How to Be Happy Even in the Tough Times

Daisies in open field with blue skies

We all want a PERFECT life, with all good things always coming our way. Nothing wrong with that. What we envision will many times be what we get, just not always in the form we think it will come or with the exact timing we wanted. We are all human and live in a human world with constant change and things not always going in the way we planned. Being able to go through those times and still be happy is a sweet thing indeed. It means we have some control over our emotions and have some choice. Isn’t that a grand thing.

Sometimes it takes us remembering what it is that REALLY makes us happy.

  1. Yes it is fun and exciting to go on vacation. Or buy a new something for our house. And it can make us feel happy. But in the end, for most of us it is about our time with our loved ones and the beautiful interaction and love that flows between us. So for me I try to remember when I am feeling sorry for myself that it is not so much about what I have or specifically if something goes as planned, but who I am with and my time spent with them and the joy and playfulness that we create together. Plus the support and strength we draw from one another. Giving us a life of love and connection – what we truly need as humans. For example: Your spouse or partner seems down and really is not into the fun time you have planned together. You feel upset too in that you wanted a fun time with your loved one and it is not happening. So opposed to having a fit of upset, you dig a little deeper and find that your sweetheart is really distressed about a particular something that you did not know about. So you learn more about this and find an empathy and wanting to help make your loved one feel better. You begin to feel closer with the sharing of this information. So all is not lost, you connected at a deeper level. You now understand your loved one better. You can put your heads together and find some ways to make it better for both of you.
  2. We see something going a certain way and it does not. We don’t understand. We did all the right things. What happened? Sometimes we don’t always know. But, what we forget is that the other something can lead to something even better. And we have to remember that all is well regardless of what happens. We don’t have to let what happens to us dictate weather we are happy. You have all heard the saying: “One door closes and another opens.” Well it is true. We just have to know and have confidence this is happening. Knowing there are good things out there for us. And things will work out. Our knowing and action toward this will facilitate this happening. Meaning we accept and move on when a door closes and go out there and create opportunities for others to open for us. Knowing that many times these new open doors will lead to something even better.  For example: You are in charge of a project in which you have taking a lot of time to find another to assist and they do and you feel all is going so well.  Happiness blooms all around you! And then the person needs to   bows out. All that thoughtful planning down the drain. Frustrated, you begin again. But is all lost?  No. You are just now ready for the next person to finish in another way that may be just as good or maybe even better. So stay tuned for Chapter 2.  Your story will enfold, maybe even with a better ending! 

Please Note: I do want to say I am not promoting that we ignore our upset or sad or angry feelings. Those are all valid and should be acknowledged. I am promoting that we allow ourselves to go beyond this when we are ready to do so and know that it is possible. I am saying basically we do not have to stay stuck in an emotion that we have more choice that we all think. 

In the end, it is all about perception, how we view something and how we choose to respond. We can choose happiness. It is just a step away. It may not look the way we originally thought it would, but it is still there. So go for it. It does not have to all be perfect to be happy. So step out and dare to be happy even when all is not perfect. You will be glad you did!

 

A Fun Calming Technique for Children – Butterfly Breathing + Butterfly Hugs

butterfly animated smiling pink with poka dots butterfly note for board.docx - source Your child is angry and beginning to escalate. Or you know your child is anxious and not sure how to feel better. I want to share a simple, fun technique designed for children I recently learned about at the Oklahoma Play Therapy Association’s Annual Conference. Dr. Jennifer Baggerly, PhD, Professor at the Counseling and Human Services at the University of North Texas at Dallas presented the Butterfly Technique. Here is how it works:

Butterfly Breathing

  1. Let your child know there is a way to make them feel better. It is always best to help your child when the emotions have not escalated to a very high level.  The sooner you can assist the better.
  2. Ask your child to pretend to be a butterfly! Model for your child what butterfly wings would look like. Hold your arms out and bring them in toward each other. And then out again, letting your arms / wings flap.
  3. Practice together with your child how their butterfly wings work. Practice always helps for being able to remember later when it is needed.
  4. Have your child now let the butterfly breath as it flaps it’s wings. Model for your child how the butterfly breathes. There is more than one way this can be done. The most important message is for the butterfly to breathe deep. One way to model this is by demonstrating and talking through the following wing / breathing pattern.
  • As the butterfly opens its wings, take a deep breath – you can count 1, 2, 3 as you open your wings if you wish.
  • As the butterfly closes its wings, let the breath out, letting all your worries out – you can count 3, 2, 1 as you close your wings if you wish. 

5.  Continue  “Butterfly Breathing” until your child feels more calm.  Model and do this with them as they learn this technique.

Note:  One website that shows the Butterfly Breathing technique with the 1,2, 3 count is:   elfenworks.org/butterfly. In addition you may go to iTunes and look at the Butterfly Breathing app put out by Elfenworks, which is free. The Elfenworks site has a butterfly breathing script and additional information in regard to their butterfly breathing technique. 

 

Butterfly Hugs

To add to your “Butterfly Breathing” you can add “Butterfly Hugs”.  Here is how you would do butterfly hugs:

  1. The arms / wings can fold into the chest with hands moving to rest on the arms, giving a hug to yourself. 
  2. Hands tap the arms and then hands rubbing the arms from left to right.

Good luck with your butterfly breathing and butterfly hugs and remember you may find it helpful for yourself to use as well. And the more you model for your child the more he or she will probably use it!

 

 

 

 

Forgive Yourself and Move On

angel at santa fe church, kicking up his heal sept 2015

We mess up, we make mistakes, we are human! We all have times we are not happy with something we did or did not do.  So we might begin by telling ourselves: “It is ok. I am human and I can make mistakes. I am still capable and worthy of being loved.”

So what can we do to forgive our selves from our “mess ups”?

  • We can check in with ourselves and decide if we are being realistic with ourselves. Are our standards too high? I am not suggesting that we do not have standards or not try to do the best we can. I am suggesting that we remind ourselves, “We do not have to be perfect.” Letting go of this idea can be very freeing.
  • See mistakes as an opportunity to learn. I was reading about Albert Einstein and found that he had 1000 unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb. When he was asked how it felt to fail this many times he said ” I didn’t fail 1000 times,. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps .”  So know that your mistakes are just “steps” in your journey of what you want to become.
  • Start again. It’s ok. We can start as many times as we want. Isn’t it nice to remember we can always start again. It is one of the wonderful internal strengths we humans have – to begin again. 

So Forgive Yourself, Move On.

We are destined to be our best version of our self. Getting there means being ok with our human mistakes and “mess ups”. This is not to say that we do not make amends or ask for forgiveness when appropriate. It means we forgive ourselves and find compassion for ourselves. This is the first step of course to doing the same with others in our life. It is the first step toward going where we want to go. 

Best wishes in your human journey of loving and forgiving yourself. It is a basic for being at peace and continuing on to where you truly want to go!

 

Teaching Your Children About Giving

christmas tree for birds philbrook 2015

With the holiday season upon us, it sometimes feels like all we hear from our children is “what they want for Christmas”.  Many of us hope that we can help our children develop a more balanced approach to what they want / need and helping others with what they want / need. The focus of this blog piece will be on the end of teaching our children about giving. “Giving is a basic value that makes our society a humane and civilized one.” This is not always easy as there is just so much of us during the holiday season. So it becomes about us too as adults coming to terms with  our own balance of the two things. So it may start there with us examining our own hearts.

christmas tree brid decoration philbrook 2015 orange with seed in it

I decided to re-visit this topic that comes up for me ever so often in my own family. I was at Philbrook Museum of Art over the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and saw the beautiful outdoor Christmas tree decorated for the bird’s to nibble on. It made me think of the trees I have created in the past with my children when they were younger for the birds. And thought again of the issue of making sure I create this “self-care / other care” balance in my family. So here are a few ideas on the side of giving to others.

Christmas tree bird decoration philbrook 2014 grapefruit

 

Teaching Your Children About Giving

  1. Start with yourself. How do you feel about giving? Are your beliefs or values reflected in your actions?  “I feel what our children see us doing is the foundation for teaching our children about giving.”  For what we do will so much more affect our children than what we say to them. We are powerful models for our children. The second piece of this is about our balance of self-care and other care. Is our balance where we want it to be and is it reflected in a way that our children can see this balance? 
  2. Create GIVING OPPORTUNITIES that are developmentally appropriate for your children. These activities work best when done together as a family. They carry so much more weight and power this way. AND they create some very special memories and solidify the message you want to give to your children.  These activities might include some of the following: going through toys and games no longer needed or wanted and passing them on to a non-profit agency; assisting in making some holiday treats to take to a nursing home or a neighbor, having children use part of their allowance to buy something for a special toy drive or angel tree, volunteering their time to help someone who needs help, etc. All of this depends of course on the specific age of your child. 
  3. Talk with children about WHY you like to give to others in your family. This may take a bit of a different slant for different families. For some it may have a religious basis. For others it may be about their own family values. ” Regardless it is good to talk about why we give in our family.” Talk with your children about why you give. This is good for us all to consider as adults. Why do we give? For me I give because it feels right, it fits with my religious and personal value system and it always comes back as to good feelings and blessings in my own life. It is important to remember that giving comes in different forms – our time, our talents, our material goods, our money.  This is another conversation one can have with their children. This is not a lecture, just a discussion as the time arises that it makes sense to talk about it. “But again, it is the action itself that will cement in your child’s memory the value or message about giving.”  
  4. Praise your child for their giving. It always help when others acknowledge our efforts. Of course, the intrinsic rewards of giving are powerful in themselves. 

christmas tree bird decoration philbrook 2015 cranberry ring

I hope you will find your balance in your family of self-care and other care. And that you will give your children this holiday season the gift of giving. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes! Tanna

christmas tree dec for birds philbrook 2015 orange with cereal cranberry string

 

 

 

“Say One Thing You Are Thankful For About Your Family” Thanksgiving Activity

Thanksgiving animated picture nov 2015

Want to encourage your family to be thankful and appreciative of one another? I am always trying to think of ways to encourage this kind of interaction to take place in my own family and with the families I work with. We might remember to be thankful of those outside our family, but at times we overlook those closest to us. So let’s use Thanksgiving as a start point in remembering to show our thankfulness for our loved ones.

I have always liked the activity at Thanksgiving where you go around and tell one thing you are thankful for.This is a fun one to do around the dinner table.  This is fairly easy for most people to do. Most of us can think of one thing that we are thankful for. It is good to remind folks it can be a small thing. It does not have to be large. I have enjoyed this version, But I am thinking of another version for this Thanksgiving that I thought I might share.

“Say One Thing You Are Thankful For About Your Family.”

In this version you are encouraging the family to reflect about what they like about their family as a whole. It is easy to take family for granted. And Thanksgiving is a perfect time to think about this. Now it may be that you do not like everything or very much about your family. But my guess is that with some thought you can think of one thing you are grateful for. I might note that family can be the family you have created and gave birth to or it can be your family of origin.

If you really can not do this version, then go back to what you are in general thankful for. But you can use this as a time to think to yourself or with your partner or spouse what family attributes you wish to create that later your children will be thankful for. That is a bit deeper. But sometimes thinking ahead can be a good thing. What we project out is many times what we get back. It is sort of like goal setting or creating an intention.

I wish you all the very best of Thanksgivings!

Thankful orange picture with branches be thankful

 

 

Happy Journals, Happy Families

journal picture IMG_7984 (2) november 2015

I sometimes suggest a “Happy Journal” for a client who needs to do more focusing on the “happy stuff”. I at times will ask the entire family to partake in this simple, but very effective activity. I always like to remind folks that “what we focus on is what we get more of”. Thus, for those who want to have a happier family here is a tool to encourage your family to look for the happy in their lives.

The Set Up for Beginning Your Happy Journal Family Adventure

  1. Have a family meeting where you set down and explain what you are going to do as a family. “Because we want to focus on the good or what makes us happy, we have decided we are all going to keep happy journals. What we focus on we get more of. So here is a way to put more focus on the happy.”
  2. Have family members choose from a variety of decorative spiral notebooks or journals as to what they like the most. I would suggest that you buy a few more than you need so that there will be some choice for everyone. Plus you can pick out ones that you know will be a hit with each of your family members. If you have young children or those who like to draw you may want to include some that are blank paged journals.
  3. Suggest that everyone write in their “happy journal” everyday. “We would like for everyone to write down something in their happy journal everyday. This way it gets to be a habit for us all to think more about the “happy stuff” that is going on in our lives.” You can suggest that everyone try to think of 3 things that made them feel happy that day. Or whatever number of things that you feel would work with your family. Or you could leave it open ended, with no set number.
  4. Each person can write or draw what made them happy that day. This is helpful for those who are not writing yet or for those who prefer to express themselves in this way.
  5. Maximize or let your happy experiences grow by sharing them with one another.  This could be done in a set way or a more spontaneous way.  Some possible more structured ways of sharing might be: sharing at the dinner table every night one happy thing that everyone is planning on writing in their happy journal or sharing at bedtime with each other. Sometimes tying an activity to a routine already in place can help. In a more spontaneous way, you might ask your child, “What have you found to put in your happy journal lately?”
  6. All family members participating makes this a very powerful activity. When children and teens see there moms or dads write down what is making them happy and sharing this, they will see that this is a family value or something that is important – to focus on the happy stuff or the good.

I hope you will try this whether your family is just you as a couple or if you are a couple with a young child or if you are a single parent family or a blended one. It is all good, encouraging each other to see the happy things that are all around us!!!

How to Talk About A Problem Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Without Withdrawing

communicating simba and lion king look of overwhelm

Ever need to have a “conversation” with your loved one, but just don’t know how to do it. You just know they are going to shut down and not really talk with you about re-solving the issue when you bring it up.  You are not alone. I see many clients who choose not tell their spouse or partner how they feel or that they are having a problem with something that is going on within the relationship.

So let’s look at some specifics as to how to talk to your sweetheart when you are upset or have a concern that will help keep them engaged and not withdraw.

How to Talk About A Problem  Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Without Withdrawing

  1. Share your feelings when they are low-level enough that you can talk without overpowering emotion. The longer you wait to share your feelings of upset, the more intense the discussion will be when you do have it. The more chance you will have of saying something in a way that you do not want to. When your feelings are manageable, so will the following discussion.
  2. On the other hand, let go of very small things that really do not matter that you can be ok with.  Pointing out every small thing that occurs that you may not like or feels a bit irritating can lead your partner to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to them checking out or “feeling flooded” with too much.
  3. One thing at a time helps. Avoid a stream of upset. This helps with your loved one staying in the conversation and not leaving or withdrawing (either physically or emotionally). Not being engaged can be a sign of being flooded or overwhelmed. This is a basic form of protection. When we over share, it normally means we have just let things pile up instead of addressing things as we go. Or it could mean we are clumping our upset with something else into the relationship issue. This could be other stress going on in our life.
  4. Know your partner’s sensitivities or wounds and consider how they filter information. If you know that your husband was highly criticized growing up, then he will be sensitive to comments that have any feel of criticism. So you may choose to keep that in mind when you have an issue to address. It does not mean you do not share, it just means you are aware and use language that they can hear without being triggered.
  5. Use a “Gentle Startup” as the Gottman Institute would suggest.  A harsh start-up or a highly charged, critical approach will not lead to a productive conversation.
  6. Admit your part in the issue at hand. By taking responsibility for what you have done that has not helped with this situation, you create a less accusatory conversation.
  7. Consider when you approach with a problem or concern. Most of us do not do well with facing a problem at the end of the day as we walk in the door. That is normally when we are tired and hungry and want to decompress from the day. This is not always easy as to finding a “good” time. It may be what is the best from what is available. One possibility is to set up a time to discuss an issue.
  8. Keep your voice at a low-level and avoid accusing. Instead voice your need and ask how you might work on this together. This would mean both of you offering up ways you can shift or adapt to makes things better.

I think one of the biggest keys to resolving issues is to keep everyone engaged and not going into “shut down” mode. This comes with engaging some of the suggestions above. I wish you the best as you engage your loved one in positive communication, one of the foundations for a good relationship.

 

 

Easy Gratitude Practice That Can Change Your LIfe

gratitude black woman looking up at sky animated

We all know when we focus on “the good”, it feels good and it creates more good. Gratitude or thankfulness is really a close cousin to focusing on “the good”. Let me share a most recent practice I have been experiencing that I have found helpful in my busy life that I would like to pass on as a possible gratitude practice that you might consider.

I have kept and still do keep a gratitude journal. Sometimes when my life is overflowing with activity, this practice can tend to give way to other things. And I really can tell a difference when I am not doing it on a consistent basis. So . . . I have tweaked this practice a bit or added a piece that works well in tandem.

Be Thankful for Each and Every Single Thing That Goes Well At That Moment in Time

This really is about being open to the good and actually saying to yourself or to others if they are involved “THANK YOU!” I think it even works best when we search for the very small things that occur for us throughout the day and acknowledge them at that very moment. It really can become a way of life. It can literally change your life for the good.

I still encourage a recording of the good in written form as there is something very powerful about the written word. It really does anchor things. So don’t throw away your gratitude journal. Just add this small practice of acknowledging the good and expressing thankfulness. Sometimes I say it out loud. A simple “Thank You”.  This can be tied into your spiritual practice if you so desire to make it even more meaningful.

Here are a few very simple small kinds of things you might be thankful for:

You are late and a parking place appears very close to where you need to go.    “Thank You!”

You have lost your keys. You take a breath and relax and it comes to you where to look and there they are.      “Thank You!”

Your husband has started supper before you get in.   “Thank You!”

You notice a the sky turning pink and orange as the sun sets.     “Thank You!”

You are at the grocery store and look at the long line. As you are about to enter the line, another checker opens and says to you, I am open here.   “Thank You!”

You catch a mistake just as you are getting ready to send out an email.     “Thank You!”

Your child unexpectedly say thank  you for something you have done.    “Thank You!”

You are getting ready to write something and it just comes to you as to the right words.   “Thank You!”

I might add that this practice is a relationship building practice as well in that the more you express appreciation to others and what they are doing, the more they will see you in a positive light. We all want to be around folks who appreciate us. You will probably find those you compliment or thank will return this action in the future. What a great way to live appreciating and expressing our gratitude to one another.

Thank You with Lady Bug animated

 

Best wishes for lots of “Thank You’s!” ahead of you. Just be on the look out.  You will find oh so many things to be thankful for.

Oh yes, “THANK YOU for reading this blog article!”

 

Multi-Tasking Versus Single or “Mindful” Tasking

multi task yoga woman

I used to be so very proud of myself for being such a good multi-tasker and at some levels I still am. It is needed and valuable when the situation fits, but many  times single tasking or “mindful” tasking is better. Our daily hectic life styles make if feel like we have to multi task. Lets take a look at both. And then see how we may integrate these different approaches in our daily, realistic lives.

Definition of Multi-Tasking: Performance of multiple tasks at one time. (Merriam-Webster)  A person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Multi-Tasking: Ability to getting more done within a time frame. Potentially achieving more with the time you have. It can be a helpful tool if you are in certain emergency situations.

Cons of Multi-Tasking: Not fully being able to focus and give full attention to something or someone. The risk of not doing something well, but only partially doing a task. Errors and mistakes increase the more you are multi-tasking. It can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not completely connected to the projects or people you are working with. You may find yourselves more blunt and less patient with others as you multi-task. What you do accomplish may not be your best.

mindful animated man with lots thoughts and dog with simple thoughts

Definition of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Bearing in mind: aware. (Merriam Webster)  Giving attention. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Giving your full attention to something or someone allows you to use your full intellect and emotions to accomplish what you want to do. Focusing on one thing at a time gives you the ability to give something or someone your best. Weather it is communicating with someone who you care about or completing an important task for your business. This full focus can allow you to potentially save time if this is your goal.  Focusing on one thing at a time feels less stressful and more peaceful. Our bodies are not really intended to be in a “red alert” multi-task framework for long periods of time.

Cons of  Single or “Mindful” Tasking: You may feel you are not getting enough done. You have all this “stuff” going on and you are only doing one thing at a time. You may wonder am I doing all I can. At times you may feel you have no realistic choice but to be doing multi things at once.

 

An Integrated Approach to How We Manage Our Time

As I was writing this, it occurred to me, you can truly only do one thing at a time. It is HOW you choose to do each thing or interact with each person you have in front of you. You do have CHOICES as to how much time and focus you spend on something. And you do have a choice on which thing you focus on first.

Yes there are some realities of performance on a job or making sure all the basics happen at your home or with your children. It may be at times you make a choice to spend less time on something and it be a bit less  perfect. Or you may choose to take time for a conversation as you feel it is more important in the long run than something else you are working on.  It is really all about choice and what you choose to focus on and for how long. And what you view as most important to you.

As a therapist, I would have to weigh in on mindful single tasking as to relationships. Doing more than one thing at a time as you spend time with your partner or child normally does not work well. And of course there are exceptions. But in general without attention and focus, relationships suffer and problems develop.

multi task versus serial chart

So in summary, my take on this issue is . . 

  1. Decide each day what is most important and focus on that.
  2. Be ok with letting go of stuff that does not really matter.
  3. Multi-task when you must, but limit this to when it really has to happen.
  4. Do be MINDFUL or give full attention whenever you can.
  5. Remember your relationships will grow and strengthen with full attention and focus.
  6. Let your mind rest and “be with” whatever you have chosen to focus on, letting go of all the “other things” that are waiting on your “to do” list.

Good luck in finding the best balance with how to manage your time for yourself, your professional life and your personal relationships. Keep in mind you are more than your “to do” list!