Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Having fun - it's not just good for kids!

Spring is slowly trying to arrive and hopefully that means our kids are spending more time outside, playing and having fun!  Outdoor recess at school is by far the favorite activity for my kids.  

We know that in order for our children to get the most out of learning, recess is a vital component of their day.  By taking a break and having time to play creatively and without a lot of structure they are better able to focus and perform on school the rest of the day.

So why don't adults have recess every day too?

The most obvious answer is that we think we are too busy to play.  Having fun is something we wait all week to have on the weekend.  We spend time thinking about having fun instead of actually doing it because we think we don't have the time. What if we were able to be more focused and productive by having fun EVERY DAY?  Believe it or not, it is true. 

Here are 2 easy action items for you TODAY:

1.  Identify what you consider fun!  Preferably get yourself outside to do it.  A walk, play a game, read a magazine, meet a friend...
2.  Schedule it in your calendar.  That's right.  Plan for it in the morning and that way you give yourself permission before your day gets busy.  Set an alarm if you have to, but make it a priority.  It does not need to be long, it just needs to be fun!

See you much more productive you can be when you make time for yourself!  Having fun is not just for kids or weekends - but a way to improve our happiness, overall wellness, balance and productivity!

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC

Friday, March 20, 2015

International Day of Happiness

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up" - Mark Twain

Today is the #InternationalDayofHappiness.  

Some ways to celebrate:

  • Call a friend and connect with someone you have not seen in a while.
  • Do something kind for someone else.
  • Make a list of what you are grateful for.
  • Play in the snow on the first day of spring ;-)
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Sing out loud.

To learn more go to www.dayofhappiness.net
How does it feel?  Why stop at one day?  How long can you prioritize your own happiness with one deliberate act a day?  I would love to hear from you.

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mindfulness Meditation made easy!

For years the idea of meditation scared me.  Quieting my mind did not come naturally to me.  I was consistently multitasking and thinking that was a good thing.  I have learned a tremendous amount about the benefits of meditation and how to live life from a place of mindfulness by recognizing that just because something is not inherently natural for me does not mean I can not learn to make it so.  

So what exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness defined by Katab-Zinn 2003 *

Paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

Think of your mind like a snow globe.  When it is clear you can see all the beautiful details but when we are stressed or anxious it is as if someone shook up the snow globe and everything becomes fuzzy and cloudy.  It can be tough to make decisions or to focus.  When we are able to slow down and focus mindfully we can settle the cloudiness and think and see clearer again.  

Okay so HOW?

This is where I struggled.  Connecting what I know to be true to actually doing it every day.  So I started slow and used the help of an unlikely source.  My smartphone!  Yes, our smartphones have taken us away from a place of mindfulness to be the ultimate source of multitasking, however I found that if I was smart about it I could use my phone to help me with my goal of daily meditation.   There are many apps (many are free) that provide guided meditation.  I started by setting an alarm for a time of day that I have set aside.  Some days I can do 20 minutes, others only 5 but the key is to do it consistently.  Here's a pic of my folder on my phone with the ones I use:

Understand setbacks happen and you may miss your meditation time.  Don't let that discourage you.   Try it later in the day or get back on track the next day.  Once you start to see the benefit you will be more consistent with it.  Try out a few until you figure out which ones you like the best.  These are just the ones I use, there are lots of other options.

Another helpful hint is to join a meet up group or take a class in your community.  Starting yesterday Oprah and Deepak Chopra offered a free program for 21 days with guided meditations called "manifesting true success".  I just joined and started last night.  Go to chopracentermeditation.com to sign up.  That added level of accountability by getting a daily email can help you to create meaningful habit without risk or cost.  

Lastly, when you find yourself caught up in stress as if inside a cloudy snow globe, stop and breathe. 
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and then start to focus on your breathing as you count to 10. Count each breath 1-10 and repeat.  Repeat as many times as you need to until you can feel the clouds dissipate and your mind clears. 

*Kabat-Zinn, J. Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future.  Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 2003; 10:144-156

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC
908-337-3710 Call for a free phone consultation!