help your children make friends

How to help your child make friends

As I’ve got older I’ve joked a few times about how making friends is so much easier when you’re a child.  You just walk up to another child and start playing with them.  Easy!  Except, it’s not actually that easy is it.

Making friends can be so hard for all of us at times.  And it can be just as hard as parents to see our children struggle to make friends.

The thing is, we can’t always physically be there to help our children to make friends but there are several things we can work on with them to set them up for forming great friendships as they venture into the world of playgroups, nursery and school.

How to help your child make friends

Focus on your relationship with them

One of the most important things you can do to help your children build healthy relationships in the future, is to concentrate on your own relationship with them.

Various studies have been done that show that children with a secure attachment to their parents go on to have better, closer friendships.  If you’re not familiar with the term, John Bowlby (1988) explains that a child is securely attached if they’re confident of their parents’ support.  For securely attached children, the parent acts like a safe, secure base that they can explore the world from.

Securely attached children will keep track of their parent while they’re exploring, checking back in with them now and then.  They also go back to their parent or reach out to them physically when they’re scared or upset, and they’re comforted by being close to them.

Whether or not a child is securely attached is partly down to their innate nature, but there are things we can do as parents to encourage it to.

Researchers have found that parents who are sensitive and responsive to their child’s needs tend to have children who are then securely attached.  This doesn’t mean rushing to our babies every time they make a noise in the night, but it does mean getting to know their different cries and responding to them with love and care.

Parenting our children in a way that is sensitive to their feelings and responding in a caring, thoughtful way to their needs can really help set our children up for building healthy relationships with others in the future.

 

Teach them to be kind

Studies have shown that children who are more willing to help others are more likely to have high-quality friendships.  It makes sense that children who are kind and happy to help others will develop stronger relationships and find it easier to make friends in the first place.

You can help your child grow up to be kind by modelling kind behaviour yourself.  Let your child see you hold the door open for other people, help someone reach something in the supermarket and react with empathy when someone you know is sad or angry.

Empathy is really important for helping children be kind and foster positive relationships.

You can help your child be more empathetic by using any and every opportunity that comes up to talk about how other people are feeling.  If another child falls over at the park you can talk about how they are hurt and how that might make them feel sad, angry or scared.  When you’re reading a book or watching TV together and something bad happens to one of the characters then you can talk about how they might be feeling about it.

We read ‘Dogger‘ recently and it’s been a great opportunity to talk about several different emotions and to highlight how kind Dave’s sister is when she gets Dogger back for him.

Help children make friends

Help them to regulate their emotions

If your child has a tendency to be aggressive they might find it harder to make friends.

A study by Carlson et al (1984) found that, not really surprisingly, children reject people that they see to be aggressive, disruptive and irritable.  And various studies have shown that popularity in preschool is tied in with kindness and low aggression.

So to help your child make friends you need to first help them learn to regulate their emotions.

There were several studies carried out in the 90s that found that parenting style can have a big impact on how well children can regulate their emotions.  They found that children whose parents talked to them about their big emotions in a sympathetic, constructive way were more able to then control those emotions.

On the other hand, when parents reacted to those negative emotions by telling the child they’re just being silly or by punishing them for being angry or upset, the children tended to find it harder to regulate those emotions.

It’s not always easy, but when your child is angry or really upset, try and find a way to calm them down and talk about their feelings.  Tell them that you understand and that everyone feels angry and sad at times.  Don’t just dismiss their feelings.

 

Teach them to be good conversationists

I’m not saying we need to start coaching our children on politics and the arts so that they always have something to talk about, but there are some skills we can teach our children that can help their communication skills and their ability to have good conversations.

This in turn can help them to make friends.

A study by Bierman (1986) found that children became more popular with their peers after they’d had some training in active listening.  This is basically behaving in a way that makes it clear to the other person that we’re paying attention to what they’re saying.

We can help our children to be active listeners by teaching them to make appropriate eye contact during conversations, to let the other person speak without interrupting and to then make relevant responses to show they’ve listened and understood what was said to them.

 

Help children make friends play together

 

Help them plan for social situations

If. for example, your child has tried to make friends at the local park and it hasn’t gone well for them, then you can talk about what they could do differently next time.

You can discuss how your child could hold back for a minute if he sees children playing a game that he wants to join in with.  Rather than just jumping straight in he could have a think about what he could do to fit in with the game they’re playing.  So if the children are playing a make believe game where they’re selling ice creams, then maybe your child could ask to join in as a customer wanting to buy some.

This would also be a good time to talk about appropriate social behaviours.  So explain to them that they shouldn’t try and take over or change the game that the other children are playing.  And if the others don’t want to let you join in then don’t argue with them about it and try to force them to let you play, just walk away and find a new game to play or another child to try again with.

 

Children really are all so different; some will naturally make friends easily and others will find the whole thing harder to get right.

With some guidance though, and hopefully with the help from these tips, our children can learn to form solid, healthy friendships that will last.

Do you have any other tips or bits of advice for helping children to make friends?

 

Tips to prepare for your next job interview

The tips you need to know to prepare for your next job interview

If you’ve ever had an interview for a job you’ll know how nerve-wracking it can be.

When you’re looking for a new job though, being asked to go along for an interview is all part of the process.  And there are lots of things you can do before the interview that can hopefully make you feel a lot calmer and in control on the day.

Here are my tips for how to prepare for your next interview so you can really shine.

The tips you need to know to prepare for a job interview

Fake it till you make it

I’m not talking about lying about how much experience you have, or the companies you’ve worked at in the past.

I’m talking about faking confidence, even if you feel really nervous.

Sometimes just acting as if we’re confident can give us a real confidence boost.

And if we go into an interview with an air of confidence then it will help convince the interviewers that we’re capable and well-suited to the job.

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, did a TED talk about confidence and power poses, and in that she mentions that quite often the way you act and the presence you bring to an interview counts more than the actual content of the interview.

You might not always give the best answers, but if you talk with confidence and seem comfortable and enthusiastic you’ll still come across really well.

 

Do your research

Have a look at the company’s website and get to know as much as you can about them.  You’ll feel much more confident going in to the interview if you know a bit about the background of the company, what their main aims are and what the ethos is like.

If you’re looking for jobs in a new town then do some research into the area too.

So if you currently live in London but are trying to find jobs in Manchester, then spend some time researching what the city itself is like, and what the general work culture there is like.

 

Plan your outfit

Think about the job you’re going for, and dress appropriately for the interview.

For most jobs in the corporate world you want to look smart.  So think knee length skirts or tailored trousers and a shirt or smart top.  If you’re going for a more senior role then you’ll be better off going for a suit.

Give some thought to the colours you choose to wear too.  It’s generally best to stick to classics like navy blue and grey, as they’re often associated with confidence and stability.  You might be tempted to go for something bright, like red, to help you stand out from the crowd but it’s probably best to stick to using it as an accent colour if the job you’re going for is in a more formal environment.

 

Double check the details

Make sure you have the right date and time for your interview written down on your calendar or noted in your diary.

Plan how you’re going to get to the interview, and how long it will take you to get there.  Make sure that if you’re driving you allow enough time for traffic, and think about where you’ll be able to park on the day.  If you’ll be using public transport then check times in advance, and maybe think about getting a slightly earlier bus than necessary to allow for any delays.

Make a point of finding out who will be interviewing you so that you can memorise their names.  You’ll make a good first impression if you use the interviewer’s name when you first meet them, as research has found that we feel more engaged with people when they use our name.

 

Prepare some STAR answers

A lot of interview questions will be along the lines of, “tell me about a time you…”.

So things like, “tell me about a time you worked as part of a team” and “tell me about a time your dealt with a difficult customer”.

Preparing some answers for these standard questions can help you feel much calmer on the day, rather than worrying about having to think of something on the spur of the moment.  And the best way to put your answer together is to use the STAR method.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and these are the four points you want to cover in your answer.

If you’re asked the question about dealing with a difficult customer, you would need to describe the situation that you were in and the task you were trying to achieve.  Then you would explain what action you took to resolve the issue and what the resulting outcome was.

There are so many behavioural interview questions you might be asked, that would require a STAR answer, so have a look online at various ones that might come up and prepare some answers.

 

Prepare some questions

At the end of the interview it’s highly likely that you’ll be asked if you have any questions, and most interviewers like it if you have a couple to ask.

It’s also a good idea to ask a few questions to make sure that you actually want to work there.  Remember the interview isn’t just about convincing them to hire you, it’s a chance for you to find out if the job would be a good fit for you.

Questions about the culture of the company and what your day to day responsibilities would be if you got the job are always good, safe options.

 

Take notes

If you’re really worried that you’ll go blank in the interview, make a few notes to take in with you.  There’s no rule that says you can’t do this, and many interviewers would be happy to see that you’ve clearly prepared for the interview.

You should also take along two copies of your CV, so you have one you can pass to the interviewer and one to keep yourself as another point of reference during the interview.

While we’re on the subject of things to take into the interview with you, it’s worth noting a few things you shouldn’t take in.

If you stop at the coffee shop on the way to the interview, make sure you finish your drink before entering the building, don’t take your cup into the interview with you.  Don’t chew gum either, or take any snacks to munch on while you talk.

Go easy on the perfume or aftershave too.

 

Hopefully with all this advice you’ll be fully prepared for any interview and can go along feeling calm and confident and ready to shine.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

reasons spend more time outside family

5 reasons to spend more time outside as a family

I’m quite a homebody at heart.

I can quite happily spend the day at home, just pottering around.  But I’m very aware that my whole family benefits when we get out the front door and have a bit of fresh air.

For anyone out there who’s like me and sometimes needs a bit of a nudge out the door, here are 5 great reasons to spend more time outside as a family.

5 reasons spend more time outside as a family

1. You’ll all feel less stressed

Getting out when the sun is shining can help our bodies produce more serotonin, that lovely feel-good hormone that helps us feel more relaxed and less anxious.

And even on overcast days it’s worth heading out to the park or the beach as a family, especially if you’ve been particularly stressed with work meetings or tests at school.  According to Kaplan’s (1995) Attention Restoration Theory, nature can help us feel refreshed and renew our focus after using up a lot of mental energy.

The theory is based around there being two different attentional systems.

The first is directed attention, which requires extended focus and the effort of ignoring distractions.  We use this kind of directed attention when we’re trying to finish a tricky project at work, or take a test at school.

The other attentional system is soft fascination, which doesn’t require any focus on our part and instead just involves effortless reflection.  We find ourselves in this state of soft reflection when we’re out in nature, and it can be a fantastic way to recover from the mental fatigue of directed attention.

 

2. It’ll give you all more energy

Being tired seems to be part and parcel of being a parent, and I know I rely quite a lot on coffee and tea to boost my energy through the day.  My children seem to naturally be full of energy, but even they have their times towards the end of each term when their energy levels drop.

The answer to giving the whole family an energy boost could be to head outside for some fresh air.

A study carried out by Ryan et. al (2010) found that just 20 minutes outside in nature can be enough to significantly increase our vitality levels.

The lead author of the study has this to say about it:

“Nature is fuel for the soul, often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”

It’s no wonder that people are starting to embrace Friluftsliv, the Norwegian way of life that is all about spending time outside in nature.

walking in forest boost immune system

 

3.  Everyone’s immune system will get a boost

Another fact of life is that children are little germ carriers, and once they start at nursery or school they will bring home every bug going and infect the whole family with it.

So anything you can do to boost your immune systems and help you all stay a bit healthier can only be a good thing.

Quite a few studies have been done that proved that our immune systems get a boost from heading outside and being in nature.  One in Nippon Medical School in Tokyo found that women who spent at least three hours outside every day had an increase in their white blood cell levels, which can help to fight off bugs and viruses.  But I’m not sure how realistic it is for most of us to spend three hours outside every day.

What might be more realistic for families is getting out for a walk in the local forest.  And a study carried out in 2010 found that doing this can boost our immune systems.  Apparently when we walk through forests we breathe in natural phytoncides that are in the air.  This is basically particles of a-pinene and limonene from the wood of the trees in the forest, which have an interesting effect on us humans.  The participants in the study who breathed in these particles had their blood tested and they found increased activity of natural killer cells.

What’s especially interesting is that even 30 days later the effects of increased immune function where still there.

 

4. You’ll all get a dose of vitamin D.

It can be really hard to make sure that the whole family eats a balanced diet and gets all the nutrients they need.  One pretty easy way to make sure we get enough vitamin D though, is to head outside and show some skin.

Just 15 minutes direct sun exposure a day is enough to help our bodies produce the vitamin D that we need.

This then helps our children’s bodies to grow and for their bones to develop properly.  And the whole family gets the benefits of strengthened immune systems and reduced inflammation.

sea air sleep better

5. Everyone will sleep better

Spending time outside, in natural light is so important for keeping our body clocks on track.

Researchers at the St. Louis University School of Medicine found that natural sunlight is really important for setting our body clocks.  Spending 30-60 minutes outside in direct sunlight can really improve our sleep patterns, help us to fall asleep more quickly and wake up less often through the night.

If at all possible, take your family for a good walk on the coast as much as you can, to really help everyone get a better night’s sleep.

A study carried out for the National Trust found that people slept for around 47 minutes longer after a good seaside walk.  People who did a similar walk inland did also sleep for longer that night, but only by 12 minutes.  So it seems that there really is something special about that sea air.

 

There are so many benefits to spending time outside as a family, but if it’s not something that comes naturally to you then these tips for an outdoor life will help you feel more confident about heading out and about.

How often do you spend time outside with your children?  Do you notice that you all seem to feel better when you do get out and about more?

scared of being too happy

Letting go of the fear of being too happy

If you ask people want they want from this life, most of them would say that, ultimately, they just want to be happy.

Happiness seems to be something that we’re all looking for, but at the same time actually letting ourselves be truly happy can be really quite scary.

I know that I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years, not letting myself enjoy things as much as I should, for a few different reasons.  It all comes down to this strange fear though, this fear of being completely happy.

I decided a while ago to try and focus on the good things more, to invite much more joy into my life.

And part of that involves letting go of this fear of being truly happy.

letting go of the fear of being too happy

I think in a way I’ve always been like this.

But it was an episode of Dawson’s Creek that really made me think about it.

I know, that sounds really silly, but it’s true.

You know the episode where Mitch, Dawson’s dad, dies?  In the run up to the accident Mitch is all about how good his life is, how happy he is.  I’m sure there’s a scene where the camera sort of sweeps around him as he stands outside their house, looking around in a ‘wow, isn’t life wonderful’ kind of way.

letting go of the fear of being completely happy

 

Then the next thing you know he’s in the car and he’s dropped his ice cream and that’s that.

Aside from the fact that Mitch deserved better than death by ice cream, this episode came with the lesson that if you ever get that ‘looking around in wonder at how happy you are and how great life is’ feeling, then something horrific and traumatic must be just around the corner.

My best friend and I still talk about it now.  Most of the time we sort of joke about it, but there’s still that underlying feeling though, that there’s some truth in it.

That we shouldn’t let ourselves feel that kind of complete happiness because it won’t last.

And not only will it not last, it will in some way trigger something negative to come along.

The fact that this idea is a plot point in a hugely popular, main stream TV show seems to prove how common this feeling is too.

It’s as if we’ve all been conditioned to believe that there has to be a price to pay for feeling happy.

That there has to be a balance, so if we’re really happy then it follows that we must soon be really sad to even things out.

The thing is, that is true of life.  It is a mixed bag and we will all experience joy and sorrow at various times.  But I think I need to let go of this feeling that there is a causal link between the two.

Being happy doesn’t cause us to then be sad.

Bad things will happen, regardless of how happy or unhappy we are in the run up to them happening.  Not letting yourself feel truly happy won’t prevent the bad things from happening.

I wonder though, if another part of it is this feeling that if we let go and feel true happiness then we’ll be completely unprepared for hardships or upsets that might come our way.  So staying in a state of semi-happiness is better.

But, are we ever really prepared for the hard times?  No matter how much we worry about things, I don’t think it makes it any easier to deal with them if they do actually materialise.

It’s like that line in the Sunscreen song:

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.  The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday

We can worry and hold ourselves back from true happiness all we like, but it still won’t help us or prepare us for the real troubles that come along.

So, I think it’s time to let go.

To let go of this fear and to just embrace every scrap of happiness that comes our way.

I’m not necessarily saying we should cherish every single moment of our lives.

I’m saying that we should stop worrying so much about what could go wrong, and celebrate all the many little things in our lives that are going right.

We need to learn from our children, who experience life so openly, so joyfully.

A few weeks ago we had a spell of glorious weather, and spent a good few hours at the beach.  We dressed the children in their swimming costumes, so they could have a play in the sea.  I took the camera along because I wanted to capture this first proper paddle of the year.  And as I watched them play with my husband in the water, I started thinking about the last time I actually paddled myself.

I couldn’t actually remember when it was.  See, I’m always the one holding back.  Holding back from really relaxing and having fun and letting go.  With the excuse of being the one with the camera.

So I handed it over.

I took my shoes and socks off and splashed around in the water with my children for the first time in way too long.

It was silly.  It was fun.  It was wonderful.

To just be in that moment, to drink it all in, to laugh with my family and, in that moment, feel truly happy.

That’s what life should be I think.

I mean, life is tough; it comes with so many challenges and dramas and tears.

But it’s also pretty damn amazing.

It comes with love and beauty and hope.  So surely when things are good, when we look around and feel happy, we should grab that happiness and truly feel every last bit of it.

 

What do you think?  Have you ever felt this fear of being truly happy?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
5 ways to encourage a growth mindset in your children

5 ways to encourage a growth mindset in your children

At the start of this academic year my children’s school started talking about how they were working on promoting a growth mindset in the children, in line with the school’s ethos of helping every child to achieve success.

I hadn’t really heard the term ‘growth mindset’ before, so went off and did some reading into it.  I found the whole idea really interesting, but then didn’t really think much more about it because, honestly, it didn’t seem all that relevant to my children at the time.

Recently though, I’ve noticed that Rhys is struggling at times with feelings of frustration when he can’t do something.

He seems to have a bit of a fixed mindset, that tells him that he simply can’t do something.  So we’re working on changing that mindset to a growth one.  Working on teaching him that with work and practice and effort he may well be able to do the things he can’t do on his first try.

If you’re finding that your child seems to have a fixed mindset about some things, here are five ways you can help to encourage a growth mindset instead.

5 ways to encourage a growth mindset in children

 

1. Talk to them about how our brains work, and explain the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

Explain to your child that our brains form new pathways every time we try or learn something new.  And it takes time and repeated tries at something for those pathways to get more established and for us to then get better at the thing we’re trying to do.

Once they understand this, they should also then start to understand that we can’t expect to be good at everything we try, the first time we try it.

From there you can then explain to them that a fixed mindset will stop us ever being great at things that don’t come naturally to us.  If we try something once, find it hard and think ‘I’m no good at this’, then we never give the new pathways in our brains a chance to take root.

On the other hand, if we have a growth mindset and think about ways we can practice and work on the thing we find hard, then the pathways will strengthen and we will improve.

 

2. Don’t just focus on results

When our children do well on a test, or get all of their homework questions right then the temptation is to congratulate them on those results.  We so often want to tell them, “you’re so clever”, or “you’re so good at maths”, but this might not be the best approach to take.

This type of praise can actually promote a fixed mindset, because it tells them that ‘being clever’ is a trait that they have, and so isn’t something they can actually control.

Instead we should be looking to praise the effort that they put in to achieve the results they got, and the way they approached the challenge.

Talking about the things they did to get the results puts the focus on things that they can control, like how hard they work, how many times they practice the skill and how they go about getting help if they’re struggling.

 

3. Take away the fear of failure

One of the big reasons we all have for not trying new or hard things is because we’re so worried about making mistakes and failing.

If we can take away that fear of failure for our children they’ll be much more willing to give things a go, and keep trying when they do get it wrong.

What we need to teach our children is that mistakes and failures are really important parts of learning.  And that it’s not a bad thing to get something wrong, it just helps us learn from a situation and improve for next time.

 

4. Model the behaviour you want to teach them

Our children are constantly watching us and learning from the way we behave.  I think the behaviour we model in front of our children can be much more powerful than the words we say directly to them when we’re trying to teach them how to act.

So let them see you struggle with new challenges.

Let them know that some things are hard for you at first.

And talk to them about the strategies you use to figure it out.  The hours of practice you put in to get good at something.

Model an attitude of effort and persistence for them to learn from.

 

5. Teach them the magic word

When it comes to developing a growth mindset, there is one magic word that can make a huge difference.

Yet.

Added on to the end of a sentence it can change everything.

You go from “I can’t do it” to “I can’t do it … yet” and that is incredibly powerful.

It’s telling yourself that maybe you can’t do it at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you never will be able to do it.

promoting growth mindset in children

 

A few weeks ago Rhys had a bit of a hard time at his swimming lesson. 

He is struggling to come up for a breath and then carry on smoothly with his breast stroke.  After his lesson I asked him what had made him upset during his lesson and he told me “I can’t do it”.

And we talked about how he really means, “I can’t do it yet”.

I reminded him of how far he’s come with his swimming since he started his lessons.  How in the beginning he couldn’t swim at all, and he had to have armbands to keep him afloat.  And now, with time and practice and perseverance he can swim so well.

I think he understood, and seemed to feel a bit better by the end of our chat.  It did make me a lot more aware of this whole growth mindset thing though, and it’s something I’ll be much more active in promoting in him (and Nerys) from now on.

It’s been a pretty good reminder for me too, to keep a watchful eye on my own mindset when things are hard.

Are you aware of this idea of having a growth mindset?  Is it something you actively promote in your children?

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
quick things try when stressed

5 quick things to try when you feel stressed

I think it’s fair to say that most of us feel stressed out about one thing or another on quite a regular basis.

It might be due to pressures of work, or money, or keeping the house in order while raising children.  Whatever the reason behind it, studies have found that 85% of adults in the UK are regularly feeling stressed.

There are all sorts of things we can do long term to help with stress, but what about those times when it all suddenly gets too much and you need a way to calm yourself down quickly?

Here are 5 ideas for things you can try to help you quickly feel better when you’re stressed out.

5 quick things to try feel stressed

 

1.  Turn to nature

 

If you can, head outside to a green space for a few minutes.

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and help us feel calmer.  So if you can, find a green space outside and spend a few minutes connecting with nature.

If you’re not able to physically go outside, say you’re stuck at your desk at work for example, then just looking at a photo of a scene from nature can have the same effect.

A study carried out at VU University in Amsterdam found that just 5 minutes of looking at a nature scene can help us recover from stress more quickly.  The participants in the study who viewed pictures of trees found their heart rate and blood pressure recovered from a stressful event more quickly than those who looked at urban scenes.

So it might be worth choosing a nice woodland or park scene to use as the wallpaper on your work computer, or keeping a photo of your children in a pretty outdoor location on your desk to look at when you start to feel stressed.

 

bluebells in the sunshine

 

2.  Breathe

 

When something stresses us out we tend to experience the flight or fight response.

This is basically where our bodies get ready for either fighting or running away from the cause of the stress.  So your heart starts to beat faster and your muscles tense up ready for action.

When you feel your body starting to react in this way you can calm yourself down by focusing on your breathing.

There’s a large nerve that runs through your body, connecting your brain with your heart, lungs, gut and other major organs.  It’s called the vagus nerve, and it’s part of your parasympathetic nervous system which helps to slow down that fight or flight response.

You can activate the vagus nerve with slow, rhythmic breathing.

Try breathing in for a count of 5, holding that breath for a count of 2 and then gently breathing out for a count of 6.

This will help to tell your brain that you’re not in any immediate danger, and so have no need to fight or to run, and you will start to feel calmer again.

 

 

3.  Do some star jumps

 

The other alternative to deal with the fight or flight response is to get active.

When the adrenaline starts pumping round your body then use it up by quickly doing some physical activity.

Kathleen Hall, chief executive of The Stress Institute in Atlanta, has suggested that you keep a skipping rope in your office so you can do 60 seconds of fast skipping when you need to relieve stress quickly.

If you don’t have the luxury of a private office for a spot of skipping then see if you can find a place to do a few star jumps or press ups.

A power walk round the block would also do the trick.

Hall explains,

“Exercise relaxes tense muscles that become tight and rigid when you experience stress.  Exercise delivers oxygen to the brain, vital organs and muscles immediately and produces endorphins that soothe your mind, body and soul.”

 

 

4.  Stand up tall and clench your right fist

 

Have you heard about power poses before?  They’re basically ways of posing your body that are normally quite expansive and open, that make you feel more confident and less anxious.  If you’re feeling stressed before an interview, follow researcher Amy Cuddy’s advice and take a few minutes to stand like wonder woman to give yourself a confidence boost.

Even just simply sitting up straight can help in the fight against stress.

A study published in the journal ‘Health Psychology’ found that people who sat upright while doing some high-pressure tasks had fewer negative thoughts and feelings than those who sat slouched down in their chairs.

While you’re busy perfecting your posture, try clenching and unclenching your right hand a few times.

Doing this activates the left side of your brain, which is the more logical side.  When you’re feeling stressed and scared, the right brain is more active as this is the part that deals with our emotions.  So activating the left side of your brain can help you to calm down and think more logically about the situation you’re in.

 

relieve stress focus on three things you can see right now

5.  Focus on three things you can see around you

 

Mindfulness has become more and more popular over the last few years, and it’s a great way to deal with stress and anxiety.

You can apply the principles of mindfulness when you need to de-stress quickly by looking around you and describing three things that you can see.  You want to be trying to describe the things in terms of their shape, size, colour etc.

So if you’re in the office you can focus on the blue of the chair you’re sitting on, and how the fabric of the seat feels when you touch it and how it supports your back when you recline in it.  Or take a sip of your cup of tea and focus on how hot it is, how the cup fits in your hand and what colour it is.

This exercise forces your attention away from the things that are making you feel anxious and stressed and instead makes you focus on the present moment and non-emotional, neutral aspects of experience.

 

Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, or just suddenly feel overwhelmed and stressed out by life in general, give one of these five quick tricks a try.  You should be starting to feel calmer in no time.

 

benefit of spending time outside

1 surprising benefit to spending time outside

We all know that getting outside in the fresh air is good for us.

Spending time in nature can help us relax and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  Breathing in all that fresh air is great for our respiratory systems and the vitamin D we get from the sun boosts our immune systems.

But there is another benefit to spending time outside that might surprise you.

surprising benefit of spending time outside

Did you know that spending time outside in nature can help boost our body image?

A few studies have been carried out that found a correlation between spending time outside in nature and having a positive body image.  The thing with these studies though is that the researchers didn’t know if there was actually a causal link between the two.

This question seems to have been answered by a recently published study carried out by Swami et al.  The researchers actually carried out a few different studies to test this idea that spending time in green spaces can give us a more positive body image.

What they found in each of the 5 studies was that there was a boost in body image after spending time in green spaces. 

Now, when they talk about positive body image they don’t just mean that people thought that they looked better after spending time outside in nature.  In this instance, positive body image is about being appreciative of our bodies and respecting what they’re able to do.  It’s about embracing different ideas of beauty rather than believing that only one type of ‘look’ can be beautiful.

In one of the studies they found that people who walked through the green spaces of Hampstead Heath showed a significant increase in body appreciation, agreeing with statements like ‘I am comfortable with my body’.  This is compared to people who took a walk of the same length in an urban area, who actually showed a decrease in body appreciation after their walk.

What’s really interesting though, is that just looking at photos of green spaces has the same effect as actually going out and being in nature.  So it’s not the fresh air and sunlight that cause this change in body image.

The researchers suggested that it might be down to the fact that even just looking at green spaces has a calming effect on us.  They explain it like this:

Natural environments may capture one’s attention in an effective but gentle manner, a process termed by Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) as “soft fascination.” This undramatic fascination is generally accompanied by feelings of pleasure, such as when one is drawn to the sight of a setting sun or green vistas. Such surroundings may be ideal for promoting more positive state body image because they effortlessly hold one’s attention while allowing for simultaneous thought and reflection to occur. The ability to reflect in an environment that does not require effortful attention may provide the observer with a cognitive quiet, which in turn may foster self-kindness, nurturance, and a compassionate view of one’s self and body

In general green spaces are less visually busy than built-up, urban areas.  Walking through the city you’re bombarded with sights and sounds and smells and it can be a lot to take in and process.  In the park though, there is more space, and it tends to be much quieter in every sense of the word.  So our minds are calmer and we tend to feel more positive about everything.

So if you’re a mum who’s feeling a bit down about your body since having your children, try to make an effort to get out in some green spaces as often as you can, it really might make you feel more positively about your body.  It can be far too easy to look at how our bodies have changed thanks to pregnancy, and to feel bad about not being as slim or toned as we used to be.

What we need to do though is anything and everything we can to remind ourselves that actually our bodies are absolutely amazing and beautiful because of what they’ve done.  

And speaking of our children, I think it’s a great idea to encourage them to spend more time in green spaces too.  They are exposed to so many negative messages these days as far as body image goes, that anything we can do to promote a healthy, positive body image in them can only be a good thing.