Christopher Willard

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. The author of Child's Mind (Parallax, 2010) and other books on the topic, Dr. Willard lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches at Harvard Medical School and Lesley University. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with Christopher Willard:
Growing Up Mindful »

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How to Cultivate Generosity in Our Children

 

Nearly every spiritual tradition has a practice of generosity and giving. We call it Dana in some traditions, Caritas in Christianity, Tzedekah in Judaism, alms or communal sharing in others, or in the United States, “The Holiday Season” stretching onward from Black Friday through the New Year. These spiritual (and commercial) practices existed long before the term “positive psychology,” but the principles overlap significantly. We know now that making a practice of kindness and generosity leads to physical and mental health and social and spiritual benefits.

In families, children are often in the “getting” role, while adults are in the “giving role,” but how can we encourage that spirit of generosity in the next generation?

We are wired to be generous, and both neuroscience and well-worn clichés tells us we feel more joy in giving than in receiving. However, our consumer culture tells us the opposite, that getting will make us feel better. These messages run counter to the spiritual and scientific wisdom showing health and happiness come more through giving than getting. Just imagine if our society received just as many messages urging us to give than get, if people camped outside stores for days just to donate to the latest charity.

Among the many benefits, generosity also builds trust between people. Studies show that the giver’s brain regions associated with trust and connection light up, fostering optimism, reducing depression, and creating healthy attachments, showing us why cultures develop practices related to gift-giving. The benefits even extend to just witnessing an act of generosity.

 

So how can we encourage generosity our families? Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Involve your kids in the decision for charitable giving, taking into account what your family’s values are: Social justice, the environment, health issues that have impacted your family, presents for children or families in need, and so on.
  • Follow the lead of my friend’s grandmother who gave the grandkids $100 each year, with $50 to spend on themselves and $50 she would donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Remember that giving can also include your time or your support. Volunteer as a family, a practice shown to boost happiness, empathy, and build closeness.
  • Give experiences; the happiness will last longer than the lifespan of a toy. Perhaps travel, theater tickets, or museum passes.
  • Donate toys to make space for the new. Notice together which toys are getting lonely and would be happier in a new home, saying thank you and goodbye to old toys, and imagining the happiness they will bring after they’ve been donated.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Raising Resilience by Christopher Willard, Pysd.

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, teaches at Harvard Medical Schools, and leads workshops worldwide. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Christopher Willard: Growing Up Mindful

Christopher Willard is a licensed psychologist who focuses on mindfulness, anxiety, and learning issues. With Sounds True, he has released a new book and companion audio called Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Chris and Tami talk about the inherent difficulties of being a child and how mindfulness practice can help ease the tensions of growing up. They discuss the different ways one can teach meditation techniques to kids, as well as the different ages at which one can start this instruction. Finally, Chris shares his vision of how mindfulness could be a powerful public health intervention—one that could possibly have an essential place in the future of childhood education.
(59 minutes)

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Lisa Marchiano is a clinical social worker, a certified Jungian analyst, and a nationally certified psychoanalyst. She cohosts This Jungian Life, a podcast devoted to exploring current topics through the lens of depth psychology. With Sounds True, Lisa has written a new book titled Motherhood: Facing and Finding Yourself, which presents a collection of myths, fables, and fairy tales to evoke the spiritual arc of raising a child from infancy through adulthood. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks to Lisa about what drew her to Jungian psychology and how Jung’s teachings have helped guide her journey through motherhood and life. They also discuss: the Jungian notion of individuation, a perpetual process of self-discovery and psychological growth; bringing the “taboos” of motherhood into the light; the complicated relationship between motherhood and creativity; Jungian dream analysis; and why the suffering we experience as parents and as individuals grants us a special opportunity to “encounter soul.”

“Cranky” Is a Perfect Word

Dear Sounds True Friends,

“Cranky” is a perfect word. It feels like it sounds; the way it forms in your mouth fits the emotion. It’s perfect for that place between truly sad and properly angry, for times when we ought not to get so upset about trifling things, but we can’t help it. At least, not at first. 

We’re allowed to be sad when hard times come. We’re allowed to be angry in the face of real injustice. But the papercuts of life? The whacked elbows and burnt toast, the stolen parking spots and somebody-took-the-last-cookie days? Not so much. 

We’re supposed to take those moments in stride. We’re supposed to maintain our equilibrium. But moods are unruly and feelings don’t like to be bossed around. “Cranky” is the perfect word for those times when we feel resentful, irritated, and annoyed, but we know our cause isn’t especially sympathetic. When Murphy’s Law strikes, and we’re not yet ready to laugh it off. 

I’m supposed to be patient and mature at times like these, but I can be a great big Crankypants. Knowing I’m not supposed to feel cranky only makes me more cranky. Next thing you know, I’m spiraling. (I’m probably the only one …)  

cranky right now

Kids are no different. Life in families presents us all with nuisances and irritations. No one escapes a school day or a trip to the store unscathed. Life jostles us, but for kids, whose time and choices are largely directed by others, those feelings of powerlessness, of being managed and judged by someone who just doesn’t get itand to be fair, sometimes we don’t get it; we weren’t there; we are quick to assumethose feelings can be maddening. 

I wrote Cranky Right Now to give kids, parents, families, and teachers a way to talk about cranky times. and especially, a way to laugh about them. Illustrator extraordinaire Holly Hatam’s hilarious illustrations bring the magic. I hope you’ll giggle along with the vexed heroine of Cranky. It’s actually the first step forward. It’s easier to spot the absurdity in someone else’s cranky fit than our own, but the lessons still sink in. Humor is a powerful antidote to being a Crankypants.

 

cranky right now 2

Sometimes simply having that perfect word, “cranky,” in our arsenal helps. When we can recognize, “Hey, I’m not actually deeply upset right now; everything’s more or less okay; I’m just cranky right now, and it will pass,” we’re already halfway home. 

So get ready to giggle at the heroine of Cranky Right Now as she explores strategies for coping with crankiness. They may help the young people in your life. They may even help you. Not that you have a crankiness problem! Heavens, no. It’s those others around you. They started it …

Yours in absurdity,

Julie Berry

 

 

julie berry JULIE BERRY is the author of many books for children, including Wishes and Wellingtons, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, and Happy Right Now. Her novel Lovely War was a New York Times bestseller, and The Passion of Dolssa was a Printz Honor title. Three things that make Julie cranky are paperwork, chewed pens and pencils, and mornings that come too soon. She lives with her family in Southern California. Learn more at julieberrybooks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cranky book cover

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

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