I think happy thoughts

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Healthy habits: Integrating movement into your day

Children need to move and be active.  Current learning theory tells us that movement helps learning. When children move around it helps to store information more efficiently. Movement also helps some students who may have trouble learning in the traditional teaching format. Getting up and moving helps children to integrate the information they are taking in and form new pathways in their brains to access this information. This is IMG_4827why integrating movement throughout the day for children is so important.  Children who spend time being active are more likely to have better cognition, memory, and a reduced likelihood of depression.  So, in addition to helping improve your  physical well being, movement also helps with mental health.

As a part of forming a new healthy habit, find ways to make movement a part of your family’s daily schedule at home.

Tips for making movement a habit in your home:

  • Set an example for your children by staying active yourself
  • Pick several activities you enjoy so that when one becomes boring or you are unable to do it you can easily have another activity. ( for example: Running, Biking, Hiking, Yoga, and Canoeing)
  • Schedule the activities instead of just squeezing them in if you have time. This ensures you will make the time
  • Get friends involved. This can make it more fun and keep you accountable
  • Measure progress (for example set a goal to participate in a 5k run, sign up for a competition, or download an app to keep track of your personal progress

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Child Sleep Routines and Mental Health

A big part of having a happy healthy child is having a regular and consistent sleep routine. Because of busy schedules, homework, lack of a routine, etc. children often don’t get enough sleep.  The amount of sleep required by children is more than adults need and may be surprising to some parents.   The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has made these recommendations: Preschoolers 10-13 hours, Grade schoolers (age 6-12) 9-12 hours, and teens 8-10 hours per night.

Lack of sleep can cause many different problems for children such as headaches, irritability, lack of concentration, and even depression. The well rested child will be able to do much better in the school environment than the one that is tired and lacking sleep. For some parents it may appear that their child isn’t tired until later at night this may be one reason you don’t think your child needs that extra sleep. Don’t let this fool you. Even if your child doesn’t show signs of being irritable or cranky from lack of sleep, they could still suffer consequences.  Children are still growing and need that restorative time so their brains and bodies can grow.  Researchers have found that lack of sleep in children could negatively effect their brain development (Lack of Sleep May Disrupt Development of Child’s Brain, National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2016). Because this is such an important aspect of your child’s life, parents are encouraged to find ways to create healthy routines.

One way to ensure your child gets enough rest is to determine what time they have to wake up in the morning and then set a bedtime that allows for the appropriate amount of hours of sleep.  For example setting an 8:00pm bedtime allows your child to wake up at 7:00am and get 11 hours of sleep.  Once the bedtime is set, it is important to stick to it and follow a routine. A routine can be as simple as telling the child when to start changing, brushing teeth, etc. so that they can be in bed by the set time. Some parents like to include a story at bedtime as well. If you do this, make sure you start your routine with enough time so that it can end with your child getting into bed at the time you decided upon. If you follow the same routine on a regular basis, then you will find it starts to flow more naturally and helps the child recognize when it is getting close to time for bed. This will help with falling asleep faster and getting the rest that is needed for a happy and healthy child.

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A light in the darkness

The winter blues are difficult to beat.  How do you stay happy when it’s freezing out?! For many people the winter can be a very hard time. Finding something to get out of bed for in the mornings is hard.  This time of year makes me want to stay under the covers and stay in bed all day. I feel very much like an animal in hibernation. I don’t want to move or do much of anything and getting motivated is extremely hard. To combat this I make sure the house is warm in the mornings when I wake up.  Then I plan a few motivators into my morning routine as well. For me coffee is a nice warm treat that I reward myself with after getting up.  These are simple solutions and help me. This doesn’t mean that for everyone the solution is that easy.

For some people motivating themselves is an almost impossible task and if you are prone to depression this time of year can be a trigger. Noticing a change in your mood early can help you to try and combat the sad feelings.  If you really can’t find anything to get yourself out of the darkness of winter then it’s time to reach out for help. Talking to a family member or friend is the best place to start. Friends and family should also look for warning signs that someone is not just down because of the winter but possibly clinically depressed. Spending time with a loved one may be enough to combat the depressed mood. If not, there are many professionals that can help. The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone.  Many people suffer from depression and mood disorders.  Feeling alone leads people to isolate themselves even more which makes it hard to get help.  If you allow others to know what is going on you are able to start on your journey to recovery. It also helps people who might be feeling the same way but are afraid to speak up.   Taking the first step out of the darkness and onto the lighted path of recovery is hard but very worth the work.

If you have suffered from depression and are now in recovery please share your stories with others. This helps to bring a face to depression. It also gives hope that you can survive it. Please share your inspirational words and advice with others to help bring their suffering out of the dark and into the light.


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Breathe- this seems like a simple thing to do. We all breathe or we would die. However, we don’t all take time to stop and focus on our breath. What does that mean? Taking the time to really breathe and let yourself just “be” is one of the best ways to ground yourself.

At times when your mind starts to fill with thoughts and plans and things that need to be done, taking a step back and just focusing on your breathing can help you gain control. You can try it at any time. Challenge yourself to spend a whole minute on breathing. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about keeping the time. The first time you try it is hard but it does get easier.

Trying to find a few minutes each day to just sit and “be” is not always easy. “Being” and not doing is hard for people who are so used to multitasking and running from task to task never taking a break. Minds often start to wonder and think about other things. That’s not a bad thing but try clearing your mind and just focusing on the breathing.

A person who has practiced breathing can use it in many situations. Grounding yourself in the present can be helpful for reducing stress and increasing your ability to concentrate on one task. Often, focusing on so many different things at once means that none of those things gets our best work.

Breathing can also be the one thing that saves a person from losing their temper. When a discussion becomes emotionally charged, responses seem automatic and are often not ones we like. When a person is able to take a breath and think before letting an automatic response take over, then that person has more control. The response can be more rational and planned instead of automatic. Then the situation can be diffused or dealt with in a way that doesn’t lead to regrets.

One of my favorite benefits of breathing is that you get time to be with yourself. You can appreciate just being you. You can clear your mind of all other thoughts and just relax. Even a few minutes each day is restorative and can help you feel more ready to deal with whatever else you have to handle during that day.

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Mindfulness activity

Here is a new activity you can try to practice your mindfulness skills. It’s fun to do by yourself or with others. Kids can even try this easy way of practicing mindfulness. The point of this activity is to practice your skills of being mindful (noticing and observing) without making judgements during the activity.

Mindfulness while eating – take a full minute to eat the raisin

1. You find a raisin (if you really dislike them pick another small item of food).

2. Take your time looking at it. Notice the texture, it’s color, the size, shape. Any physical details about the raisin.

3. Smell it without saying it’s a good or bad smell what does it smell like.

4. Place it in your mouth but do not chew it. How does it feel?

5. Slowly chew the raisin but be careful not to swallow it right away.

6. Did it change at all in flavor, texture, smell?

7. Slowly chew for the rest of the minute taking note of all your sensory input.

This exercise is very simple but can be hard. We are so used to eating without thinking. Spending a full minute on one raisin can be a great challenge and easy way to bring awareness into your eating habits as well as daily routine.

The next challenge is to try something new to do at a much slower pace than normal and find out what you discover.


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Positive Parenting

How do you stay positive when your child’s behaviors are driving you crazy? This is a tough question. Every parent knows that they have had a point in their lives when they were pushed to yell, scream, or worse because they were so worn down and did not know what else to do.  The same cycle seems to happen over and over where your child’s emotions and your emotions get out of control. This is something that happens often but doesn’t have to.

If you take a step back and start to look at the cycle of what is triggering you and your child, you will be able to better regulate your own emotions. And you will be able to start teaching your child how to regulate his/her own emotions.  Positive parenting is about looking for ways to change the situation into a more positive one instead of continuing to punish bad behaviors. You have to start looking at the big picture and do a little detective work.

Figuring out what is triggering your child’s bad mood may not be obvious at first but look at the patterns. What time of day does it usually happen, what is your child usually doing, and who is around when it happens? These types of questions help you to get more information about the cycle of behaviors that are happening. Then you can come up with a plan to intervene earlier on before the behaviors are out of control and your child is having a tantrum and you are screaming.

It’s also important to factor in your own triggers so that you know when you are getting overwhelmed. You can get better at taking a break and then talking to your child in a more calm and rational manner. This helps the child understand what behavior you don’t like and takes away the emotional reaction to your mood.

The key to any new approach in parenting is to plan ahead, practice, and allow for mistakes. Be willing to stick with it even if you don’t see results right away. If you have been doing the same type of parenting for years then a new approach won’t change things overnight, but it will change things. Positive approaches are very effective and leave you feeling good about what you are teaching your child.

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Why does happiness seem so difficult to obtain for some people and easier for others? The simple answer is that it’s a state of mind and if you think you are happy then you will be. The people who seem to be happy may just have more practice at focusing on the positive. Why then is is so hard for some people to think positively. Some people say that there are specific characteristics that positive thinkers have in varying degrees.

For the sake of narrowing down some personality characteristics and to make a more precise list, I chose one author’s list of 10.  Scott Ventrella The Power of Positive Thinking in Business: 10 traits for maximum results. The  10 characteristics of a positive thinker are listed by Ventrella as: optimism, enthusiasm, belief, integrity, courage, confidence, determination, patience, calmness, and focus.

The first step to becoming a more positive thinker and leading a more happy life would be to look at each of these traits and determine how strongly they are present in your own life. Finding where you have strength and areas you need to grow in are helpful in creating a plan for yourself.

Once you know the characteristics that you want to work on in your own life, set some goals for yourself on how to do that. Make sure that your goals are realistic. You are on your way to being much happier once you have a plan in place.

Don’t forget to recognize when you are happy. Many people breeze past this and don’t linger on their happy thoughts. We spend so much time thinking about the negative but very little time remembering all the things that did go well and the times we enjoyed. Spend some time each day just thinking about something that you enjoyed about your day or a happy memory.

The best part about wanting to become a more positive thinker is that this is an achievable goal! Just because you don’t feel like a positive thinker or a happy person does not mean that you can’t become one.  Believing in your own power for positive change is a great step in the direction of happiness.