Category Archives: mindset

How To Stop Yelling

angry-argue-argument-343.jpgVisualizing Behavior

Do you want to keep your cool when life isn’t going your way? Do you wish you didn’t bark at the kids when they’ve done something you dislike?

Visualization can help.

Visualization helps us improve our performance. Long-touted as an essential tool by athletes and professional musicians, we now know that positive thinking is not the reason that people feel they perform better with these techniques. Visualization is effective because thinking about practicing a skill changes the brain as if you had actually practiced the skill.

This is fantastic news if you struggle with any skill in your life–not just physical ones. Using visualizations can help you overcome social anxiety, make healthy choices, and best of all, keep calm during stressful times.

Instead of picturing yourself kicking the perfect touchdown into the goal (sports isn’t my thing), you can picture yourself responding with composure to life’s hiccups.

“Negative” Visualization

I tend on the negative side of things. I tend to worry more about very bad things happening than hoping very good things will. I tend to want to diminish my worst behavior and ignore whether my best behavior gets better. This is a default, not a recommendation–but there is something to be said for paying close attention to your liabilities.

While I visualize smiling each day while I do my exercise, I spend more time visualizing reacting better in my worst situations. Better still, I try to focus on being the kind of person who responds rather than reacts.

Try to think of a single, concrete situation that you respond poorly to. Do you yell whenever a glass of milk is spilled? Do you shut down whenever your child says unkind words to you? Do you hide if the house gets too loud? Just start with one thing.

And then picture yourself responding to that situation in the ideal way.

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Imagining Imagining

For some of us, that is impossible. Calmly reacting in a threatening situation isn’t “who we are”. We can’t even come up with a fantasy world where that would happen.

So–and I know this sounds silly, but trust me–imagine that you can imagine yourself responding perfectly. This worked for me.

I could not imagine being the kind of person who could give an uninflected “Yes” or “No” to questions that start with, “Did you remember to…?”

But I could imagine a theoretical world where I could imagine that possibility.

And now, at least some of the time, I am that kind of person. I’ve spent a minute or two for months picturing Amelia effortlessly saying, “No, I didn’t remember. I’ll do that tomorrow,” or “Yes, I did!” without any resentment in her voice.

Try to use visualization to improve your behavioral floor–the worst of your reactions. Practicing in the moment is often too hard because the reason you react so poorly is that you are hurt, scared, angry, or sad. Being removed from the situation allows us a safe place to exercise our self-control.

 

How to HEAL (With a Challenge)

Hardwiring Happiness


Hardwiring Happiness is a book about taking your everyday experiences and using them to build inner strengths. When you have certain characteristics like self-compassion and curiosity, you can call upon them during times of frustration and difficulty–but more importantly, they serve you well in everyday moments. Learning to appreciate the small things your partner does, pulling back on an argument with your child, and taking courageous steps towards accomplishing your goals all become easier when you have a wealth of inner resources.

How it Works

If you have a passing familiarity with pop neuroscience, you know the phrase “neurons that fire together wire together.” Your brain is an association machine and when we make associations, we learn. In his book, Dr. Rick Hanson calls upon you to use the brain’s knack for association to resource yourself–to H.E.A.L. the parts of yourself that are wounded and thrive in your daily life.

Metta meditation asks you to cultivate compassion. You do this by focusing on your heart, repeating the same phrase, and being aware of what compassion feels like in the body. The sustained attention to the emotion helps it grow and fill you up.

Hardwiring Happiness is asking you to apply the same general practice to your other inner strengths.

(In the Alert Authentic Mindful Group on Facebook, we are doing a 21-day challenge inspired by Dr. Rick Hanson’s book. Hardwiring Happiness. Please join us!)

Why You Should Do It

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Dr. Hanson spends the first part of the book going over some of the science and answering the question Why we want to learn the skills he is going to teach us in the second half of the book.

Our brains have a negativity bias. This is in our evolutionary past *not* noticing a pretty flower is okay; *not* noticing a tiger means death. Hardwiring Happiness is not about ignoring tigers. There are and always will be negative things in our lives that we need to pay attention to–and actually, some experiences that feel bad are good for us in the long run.

That does not mean that we should ignore the positive or leave it to our brains to notice it. We want to help our minds pay attention to the lightness and the dark–to quit giving undue attention and power to the negative.

The Human Default

Our world is vastly different today than in our evolutionary past. For our ancestors, serious stress was related to serious stress. Tigers, fear of banishment, and snakes. Sadly, our brains cannot tell the difference between these very real threats to our lives and too much traffic on the highway. We have so many stressors today, including but not limited to the intense and frequent technology stress that we get from renewing our Facebook page. Stress reactions used to be occasional but they are now frequent. Our bodies are now in a constant state of reactivity which is not good for our health, mental or physical.

Responsiveness, as opposed to reactivity, used to be our norm. There weren’t lions around every corner. In social situations, we were less knee-jerk and more of the present and open.

This book will help give you the tools to return to that state or responsiveness by paying attention to the positive around us and turning mental states into neural traits by helping strengthen the bonds between neurons that focus on the beneficial in your daily life.

The Method

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Follow this simple acronym: HEAL

H: Have an experience

E: Enrich

A: Absorb

L: Link

Have an experience: This is the easy part. This month, some experiences will just crop up during the course of your day; some you might have to create for yourself.

Enrich: Think of moments when you naturally feel complete. People often have them on vacation or during the holidays–they look around at their family members and their surroundings and are overwhelmed with gratitude.

You can create this kind of feeling by taking time out of your day to enrich positive experiences. While it may not envelop you in the way it does when it comes naturally, you can make it a much bigger part of your life.

Absorb: This step will often happen at the same time as enrich. As you are making the experience bigger and more embodied, visualize it sinking into you. Maybe you like the idea of gold dust sinking into your center; or maybe you want to picture electricity pulsing in your brain and creating your experience. Whatever it is, try to make the beneficial feeling more apart of you.

Link: One of the reasons that our memories of the past are so bad is because each time we recall them, we can modify them. We can use this little quirk of our brain to heal parts of us that are hard to handle.

When you “link,” you hold the positive experience in the forefront of your mind and call up a negative experience–holding it on the sidelines. Over time, this will gradually make those parts sting less.

HEALing is not about denying the negative in our lives, just paying the beneficial its due. 

(Please join us! We are already on day 4 of our challenge!)

If you have the time, listen to Dr. Rick Hanson go over some of the concepts on his podcast.

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How Busy Moms Can Make Time

Self-care sounds great to everyone. Of course you want to meditate. Of course you want to exercise. Of course you want to feel better.

Of course you can’t find the time.

More often than not, people don’t make changes until they really need to. I am lucky because I need to do these things. I have watched my depression and anxiety take away my ability to leave the house. I have watched them destroy the love someone had for me. I have watched them fault-find me to the point where the only thing I could see in myself was brokenness.

My biggest fear is that I will pass those tendencies onto my children, have my family suffer through my struggle with them, and slowly poison my relationship.

Because I have seen myself at my worst and she is so small and in such incredible pain, I know that I have to be vigilant.

This may not be the case for you.

So for you, it is hard to find time.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”

My need does not manifest additional hours in the day or a child who needs my attention less. The demand forces me to find a way to find the time. With one child it may be easier (or harder, depending on who you talk to or what age they are!), but it is possible for everyone to make time for themselves.

Here are a few ways to find the time and energy you need to practice self care. I did not invent these ways or even perfect them. I just use them and I think they could help you.

At the end, I’ll go through some common objections.

Routines

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This is by far the most important. We thrive on habits. Doing the same things over and over again at the same time doesn’t just save time and energy. Repetition and predictability lend a hand to emotional regulation. Too much stuff, too many choices, and moving too fast sap you of time, vigor, and will power.

When we have routines and habits, we no longer have to decide whether or not we are going to do something. The decision is already made for us. This brings you into automaticity, offloading a huge cognitive burden. You don’t have to think about turning off the lights and locking your door when you leave the house. You want more things in your life to happen with the same ease.

I am going to go through my schedule with you and then try to prompt you to think about your own.

Daily schedule: Each morning, I feed Zander when he wakes up and spend about 40 minutes doing The Miracle Morning. He’s only 6 months old. Partially personality and partially training, Zander has come to expect a lot of alone time when he wakes up. I set him up with one open ended toy and get to work.

Near the end of my TMM, baby boy starts complaining a bit. That’s okay because now it is his turn to have a story. We read one of his three books.

After story time, we do morning pick up and throw the diapers in the wash.

Zander starts complaining because it is time for some rest. We have the routine of taking a one mile walk to get him the first nap of the day. If I try to stay in the house, he cries a lot. “This isn’t how the day goes, Mom!” he seems to say. On cold or lazy days, routines may feel like they work against you.

We get back from our walk and baby stays asleep. I usually work for about an hour. Zander wakes up, eats. I have my breakfast. We hang the diapers to dry.

It is about 9 or 10am and I haven’t thought at all yet. I haven’t made one decision. But I have already done yoga, meditated, walked, read, journaled, cleaned, done laundry, spent time-in with the baby, and had breakfast.

After that, we often have something outside to do depending on the day of the week.

Whenever that is finished, around 2 or so, there is prep work for dinner. Then there’s some flexible downtime. Between 4 and 5 o’clock, it is time to start cooking.

We basically do this every day.

What things can you do at the same time, in the same way, every day? Is there always picking up that needs to be done? Are there car rides? Is there a time when everyone gets grumpy and needs to slow down?

Weekly schedule: For my family, we have Free Forest School on Monday and Friday mornings. Monday afternoon is grocery shopping. Thursday mornings, we take a 3-to-4 mile walk with a friend. We do a workout with a friend every Tuesday morning. Saturday is laundry day. Sunday is our day with Dad.

Currently, the other days of the week are “empty.” We might add in one more activity day but we will always have an at-home day scheduled.

What things can you do at the same time, in the same way, on a particular day of the week? Do you have a story time at your local library? Do you have a chapter of Free Forest School in your area? Any friends who might like to meet you every Thursday at the same park at 9am?

Monthly/Quarterly schedule: These larger rhythms can be an anticipated and understood as part of your regular rhythm.

You might have Family Board Meetings, a day when dad watches the kids and you get a massage, or date night. Schedule it regularly.

How many meals does your family really eat? Stop guessing which ones you are going to make and just plan to do Taco Tuesdays or Chicken-and-rice every third Thursday of the month. You don’t have to do all of the meal prep (although maybe you do, and maybe you can do it as a family every Friday). Just simplify your grocery shopping and cooking habits. Maybe plan Spontaneous Saturday where you make something new.

Once these things are scheduled and routine, you no longer have to figure out whether or not you’re going to do them. It is already decided. This keeps your kids calm, too. We prefer familiarity—it makes us comfortable. This preference is called the mere-exposure effect in psychology. When things are routine and familiar, our stress lowers. Predictability makes it less likely for you or your kid to fly off the handle.

Review Your Time

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By our nature, humans think things take them way less time than they actually do. We say we will be ready in ten minutes but we’re nowhere to be seen for twenty. If you cannot see it in yourself, you surely have a sister, husband, or child who does this.

Try to take note of how you’re actually using your time. Download Moment or QualityTime on your phone and see how much time you spend staring at your phone. Though you feel like you aren’t on your phone often, a few minutes every hour adds up quickly. Delete apps that suck up time.

Use a timer for a day or two. How long do you actually take to get stuff done?

Make a list of how you want to use your time. Make a list of how you use your time. Compare the two and adjust.

Arguing with your kids is another article, but figure out whether you care about the argument of are still defending your time on principle.

I had to delete Facebook, Facebook messenger, and Pinterest off of my phone. I also had to cut way down on streaming 30 Rock from my phone.

I don’t think all “mindless” time is bad. I still do love watching my shows and I give myself time to do it. I just try to do it less.

Plan Your Days

This could maybe go under routine, but deserves a second category because not all plans are routines and routines don’t take up our whole day.

Figure out what you’re going to do each day. A lot of people feel like the best way to do this is to make a goals list the night before. That way, when you wake up in the morning, you already know what you have to do. I’ve heard of people planning their day down to the half hour.

I am pretty relaxed in comparison. I jot down all of the non-routine things I want to do for the day on a little notepad. I don’t write “make dinner” because of course I am going to make dinner. Things like sweep floors, work on Mark’s project, respond to best friend’s messages are listed. I don’t schedule times for them but maybe you should. Think about your own preferences, how well you go-with-the-flow.

This also helps offload the cognitive burden of remembering things. The less things swirling around in your head, the more present you can be. Maybe you can remember everything you have to do today. But why would you when you don’t have to?

Sleep

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Do you know what gives you more time in the day? Sleeping more. Using time to gain time seems counter-intuitive but in this particular case, it is true. Being under-rested takes up a huge amount of your time (and obviously, energy).

Losing just two hours of sleep nightly hinders your thinking and memory. It also makes you more likely to get into a car accident (and I’m guessing, many other kinds, like dropping-the-jar-and-having-to-clean-up-the-mess-accidents). You take longer to heal from illness and injury. Your will power is depleted. You gain weight. You give in when you should have held your ground.

Being sleep deprived makes you unable to tell that you’re sleep deprived. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re doing well on 5 hours of sleep—something unhealthy has become your normal.

What does getting enough sleep look like?

For me and my 6-month-old who co-sleeps and breastfeeds on demand, getting enough sleep means getting in bed at least 10 hours before I expect to wake up. If we are sick, teething, or going through a developmental milestone, 12 hours.

Objections

Q: I am a free spirit. I don’t want to schedule everything!

Do you know the part about being a free spirit that sucks? Being emotionally volatile. If your spirit is caged by having a plan at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, how free is it?

Q: I’ve tried building routines but they just keep falling apart.

On average, it takes 66 days to develop a new habit. That means it stops being so hard after about 2 months. How long have you tried?

If you have given it your all, consider who you are trying to build schedules and routines with. Maybe those people you deeply care for are better spur-of-the-moment friends.

Q: My kids will be bored always doing the same things.

My answer to this is twofold. First: What is wrong with boredom? Boredom can trigger very imaginative play.

My second answer is that they won’t be. Even if you scheduled most of your time, if that schedule includes a good deal of unstructured, free time—at home day, Free Forest School day, day at the park– your child is going to get a huge amount of variety. Just as your kid enjoys hearing the same story, so they will enjoy going to the same places. Life has a huge amount of variety on offer without us having to go out of the way to create it.

Please like and share this post.

What objections popped up in your mind while reading this? Please leave a comment. I would love to help you jump over that hurdle.

Something I’ll Teach My Children

I’m a woo-free natural mama. I don’t believe in the pseudo-science surrounding a lot of the prescriptions. I try to do my research, but I don’t “f**king love science.” I am not interested in raising my children to create a better, more caring world. I don’t care about the environment.

I am handling motherhood in a certain way and my son is being raised in a certain way so that I can feel good, and so that he can be strong and get what he wants out of the world.

I happen to have been raised without using much over-the-counter medicine and didn’t go to the doctor often because of who my mother is (thanks!) She isn’t anti-Western medicine—and neither am I. There are just a lot of things that can be done before you take antibiotics.

I am not pro or anti vaccine. I am not for “informed choice”. I am happy to be a free rider on the herd immunity that our nation provides. Nobody likes a free-rider, but everyone wants to be one. Our son will be getting some vaccinations; but that isn’t my point.

Whatever my choice, I will not be make it because I have a fear or autism or the heavy metals or cancer. It is because I can.

My children will be unschooled. This isn’t because, as many seem to think, because unschooled children are bastions of liberal ideology.

I am unschooling because I want my children to enjoy learning. I want to be the person to give them those opportunities. I want to influence their ideas more than other people. I want to have more say in their peer group.

I am unschooling because I want my children to be competent and confident in making their own decisions, and never have their curiosity taken way from them. I want them to remain in a growth mindset. I want them to compete on their own terms.

I am not unschooling because I want my children to take better care of the animals and the environment.

I want emotionally healthy children who are amicable, cooperative, and giving. To this end, I am raising them in the gentle parenting style, as advised by people like Dr. Daniel Siegel, the inventor of the field of interpersonal neurobiology, and Dr. John Gottman, one of the lead researchers in family systems, because I want my children to be able to get ahead in life. It just so happens that these skills are the skills of winners. While takers usually end up somewhere in the middle of the race of life, the givers end up at the top and bottom. I want my children at the top.

If, on the other hand, being at the top and being happy and fulfilled meant being ruthless and violent, then I would raise my children to be ruthless and violent.

While some might find this a dim view on why to raise my children in the way that I do, I find that ultimately, pragmatism towards one’s values carries you further than ephemeral ideas and reaching for the ideal. It is close to home that I want my son to be successful. It is much further away that I want Earth to be loved and respected so that it is a beautiful paradise for seven generations down the line.

The more abstract and idea, the less you get feedback from it in your environment. The less you get positive feedback, the harder it is to remain steadfast in your approach.

I will tell my children that we did all of these things because it is what felt good to us, and we thought it was the best way to make them strong and to want to continue a relationship with us in the future. I will make it clear that there is no shame in approaching things from a selfish angle, and the closer to home you make your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. These are a few among the many great lessons I choose to model—and later, discuss—with my children.

The Ultimate Career

“All other jobs exist for one purpose one, and that is to support the [homemaker].” -C.S. Lewis

What would you say to a person who was working 98 hours per week?

You’re crazy! You need to relax. Take time off. Spend it with family.

What would you say to a person who was putting effort into something they deeply loved and wanted for 98 hours a week–that is 2.5 full time jobs?

I’m guessing your answers are quite different.

Frames are how information is presented to us, negatively or positively. For instance, 20% chance of rain and 80% chance of sunshine mean the same thing, but they resonate with us differently. We use framing any time we deliver information. I can say 1 in 4 homeless people are women, or 3 in 4 homeless people are men. While they mean the same, they clearly put the emphasis on different parties.

We often accept the frames that we are sold. We might accept that we have to do well in school in order to be successful people. We might accept that love asks nothing. Or we might accept that because motherhood takes effort, it is the same thing as work.

Motherhood is a gift.

Does that mean that it isn’t tiring? That there isn’t a lot to do? Of course not. All things in life take effort. The question is whether or not that effort is worth it. Framing things solely in terms of hours spent doesn’t give us much information.

Man spends 40 hours a week lifting!

Boy spends 120 hours sleeping a week!

Child spends 2 hour in front of screen per day!

Woman spends 168 hours a week breathing!

How old is the boy? For a one-month-old boy that would be a reasonable amount of time. Does the man “lift” 40 hours a week because it is part of his job? Without any way to put these times into context, they’re meaningless.

Reportlinker did a survey about time spent cooking meals at home. It found that 23% of people said they spend more than an hour cooking each night. This may seem a huge amount of time. But a great deal of the people report doing it because cooking is a passion. These people aren’t doing a chore; they’re participating in their own gratification.

The average person does not have a very fulfilling job. Gary Keller says, “Success is getting what you want. Fulfillment is giving what you’ve got.”

Hal Elrod, an author and speaker says, “The more value that you give to people, the more value that you get out of life.”

All signs point to motherhood being very meaningful and fulfilling. It is out of line to compare someone working at McDonald’s or even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company with a mother.

We have been sold the frame that mothering is a curse on our brows, that being a mother is a million jobs tucked into one.

It is not. It is not 2.5 jobs.

You don’t always have to be happy. Things are allowed to be difficult. Life is hard.

But we don’t need to compare our effort as mothers and wives to careers. And we certainly don’t need to be martyrs that are bearing a cross. Unmartyr yourself.

When you believe that motherhood is a burden, it will feel that way. Most of the time, people portray parenting as torture—funny torture, that is eventually worth it, but torture nonetheless.

In fact, parenting can be pleasant. A great deal of the time. If you come at it from the right perspective and with the right energy.

More than ever, the mothering community is putting an emphasis on self-care. As well it should. We cannot afford to not take care of ourselves. And not just for ourselves, but for our children. We have to have the mental energy to re-frame a culturally constructed narrative that tells us that this is unpaid labor, when it is really our unpaid purpose.

No Praise?

In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the author Dr. Dweck goes over stories and studies reviewing the difference between people with a fixed mindset—people who believe that something is an innate characteristic—and a growth mindset—people who believe that with hard work, you can become more skilled at anything.

In the book, Dweck goes over how people develop fixed mindsets. You can prime people to get into one or the other easily. You can tell people that a skill is natural (fixed), or that it can be developed (growth). You can praise them for their ability or talent (fixed) instead of their hard work and effort (growth).

The worst effect of the fixed mindset is that effort becomes a bad. Effort is for people who aren’t naturally smart, who aren’t naturally gifted at sports, or naturally talented at art. To do well means to be good, effortlessly. If you put in the effort and you fail, it proves that you aren’t smart or aren’t talented. It doesn’t just mean that you haven’t done well, or that you need to try harder.

This leads people to do everything they can to defend their views of themselves, which means forgoing challenges and learning opportunities and opting for the sure-thing. Why challenge yourself when the best outcome is to prove something everyone already knows—that you’re smart or strong or artistically talented—and the worst is to show that you’re not and never were?

Having a fixed mindset means responding poorly to criticisms, shutting down communication, acting elitist, and feeling that you are less worthy when others show competence. It means valuing revenge over forgiveness, ignoring faults and flaws, and blaming outside forces when things don’t go your way.

Most people have a fixed mindset for somethings and a growth mindset for others; we might oscillate between one and the other depending on the day. I may have a fixed mindset regarding intelligence but a growth mindset in relation to artistic abilities.

This research done by Dweck is what motivates people to try to abstain from praising their children. I try to, but find it challenging.

The good news is that the common interpretation of the research is wrong. It isn’t that you can’t praise. It means that you have to praise them in a different way. You praise them for dedication, for effort, for perseverance, for growth; not for their accomplishments and abilities. You can also ask them questions about what they’ve done to acknowledge and validate their efforts.

Better still, the research all points to another heartening fact: praising your children isn’t doing permanent, irreversible damage. People have changed their mindsets on this issue many times, over many different fields. People change it quickly in a lab setting, and over time as they find that it isn’t serving them. The author even has tips to begin changing your mindset today if you want.

Would it be better to praise in a way that facilitates growth from the start and then only in that way? Sure, that would be beautiful. It seems that people who are in a fixed mindset end up very defensive. They covet their crown, and it leads to disconnection. Failure feels mortifying because it calls into question their worthiness as a person.

It is very natural to us to praise endlessly. We believe it helps confidence. But it doesn’t.

But sometimes my child really is just the smartest child in the world.

Still, I think we can lean towards these more productive compliments. It is much harder to not praise at all than it is to praise differently.

The more ingrained the concept of innate characteristics reigns in your family, the harder it will be to find it and root it out, but it can be changed at any time. Each time your child shows you something, it is another opportunity to set the stage for a growth mindset.
Journal Questions:

  1. What is something that I used to be bad at, but am now good at after hard work?
  2. What abilities do I think are fixed?

Practice

  1. Catch yourself giving destructive praise 5 times this week, and turn it into constructive praise.