Thursday, 20 September 2018

Practising thankfulness - why it can help you achieve a more positive life

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the hustle and bustle of daily life and lose sight of what’s important in our quest to get through each day. With World Gratitude Day just around the corner on 21st September, we take a look at how we can practise thankfulness and the benefits of doing do.

Every little helps

Being thankful is not just about celebrating the big successes. Gratitude is about recognising and appreciating even the smallest of things in life – like nature and changes in the weather. Throughout the day, take the time to acknowledge the little milestones and victories that you experience.

Find gratitude in your challenges

Thankfulness can also be found in the challenges we have faced; they have after all shaped who we are today. Even in the darkest of situations there is usually something we can be grateful for. Spending some time to review negative or difficult situations from the past can help us identify the elements of our lives that we are truly thankful for.

Be mindful

Spend just five minutes of each day living in the present. Find a quiet spot and think about the things in your day that you are grateful for. Consider each in turn and examine what it is about them that make you happy and why you are thankful to have them in your life. Getting into the habit of doing this every day, helps to 'rewire' the mind to focus on the small elements of life that make us fulfilled and whole, rather than constantly focusing on the big picture.

Give some of yourself to others

Many people find true gratitude in their own lives when they give their time freely to others. Volunteering in the local community can help keep us centred and make us more thankful for what we have ourselves. Helping others really does help us just as much.

Start a journal

Some people find it beneficial to start a gratitude journal, a place to jot down positive thoughts and images of the small things we hold dear in our lives. By writing things down or depicting them through imagery, we make them real and give them a value. Keeping a journal of all that we are thankful for helps us to focus our attention on the things that are important to us.

Practising gratitude is a way of reprogramming the brain to notice happiness in the everyday, rather than the constant quest for bigger and better. Studies show that it can take as little as eight weeks to change our habits to effect positive impact on our mindset. The brain is a wonderful tool and  deliberately changing its thought patterns can help us go through life with greater empathy and a deeper happiness.

Start now - think of one thing that you are grateful for and think about why this is. Does it make your life easier, make you feel a particular way, give you hope for the future, help you feel more in control? There are lots of reason why you may be grateful for something/someone in your life.

For five more ways to practice gratitude in your everyday life, have a look at this blog post from Psychology Today and this article from the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

How to spot the signs of stress in children

Much as we don’t like to think about it, stress can affect all of us – young and old. In today’s modern society, the pressures that we place on our children can cause them to feel overwhelmed and stressed, even though they may not know the words to accurately label their emotions.

A little bit of stress is natural and can actually act as a driver to boost performance and help us build resilience. However, in young people stress can be a scary emotion to work through and the way they learn to deal with the stresses they face can affect the way they think, act and feel long into adulthood.

In younger children, learning to form relationships with others and becoming less reliant on our parents can cause anxiety; for school-aged children the constant hamster wheel of school work and extra-curricular activities leaves little time for relaxation, which can be tiring and stressful.

Alongside these pressures, we as parents are often under a fair amount of stress ourselves which, like it or not, our children can pick up on. Issues such as hearing us talk about troubles at work, worrying about a relative's illness, or financial matters can all weight heavy on young people's minds.

A child’s own ability to cope with stressful situations builds as they grow older, but it’s important that we're able to recognise the signs of stress when they're younger, so as to help them navigate through their feelings and work with them to develop appropriate coping mechanisms. Sometimes children may not realise that what they are feeling is stress. However, often they will present physical symptoms which may include some of the following.

Changes in eating habits

Eating more or less than usual, especially the wrong types of food.

Headache and stomach pains

The odd headache or tummy upset should not be cause for concern, but reoccurrence may be a sign of stress.

Nightmares or waking in the night 

Sleep disturbances are a sign that the brain is busy, children may also start to bed wet or require night-time toilet trips.

Stressed children may find it hard to control their emotions, may display aggressive or stubborn behaviour, or may even start to withdraw from family / school activities that they’ve previously enjoyed. You can find out more about the signs and symptoms of childhood stress in this article by the American Psychological Association.

As parents it can be upsetting to see our child going through a difficult period in their lives, especially when they’re finding it hard to engage with us about it. That said, there is much we can do to provide the safe and secure environment needed to help them process their stress and build the resilience they need to cope.

Keep to your usual routines

Young people under stress find routines comforting. Sticking to your usual routines can have a calming effect, even if the child chooses not to engage with the activities on offer.

Do as I do

Children will mimic the behaviour of the adults they see around them and your child will look to you to replicate how you yourself deal with stress. Try to set a positive role model and handle your own stress in positive, healthy ways.

Make them feel wanted

Positive self-esteem helps children to combat feelings of stress, so if you feel your child is struggling, do what you can to build them up and praise them. Encourage them to take part in activities that they enjoy and are good at to help build up positive emotions to combat the stress.

More info about how to spot and deal with stress and anxiety in children >