Over the last week or two Nerys has started to sign ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  This makes me stupidly happy.  Like, a bit more happy than I feel it really should?!

A big part of this happiness comes from the simple pleasure of watching her grow and learn and start to really communicate with us.  But another huge part of it is that it really is important to me that my children are polite and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

Picture 

I’ve written a few posts recently about focusing on the good things in our lives and how feeling and expressing gratitude is good for our mental and physical health.  I do want my kids to be grateful for things partly for that reason, I think they’ll be happier people if they appreciate everything they have and things other people do for them.

Interestingly though, a study carried out in 2010 by Grant and Gino (published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) found that saying thank you also has a positive effect on the person being thanked.  When we say ‘thank you’ to people it can strengthen our relationship with them, let them know that we value what they’ve done for us and, apparently, can also make them more likely to help us again in the future.

In the study a group of participants were asked to give feedback on a cover letter for a job application for a made-up student.  When the student then asked for more feedback a day or two later, 66% of the participants agreed when he wrote a ‘thankful’ email, compared to just 32% of participants who agreed when he wrote the request in a ‘neutral’ tone.  That’s quite a dramatic increase; seeming to prove that we are in fact much more likely to help people again in the future if they express their gratitude for the things we do for them.

The researchers looked into this further and found that the reason we’re more likely to help those who thank us again is that the ‘thank you’ makes us feel that our help was appreciated, that we’re needed and that it makes us feel more socially valued.  It seems that hearing the words ‘thank you’ helps us feel reassured that our help is valued, which in turn motivates us to provide more help in the future.

So, teaching Rhys and Nerys to say ‘thank you’ will have positive effects on them and those that they’re interacting with!

Besides, it’s just the right thing to do isn’t it?!  If someone does something for you, or gives you something, it’s just polite to acknowledge it with a thank you.  And it does seem to brighten the postman’s day when he hands Rhys our post and gets a very enthusiastic ‘thank you’ back!

Do you agree?  Do you think it’s important to teach your children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at an early age?  I’d love to know what other people think!

Mummascribbles

I know I dreamt last night.  I’ve had a nagging feeling all day that there was something significant about the dream.  I can’t for the life of me remember what the dream was about!

All of which has led to me browsing the internet, reading all sorts of fascinating things about dreams.

Of all of the random facts I found, these five are my favourites:

 5 random facts about dreaming

1) Toddlers don’t star in their own dreams till they are about 3-4 years old.I hadn’t heard this before, but apparently we don’t start to feature in our own dreams until we’re 3 or 4 years old. Interestingly, this is around the same age that we start to really develop a theory of mind, although I don’t know if the two things are actually connected!

 

2) Every person in your dreams is someone you’ve encountered in your waking life

Your dreams might be full of people that you don’t know, but your sleeping brain hasn’t just made them up!  They’re all people that you’ve come across in your waking life.  Which I guess is why sometimes you dream of someone that you don’t know, but they seem really familiar to you, because you have actually encountered them in real life you just don’t necessarily remember it happening!

 

3) Men and women dream differently

Research has shown that men and women generally have different types of dreams.  Men tend to have dreams that are more violent and aggressive than women’s dreams.  Also, about 70% of the people in men’s dreams are other men, whereas women dream about men and women equally.

 

4) You can’t read or tell the time while dreaming

I found this one really interesting!  I’m also a bit frustrated that I couldn’t find any studies to back the statement up, but it was a fact that popped up several times when I was researching dreams.  Apparently hardly any of us are able to read or tell the time in our dreams!

People report that, when they try and read, the text jumps around or the letters are all mixed up and not forming proper words.  And when they try to tell the time they find that the clock tells a different time whenever they look at it, and that the hands don’t seem to be moving.

I can’t remember ever trying to read something or tell the time in a dream, but it’s something I’ll be looking out for in the future!

 

5) Weird sensory experiences are really common in dreams

I was quite pleased to find this fact, because I often have dreams where I’m moving really slowly, or I try and scream and no sound comes out, and I thought this was a bit odd.  But it turns out this sort of thing is really common! Feeling like you’re falling and being unable to control your body’s movements are also often reported.

I find the whole process of dreaming fascinating and love looking at the dreams that I can remember and seeing if I can make any sense of them!  There are definitely a few themes that pop up quite regularly in my dreams and I’m planning on doing a bit of research and writing about them and what they mean soon.

5-random-facts-about-dreaming

 

The List

At the start of April I wrote this post about whether or not the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence. It’s really easy to look at other people’s lives and think that they have it so much better than we do, or that we would be so much happier if we only had that thing, or lost that weight.

What we need to be doing is focusing our attention on all the good things we already have.  What you focus on expands, so if you put your energy into noticing all the good things in your life, then more good things will come along!  And it seems that paying attention to the beautiful things in the world around us can also help protect our health.

All of which makes me even more determined to spend time noticing and appreciating all the good things around me!  I’m still posting under #mygrassisgreen on Facebook and Twitter for the rest of the month – I’d love to see other people use that hashtag if you want to join in!

I also think that, as parents, we have a fantastic opportunity to experience these positive emotions, including awe, on a regular basis.  All we need to do is stop, get down on our children’s level and try to see the world through their eyes.  The whole world is new, exciting and awe-inspiring to young children.  We just need to reconnect with that way of looking at things!

So this Spring and Summer I’m planning on being even more mindful when I’m out with my children, taking time as we walk round the park to stop and admire all the beautiful flowers and all the other wonders nature has to offer.

It’s good for our health after all!

A recent study by Stellar et al. has found that positive emotions like amusement, joy, love and, especially, awe are linked to lower levels of inflammatory cytokines.  I have to be honest here, when I first read about the study I didn’t know what inflammatory cytokines were but from what the internet tells me they’re proteins in the body that “make disease worse by producing fever, inflammation, tissue destruction and in some cases even shock and death”.

The study asked 200 people to report their emotions and took a swab from their cheeks to measure their levels of these cytokines.  Those who reported feeling positive emotions such as amusement, joy, love and awe were found to have lower levels of inflammatory cytokines; with awe having a particularly strong association.

It seems that looking at the world from a perspective of curiosity and wonder can help to protect us from physical and mental illnesses such as depression, which is shown to be linked to higher levels of inflammatory cytokines.

Dr Dacher Keltner, one of the study’s authors, said:

“That awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — have a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

An email that I received recently informed me that it was ‘The grass is always browner on the other side of the fence day’.

I didn’t even know this special day existed, but it did get me thinking.

The whole point of the day is to go against the traditional view that the grass is always greener on the other side and to remind us to be grateful and happy for what we have, rather than wishing for what other people have.  It’s so easy to think that our lives would be better if we had this or could do that, it’s important to stop and remind ourselves how good we actually already have it!

But what is it that makes us feel that there is something better or something ‘more’ out there than what we have?

Is the grass really greener_

 

One theory is that how much this ‘grass is greener’ thing effects us depends on whether we have an internal or external locus of control.

People with an internal locus of control will tend to look at other people’s successes in life and be aware that they have the power to make changes to get the same things if that’s what they want.  People with an external locus of control, on the other hand, will think very differently about it.

Psychologist Sue Firth explains that “external thinkers believe that they can’t control their destiny and blame other forces – such as circumstances or people – that prevent them getting there. These are most likely the ones who feel life’s not fair.”

So it seems that we can help get ourselves out of this way of thinking by realising that we are in charge of our own lives.  If this is something you really struggle with then you could talk with a therapist online to work through any issues you might have with not feeling in control of your life.  There is a lot of power in realising that if we really want to make changes in our lives then we can.

 

I know I’m guilty of this ‘grass is greener’ thinking at times, so what exactly can we do to stop thinking like this and realise that our grass is already pretty green?

 

Here are some ideas that might help:

Make a note of the good

Every day for a month, write down 2 or 3 good things about your life or that happened to you that day.  As the saying goes, what you focus on expands, so by paying attention to the good in your life, you’ll start to see more and more good things.

 

Be grateful

Adding on to the idea of noting down good things in  your life, you can also write down things that you’re grateful for.  You could even go so far as to writing letters to people to tell them how grateful you are for what they have brought to your life (you don’t have to actually send the letters, it’s the act of writing them that matters).

 

Remember the saying “better the devil you know”

Keep in mind that, while you may have problems as least they are your problems, and they may pale into insignificance compared to what other people are facing.

 

You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors

People tend to present an ideal version of their lives, especially in the world of Facebook and Instagram.  It’s really easy to see a friend’s photos and statuses and wish you had their life, with the big house and expensive holidays.  What you might not see is that they can afford these things because she and her husband both work really long hours, are lucky if they see their children for half an hour before bedtime and that the holidays they take once year are the only times they really get to spend any time together.

 

Ask yourself – what is it that you really want?

Do you really want what’s on the other side of the fence?  When we’re feeling a bit fed up with things it can be easy to think ‘I’d be much happier if I just had a different job/a bigger house/ a flatter tummy’.  When you find yourself starting to go down that road, take some time to really think about it.  Would you actually be happier in a completely different job?  Would having a bigger house make you happier, with all the extra rooms to clean?!

 

It might be that what you really want isn’t a new job, it’s the flexible hours that the other job offers you that you want.  Or that you don’t really need a bigger house, you just need to declutter all your ‘stuff’ and use your current home more efficiently.

What do you think?  Are you guilty of always looking longingly at the other side of the fence, or do you generally feel that your grass is actually pretty nice and green?!

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

I don’t think I’ve slept for more than 4 consecutive hours in about 8 months.  Most nights I get around 3 hours at a time.  I know I’m not the most sleep deprived person out there, but for someone who used to quite happily sleep for 11 hours at a time, this is really hard going!

Quite worryingly, a recent study has found that getting 8 hours of sleep with interruptions is as bad as getting just 4 hours sleep!  The study only looked at the effects of ONE disturbed night and found that the effects on the subjects mood, alertness and cognitive function were the same as when they had just 4 hours sleep.  I dread to think what the results would show if they actually studied the effects of night after night of disturbed sleep!

I know most parents (and anyone else who, for whatever reason, has their sleep interrupted) would agree that being deprived of a good night’s sleep can leave you feeling like crap.

So to cheer us all up, here’s a list of the four most fun effects of sleep deprivation!

Sleep deprivation impairs your cognitive function.
Sleep is incredibly important to our ability to think clearly and to retain new memories.  Lack of sleep causes problems with alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving.  It also makes it really hard for our brains to remember things that we’ve learnt and experienced during the day as the sleep cycles that are important for consolidating our new memories are disturbed.

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep then that is partly to blame for the baby brain that has plagued me since having children!  I know I find it really hard to concentrate and think straight when I’ve had a particularly bad night with Nerys.

Sleep deprivation makes you gain weight.
I know that I’m a few pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I can’t think why this is – could it be linked to the cakes I devour with a sugary coffee in the afternoons, or the stash of chocolate and biscuits on my bedside table?  Who knows!

As it turns out, it’s really not my fault that I’m eating so much junk!  A study carried out a few years ago found that lack of sleep was linked to an increase in the peptide ghrelin which stimulates hunger and a decrease in leptin which lets the brain know we’re full and suppresses our appetites.

So lack of sleep really is making me more hungry.  Studies have also shown that it makes us crave foods that are high in fat and carbohydrate.

See, I can’t help it.  I need to eat all those biscuits, because science!

Sleep deprivation impairs your judgement.
This one does actually scare me a little bit, especially considering I drive my son to school every day.  When our sleep is interrupted our judgement is impaired and our mental alertness is decreased.  I’m so aware of this when I’m behind the wheel; making sure I’m paying attention to everything around me all the time.

Another fun side of this impairment in our judgement is that  it’s actually been found that when we’re sleep deprived we’re especially prone to errors in judgement when it comes to assessing how the lack of sleep is affecting us.  So, if we have quite a few disturbed nights in a row we start to think that we’re adjusting to the lack of sleep, when this isn’t actually true.  Phil Gehrman, a sleep researcher, has said  “Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it.  But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”

So apparently, when I wrote yesterday that I can survive on very little sleep, maybe I was kidding myself that I’m actually functioning properly!

Sleep deprivation makes you more emotional.
Now this one is actually news to me.  I’m quite an emotional person in general, and just put my tendancy to well up at silly things down to my hormones still being a bit unsettled while I’m breast feeding.

Apparently, however, I might also be able to blame this one on my lack of sleep!  A study carried out in 2007 found that the brains of people who were sleep deprived were 60% more reactive to negative and disturbing images.  One of the authors of the study, Matthew Walker, said in a statement about the study that “It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,”

So when I got all emotional and had tears in my eyes when acts were stolen in the battle round of ‘The Voice’ at the weekend, it was really my lack of sleep that was to blame!

There are loads more ways that lack of sleep affects us, including making our skin age more quickly and potentially causing quite significant health problems, but these 4 things are the ones I’ve really noticed for myself.

Here’s hoping that I get some better sleep soon before I end up depressed or with heart disease.  Although, I will miss having a good excuse for eating junk and crying at reality tv!

I wrote a list the other day of my ten favourite rom-coms.  These are films that I can quite happily watch over and over again.  They also live in a separate dvd rack in the bedroom, away from the rest of our collection.  Why?  Because these are films that Steve really doesn’t want to watch!  They’re films that I put on to watch when I go to bed early; comfort films to fall asleep to.

If we’re going to watch a film together we’ll normally choose an action film or a comedy.  If we tried to watch a romantic comedy together I’m not sure how long we’d last before I turned it off simply to stop Steve mocking and insulting it!

So, this research from the University of Rochester might not be that helpful to us.  But it might be of interest to some of you couples out there that can both tolerate rom-coms!

The researchers were looking at what might help bring down divorce rates in the early stages of marriage, and found that divorce rates were cut in half for couples who watched romantic films together and talked about them afterwards.  That sounds like a pretty impressive statistic to me!

The study looked at couples in their first 3 years of marriage and found that watching a film every week that has a romantic relationship as a main part of the plot and discussing it afterwards was as effective at preventing divorce as other, more intensive relationship therapies.

The key seems to be the discussion afterwards, where the newly-weds would answer specific questions about the couple in the film and how they dealt with various issues.  They were encouraged to discuss if they dealt with things the same way as the film couple.

I think the main thing to take away from this is the importance of talking openly and honestly about our relationships, and to acknowledge how we might sometimes handle things the wrong way and work to resolve issues in a healthier way.  My husband and I are generally quite good at talking things through, and we’ve been married longer than the 3 years that were studied, so I think I might be able to let him off the hook with this one!

And, who knows, if we ever feel like we’re not communicating as well as we should maybe the threat of having to watch something with Keira Knightley or Reese Witherspoon in it might be enough to get him to open up!