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Finding “ME” in Meditation

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In a society where we are all required to do more, sleep less, perform better, get richer, and find room for others, it’s hard to find the “me” in much of anything. So much of daily living is performing where our minds are constantly racing to the next thing. Sleep is interrupted by alarm clocks and delayed by late nights. No matter what the reason, whether it’s family, work, or school, it seems there is never enough time in the day.

Reports of declining mental health is increasing in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and addiction. The big question is: How to cope? Is it really possible to find time for you? To build a way to relax, think, and rejuvenate without any artificial replacements?

I say, absolutely! The way to finding “me” is through ME-ditation.

Meditation means different things to different people. Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan defines mediation as the ability to open the mind and acknowledge thoughts and senses, without showing judgment or analyzing, while embracing the unknown, through daily practice.

The benefits of meditation far outweigh any screen time on a smart phone. These include reduced depression, lowered anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, improved relaxation and sleep, and the ability to find spiritual connection. Meditation is also used in addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional intelligence!

John Cabot Zin outlines the ABC’s:

A-Awareness: Becoming more aware of the mind and body. Thinking and doing.

B- Breathe: Allowing yourself to be with your experience. Create your story without reacting or responding. This can create compassion for yourself and others.

C- Compassion: By creating a pause between the experience and our reaction, we can make wiser choices.

Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increase our emotional intelligence and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.

Here Are Some Tips For Your Meditation Practice:

*Acknowledge you need “me” time.

*Slow down

*Find a quiet space

*Sit or Lay down

*Put your hand by your side

*Relax

*Clear your mind

*Listen

*Close your eyes, or try a sleepy gaze

*Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts

*Pause or hold for 5 counts

*Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.

*Repeat

*Practice Daily

If thoughts come into your mind during your exercise, sweep them from your mind. Be aware of your body and sensations. Focus on your breath. Feel the air in your nose or mouth as you inhale and exhale. Acknowledge what you hear or smell. Feel your body relaxing. And breathe. Start with 5-10 minutes daily. The key to prolonged benefits, is to practice, practice, practice. If you fall asleep during your exercise, that’s good! You need it!

If you enjoy this simple meditation, seek out our trained therapists to deepen meditation skills and other powerful approaches to mindfulness.

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Teaching Kids Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions effectively and positively.  Kids who understand their emotions, can name them, and can manage them are better able to cope with stress, manage relationships with others, and communicate more effectively.
There are four main characteristics of emotional intelligence.
  • Emotionally intelligent people are self aware.  They recognize their own emotions.
  • Emotionally intelligent people can self-regulate.  They can control how they react to their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.
  • Emotionally intelligent people are empathetic.  They understand other people’s emotions.
  • Emotionally intelligent people have social skills. They can build connections with others.
The best way to teach children emotional intelligence is through modeling.  Parents who take time to develop these characteristics in themselves will gain the benefits of emotional intelligence in their own lives, but will also pass these traits on to their children.  To help learn these skills AND pass them on to your child here are some activities to do together:
1.  In order to be aware of emotions children need to be able to name them.  Younger children can look at flash cards depicting various feelings and copy the faces as parents tell them the name for that emotion.  Older children can identify times they felt that emotion and what they did about it. (Flash cards can be found by googling “emotion flash cards”, or you can make your own.)
2.  Using an emotion thermometer (again, google is your friend), you can teach children how to recognize what it feels like when they are experiencing strong emotions, and provide them tools for “cooling down the thermometer”.  These skills can include: talking to a friend or adult, asking for help, counting to ten, taking five deep breaths, or practicing some mindfulness.  There are lots of mindfulness for kids clips on youtube or available as apps on a smart phone.
3.  One great way to instill empathy in children is to get them involved in regular acts of service.  Afterward, listen to your child share with you how the act of service made them feel?  Discuss how the service made the recipient feel.
4.  Social skills are best developed by lots of practice.  Create plenty of opportunities for your child to interact with other children.  Go to parks or children’s museums, set up play dates, get to know the kids in the neighborhood.  Give your child space to explore and interact with other children.  Give them opportunities to work out problems themselves, and step in with guidance when they need it. If your child needs extra help developing social skills, contact our office at  (801) 944-4555 for information on the next available social skills group for kids.
There are lots of ways to develop theses characteristics, the important thing is to regularly incorporate these kinds of activities into your child’s life.  Doing so will help them (and you) manage stress and anxiety, communicate more effectively, and build stronger relationships with those around them.

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Emotional Intelligence as a Back to School Skill

unnamed-1One of the things I spend time doing, explaining and reiterating with myself, as well as my clients with and without children, is emotional intelligence.  If there’s anything that gets in the way of living a full, rich, and meaningful life, it’s our experience with our emotions. The ability to gain emotional intelligence is a key skill in allowing us to truly understand ourselves and our reactions to events around us, because those are the only things we can really control – ourselves and our reactions.  As we enter a new school year and support the children in our lives with the changes that inevitably come with it, I am sharing a few key concepts related to emotional intelligence as a starting point for a successful year.

Emotional Intelligence is briefly discussed here by its popular advocate and author – Dr. Daniel Goleman. One of the first things he says is that Emotional Intelligence is that it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships.

Then, he lists 4 domains that create emotional intelligence:

  1. Self awareness – knowing what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it.
  2. Self management – handling distressing emotions in an effective way so that they don’t cripple you & tuning into them for what they can teach you  – because even though they aren’t fun, they still serve a purpose and it’s okay to explore what that purpose is.
  3. Empathy – knowing what someone else is feeling.
  4. Social Interaction Skills – Putting it all together as a skill in significant relationships.

He then talks about how the part of our brain that allows us to do this is the part that grows the slowest – chronologically and developmentally – in our brains. He then goes on to talk about neuroplasticity which is basically the flexible nature of the brain as an organ. He mentions that our brains develop based on repeated experiences and he uses that as the foundation to encourage us to talk about self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills with kids at early ages and in systematic ways.

There are a number of books that have helped revolutionize parenting in this respect and they have been really helpful to me, personally and professionally. One of the struggles in parenting that I have seen with other parents and caregivers is the habit we have of associating our ability to make sense of the world to our children’s abilities to do the same thing in the same way. On our lesser days, it can be frustrating when they don’t act like the little adults that many of us may have been raised to be when we were kids!  Yet, when we remember Goleman’s words, we can remind ourselves that neurotypical children’s brains are not developmentally capable of verbally articulating the four concepts outlined above if they aren’t taught to recognize what the 4 concepts feel like and helped to identify when they are feeling any of the four concepts. That is our job as the adult in a child’s life.

The important thing that has helped me, the parents, and caregivers that I work with has been to understand that our kids feel  a lot of things – good and bad – that they struggle to explain to us in words.  Again, our job as parents, is to help them gain the vocabulary to do so. However, we can’t teach them what we don’t know or haven’t personally experienced, so it’s important that we practice becoming aware of our own emotional experiences, managing them, practicing empathy, and enhancing our social skills in the relationships that matter most to us, especially with the people who depend on us for guidance and support.

Emotional intelligence is probably the coolest thing to have in our backpacks as we head into the new school year! Find ways that you can sharpen your skillset and pass your understanding on to your kids by modeling healthy steps towards emotional intelligence.

 

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8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Mess Up Your Kids


Sad Child Looking Down1) Shut down all emotional expression

If your child expresses anger, sadness, fear be sure to make fun of them, tell them not to feel, and dismiss their emotions.  Withhold love whenever they express emotion, especially vulnerable feelings. Another tactic is to express more intense emotions than they are showing so they’ll stop feeling and focus on comforting you.

2) Set inconsistent rules

Never talk openly about your expectations for your child’s behavior. Make your child guess what the ground rules are and change them constantly.  Be sporadic and unpredictable in giving consequences and punishment.

3) Ask your child to solve your problems

Share all of your worries, concerns, and relationship problems and ask them to solve it for you. Always present yourself as incapable of taking care of yourself and your child.

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The Importance of Social Emotional Learning: KSL 5 News


Holly Willard, LCSW discusses the importance of social, emotional learning on KSL’s morning news.

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Read Holly’s suggestions for activities that help increase your child’s emotional IQ.

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Activities to Increase Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Wasatch Family Therapy KidsEmotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks. Research has shown that even more than IQ, your emotional & social intelligence is more correlated with success and overall happiness. Some of the proven benefits of increasing social and emotional intelligence are: better physical health, higher academic scores, fewer behavior problems, closer relationships, increased resiliency, and less prone substance abuse, mental health issues and violence. Daniel Goleman’s model identifies four key areas of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.  In my therapy practice I use many different interventions to help kids recognize, express and manage their emotions.  Here are five of my favorite activities:

Feelings Candyland:

The rules of the game are the same as regular Candyland except, when you choose a card to move, you have to express a time you felt the feeling that correlates with the color.  (i.e. Blue is sad.  Talk about a time or something that makes you sad).  Here is an outline of the game Feelings Candyland

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Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: Studio 5

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how you can become your child’s “emotion coach” and help her develop emotional health. Watch the segment online!

Read more on JulieHanks.com

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