’t need to stop speaking without thinking. Instead, it would simply be one of the little quirks to love about yourself.

Self-love and unconditional acceptance would allow you to feel free. To feel centred and whole and complete. You would naturally allow your spirit to soar, you would eagerly follow your passions and show the world your unique skills and talents. You would generate and send out love to those around you. And you’d tackle challenges with faith and surety that everything will turn out exactly the way it is meant to.

This month’s focus will explore all of these issues. We’ll talk about boundaries, accomplishments, spirit, skills, unique talents, purpose, beauty and more. If you would like to read about something specific, please comment below, on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, or flick us an email at mindseteffect@optusnet.com.au, and we’ll endeavor to meet your needs.

 

 

Secret Kids’ Business

Sunday mornings like today are commonly reserved for rest and relaxation. But as people wake up this morning they know that for most of the week they are probably pretty exhausted. We all have plenty of demands on our time and energy. And our kids are no different. A lot of the time they finish the week just as exhausted as we do and therefore need down-time also as much as we do. I wrote this post to help kids to recognise when they need to take some time away from “their rat race” and to give them a strategy they can use to take care of themselves. The language is aimed at kids between about 8 and 13, but anyone can use the tips it includes. I’d love it if you’d share it with your kids. If you’d like to share it with younger kids, try simply doing the activity with them. As for the teens, just make a suggestion that they ignore the younger language and take what they need out of it. Hope all your kids get something out of it. I’d love to hear how it goes for them!  🙂 

 

What kinds of things do you do during your day? When I was at school I remember getting up early to make my bed (well, sometimes I did. Most of the time I tried to get away without doing it). I got dressed, had breakfast, did some jobs and then went to school. I did all my work at school, and I concentrated pretty hard to get things right. When I went outside at lunch times I sometimes played games with other kids. I had 2 friends who used to fight a lot and I helped them be friends again. I spent most of the time alone and I got teased and bullied too. After school I went home and did my homework and then did more jobs. Some days I watched my brothers play sports. I read books a lot. It was my way of getting away from all the bullying. I rode my bike sometimes. And I worried a lot. I worried about my friends and about how much people didn’t like me.

sad sun face

What do you do? Do you do sports? Practice a musical instrument maybe? Or do you get tutoring to help with school work? Do you dance or go to gymnastics classes? Do you visit family or friends?

I bet doing all that stuff would make you pretty busy! I wonder whether you get tired by the time you get home?

How does it feel inside your body when you’re tired? Do you feel sleepy? I bet that sometimes you can feel tired but not want to sleep. For me my arms and legs feel pretty heavy, like they don’t want to follow my instructions to move them. Sometimes my tummy feels a bit funny too. Almost like I’m hungry but also like I have snakes slithering around in there. Sometimes I feel really cranky like I want to yell and other times I feel like I want to hide from everyone. Do you feel any of these? Or maybe for you it’s a bit different?

body scan pose

If we listen closely to our body sometimes it’s kind of like it’s talking to us and we can figure out what it wants. It can take a bit of practice, but trying different things sometimes helps discover what makes us feel calmer and happier. Those things will be different for us on different days because we feel different too.

Sometimes we really don’t know what to do when we feel funny and we can end up being cranky with the people we love the most. That can be our mums and dads, our brothers and sisters, or even our best friends. And that’s not always the nicest thing to do. We can feel pretty horrible when we do stuff like that.

It can help to try other things instead. I often suggest that kids make a box especially for themselves. You could call it whatever you want to. Maybe Alice’s box, or Jack’s box if your name is Alice or Jack. Or you could have a little fun with it and name it after your favourite movie character or even make up your own name for it. You could decorate it however you want too.

self care box

Inside the box put lots of different things you could do to help you feel better after a tiring day. Try putting in some of your favourite activities, like a bouncy ball, dancing, reading, listening to music, colouring, riding your bike or playing with your dog. Some things will be too big for the box so you could just write them on some paper instead. If you have trouble thinking of things to put in, you could ask someone in your family for help. And when you try new activities that really help you to feel good, you could put those in the box too!

When the box is ready, on the days you feel a bit funny inside, you could tell mum or dad that you need your box and then choose something that you want to try. If one thing doesn’t work, just put it back in and choose something else.

We’d love to know what’s inside your special box so if you’d like to share with us, maybe mum can help you type them in the comments below. And you may be giving other kids some great ideas for things they can put in their box too!

 

The “battlefield” in your head

I’ve been thinking about this post for a little while now and what it needs to include. I have had a couple of people ask me for some tips on how to combat the battle they have in their heads about what they put in their mouths.

High fat, high sugar, high carb, versus low-fat, no sugar, whole foods.

Junk food versus healthy food.

Bad foods versus good foods.

Bad versus good.

This is a battle that I am more than familiar with myself. My weight has been “battle worthy” my entire life, and my mind the “battlefield”.

I believe that pretty much every diet program around promotes eating healthy foods and avoiding the unhealthy ones. Makes sense, right? But what constitutes healthy versus unhealthy? This is up for debate and it has certainly been a contentious one. The promotion of the diet programs and the huge amounts of media coverage seem to deliberately aim to impact our emotions. A lot of them would have us believe that the only way for us to live happily is for us to follow their program, whichever one that happens to be. We get told that the only way for us to control ourselves is to follow their program. In other words, to purchase their product. It is a selling tool.

This post is not intended to debate the effectiveness of such programs. Rather, it is to point out that in trying to convince you to purchase their product, they need to have you believe that you are currently doing the wrong thing. That by eating the foods you currently eat, you are making the wrong choices. And then by definition, purchasing their program will mean you can make the right choices.

Right versus wrong.

The thing is, when we start following the programs and we receive the message that we are making good choices by eating healthy foods, we set up a neural network in our heads (see previous post on this here) that is triggered every time we make a “bad” choice by eating chocolate or pastry or lollies (or whatever). And so begins a cycle of beating ourselves up and feeling guilty for each and every choice. The more we try to control it, the worse we feel. We end up feeling inadequate and unworthy, even for minor deviations from the plan.

There are those people who would suggest that the ideas associated with this way of thinking have become so ingrained in our society that even the idea of making a choice off the chosen program will have us believing we are inadequate. Really? An idea?? Since when have we been condemned for having a thought run through our heads? But isn’t that what many of us do?

If this sounds just a tad extreme to you, that’s because it is.learning new way to think

We start by feeling guilty for having a chocolate bar. We feel horrible about ourselves and start thinking that we have blown the diet so we may as well just give up. This leads to 2 large packets of potato chips. We feel guilty some more, believe we are completely useless, so we stop exercising, call ourselves all kinds of disgusting names and then reach for more food because it hurts so much!

Sound familiar?

You’re probably fighting a few things here. Firstly, you have a physiological addiction to all the foods you’ve been ingesting. The sugar, simple carbs, artificial sweeteners, salt. Our bodies go through withdrawal symptoms when we try to stop that cycle and it sends our brains into overdrive with cravings in an attempt to get “fed”. I am not an expert on this stuff and don’t profess to be, so I would suggest that if you want  more information on it do some research for yourself.

Secondly, as outlined in the previous post on firing and wiring neurons, you’ve got firmly entrenched neural pathways at play. It’s difficult to change these. Again, I am not an expert, so feel free to do some independent research, beginning with the books I have suggested in my previous post.

Thirdly, you’re fighting cognitive patterns. These are essentially a neural pathway your brain has created for the way you think. You eat the food and your brain automatically takes your thoughts to “I’m useless/worthless/hopeless because I can’t control myself”. It is a well-practiced pathway and I am sure you are used to its experience. It creates more feelings of inadequacy and suddenly you’re in the never-ending cycle you’re so used to.

So, what do you do about it?

My first suggestion is to think about things a little differently. So much of our energy goes into “good” versus “bad”. Healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables are in the “good” category, while chocolate and chips are in the “bad”. While it is human nature to categorise things, do we really need to do this for our foods? How is it helpful for us, when we go from “I ate some bad food and therefore I must be a bad person”? Does that way of thinking support us in achieving a happy, balanced life? Does it support you?

Why can’t we simply have one category: FOOD?

Or could we choose to have often foods and sometimes foods, the way they teach kids in schools? Or maybe use the traffic light system. Red light foods, orange light foods and green light foods?

Whichever categories we choose, they are just that. CATEGORIES.

Without the emotion attached.  You eat a chocolate bar. FULL STOP.  You eat some fried fish. FULL STOP. You eat a fried mars bar. FULL STOP.

So what? One chocolate bar or fish fillet or mars bar (or whatever) does not dictate how you live your life. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate your happiness. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate your worth. One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar does not dictate what you put in your mouth for the rest of your life.

One chocolate bar, fish fillet or mars bar (or whatever), MAY influence the number on the scale you see when you step on it, but since that number is simply a reflection of your relationship with gravity (full stop) and could never EVER tell me about the amazingly wonderful person on top of the scales, why would you allow it to influence the way you feel about yourself?scale and worth

Instead, try thinking of them simply as choices. Sure you may choose the chocolate or fried fish. And it may even result in you moving a little further away from your goal number on the scales. The next choice you make to put something in your mouth could be a choice that may move you closer to that number.  And providing we are making more choices to move us closer than we make to move further away, we are overall moving closer. Correct?

One teeny tiny choice at a time, we can choose to end the battle and ultimately win the war (which, in my opinion, needs to be more about our internal happiness and is therefore more related to our self-talk rather than the number on the scale). Remember this. That number will never be able to tell you how incredible you are as a human being. And the simple fact that you are living and breathing means that you are worthy of that happiness. You are amazing, right here, right now.

let yourself be amazing

Whenever you catch yourself in the pattern of thoughts you are so used to, chances are you aren’t really aware of the things going on around you in your immediate environment. Does it feel like you’re kind of off with the fairies? It can be useful to practice some mindfulness activities. Engage your senses. Sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention into the here and now. So to bring your mind back into the moment, try focusing on the things around you. If you are doing the dishes, pay attention to the feel of the water on your hands, or the cloth between your fingers. If you’re walking, note the smell of the flowers, the feel of the sun/wind/rain on your face. When you’re eating, slow down and really taste your food. Smell it. Feel the textures. Drink in the sight of it on the plate. Make it a real dining experience.

And sometimes, just be with yourself and sit in the solitude. Breathe. Commune with nature. Notice everything you can about the things around you. Focus on the way your breath feels in your lungs, pay attention to your chest or stomach rising and falling. Don’t try and change anything, simply pay attention to it. Be curious, without judging.

Don’t expect things to change immediately. Your brain will kick in with the automatic response again and again. It likes things to stay the same, so it will hit you harder with stuff when you try to make some changes. Persist with it when you catch your mind wondering, your brain is just doing its job.

 

Play with it and see how it goes.

mindfulness senses

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