One of my followers asked me “for advice on connecting to the body to give some respite from the chatterbox” in his mind. This is my answer. In long form. Because I know you all love homework. Yay for homework! I would say to allow the “chatterbox” to play on in the background without letting it stop you from engaging in your life. Let the radio play on while you continue to dance and sing! Acceptance and Commitment Therapy guru Dr Russ Harris would tell you that trying to argue with your thoughts is like having two radios on at once…aaaarrrrrhhhh no thanks! Unfortunately there is no off switch on our radios, human brains do not do silence. Even meditation is not about ridding the mind of all thought. It is more about focusing deeply and fully on the intention that you have made for the practice. So how do we turn the radio down enough for us to concentrate on living a full and meaningful life? Use your senses to get back into your life and out of your mind.
Spend some time just sitting with your emotions. Watching them with the curiosity of a toddler that is experiencing something new. Check out What is Mindfulness? to learn how to notice the sensations that accompany an emotion (heart racing, butterflies in your tummy, tension in jaw and shoulders, head pounding…) without the interpretation that goes with it (I’ve got to get out of here because this anxiety will make me do something stupid…there’s that feeling again, embarrassement, how can you be so stupid?). To make this process easier, try to imagine what the sensation would look like if you were to draw it. Would it have sharp edges or soft, floating edges? What colour would it be? Is it moving or still? Where is it sitting? Has it got bigger or smaller since you started watching it? Is it filling most of your body or only a little bit? To teach kids this concept, show them these short animations When You Worry and When You Are Worried…Fill Your Body with Bravery.
Once you have identified what the sensations look and feel like, you can give them a name. Naming uncomfortable emotions, thoughts and memories is thought to provide instant distance from them. It allows you to see them for what they are, just pictures, words and sensations in your body, that hold the power to impact the way you engage in your life and your states of mind…but only if you let them.It is perfectly possible to feel peaceful no matter what thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Don’t believe me? I have found my own peaceful bog, I know that it is possible. When you notice that you are experiencing an uncomfortable thought or feeling, label it in your mind. Simply say “that’s irritation”. I’ve found this to be one of my most powerful tools. When I acknowledge the irritation I can usually avoid the urge to react to it. It soon settles and I haven’t ruined any relationships or let the feeling escalate. Paradoxically, reacting to emotions in the way you “feel” like you should actually increases the emotion. If you react to anger with aggression, the anger then gets bigger because you are reinforcing it!
If you are experiencing any reccuring memories or thoughts, write them all down on a piece of paper and pick a catchy title to label your story. Some of my clients have chosen “The Hell Story”… “The Useless Piece of Crap Story Story”… “The Terrible Mum Story”. These all represented the thoughts and feelings that, although not true, were constantly bombarding these people because their radio was up so loud. They couldn’t hear any of the positive things that their mind said and they couldn’t concentrate on the positive things that were happening in their lives. Each time the thoughts or memories appear, simply say in your mind “ah there’s the Hell Story”.
Use the technique that we learnt in What is Mindfulness? and place the statement “I notice that I’m having the thought that…” to create some more distance from those pesky self-defeating thoughts.
Let it Be
Finally you can work on “Letting it Be”. Breathing is the best technique for this, find out why breathing is the bomb. Get involved in the #MindfulMay campaign on Facebook where we are doing a daily mindfulness challenge. Each of these daily challenges is a technique that you can use to get out of your chaotic mind and back into your life. Check out this short vid Coping with Thoughts and Feelings Using Defusion for some more ideas on “Letting it Be”.
Print out the pictures in the blog and create flash cards to stick on your fridge or keep in your wallet, to remind you to allow emotions to come and go. Fill in the blank flash cards with examples from your own life that tend to impact you the most.
The philosophy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is not to rely on a toolbox of techniques to cope with thoughts and feelings but to adopt a lifestyle in which emotions and thoughts are a natural part of being a human. Paying attention to what is right in the world through daily mindfulness and acting accordingly to your values rather than your “rules” in life will allow thoughts and feelings to have less impact on you.
Love and luck,
This round-up post includes my favourite reads for the week, parenting links, autism info, health and nutrition and mindfulness, all bundled up into a joyous summary of words bursting with epic convenientness. Yes I made that word up. This is why I will give you this list. All week I’ll do the hard work for you, trawling across the web world with my empty suitcase to fill it with fantastic resources. To gather other people’s wisdom, other people who don’t need to make words up because their blogs are better. So here you are. Enjoy xx.
Before you do anything else, watch this video.
See below under Autism for a summary of nutrition options for children who are not gaining healthy weight.
All parents should be teaching their children about special needs children that may be in their class or community. Do your bit to create a wonderful teenager and adult that is aware and accepting of differences in the world. Telling children that having autism is like trying to put an XBOX game into a PlayStation console allows their little minds to understand the concept of a different brain system.
Power of Moms
Give kids choices and they will do what you ask without realising it! “Do you want to clean your teeth first or have a bath?”
Amy McCreadie Positive Parenting Solutions
If the only thing you do for your children this week is to turn your negatively worded demands into positively worded instructions, I will be pleased for you. Please give this some attention It is basic human behaviour theory that we will not listen openly and receptively to a demand that starts with “don’t, no, stop” but will be thankful for an instruction that tells us what to do instead of the behaviour we are doing. Saying “don’t speak to your sister like that” doesn’t tell them what they should be doing instead.
See below under Autism for a summary of nutrition options for children who are not gaining healthy weight.
Sarah must have been reading my constant posts harping on about “grounding” More good anecdotes about how great it is to “ground” yourself
This Facebook album Autism Awareness Month is a summary of the daily post about autism in April.
Beautiful Joshua Littman
This is my FAVOURITE link for the week. Made me laugh, cry, fall in love. 12 year old Joshua, who has Asperger’s, interviews his mum about life. His way of thinking is unique and fresh. Please take the 4 minutes to watch this animation, it will warm your heart.
Nutrition options discussed on Laura Green Psychology this week
Children with autism often don’t get a range of nutrients due to gut issues and sensory issues reducing their diet severely. PediaSure drinks were recommended by a number of parents for helping kids get the nutrients they need when they have a limited diet. I’m not sure of the synthetics in these so check with a nutritionist first as many protein based drinks are not natural products and these ones do have artificial sweeteners. It seems to be full of sugar whereas we probably want to be giving these kids healthy full fats to stimulate growth not sugars that are tough on our internal organs! Perhaps there is a better alternative? However, the sugar in the drink makes it appealing to children and may be the only way you can get these other essential nutrients like magnesium into your child who won’t eat anything that will sustain his/her growth. Below are some links for PediaSure. Duocol may be a better option for children on GFCF diet. Also check with the doc about Periactin. I don’t know anything about it except it is an antihistamine (kids with autism often have a massive inflammatory response so this option may be doubly beneficial!) that increases weight gain and also induces sleepiness (so tripley effective if it gets them to sleep as well!) It seems that it may reduce the allergic reaction that the kiddos with autism get from foods (often don’t see this allergy as external symptoms but the kidlet will refuse the foods that interact badly with his/her gut, coming across as a fussy eater!) Carnation Instant Breakfast was also suggested as another option by parents and the link has some recipes.
Your Entire Body, Not Just Your Thyroid, Needs Iodine
This article discusses the impact of iodine on healthy brain growth in babies. It is a long article with lots of big words so I would just scan through and pick out the stuff that jumps out at you.
Neurostimulant ADHD drugs
Strattera has been approved by FDA as a non-stimulant drug for behavioural problems in ADHD and is possibly efficacious for autism and ODD. The article also discusses the efficacy of blood pressure medications and antidepressants in lowering brain hyperactivity ad aggression. No extensive long-term efficacy studies yet by the looks but the stimulants, such as your default drug Ritalin, cause so many other problems (the sleep issues and appetite issues in kids that already struggle with food and bedtime are particularly concerning) that I like the idea of non-stimulants. They seem to work to increase norepinephrine in the brain, perhaps similar to the beta-blockers described in an earlier post on my Facebook page. This reduces impulsive behaviours. But…norepinephrine, a stress hormone, has been previously found to be high in the blood of people with autism due to increased fight, flight or freeze responding, therefore might we not be over-loading a system that is already stimulated enough, increasing heart rate and amygdala response (emotion centre in the brain)? Have a read of the article, I’m unsure yet of my opinion!
Friendship Circle Blog
Great tips for the school holidays for keeping kids in a good routine and having a smooth transition to next year’s class.
Dr Russ Harris
Everyone who ever struggles with painful thoughts or feelings needs to read this book. Which means every human needs to read this book. We all struggle in our own way. Great intro to mindfulness.
Dr Ian Gawler
I love this book of simple meditations. You can flip through and stop on any page that catches your eye and seconds later you are deep in mindful awareness.
These CDs are incredible. So incredible that I have never heard the end of the night-time meditation because I have fallen asleep each time with relieving consistency.
We have been mindfully breathing, mindfully eating, mindfully showering, mindfully wriggling, and mindfully using our non-dominant hand this week. These tiny techniques can all be inserted into your day without extra time commitment or effort. Follow Mindful May on my Facebook page to get involved in the daily challenge or check out Pinterest and follow my mindfulness board by clicking “follow on Pinterest” to the right of the page.
That’s the rap-up for the week kids!
This round-up post includes my favourite reads for the week all bundled up into a joyous summary of words bursting with epic convenientness. Yes I made that word up. This is why I will give you this list. All week I’ll do the hard work for you, trawling across the web world with my empty suitcase to fill it with fantastic resources. To gather other people’s wisdom, other people who don’t need to make words up because their blogs are better. So here you are. Enjoy xx.
Parenting and Health
This is the next instalment of the easy-to-read parenting “manuals” from one of our favourite parenting authors. If you are a parent of a baby, kid or teen (or ten) Steve’s books are a must-read.
Let the Children Play
Playing in the mud has health, psychological, cognitive, sensory, social and pure fun benefits!
Acknowledge them. This is one of the first things I tell parents who are struggling with their child’s behaviour and emotional outbursts. If they are reacting emotionally they won’t be able to listen to your logic. It’s not that they just don’t want to listen, they can’t. Their brain is in fight or flight, it can’t access the front part of the brain that allows rational thinking to occur. This is the hard part, because you are the rational adult you need to bypass the thoughts that pop up at this point “he’s being ridiculous. She’s being a brat. She needs to cut it out. He needs to listen to me! I’m a bad parent if I don’t get him to learn from this.” No learning will happen at this point. I usually then discuss with mum or dad whether yelling at their littlie or shaming them during the incident has worked to reduce the behaviour. Almost always the answer is no, otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting in my colourful therapy room asking for my help.
Calm them first and teach/negotiate/discuss later. Acknowledge how they feel, tell them you can understand why they’d feel this way, reach out a hand or enclose them in a hug as they tell you how their life is ruined because you didn’t get them that chocolate. Once they are calm you can then enquire was there a better way of reacting? Was it the end of the world or did we all survived the incident? What can we do now to make this better?
Dr Payne Bryson & Dr Siegel
I love this book! I searched for it in iBooks and it magically appeared on my iPad. Perfect. It follows nicely from the above blog post. Appeal to the emotional brain first and then hit them with logic.
Health and Nutrition
My Health List
Why is banana one of the best things you could chomp on today? Have a read
Trying to sneak omega healthy fats into your daily diet? Find out how you can add Chia seeds to almost anything! I shove a big handful into my banana smoothie every morning and add hemp-seed oil, sunflower seeds and magnesium to get a balance of omega-3 & omega-6 which is important but not often known. Uber-health nuts (see what I did there?) will get an abundance of 3 but often not 6. Are You Getting Too Much of a Good Fat? I can’t rave enough about avocado either, but that’s getting off topic!
People ask me all the time, what do I think about curing autism? I couldn’t say it better than this mum.
Paula Tazzyman, Nutritionist
Paula suggests that, although there is no evidence to support A2 milk with ASD yet, families may like to trial this milk with their smallies on the spectrum before investing in the full gluten-free, casein-free diet.
A Quiet Week
This is a great insight into the emotional rollercoaster over the spectrum rainbow.
Dr Russ Harris
This video is a great intro to mindfulness and its use for anxiety.
Cheeky! I need to sneak this one in (it’s mine :O) because it is an introduction to mindfulness just in time for Mindful May. Follow Mindful May on my Facebook page to get involved in the daily challenge.
That’s the rap-up for the week kids!
Stressed and run down? Spend a little bit of time each day just grounding yourself. Putting your bare feet into dewy grass or the ocean allows you to shed negative energy from your body and draw in antioxidants! Free and easy!
If you want a technique for re-creating the benefits of Grounding no matter where you are, check out the video and learn how.
This technique may help you through panic attacks and periods of anxiety. It helps you to concentrate on staying present and being productive/living a meaningful life instead of getting caught up in painful thoughts and feelings.
It is a common mindfulness technique to be done with eyes open. It helps to ground your child or yourself, give the brain a break and make you better able to cope with your current situation or environment. Practise this when calm and prompt when a meltdown is coming, or when worries, sadness or anger are overwhelming.
Why is grounding good? Grounding gives you the skills to get out of your head and back into the present moment, to notice the wonderful things that you were missing while you were stuck in the horrible past or thinking about the scary future. It allows you to focus attention on something that will enrich your life and foster your well-being rather than drag you down. It also encourages good posture. Good posture is related to confidence and self-esteem and very importantly to proper breathing. An optimal passage created for air flow will promote optimal breathing and we know that breathing is the first line of defence for uncomfortable experiences; internal and external!
The mind continues to take us back to the past and attempts to predict the future in an elaborate problem-solving dance designed to get some control of our lives. What it often fails to realise is that the greatest power we have is in the moment. Ground yourself Tweet this little gem!
In everyday activities we build up static energy in our bodies. Especially, given most of us spend a lot of time around electrical equipment and technology like computers and phones. An excess of this electrical energy in our bodies creates an inability to process oxygen leading to feelings of depression, insomnia, nausea, irritability, exhaustion and headaches. Grounding offers a direct route to the earth which draws this excess energy out of the body and down into the ground.
The best grounding practice you can have is to spend a little bit of time each day with your bare feet in the grass or sand, noticing how this feels and enjoying the connection to the earth. Bare feet in the ground offers a direct route for passing this energy on. Water also conducts this energy, water is full of negative ions and thus is very attracted to the positive ions of energy that we wish to shed. Water therefore balances out our energy in a similar way to the earth. drawing it out of the body. Put your toes in the ocean or have a nice shower, paying mindful attention of the water running over your body.
To explain Grounding to kids, check out this vid Toby and the Time-Machine
I wanted to share with you real quick an experience I had this morning. I have been resisting this Myki crap for as long as I can until this morning it was rudely thrust upon me. I bought the damn card and topped it up with my hard earned cash, only to realise that it wasn’t even going to get me from Geelong to Melbourne. So I was in an awesome mood.
I got to Southern Cross Station to stamp my V-Line ticket for access to the tram. The lady at the counter looked at me blankly as I walked up and offered no greeting. Her “what can I do you for today?” somehow got lost in the dense space between us. I soldiered on, presenting my ticket and asking politely for a stamp. She obliged and still the silence and blank stare persisted. Usually at this point, and hubby would give a more apt description of my haughtiness, I would crumble under the pressure of my brain screaming at me “THIS IS NOT RIGHT WOMAN! Why is she in customer service anyway if she can’t even have the decency to look at me and greet me? WHERE HAS THE NOTION OF COMMON POLITENESS GONE?!!!” Generally, to the mortification of my non-confrontational husband, I would say something dripping in non-constrained sarcasm such as “thank you very much” and send her a death glare fit for the battle field.
I am proud to say that today another voice weighed in, quietly and non-assuming. “You don’t know what she is going through right now. You don’t know her story. You don’t know how her morning went.” You don’t know her story. So I fixed a smile and said genuinely and with as much compassion and cheer as I could muster with little miss haughty tugging at the wiring in my brain, “thank you, I hope you have a nice day.” I expected nothing, the silence could continue and I wouldn’t mind. But she met my eyes and her face split into a dazzling smile. “Thank you”. I beamed.
Lesson 1: Drop your expectations and you’ll struggle less with small daily experiences.
Lesson 2: Sometimes it is the quiet self we should listen to. Don’t get me wrong, assertiveness has it’s place, but only when you are sure of it’s deservedness.
Lesson 3: You don’t know their story. She was beautiful when she smiled, she transformed from the bitch at the V-Line desk into that beautiful Indian lady that stamped my ticket. All because of…
Lesson 4: Let go of what you think others “should” act like. Should’s can rule your life. Notice when you decide you should do a certain thing or s/he should….(care more, help more, be more…) Should’s are usually not helpful.
Lesson 5: Give your smile away very freely. You never know who needs it more than you.
Also, as a side bonus not only do you get the benefit of warm fuzzies on the inside from improving someone else’s day, you may just improve your own outlook simultaneously! You can create feelings of happiness through forced smiling. In Uni we did a disgusting research experiment that involved a lot of dripping slobber on desks. It showed that holding a pen in your teeth which forced the smile muscles into action caused us to rate cartoons and videos as funnier than the Uni kids who were holding the pen in a slack mouth not requiring the smile muscles to turn on. In short, turning the smile muscles on even involuntarily caused an increase in joy. Simple, effective, awesome. Try it! Come on now, I can see a smile coming ’round the corner, it’s doing 99 ’round the bend…and…there it is! Feel better? ‘Course you do, it’s science!
Please join me today (tomorrow, everyday this year, decade, century) and smile as much as you can. I dare you. Keep grinning.
Explore with your kids! Forests, rock pools, farmland, bush. Go on adventures with maps burnt at the edges and dipped in coffee to give that ancient treasure look. Have tea parties and create fairy lands with glitter and crushed up chalk as fairy dust. Make food art, real art, music art! Dance. Dance a lot! Sing in the shower so you role model love for life to your littlies. Find bugs and teach your smallies that bugs are fascinating not icky! Put aside your fear of creepy crawlies because kids will mirror your reactions. Be polite to others and they will too. Blow bubbles and laugh at your children laughing. Have water fights. Don’t be grumpy about dirt on their clothes, in your house, in your car. Is it more important to have a house that is clean that your friends and your mother-in-law can be impressed about or is it more important to have happy, healthy kids? Yes, mud is healthy!
Play “what do you think they are feeling?” when you go out to a café or park, surreptitiously pointing out other groups of people to help your child grow emotional awareness and empathy. Talk about injustices around your children so they know right from wrong. Try to recognise examples of injustice in the world even if you don’t care, you don’t want your child also growing up not caring. If you bring a child into your community I believe you have a responsibility to that community to create an accepting and justice-driven person, whether or not you value these things.
Make sure you go camping with them even if you hate camping, make sure you visit the beach even if you hate sand, make sure you provide a range of foods from different cultures even if you know you don’t like them, provide equipment for a range of different sports so they can test them out. Just because you hate footy doesn’t mean they will too! Give your child the opportunity at least once to experience everything for themselves, do not limit their experiences based on what you already know you like and don’t like.
Parenting legend Steve Biddulph would have given my parents the big thumbs up. Check out his ideas in the book “Raising Girls“.
“Meditation? You won’t catch me doing that hippie shit!”
Have you ever lost yourself in a song? Blocked out everything else until all you could hear was that riff, those lyrics, that drum beat. Of course you have. And that means you’ve already engaged in “that hippie shit”.
Mindfulness and meditation isn’t what you think it is. It isn’t the act of completely clearing your mind until it is blank. The mind was not made for this. But it also wasn’t made for the sheer enormousness of information we are now able to shove in there from modern access to the internet and advancements in hand-held technology. Mini-computers in our fingertips and pant pockets 24 hours a day lead to information over-load and constant ingestion of harmful ions. We do need to regularly give your brain a rest and if traditional meditation is too extreme for you, why not engage in something you already know how to do? Except now you can do it with purpose and regularity. Mindfulness and meditation is focusing completely, engaging fully in a certain feeling, sensation, value, lesson, or symbol. Being fully present. And this is what happens when you pause to engage fully in your favourite music.
So let’s do this shit…!
Flick on your favourite CD or a song that you have noticed really “speaks to you”. You know the one. The one that sends tingles of excitement through your body when you hear the opening notes. The one that reminds you of “that night”, “that era”, “that guy”. It can be jazz, pop, rock, symphony, grunge, alternative. Yes you can meditate to rock music! The rule is, there are no rules. If you notice your mind wandering off from your intended purpose, gently without judgement bring it back to focus. And the most liberating thing is…you set the purpose! You decide on the intention of your practice and monitor this as you go. I wish to relax and forget the stress of the day. If you sit down with this intention and listen to the music, you may notice that your mind drifts off into old memories and your body drops in relaxation and a smile drifts onto your face. Don’t be gruff with yourself for drifting off; you have achieved your purpose of relaxing and forgetting the day!
It does not have to be calming, Buddha-inspired music to create an environment of meditation. Choose your favourite rock ballad and meditate on the guitar riff, follow the piano in the chorus while blocking out all other sounds, identify and isolate each instrument in the piece. This will clear your mind of junk and bring sound beauty into sharp focus. Play around with different techniques to see which keeps your attention most fully. Focusing on all of the instruments may be too broad and your mind may wander too far, possibly enter “stress zone” again without your knowledge…
…what was that bill I needed to pay again…?
…aren’t I supposed to be somewhere right now…?
…I really should get dinner started…
…I wish I didn’t say that to Harry today…
Give yourself a clear intention, goal or task so you know when you’ve gone off track.
It may help to have an instrument that you always hook onto while meditating. My favourite is the piano, it can be much more subtle than a guitar riff or drum beat, therefore allowing a deeper concentration. If you always use the same instrument you will fall easily into meditation whenever you hear a good song, allowing you to utilise this simple calming technique spontaneously many times a day. When I hear the piano, I imagine colours and patterns bursting onto my mind’s canvas with each note. Every time you notice other instruments, acknowledge them with interest but gently find your chosen instrument again.
Although you can mediate to rock music, there is scientific evidence suggesting that soft music with calming melodies creates positive energy in your body. Masaru Emoto showed that relaxing music turns the water in your body into intricately designed crystals of beautiful shapes and colours. Heavy metal music creates dark and distorted patterns in your body water. Emoto also did an experiment that showed that mould was created by heavy metal music played to a cup of rice in water, whereas Mozart symphonies created pleasant-smelling fermented growth. Emoto would tell you that music choice causes physiological changes in your body. Given we are almost completely made of water it seems an important consideration. This effect was also created for pleasant and nasty words spoken to the rice cups. It matters what words you use to talk to people, so choose your words carefully because you don’t want to be responsible for dank, ugly crystals forming in someone else’s body.
As you listen to the music, imagine colourful crystals in beautiful shapes filling your body, pooling around areas of tension and carrying away the stress. If you imagine filling your mind with these crystals (which is actually what is physiologically happening when you listen to soft music!) you will block out all negative thoughts. There is only room for a certain amount of incoming information, if you focus physically on the body, the mind will get a rest.
Make sure your favourite CD is in the car so you can meditate on your way home from work, leaving the stress of the day behind. Have a routine where you listen to music while you cook, feel the sensations of the food beneath your hand, the different textures and temperatures, as you let the music push everything else out of your mind. You will be pleasantly surprised how much more enjoyable your chores can be if you engage in them fully! Lie down on a flat, firm surface and allow the music to wash over you, imagine it filling each body part in turn as your skeleton relaxes into the ground (this also allows gravity to gently settle your bones back into place after a long day).
Swing or rock side-to-side as you listen to the music. This helps to regulate the nervous system, there is a reason your mum rocked you as a baby…it will still work to calm you today if she established this link between relaxation and rocking when you were young.
Try it, you’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Keep singing and dancing,
Grab the sun with two hands when you stretch up as you walk to your car ready to start the day. Throw your bad energy out through your fingertips as you drop your hands down and feel energised as you walk the rest of the way to the car