Gratitude Tip for Positive Parenting

Parents, have you felt any of these from your child?

– Unappreciated

– Misunderstood

– Disconnected

I did a few years ago. I felt this way with my teenager and it scared me. I had a sinking feeling that our mother-son connection was slowly becoming distant. This turned into a frustration within me that made me react to him negatively.  It was pulling us apart!

Poor Connection

Our one-to-one time became less and less due to our schedules.  When I did see him, he would be sitting in his usual spot – on the recliner in our family room with headphones on connected to his iPad. This made it more and more challenging to get his attention. At the dinner table he got into the habit of answering my questions with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” This concerned me because I didn’t know what was going on with him. It became difficult to get him to open up to me.

Crazy Worried Mind

My wild and crazy mind worried that he might turn to drugs or other dangerous habits that we sometime hear about in the news. I did not want this for him. I wanted him to know that I was there for him no matter what. I wanted him to remember how much I loved him and would do anything for him.  I remember in my desperation I would ask myself over and over these questions:

“What’s the best way to connect with him again?”

“How can I help him open up to me?”

“What can I do to bring us closer again?”

Simple and Powerful 

Fortunately at that time, while studying Positive Psychology (the Science of Happiness) under the direction of Dr. Tal Ben Sha-Har, I learned that the practice of gratitude can increase people’s level of happiness by 25%, enhance communication, strengthen relationships, boosts appreciation, attention, and awareness and so much more. I had to try it. I had to try the practice of gratitude at home. It seemed simple enough and I had nothing to lose. I was desperate! I decided that in order for it to work in my home my whole family had to do it. Gratitude had to become a natural culture in our home. It had to be a common language spoken and a way of thinking that we had to develop.  Even though it seemed to be such a simple and unappreciated gesture, I knew the impact that this technique can have on people who apply it in their everyday lives.

What Went Well?

The practice that I decided to implement was a simple technique that I learned called “What went well?” This simple question trains the brain to look for the good in a situation. It is a wonderful and non-threatening way to teach people appreciation and gratitude. It’s also the perfect way to teach someone how to become a benefit finder instead of being a fault finder.

Benefit Finder

Here’s how I literally “dished out” this gratitude technique to my family. Every time we sat down for a meal together I would casually ask, “So, I wonder… what went well with everyone today?” Then, I would follow it up by saying, “Let’s all go around the table and take a turn at sharing.” As you can imagine the very first time I introduced this technique my two older boys (and my husband) looked at me like I had 3 heads. But with persistence and consistency they got used to me asking the questions.

Surprising Interruption

To my surprise after a few weeks of applying this simple gratitude technique, my teenager, eventually started to open up and share more and more around the dinner table. It got to a point that he would interrupt his 8 year old brother, who can go on and on forever about what happened to him in school. He couldn’t wait to have his turn to share with us about what went well with his day—his “goods.” It was then that I felt that I got my son back. It was then that I started noticing him share more about his day through the benefit-finding lens of gratitude.

Powerful Parenting Tip

I am happy and proud to say that my relationship with my teenager is better than ever! Now he seeks me out to tell with me stories and jokes. He listens to me intently when I give him guidance.  I can’t tell you how much this simple practice has changed our relationship. In retrospect, while teaching my family about this principal it also affected me positively.  I noticed how my attitude towards him changed and softened because I started seeing him through a gratitude lens.

Thank You

My son has come so far. From barely mumbling his one or two word replies to me, before doing the gratitude practice at home, he has written me an articulate, hand written, one page letter to expressing his appreciation and love for me. Here’s an excerpt from the letter that my teenager gave to me during the Mother and Son Senior dinner before he graduated high school two months ago. It was with his permission I share this with you to further show how beautiful our relationship has become.

“Dear Mom,

…You see me for my whole when I only see me for my parts. For this I love you. Mom, you always saw my fullest potential and urged me on and though I may resist and procrastinate, I value your support especially as I move out to college.

Thank you.”

30-Day “What Went Well?” Challenge

Here’s a great way to try out this simple “What went well?” gratitude practice.

  1. Explain to your family that you want to do a 30-Day Challenge called, “What went well?”
  1. Let them know that “What went well?” will be asked during meal times (or anytime that your whole family is together.)
  1. Tell them that there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
  1. Allow them to share at least 2-3 things.
  1. Go around the table to make sure everyone shares.
  1. Finish the round by sincerely saying that you can’t wait to hear what everyone will share the next time.
  1. Be patient. Be persistent. Be consistent.
  1. Have fun!

For a summertime or holiday variation, ask your family one by one at the end of each vacation, what went well for them. This is also a great way for everyone to share and remember all the wonderful things that was experienced during the vacation. The more that is shared, the more it becomes special for everyone. The more special it feels, the deeper your appreciation and connection with each member of the family becomes.

Interested in learning more about how to apply the practical, proven, and powerful practice of gratitude to live your best life? Contact Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP, Health and Happiness Specialist™ at healthandhapppinessspecialist@gmail.com or call 617-433-8814.

Boost Happiness and Burn Calories within Minutes

This past weekend was full of laughter!

Last Saturday I started my 4 week Laughter Yoga™ class at a nearby yoga studio, and last Sunday was World Laughter Day. As a Laughter Yoga™ teacher I still get so amazed at the power of laughter and how it instantly transforms people. I love it when new participants come into my Laughter Yoga™ class with a perplexed, “I don’t really know what I am in for” kind of look. When I explain to them about what laughter is and how it can bring us to a place of oneness, they immediately see the genius in it. The reason why I wanted to learn this form of yoga is that it’s easy, playful, and non-intimidating. If you can laugh and take deep breaths then you can do it!


No Yoga Experience Necessary

It can be done literally anywhere. Further, it’s a wonderful way to get people, who are intimidated with the concept of yoga, to get the feeling of blissful mind-body-spirit connection that yoga delivers. Laughter Yoga™ can be done sitting or standing and with no yoga experience. I’ve had the honor of doing this yoga for stroke patients in rehabilitation centers, for seniors, for low income housing residents, cancer survivors, care givers, health care professionals, and even Harvard researchers!

As a nurse and a Laughter Yoga™ teacher I get invited to speak at corporate retreats, cancer survivor events, and hospitals. I really enjoy sharing practical information with people so that they can be inspired and reminded to add more laughter to their day. This exercise is perfect for those who can “use more laughter” in their lives.

Laughter Yoga word cloud with site-59210
Experts Seriously Studying Laughter

The science of laughter, Gelotology, is a field that has been getting attention from researchers since 1964. Researchers like Dr. Edith Trager and Dr. William Fry are the pioneers in this field.  In the 1970’s Norman Cousins, writer and magazine editor for the Saturday Review, was diagnosed with a painful and debilitating autoimmune disease. When his own doctors could not help him cure or manage his pain, he discharged himself from the hospital and checked into a hotel where he used high doses of Vitamin C and laughter to cure his disease. He found that 10 minutes of deep belly laughter gave him 2 hours of pain-free sleep.


7 Fun-Facts

Here are some fun and interesting facts about laughter:

  1. 1 minute of deep hearty laughter is equivalent to 10 minutes of rowing a boat or jogging!
  2.  Deep hearty laughter is an aerobic exercise.
  3. We can “Fake it til’ we make it.” Our mind doesn’t know the difference between fake and real laughter. We feel good either way.
  4. Kids laugh 300-400 times a day. Adult laughs approximate 50 times a day.
  5. It’s a social contagion. It’s catchy and people who hear it also benefit from the sound of laughter increasing the positivity in the environment.
  6. Deep hearty laughter reduces tension and boosts energy.
  7. Deep hearty laughter can boost the immune system.


LOL

Next time you find that you’ve run out of time to work out or if you are feeling low, why not try laughing? Start with a “fake” laughter and just keep going until you start feeling better. You don’t have to wait for someone to make you laugh out loud (LOL.) You can get started anytime. Remember, whether it’s fake or real laughter your body will respond to it and you will begin to release your stress and tension and pretty soon you will start to burn calories. Yes, with laughter you can boost your happiness and burn calories within minutes.

Interested in more ways to sustain a high level of positivity in your life, contact us at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com to find out. We can work together in helping you reach your dream of living a happy and healthy life.

The Secret Sauce to Resilience is…

I recently presented at the Cancer Support Community, MA South Shore, on a topic that is rarely talked about during the cancer journey: Gratitude. While it’s understandable that there is absolutely nothing to be thankful for when you or someone you know has cancer, there are ways to use this virtue to help you feel more victorious.

In the presentation, I shared a story about my mother’s cancer journey with breast cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer. A journey that never crossed her mind before because she had no family history of such cancers and had always made healthy choices in what she ate and did. My mother is still the healthiest person I know despite the cancers that she had.

Gratitude is the Secret Sauce to Resilience

2013 was the year that my mother celebrated being breast cancer free for 5 years, only to find out two months later that she had endometrial and lung cancer. Needless to say, 2013 and 2014 were the most difficult years of my mother’s life. Despite the fact that she remained strong in front of everyone, this was the period in her life that tested her spirituality and optimism. The only consistent practice besides prayer that she did to feel better was to be grateful for her many micro-moments of progress towards being cured; she said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. It was like breathing to her. She looked for any signs of progress—big or small—celebrated them, appreciated them. In other words, she mindfully used gratitude to feel better. Dr. Les Kertay was right when he said that, “The secret sauce to resilience is gratitude.” My mother uses the practice of gratitude as a way of feeling healthy and happy every single moment.

The Good Things during the Bad Times

My mother made her goals practical and simple. For many months they were: to feel good enough to move without anyone’s help, to sleep without bone pain, to taste her food, and to have her hair grow back so that she can look like a woman again in front of us (especially my father). It wasn’t until that time that I saw the power of gratitude fueling someone’s resilience and ability to feel good during bad times. Normalcy was what she strived for and not perfection.

How to Turn Your “Grrrr” Moments into “Grateful” Micro Moments

Not everyone is like my mother, who can find the good even during the tough times. She said “thank you” in almost every other sentence. While it was as easy as breathing to her, the great news is that anyone can learn gratitude. It’s a skill that requires repetition and a routine. According to researchers, the best way to cultivate a positive habit is to practice, practice, practice!

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Days – Try it for 7 days. If you find you like this practice continue for 2-3 more weeks
  2. Decide- What time will you be doing it? Pick a daily routine to practice gratitude.
  3. Document- Write your gratitude down on a pad of paper.
  4. Deed- Do a good deed and pass on your good and grateful vibe.

Try it and see how you like it. If you or someone you know are a cancer survivor or caregiver and need coaching on practical and proven ways to increase levels of optimism and resilience, contact Debbie Lyn at info@ultimatehealingjourney.com

PS: We would love to keep in touch with you. Please take a moment and enter your name and email address at the right to receive more tips and insight on living a healthier and happier life!

Thank your stress away!

Hello there!

Here’s a quick guide to use anytime you feel stressed throughout the day.

My mother’s recovery from her double cancer surgery inspired me to create this technique.  Two years ago—just about one month after celebrating being breast cancer free for 5 years—my mother was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and lung cancer. It was one of the worst years of my life, seeing my mother undergo so much physical and emotional stress from her diagnosis and myriad of hospital tests and surgeries.

As a nurse, I knew how extensive and painful her surgeries were going to be. As a daughter, I was afraid of losing my mother and worried about my father who always relied on my mother. While I did my best to be supportive and strong, “the nurse,” for the rest of my family and relatives, I had moments where I would just break down and cry. Ironically, that year the source of my strength, besides God, was my mother. I felt so much better every time I saw my mother. I recall how she would laugh at herself when her hair was growing back and I remember the countless of times I heard my mother say “thank you.” One of the most memorable times that we as a family said “thank you” was when she got the results from her endometrial, lung, and thyroid biopsy (yup, they found a suspicious area there too) that all of her cancers were not related. This meant that they were not a metastasis from her breast cancer.

During each of her surgeries that summer, I would hear her say, “thank you” when she woke up and was able to get up from her bed by herself. She would say “thank you” when she would have enough strength to walk from her bed to the bathroom all by herself. She would say “thank you” when she had a restful night of sleep without bone pain that was caused from her chemotherapy. Her days were (and still are) filled with thankful moments from morning to night. She uses gratitude to fuel every action and every thought.

My mother naturally used gratitude as a way to become resilient and to thrive after that long, hard summer.

Next time you feel stressed or scared, try this technique that I call Thank Your Stress Away.

Thankful

I hope you enjoyed this technique. Please share it with friends who might benefit from it.

Need extra support in managing your work-life stress? Contact me at healthandhappinessspecialist@gmail.com!

Cheers,

Debbie

Why Gratitude is Important

gratitude

Why Gratitude Is Important For Young Kids, Teachers and Parents

Everybody has something in their life to feel grateful for, but we don’t always have the time to appreciate it. There is now an increased awareness of the importance of having a positive mental attitude, and there are many reasons behind this. A mind which uses the belief that success will come is far more powerful when compared to a mind which has doubts and reservations. By taking into consideration the emotions which supply negativity, we can then begin to eliminate them from our lives, boosting our happiness and success.

Gratitude for Teachers

Many teachers will have a picture of their children on their desk, to remind them that they have something to feel happy for. This keeps them filled with positive energy, and in turn, this energy is passed on to the school children. As you can see, positivity is contagious, and it can have a huge effect on those around you if you utilize it to your advantage.

Gratitude for Young Kids

Children can pick up on our emotions, sometimes better than other adults can. Although they cannot always express this, it can really have an effect on their lives. For example, if a child attends a class which is positive and filled with opportunity, they will learn faster, be more engaged and they will also feel better about themselves through a positive learning experience. Although this form of gratitude isn’t the same as the example above, they will still feel the same emotion. Children don’t always know how to display gratitude, but by simply recognizing it, they can develop into thoughtful and considerate human beings.

Gratitude for Parents

If you are a parent, then you will certainly understand the concept of gratitude. As a parent, you may feel as though you are overwhelmed with your daily life, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have gratitude for the things around you, it simply means that you aren’t showing it through your emotions. By showing gratitude to your children, your family and your work colleagues, you can be sure to feel more positive about yourself because it makes you realize how lucky you really are.