3 tips to help you stick to your new year's resolutions

3 tips to get back on track with your new year’s resolutions

So, we’re a few weeks into the new year.  How are your resolutions going?

If you’re like the majority of people out there, you’re flagging a bit.  You might even have abandoned them already.

But don’t worry, I’ve got three tips to help you get back on track.

3 tips to get back on track with new year's resolutions (4)

 

 

1. Rephrase your resolution.

This is pretty interesting.  Studies have found that if you pose your goals and resolutions as questions then you’re more likely to change your behaviour.  So, rather than just saying “I’ll exercise twice a week”, you ask yourself “Will I exercise twice a week?” and then actually answer “yes”.

If you feel a bit strange talking to yourself like this you can get a friend to ask you the question, then you just have to answer “yes”.  Doing it this way has the added benefit of creating a bit of accountibility, as your friend will know that you made this promise.

But the studies show it works just as well if you just say it to yourself.

One of the authors of the paper, Eric Spangenberg, believes that the reason it works might be that being questionned about our intentions puts some pressure on us to follow through.  In other words, because we’ve answered that yes, we will do it, we then feel obligated to stick to that.

 

2. Partner up.

Following on from the first point, another great way to get back on track with resolutions and goals is to find an accountability buddy.

A study carried out at the Dominican University of California found that doing this can really improve your chances of sticking to your resolutions.  They asked participants to write down their goals and then send regular updates to their buddy, letting them know how they’re getting on.

Over 70% of the participants who did this ended up reaching their goals.  

This is amazing, especially when compared to the participants who didn’t have an accountability buddy.  Only 35% of that group met their goals.

So, ask around your friends and family and find someone who is also after some new motivation to meet their goals this year.  Then get going together and hold each other accountable.

 

3. Scale back and break it down.

One of the main reasons that people don’t stick to their resolutions or meet their goals, is that they’re just too big.

We often have unrealistic ideas of what we can achieve, or the timescale that we can achieve it in.  So we might start the year stating that we’re going to hit the gym 5 times every week.  That we’ll lose a stone by the end of January.  Or that we won’t drink any alcohol for a month, and will also cut out sugar from our diets.

These kinds of goals pretty much set us up for failure.  They’re either too big, require too much of a sudden, drastic change or they’re just not possible to achieve in a short amount of time.

So we get discouraged and quit trying altogether.

If you’re finding that, a few weeks into the new year, you’re feeling like you’ve already failed at your goals then just stop.

Rethink them.  Scale them back a bit to make them more realistic.  Give yourself a chance!

 

So there you have it.  

Three things you can try to make this the year you keep your resolutions and meet your goals!  Please do leave me a comment and let me know what you’re planning on achieving this year, and what you think of these ideas to help you get there.

 

sleep

4 things that affect the quality of your sleep

Sleep.

Possibly the number one topic of conversation for parents.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve discussed sleep outside the school gates.  How the babies slept the night before.  How the boys slept.  And how we slept.

More often than not we’ll be talking about how badly we feel we slept.

Every now and then you’ll get the comment of, “I actually slept really quite well”, said in an incredulous tone.

And we then try and work out what was special about the previous night that resulted in a good night’s sleep!

The main factor at the moment is, pretty obviously, how well the children slept.

Well, it’s almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep when your toddler is shouting at random intervals and your 5 year old is up to go to the toilet at silly-o’clock in the morning.

But, there are other factors that can affect the quality of our sleep.  And these things are often within our control.

So, to try and help us all wake up feeling a bit more refreshed, here are 4 things that affect the quality of sleep.

4-things-that-affect-the-quality-of-your-sleep

1.  The room temperature.

The temperature of your bedroom can have a huge impact on how well you sleep.

Our bodies natually start to cool down in the evenings, and ideally our bedrooms will be on the cool side for us to sleep well.

Studies have found that a room temperature of between 18 and 20 degrees celsius is ideal for most people.

So if you find you’re tossing and turning in the night and feeling too warm, then think about sleeping with the window open a bit, or switching to a lower tog duvet to get a better night’s sleep.

 

2.  Noise.

Parents know better than anyone how much noise can affect our sleep!  We’ve all had those moments when the baby has just gone down for a nap and the postman comes and rings the doorbell and ruins everything!

But I think sometimes we don’t think so much about how different noises can affect our own sleep.

All sorts of things can disturb our sleep, especially when we’re in light, stage 2 sleep.  At this point things like our partner snoring, the neighbour’s tv being on super loud, or noise from passing traffic can really interfere with our sleep.

It’s often the sudden, unexpected noises that wake us up.  Like our partner talking in their sleep all of a sudden.  So playing white noise can often really help as it tends to block out these other, more random noises.

What is interesting though is that it’s been found that sounds that are meaningful are more likely to wake us up.  So we can play our white noise, safe in the knowledge that we will still wake up when our children need us, as we’re emotionally tuned in to the sound of their cries.

 

3.  Light levels.

There’s a reason why so many parents would have black-out blinds on their list of essential baby products.  Dark rooms are so much more conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Too much light in the room when we’re trying to get to sleep can interfere with our production of melatonin.  This is the hormone that signals our bodies to start preparing for sleep.  So we need to do what we can to keep light levels as low as possible when we’re trying to get to sleep.

So, consider blackout blinds to block out street lights that might shine in through your window.  Turn off the tv.  And consider covering up any little lights from chargers or sockets that might be glowing away and disturbing you.

It’s also interesting to know that red lights don’t interfere with our sleep quite so much, so you might want to think about using a night light with a red tint if you need to light the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

 

4.  Sleep cycles.

Waking up at the wrong point in a sleep cycle can really affect how refreshed you feel the next day.

Have you ever been woken up from a dream?  It happens to me a lot and it sucks.

It leaves me feeling groggy and like I’ve barely slept at all.  And that feeling often sticks with me for the whole day.

This is because dreams occur when we’re in REM sleep, which is a deep-sleep stage of our sleep cycle.  What we ideally need to do is wake up at the end of a complete sleep cycle, or during the start of the light sleep of stage 1 sleep.

 

I’ve been sent an S+ sleep tracking system to test out and review and I’m really excited to try it.  It monitors the various factors that affect our sleep and feeds back information about what we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.

One of the things it can do is set an alarm for you to wake up at the right stage in your sleep cycle, so you feel refreshed rather than groggy.  I think this is what I’m most looking forward to trying out.

I’ve always resisted the idea of waking up before my children.  It just feels wrong somehow!  But, if waking up 10 or 20 minutes before they start shouting means that I wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, then it has to be worth it!  It has to be better than being jolted out of a dream.

And my dreams are so random, it’s so disorientating being woken up from them with a start!

I’d love to know what you think about these factors.  

Do you try and set up your bedroom to get the best possible night’s sleep?  Do you ever wake up actually feeling refreshed?  Or have you given up on that idea while your children are still young?!

Please do leave me a comment and let me know.

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
psychological-benefits-exercise

5 psychological benefits of exercise

I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to fit exercise into my life at the moment.

Before I had Rhys I used to be in the gym several times a week, and would also do workout dvds at home.

But I just don’t feel like I have the time these days.

Although, I’m not sure that’s strictly true.  

I think it’s more that I don’t quite have the motivation to make the time for formal exercise at the moment.

I know it’s good for me physically, but that knowledge still isn’t quite enough to get me to do it!

What might get me moving though, is realising how much of an impact exercise can have on our psychological well-being.

Here are 5 psychological benefits of doing some exercise:

5-psychological-benefits-of-exercise1.  Exercise keeps our minds sharp as we get older.

Now, I’m only in my 30s, but I’m already aware that my brain isn’t as quick as it used to be.  And I don’t like the idea of my cognitive abilities going downhill any more than they already have thanks to baby brain!  So the fact that exercise has been found to improve cognitive function is a pretty good incentive to start moving more.  And this will get more and more important as I get older, as studies have shown that people who don’t do exercise to work on their cardiovascular fitness are up to 8 times more likely to develop dementia than people who do exercise.

2.  Exercise helps with anxiety and stress.

Now, I think we all know that exercise is a great stress-reliever.  But I wasn’t aware that it can be really helpful in dealing with anxiety too.  I have a problem with ocd and ‘checking’ and I’m pretty sure anxiety is a big part of that.  And I think a lot of parents live with a fair bit of anxiety with trying to juggle everything in their busy lives.  What we need to be doing then, is getting some aerobic activity in on a regular basis.  Studies have shown that this type of activity can reduce anxiety as well as our sensitivity to stress.  It might even help us overcome our anxiety all together.

3.  Exercise makes us more creative.

This one is pretty interesting to me, and is definitely a good incentive to start exercising.  Well, I can’t be the only blogger out there to suffer from writer’s block now and then!  A study by Steinberg et all in 1997 found that people who did an aerobic workout showed an increase in creative thinking.  So a brisk walk in the park really might get the creative juices flowing next time I’m stuck for something to blog about!

4.  Exercise helps us focus and pay attention.

One of the other things I struggle with at times is keeping my focus on one particular activity.  And I know this is something I need to work on if I want to be more productive with my time.  And interestingly enough, psychologists believe that getting regular exercise can improve connections between the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex.  These connections can help to increase our ability to focus and pay attention, as the prefrontal cortex is involved in tasks that involve organization and attention.

5.  Exercise helps us sleep better.

This is a big reason for me to get more exercise.  Both my children are sleeping pretty well at the moment, but I’m still up with one or the other of them at least once a night.  And I often wake up feeling like my night has been really quite disturbed.  So knowing that I could help improve the quality of the sleep I do get is a pretty good incentive to start exercising more.  Although, it seems like I’d have to really step up my exercise regime for this to work.  A study was carried out with a group of young people and found that the participants who exercised vigorously in the evening fell asleep more quickly, woke up less in the night and slept better than those who either worked out less vigorously or didn’t work out at all.

 

So there you have it. 

5 pretty good reasons to take a look at my week and see where I can fit some exercise in.

I’m already trying to get 10,000 steps in every day, thanks to my fitbit.  But I need to start getting a couple of actual workouts in I think.  Either by digging out my old workout dvds or by using an online service like Hey Workout, which I tried out earlier in the year.  My full review of that will be up on the blog soon so do keep an eye out for it.

So what about you?  Do you exercise regularly?  What are your reasons for working out, or for not working out?!  Please do leave me a comment and let me know.

 

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
z is for zzz

We dream the same dream

I’ve been aware for several years now that I’m rather like my Mum.

We look pretty similar and have quite a few personality traits in common, some of which she apologises for!  What amuses me though, is that we have similar dreams too!

We’ve talked a few times over the last few years about a dream we both have about trying to find a toilet.

Wait, it gets weirder!

Generally I do manage to find a toilet in these dreams, but they are never, ever useable.  Either there’s no door on the cubicle, or the toilet’s just in an open plan room with other people milling around or, best of all, it is absolutely filthy.

Now, I’m not really sure what this dream means.

My Mum did once suggest that it’s about having something that we need to get rid of, or get ‘out’, but something is holding us back.  So maybe we have something we need to say to someone, but can’t bring ourselves to do it.  I’m not sure.

What’s interesting though, is that we were talking about these dreams the other weekend when I was in Kent and it turns out my sister has them also!  Although, in some of hers the issue is that the toilet isn’t even plumbed in, and I’m not sure I’ve come across that one yet!

My Mum then went on to reveal that, after searching for toilets in her dreams for years, in recent months she’s actually started to find them, and use them.  So there’s hope for me and my sister yet!

Toilets aside, I really do love dreams.  I find them absolutely fascinating.

 

dream

Some nights my dreams are really just strange, other nights they’re amazingly mundane.

Sometimes I can work out where my brain’s created them from, like when I dreamt about bumping into Richard Madden on a train after binge-watching Game of Thrones.  But sometimes I really can’t figure out what on earth was going on in my head when I was asleep!

I always find them fascinating though.

For me, dreams can be so vivid, so real, that the emotions from them linger into the day.  Which isn’t always a good thing, but I find it amazing that the unconscious mind can create something so ‘real’ that it sticks with you into the day.

One thing that I’m not so fond of though, is being woken up in the middle of a dream by a shouting child.  It’s so disorientating, and happens too often for my liking!  I think I must drift into REM sleep at about 5.30am, which is around the time my two sometimes start to stir and shout.

My husband, on the other hand, is flat out in deepest, darkest sleep at that time, so is no help to me whatsoever!

He doesn’t even stir when I grumble and mutter and roll out of bed to see what the children need.  Although, strangely, he’s often come to enough to roll over to my side of the bed by the time I try and climb back in.  I think we need to get one of those adjustable beds, so that I can raise the head on my side before I get out so he can’t roll over and steal my pillow!

On those days when I’ve had a particularly early start, or disturbed night’s sleep the night before, I will sometimes shut my eyes on the sofa with Nerys when I’m trying to get her down for a nap.

I’m sure that me snuggling down and dozing off helps her to drift off too.  Sometimes I only doze for a few minutes, but other times when I’m really tired I will properly fall asleep and dream, and I do find it really disorientating then when I wake up, and realise that the dream wasn’t real.  And the thing is, my children are raring to go straight away so I’m never given much time to disengage from my dreams and, well, engage in reality!

I’m trying to teach them that Mummy needs just a few minutes to properly wake up before she can really be much use to them.  And some mornings I just really need to find a toilet before I can do anything else!

 

Do you find your dreams filter through into the next day, or are they gone the second you open your eyes?  What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?  Do you also dream about toilets?!  Please leave me a comment and reassure me that’s not just a weird family thing!

 

Disclosure- – this is a collaborative post.

a

How to talk to your children about their art

We’ve got a big box under our bed, full of pictures and paintings that the children have done.

Most of Rhys’ drawings from the past year have been pretty self-explanatory – they’re pictures of scenes from Angry birds.  Others though, are a bit more abstract, and I’ve found myself so close to saying “that’s great… what is it?” on several occasions.

But I’m very aware that this might upset him, and I really want to encourage his creativity, not make him question his artistic abilities!

So, I’ve done some research and found some great ways to talk to your children about their art, so you can get them to explain their work to you, without hurting their feelings by making it obvious that you just can’t tell what it’s supposed to be.

How to talk to your children about their art

I love the idea of taking the time to talk to my children about their artwork because, as well as finding out what the blob on the page is actually meant to be, it could also give some great insight into their creative process, into how they see the world and the way they think.

So, here is my advice for how you can talk to your children about their art:

Getting started.

The best question to ask to get the conversation started is, “would you like to tell me about your picture?

Now, I love this for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s a lovely way of basically asking “what is it?” and secondly, this specific question gives your child control of the situation as they have the chance to say no, actually they wouldn’t like to talk about it!

Art can be so personal; even small children might not want to discuss it with other people.

But if they do want to talk about it, then this open question is a great way to get them explaining what the picture is of and what the different elements are.

 

Talking inspiration.

Once you have an idea of what the picture is of, then you can start asking your child questions like “where did you get the idea for this from?”  and “why did you chose to use this colour here?”.

This gets your child thinking about their choices and gives you great insight into what inspires them and how they see the world.

Maybe they always use the ‘right’ colours for things, because they like order and like things to be as they should be, or maybe you’ve got a creative maverick on  your hands who likes to paint green skies and rainbow-coloured grass.

Either way, encourage them, there are no rights and wrongs when it comes to art!

 

Talk about their technique.

If your child is really into art then this is a great way to foster their interest and further their knowledge.

Asking them, “how did you draw that shape?” or “how did you create that effect for the leaves?” is a great way to get a conversation started where you can then discuss other methods that they might not know about yet.

 

Ask how they feel about it.

Now you might think that this one is just for older children, but talking about feelings in relation to artwork can be great even for younger children.  I mean, your 2 year old might not be able to express that the red they used represents a deep-rooted rage about the current political situation, but they could talk to you about other feelings relating to their picture.

Asking them “What do you like best about your picture?” is a good place to start!

With older children you can take it further and ask them questions like “How were you feeling when you painted it?“.

You might find that at times they don’t really have an answer, and that’s fine, we all have times where we just draw and doodle and create with no particular emotion attached to the activity.

But sometimes you’ll find that they’ll be able to tell you that they were happy or sad or angry when they painted the picture, and you can then discuss how that emotion can be seen in the painting.

This is a great way to encourage your child to open up about things that are going on in their lives, as well as being a way to encourage them to think more about their artwork.

 

The main thing to remember, is to be led by your child.  If you find that they don’t seem to want to answer your questions, then don’t push it.  Don’t force them to talk about what they’ve created if they don’t seem to want to.

What you can try instead, is to make a few comments about their art, and over time you’ll hopefully find that they’ll start to open up and tell you some things about what they’ve created.

And remember, your comments don’t have to be praise, they can simply be statements about what you see.  So things like, “wow, you used a lot of red in this picture” and “look at all the circles you’ve drawn” are just fine!

 

Do your children like to draw and paint?  If so, I really hope these ideas help you next time you’re presented with a mystery work of art!

 

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
pink tulips

How to improve your relationship by understanding the 5 love languages

This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the years – how different people seem to show love in different ways.

Some people express their love through heaps of physical affection, whereas other people might show it by buying lots of presents.

The problem is, if you show love one way and your partner does it another way, then it can be easy to think that they don’t care about you.  If they don’t make an effort to speak your love language, and if you don’t quite understand what their love language is, then you can both end up feeling unloved and misunderstood.

This is where knowing about these different love languages can really help your relationship.

If you can work out what languages you and your partner speak, then you can make the effort to express your love in the way that they need, and vice versa, making sure that you both really feel the love that you have for each other!

improve relationships 5 love languages

The idea that there are 5 distinct love languages came from marriage counsellor Gary Chapman, who has spent over 30 years working with couples in crisis.  He believes that we all have a primary love language that we speak, and that we have to learn to understand and speak the language of our partners if we want them to feel loved.

The five languages that he came up with are:
1) Words of affirmation
2) Acts of service
3) Receiving gifts
4) Quality time
5) Physical touch

So, what do these languages entail and how can we learn to speak each one, if it’s not our own natural love language?  I’ll work my way through the list and look a bit more closely at each one.

Here goes!

1) Words of affirmation.

If this is your primary love language then, in order for you to feel loved, you need your partner to verbally express their appreciation for you and the things that you do.

It may seem like a small thing but simply thanking your partner for doing the dishes can make them feel loved if words of affirmation is their love language.

Some other suggestions of things you can do if this is your partner’s language:

  • Tell them how good you think they look in a certain outfit.
  • Thank them for the routine jobs that they do around the house.
  • If you stay home with the kids and your partner goes to work, then thank them for working hard to provide for the family.
  • If you work and you partner is the one to stay at home, then thank them for working hard raising the children!
  • Tell them how much you enjoyed the meal they cooked for you.
  • Tell them how much they are loved!

When you’ve been together for quite a while, it can be easy to feel that you’re taken for granted.  Just taking the time to express how much you appreciate everything your partner does can really make a difference in how you both feel.

 

2) Acts of service.

For some people, being told ‘I love you’ doesn’t make them feel that they’re loved.  They don’t need their partner to tell them how loved and appreciated they are, they need them to show their love by doing things for them.  They need to feel supported.

If this if your partner’s love language, here are some things you can do to make sure they know how much they’re loved:

  • If you see them busy doing the dishes, having also cooked dinner, offer to help or take over.
  • If you know there’s a household job that they don’t like doing, surprise them by doing it for them.
  • Look for ways you can make their life easier.
  • Make them a cup of tea in the morning.
  • If they’ve got to drive somewhere, pop out the night before and fuel up the car for them.

 

3) Receiving gifts.

We all like to be given presents, but for some people this is the thing that makes them feel truly loved in a relationship.

Gary Chapman explains that “giving gifts is universal, because there is something inside the human psyche that says if you love someone, you will give to him or her”.

Some things to think about when dealing with a partner whose primary love language is receiving gifts:

  • It’s not about the money!  The gifts don’t have to be expensive; it really is the thought that counts here.  The gift is a physical representation of the fact that you were thinking about your partner.
  • Pay attention to the details of what your partner likes – if you notice that they really love a particular chocolate bar, then making sure you buy that one when you’re at the supermarket, rather than any other random bar, will really make them feel that you care about them.  May sound a bit silly but it’s true!

Not sure what sort of presents to give your partner?  Here are some ideas:

  • Flowers.  A classic gift that most women (and some men too!) will appreciate.
  • Chocolate!  Again, a classic!  And it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive box of chocolates.  A mars bar will do the trick most days.
  • Is there a film your partner has mentioned that they loved and want to see again?  Keep an eye out for it on dvd next time you’re out shopping.
  • Same goes for an album by their favourite artist.
  • Is your partner having a stressful time at work?  A few cans of their favourite beer or a bottle of wine waiting for them at home might make them feel much better!

 

4) Quality time.

For a person who’s primary love language is quality time, having your complete, undivided attention is essential for them to feel loved.

This doesn’t mean spending time together watching tv – it means turning the tv off, making eye contact and having a proper conversation!

If this is your partner’s love language, then you can learn to speak it by making sure you regularly spend time together in a situation where you can focus solely on them.  Maybe, if you normally eat your dinner in the lounge with the tv on, once a week you can make the effort to sit at the table together.  No tv, no phones.  Just good food and a chance to give all your attention to your partner.

Ask them about their day and really listen to what they have to say.

 

5) Physical touch.

If your partner is always asking for hugs, reaching to hold your hand or putting his arm around you when you watch tv together then, chances are, his primary love language is physical touch.

For them to feel loved they need you to make physical contact with them throughout the day.  Hearing the words ‘I love you’ won’t make them feel it as much as if you give them a huge hug and kiss when you see them.

So if this is your partner’s love language, how can you go about making sure they feel how much you love them?

  • Hold hands when you’re out and about together.
  • Make sure you kiss goodnight!
  • A big, bear hug out of the blue.
  • Be the one to initiate sex.
  • Give them a little squeeze when they’re doing the washing up.
  • Don’t let a day go by without touching them in some way.  Even if it is just a quick hug, or a kiss as you head out the door.  Make sure you give them that physical touch to let them know you love them.

 

If you’re not sure what your primary love language is, then you can take the fun love language test on 365tests to find out, or you can get a slightly more in-depth analysis with this quiz on the 5 love languages website.  Then get your partner to take the tests too, so that you know what language you need to be speaking to make them feel loved!

I think this whole idea is fascinating and really does seem to make sense.  Depending on our innate personalities and the way we were brought up, we have different needs that have to be met for us to feel truly loved.

What do you think?  Do you have any thoughts on other ways to speak these love languages?  I’d love to read your comments.

In the meantime, I’m off to take the quiz because I really can’t seem to decide what my primary love language is!

 

 

You Baby Me Mummy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
playgroup

Going to baby group for the first time (tips and advice for shy, anxious parents)

I can still remember it so clearly, the first time I decided to venture out to a baby group with my son.  I was so unbelievably nervous.  I’ve always been a shy person and so the thought of walking in to a room full of people I didn’t know and somehow trying to start up a conversation with them was just terrifying!

But, I had no Mum friends at that point, so took a deep breath and made myself do it.  And, honestly, that first time wasn’t that great.  I found it really hard, and had to force myself to go back a few weeks later.  But after that, it got easier and the people I met at that first baby group are still good friends of mine now which I’m so happy about.  We saw each other through the really hard times of being a new, first-time parent and are still around now to help each other through the hard times.  Especially now several of us have had a second child.

So, if you’re a new parent and sort of want to venture into the world of baby groups but are really scared by the idea of it, I would really encourage you to go for it.  It’s so worth those scary, uneasy moments!

Here are some tips, some science-backed, some just based on my own experience, that might help you take that first step into the world of baby groups!

going baby group first time advice shy anxious parents

Take someone with you.

Now, if you’re going to a group with the aim of meeting new people and making new Mum friends, then taking someone with you might not seem like the best idea, as you may well end up spending the whole time just chatting together.  But, if you’re really shy and nervous, having someone you know there with you might be enough to get you through the door.

Then once you’ve done that, you may well feel brave enough next time to go in alone.


Have a hug before you go in.

If you do take someone with you, try giving them a big hug just before you go in the door.  Or, if it’s your partner or someone you’re close to, try holding their hand on the way there.  If you’re going by yourself, then get your baby out and hold them close to you as you walk in the door.

All of these actions release oxytocin into your blood stream which is a really good thing!

Research from Concordia University has shown that oxytocin can help introverts in social situations because “under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting”.  So get those hugs in!


Ditch the car.
Try walking to the group if you can.  There are two reasons for this, the first is that walking releases oxytocin, just like hugging does, and the more of that the better when you’re feeling nervous!
The second reason is that walking to the group will give you time to calm yourself.  You won’t be worrying about whether or not there’ll be enough parking when you get there, you can just relax and take the time to reassure yourself that it’ll be ok.


Listen to some soothing music.

If you do decide to take the car (maybe that option is less stressful to you than pushing a heavy buggy all the way there!), then try listening to some soothing music as you drive.  Studies have found that doing this can, say it with me, release more oxytocin into your bloodstream.  Marvellous!


Use your baby to break the ice.

One of the great things about baby groups is that you have a natural ice-breaker with you!  You don’t have to worry about awkwardly starting up a conversation about the weather, you can open with a simple ‘how old is he?’.  You’ll find that other Mums are more than happy to answer questions about their babies, I mean, who doesn’t love talking about their kids!


Get people’s names!

One thing I would highly recommend though, is to make sure that when you do get chatting with someone you ask them what their name is, and not just their baby’s name!  I speak from experience.  I spent far too long calling people ‘so and so’s Mum’, then it just gets to a point when it’s almost embarrassing to ask.

So get in there early, ask for their name and then use it in conversation with them so it has a better chance of sticking in your sleep-deprived mind!


If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again.

And then try a different group!

You might find that the first time you go to a group it all feels a bit awkward and you don’t really talk to anyone.  If this happens, take a deep breath and try again.  It might take a few visits for you to warm up enough to start chatting to people, and also once you’ve been a few times people will start to recognise you and chat more with you.  If you really don’t like the first group you try though, have a look around at the other ones that are available in your area.

If you find the free-play sort of groups really intimidating then try going to a class or activity-based group instead.  Rhyme time sessions at the local library are a great free option, and there are all sorts of baby massage classes, baby signing classes, arts and crafts for toddlers sessions, and music classes that you could look into.  You might find that the activity helps you relax more so that you can start to chat more easily with the other mums.

So, there you have it, my advice to other shy parents who are working up the courage to venture out into the world of baby groups!  I really hope it helps, and that you end up enjoying these kind of groups as much as I’ve enjoyed them over the last 5 years.  If you have any other advice or related stories then please do leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!