When ‘as if’ starts to become reality

I’m reading Richard Wiseman’s book Rip It Up, and have been fascinated by the numerous studies linking facial expression to emotional moods in participants, from John Laird’s initial studies to studies around the world over decades, each with slightly different approaches yet gleaning similar results.

To summarise, smiling (or simulating isolated facial movements related to smiling, such as holding a pencil in one’s teeth) left people feeling happier (even if they weren’t sure why) and frowning or making angry faces (or again, mimicking aspects of these expressions) left people in more negative emotional states at the end of the studies.

This reminds me of something Gretchen Rubin often says, that the opposite of a profound truth is also often true. So pretending and acting happy isn’t the same as being happy…but can acting happy lead to real happiness? Continue reading “When ‘as if’ starts to become reality”

This, too: or taking the good with the bad

I recently checked out from the library Rich Hanson’s book Hardwiring Happiness, which is all about experiencing positive experiences in a way that impacts neural activity longer term. This helps us overcome our in-built negativity bias which, while helpful at tunes in our brain’s evolution, can be less helpful in the modern world.

One idea that is so simple, yet so transformative, is the fact that just as some good fact doesn’t cancel out the bad things in your life, the bad stuff doesn’t cancel out the good.

And taking in the good adds up. Continue reading “This, too: or taking the good with the bad”

I’ll take what I can get

I recently had the opportunity to put into practice some reframing.

That’s code for I was having a nightmare commute and it’s a good thing my 4G is patchy on the train or some poor soul at TFL’s complaints line would have been getting an earful.

It all started well but went pear-shaped on the track between West Ham and Canning Town. After spending 25 minutes getting exactly one stop closer to work, all Jubilee line trains were held in platforms while a mysterious “non-communicating train” at North Greenwich was – extremely slowly – being put back into the service.

It was a Monday, and the one day a week when my husband does the school and nursery run so I can get a full, normal day of work in. So I thought to myself, not only am I likely late for my first meeting of the week (and it’s a day of back-to-back meetings, so little room to manoeuvre here…), but I’ll have to make up the time elsewhere in my week when time is already tight. I’ve worked out my working/commuting/childcare schedules like an air traffic controller, so running 40 minutes late is not ideal.

I started to feel the exasperation and frustration rise, exacerbated by the sheer helplessness.

But I am pleased to say I was able to nip it in the bud. How, you might ask? Continue reading “I’ll take what I can get”

Parenting together and playing to our strengths

Have you ever been given the idea that you and the other parent of your children need to be consistent with one another as much as possible?

It can feel like becoming a two headed entity, and can often lead to friction when you don’t always agree on how to handle something that comes up in the quagmire that is parenting, like how to handle a behavioural issue or a challenging stage of your child’s development.

Well, I had an eye-opening interview with a parent as part of my research to better understand parents and the highs and lows they face. She said she advises new parents that they don’t have to do everything identically. In their child’s eyes, they are two separate people. The kid can understand that Mum does things one way and Dad does them another way.

She gave the example of a friend who got really upset because her partner had dressed the baby differently to how she does. They apparently had a big fight about it. But when asked why it mattered, the mother paused in her tracks. Did it matter if her husband dressed the baby differently?

Huh. Continue reading “Parenting together and playing to our strengths”

Understanding Parents

I’ve recently embarked upon a small research project to help me understand parents better.

I want to understand what challenges parents face, what needs they might have.

Why am I doing this, when I’m already pressed for time (like all working parents)? Why add to my already overfull plate of kids, work, volunteering, maintaining the household, writing this blog, and coaching on the side?

Well, there are a few reasons. Continue reading “Understanding Parents”

Wants and needs

It’s early in the summer holidays and already I can sense how the change in routine is impacting both my five year old and me. He’s been demanding – alternating between, “what can we do now?” and, “can I have a snack?”, usually while I am still cleaning up from the last activity/snack/meal we had.

And I’ve been feeling homesick. Well, I say ‘homesick’ but it is actually a mix between genuine homesickness for my small beach hometown in Florida; nostalgia for said-hometown circa 1989; and holiday wistfulness now that I tend to experience the place on holiday.

Sunrise in my hometown
Feeling homesick for my hometown, especially the beach

The prolonged heat wave we’ve enjoyed in Britain all summer creates a sensory reminder of Florida, and at first I thought that was the main cause for this mood. But I could sense something else at play.

I did some reflective work today to help me centre. A combination of breathing meditation, paying attention to my body, and journaling conjured snapshot images and sensations: drinking an iced coffee in my favourite beach coffee shop…the feeling of a storm about to break over the ocean… the feeling of a good full body massage.

Amid the random assortment, a truth surfaced: pleasure can act as a gateway to purpose if I know how to listen to myself. Continue reading “Wants and needs”