Get fit and happy continued...
Seek out simple joy
The practice of mindfulness – encouraging the appreciation of each moment, teaching us to be fully present in the now – is being fêted everywhere right now. And research shows that those who appreciate simple daily pleasures are happier. But caring for little people can take up so much mental energy that you need to rediscover those moments of everyday greatness.
TIP: You can easily harness the power of mindfulness, 'any time, any place,' says Guinevere Webster, a clinical psychologist who specialises in mindful birth and parenting. A super-simple way to practise mindfulness is to pick one of your senses and use it to focus on your child. 'You could listen to your baby babbling or your toddler playing – spend a few minutes tuning into the sounds. See if you can let go of your tendency to categorise each sound – instead simply hear it as a sound. Every time you notice your mind wandering, bring your awareness back to listening. 'The same exercise can be done with what you can see; you might focus on your child's face, perhaps the detail of her eyelashes or the contours of her cheeks, again just making the details of your child's face the focus of all your attention for a few minutes. This exercise allows you to let go of any preoccupations, plans or nagging worries that may be dominating your mind, creating space to enjoy what's already there.'
Use music as therapy
In one study, listening to music had the same impact on reducing anxiety as massage. Researchers from the Group Health Research Institute in the US found patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who received ten hour-long massages. TIP A recent straw poll by Gurgle revealed the following, eclectic round-up of uplifting, mood-boosting tunes. We defy you not to raise a smile.
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
AC/DC – Back In Black
Shed Seven – Chasing Rainbows
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine
The Killers – Mr Brightside
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Stir It Up
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
Manu Chao – King Of Bongo
Spandau Ballet – Gold
Gil Scott-Heron – I Think I'll Call It Morning
OutKast – Hey Ya!
Lose track of time
Losing yourself in a fun, creative task is seriously good for you. It's what the experts call 'flow.' Clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Andrew (drrachelandrew.com), who works with children and their parents, says being playful 'offers you a unique opportunity to indulge your fun and creative side, tuning into your child and enjoying them. It's a great antidote to the banal aspects of childcare.'
TIP: Get down on their level. Floor-based activities, from small world (playing with animals, cars and houses), to jigsaws, or any floor-based craft activities, make it easy to let your children take the lead, and afford lots of opportunity for eye contact and responsiveness. 'Plan your activity so that you won't have to say 'no' too much – use an oil sheet for painting or playing with Play-doh, and avoid the temptation to be controlling about building or playing in the "right" way,'
Dr Andrew advises.
Deliberately regularly disconnecting from technology can reduce blood pressure and decrease stress levels for children and adults. But going cold turkey can be tough.
TIP: Instituting a tech curfew is easier said than done when children are used to using iPads, or playing games on your phone, but even if there is initial grumbling, 'The pay-off will be worth it,' says lifecoach Amanda Alexander, founder of coachingmums.com. She suggests simple ground rules – when, where and for how long children can watch TV or use devices. 'To avoid tantrums, keep them informed of how much longer they have. Giving warnings: "Ten more minutes, five more, one more..." will help them to switch off.' She also says it's important to set ground rules for yourself, so your children don't see you checking your emails every time they look up.
Boost your ability to bounce back
Professor Martin Seligman has found that happy people have a greater ability to recover from setbacks: those who are resilient tend to view obstacles as temporary, specific and changeable, while pessimists are more likely to turn criticism in on themselves.
TIP: If you've had a knock-back, seek out an interaction to take the edge off. In his book Flourish, (£14.99, Nicholas Brealey Publishing), Professor Seligman says: 'Very little that is positive is solitary. When was the last time you laughed uproariously? Felt indescribable joy, or a deep sense of meaning or purpose? Even without knowing your life, I know they took place around other people. Other people are the single most reliable antidote to the downs of life.' So resist the urge to brood. Pick up the phone, or arrange to meet friends.