Being ‘Mindful’ of Our Mood and preventing depression

 

‘Busy’ is the buzz-word of our life and the current times.

You set the alarm, then lay awake checking emails on your phone. Race against time to keep pace with the morning. You catch up on the headlines, wish your cousin for her anniversary, plan the work day ahead, all this on your commute to work. In this bid to fully utilise every moment, and ensure a smooth and well-planned future, what you may be missing out on is the present – the here and the now!

This constant jugglery leaves us with our minds always full, but seldom ‘mindful’. The frenzy, deadlines, emails, grocery, bills and presentations – you try and keep pace with it all, many a times at the cost of your own health and well-being.

Globally, the prevalence of depression has gone up substantially, sufficient for it to warrant being the theme of World Health Organisation’s World Health Day on April 7 this year. Examining the Indian scenario in particular, a recent survey suggests that nearly one in 20 Indians suffered from depression (NIMHANS, 2016). Although typically presenting with pervasive sadness, it can also be commonly associated with anxiety, anger, impulsivity, loss of energy, a change in appetite, sleeping more or less, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Depression often coexists with excessive alcohol or substance use. In order to identify the most suitable treatment, an initial evaluation by a psychiatrist is required to establish the diagnosis, understanding factors that contribute to the condition and a treatment plan that includes psychological therapy to promote psychoeducation and lifestyle measures.

In view of these alarming statistics, there couldn’t be a better time to focus on ways to prevent depression and alleviate our well-being. Mindfulness practice is a powerful tool in this context.

So what is Mindfulness? Continue reading “Being ‘Mindful’ of Our Mood and preventing depression”

Know Your Parenting Style

The other day I was watching Slumdog Millionaire on television for the nth time, and it got me thinking. Here are two brothers – Jamal and Salim. Two brothers with similar genetics and experiences, and yet who are diametrically different in every possible way. Which evoked the whole nature vs. nurture theory debate in my head.

There is no doubt in my mind that we all our predisposed to be a certain type of individual, and that is what governs our personality. However the events we experience, the kind of exposure we get in life and our learning from those, also has a huge impact on shaping us. But which has a bigger role – our genetic make up or our life experiences?

Either ways there is no doubt each has a contribution to creating the individuals that we are. The more important point to remember is that we cannot control the genetic make up of our children, but what we can control is the environmental factors that might influence them. Have you ever thought about what is your parenting style and is it helping your child to get the right opportunities to be the best version of them?

Here is a quick quiz for you to help identify your parenting style. Don’t worry the responses and results are only for you to know.

Q1. Your son wants to start soccer classes, what do you do?
(a)You enroll him in a sports academy that has an alumnus of good performers, and make sure he does not miss out on any class.
(b)You ask him for further information and together go see a few places and then enroll.
(c)You buy him an entire soccer gear and enroll him in the best academy in town
(d)You enroll him in a class closest to home, so that he can manage the routine on his own.

Q2. You want to teach your child how to ride a bike. What do all do you get?
(a) A bike tow bar that connects his bike to your bike, so that you can monitor and train
(b) A bike with training wheels, and you could run along if required
(c) A balance bike and all the safety gear required, better safe than sorry
(d) Any kind of balance bike should do.

Q3. Your child got a 3rd rank in his class for overall performance, what do you do?
(a) Congratulate him and find out about the top two performers and discuss how to do better next time.
(b) Celebrate by acknowledging his effort and getting him a treat
(c) Buy him the latest toy and announce to all family and friends
(d) Congratulate him.

Q4. It is your daughter’s 10th birthday, what do you do?
(a) You know what your child likes, and have planned a party well in advance
(b) Your daughter shares her ideas with you, and you shop and organize a party keeping those things in mind together.
(c) You shower her with gifts in front of everyone at a large scale party organized by you for her
(d) You have had a busy week, so you buy her a gift and cake.

Q5. Your child is not feeling well and does not want go to school.
(a) You keep her home, and check with the teachers what she missed and make her catch up later at night
(b) You check for signs, and after observation keep her home and take her to the doctor if required.
(c) You keep her home and make her comfortable by indulging her with things she likes
(d) You give her medicine and send her to school. If she gets sicker the school will contact you.

Q6. Your teenager son wants a phone.
(a) Get him a phone as you can keep a tab on him now
(b) Agree but make him pitch in for monthly bills
(c) Buy the latest phone with all the accessories
(d) He has to wait till he reaches college

Q7. You go for a holiday with your family
(a) You have a pre-planned itinerary which involves activities for everyone that the family follows
(b) You have a list of must do’s, but take each day as it comes
(c) Others decide what to do, and you follow
(d) You spend the day at the beach while the rest can carry on with what they want to do.

Q8. What does your child wear when they go for playtime to the park?
(a) Completely covered from head to toe, so not to be bitten by mosquitoes or get scratched
(b) Comfortable clothes for easy movement with mosquito patches on them
(c) New outfits with a carry along bag with water and snacks
(d) Whatever your child feels like

Q9. If there is a complaint from school about your child’s misbehavior, what do you do?
(a) Reprimand your child in front of the teachers and later punish him or her
(b) Find out the details of the incident and address it privately with school and your child separately
(c) It’s obviously the other person’s fault; your child can do no harm.
(d) Things like this happen in childhood so ignore it.

Q10. What are your expectations from your child?
(a) To be successful
(b) To be compassionate
(c) To be happy
(d) To be independent
Results:

If you scored mostly A’s on your responses then it means you have an Authoritarian Style of Parenting. This is mostly seen in adults who like to be in charge and confident of themselves in making choices. They avoid situations, which are ambiguous and prefer clear straightforward things. Due to their confident personality they tend to instruct others, without providing any explanation. They also believe in hierarchy and hence do not like to be questioned. Hence this style of parenting is characterized by strictness and high expectations by the parents. Although the children might trust their parent’s choices, they feel a sense of lack of freedom to make their own choices. They might also become dependent on their parents instead of being self-reliant. The relationship between the child and parent can be described as controlling. Despite excelling maybe in academics or other activities, the effect on the child is that he or she grows up to be fearful, moody, and aggressive and having a low self esteem.

If you scored mostly B’s on your responses then it means you have an Authoritaritative Style of Parenting. This is mostly seen in adults who are open to other people views and thoughts. They have a global outlook to life, where everyone has a say. However they can be assertive when they feel something is not right. This style of parenting is characterized by affection with assertiveness. Although the parents help children become more self reliant, and make choices, they intervene and set boundaries when required. Hence, the children feel comfortable to make their own choices, with appropriate support and direction from their parents. The relationship between the child and parent can be described as reciprocal. The effect on the child is that he or she grows up to be happy, successful, mature and confident.

If you scored mostly C’s on your responses then it means you have a Permissive Style of Parenting. Adults who struggle with asserting themselves, and state their opinion are know to display this style of parenting. They tend to avoid confrontational situations, and please and appease people more to maintain peace. This style of parenting is characterized by a non-demanding lenient way of parenting. The children feel free to make their own choices with no restrictions. The relationship between the child and parent can be described as indulgent. The effect on the child is that he or she grows up to be insecure, demanding, self involved and aimless.

If you scored mostly D’s on your responses then it means you have an Uninvolved Style of Parenting. This style of parenting is characterized by an indifferent and detached attitude. Usually the adults with this style of parenting, tend to be more involved in their own life experiences and events. They usually struggle with attending to other people’s emotional needs. They find emotions complex to comprehend and understand. Children of such parents feel their choices have no impact. The relationship between the child and parent can be described as rejective or neglectful. The effect on the child is that he or she grows up to be rude, unpredictable, anxious and clingy.

Definitely parenting styles our linked to our personality traits. And these traits have been almost made permanent due to our past and present. But once we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses, we can use them to our advantage, and maybe mould some of these traits. So honestly answer this quiz to know your parenting style, and reflect on it. Do you want to tweak it? Then wait for our next blog on where we talk about how to be emotionally tuned into your children and creating an everlasting bond.

The Warm Glow of Gratitude

In this cold North Indian winter, as many of us hibernate (or at least wish we could!), the mind (which definitely has a mind of its own) decided to seek warmth in its own way. So Mr. Mind (or Miss if you prefer) sunk into a patchwork quilt of memories.

Talking of memories, around the start of the New Year, we explored the idea of Positive Psychology – http://www.circleof.life/blog/introducing-positive-psychology/. We had then touched upon the various building blocks or themes that are part of this discipline; one of them being gratitude.

So as my Mind went down memory lane, there was a realisation that life offers so much to be grateful for! There were recollections of many a situations (which had seemed quite stressful when they happened), all beautifully woven into this quilt of memories. That’s when it struck me how gratitude makes life more beautiful, the ‘warm glow of gratitude’ as some say.

Intuitively, we know it feels good when someone thanks us. In fact, there are positive feelings associated with being thankful yourself. It’s almost like a gift – both giving and receiving one (assuming there are no strings attached) bring joy. For those of us who are quick to admonish anything fuzzy or feel-good, and are sticklers for hard facts, there’s good news. Research* has abundantly built the case for a multitude of benefits associated with gratitude. Gratitude has been linked with reduced pathology, more optimism, life satisfaction and positive emotions. It has also been associated with better relationships (no prizes for guessing why!) What’s more, there’s preliminary yet promising evidence for neurological impacts of gratitude on the brain (e.g. Jarrett, 2015). Specifically in the school setting, research suggests that practicing gratitude offers gains for both students, teachers and the overall school climate (Chan, 2010). Further, in line with the maxim of good begets good, gratitude too is known to multiply and encourage reciprocation.

Like many other good things that seem almost natural to us, the feeling of gratitude too tends to get lost along the way as we deal with the ‘busy’ness of life. And that’s why reminders like these could come in handy. So here’s urging everyone to pause a moment in gratitude. Sure, it doesn’t always have to be a formal expression or about saying it out loud. Gratitude can be felt and expressed in many ways. Write your diary, return a favour, offer a prayer, treat a friend, count your blessings … whatever works for you. It just helps shift the focus to what you have rather than what you don’t.

And to those of you, who are still reading … Thank you! 🙂

References:

* Research referred to here includes Chan (2010), Emmons and McCullough (2003); Froh et al. (2009, 2010); Layous et al. (2014).

One Team?

A brightly lit up room, lots of sun pouring in through the big windows. Beautifully colored pictures made by children were hung everywhere on the wall. A few crayons and puzzles lay scattered on the floor.  A big round table in the centre of the room and 6 adults sat around it. Everything about the room was happy, positive and nurturing, and yet the moment you walked in you could only sense anger, resentment and frustration.

Principal: I am so glad we all have come together today to discuss how to help out Abhay. He has been struggling a lot in school, and hopefully we can work out a way to help him out.

Followed by a long uncomfortable silence.

Psychologist: Let’s start with what are the exact difficulties he has been having at school, and maybe we can come up with ways to manage those?

Class Teacher: He just does not follow any instructions. Does not sit in his seat. Does not want to do his work. If you say anything to him he starts crying and hitting. I have to call the counselor, and she has to take him away.

Counsellor: Yes he spends maximum time with me. It is becoming very difficult to keep him in class.

Father: He does not hit at home. He follows whatever I ask him to do.

Class Teacher: Well he hits other children here. And other parents have complained also.

Mother: I have been helping him with studies at home. If you can just make him sit in the class. Don’t worry about academics. I will teach him at home. I will make sure he does all the homework too.

Principal: Yes, but we have so many children to manage, and it gets difficult to give him individual attention. And we have to worry about the safety of the other children too.

Father: He can’t be sitting at home also. What should we do? He is showing these behaviors at school so you should handle.

Counsellor: It is not possible he is not doing anything at home. And you have to be equally responsible for his behaviors. We have tried different things, rewarding him, giving him time out, lesser curriculum, but nothing seems to work. He needs consistent therapy to help with his difficulties, and then maybe we can help manage them further here.

Psychologist: The parents did approach me for that. There are definite concerns, and these have been explained to them and for which they are seeking intervention. However, it takes time for the child to build skills. Meanwhile, we need to create a safe learning environment for him, where he can practice these skills. For that we all need to understand where he is at currently. How he behaves and copes in different places and with different people, teach him appropriate skills, and maybe unlearn some inappropriate skills. That is why I am here today, to help all of you for the betterment and healthy development of Abhay.

You would think at this point, we could say everybody agreed and some decisions were taken, and all was well. Sadly this is not a Disney movie.

One of the main occupational hazards of working with children as a Psychologist is being pulled into fights between schools and parents. Both parties might have the best interests of the child, and might have ‘right’ point of view too, but it does not make it easy to collaborate. The practical limitations of these roles, along with understanding of the child and of course your personal interpersonal skills have a major role to play. I think we manage to remember to not judge the child and his difficulties, but what about us? The starting point to any collaboration is not judging the other adult involved and keeping in mind what their skill sets are, and what they are capable of achieving. But most importantly do not get into a blame game; take responsibility of what you yourself can do. Don’t pass the buck, and don’t forget the goal.

As part of our ongoing initiative to promote collaboration between schools and parents towards the shared goal of better child outcomes, The team at Circle of Life recently facilitated two workshops titled Forging a better School-Parent Partnership using an Emotional Intelligence Approach, (http://www.circleof.life/gallery), which was attended by school leaders and teachers from schools across the country. We also provide ongoing Parenting workshops and individual sessions for parents, along with school mental health programs. For further information, please write to us at contactus@circleof.life or call us at 8800116695/0124-4113166.

 

 

 

Taming the Exam Stress Monster

“Yippie – my exams are round the corner!”

                             – said no student ever. 😀

As the ‘E-Days’ come close,
They bring along stress…
… adding to our woes.
Heaps of notes, many (unread) books,
Anxious phone calls – worried looks.
Hurried days – sleepless nights,
When its exam season, schedules sure are tight!
Burning the midnight oil,
Staying up all night.
Catching a wink in the wee hours,
Waking up with a fright.
Making a dash for the school bus,
No time to grab a bite.
Anxiety coupled with a rumbling tummy,
To the rescue – a jumbo bag of fries!
(Oh …aren’t they always yummy J)
Getting past the school day,
… Homewards we return.
And there we are met,
With parents’ overwhelming concern!
Exam time – there’s lots to do
But days & hours just too few…”
Oh dear Lord…
It ain’t just the young ones…
Mommy – daddy are often hassled too

Exam season leaves many of us feeling blue!

 If you or your child is at a stage where exams are round the corner, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about, E-X-A-M   S-T-R-E-S-S. This phenomenon has become so pervasive that for many of us the two words are almost synonymous!
To begin with, it is important to understand stress and when it becomes a problem. Exams per se are not stressful, it is how we perceive them that makes them so. Stress by itself isn’t a monster! Some amount of stress is actually essential to help us perform optimally (think of a laidback sportsperson on the field, or an indifferent student with no concern for exams). It’s only when stress begins to harm us that it becomes a problem.
Once we are aware of stress and how it impacts us, it’s time to take charge and take steps to manage and reduce stress as much as possible. Going forward we offer you some evidence backed tips and strategies to face the challenge.

Healthy Habits – Ensuring proper sleep and nutrition is of utmost importance. Missing out on either may seem like a time saver but it has serious pitfalls.

Relaxation and leisure need not be forgotten during exam season. Breaks taken in moderation are important to keep us on track.

Setting up a study schedule (realistic and consistent) keeping in mind preferred time and place for studying can go a long way in bringing out your (or your child’s) best performance.

Social support – sharing your concerns with trusted, reliable friends and family members is a good idea in case stress seems to be getting the better of you.

At the end of the day, exams need to be viewed in the right perspective. They are milestones in a journey, not a destination by themselves. Once we can do that, half the battle is already won.

At Circle of Life, we offer workshops on the theme of Managing Exam Stress. You can get a glimpse at http://bit.ly/2jPBnaI. If you’d like to participate in/organize such a workshop at your child’s school, please write to us at contactus@circleof.life or call us at 0124-4005000/ 8800116695

All the best!

Rethinking Reward & Punishment

The dog barked and the baby cried,

To pacify them both, poor mommy tried.

Then she heard her sonny boy yell,

Before he loudly rang the doorbell…

… Meanwhile the milk boiled over,

And the pretty tea cups fell.

The scene seemed like a slice of hell!

& then mommy gave sonny boy a tight slap on the chubby face,

In a blink, things seemed to fall into place!!!

Did your heart just go out to the poor mother (or the child for that matter?)

Harried parents looking to manage their kids amidst a packed routine often resort to punishment (and rewards) as their ‘go to’ tricks to discipline children. But does this carrot and stick policy actually converge with our parenting goals?

For a moment, take a step back and think about your primary goal as a parent. Is it to raise a happy, healthy, responsible individual or simply to make your child behave the way you consider best?

While the latter may often seem as a means to achieve the former, the problem arises when we begin to miss the wood for the trees. It is important to acknowledge that rewards and punishments often stem from the desire to control children. It would be more constructive if we try to work with them instead.

Now before you dismiss this piece as another prescriptive write up by someone who is not in touch with reality (and clearly seems to have free time at hand!), please allow me a moment. Let me admit at the outset that parenting is no mean feat and I won’t dare to offer a quick fix recipe to success or a list of do’s and don’ts.

However, it is important that we curb the urge to parent in auto-pilot mode and pause to examine the rationale and potential pitfalls of our strategies (rewards and punishments in this case). For one, we need to wrap our heads around the fact that no matter how much we may try to guide them, children will make many decisions in life on their own, as young people with a mind of their own. With this in mind, let’s rethink reward and punishment.

The problems with punishment seem quite obvious. Punishments are acts of withholding love and manipulating a child to achieve the desired behaviour (no playtime if you don’t study for an hour). What’s more, punishments could distract children from the real issue (the importance of studying) and focus only on the consequences and how to escape them (lying about having completed home-work).

It is the problem with rewards them may seem less apparent. For one, over-reliance on rewards can hamper a child’s inner motivation to do something for its own sake (e.g. helping their sibling just because…) but instead only for attaining something extrinsic (a gift, a treat etc.). Consequently, children may engage in ‘good behaviour’ only when it promises a treat and not otherwise.

As a parent, you deal with a multitude of issues on war footing every other day. Of course, there will be situations that call for a prize and those that need to be sternly checked – it’s the habitual carrot and stick approach that calls for a rethink. Think about it!

References:
Unconditional Parenting – Alfie Kohn
Between Parent and Child – Dr. Haim G. Ginott

My Angry Child and Me

This month I was invited to give two talks at two different events on two very diverse topics. Yet in each of the events the queries were the same, ‘I don’t know how to handle my angry child.’

Most of my parenting sessions and workshops always end up revolving on how to contain a tantrum. The questions and statements are usually similar. “If you say NO, he starts shouting.” “She is very stubborn, only wants her way.” “He starts crying and screaming”. “She hits me”. Amazingly irrespective of what the cause is, where it occurs, how old the child is or what the parenting styles are, the strategies rarely change.

As adults why don’t we throw tantrums, lie down on the floor and scream, start acting out, when things don’t go our way. Maybe we know the cause of the problem, and are able to contain ourselves and then start to resolve these issues. Mostly we communicate – vent out to friends and family, express our displeasure appropriately, or just say NO. When children are acting out, even they are communicating, in the child like way that they know best. It is our job to decode it and help them identify the problem and find better ways to express and also problem solve.

So let me give you some quick tips on what you could try when you find yourself in a difficult situation with your child. Firstly, you need to be quiet and calm. You need to embody and model the behavior you want your child to display. Literally sit down, make eye contact – show to your child you are there in that moment with him or her, and you are listening. Secondly remember it is not a power struggle. So use few words, don’t get pulled into an argument. Do not react, but respond to your child. Instead of saying things like ‘what were you thinking?’ you could say ‘I am going to help you with this’.

Incase of defiant behavior, abusive language, physically aggressive acts, you need to set limits. It is okay for your child to feel a certain way, but it is not okay to say or do hurtful things to another person. If your child is bodily agitated, physically calm your child by hugging them or holding their hands and giving gentle pressure. When using foul language or loud voices, remind them to speak in a calm voice. Saying ‘I can’t understand when you scream’ helps. Or ‘I will listen if you tell me without using bad words’.

Many times when children get belligerent, it gets difficult to contain them; we resort to the time out strategy. Which in theory is that the child is sent into a corner, or sit on a chair, or sent to the their room for some specific set of time. I am more of a time in person than a time out. Time in meaning I prefer to stay with child until they calm down and then talk to them. But sometimes instead of the child, we parents need a time out. When you have a screaming child around you tugging at you, pulling you or hitting you, it can get difficult to remain calm. Hugging is my go-to then. Hug it out; it is like a magic spell that instantly helps both to calm down.

But I definitely use time out with the child when they are exhibiting unpleasant behavior. Also at times when children are physically hurtful, I feel it is okay for the parent to walk away. It acts as a visual reminder that it is not okay to hurt others. So this would mean walking away (but making sure your child is safe), or distancing myself but still being in the same room. However when I do use time out, I always say out loud – ‘You are hurting me, when you are calm we can sit and talk’. This helps the child identify the ‘wrong actions’ and not feel guilty about the way they are feeling.

The final part is follow up. Many times once the crises is averted or resolved, we forget about it. It is necessary to follow up on what happened, why it happened, and if you made some promises on doing something, get it done. It is the happy calm times, which serve as the best opportunities to reflect on what happened, and what can be done better in the future. It is your window for skill building for self-awareness and emotional management. Identify ways to resolve issues that occur repeatedly. Identify key words that help to hook your child when they are troubled. Identify scenarios when mama and papa say no or certain actions or behaviors that are not okay. Identify calming strategies like deep breathing or counting, which you can remind your child to apply. Many times children throw a fit just to get our attention, if you have applied the first two steps, you might have already succeeded in abating it.

So yes in short – be there with your child and respond mindfully, but set limits for bad actions and follow up later. All the best!

Nighttime Routine for your Baby

I am a developmental psychologist and a parent coach, and a parent. If you think the former makes it easier for me to be the latter, then you would be so surprised. It definitely helps me to be more self aware as a parent, and not make some obvious mistakes; but when it comes to real life problems, just like all parents I too face the challenges.

When my daughter was born everybody told me you can say bid farewell to a good night’s sleep, and I was so certain in my head that I shall find my way around this. The overconfidence of a new mom. It’s been 15 months and I am still sleep deprived.

There are a zillion articles on the web of the things we can or should do to help create a healthy night routine. Many work, many are impractical and many just don’t suit us. So today I won’t lecture on the same. But I would love to share my insights on some struggles I had.

 

Infancy:

So from the very beginning we did not let our daughter sleep in our bed. A personal choice, that we want our comfortable space especially when you call it a night.  So we got her a bassinet. And though swaddling is highly recommended, she hated being covered or wrapped in any form. So we just bundled her up well at night, so that she is warm but does not feel uncomfortable.

There are many known practiced ways of childcare, but sometimes they do not work for our children, so find a way around it. Try to understand the reason behind the tried and tested rule and use that in a different way. We need to adapt to the needs of our child.

Where the struggle lay was winding her down and putting her to sleep. We live in a house bustling with high energetic loud people with equally loud activities going around. And of course that is ingrained in her. So the trick was to practically help her transition into sleep mode. Again knowing your agenda is important, but executing it as per the baby’s likes and dislikes is the key. So yes we would go into a dark room with a night-light, but no we did not listen to lullabies. I would cuddle her firmly in my arms and dance to a music that had good beats. Well I am a dancer; my husband is one, so I guess she has it in her too. So we would dance, it made me happy and not frustrated about being stuck in the room.

Maybe the happiness and love she felt in those moments might have relaxed her. Which brings me to an important point; we need to aware of our feelings in that moment. There will be days when we don’t want to do it, there will be days when the baby refuses to sleep and the crying does not stop and so on and on. Our babies feel the anger and frustration in us. And they can sleep only when they feel safe. So at times when you can’t do it, it is okay to break the routine and let her stay up a longer, or you need to take a breather, or even ask someone else to do it. Take care of yourself and make sure you are in a calm state of mind. There is no point persisting when you are fighting a losing battle.

Toddler:

This is the time when I started to train her to fall asleep on her own. I think now it was getting tougher to spend hours putting her to sleep. I think it was more my need then her’s. And I think that is okay. So again we would go to our room and I would put on the night-light, but now I would let her just play on the bed. After a whole days work, childcare and housework, this was my quiet time and space to tune out. I would literally lie on the bed, while she played around next to me. And she was content too, having me by her side, not busy with any work. Again that feeling of security. Once she would start tiring down, I would then hold her in my arms, exactly for 100 counts and then put her into her crib. I would stay in the room till she would fall asleep. And then leave. 15 days of this consistent routine, and my baby started sleeping on her own.

The annoying part is that in the initial years the transitional phases continue. As they grow bigger physically doing things for them becomes difficult, their activity levels increase, the amount they sleep changes, the separation anxiety kicks in and the list goes on. So you need to be aware of these changes, be aware of what your are doing and being mindful of what works for you and your child. I think the basic guidelines are feeling safe, and consistency and routine. But most important also making sure you are doing something that is practically sustainable.

We have recently shifted our daughter’s crib into her nursery. That has created a little stir. So as of now we are creating a new routine for her. But we managed all the previous stages so we are confident we shall manage this too.

Introducing Positive Psychology

“Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’, and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.”

– said a wise man I do not know!

I couldn’t agree more. News bulletins and newspapers abound in stories of death, destruction, violence, and mishaps.  Why just blame the news, research has in fact shown that mere mortals like you and I are hardwired to register and recall negative events with greater likelihood than neutral or positive events. This is what is called the negativity bias.

With holiday season round the corner, we could all do with a dose of cheer and positivity. So this seems like a good time to talk about Positive Psychology. Oh sure, that’s nothing new – aren’t our newsfeeds and mailboxes flooded with pearls of wisdom of the ‘Think Positive’ variety? If I had a penny for every time I received a preachy message set against a scenic picture, I’d be Ms. Moneybags by now!

Let me take a moment to clarify that Positive Psychology is in fact serious business.  While treating grave issues involving pain and suffering with great importance (which is essential), we tend to discount happiness and well-being as relatively frivolous pursuits.

Alternatively, we mix Positive Psychology with untested self-help, and anecdotal statements (Keep smiling! Choose happiness! ). Now I don’t want to be the grumpy Grinch in holiday season; these quotes and messages are great too if you enjoy them – all I wish to say is that there’s more to Positive Psychology. It is a scientific discipline – one that is rooted in evidence and subject to research and testing. Let us not forget that the plural of anecdote is not data. In the words of a wise man I do know (eminent psychologist Christopher Peterson, 2008) – ‘Positive Psychology studies what makes life most worth living.’

Having said that, Positive Psychology does not advocate looking at life through rose tinted glasses. It acknowledges both wellness and disorder/suffering as realities of life and aims to supplement healing disciplines.  It looks at human strengths and goodness – what makes life good and better. This science deals with how individuals and communities may flourish, beyond just existing or relieving suffering. Constructs like gratitude, forgiveness, character strengths, life satisfaction, flow and resilience are some of the many building blocks of Positive Psychology.

It is not just feel-good theory but something that can be practiced as part of everyday life. It is as much about touching feelings and emotions as it is about moulding behaviours. For those of us who feel it is just an elusive elixir or a fleeting fancy, let us remember that the good life is hard work. Once you set out to imbibe principles of positive psychology in your life, the returns on investment will be rich and rewarding.

With the New Year nearly upon us, the time seems apt to open up to and adopt new ideas for assimilating positive psychology in our lives. And yes, no miraculous results promised! It’s the small steady steps that make a difference.

Till next time …

Reference:
Psychology Today: What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not?
By Christopher Peterson (May 16, 2008)