Mindfulness: My New Year’s Resolution

It’s day 4 of the new year.  I had intended to post about this a few days ago, but illness has befallen my household.  Since New Year’s Eve it’s been like dominoes at my house with one family member after another falling with what appears to be influenza.  So resolution one is to actually get up from the couch (I’m the latest victim) and then sanitize every surface in this house.

But resolution two is to increase my daily practice of mindfulness.  Mindfulness may bring up mental images of Buddhist monks or hard-core yoga folks “omming” away in a lotus pose.  Those things are great, but more practical mindfulness is as simple as noticing your thoughts and feelings and being fully present in the moment.

Our increasingly harried lives are full of so many things drawing our attention away from being mindful.  Smart phones, full-time jobs, kids’ activities, family obligations…you get the idea.  I can relate to clients and friends who report feeling over-scheduled, busy, anxious, and stressed.  Increased mindfulness can help with those feelings and a variety of resolutions you might have made for this year.

For example:

  • Mindfulness in eating = stopping when you are full
  • Mindfulness in fitness = noticing your body’s need for movement and doing it
  • Mindfulness in parenting = less Dinosaur Mom
  • Mindfulness at work = increased focus on important tasks
  • Mindfulness in decision-making = giving a best yes (I’ll post about this later)
  • Mindfulness in relationships = being present and enjoying time together (a.k.a back away from the smart phone)

Great.  So how does one go about this?  Here are a few easy-to-do ways to begin:

  • Deep breathing.  I like 4-7-8 breathing: breathe in for 4, hold for 7, then out for 8.  It feels like a really long time to hold for a count of 7, but a couple of those sequences can be very calming.
  • Naming your feeling.  So you’re stressed about something at work and it’s coming out at home.  With mindfulness, get specific about the feeling behind the stress, such as disappointment a project did go well or feeling undervalued by a supervisor.
  • Recognize your self-talk.  We’ve all got a coach in our heads either building us up or tearing us down.  If your self-talk sounds like “I’m a loser.  How could I mess up like that!  I’ll never get past this.” etc., work on changing those thoughts into more positive ones like “I made a mistake.  Mistakes happen. I can work to make this better.”
  • Gratitude.  I love this one.  Be mindful of positive things in your life.  Take a time every day to focus on one aspect of your life for which you are grateful.

Here’s to a mindful 2018!

Dinosaur Mom

I have a confession to make.  I have previously shared that patience is not my best skill.  When I get out of the zen zone, it follows a predictable pattern of 1) impatience 2) authoritarian dictator-like yelling (“hurry up and finish eating” and “get your shoes on” being the most common phrases and 3) sarcasm (which is not helpful with, for example, a two year old).  I am not proud of this behavior.  My kids have given it a name: Dinosaur Mom.  I pray every day to have more patience with my kids.  I succeed and I fail.  I apologize.  Most days are pretty good but there can be a string of not so good ones every now and again.

I’d like to thank all the wonderful elementary and preK teachers who have taught my children and implemented positive behavioral supports such as a green-yellow-red light or pull a card systems.  These systems have varied by teacher but basically they’re intended to help kids self-monitor.  You’re on green…keep it up.  You lost your warning cube…let’s turn this day around.  Pulled your red card…parent phone call.  Things like this.

One morning a couple months ago on the way to school and my son said “Mom, you didn’t yell this morning…you stayed on green.”  I almost died.

Then I inquired more about what happens if I do yell.  He and my daughter then started devising an elaborate system that goes something like this:

  • Green: no yelling, leave the house on time, everyone is calm and respectful
  • Blue: I lost my warning cube with impatience
  • Yellow: I yelled
  • Red: I’m not even sure because we’ve never gotten there, but I think they have to borrow my phone to call their grandparents on me

We talk about this system in the car literally every morning.  I don’t know if it’s helpful or just one more thing they can tell their own therapist some day, but it has added an element of humor to sometimes troubling times.  I’ve been on green a lot lately.  Maybe having this mommy positive behavioral support is in place is working.

To all the other Dinosaur Moms – wishing you a green day or maybe even purple, which my kids say is above green and is reserved for days when I’m “extra nice…or it’s someone’s birthday.”