A drop in a bucket- InterChange Begins!

Have you ever thought something started out so small that surely it wouldn’t go anywhere? Well, InterChange has officially begun with one penny!

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A drop in a bucket (or one penny) can begin a might river that can move mountains. I only hope that InterChange can have the impact that I know is possible.

When we practice mindfulness for at least a minute, put a penny in a container. Decide on a charity to donate the pennies you collect. Eventual donate the change and make a difference! Seemingly simple idea with huge potential.

For more information in how to get started visit InterChange.

To get and give support join our InterChange Community.

 

Anchoring the Attention

The mind wants to wander. That’s what it does and it does it well. However, like a ship on the ocean waves the turbulence of constant motion can be disrupting to any sense of well-being. We need a way to anchor the mind in the moment, a place to return when the mind inevitably wanders, a place of stability.

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The Anchor

We want something to ground our attention in the here and now. At any moment we have one thing that is always with us- the breath. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly breathing. By bringing our attention to the breath we are rooting ourselves (and our attention) in the moment.

Here is a video about using the breath as an anchor:

Important Note: Your mind will wander. You will probably think a lot. It’s alright! Just come back to the breath again and again and again……… We will have more on ways to be nonjudgemental with ourselves and practice heartfulness in upcoming posts.

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Make a Change- InterChange

On May 1 Possibilities Exist is taking this to a new level. The effects practicing mindfulness can be thought of like a drop of water in a bucket. Gradually the bucket will fill up.

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But as a Science teacher and a person who wants to maximize the benefits I wanted to figure out how to fill the bucket more. That is where InterChange comes in!

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Since mindfulness is interpersonal and can support the building of community I wanted to find a way to not only measure mindfulness on a personal level but also how the ripple effect of the positivity can affect others.

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InterChange is about maximizing the effects of our personal mindfulness practice to make a huge difference in the world. Stay tune for May 1 roll out!

Creating New Pathways With Mindfulness

Stumbling Block

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to establishing a mindfulness practice is, well, ourselves. Our mind believes and responds well to the words we tell it, especially slippery-637562_1920negative ideas. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do this,” “I can’t stop thinking,” “I’m doing this wrong” serve to only keep us from getting the most out of the practice. But, let the frustration flow and go because almost without fail those ideas will arise at some point in your practice.

One way to understand how we can get caught up in old ways of thinking/actions while also having hope that possibilities exist for a different way through mindfulness practice is to image our brains like a super highway.

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Super Highway

When we have a thought neurons fire in the brain creating a pathway. Over years of thinking and acting in a certain way we strengthen the path so that more and more neurons can gain easier access through our brain. Very much like a super highway, roadways are created so that cars can pass. Highways are developed to let more cars gain easier access to get to where they need to get to more quickly.

While these super highways can be beneficial in many ways they can also serve to make doing something new or our ability to break a pattern of thinking/behavior somewhat challenging. However, no matter how small the change in our thinking or actions does make a difference. Trying to think or act differently automatically develops an on off ramp for the super highway running through our brain. This new pathway is small compared to the well established path we have used for years. When we encounter the next situation our neurons want to take the easiest, fastest path (the super highway). It takes intentional effort to redirect the neurons to the off ramp.

 

 

New Pathway

Practicing mindfulness helps us develop new pathways in the brain. Our thoughts will surely try to follow the super highway that has been laid again and again. The task is to continue to come back to the new pathway. Over time what was once a small rut in the road, will become a dirt road, then a two lane highway, and finally, if we persist with the practice of mindfulness over years we will develop another super highway which may overlay the old pathway. This gives our neurons an alternate route to process information and helps shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world in a new way. Ultimately, there is hope in consistent effort and kindness toward oneself. A little mindfulness practice each day goes a long way in creating a positive super highway through our brains.

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Gratitude

In the midst of a stressful day that just seems like it won’t end, I stop for just a second, take an easy breath, and say quietly to myself, “I am grateful for………” The situation dictates what that list of 3 things is. Whatever the list, this practice has become a life safer.

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My children have experienced the same. Imagine this: the family is sitting at the table. Everyone is irritable. The dad has had a long day dealing with other kids climbing the walls and throwing chairs at him at public school, the mom has had a long day dealing with kids climbing the walls and moving furniture, the 15 year old son feels like an alien in his own skin and the 7 year old hasn’t slept well because she sleep walks (which means nobody slept well). Everyone is biting at each other, short and there is so much wrong in the world by the sound of everyone at the table. Then, the mom says, “What are you grateful for?” Begrudgingly someone starts. Soon everyone has listed at least 3 things each is grateful for. While the world did not shift, the attitudes did slightly.

Gratitude is a mindfulness practice of identifying the things we can be thankful for in the moment. The practice is not about deceiving ourselves. Even when things are all seeming to collapse around us we can find things that may help change our perspective. We have all heard the scenario of seeing the glass as half full or half empty. The glass and the amount of water in it has not changed. What changes is how we see it.

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Finding things to be thankful for is a practice. That means it may not come easy at first. My kids often say, “I am grateful for everything.” While that may be correct, we need to know how to most effectively use our gratitude.

Some Gratitude Guidelines

  1. Make it specific- while we may be grateful for everything if we can’t name something individually then we probably are not really that thankful. Pick something to focus that goodwill toward.
  2. Make sure it is something in the moment- my kids struggle with this one so much. They are thankful for going to Disneyworld 4 years ago or grateful for the ice cream they are going to get in 2 hours. Mindfulness is about being in the moment- not living in the past or future. We all want to escape but to get the most out of this practice it needs to be present time.
  3. Start each sentence with “I am grateful for………” or “I am grateful that……”- naming each thing this way makes a profound change.
  4. No negative- make sure to keep it positive. If you happen to go negative, it is just an opportunity to practice turning things around.
  5. Be easy with yourself and your kids- start small and work your way into this practice. It is a change in thinking. Be kind to yourself. But do it!

Gratitude is about changing our perspective. Some speak of this process as “changing the lens through which we see the world.” However we look at it gratitude can have a significant affect on our resiliency, our ability to bounce back from struggles. As a science teacher I know that the glass is not either half full or half empty. It is completely full! Actually it overflows- water and air. As a person who practices mindfulness, my experience is the same. The glass is neither half empty or half full- it is completely full when I practice gratitude.

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation

Ever felt out of control?

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As parents we can sometimes be confused about to do or how to help our kids. Perhaps our child is having a tantrum, is mumbling negative comments under his/her breath, or simply not talking. The feelings that arise in us can seem overwhelming.

Imagine how our child feels? Children and youth are in an even more difficult situation. They have feelings, thoughts and behaviors while also being regulated by adults. Without the skills of being able to deal with the internal landscape sometimes the external pressure can seem too much.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to maintain emotions and behaviors regardless of the situation that arises. This process assumes one can identify feelings and is intentional about one’s actions. However, these abilities are not innate in us. The ability to know what one is feeling, be able to identify the nuances of that feeling, to reflect on one’s thoughts and intentions and to choose a course of action based on this process is a learned skill.

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A Head Full Of Mess

When a person begins to practice mindfulness one usually finds out how out-of-touch one has been with his or her feelings and thoughts. At first, I was unable to even identify what I feeling and was quite overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts I had in a ten second span (not to mention 5, 10 or 20 minutes). But mindfulness is practice that helps one to accept whatever arises. With gentle guidance and a little training one can learn to ride the waves of emotions and thoughts with ease.

As adults, we have spent years disconnected from our internal world. Children usually respond better because even if they cannot easily identify their feelings or thoughts in every day life they have not developed as many methods to build the walls up. Self-regulation really starts with looking inside, sitting with whatever arises and allowing the process to work.

Feelings and thoughts are always present. Developing the skills to be able to see them clearly and respond to them in a loving way is the first step in the process of self-regulation. Mindfulness is helpful in providing the structure and support in order to practice these self-reflective skills.

Mindfulness for Children (and Parents)

The day usually comes when we see our children cry and we ask, “Why?” The answer is, “I don’t know.” Emotions, stress and hormones are closely related. Each off these can in turn can greatly affect the others. Stress can cause hormone levels to rise and send a kid into a tailspin of emotions.

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Most of us know that stress from one person can have a domino effect reaction. Your child is stressed, you worry about your child, you go to work and perhaps take it out on someone else. Happiness, as well as stress, can travel up to 3 people removed from the original person who experiences it. The ripple effect happens whether we are happy or not. So, why don’t we choose happiness? 

Happiness is a huge topic being research at several universities throughout the world. Happiness seems to be as elusive as many concepts in Quantum physics- we know that it exists, we can experience but once we try to put into words exactly what it means we can be left speechless. However, even though researches have not found the ultimate reasoning behind happiness there have been some progress on finding certain aspects that may lead to happiness. One of those is self-regulation.

Self-regulation begins with “knowing thyself.” This can be challenging and be daunting. Most things that people do today is meant to do anything but know oneself- most things lead to running, hiding and distracting from knowing where we are emotionally, physically, and mentally. Even if we get close to know where we are we almost automatically want to change where we are. The motto of “working on oneself” can be a form of distraction as well. Making progress can be wonderful but if we are not aware of where we are in a given moment if is difficult to to know ourselves.

If parents struggle with this, children’s struggle is compounded by even less tools to deal with the stress of life. Self-regulation is a skill that can be learned. But it takes practice. Mindfulness is one way to begin the process of becoming more aware of where we are at any given moment. We don’t have to go on a retreat, we don’t have to close ourselves off to the world, or go to the top of a mountain. We can just begin by sitting and bringing awareness to our breath.

Many of us, myself included, freaked out and wanted more instruction. While there are many different ways of being mindful becoming aware of the breath is many times the beginning, middle and end of a practice- the one thing we can always go back to to ground ourselves in now. The main thing is to try to experience the breath, not just think about what it is like to breathe. I will some videos and resources in upcoming posts. But for now, just breathe. Before introducing it to your child try it every day for 3 minutes for a week. If your thoughts wander be kind to yourself. We train our brains constantly to jump to something else. Be gentle and bring your attention back to your breath.

 

 

Overachiever Extraordinaire

Recently I have had several people say that I am an overachiever and others have said that I am too happy and positive. Now this is an interesting situation. First of all, yes, I am busy and I am doing a lot. Second of all, I am just getting started!

 

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When preparing for the Olympics or trying to become professional sports players do people call them overachievers?

There have been times in my life when I did not achieve anything. For years I struggled to find my purpose. I grew up several years living in low-income housing and have been relatively poor my entirely life (no rags to riches here). My mom did a great job getting me involved in activities. However, I never felt good enough. I struggled with self-criticism, unhealthy patterns, and a general lack of ability to find solutions. That has drastically changed.

I want to find solutions. I want to help people not hurt. I want to connect with people (even though there is a part of me who wants to run). I want to have purpose in my life. I want to help others while also taking care of myself. I want to change the world for the better. I want to be somebody. And today, I am somebody whom most days I love, I respect and look forward to getting know more.

As a father, husband, teacher, friend, son, and person of the community I want people to feel safe, to be able to grow, and to feel that they matter in this world. I have dreams of  developing programs and ways to make things better. I am working toward teaching people how to nurture themselves, to learn skills they can take with them and possibly pass on to someone else.

The thing is- I have not even begun to tap into my potential! So the next time someone tells me I am overachiever I am just going to say, “Thank you! But you haven’t seen nothin’ yet!”

To help this overachiever reach his next vision of teaching students and families social/emotional well-being skills that will hopefully last a lifetime please donate

https://www.gofundme.com/social-emotional-well-being

(Note about funds: This money will help support a Parent Academy, get educators trained, get supplies for educators in implementing the program and provide me with training to be able to teach educators how to teach the program (this is for the long-term sustainability of the project). Sounds like a lot????? Yes, I am an overachiever with big plans to help people!)

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The Great Escape- Kids in the Woods

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“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a destructive family or neighborhood.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Children do not have to live in a destructive family or neighborhood for stress to take its toll. With so many additives, seemingly so little time, and the general flow of most fast-paced lives children can get overwhelmed. Physical exercise can help relieve some of this built up anxiety. Being in nature, coupled with exercise, can support the nervous system in reclaiming a calmness it deserves.

My children are often resistant to hiking and going outside. They would much rather sit in front of a screen than to get sweaty. Although when we take the time to go outside they always end up enjoying it. Part of the fun is going beyond a mere walk. While we are in the woods we play games- tag, races, and most recently hide-and-go-seek.

The kids will run up a mountain or hill that would usually cause great complaining if we were simply walking. Going into the woods is exciting, not only for the kids, but for the parents! We get to slow down (even if we are running sometimes). We talk, sometimes we just listen to the sounds around us.

Most kids love being in nature even if they initially resist it. It is unfortunate but sometimes we have to teach children how to enjoy being in nature. My son is worried about germs and one of the first times we went on a hike I made him get his hands dirty. Although the fear of germs has not completely subsided he now willingly grabs sticks, throws rocks, and climbs boulders.

Nature has so much to offer! Climbing trees, throwing sticks, and finding new wonders can be just a small part of the overall experience and fun of being outside. Being outside can build a sense of confidence unlike any indoor activity.

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Sometimes it is alright to make a mountain out of a molehill!

          So, explore ways in which you can incorporate nature into your family routine. It will not only give needed exercise, it can support bonding, relaxation, and a sense of confidence so needed in the developmental process of young people.