She’s Going to be Okay

Two girls smilingA few weeks ago, my ten year-old came home from her first field hockey practice with some news that touched my heart. She said that the first half of practice she had been practicing self-criticism and comparing herself to others, but then the second half of practice, she remembered self-compassion, and she began to repeat the kind wishes in her head that we’ve been practicing together for the last few years (May I be joyful…May I be the person I wish to be…May my heart be full of love and connection…). 

My heart leapt with joy at her compassionate inner voice, and I thought to myself, “She’s going to be okay!” This is the same thought that I had when my now fourteen year-old began to report that she had an inner voice that soothed and encouraged her when she felt “less than” in middle school. When a child develops an inner self-compassionate voice, I know they are going to be “okay.” They have an inner ally that will soothe them during difficult times and help them to grow and change in positive ways.

It is my deepest wish that all of us – adults and children – can develop an inner self-compassionate voice that helps us to know that we are “okay” and loved. As grown-ups, we can grow our self-compassionate voice by taking self-compassion training or learning about self-compassion, and then intentionally practicing our inner soothing and encouraging voice. We can also encourage the youth in our lives to take a self-compassion class or read self-compassion books to support them in learning and growing the compassionate voice that they have hopefully been hearing from the grown-ups around them.

My favoritie self-compassion program for families is the parent-child self-compassion class. I love it because it enables children and their grown-ups to learn self-compassion side-by-side. It is beautiful indeed when both caregivers and children encourage each other to remember to be self-compassionate during their difficult moments (see the below one-minute video).

Wishing you and the youth in your life the resource of self-compassion.

With love,
Jamie Lynn 

The Path to Resilience Journaling Challenge

I am formally inviting you (yes you!) on a Path to Resilience Journaling adventure.  I am sharing our first week of the Path to Resilience journaling blog with everyone.  If you would like to receive journaling prompts for future weeks (it is a sixty-day challenge), you can sign up for the challenge here.

Before you begin this journaling challenge, I invite you to consider your “why.”  Why would you want to go on a two-month-long journaling adventure?  What would you like to have more of in your life?  Joy, connection, freedom, strength, hope, well-being?  If you feel so moved, make a list of what you would like to invite more of into your life.  You could use this list of values from NVC to get some ideas.   If you have a moment, go ahead and do this now.

If you have made a list of good things that you would like to invite into your life, this can be your “why.” If you are not up for making a list of good things right now, you can borrow my reason to begin this adventure: following the tips and journaling prompts from the Path to Resilience has helped me to become the best version of myself.

Now…on to week one of our journaling challenge.   On week one of the Path to Resilience, we begin by focusing on mindfulness and our emotions.  As James Baldwin famously said:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”

Emotions deeply affect the way that we experience life.  And depending on how we relate to our emotions, we will have more or less well-being.  Feel free to click here to watch a two minute video if you would like to hear me explore the concept of well-being as it relates to mindfulness and integration.

In order to experience well-being, we need to be able to integrate our emotions, life experiences, and the various parts of our brain.  The journaling practice for week one helps us to name our emotions so that we can integrate them.   Additionally, the journaling activity for week one includes a hint of gratitude (the science of the inclusion of gratitude is touched on in the video recording below).

So, our adventure begins with a little gratitude and a lot of awareness. Click on the three-minute video below to listen to me explain the week 1 journaling challenge, or if you prefer, you can continue reading below the video.  Be sure to not just listen to the video/read about the journaling challenge, but also try what is suggested.  We have something called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” which means that what changes our brain is experience rather than knowledge.

Our journaling prompt begins each day with the phrase, “Today I am grateful for awareness…..”  As the weeks progress, you will be invited to focus on different aspects of your life experience, but for week one we focus on our emotions.

For week one, all that you need to do is pause to remember your “why,” and then write down, “Today I am grateful for awareness…” at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  Go ahead and do this now.  Pause. Now, write down three emotions that you feel and the corresponding trigger (see above example).  Please be sure that at least one of the emotions is negative.  We need to integrate both negative and positive experiences, which means that it is important to be aware of and name both positive and negative emotions.

Please note that when we say that we are grateful for awareness, we are not saying that we are grateful for the things that have caused difficult emotions.  We are simply stating that we are grateful for an awareness of our feelings.  If you don’t feel authentically grateful for an awareness of your emotions, you can denote that as well (I touch on this in the above video).

For week one, this is all that is asked of you each day:  1) Remember your “why” 2) Write “Today I am grateful for awareness….” 3) Write down three emotions that you are feeling in response to situations in your life.  If you like, you could follow up your journaling with a mindful awareness practice such as dropping in, or a kindness practice such as kind wishes. 

If you would like to receive weekly journaling on the Path to Resilience blogs, guided practices and mindful movement videos for the sixty-day challenge, you can sign up for no cost using this link.

If you would like to learn more about the Path to Resilience training you can click here.

I wish you peace, joy, and integration.

Resilience Toolkit

A friend of mine recently sent me an article from the New York Times entitled, Is Resilience Overrated?  As I read the article, I reflected on the many ways that people define resilience.  I looked up the word resilience and found this definition: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” 

Yes, I thought, if that is how one defines resilience, I can see where a person might think that resiliency is overrated.

I agree that the ability to bounce back from adversity is a hallmark of resilience, but the strategies that one uses to bounce back can make the difference between resilience feeling fatiguing and resilience being uplifting.  I consider myself to be a very resilient person, but the word “toughness” is not part of my working definition of the word.

Long-term resilience involves being able to integrate difficult experiences and then respond skillfully.  But just how, you might ask, does one do that?

To begin, I would like to talk about what resilience is not.  Truthfully, when adversity hits, I oftentimes try my “not resilient” strategies first. Here is what “not resilience” looks like for me: Telling myself there is no problem.  Compulsively doing things that distract me from the problem.  Trying to look on the bright side of things to avoid feeling difficult feelings.  Repeat.  When I experience something challenging in my life, I oftentimes practice “not resilience” until I become too anxious or too tired to continue.  Then, I surrender to reality and turn toward my resiliency toolkit.

My resilience toolkit includes the following:

        1. Talking with friends
        2. Journaling
        3. Getting angry and sad and scared and messy
        4. Cloaking myself with kindness and compassion
        5. Practicing yoga or exercising to get into my body and out of my head
        6. Spending time in nature
        7. Gathering resources
        8. Continuing to take steps forward, often with the support of friends
        9. Beginning to hope, take in the good, and see silver linings
        10. Experiencing another setback
        11. Repeat
        This resilience toolkit creates resilience that is both sustainable and uplifting.  It is something that I can go back to again and again when life gets messy and hard.  Setbacks in life are inevitable, and a supportive resilience toolkit cannot be overrated.

Calm Your Body to Calm Your Mind

“Not everything that is faced can be changed.  But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

We are in the midst of a pandemic.  Let’s imagine that you sit still to practice mindfulness – the simple art of non-judgmental awareness.  You observe your breathing.  You notice that your breathing is tight and that your body is tense.  You feel anxious.

What do you do next?  Do you continue to sit and observe?  Do you label your emotions?  Do you get up and do something else? What is a wise and compassionate response to an observation of a body and a mind filled with stress?

It can be a skillful choice to call a friend, journal, or go for a walk.  We might practice art, spend time in nature or dance.  It can also be a wonderful choice to practice yoga.  Yoga is an excellent way to calm the nervous system because it links the mind and the body together through the power of breath and movement.  When we intentionally slow down our bodies and our breathing, we often slow down and calm our mind. 

This story begins with an essential element—the power of observation. But what we do when we notice distress – whether we continue observing, try to ignore it, or take an action to intentionally calm our nervous system – is up to us.  Small positive choices can make a big difference over time.

Want to experiment with linking movement and breathing?  Notice how slow, intentional movements affect the state of your body and mind.

The Healing Power of AND

If you are like me, you are on a roller coaster of feelings during this coronavirus time at home.  Sometimes, I momentarily forget about the virus while walking in nature or laughing with my kids, and then suddenly I remember once again. Hope, grief, sadness, joy and despair flicker in and out of my awareness.  I experience moments of awe at the way we are working together in community.  Other times I feel loneliness and worry about the physical and social isolation—both for myself and for others. 

During these challenging times, I remind myself again and again to create space for AND.  AND what? you might ask.  By AND, I mean allowing for both sadness and joy.  Loneliness and connection.  Despair and hope.  If we don’t create space for all of it, we run the risk of either anxiously clinging to positivity, or conversely, wallowing in despair.

Creating space for AND involves: A = Allowing the full range of emotions and becoming Aware of the present moment.  N = Nurturing—nurturing ourselves as we struggle, and nurturing a healthy mind that is also able to see what is good.  D = Discovering.  We can cultivate curiosity to move beyond our typical ways of responding and discover new and beautiful possibilities.  Allow, Nurture, and Discover (AND).

It’s not easy to open to all of our emotions.  Yoga, mindfulness, self-compassion and growing the good all help.  It also helps to journal and pick up the phone to call a friend to remember that we are not alone.  There are a lot of things that we cannot control in this situation, but practicing AND paves the way for a healthier emotional life and a more peaceful mind.