Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving & the little things...

In two days from now I will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with my friends and family to enjoy my favorite meal; meatballs and sauce.  (Yes, there is turkey too, but for me Thanksgiving means my dad’s antipasto tray and Aunt Carmella’s meatballs.)

Thanksgiving is also a time to reflect on our blessings and express gratitude.


Perhaps you will spend a few minutes thinking about how thankful you are to have big things in your life such as your family or your health.

What about the little stuff?  Start Friday!

Perhaps hearing your favorite song on the radio just as you were driving to a difficult meeting or appointment?  Maybe you found a few dollars in your pocket as you put on a jacket you haven’t worn since last year?  Maybe you ran into a friend you were just thinking about at the grocery store?  

It’s the little things that can bring joy into our lives each day and yet we are so busy we don’t always notice.  

So I challenge you to not let Thanksgiving be the only time to stop and reflect on what you are thankful for, starting Friday spend a few minutes each and every day reflecting on the little things. 

Looking for reminders, then join my facebook group “fillyour BAG happy.”  I love to add members!
Remember it’s the little things that can really make a difference, you just need to notice!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Am I happy?

Today I noticed someone say they were unhappy because of noticing what other people have. The expressed jealousy of someone else's new home despite feeling fairly financially stable. She did what so many of us do and that is compare ourselves to others.
How often do we feel that way?  

The “If I could only… blah blah blah, then I would be happy?” thoughts that tend to creep up when we see someone else's good fortune.

We look at our life circumstances as what drives our happiness, yet research has shown that is just not entirely true.  In the book, The How of Happiness, author and researcher Sonia Lyobomirsky tells us that life circumstances account for only 10% of our overall happiness!
So what does that mean? 
If you get that pay raise, new home, exotic vacation, new toy or other thing you will only slightly (and temporarily) increase your happiness.

According to Lububomirsky 50% is in your genetics, like your eye color or how tall you are.  However the key is the 40% that’s left.

That 40% has the capacity to change based on our intentional activity.   We can manifest change in our own happiness despite our life circumstances by how we view those circumstances and what we chose to focus on.

There will always be people in this world who seem to have better circumstances and there will always be people with worse. 

Spend your time and energy appreciating what you have and fostering gratitude is an excellent intentional activity to start increasing feelings of happiness.

There are lots of ways to start fostering a sense of gratitude today.  
Here are a couple to get us started:
  • Keep a journal or diary of what you are grateful for in your life each day. If you are looking for a tool to use, try the Kick Ass Plan.  This is what  I use to keep my accountable for gratitude as well as my personal and professional goals.
  • Write a letter to someone who you have not thanked but who has made an impact in your life.
  • Spend a few minutes each day reflecting on what is going well and what you are truly grateful for at the end of each day, by doing it with a friend or family member can also keep you accountable.  Here is what I call Fill Your BAG happy that I do with my family each day.

Recognizing your accomplishments can help you appreciate you.  Often we are kind and thoughtful to others but forget to do the same for ourselves!

So during this busy holiday season, take a few minutes to appreciate all that you have today!

Thank YOU! 
:-) Cara

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What's in a grade?

Just this morning my 11 year old daughter asked me if I would be upset if she did not get 100% on her Chinese quiz today.  I thought Uhm, NO, I am impressed she even chose to take Chinese in the first place.

Copyright/ olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

I stopped before I answered and asked her what her goal was for this particular class.  
She said, “To get a good grade” (with the “duh mom” attitude along with it).

That’s when I knew this conversation was so important.

I reminded her how happy she was the other day to be able to count to ten in Chinese and show off in front of her little brother.  Despite the obvious – I want to beat my brother in just about anything – what else made her happy?  It was the fact that she learned something new.  Something she did not know before.  That feeling of accomplishment goes a long way.  So I asked her again why is she taking Chinese in school?

Then she sarcastically said, “To learn to speak Chinese”. 


So despite the eye roll to her goofy mama, when she re-evaluated the reason she is taking this class, it then became less about getting a good grade and more about what she is learning. 

If she accomplishes her goal of learning more today than she did yesterday she will most likely do well on her quiz.  If she focuses with a sense of curiosity for something new, all the benefits that come along with learning something new and feeling competent and accomplished, the grade will most likely be good. 

So what if that does not produce a high grade?  

My answer may not be well received by other parents but I say that’s just fine.  So what?  I don’t care if she gets 100% or 20% on her quiz today. I care that she put effort into studying and learning and that she gets enjoyment out of learning something new. 

If that gets her an A, great.  If that same effort gets her less than an A, well that’s okay too. 
I hope to challenge her to look at the effort she put into preparing for her quiz and be proud of what she learned and not obsess on the letter grade.

So many of us as parents can get hung up on grades and performance that is can put pressure on our kids to be perform the best at all times at the expense of their overall happiness and well-being.  As a self described “recovering perfectionist” I get it.  As a clinical therapist I see it often in women who struggle with the long term negative results of “people pleasing” perfectionism that started when they were young. 

When I see the pressure my daughter putting pressure on herself over her grades, my goal becomes helping her see school as an opportunity to learn to enjoy new things, take on challenges and grow.  

Grades are not the ultimate goal in my mind. My hope is that by doing this she will gain so much more than just the grade.

If you are interested in other stories (most of which were learned through trial and error and more error) check out my new book “Lose that MommyGuilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom” .
Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC