Tag Archives: mindfulness

16Jan/13

A Day in the Life of an Emotional Mum

reward chart

Zach still responds to reward charts…thankfully!

I’m feeling low. Tired and battle weary. And it is only 9.30am. Zach was up at 4.45 this morning and refused to go back to bed. I didn’t have the strength to fight him so since Chris was getting up anyway (I know – it’s crazy) I said he could sleep on Chris’ side IF he didn’t fidget. If he fidgets he goes back to his own bed. It’s been a long time since he has come into our bed during the night and so I was expecting some wriggling and chatting ending with me battling to take him to bed. I felt that I was just postponing the inevitable.

Surprisingly however, he stayed as still as a person can do. I think he moved twice until he got up at 7.19. He always tells me the exact time he wakes up. If I was taking the positive from the situation I could focus on how his self control has improved. When he got up the second thing he said to me when he came downstairs was ‘Mum, I tried my best and stayed very still.’ I praised him enthusiatically and said I was really impressed. This is progress, but I know it is only one side of his personality at the moment.

At breakfast – when he was showing signs of resuming his fight against the world – I told him that it was time for things to change. I said that he knows now that we love him, and that we still love him when he is naughty, or when we are telling him off, or when he hates us. He knows we love him whatever. [We’ve been telling him this for 6 weeks or so now so a lot of it has gone in. See previous post for more on this.] Now it’s time to stop fighting us. He has to do as he is told. I’ve done a chart for him to get ticks whenever he does as he’s told, when he accepts me saying ‘no’, and whenever he realises he’ s fighting us or pushing us away and stops doing it. It’s a big ask but the prize is going swimming with Daddy and/or using Dad’s telescope – if we can find it in the garage. I also told him that I would be making another chart for black marks. Whenever he doesn’t do as he’s told, or fights us, he will get a black mark. These will add up to him losing privileges like his ipod, TV, going to bed, pudding, treats doing activities with Chris at the weekend. I will decide what these are when I am calm (hopefully!!).  Part of me knows this will work for a while and then he will slip back into not caring, and hating us all. But the more optimistic part of me knows that I have to keep going. I have to keep the faith, even though it’s so hard to fight every day with someone you love.  I try not to fight but I have to provide the boundaries and he keeps choosing to fight them. This week I feel emotionally exhausted. I have no idea whether I am doing the right thing.

In the car on the way to school Jas chose the gratitude topic, and she said ‘Think of 4 things we love about Zach.’ Very intuitive of her, I thought. Even Harvey joined in the spirit of the exercise despite being very annoyed with Zach and his behaviour at the moment. I was very proud of both of them.

Harvey:  OK, let me see…mmmm…I love Zach because he’s really great to play with.

Zach: [a big smile on his face.]  I was hoping you would say that!

I think it helped. As I said goodbye to Zach at school I told him he had earned 2 ticks that morning for getting dressed when I asked him and for getting into the car nicely. He seemed proud so I said: ‘ Does your heart feel better when you are not fighting us?’ He said yes.

Now, back home, I am noticing that I need to be kind to myself today.  I need to build up my energy and resilience so I can cope with round 2 at pick up time.   It makes me sad that I find it all so emotional, and that it knocks me off-centre so much.  I’m sure that a lot of families experience similar problems everyday, and just get on with it without so much angst and emotional upheaval.  But I have to accept that this is who I am. This is how my brain has learnt to deal with emotions.  The positive is that I am gradually learning to be less emotionally involved and more calm in the difficult moments. So today I’m not going to beat myself up for allowing it all to wear me down.   I’m going to keep going, take things slowly and be kind to myself.

I feel low, tired and battle weary, but that’s ok. If I’m kind to myself, that’s ok.

08Jan/13

Just One New Year’s Resolution

I have a history of making long lists of New Year’s Resolutions which have varying degrees of success and duration but which mainly get repeated year after year (because I never keep to them).  This year I am just making one new New Year’s Resolution:  To meditate.

I am not even going to make it completely SMART.  It won’t be specific, or measurable.  It will be action-based, and realistic, but not time-based.* My resolution is to meditate regularly by having an intention to meditate everyday.  If I plan to do it everyday, but accept that this won’t always happen, I will probably end up doing it 3 or 4 times a week.   So far – it’s the 8th Jan – I have meditated for 20 minutes every morning, so let’s hope I can keep it up.

There are many scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness and meditation, but as my teacher, Ed Halliwell, says in this Guardian article , it can also be an incredibly powerful spiritual path that cannot be measured by science alone. For me personally, mindfulness and meditation has changed my life.  Instead of being ruled and battered by the powerful ups and downs of my emotions, I am now learning to interact with these same emotions in a more mature, calm and mindful way.  Not only do I feel happier, but my children are happier and I am much more productive and efficient at home and work.   Ed runs 8 week beginner courses in Sussex for those of you who may be interested.

Another good place to start, if you are interested in mindfulness and/or meditation, is headspace where you can try out their Take10 ten day beginners course for free. I also recommend downloading their app because it has some amazing short simple videos explaining the concept of mindfulness and how it can help you.

I wish you luck with your New Year’s resolutions, and I’d love to hear if any of you are planning on including mindfulness or meditation amongst them.

All the best,

Thea

*If I were SMARTer, I would choose 3 times a week, for 20 minutes at 9am,  because this is realistic. But sadly in reality, choosing which days I meditate allows me to sidestep my commitments and in the end I would probably only do it once or twice a week, and eventually lapse. I have learnt that building daily habits is more effective for me than weekly scheduling. I need to know that everyday I have to meditate, otherwise I talk myself out of it.

22May/12

Stop Resisting

So, I was having a bad day. The car broke down and had to be towed away for the second time in a week. I missed a meeting, the kids were grumpy and argumentative, I felt guilty for giving the kids chocolate biscuits again, the fire alarm kept beeping and I couldn’t make it stop, and I found myself thinking that the whole day had been waste of time.

Try as I might I couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that because I hadn’t actually achieved anything, then it meant that not only did the day score low on the worthwhile scale, but so did I. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow of lesser value because I hadn’t accomplished enough with my time that day. It sounds crazy I know, but trying to rationalise it away didn’t seem to help. The fact that I had a bad day meant not only that I felt bad but that I was bad.

Even when I told myself that actually, most of the component parts of the day (even the two hours waiting for the tow truck) were ok, and that I hadn’t got particularly stressed or upset or frustrated throughout the day it didn’t seem to help.

And when I told myself that actually I have achieved a lot today (fed, clothed, cared for and loved 3 children) it still didn’t make me feel any better about myself.

But then – eventually – I remembered what I’d learnt in my mindfulness classes about not resisting my negative feelings and thoughts, but simply letting them come and then go. To be able to experience them without judgement and let them pass through me.

So I said to myself: “I am feeling upset and a bit inadequate because I didn’t get done what I wanted to get done today, but that’s ok. I’m allowed to feel that.”

And do you know what? The bad feelings just floated away.

I accepted them without judgement and they floated away.

07Apr/11

What Really Makes us Happy?

What makes you happy?

I imagine everybody has asked themselves the question: What will make me happy?

If you have, how do you answer?

Money? Time with your family?  Chocolate? A new handbag? A meaningful job?  A husband? A sunny day?  Keeping in touch with friends regularly?

I seem to ask this question of myself quite a lot, and I don’t always know the answer. (Which is probably why I am now a happiness coach, because people tend to become experts in what they struggle with.)  So over the last couple of years I have read many books and research coming from the relatively new area of Positive Psychology. This is the study of happy people, and what makes people happier.  One of the most interesting theories that I’ve come across is one from  Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues.  She discovered through her research that our happiness is made up of:

  • 50% genetics – we inherit a happiness ‘set point’ from our parents, which doesn’t change much throughout our lives.
  • 10% circumstances – whether we are rich or poor, what city or house we live in, how healthy we are, how beautiful or plain, married or divorced.
  • 40% intentional activity – our daily behaviour, how we think and act each day.

While this does sound a bit gloomy (that we can’t change 50% of our happiness level)  it is also great news because it means that we can potentially increase our happiness by up to 40% by copying the daily behaviour of happy people.

7 Happy Habits

So what habits do happy people have in their lives? Below I have listed seven of the happy habits that researchers have identified.

  • They are social.  Happy people spend a lot of time with their families and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  •  They practice gratitude on a daily or weekly basis.
  • They prioritise exercise on a daily or weekly basis.
  • They are mindful, live in the present and savour life’s pleasures.
  • They have an optimistic outlook on life, and think in an optimistic way when things go wrong.
  • They are kind and regularly offer help to people they know and meet.
  • They are committed to life long goals, for example, teaching strong values to their children, building cabinets or reducing crime.

Maybe you could pick one of these habits and think about ways of introducing some intentional activity into your life to give your happiness a boost.

21Mar/11

Life is a Gift.

My proud husband with no. 3.

My first nephew, Dylan, was born yesterday morning and I was able to watch a short video of the precious bundle less than 12 hours after his birth, courtesy of Facebook.  And seeing his mother gently stroke his check conveyed so much more than a simple photo would. I could almost feel him and smell him myself, so strongly was I reminded of my own three newborns.  They are truly such miracles of nature, and a reminder in the busyness of daily life to treasure more of the wonders that we live through – but don’t always notice -everyday.