Keep those lines of communication with your kids open- even when it's tough!
Sarah here. We hope that you enjoyed last week’s blog on the importance of silence. This week, we’re pivoting from silence to a topic that people often associate with silence: mindfulness. Although, spoiler alert, mindfulness isn’t all about silence. At this point, many people have heard of mindfulness, but they may not know what it is, why it’s helpful, or how to practice it.
The easiest way to understand mindfulness is to point out examples of mindlessness. Can you remember a time when you were driving somewhere and you zoned out, only to realize that you’d driven miles or maybe you’d arrived your destination? Another example that many people can identify with is mindless eating, which often happens while sitting on the couch watching TV or scrolling on a phone or tablet. Think of that automatic action of getting popcorn from a bowl or chips from a bag without even thinking, only to realize that you’ve eaten way more than you intended. Being mindless is about not paying attention to what you’re doing or how you’re feeling in the moment. Mindlessness is like being on autopilot.
What, then, is mindfulness? Mindfulness involves:
Unlike relaxation, mindfulness is not about a particular outcome you’re hoping for. Rather, mindfulness is just about being present and aware in the moment. It’s about being fully present in the here-and-now and about experiencing all of life- not just the thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences that feel “good” or “positive.” It’s about being okay and aware of whatever you’re feeling and experiencing in the present moment.
Now, before you roll your eyes and say to yourself that this is some hippy dippy touchy-feely stuff, hear me out. Research suggests that practicing mindfulness can decrease anxiety, depression, and stress, improve emotional and behavioral regulation, impulse control, and attention, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and pain management…and the list goes on. Mindfulness literally changes your brain for the better. While a lot of the research focuses specifically on mindfulness meditation, nonjudgmental and intentional awareness can be focused on anything- where you are (your surroundings), what you’re doing (an activity you’re engaged in), who you’re with (the people who are physically present at this moment) or how you’re feeling (your thoughts, emotions, and physical/bodily sensations). So, while mindfulness can involve meditating, it can also involve active engagement in daily life activities.
It’s a bit paradoxical that being present, opening your awareness to all of your experiences, and not setting out to change those experiences actually leads to so many positive changes. It makes sense. We spend so much time trying to avoid difficult or challenging feelings and experiences. Sometimes, when we just acknowledge what’s already there, it sets us free. If you and your family are new to mindfulness and want to give it a try, why not practice a mindful activity together? Some principles of mindfulness can be easier to learn using a concrete activity rather than meditation. Mindful walking and eating are great starter activities. Keep it simple and brief- no need to start with a lengthy exercise. Just focus on noticing, observing, and describing your experience, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. As an added bonus, you get to engage in activities together as a family and your focus is on being totally present and engaged!
Lisa here. I hope you enjoyed our series on communication. Hopefully you and your family have been experiencing healthier communication. Now, we’re switching gears. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about mindfulness- what is it and easy ways to incorporate it into your life. But first, a moment of silence.
How do you feel about silence? Does it make you nervous?
You’re not alone! Silence can feel awkward, intimidating or downright scary. You may worry that if you’re silent, uncomfortable or unpleasant thoughts and feelings may come up. So, you may try to avoid it. Do you find yourself constantly trying to find things to keep yourself busy, or filling silence with the sounds of TV, music, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.? Do you feel pressured to talk to fill silences during conversations?
Here's some good news, silence doesn’t have to be scary. Silence can also be peaceful. There’s power in remaining silent- it can be freeing.
Silence allows you the mental space to get in touch with your real thoughts and feelings. When you sit in silence, you have room to deal with things that you have been trying to avoid, you can problem-solve without all the background noise of daily life, or you can just give your brain a break.
Silence also allows you to fully take in and enjoy your surroundings. It’s one thing to be outside running errands, picking up your kids, or doing yard work. Your experience will be very different if you allow yourself to just sit outside and silently observe the world around you. Try it and notice the difference.
Silence can be golden if you let it. So even if you don’t love it, spend some time being silent. The great thing about silence is that it’s always available to you. You can be silent when you’re on your own, when you’re with others, when you’re about to say something you probably shouldn’t, or when you’re feeling the need to say something just so it won’t be “awkward.”
If you’re intentional about silence, you may start to feel different about it. You may even learn to love it.
Sarah here. We hope that you enjoyed last week’s blog on cross-generational communication. This week, we’re talking about another issue that can show up when we communicate with others: autopilot apologies.
What are autopilot apologies? They’re apologies that happen almost reflexively, without even thinking. People who struggle with autopilot apologies tend to apologize repeatedly during routine conversations, which may leave the listener feeling confused and wondering what the speaker is apologizing for. Consider this sample dialogue between coworkers:
Allie: “Hey, Mischa.”
Mischa: “Oh- I’m so glad you’re at this training too!”
Allie: “Do you need a partner for this exercise? Sorry to bug you.”
Mischa: “Um, yeah, I definitely need a partner. You aren’t bugging me. I don’t know many people here at the office yet, so I’m happy to see you.”
Allie: “Oh, okay. Sorry I’m so bad at reading situations. Ugh- I just dropped my pen. Sorry I’m such a klutz.”
Mischa: “Should we sit over there?”
Allie: “Yeah, that sounds good. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing though. Sorry if I’m not much help.”
Mischa: “Well, how about we just wait to hear what the facilitator says, and we’ll go from there.”
In that brief exchange, Allie said a whopping 4 apologies but it’s likely that Mischa didn’t think any apologies were necessary. After all, she seemed relieved that Allie approached her and that they could partner up, so Allie wasn’t bugging her. And since they were awaiting instructions from the facilitator, it wasn’t surprising that Allie didn’t know what to do.
In the previous sample exchange, Allie seemed to doubt herself and lack confidence. But there are many reasons people may fall into the autopilot apologies trap. Reasons for autopilot apologies include:
Regardless of the reason for the autopilot apologies, the good news is that you can do things to break out of this habit! Slow down. Breathe and take a moment before you speak. Ask yourself what you’re apologizing for. If you’re genuinely remorseful for something and it warrants an apology, then apologize. If, on the other hand, you didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t have a reason to apologize, then don’t. Remember, apologies are for times you have actually said or done something wrong, not just for times you feel uncertain or uncomfortable in a situation. Being mindful and present during conversations can help you be more aware of what and how you’re communicating. By being intentional in your communication, you can decrease autopilot apologies and make sure you’re actually saying what you mean.
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.