“Happiness is Not a Math Problem, Or Is It?”

As moms we all want to teach our children what is important and help them navigate life successfully.  But, have you ever stumbled upon something that causes you to look at things differently?  A way of thinking that makes you see things in a different light?  Well, this happened when I read the book “The Happiness Equation”.  I was at the library with my daughter when I decided to check out the self improvement section.  I love these types of books but this one really got me thinking outside the box. 


When I came across the “Happiness Equation”, which is by Neil Pasricha, the director of the Institute for Global Happiness (who knew there was such a place),  I was immediately intrigued. As a life coach, I love reading about new updates in happiness research.  I wanted to write about it as soon as I was done because it challenges our traditional thinking about happiness.  The equation that is presented that will hopefully lead us to more happiness is this:  


Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything.


Then he offers 9 secrets to happiness.  I loved this book and how Pasricha gives scientific evidence as well as real stories to demonstrate his concepts.  Here are a few of my favorites:


“Be Happy First”.  We are all taught from the time we are young that we should work hard in school, get a good job so we will be successful and then we will, finally, be happy. The problem is that we never get to the happiness part.  We just keep setting more goals.  This book basically flips this idea on it’s unhappy head.  It suggests that we need to be happy first.  This way we can feel great and thus, do great work.  Once this happens we will be hugely successful.  I love this way of thinking because I completely agree that we can’t just wait around to be happy.  We need to be happy now.  So often I talk with people who say I will be happy when…(fill in the blank).  Well what happens if that when never comes?  Don’t we want to teach our kids to be happy in the process?


It seems simple to just decide to be happy.  In reality, it does take some work but it is very possible.  Part of what I do as a life coach is to help people once they have decided to be happy.  It is a decision and an intention that happens when we focus on it.  We have to change our thoughts and our attitude.  Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.  Just in case you are struggling with how this works, there are some proven ways to help us in the process.  He offers seven ideas to train your brain to be happy.  A few of these are exercise, meditation and gratitude journaling which are all practices that I encourage as well.


Pasricha also suggests to “Do it for You”.  If you do this criticism can’t touch you.  If you want to be happy don’t do things in life for others.  External motivation can kill your happiness.  Don’t compete with others, only yourself.  If you are happy with yourself you will feel satisfied and content.  I think this is so important to teach our children especially in a world where children are so vulnerable to criticism.  If we can teach them to do things for themselves and we model this, they will be more confident.  Isn’t that what we really want?  


The third secret that I loved was “Just Do It”.  No this is not a Nike ad, this is a powerful concept as well.  The idea is that action leads to motivation.  He says, it is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.  So if you have been wanting to write a book or run a 10K, just start.  Write that first page or run to the end of the block.  Even if you don’t want to do something. If you just do it, you will know you can and then you will want to.  Crazy huh?


There is so much in this book and the stories are fun and powerful.  I hope I gave you a little taste but definitely check it out if you get a chance.  The equation for happiness basically says the only three goals you need are to want nothing (contentment) and you can do anything (freedom) then you will have everything (happiness).  I plan to consider this new equation and hope you will too.  We will both be on our way to discovering our best and happiest selves.



“Why We Need Thanksgiving More Than Once a Year”

I used to think Thanksgiving was the most ridiculous holiday.  As a kid, I watched the women in the house spend endless hours cooking food that I didn’t like very much and we didn’t even get a gift at the end. Instead, we had to clean up while the men sat around watching football on television.  This was not a tradition I felt thankful for.  Now that I have kids of my own, I have the opportunity to begin some new traditions.  The one thing I have learned to love about this holiday is that it is a reminder to be thankful.  This is the part that I really want to teach my children.  But why only be grateful once a year?  After a bit of research on the topic, I concluded that we should practice being thankful much more often.  


Here is what I have learned (and hope to teach my kids)… While most of us don’t think about gratitude much until Thanksgiving, researchers have been studying gratitude extensively and not just on holidays.  Dr. Robert Emmons is the leading researcher on this subject and has shown time and time again that gratitude has many benefits.  Based on his evidence, we should all be thinking about this practice daily rather than just once a year.


So what has science shown us about the benefits of practicing gratitude?  Well, grateful people are more satisfied with their lives in general.  They are thankful for what they have and don’t spend much time longing for what is missing in their lives.  They are rarely envious of others since they are happy with what they have.  It is actually impossible to be envious and grateful at the same time.  Seriously, try it!


Also, if you have an attitude of gratitude there is no room for negative feelings.  When you take a moment and recognize all of the wonderful things you have, you feel happier.  When you focus on the positive you are in a better mood and are less likely to fall into negative thinking.  Basically, you cannot suffer and appreciate at the same time.  


Expressing gratitude can improve relationships because grateful people get along better with others.  Their relationships are more satisfying, they feel more connected and less isolated than people who are less grateful or not practicing gratitude.  


Dr Emmons also says that grateful people are less depressed, less anxious, they achieve more and are more giving.  There are also benefits to our physical health.  Grateful people have healthier habits, they exercise more and sleep better.  They also have lower blood pressure and healthier heart health.  Sign me up!


Grateful people are also more resilient to trauma and more equipped to handle setbacks in life.   According to Dr. Emmons, “Consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude builds up a sort of psychological immune system that can cushion us when we fall.  There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals”.


So with all of these benefits who wouldn’t want to become more grateful?


Well, as it tuns out it is not quite so easy.  Our brain is naturally wired to focus on the negatives.  Looking for the bad or dangerous kept us alive from an evolutionary perspective.  This was a useful trait in our caveman days but is not so useful today.  Science shows we are 7 times more likely to notice a negative than a positive.  The good thing is that neuroscience shows that our brains can change when we adopt new habits.  The very structure of our brain can grow when we practice positive habits. 


It seems obvious then that gratitude needs to become a practice.  One way to do this is by gratitude journaling.  Emmons’ research showed that after just two or three weeks of filling out gratitude diaries participants had an improvement in mood, optimistic outlook and life satisfaction.  They were also more likely to help others. This takes only 5 or 10 minutes a day.  Other research shows that if we write down three things we are grateful for everyday, after 21 days we start to re-wire our brains to start scanning the world for the positives.  

Take the Gratitude Challenge with me! I challenge you to write down three things you are grateful for every day for 21 days. I will be doing this too and updating you along the way. Together let’s see if we notice these benefits as well.


So start practicing and your brain will grow to be a grateful one.  You will be one step closer to your best self yet!


“Why Homework is More Than Just a Hassle for Our Kids”

As humans, we all deal with stress.  From the time we are born we deal with fears and anxieties.  As adults, we hopefully find ways to cope with our stress.  We may exercise, go to the spa, meditate or write in a journal.  But what about our kids?  What are their fears and how do they cope with them.  According to recent research, 53% of kids say their biggest stress is homework.  I actually was shocked when I heard this.  I assumed that children would be most anxious about dying or maybe the Boogyman.  Then I thought about it...We feel pressured by external pressures all of the time and kids feel this pressure as well.  They may worry that if they don’t get good grades they won’t be loved or they won’t belong. 


There are days when I pick up my kids from school and even though I try my best to greet them in a positive, cheerful way, they are sometimes snappy and cranky.  I recently asked my daughter, “How are you today?”  “I have homework,” she replies with her head down and in a defeated voice.  After some deeper inquiry, I found out how much pressure she feels due to her homework.  She would rather not do it but has to.  Because of this she feels burdened and stressed out.


So what is the solution?  While my daughter suggests a worldwide petition against assigning homework, I’m not sure how well this would go over.  A more realistic solution is that we need to mirror for our kids how to show up with less pressure.   Here are some tips that I have seen work again and again.  First of all, we need to really listen to children and pay attention to their concerns.  Sometimes just being validated can help.  If they are consistently having problems, it may be time to check in with their teachers.  Second, model good coping skills.  In additon to typical stress management like deep breathing etc., another way to do this is to avoid procrastination.  When we leave work until the very end we just end up adding more pressure.  Also, show them it is ok to ask for help.  Asking for help creates connection and will help you or their teacher know what the struggle is.  Lastly, let them know it is ok and they don’t have to be perfect. Let them know that effort is more important than results and that mistakes help us to learn.   


As tough as it is, homework is a reality in our kids’ lives.  So, we need to help them find ways to cope.  By mirroring and empathizing, you can become the best role model you can be.


"Is Our Busyness as Moms Keeping Us Isolated?"

Remember when we used to call up a friend and share how our day was going or talk about an issue that was troubling us?  I remember talking to friends at length and feeling such relief just feeling like someone else understood.  Sometimes just getting to vent for a few minutes helped my problems to shrink down to normal size when a few minutes prior they seemed like a giant dragon ready to pounce.  Well maybe that’s an exaggeration but talking with a friend always helped me to feel supported and less alone.  


Fast forward several years... Now I am a mom and most of my friends are moms.  If I call someone on the phone the other person automatically assumes that something must be terribly wrong.  “Is everything ok Jen?” is the first thing out of their mouths.  Usually, if I call someone, I begin by saying “so, the reason I’m calling is...”  This way my friend won’t be wondering why I have used this ancient way of communicating.  My brother used to tell my mom that it was just plain rude to call when you can just as easily text.  One of my friends makes it very clear that she does not have time to talk so I threaten her with phone calls if she doesn’t return my texts.  


Seriously though, when we see people we know and we ask “how are you?”  The usual answer is “busy, super busy lately”.  If I text a friend to set up a lunch or coffee date, it’s often a couple weeks before we can find a time that works for both of us.  


My point is, as busy moms it is so much harder to stay really connected.  Yes, maybe you know what everyone has been up to by following them on Instagram or Facebook.  But, do you really know how they are doing?  Do you know how they are feeling and what their struggles are?  As woman we need connections in our lives to feel happy and fulfilled.  Our kids and our husbands may be amazing but there is something about hanging out and chatting with a good friend that is so different. 


So, if you notice yourself being so busy that you are beginning to feel a little isolated, I encourage you to reach out to a friend and find out how they are really doing.  While you are at it let them know how you are doing as well.  You might be surprised that both of you are tired of feeling so busy and taking a moment to chat and catch up might be just what you both have been craving.  


P.S.  Don't know where to begin in more connection?  Start with a free session for Busy Moms.  Just text: 623-209-4779

"What Busy Moms Need to Know about Time Management"

Be honest mama, how well are you managing your time?  As moms we are so stressed and overloaded that we don’t even know where to begin.  Being organized is a big part of managing time.  It is especially challenging when you have a husband and a few kids who may not be very organized.  Personally, I can’t get anything done when I have to look at all of my kids things all over my kitchen counter.  A disorganized space leads to a disorganized mind for me.  The good news is, if we can find ways to become more organized we will reap the benefits of being more productive, less stressed, getting better sleep and thus will have more time and energy for our families.  There are many tips out there in terms of time management so I will focus on the ones that get to the bottom of our need for less stress and more happiness as busy moms.


Tip #1: Know yourself. 

We all know about the basics of organization.  We need a to-do list, a filing system and a calendar.  However, these look different for everyone so it’s important to know yourself and what will work for you.  The purpose of the to-do list should be simply to remember the things that have to get done. The filing system is to stay organized.  Studies show that the typical office worker wastes almost 2 hours a day.  One reason for this is because they can’t find things due to their desk being messy.  Know what system is best for you.  For example, some people’s system is to have piles spread out on their desk so they can see and reach them.  For me, I need everything put away or I get stressed out.  Your calendar is also personal ( i.e. do you prefer a phone calendar, desk calendar, wall calendar etc.) but important since you need to know when things need to be done.  One last point on knowing yourself is to know when you are most productive and make sure you are doing the tasks that require the most energy at this time of day.  Maybe this means getting up before the kids start asking for a million things.  


Tip #2:  Know what you really want. 

 It’s easy to just go down our to do list and do the next thing that comes up but this method does not help you meet your goals.  Your long term personal goals will help you organize your time.  This vision for the future should be where you begin to organize yourself.  For example, the next thing on your list might be to organize your closet or your desk but you know visiting your daughter at lunch time will make her really happy and this is important to you.  If you are looking at what is  really important your decision might be different.  In other words, organize your tasks based on your priorities and values.  Once you know where you are headed in life you can better manage your time. 


Tip #3  Know what you do not want

Go through your to-do list and figure out what things are not really that important to you.  Ask yourself why this item is on your list and if it coincides with your vision of what you want.  Also, ask what will happen if you don’t do it.  You can manage these items by either deleting them altogether or delegating them to someone else.  This should make the list a little more manageable.  The other aspect of this tip is to make sure you are saying no to the things you do not want to do.  This could be saying no to people asking you to do things you don’t have time for. This could also be saying no to yourself.  Spending hours on Facebook seeing what everyone else’s family is doing may not be serving our ultimate goals.  Research has found that prolonged usage of Facebook can negatively effect self-esteem.  So block out a small amount of time for this, say 15 minutes, so you can make sure you have time for the more important things.  


Tip #4: Know how to focus. 

 After you have scaled down your list, break it down into three or four things that you want to accomplish each day.  Make this list at night or first thing in the morning.  There will be many distractions during your day so keep bringing yourself back to these top things.  Another way to gain focus is to break bigger tasks down into smaller steps that are easier to tackle.   


Once you know how you really want to spend your time as well as what is really important, you will be on your way to being more organized with your time and your life. 



"This Blog Stinks!: How to Deal with Your Inner Critic"

I am pretty certain that as moms we all have an inner critic lurking inside of us.  Some of us hear from our critic more than others, like that horrible lullaby that gets stuck in your head, but you only remember three lines over and over and over again.  


These Messages are Stressing Me Out!


It wouldn't be so bad except this lullaby is like death metal clanging away.  It never has anything nice to say.  Often it says things like “you are going to screw up your kids forever”, “you are too fat”, or “you are selfish and your husband will never understand you and how hard balancing it all can get”.  We tend to listen to these messages without question.  Over time our inner critic can cause us to feel stressed, depressed, unsure of ourselves or worse.  


Where Does This Judgment Come From?


As moms, our inner critic has been there for a long time.  It may have started with messages we received as a child from the female role models or authority figures in our lives.  It most likely became worse when we began comparing ourselves to unrealistic moms on television and in magazines (that is if you have time to watch TV or read these days).  It is probably even more pronounced now that social media is taking a huge toll on us since everything we do is being judged and we are constantly comparing ourselves to the other moms around us.


Intention:  Good or Bad?


So, how do we begin to stop listening to our inner critic and teach it, like we teach our kids, to be a little nicer?  Well, first of all, we need to understand the intention of our critic.  As ironic as it may seem, our inner critic is there to protect us. The negative talk is  kind of like the helicopter mom, annoying but actually there to keep us safe.  Think about it... The earliest humans had no defenses, like claws or pointed teeth, so we had to depend on our advanced brains to keep us from being the next delicious meal.  When being approached by a large scary predator, it would not have helped us to try and see the positive in the situation or challenge ourself to take a risk.  Our inner self told us, “you are too weak and small to survive so get the heck out of there!”  Fast forward to today, when faced with a scary situation, our inner critic is still trying to protect us.  For example, when we need to do a presentation, our brain tries to protect us by telling us that maybe our presentation is not very good or that people will judge us etc.  It says, play it safe, don’t take the risk.  This does nothing for our self-esteem and does not help us to perform better.


What Do We Do Now?


Now how to we deal with this inner critic?  Here are a few tips that might prove helpful:

First of all, we need to recognize our critic and what it is telling us.  Sometimes these messages are so ingrained we don’t even notice them.  We need to see them for what they are, a part of ourselves but not all of who we are.  Second, it can help to give your internal critic a name.  Preferably a name that is non-threatening or intimidating.  I like to call mine Bob.  Next, become friends with your inner critic.  Maybe even thank it for it’s attempts to protect you... “Hi Bob, I appreciate what you are trying to do here, but I’m wondering if you might consider a different approach to things?”  After this, tell your inner critic that you are choosing a different way to see the world.  “So Bob, I know you think I look fat today but you need to stop judging me!  My body is amazing and I am doing everything I can to keep it strong and healthy”.  Basically tell your inner critic the opposite message and keep practicing this. Over time the message will become a more positive one.


Commit to It!


If you have had these negative thoughts for a long time, chances are you are going to have to commit to changing things.  In order to re-write the messages, we have to practice the new messages regularly.  We need to make a habit of noticing our inner critic, becoming it’s friend and making sure that it knows it cannot bully us any more.  Tell it that from now on you will only listen to positive messages.  We must commit to this because it is up to us to re-write our own story.  No one, especially our inner critic, should write it for us. 


P.S. “Bob, this blog is pretty good and the more I practice the better I will get!

"Tips to Get Motivated to Exercise"

There are so many benefits to exercising!   Exercise benefits your physical and mental well being and can even help with your memory and concentration. Even if it is just 20-30 minutes a day most days of the week, you will feel better.  Make it part of who you are.  We need to make exercise a habit so we can reap all of it’s amazing benefits.


My first tip is so simple and obvious but we need to put exercise on our schedule!  If at all possible make it the first thing you do.  We have a 300 percent greater chance of working out if we do it in the morning.  If you wait until later you will likely find an excuse or something else will get in the way. 


My second tip is to dress for success.  Nice clothes can encourage you to workout.  Just like you can’t wait to wear that new dress to dinner for your Friday night date, you are more likely to look forward to your workout if you have some clothes you are excited to wear.   Make sure you lay them out the night before so you have a visual cue to remind yourself that this is the new you!  Invest in at least a weeks worth of clothes so you can’t use the excuse that they are in the wash.


My next tip is to have a workout buddy.  This really works!  I hated to go to the gym in the beginning.  I was completely unmotivated to go and really had no idea what to do once I got there.  After making some friends who shared my goals of being more fit, I becme a regular.  If none of your friends are into being healthier recruit your dog or your kids.  My kids love it if we just hang out at home, crank up the music and dance.  Now that exercise has become a habit for me, I don’t need my buddies anymore for motivation but I still try and exercise with friends when I can.  It’s just nice to have the company.


Finally, find something that you enjoy.  Get creative!  Even if you hate exercising, try and combine it with something you love to help get you started.  For example, in the beginning since I love to read, I would ride the bike at the gym and read a book.  I wasn’t working very hard back then but it got me going.  Now, I listen to books on my phone since I am working a bit harder now.  Some people love music. If you are a competitive person make it a contest.  Whatever makes it more fun will keep you engaged.


Hopefully these tips will help you make exercise a part of your life.  Working out is more effective than any medication out there for coping with stress or depression so make it a habit.  This is one step on the road to discovering your best self yet!


"How to Overcome Emotional Eating"

So, as I sit down to write this blog my first instinct is to reach for somthing to eat.  To be honest, this habit started back in grad school when I would eat cereal straight out of the box every time I had to write a paper.  It is possible I was actually hungry a few of those times, but to be honest, I think I dealt with my stress by eating.  I did not love writing back then and writing assignments were stressful. Fast forward to today, I actually enjoy blogging yet I still reach for food almost every time.  My habit is not fueled by hunger but something else...my emotions.

 

Emotional eating is when food is used for emotional regulation.  In other words, people eat to feed their emotions not their bodies.  Most of the time, the feelings are negative such as stress, anger, sadness or boredom but occasionally people eat when they are happy as well. The most common cause of emotional eating is stress.  Stress causes cortisol levels in our body to increase which in turn causes us to crave sugary, fatty and salty food.  This brings me to my next point, emotional eating is problematic because we are not eating veggies to cope.  The foods we “just have to eat” (think french fries or cookies) are not good for us.  This can lead to weight gain and bigger medical issues.  Another problem is when we rely on food to feel better, we don’t have a chance to adopt more healthy coping mechanisms.  In addition, we often feel bad about ourselves afterwards.  We feel guilty or ashamed which can then lead to a vicious cycle that can lead to more emotional eating.  Ugh!

 

So what can we do to start eating when we are hungry and not for other reasons?  According to Laurel Inman the director of The Integrative Coach Training Program and where I received my coaching certification, emotional eating happens when we feel out of control and food is used for safety or comfort.  She says that coaching can be helpful for clients with this issue.  She says coaching can provide education as well as support depending on the needs of the client.   Coaching can help clients identify true hunger from emotional hunger.  

 

Life coaching can also help people identify triggers such as which foods, places and emotions lead to emotional eating.  Coaching can also help clients develop a new and more heathy relationship with food.  Laurel struggled with emotional eating herself and considers herself a success story.  She has been free from emotional eating for over 15 years.  Coaching helped her in a way that other programs could not and now she has a completely new relationship with her body.

 

If any of this rings true for you, remember first to be kind to yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up or that will likely lead to more emotional eating.  Know that there is hope and there are many little things you can do today to set yourself on the right path.  One of these things is to begin practicing mindfulness.  Becoming aware of your patterns and triggers will help you to determine the reasons for eating.  Pressing the pause button before you eat can help as well.  Wait 5 minutes when the urge comes up and do something different:  take a walk, soak in the bathtub or meditate.  Chances are if you can interrupt your pattern you will begin to eat in a healthier way.  If you still are struggling you may need to seek some support.  Coaching can help you discover your best and healthiest self yet!

 

"Tips to Be a Happier and More Successful Person (Before Your Day Even Begins)"

I am on a constant quest to be healthier and happier every day.  In this post I want to share with you a few tips that help me to be successful on this journey even before I leave the house for the day.  

 

I have never been a morning person and although I have fought this for years, I have come to the conclusion that morning is actually when I get the most done.  Mornings, as hard as they might seem to some of us, are the time that sets the tone for your whole day.  If your morning starts out successful it is much more likely that the rest of your day will be successful as well.  

 

So, my first tip to a successful morning is to get up earlier.  Ok, before you stop reading...you don’t have to get up at 4am.  Even just 15 minutes can set the tone for a better day.  Trust me, this little bit of extra time will help you feel more in control and more productive.  Starting the day off without rushing around will help you to feel like you own the day instead of the day owning you.  If you find you enjoy this extra time keep increasing it by 15 minutes every week and soon you might just become a morning person.

 

Next, I suggest starting your morning routine with an intention.  I personally find this to be so important as far as feeling motivated and successful.  I love to stretch first thing in the morning and set my intention for the day.  Try to keep this in mind as you go through your day.  This again sets the tone and makes my day feel a little more focused.  

 

My last tip is to plan your morning the night before.  This will make everything go much more smoothly.  Set out your clothes, set the coffee pot, plan what your breakfast will be etc.  I do all of these things so when I get up I don’t have as much to do and it feels like the morning is greeting me with a feeling of accomplishment already.  It’s as if the morning is saying to me, “here is your coffee, your outfit and a healthy breakfast, have a great day!”  I also love to do a list the night before of all of the things I need to do or want to accomplish that day.  This way I don’t have to worry I already have the next day under control.

 

Hopefully one or more of these tips will help you have a great day everyday.  I think great days pave the way to discovering your best self!

 

"Why I Decided to Host a Free Life Coaching Workshop"

If you haven’t heard, I am doing a workshop in a few weeks called “4 Tips to Success in Life, Love and Work”.  So you might be wondering why I decided to create this particular workshop.  Well, honestly, it just kind of popped into my head.  However, as someone who is trained in psychotherapy, I knew there must be a greater reason.  An unconscious motivation that I was not yet aware of.  So I pondered this and realized that, as usual, the desire to talk about this topic stems from my childhood and more specifically the influence my mother had on me.  

 

My mom was a very unhappy woman and her life was full of problems.  Granted, she was not dealt an easy hand in life having her youngest son born with Down Syndrome and a husband who she did not feel was supportive to her in any way.  Her life was not always easy, true.  But the way she interpreted the things that happened to her led to the way she dealt with them.  She believed that she was being punished or cursed in some way, so she drank, smoked and used pain killers in an attempt to get rid of her pain.  It never occurred to her to view her life in any other way.  She never contemplated that there could be anything positive that would ever happen.  She expected negative things and that’s usually what she got.  She never took care of herself physically or mentally and never believed she had any control of her life.  She just sat and waited and numbed.  

 

The way I live my life now, whether consciously or unconsciously, is pretty much the exact opposite of my mother’s.  For a long time, I saw a lot of negative as well.  I complained a lot and felt helpless in many areas of my life.  Over time, and lots of therapy and coaching, I realized there was another way.  I am in many ways grateful for how I was raised because I learned one very important lesson.  I could choose the life I wanted.  I was not going to be miserable like my mother.  

 

My mom had so many amazing qualities that she never got to share with the world because she was wrought with physical and emotional pain.  She was so funny and generous and amazing in so many ways, yet lived her life in a dark, sad and helpless way.  I want to help people get out of their ruts and feelings of being stuck as a tribute to my mom.  I want to help people understand that they have control of how they interpret the world.  I believe that life is what you make of it.  

 

I truly wish Life Coaches were around when my mother was young and she would have been able to get help in understanding how to be fulfilled.  I couldn’t help my mom before she died but I hope I can help the people who hear about me and want more from life.  I want to make sure that people know they are not alone and they are not doomed to be unhappy, overwhelmed and stressed out.  Life is too short not to!

 

If you are reading this and feel in any way you are not 110% happy, I hope you attend my workshop.  You can find peace and balance in your life.  I want to share what I have learned so you can discover a happier and more joyful you!

 

If you are interested in this FREE workshop, register now!

"Helping Children Through Difficult Transitions"

Transitions (AKA change) is a normal part of life.  Most of us know that change is unavoidable and can even be a good thing.  As adults we can see how change can be an opportunity for growth and we welcome certain life changes.  Children, however, thrive on routine and consistency.  Even transitioning from playing a game to getting ready for bed is a huge deal for them.  Obviously a new sibling, a change in school, or a loss (just to name a few) are going to have a big impact.  Let’s take the very difficult transition of divorce.  One of my dearest friends told me the other day that her young daughter who is usually “happy go lucky” was tearfully asking my friend why she can’t just have a “normal family”.  My friend was taken off guard since the divorce happened a while ago.  She was not sure how to respond.  It’s hard to explain to an elementary school age child that there is no such thing as a “normal family”.  (This was lesson number one in my graduate family therapy class). So how do we help our children cope with major life transitions when all they want is for everything in their world to stay the same. Here are a few things for us parents to keep in mind: 

 

Be honest and straightforward. Explain things as clearly as you can depending on the child’s age.  Let them know what to expect and exactly how things will be different.  Let them know that feelings of sadness, anger and stress are normal.  Whatever the change let them know that it is a natural part of life.  Assure them that you are there to talk with them and help with whatever feelings are coming up.  Both parents being on the same page helps too so talk about how to explain what is happening before talking to the kids jointly.

 

Understand that sometimes they just need to protest.  Of course this is often not very fun for us as the parent.  The protest may come in the form of a tantrum or tears (and usually not at a very convenient time) but the feelings behind them are worth listening to.  Children need to feel understood.  They need to be able to express their sadness, anger, disappointment etc.  They need reassurance.  Ask questions like, “how are you feeling about your friend moving?”   Then really listen... Try to see things from their point of view and let them know that you understand.  They may need a little more from you right now so give extra hugs freely.

 

Stay firm on the things that can stay the same.  Everything in their world is in flux so it might seem like a time to be lenient about bedtimes, rules etc.  You might think that they are going through so much a third helping of ice cream is ok.  For adults transitions can be an opportunity to start new patterns, but for kids who crave structure, keeping the usual rules in tact is a good thing.  That being said, if they do break the rules from time to time, be flexible and allow time for them to get used to the new situation.  However, if problems don’t lessen or get worse over time consider professional help.  

 

Keep it real in terms of expectations.  There are going to be difficult times.  Some days will be harder than others.  Remember that things were one way for a long time so it might take a long time to adjust to the new way.  Be patient with your child as much as possible.  Regression is normal but most likely temporary.  

 

Don’t neglect yourself.  It’s impossible to really be there for our kids when we are not coping well with our own feelings about the transition.  Positive or negative we all need support at times.  Know it is tough to do it all on your own.  It’s ok to ask for help either from a friend, family member or a professional.  

 

With time, patience and positivity you and your child will be able to discover your Best Selves Yet!

"How to Re-connect on Valentine's Day or Any Day"

Most of us can easily recall the early days of our relationship.  Whether you have been together for 5 months or 50 years, being a couple is always exciting in the beginning.  Unfortunately as day to day life takes over we forget to take care of our relationship and even start focusing on the negative things rather than what brought us together in the first place.  

 

After kids, jobs, a house to take care of, and tons of daily responsibilities on your ”to do” list, a lot of us lose the motivation to even plan a date night.  Even if we do plan something, conversations tend to steer towards kids, money, things that need to be done around the house etc.  Date night is something my husband and I have always done.  We do it at least once a week.  What’s important is that you do it on a regular basis.  It’s so important to have a time just for you as a couple.  Valentines day is right around the corner so what better time to make reconnecting a priority.

 

There are tons of ideas out there on what to do for a date night.  Stay in, go out, get away for a few days...but one easy way to re-connect is by taking time to focus on the past, present and the future of your relationship.  Remember it doesn’t matter what you do or how big/expensive it is. What’s truly important is feeling connected.  So get a sitter and put away the electronics.  Here are a few ideas to make date nights a time to renew that new relationship excitement.

 

Date night blast from the past.  Do something that allows you to reminisce about the past.  Get out old photos and re-live funny stories or favorite moments.   Listen to the songs you loved when you first met or your wedding songs and remember the good ol’ days.  Watch the first movie you saw together or go to the same restaurant you went to on your first date.  My husband and I love to listen to music because music has been such a big part of our past.  We love to light some candles, pour a glass of wine and the music brings the memories for us.  Remember the things that brought you together and the feelings that led to you to one another in the beginning.

 

No better time than the present date.  This one is to help you remember to feel thankful for the things you have.  Tell each other about things they do now that you appreciate.  Revive a hobby or activity that you both love. Do something you both enjoy but maybe never get a chance to do.  My husband and I love to try new restaurants.  We love to enjoy a new atmosphere and try new food.   Ask each other thought provoking questions.  Not just about your day but open ended questions that show you are interested in each other’s lives. Whatever it is, make sure you talk about what you are happy with now and save any negativity for another time (or try to nix it altogether). Remember this is a chance to create some new memories!

 

The best is yet to come date:  Do something new!  Talk about your bucket lists and future goals.  Plan a trip!  Talk about how you can consistently make time for one another from here on.  Schedule your times together as a couple first on the calendar.  Marriage experts recommend couples hold regular meetings to check-in with one another to keep communication flowing freely and to check in on family goals.  If you keep your relationship a high priority your marriage will grow and you and your partner will each discover your best relationship yet!

"How to Deal with Stubborn Kids"

Most parents will agree that parenting can be challenging at times.  My kids are no exception.  Each stage seems to present new challenges.  My girls are a bit older now but I stick to many of the same tips that I learned when they were little.  As much as I love them, they can be complete jerk kids at times.  I like to avoid conflict whenever possible so when I realized motherhood requires being in an all out war at times, I was completely taken off guard.  So what is a mom to do when their adorable sweet child absolutely refuses to budge on something?...

 

Here are a few tips that have helped me.  I still use most of them but with teenagedom right around the corner I may have to figure out some new ones soon.  Yikes!

 

Tip #1  Don’t take it personally.  Often times when my kids are being defiant my own emotions became triggered.  I feel like I must have done something horribly wrong raising them and that was why they were acting the way they are.  The truth is it’s not about you.  Your child’s behavior is a refection of their temperament which is innate.   So try to stay calm (I know, easier said than done) focus on the present moment and try to respond in a non-emotional, neutral way.  

 

Tip #2  Offer limited choices.  Stubborn children are often times just wanting more control of their lives and their situations.  They feel safe with you so you are most likely going to be victim of their newly desired autonomy.  So, if you give them a little of what they want (control), chances are better that you will get what you want too.  For example, instead of giving your child applesauce for snack time, give him two choices.  “Would you like applesauce or a cheese stick?”  If he says goldfish let him know that that is not one of the options.  If he persists let him know that if he can’t decide you will decide for him.  I love this trick.  It works and it is a win-win!

 

Tip #3  Give warnings.  I have always tried to do this because it just seems nicer to give kids a warning about what is coming next.  This way you are respecting their time and hopefully they will learn to respect yours.  Before school I let my kids know when they have 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes until we leave.  If they still are not ready I will announce I am leaving and then I do!  It’s amazing how fast they move when I start heading out the door.  

 

Tip #4 Just say yes!  Most parents say no a lot.  Try saying yes instead (even when it is really a no).  Instead of “no we can’t go out for yogurt tonight because your room is a disaster”, say, “yes, we can do that as soon as you clean your room.”

 

Tip #5  Connect Before You Direct.  This technique is from psychotherapist Susan Stiffelman who suggests if you show interest in what your child is doing they will feel connected to you and will be much more likely to do what you ask.

 

If all else fails remember this:  Studies show that strong-willed children are more liikely to be educational over-achivers and have high incomes as adults.  At least this is good news for frustrated parents.  Either way, keep doing your best and you will Discover Your Best Mommy or Daddy Self!

"How to Teach Kindness to Children"

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day about my blog and what life struggles she would like to read about.  She did not hesitate for a second before saying, “I am having a kindness issue with my daughter.”  As a mom of three young girls I definitely can relate to this.  Girls can be mean at times.  In fact, there are two things that always amaze me about my girls.  One is how sweet they can be and the other is how mean they can be at times.  I have only witnessed their meanness at home but I often worry about them being mean to others.  I think most parents worry about bullying at some point, whether they fear their child will be the bully or the one being bullied.  Either way, teaching kindness is hugely important for our children now and in the future.

 

Model the behavior you want to see in your children.  I know this seems obvious, but if I’m honest with myself it’s not always automatic.  We need to use kind words with them and others even when we are not feeling like it.  If you treat your server at dinner with disrespect (even if they totally messed up your order) your child will think it’s ok to treat others this way.  When you do nice things for others make sure your kids know about it.  If you make dinner for a friend who just had a baby tell your kids what you are doing and offer to let them help.  Hopefully, your kindness will be contagious.

 

Encourage children to only say positive things.  Your kids may have heard the line from the movie Bambi, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothing at all”.   Thumper’s grammar aside, this is so important for all of us to remember.  Even if someone messes up there is always a nice way to put things.  

 

Tell them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.  Point out how what your child says makes the other person feel.  For example, when my daughter tells me how horrible my dinner is, either with words or the disgusted look on her face, I always let her know how that makes me feel. I also encourage her to think about how she would feel if she worked hard on something and someone told her she didn’t do a good job.  Now if your kids are like mine and say something like, “well you don’t want me to lie do you?”  I would advise them to re-watch Bambi and zip it.

 

Teach good manners.  Again, it seems obvious but please and thank you are a very basic way of being kind.  

 

Praise them when they are kind.  Kids are actually innately kind and helpful.  At first it might be for selfish reasons but as they grow it becomes rewarding to do nice things for others.  Don’t go overboard when praising though.  Niceness should be expected.  However, when they go out of their way to be helpful we should notice it.  I think we all appreciate that.

 

Practice these tips regularly and you and your kiddos will both be able to Discover your Best Selves.

 

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"How to Keep Your New Years Resolutions"

Now that the new year is here most of us have a slew of resolutions for the year ahead.  The problem is that despite our best intensions we often lose motivation for these goals as the year progresses.  For me, I am usually super excited about all the improvements I plan to make.  But, many times I throw in the towel within the first couple of months.  This year I am going to implement a few basic strategies to increase my chance of success and decrease the chance of being very disappointed in myself by mid February.

 

Make sure your goal is realistic.  It’s great to have high aspirations but if you are not real in your resolutions you are only setting yourself up for failure.  For example, sweets are one of my biggest weaknesses.  I can’t even count the number of times I have decided to give up the delicious demons for good.  I have been to many birthday parties with great hopes of not having even one bite of cake only to fail miserably the second the candles are blown out. Break your goal into small realistic steps like “I will only eat desert two times during the week” rather than never ever again.

 

Be specific in your goal.  A big part of making your goals realistic is to also make them specific.  Rather than resolving to “lose weight” or “be healthier” decide on something concrete and have an end-point to evaluate how you are doing.  Once you have your specific goal set, remember to write it down.  This will help you remember when you evaluate how you are doing. This year, my resolution is to go to the gym or run outside at least 4 days a week.   At the end of the month, I will hopefully be meeting or exceeding my goal.  If not, I will need to re-evaluate.

 

Anticipate bumps in the road.  Be realistic in your expectations of yourself as well as the goals you set.  You are not perfect (no one is!).  So when you backslide, just pick yourself up and keep going.  Instead of beating yourself up, acknowledge what you have accomplished.  Look at the setback as a learning opportunity.  This way, you will know how to deal with the problem the next time you run into it.  Give yourself compliments and acknowledge your progress.  Hey, you set the goal in the first place so obviously you are at least trying to improve.  This is something to be proud of!  

 

Believe in yourself and let others believe in you too.  Your beliefs about yourself and your goal are incredibly important.  Visualize yourself achieving your goal and do this daily.  Talk to supportive people about your goal and look to them when you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure of yourself.  Just remember to keep going and you will Discover Your Best Self yet!

 

"Financial Stress During the Holidays"

 

The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but often they can also be the most stressful time of the year.  In my family, financial stress is almost always the worst during the holiday season. It seems like everywhere you look there are more reasons to spend.  For example, even though my husband and I try and teach our kids the value of money, they ask for even more than usual since it is not mommy and daddy’s money being spent, it’s Santa’s!  As a society we tend to overspend and get into debt too often in general but it seems even easier as the holiday spirit overtakes our common sense.

 

Here are three tips to remember to avoid overspending during this joyful time.

 

#1  Remember what is important.  Happiness comes from our beliefs and our thoughts not the things we own.  Is the new video game system going to make you and /or your kids happy?  Maybe for a moment, but the lasting happiness comes from feeling loved and a sense of belonging.  For our family, being together is what is most important.  I have to remind myself that I don’t need to feel guilty if all of three of my girls don’t have the exact same number of gifts.  Talk to your family about what is important to each of them..Teaching kids to find happiness within themselves is going to last a lot longer than the X-box.

 

#2  Start some new and more affordable traditions.  Don’t stick with the same old traditions if they are leading to more stress than comfort.  Make new traditions that don’t involve spending a ton of money.  Activities that become part of the tradition is more meaningful than everyone getting the perfect present.  For example, my in-laws follow the Swedish tradition of dancing and singing to encourage the Swedish Santa to visit.  This leads to a lot of laughing and silliness which is we look forward to more than the actual presents.  I also love the idea of home made gift that are meaningful but inexpensive.  Ultimately your children will remember these traditions and take pride in them.  

 

#3  Avoid “Comparisonitis!”.  Don’t compare your holiday celebrations to others or even to Christmas past.  In addition, avoid comparing the real holidays to the perfect vision in your head.  As discussed in #1, remember what you truly value.  If something feels stressful it’s ok to say no.  Avoiding things (and people) that cause stress will leave you feeling happier and healthier which in turn will help you enjoy this wonderful time of the year.  As always focus on Discovering your Best (Holiday) Self.

 

"Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Negative Holiday Emotions"

November 27, 2017

 

Well Thanksgiving is over and that marks the beginning of the holiday season.  It actually seems it is starting earlier and earlier these days.  It seems like everyone is trying to get a head start. Even before Halloween the Christmas decor was going up everywhere. Being ahead of the game is a great way to ward off negative feelings. This brings me to my first tip to de-stress during the holidays.

 

#1 Be Prepared:  Many people look forward to the holidays, but there are also many who don’t.  It can be a time of stress and even sadness.  Regardless of the emotions it brings up, it is always a good idea to be prepared.  Just like getting a head start on holiday decorating we need to prepare for the sometimes ugly feelings that are going to come up in many of us.  We often find ourselves becoming overwhelmed and feeling the pressure to make everything perfect.  Acknowledge what you are feeling and decide what your priorities are.  Learn to say no and don’t overbook yourself.  

 

#2 Be Grateful:  Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful but I challenge you to keep reminding yourself of what you are thankful for throughout the holidays and even after that.  It’s so easy to become negative during this time of year, wishing we had more than what we have.  Take 5 or 10 minutes each day and either in your head or on paper make a list of what you are thankful for. I promise it will make things a little more bearable.

 

#3: Find time for yourself:  So much is expected of us this time of year.  Women especially come out the other side of the hustle and bustle feeling completely depleted.  Find time each day to do something for you.  Exercise, especially if it’s outside, helps decrease anxiety.   Even if a 90 min full body massage isn’t an option, offer to trade massages with your partner or your kids.  Even just listening to music is a great way to find some calm in your busy day. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is just make sure you find time for something that you enjoy.

 

#4 Make the holidays your own: Don’t feel that you have to stick with old customs.  This can be especially helpful if you are sad or grieving.  Start some new traditions or maybe even spice up the old ones.  

 

#5 Ask for help!:  Seriously, you just need to ask!  Don’t assume people are going to just jump in and help with shopping, party prep and clean up.  Often people want to help but they just don’t know what to do.  If despite all of your efforts you still feel like it’s all a bit too much, the support of a life coach can help you clarify your values and what’s important.  Sometime just having someone who understands can make all the difference. 

 

May the holidays be full of love, stress-free and allow you to Discover Your Best Self!

 

"What is a Transition and How Do I Know If I am in One?

So, when I was getting my coaching certificate the director of the program told me that it is a good idea for me to have a coaching niche.  Of course my natural resistance cried out in my head, “What?  No!! I want to help everyone!  I don’t want to have a narrow focus because then my potential clients will think I can’t help them if they don’t fall into my niche”.  Anyway, she encouraged me to try it and I did!  My first niche was “new moms”.  This was really fun and exciting at first.  I did presentations for several groups of new moms and loved listening to their stories and connecting with them.  I totally understood their struggles, after all I have been a new mom three times!  Anyway, the thing I forgot about being a brand new mom is that when you are in the beginning stages of motherhood you are not ready in many cases to work on yourself.  In fact, you might not even have gotten more than 2 hours of sleep and can’t remember when the last time you had a shower or ate a bite of food.  Brand new mom’s are in “survival mode”.  Just like if you were stranded on a desert island your first thought would not be to call a life but rather would be to figure out how to get some food!   So, I expanded my niche to women in transition.  So what is a transition?  According to Webster, “ a transition is a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.”  I figured this could mean almost anything.  My definition is anyone who is deciding to change something in their life, are in the process of changing or are dealing with the aftermath of a change.  Some examples include, going from high school to college, college to what’s after college, getting married, becoming a parent, moving, new job/career, divorce, starting to date again, becoming healthier, dealing with a loss, kids leaving home to go to school, working to retired, etc., etc., etc... I finally got my broad niche that I wanted!  Now I don’t have to leave anyone out!  So call me if you are not sure if you are in transition.  I may just tell you that you are in transition if you are calling me.  You are taking steps toward making a change in your life by working with a coach who can help YOU Discover Your Best Self!  Now that is a transition to be excited about!

"Coaching vs. Therapy: Which One is Right for You?"

One of the most common questions I get as a life coach is, “what is the difference between a counselor/psychotherapist and a life coach”.  As a former therapist, I feel pretty qualified to answer this question but the truth is there are a lot of commonalities as well.  As I started writing about this, I realized it is not an easy subject to explain.  This is one of the reasons I offer a complimentary 30 min. phone session.  If you are curious why not try it yourself?  It’s only 30 minutes and will put you on the path to a better and happier you!  

 

Okay, here is my best effort at explaining the similarities and differences.  A good therapist and a good life coach are both there to help you.  Both are there to focus on you and cater the sessions to you, your struggles and what your goals are.  Both offer a safe and confidential place to explore problems you are struggling with.  

 

Now on to the differences...I won’t bore you with exact definitions but essentially therapy is a type of treatment which assumes you are having a serious problem, have a mental illness or emotional problems and in most cases have a clinical diagnosis.   Life coaching on the other hand assumes that you are healthy and whole (not broken in some way).  Therapy is there to heal you and get you to a place where you are functioning at baseline on a day to day basis.   Coaching, on the other hand moves past this into the future.  As a coaching client you do not need treatment or to be healed but what you are looking for is to flourish in life.  You may feel healed as a result but a coach assumes you have the internal resources to achieve your goals.  Coaching helps you identify what is blocking you from getting where you want to be and find solutions to whatever might be getting in the way.  It helps you to discover your best self. Therapy typically focuses on the past and may bring up childhood traumas.  Coaching moves you to where you want to be in the future.  Coaching does not focus on the past even though this can come up in sessions this is not the goal.  My therapy background gives me the tools to know when to refer someone if they indeed need therapy rather than coaching.  I am here to help you if you are unsure which is best for you.

 

There are many other differences and similarities so email me if you have any questions.  What’s most important in either discipline is how comfortable you feel opening up to and trusting the person you are working with.  As a team, you and I can help YOU Discover Your Best Self!

"Let's Get to Know Each Other"

November 8, 2017

 

Hello everyone out there in blog world!  Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jennifer Jakobsen and I am a Professional Life Coach.  If you aren’t sure what a life coach does I will get to that in a minute.  I will also tell you how coaching has changed my life not only as a coach but as a coachee (the person being coached).  I used to practice psychotherapy in my past life (before marriage and kids).  After having 3 kids, I decided I needed a change.  I know that coaching is the career for me because I love helping people figure out their lives and coaching is a really positive/future focused way of doing it. I help people who are feeling stuck, overwhelmed and stressed out find a sense of balance and peacefulness.  Coaches do not dig into your past and try and figure out why you are the way you are like a therapist would do.  Coaches actually assume that you are healthy and whole and want to help you be a better you.  Who doesn’t need that?  I have worked with both a personal coach and a business coach myself and both have helped me move forward in my life.  My personal coach helps me with my personal issues and my business coach helps me with my business.  These two types of coaching tie into each other sometimes.  For example,  if I am feeling a lack of confidence in my self my business is likely going to suffer and vice versa.  Anyway, you get the idea. 

One of the biggest issues that I have as a coach in the world of business is that not a lot of people know what a coach is or why they need one.  This is one of the reasons I am starting this blog.  I want to educate people on this amazing resource called life coaching.  I hope you will keep reading my posts because I can tell you over and over that EVERYONE needs a coach but you need to discover this for yourself.  My posts will help you understand what coaching is and how seriously NEED this in your life.  As your coach you and I will work as a team so you can Discover Your Best Self!!”