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HOW TO HAVE A HAPPIER FAMILY

10137351_sThe way to build a happy family is to help kids develop that intergenerational sense of self, and the way to do that is, in part, to build family time and rituals where you can construct narratives about your family.

It turns out that a large part of constructing a happy family is about creating a particular type of narrative about our family history, one that demonstrates that members of our family have been through both good and bad times together, but through it all we’ve stuck together. Kids who know a lot about their family history—the parts that they didn’t experience themselves, but that were passed down to them through stories—feel that they are a part of something much larger than themselves.

When we give kids this sense of being part of something bigger than just themselves, they reap enormous emotional benefits. These benefits include:

  • a greater sense of control over their lives;
  • better family functioning;
  • greater family cohesiveness;
  • lower levels of anxiety;
  • higher self-esteem;
  • fewer behavior problems.

 

It’s not the knowledge of your family history that provides all those benefits in and of itself; the way to build a happy family is not necessarily to start giving kids family history lessons.

Most kids come to know their family history at times like dinner, or on vacation, or through holiday traditions—and that research shows that these same situations and experiences occur more frequently in cohesive families.

All of these things together—family dinners and vacations and all the talking and playing that occurs because of them—help kids develop an intergenerational sense of self. Kids experience themselves as a part of something larger, and that sense gives them “the personal strength and moral guidance…associated with increased resilience, better adjustment, and improved chances of good clinical and educational outcomes.”



TEN TIPS TO BEING HAPPIER

22756692_sHere are ten tips from a great book by Gretchen Rubin- The Happiness project on how to become a happier person. She researched everything from Plato to pop-culture as it related to her mission. Each month she sets new goal relating to a different area of her life and chronicled her successes and failures with research and a bit of humor. The result is an uplifting read full of ideas to help each one of us on our journey to a more smile-filled life.

Here are ten points from the book to get you started:

1. Give Positive Reviews

For some strange reason Gretchen admits that being critical made her feel “more sophisticated and intelligent” She sites a study where people judged writers of negative book reviews as more competent than the writers of positive reviews, even though both were of equal high quality. Give positive reviews reminds us to be humble and look to give credit where credit is do. This results in feeling good for the right reasons not because we’ve successfully torn someone or something apart.

2. Don’t Expect Praise

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, “When one loves, one does not calculate.” Do things for others because it’s the right thing to do not because you want something in return be it tangible or otherwise. This “no calculation” rule fosters love and generosity and will make your world a better place.

3. Make Your Resolutions Measurable

Sounds complicated but it’s really not. Resolutions are easier if they are concrete, not abstract. Instead of saying you want to be healthier (abstract) set a measurable goal to exercise 30 minutes a day or something else specific that will allow you to track your progress and see where you’re at.

4. Act the Way you Want to Feel

We often feel because of the way we act not the other way around. Acting a certain way you can create the emotion in yourself. In other words we take back the power to control how we feel. If you have an unpleasant feeling act the way you wish you felt and pretty soon that’s exactly how you’ll be feeling.

5. Enjoy the Fun of Failure

No one likes to fail that’s for sure, but failure is a necessary part of creativity, risk-taking and aiming high. Enjoying the fun of it helps one to be more lighthearted when it comes to taking risks. Embrace failure and know that it means you’re on the path to new skills, new experiences, growth and a large dose of happiness.

6. Spend Out

Rather than “saving” things trusting in abundance. Bought a new piece of clothing? Wear it and enjoy. Own some fine china? Why wait for the Queen to come for tea when you can use it and make yourself and those around you feel special. Enjoy the good things you have now – it’s OKAY!

7. Let it Go

The tendency to obsess about mistakes and then boring everyone with endless explanations, justifications and excuses, letting it go means to stop doing this. Most things don’t matter very much in the long run so why beat ourselves up about it today?

8. Be Polite and Be Fair

Henri-Frederic put it this way, “Life’s short and we never have enough time for gladdening the hearts of those who travel the way with us. O, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind.” Strive to be nice to others and you’ll boost your own feeling of happiness while you’re at it.

9. Do it Now

Do it first thing in the morning so you have less time to come up with excuses as the day goes on. Clever. Make it a daily routine and not a sporadic one and you’ll actually find that the task will become easier. Another great idea? Prepare. Divide a tough task by taking one day to get ready and anther day to execute.

10. Identify the Problem

Keep this in mind if you’re feeling annoyed or frustrated or otherwise miserable. By pinpointing the problem you force yourself to be mindful and come up with realistic solutions instead of staying caught up in the emotion of it. Try it and you’ll be surprised at how simple the solution might be.

 



MAKE YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS COME TO LIFE

26747116_s Let’s be honest, our commitment to our New Year’s resolutions is about as solid as our promise to “get together for coffee” with a former colleague we never liked. Unfortunately, we don’t always follow through on our plans during the year. Studies show only 12 percent of us actually keep our New Year’s Resolutions. Apparently, we are doing something wrong — over and over.

So how do we make our dreams a reality? How do we implement all of our plans? How do we move from words to actions? Where should we start?

First, to have the answers to these questions, you need to understand whether or not your chosen goal is truly a dream. Maybe it’s just the desire of your family or a temporary feeling that arose from the suggestion of well-meaning friends. But once you are clear on your dreams and goals, it’s never too late to follow through on them.

I can help you actualize your goals by taking 5 easy steps.

1. Strengthen your sense of urgency-No matter how great the goal is, you need to be motivated to start acting. However, you can’t wait for motivation to just show up. That’s why you must create the necessity for change. Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the changes you want to make. Then think about how not acting on your plans will negatively impact your life. Write down everything on paper and don’t forget to set a deadline for achieving your dream. Having a firm date by which you commit to completing your goals will light a fire under you.

2. Take it one step at a time- If you don’t know how to fulfill your resolution right away, that’s okay! You don’t have to have a clue; usually it’s a learn-as-you-go process. The only thing you need to do is ask yourself, “How do I figure out which foot to put forward next?” You move forward one small question at a time.

3. Talk about your resolution– talk about your resolutions, to whoever will listen. One of the most effective ways to get yourself to stick with your goal is to start telling stories about it. The catch is you don’t have a story to tell unless you follow through on your ambition. Saying what you hope to accomplish “some day” gets boring, fast.But, telling people about your wins and setbacks in pursuit of a goal keeps your audience hooked. And once we have people’s interest, we don’t want to lose it.

4. Find new emotions-Perhaps, everyone has experienced this — you start to follow through on your ideas, and then you burn out. The reason for this is that you disconnect from the positive emotions  that inspired you in the first place. The emotions behind the dream or goal are the fuel that propels you to take action and move forward. Without that fuel, you fizzle out. Sometimes you need to manufacture more emotional fuel to re-launch your plans.Envision the most pleasant and exciting aspects of your plans. Then write those down on a paper and stick this paper on the fridge, computer or wherever you can see it regularly. Make a colorful photo collage or dream board. Cut out pictures of your dreams, it may be a dream home, a car, a place to visit, etc.

6. Reward yourself-Every step along the way, celebrate your accomplishments. It’s hard to commit to on-going action and habit change. Remind yourself that you are doing the work necessary to create a better life and reward yourself for your efforts.  List your daily actions toward your goal or habit change. Every time you take action, put a gold star on the day. This sounds remedial — but it is truly very satisfying. Think of some other small rewards you can give yourself each time you finish an action — a piece of chocolate, a 10-minute break to meditate, a walk outside. Be sure you attach positive. reinforcement to every action you achieve

Don’t hesitate, think of some motivation that will help you to move forward and begin to follow through on your plans right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 WAYS TO TEACH RESPONSIBILITY TO YOUR CHILDREN

Responsibilities are important. When kids develop personal responsibility; it gives them their best chance of avoiding many of the pitfalls of life that await them if they’re not careful. If they’re not aware of what’s going on and ready to take responsible action to deal with it, it makes them less able to deal with problems that surface as they get older. The idea that you are responsible for things is not inborn. Make no bones about it: that realization comes with coaching and training as children develop—it doesn’t just happen by itself. Here are 6 ways to help your children to learn responsibility.

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Start Young 
 As early as you can in your child’s life, start having them take responsibility for the things with which they’re involved. You can’t suddenly spring responsibility on a teenager and expect he will know how to follow through. Handing out responsibility to kids needs to start early. Think: Toddler
Show Kids the Way 
Play to a child’s skill level. First, you can demonstrate how to complete small tasks. If your daughter wants a snack, show her where the bananas are and how to peel one and throw away the peel in the trash. Does your daughter always throw her dirty clothes on the floor? Place a hamper in her room and show her where the day-old jeans belong. 
Make responsibilities age-appropriate and even use the word “responsibility,” it sounds grown-up and important!
Model Responsibility 
by doing the task yourself that you are trying to teach and use “we” language. You will need to also do what you are trying to teach so if you don’t make your bed every morning you can’t expect your son to make his. Also by being inclusive allows the kid to be a part of something and quickly develop habits. “Now we put our plate in the sink,” as the meal ends. Use the same inclusive “we” phrases over and over to show how you can easily solve problems.

Praise Them 
Kids love to help. They want to help. To them, chores don’t feel like work. Keep up positive vibes by offering specific praises for actions. “You hung your coat on the hook and I’m proud of you!” Or, “Thank you for emptying the garbage in your room!” 
Children will develop a sense of ownership for any repeated action. And this constant communication helps them take initiative in other situationssuch as at school or on a play date.
Manage Your Expectations 
When you ask a five-year-old to make her bed, it may still be lopsided. Don’t criticize. Recognize a job well done. The next time you make your own bed, show her how you do it.
Avoid Rewards 
At least at first. There’s a time and place for rewards and allowances, but that being responsible isn’t it. Don’t assume a reward system has to be in place for your child to learn responsibility, kids respond just as well to praise, spending time with you and feeling the boost in their self-confidence. Provide Structure and Routine 
Kids thrive on order. Instead of offering rewards to get them to meet responsibilities, set up a morning routine with a positive end result. Your son must brush his teeth, eat breakfast and get dressed before watching TV. (Notice TV is not being offered as a reward — it’s just the result of finishing the routine.) And he should be able to complete the routine in any order that works for him. 
A younger child may not fully realize these tasks are his responsibilities, but allowing him to create a healthy structure will give him the tools to one day develop strategies for getting homework done without you nagging (too much!)



HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO BE GRATEFUL

32780048_sWhy is it important for us as parents to teach our young children to have gratitude? There are several different pieces of data suggesting that not only does gratitude help children to form, maintain, and strengthen supportive relationships, but it also helps them to feel connected to others who care for them. Other studies have linked gratitude to creating a protection from stress and depression over time.

Evidence from research suggests that grateful children compared to their less grateful counterparts, are happier and more optimistic, have better social support, are more satisfied with their school, family, community, friends, and themselves, and give more emotional support to others.

Well it seems that all the research supports why we should teach our kids to be grateful, so the next obvious question would be how do we teach them to be grateful.

Encouraging gratitude in children is, appreciation for when somebody has done something kind or helpful for them or recognition of the good things and people they have in their lives. This is a three step process.

Awareness- Calling attention to physical object or situation and then the effort it must of taken them.

Positive Emotions-Help your child to connect to their happy feelings about the situation or object and how they must be special.

Attribution-Assisting children to make sense of what took place. see that there was a willingness on the part of the other person to give with out any obligation. (ie, wasn’t that nice of her she did not have to do that.)

Essentially gratefulness in children is going beyond good manners and creating meaning about those positive attributions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOW CAN YOUR ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP BENEFIT FROM GRATITUDE

26264625_sWhen I was thinking of writing my next blog with the holiday season in mind, I thought of what could be an easy way for couples to start giving and connecting with each other. First thing that came to mind was the power and benefit of gratitude in romantic relationships. It seems simple enough to be thankful towards your partner but even though I am a pretty grateful person sometimes I feel misunderstood, burdened or sometimes I don’t even notice the thing the person did for me because I am really use to having them do it for me but every once in a while I feel grateful. For example, last week when my husband went for a walk with me at 9 o’clock at night just to keep me company. Aside from the personal benefit I got from the walk, it was a really important type of moment for me this gratitude it showed me that he understood me and that he cared. He could tell it was an end of a long day, and I was wavering and was thinking of sacrificing my walk to be with him because I really wanted to hang out with him too. So he looked at me and said “I am coming with you get ready. “ So moments like these between people remind us of how great specific people are for us.
What we know about emotions is that when we have an experience of gratitude it does more than just remind us about our partner’s great qualities, but it allows us to have emotional responses to situations with gestures that bind us more closely. So for example in the situation with my husband, my expression of gratitude made him feel more valued and that makes him feel more connected and interested in being in the relationship and sets up a great base for moving forward.

Many clients who have good relationships at times questions the need to show gratitude feeling that he/she already knows how I feel. A great deal of research points to the fact that even in the best of relationships, over time, satisfaction declines. Just like when you buy a new car, after a while the new car smell fades and the car becomes just another way to get you from point A to point B. You may even start looking around at other cars and think of getting a newer model. Cars can’t get their new smell back but humans can do new things to remind each other of things that they loved when they first met.
Everyday gratitude can work as a “Booster Shot” for your relationship. Here are some simple ways to increase the gratitude quotient in your romantic relationship:

1. Notice your partners actions- capitalize on gratitude’s nature by noticing the small things your partner does daily. Don’t allow stress to become a barrier to having gratitude in your life.
2. Don’t forget to show it-Missed connections don’t count. You can create more commitment in your relationship by letting your partner know you appreciate them. Don’t assume that your partner knows how
you feel.
3. Be genuine- in the rush to practice gratitude you may say things that are not genuine. So if your partner messed up dinner you don’t need to say what a great meal, but the gratitude can be expressed
for the time and effort put in to the process.

So the leading indicators for partner satisfaction in a relationship is feeling understood, valued and cared for, gratitude accomplishes all these goals. So remember when you feel it don’t forget to show it and say it like you mean it.

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HELPING YOUR CHILD WITH ADHD MANAGE THEIR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

32440806_sRaising a child or teen with ADHD/ADD can seem quite overwhelming, but when these conditions are combined with co-occurring mood disorders this can truly be a challenging situation for any parent. This, however, is a very real challenge for over half of the families of children with an ADHD diagnosis. Research studies show that as many as 60% of children and teens diagnosed with ADHD have one or more additional co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety and/or depression.
The first challenge for any parent is to recognize the possibility that a co-occurring disorder is present. This is no easy task. Indeed, it will take the specialized skills of a qualified mental health professional familiar with both ADHA and anxiety/depression, to make the final determination. The diagnosis is complicated by the fact that many of the symptoms associated with ADHD are the same as those that are associated with other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. In children, for example, depression can often manifest as irritability, which might look like one of the characteristics of ADHD.
The relationship between ADHD and anxiety/depression can be a bit of a chicken and an egg dilemma. While there are clear neurological reasons for the occurrence of anxiety and depression, these two conditions can also be brought on by environmental situations. Think about it. You have watched your child and teen struggle with their ADHD and the pain it has caused them. You have watched their confidence being zapped away by continued failures. These repeated experiences of failure can take a toll that can result in depression and/ or anxiety. As parents, we try our best helping children build their self-esteem, but it is especially important for parents of ADHD children. Healthy self-esteem is one of the best remedies against anxiety and depression.
The testing process accompanying most educations environments in particular can condition anxiety. When a child or teen knows that even though they have studied twice as hard as anyone else, but they are likely to make critical mistakes during testing due to lack of attention to detail or an inability to focus, they are likely to develop anxiety prior to testing. The fear of impending doom will be compounded with the inattentiveness that accompanies ADHD to make matters even worse.
Depression can result from continued rejection by peers and continued failure to live up to the expectations that everyone seems to have for them. The isolation that often accompanies ADHD can contribute to a loss of self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness. The child or teen experiencing this kind of depression may withdraw and simply stop trying to improve him or herself.
This means that even if ADHD is treated by medications and instruction in organizational skills, the anxiety and depression may still remain as a result of a life history of disappointment. This is very important for a parent to be aware of. Medication alone will not be sufficient to help your child change the negative mindset resulted from years of discouragement.
Whether your child’s anxiety and/ or depression are the result of neurobiological condition, social conditioning or a combination of both really does not change how you will work with him or her to overcome these challenges. In addition to the support of a counselor or therapist who fully understands what your child is experiencing you will need to:

Praise your child– finding ways to compliment your child on a job well done can be an incredibly powerful tool.

Think about your child or teens strengths– what is it that they do well? Are they funny? Are they kind to their brother or sister? Do they have a particular passion? Too often parents in their desperation to improve ADHD behaviors use favorite activities as a bartering chip that can only increase depression and anxiety, instead whenever you see your child engaged in something that they love and are doing well, take the time to compliment them. Point out their strengths as a way to build up their damaged self-esteem.

Shift your expectations– remember that the ADHD brain is typically 3 to 5 yrs developmentally behind the brain of chronological peers. When you set tasks and expectations for your child remember to scale them accordingly.

Set your child up for success– minimize speech associated with short comings and avoid putting your child in situations where there is a high likelihood that they will in some way embarrass themselves.

Your job as a parent is to continually reinforce your child’s sense of their own value and worth as a unique individual deserving your love- as indeed they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOW TO BEAT STRESS NATURALLY

19869756_sAnxiety disorder is a far more common problem than was once thought. It can affect people from preschool years through middle age and later. Anxiety manifests itself in different ways such as panic, obsessive compulsive, or phobias. There are of course many medications that may be helpful in treating anxiety, however, there are also natural avenues for dealing with anxiety that may be just as helpful in some cases. In addition to some of the common tools for reducing anxiety, such as, exercise, breathing and muscle relaxation certain foods and herbs can reduce your levels of anxiety. It is a fact that stress and nutrition have a very strong link.

Complex Carbs
All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which take longer to digest. Good choices include whole-grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals, including old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Spinach
Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach helps you stock back up on magnesium. Spinach is a great source of magnesium.

Fennel
Relives anxiety related to upset stomach and reduce abdominal tension, and relaxes the large intestine. It is most effective when taken as a tea, before or after meals.

Mandarin oil
Can help with the oppressive feelings of anxiety. It can be used in a bath, rubbed on the skin or used in massage or aromatherapy.

Yoghurt
Provide minerals including calcium, essential to maintain well functioning nerve impulses. Calcium also contains lactobacillus, which is essential for maintaining effective gut flora (micro organisms that help you to digest food properly).

Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna contain Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, which can prevent surges in stress hormones. Omega-3 can affect the functionality of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a critical role in both depression and anxiety.

As much as nutrition can be instrumental in reducing stress and anxiety there are certain drinks and food, such as, caffeine, sugar, soft drinks and junk food that can aggravate stress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid them completely, just consume them in moderation.



HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR CHILDREN DEAL WITH PHOBIAS

parent anxious childParents can be helpful in elevating some of their children’s phobias by just taking some simple steps and following them with praise and rewards. One of the main factors that keeps anxiety going is avoidance of a phobias feared stimulus. One way you can help your child or young person to challenge this avoidance is to put together a step-by-step plan that gradually exposes them to the thing that they fear. This should not push them into an anxiety-provoking situation – the point is to build
on the success of the last step and help them to grow in confidence each time. For example, for a child who had a phobia of dogs an exposure program might look like this:

Step One – Find an achievable 1st step, for example looking at a photo of a dog

Step Two – When the child is comfortable doing this, perhaps try looking at a toy dog

Step Three – Holding a toy dog

Step Four – Being in the same garden as a very small dog in a carrier

Step Five – Moving closer to the carrier

Step Six – Being in the same garden as a dog on a leash

Step Seven – Moving closer to the dog

Step Eight – Touching the dog for one second, etc.

Each step should be decided in agreement with the child and the parent, and plenty of praise / rewards should be used as the child or young person moves through the ladder. If the child or young person becomes distressed or does not feel they can manage the next step, then make the step smaller. It may take a considerable length of time for them to get to their goal, and everyone is different so patience, time and support are required in bucket loads from the family. You can assess when a child or young person’s anxiety drops by getting them to rate it on a scale of 1-10. When that number drops below 2 in the situation, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Using praise and reward to get the behaviors you want:

When you see good behavior and brave behavior (where they challenge themselves – even in small ways) remember to give tons of praise. Remember:

  • Sound like you mean it
  • Avoid mixing in criticism (‘that’s great, but it would be better if you…’)
  • Say exactly what you are giving the praise for

Tips for getting the most out of rewards:

Give the reward ASAP after the good or brave behavior

Give loads of praise too

Never take a reward away once it has been earned

Always give rewards AFTER you have got the behavior that you wanted to see

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 QUICK WAYS TO RELIEVE ANXIETY

27638891_s42 million people in the US will experience an impairment because of an anxiety condition.  Looking at these statistics it is evident that we all could use some tools to relieve anxiety. There are three different factors that can make a particular activity more soothing:

Familiarity: Any memories that you may have associated with past activities or events that are pleasant can be especially helpful in feelings of soothing. A good example was one of my patients found that working on her scrape book and putting in pictures of her family very calming since it was an activity she often did with her grandmother as a young girl and it brought back happy memories.

Multi-Sensory: When we use multiple senses in an activity our brain responds positively. So pleasant activities that involve two or more of our senses(sound, touch, sight, taste and smell) are more soothing. An example of a multi-sensory activity might include walking on the beach, feeling the sand underneath your toes, smelling the ocean and hearing the surf breaking on the beach.

Repetitive motions: Studies suggest that repetitive motion, such as chewing gum, knitting, or rocking in a chair can produce serotonin in the brain.  Our bodies are naturally inclined toward repetitive motion, like pacing, when we are agitated.

Here are some simple actions you can take that relate to one of the factors mentioned: checking gum, wearing familiar perfume or cologne, stretching, sucking on hard candy or sitting in the sun.