Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

Carinad.jpg

 

Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/

 

Is It Possible to Start an Online Business With a Baby? YES! 15 Truths for Online Entrepreneur Success – With a Baby in Your Arms.

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I’ve taken online courses, I’ve studied online entrepreneurs, I’ve read books and listened to more than 200 hours of podcasts. Most importantly, I’ve started acting on these lessons and am entering the world of online business in 2016.

The foundation was slowly built over maternity leave, and continues to be developed.  But the revenue is beginning to trickle in.  The potential is there, and now I am going from building mode to testing and refining mode.  I’ve tested a few models and it’s time to sit down and clarify the goals, and intensify my focus.

Most online entrepreneurship classes hammer home the whole niche thing.  As a multi-passionate I really, really struggled with this question.  I did not find my niche.  I just started putting a few ideas and business products out there, to see a.) what I enjoyed and b.) what gained traction.  I actually think this is the best way.  Most entrepreneurs get stuck at the start line because they feel like they have to have this entire formula figured out. What is your niche? What problem are you solving? What are you going to charge to solve it?  And so it goes. 

The sweet spot is developing a product that catches hold with your audience, and catches hold with you.  A and B above.

A few products that I developed started returning a revenue.  But I realized in working on some of them, that I wasn’t passionate enough to invest most of my time and focus in that one area. So I redirected my focus to the few that made me come alive – where I had a deeper well to draw from.  The thing is, you won’t know this answer (and cannot possibly know this) till you try it out.

So jump into online business with the intent to discover one type of product you like, and one type of product you don’t like.  I mean it.  Your goal is to have one success and one failure, at least!  There really is nothing to lose other than the time you put into it.

1.) Building an online business is a lot of small tasks.  They can drive you crazy unless you think about them as steps that get you closer to your goal.  One day is going to be about getting mail chimp set up.  Another day is just sorting out some nice typography for your instagram.  One day is going to be setting up / learning about Facebook ads.  Another day may be organizing receipts in your inbox.  Another day may be buying more storage in iCloud.  Acknowledge and learn to enjoy the satisfaction in completing these tasks, even if they are overwhelming and there’s a steep learning curve.  There’s a lot of them, so get over it.  It’s quite satisfying crossing them off in a journal or on your note taking app.

2.) Remember, anything you do, is one step closer to your goal.  While others are quitting at 3 months in, you are just taking one step at a time and being strategic.  The tortoise wins the race.  Most successful online entrepreneurs will tell you they were working at it a while before things took off.  I’m a big fan of the blunt truth talker Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – check out the infographic in his post showing his product development over six years!

You’ve got at least 40 years left on this earth. Don’t worry about it. Do it because you love it.  Don’t compare yourself to the entrepreneurs who have 70 hours a week, or even 20 to work on their projects and launches.  You are working very hard on a few precious hours per week.  Things will happen for you, but they will happen on your schedule.

4.) Ignorance is bliss, and it contributes to action.  Find some amazing people who are doing what you what to do.  Study how they do it, their webpage, their brand and learn from them.  But be cautious.  I do think that some over-confidence / ignorance is bliss.  Study others just enough to know how to do things well, but not too much.  As soon as you see how many people are doing what you are doi ng, you will become intimidated and discouraged.  When I started my successful Kickstarter campaign, I found two other campaigns I loved and made notes on their models. I focused only on a few successful ones and did not look at just how many children’s books are on Kickstarter.  I wouldn’t have started had I known how saturated Kickstarter is and how much better everyone else’s campaigns looked.  I’m so glad I ran a basic campaign (with much room to improve) and learnt from it, rather than never doing it because I was blocked by intimidation and the desire to do it perfectly. Block out the external noise and focus on what you need to do.

5.) Have a clear idea of what lifestyle you are working towards.  I use Pinterest to do some vision boarding. I have a board called “My goals // my life in progress” (yes, that’s my board right there!) and it is images of the lifestyle and rewards I want for myself and my family. Even as simple as pictures of someone standing in the window, sipping coffee – or a family photo of parents playing in the snow with the kids. I am constantly adding images to this board and it builds a powerful desire – deep within – to keep plugging away.

6.)  Make sure you enjoy your entrepreneurial journey and the project itself, as much as you’d enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Your project should be a “Hell yeah” project.  Actually, anything you do should be a “hell yeah or no” situation, as put forth by the fabulous writer Derek Sivers.  You cannot be an influencer in something you are not passionate about. People see straight through that. That’s why there is so much talk about #authenticity on the internet these days.

7.) You don’t necessarily have to take an online course. Most online entrepreneurs’ courses are simply repackaged and re-branded versions of content they have previously published. It is extra work to commit and dig through old content, but it is doable.  So really, we are talking about time vs. money.  If you want to spend less money, there’s more of a time investment on hunting down the information.  If you want to spend more money, you’ll cut some corners and avoid some mistakes other entrepreneurs made.  Eventually, both routes end up at the same destination.

8.)  That being said, the action of financially investing in a course and being part of a community is powerful.  Connecting with other students is a great framework if you are concerned about follow through and prefer team environments.  I also believe online courses are very helpful for those of us who are not skilled in the technical aspects of online business.  I’ve made wonderful connections in some entrepreneurs’ communities that I gained access through, as part of the course. The Smart Passive Income community, Kimra Luna’s #Freedomhackers and others.

9.)  Attend conferences and work outside of the house. Just get out there.  In the business world, networking, friendships, potential deals and closed deals happen outside of the office.  They don’t happen when you are sitting alone on a laptop in a room.  Get out there.  Attend a conference.  Yes, it’s $500 – $1000 to do, but trust me, that investment will pay itself off in a few years down the road with business that is generated as a result of the relationships you made at that conference, or as a result of the business improvements or renewed motivation you received from that event.  This one I have not done yet, and I have this conference on my bucket list.  I cannot wait to do this!  I’ve also added this one – Lewis Howes’ Summit of Greatness – to my pinterest board.

10.) Start saving receipts with the Wave app and creating a “receipts” category in your Gmail now.  There’s so many random little expenses with starting up online.  Cloud storage, random apps, Skype credits, Domain registration, etc.  It’s easy to forget about all of those expenses.

11.)  Don’t ever put too much weight on your total Instagram likes or comments.  80% of your Instagram activity will be hustlers.  Focus on the 5 or less people who you authentically connect on there.  And get unique with your hashtags.  What hashtags would you look for?  Don’t use the “most popular” hashtags.  It’s like dangling bait in the water – the sharks will come circling in.  I onced used #fitfam and #fitspiration and #postpartumweightloss – The Beach Body coaches that came running…..

12.)  Have your product researched and developed before you launch it.  If you arrive in the online business arena with a developed product, you will give less of a shit when the haters or non-supporters rear their ugly heads.  I had a hater a few weeks ago on Kickstarter.  A really unpleasant message that felt like a kick to the gut, initially.

If my children’s book wasn’t 90% complete, I would have taken his comments to heart.  The completion gave me immunity and the ability to pen back a professional letter addressing his trolling.  He wound up apologizing and pledging to the campaign.

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13.)  Be mindful of phone time. If you want a great check in, have your partner take a photo of you holding the phone up in front of your face.  Look at that picture.  This is what your kids may see.  It’s really hard, I know, especially when you are excited about your work and are desparate to work on it!  I’ve realized that I have to be in a separate room or working during the kids’ sleep hours.  They don’t need or deserve the back of my phone in front of their face.

14.)  You are going to get up early or stay up late to work on your business.  My formula has been:  Nap when the baby and toddler nap at mid day, and then wake up super early a few days a week.  A great day is a 5-5:30 start so that I have 1.5 hours to get stuff done with a nice cup of coffee.  It sounds insane but I love what I do enough that it’s not hard to get up.  Wait.  That’s a great question!  Do you like it enough to get up at 5:30 am (or stay up until 2am) working on it?  It is shocking how much you can get done with 1.5 hours, trust me.

15.)  Filter all social media and read selectively.  Follow inspirational or helpful feeds.  Your time is precious as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to take a precious 30 minutes for an iPhone break, fill it with good things that inspire.  Also, stop reading all of those pages, blog posts, social media posts that talk about motherhood and “being too busy” “losing balance” blabllablablabla. You can get stuck in the travails of early motherhood and circle around in that loop, or you can climb above it.   Those are all legit opinions, and motherhood IS hard –  but will they serve your goals if you decide to take those opinions on and make them your own?  Or spend your time steeping in those messages?

Probably not.  Start hunting out and reading about success stories.

What I’ve Learnt from 200+ Hours of the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness Podcasts

Podcasts can be a new mum’s best friend.

They are intellectual stimulation and a sense of connection and engagement in what can be a lonely and isolating time.  Today I share the podcasts that changed my life and daily practices for the better.

I discovered podcasts on my second maternity leave, and fell in love with the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness podcasts.

The range of interviewees and topics discussed was food for my brain, which had recently departed the world of adulting and intellectual conversation, and had entered the rather lonely world of maternity leave.  Podcasts were my intellectual stimulation and each one left me scrambling to record ideas, inspiration, quotes and notes.

One of my fondest memories from mat leave was walking (and then training for a 10k) with these podcasts going in my earbuds. I can’t list off specific guests (guess I’ll blame the brain fog) but I can certainly tell you that each podcast left me completely jazzed up.  No matter the topic, I came away feeling engaged.

Despite not remembering the names of more than a handful of guests, I have absorbed a lot of information, and my daily practices have shifted.  Some were intentional and planned out, others I believe have occurred in a strange process of osmosis.  Here are the 15 ways in which podcasts have changed me.  These are all practices that I aspire to and have worked on in the past year or so.

The 15 game-changers that I learnt and applied from the School of Greatness and Tim Ferriss Podcasts:

The biggest reward of meditation is not immediate.

Meditation is a practice that is performed in the present moment, and connects you with exactly that.  However, its most rewarding application is not the practice itself.  It is the ability to apply the results of a regular practice to times of stress and chaos.

Meditation takes many forms.  If it hasn’t stuck with you, try out different styles.  Lie in the sun and visualize the rays penetrating through the skin’s layers.  Listen to a relaxing song without vocals.  Pull up a youtube video and listen to it with earphones on.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR57rug8NsM   Download the headspace or flowy app.

START AND END EACH DAY WITH AN INTENTIONAL RITUAL THAT CAPSTONES THE DAY.

Here is my daily greens juice, blasted in the vitamix blender then drained through a mesh sieve.  https://www.vitamix.com/Recipes/Ginger-Greens-Juice/C-Series/Variable-Speed/Classic-64-Ounce here is my go-to. Minus celery. I don’t like celery.

Other capstones I’ll employ in the morning:  Running.  A great cup of coffee.  Loud music in the car.   In the evening:  Foam rolling hip flexors (strangely relaxing) and licorice root or adaptogen teas.

 

FILTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA TO THAT WHICH ALIGNS WITH WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU ASPIRE TO BE.

Filter out the noise that distracts you from your goals, and leaves you scrolling aimlessly, looking for something that catches your attention.

Spend a day reducing the accounts you follow to 30% of what you once did.  Pick only those that a.) are your family or friends b.) represent a life or mindset you are working toward.

STOP READING YOUR EMAIL FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Today, I slipped up.  I opened my email to a hate message from a troll type on kickstarter.  It was rude, insulting and discouraging.  That is how I started my day today.  No Bueno.

In the first hour of your day, you are rebooting your brain and setting your energy for the day.  Fill it with good things and good energy.

LEARNING IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT.

 

Be curious.  Google.  (But then look into proper research.)  All of the interviewees followed paths of curiosity, whether it made sense at the time or not.

YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO 1.) REFLECT UPON, 2.) ENJOY IN THE MOMENT, AND 3.) LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE FUTURE. SANDWICH YOUR DAY BETWEEN GREAT MEMORIES AND INSPIRING GOALS.

My mum was one of the happiest, most engaged human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  Her biggest rule was always have something you are looking forward to.  Listening to these two podcasts, every.single.guest lights up while they are talking about a project.  You can hear it in their voice, even if you can’t see them.

TREAT SLEEP WITH THE SAME PRIORITY THAT YOU GIVE AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEETING IN YOUR CALENDAR, IF NOT MORE.

WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, GO TO BED EARLY AND GET UP EARLY.

BE PICKY ABOUT WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. REALIZE IT IS A CHOICE.

Surround yourself with game changers, inspirations, teachers, mentors and happy people.  If you are part of their lives, their stories will become your stories, and vice versa.

FOR ACCESS TO CREATIVITY, ENTER THE STATE OF FLOW ONCE PER DAY.

The flow state lights up the brain and promotes creativity.

KEEP A JOURNAL FOR THOUGHTS WORTH SAVING, BUT ALSO TO PUT ASIDE UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS WHILE COMPLETING A TASK.

SOME OF YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL COME WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING OR IN THE SHOWER.

SHIFT YOUR MINDSET AROUND HEALTH; BECOME THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF YOUR HEALTH AND BODY.

Your Doctor is a consultant in your health.  They can offer great advice and services – but it is up to you to do the day to day work.  Treat yourself (within reason) as a science experiment.  Try out different things. Find the unique combination of health practices that work for you.

CREATE A DAILY GRATITUDE PRACTICE.  INSTAGRAM PICTURE AND HASHTAG, JOURNAL ENTRY, FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE – THE FORMAT DOESN’T MATTER.  THE REFLECTION DOES.

READ THE BOOKS THESE PEOPLE RECOMMEND (YES, THEIR OWN TOO) AND KEEP LISTENING TO PODCASTS!

Great books I’ve read as a result of these podcasts:

The Power of Habit

The Upside of Stress

I Know how She Does It

Outliers

The Myth of Stress

Finding Ultra

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Sign up for a Course on Happiness!

Good morning great maternity leavers! So in the spirit of growth, learning and always working at things, I am signed up for a course on happiness! I am taking Happiness Basics, a course designed by the Red Deer Primary Care Network and being piloted on the University of Campus. We had our first 90 minute class yesterday.  I’ve had a rough time lately with feeling really down, like in a total funk for 2 months down.  So I’m working hard at addressing this with all of the tools in my toolkit.  It’s safe to say this is a priority right now.
Happiness:
We’re all experts on what makes people happy, right? (we could all list the major things.)
I know I can!  But I was curious about actually signing up, sitting in a class, and engaging with others in discussion and activities.  How would this be different from just consulting one of my gazillion books on happiness?
We live in a society that loves to learn.  However, there is more to learning than just intellectual (logical) intake of information.   To truly master something there are few more steps:
We must practice it and take it out of the mind, into our body space and emotional space.
It is then, that we  become whatever we are studying.
learn
In the classroom, I am learning about happiness by reading, writing and discussing.
But what does it mean to become happy?
 What would it look like for happiness to move from my intellect (brain) into my body and emotions, so that I truly embody it? 
It would mean that my self talk becomes more positive, my mood space feels lighter.  It would mean that my posture and body move upward, and outward, and I walk with my old poise and confidence. I am not as fatigued.  I feel in control of my thoughts.    It means walking with lightness and a smile, but also being grounded in my steps; not rushed.
What does happiness feel like in your body?  Ask yourself that right now. 
I wonder, how do we help a bunch of concepts and thoughts in our brain literally float down from the brain, into our neural networks, and get distributed into our muscles and body.   How does a reading on happiness, turn into a thought.  How does a thought travel into our body and shift our posture, or our chronic pain, or our moodspace?
PRACTICE.
And this is precisely why this happiness course has lots of homework.
You cannot become something if you do not practice it.
How do you practice happiness? 
This week, we looked at the research that shows there are 10 positive emotions directly associated with happiness.

Frederickson (2009) identifies the ten most common positive emotions as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.


 
We sat down and described an example in our lives where we have experienced each of these ten emotions.  Just sitting down and taking the time to remember those moments, reconnect with the emotions in those moments, was in itself the most amazing mood boosting exercise.
 
For example, the emotion of amusement:  I couldn’t help but laugh remembering back to the time I saw a person at a bus stop getting attacked by a tiny, very angry little bird.  It took me right back to that emotion.  The writing exercise let me go back there and feel it. 
After stepping back into memories ten times and letting myself feel those ten emotions again, I can tell you I was in a much, much better state than when I first walked into the classroom.
 
At the end of the exercise we were assigned to intentionally engage in one of the ten emotions that week.  Once a day. So I chose Amusement. My strategy is going to be to watch one hilarious video a day that makes me laugh.
This is the importance of homework.  
When you sit in a class or read a book and experience a positive emotion once – for sure, you feel better.  But the brain will enjoy it momentarily – and  get back to daily life and routines.  What if you make the brain experience it every.single.day.?
It will have to start sitting up and paying attention, building neural networks and start firing more of the feel good chemical messengers to facilitate those thoughts.
I’m excited to engage in such a feel-good form of homework and it will be interesting to watch how happiness is embodied this week, through practice.  I plan to help facilitate this process by reading a bit more about the brain and laughter, to deepen my knowledge and immersion – as well as and boost my motivation.
In the spirit of amusement, I would LOVE if you share with me your favourite youtube video, clip, cartoon, whatever that you think is hilarious. I know you have a good stash out there 😉

The Great Maternity Leave Projects:  Never Forget to Take Vitamins – Using Charles Duhigg’s Book The Power of Habit

Yes ,this one is straight from the original GML Project list in my lovely little journal, which I have kept to this day.  It was one of the first tasks I undertook and it really has a soft spot in my heart.

In order to accomplish this, I had to buckle down and study the science behind habit and really dig into psychology.  Little did I know that reading this book would change my morning routines forever.

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I was on a plane to London England, and picked up this book at the airport (I believe books choose YOU so I always buy them when I am travelling or randomly in a bookstore.)  I just happened to be thinking about creating a multivitamin “habit” and boom, come across this.  Sometimes the universe is not so subtle.

 

I highly recommend this book and if you do not have the time to read the whole thing, cover to cover, Charles Duhigg has a very comprehensive website.  You can also use the amazing app Blinkist to read all of the latest releases in 15 minutes or less (what I do!)

What really nails Duhigg’s points home, are the examples.  I started a book club section on the Great Maternity Leave Project, and will be following up with a more detailed big post on this book and what I took from it for maternity leave.

(Most of the books I read involve business examples – but they are easily translatable to maternity leave, so that’s what I do for you! )

 

So how did I manage to hack my own brain’s habit loops and make the multi-vitamin as automatic as having a coffee in the morning?

HABIT ANCHORING + HACKING THE HABIT LOOP.

Our brains are very intelligent and will make as many routines as possible a habit, so that can dedicate most of its energy to sorting through information and thinking through tasks like decision making and critical analysis.

So when you get up and do routine things, make a coffee or tea, habit.  When you check your phone.  Habit.

Habits get taken over by an older, deeper part of the brain. Did you know that? Me neither.

That is why bad habits are so hard to break. 

That’s why this book was so fascinating.  I liked the smart science and research in it.

 

But we are talking about forming good habits here.

Pick a habit you already have, a routine which is almost automatic for you – you wind up doing it subconsciously.

For me it’s coffee, for sure.  It’s literally the first thing I do after I put on my housecoat.   It’s automatic. I go to the kitchen, get the grinder going, assemble my aeropress and we’re off to the races (or blogging in my case.)

 

Duhigg Proposes the Habit Loop.

Cue + Routine/Habit + Reward

So, I decided to

1.) Hack the Loop

2.)  Anchor the habit to another good one I have.

 

Here’s how I did it.

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 

Remember, the habit I wanted to build was to add multivitamins to my day.

ANCHORING THE HABIT:

I anchored it by having my multis RIGHT BESIDE my aeropress / coffee maker.  The visual cue could just NOT be ignored.  And I know I will NEVER forget to have coffee.  So by anchoring multivitamins to coffee, I know they will never be forgotten.

HACKING THE HABIT LOOP:

I thought about how powerful the coffee habit loop is, that I have above.  So I decided to use the same loop principles.

BEFORE:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)

 
AFTER:

Cue:  Getting out of bed & feeling tired “I need coffee.”  Addition:  I did research on how having healthy micro and phytonutrients helps with energy ,and began to reframe them as another form of “coffee” for my body.  I began to use feeling tired as a cue for good nutritional practices.  I also looked at nutrient depletion in post-partum women to strengthen my resolve to rebuild my body’s stores.  

Routine/Habit:  Coffee cup on table. Making coffee before anything else.  Addition:  I put my multi-vitamins in a cute little le creuset espresso cup, right beside my coffee cup! Taking them happens before anything else, AND I get a nice glass of water in before hitting the coffee.  

Reward:  Coffee + I love relaxing with my coffee and writing.  Both enjoyable  (I linked those two habits at an earlier stage.)   Addition:  Meh.  There’s no intrinsic reward to taking fish oil and glucosamine sulfate and multis…  so this one not so much.  But the other TWO stages were hacked.

 

And that my friends, is how I NEVER forgot to take a multi-vitamin again.

 

While you are on the topic, you might enjoy this read on hacking your morning “energy” and mindset – by by shifting your Instagram or Social Media habits.  

 

The Great Maternity Leave Projects: Using Instagram to Boost Happiness

Why you should read this:  Instagram can be an extremely powerful way to boost happiness. I share with you a daily technique that is not discussed anywhere, yet is a daily practice that the most successful people have.  I’ve creeped their instagrams.  And I also share a mindset shift when it comes to setting up good vibes for your day.

Reading time:  Less than 5 minutes

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Most articles we see online deal with the evils of social media, and how they can make you feel worse.  I do believe that comparison is the thief of joy and that you should be the gatekeeper of what flows into your iphone or computer screen.  I wrote about the benefits of a digital detox, too.  However, what nobody talks about is how you can actually harness social media and make it work for YOU.

I am going to share a technique today that has made a huge impact on both of my maternity leaves.   It started as a project and is now a daily habit.  So many people talk about starting a gratitude list in a journal but honestly, on mat leave, it has been super tough to do that – even though I journal every single day.  So, I decided to export this practice to instagram.

It is a way to start every.single.day with a positive mindset and gets you feeling thankful for everything.

The Importance of Energy Flow

I’m not a reiki practitioner, or a yogi but what I do know at 33 years of age, is there are energy flows within us and between people, that our mortal human brains can’t comprehend.  We haven’t even figured out a way to explain them with the scientific method yet.

Most days I wake up bursting with happiness, good energy and excitement. But I’ve also felt the flows of negativity, bad energy and skepticism. One squabble with my husband sets up this weird frustrated energy that gets my mind into a place where I could pick apart everything in my day that has not gone right.  One bad nights sleep and two feisty babies can set me off on the wrong energy path for the day.

Even though we can’t explain energy flows, we can control them.

The 3 Things that Create Good Energy Flows

I’ve studied many people.  Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Buddhism, Christianity, contemporary philosophers like Jason Silva, masters of business and success.  Lewis Howes from School of Greatness.   Different religions, thinking systems, philosophies.  ALL of them talk about energy flows and how to create them.

Here are the 3 things that create good energy flows.

GRATITUDE

ENTHUSIASM

CELEBRATION

 

 

These Words Ain’t My Thang

Confession:  As soon as I start using words like these, the academic in me rolls her eyes a little.  In my life coaching certification there was hugging and dancing, many estrogenic moments, and a lot of words like these, and I was the one sitting in the corner with a coffee, observing and horribly uncomfortable.  So if you catch yourself moaning, just bear with me, I HEAR YOU.  It’s not my style either.

I’m just picking words from the English language that come close to what I want to convey.  I wish there were less cheesy ones, too.  

So let’s get to the real, practical application of these.  Then in a week’s time you can come back and tell me “Carina, this shit works.”

What you Need to Do Right Now.  Download Two Apps on your Phone.  

Download two.  Yes two.  

Instagram and any “collage” app you can find on the I-Tunes store that doesn’t hammer you with in-app purchases.  Oh wait, they all do if they are free, haha.

This isn’t a project for others.  This is for you. So, go ahead, can keep your instagram private if you like.  But I encourage you to share.  It’s not egotistical to do so.  It’s great. And inspiring.  And your Mama friends will be helped, too.  How nice will it be for them to have YOUR post on their feed, that is inspiring? It will break up all those stupid “get a six pack after having a baby in only THREE months.”  Blah.

 

Here is What You Do:

Create an instagram image using your camera roll and collage app. Your image is going to:

CELEBRATE SOMETHING.

SHARE SOMETHING YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO OR EXCITED ABOUT.

SHARE SOMETHING YOU FEEL THANKFUL FOR.

This simple practice will take maybe 3 minutes, and is pretty fun with the collage apps out there when you get the hang of them.  You don’t have to put these words down if you find them cheesy.  Most of my Instagram posts are “had a blast today doing…”  or “this person/thing/place is awesome.”  or “looking forward to…

 

Important:  Anchor this Habit with one of the Things You Do First Thing in the Morning

Habits are hard to start.  They say it takes 21 days.  But what they never say is in those 21 days of trying to get started, we forget at least 10 times. lol.  One day of forgetting and you are back at square one.

So my secret is always, always ANCHOR A NEW HABIT TO AN EXISTING OLD ONE SO YOU DON’T FORGET.

So do that Instagram post. It puts us into the head space of thinking about what we are excited about, thankful for or proud of.  As soon as we think about any one of those three things, our energy shifts to a nice, feel good, flowy energy. 

Tip:  Think about people in the mornings.  People always have things they must do in the morning.  If they miss their coffee, that’s it, they’re “off” – if they have to rush, that’s it, it’s hard to correct the bad energy from that.   People are hardcore about their morning routines.

They are all trying to set up good energy for the day by “avoiding”  things that trigger bad energy.

What if we set up good energy for the day by “doing” things that trigger good energy?  

Treat this with the same sanctity as your other morning routines.

Setting up a good energy flow and mindset first thing in the morning should be as important as washing your face.  Shit, that’s a terrible example. I’m sitting here with mascara from last night on my face.

Setting up a good energy flow and mindset first thing in the morning should be as important as your morning coffee or tea. Ahhh, yes, that’s better for a mat leaver. 

And if you need some extra listening to boost you, to help nail this home, have a listen to one of my favourite podcasts, the School of Greatness.  Lewis Howes and Michael Hyatt talking about “celebration badges” and how setting up good energy flows is KEY to achieving your goals.  It’s weird, I was plannign this entire article out on a run, listening to the SoG podcast and their conversation turned to EXACTLY what I wanted to write about.  Sometimes the universe slaps you in the face with hints and you must listen to those hint-bombs.  This was mine.

It’s a great conversation and starts with them discussing Lewis Howes dancing on a cruise ship having a ball (cue crush mode.)   Also, it’s a damn nice switch up – listening to two grown guys talk is a nice departure from our daily communication, which can revolve around “what was their poo like” “when did they sleep last” and “how many hours I did NOT sleep last night.”

Haha.  Enjoy, Great Maternity Leaves, enjoy.  And use the hashtag #thegreatmaternityleave in your instagram posts so I can see! I can’t wait!