21 June 2019
Nowadays we rarely pick up a pen and paper to communicate with one another, but it might not be wise for us to trade this long-standing, cultural practice entirely for the convenience of text messages and emails.
Research has shown that the general act of writing by hand can promote quite a few physical and mental benefits, from improving learning abilities to fostering a more positive outlook on life. And when it comes to writing that is used as a form of communication between two people, namely letters and postcards, the impact of such messages lasts far longer than any alternative version offered in our high-tech world. From the careful intentions of the sender to the value experienced by the receiver, no true match exists for this old-time, traditional means of conversation.
Whether you're trying to cultivate a little romance, nurture a friendship or simply stay connected with loved ones while abroad, here are nine reasons you should still send a letter or postcard once in a while.
They create lasting memories.
Studies have revealed an association between writing by hand and brain development and cognition, increasing neural activity more than typing can. Just as learning by handwriting notecards and study guides proves more effective for students, the moments you commit to paper for others are more likely to stay stored in your own memory as well, allowing you both to reflect back and appreciate them again in the future.
They show how much you care.
In the days of oversimplified communication, receiving a "just to say hi" email can feel like a big deal. So imagine the powerful message you convey when you actually write out your thoughts for another person by hand, purchase a stamp, physically deliver your note to a mailbox and wait days for your special someone to receive it. Their beaming smile at your thoughtfulness will say it all.
They make you feel good.
Aside from the residual satisfaction of knowing you're making a close friend's day with your efforts, science has linked expressive writing to better mood, reduced stress and improved overall sense of well-being. Similar to keeping a gratitude journal or writing about your future goals, sharing your genuine thoughts with another person can be quite the morale booster -- not to mention a mini adrenaline rush as you drop the final draft into the mailbox.
They make every word count.
Postcards only offer so many square inches, forcing the sender to truly think about the message they want to share and how they want to phrase it. Unlike with a quick text or Facebook message, you only have one chance when you send a handwritten message, so you learn just how important it is not to let it go to waste.
They spark creativity.
Taking to pen and paper utilizes the visual, motor and cognitive brain processes differently than when we recruit technology to help us out. It is also by nature more labour-intensive, requiring us to slow down and connect the mind with the hand, one word at a time. Together these factors can make the sensory experience of writing just what you need to get those creative juices flowing.
They require your undivided attention.
By recruiting all of the senses to participate in the writing-by-hand process, little room is left for multitasking (or hyper-speed task switching). To write thoughtfully and coherently, we must focus on the present moment and contemplate -- without side conversations or other to-do list items taking priority -- the thoughts we're aiming to coherently convey to the person on the receiving end of the letter.
They require unplugging.
Let's face it -- we could all use a little extra screen-free time these days. By nature of sitting down to write a thoughtful note to a special someone, your thumbs won't be able to scroll your Facebook feed or type out a text message to another friend in demand of your attention. For those few minutes, you will live entirely in the present moment and in the thoughts you're putting on paper.
They honour tradition.
There's something sacred (and romantic, in the broadest sense) about communicating in the way generations before us once did. We've all heard the stories: It's how your parents communicated with Santa Claus, it's how grandma and grandpa kept their love alive during wartime, it's how immigrant families and friends separated by their respective moves shared written snapshots of their new lives. Computers and smartphones may prove more efficient, but they can never take the place of this kind of sentimental history.
"A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend." -- Emily Dickinson
Long after they are written and sent (and even after their senders and receivers are gone), letters and postcards remain to be read, appreciated and preserved. Whether displayed on museum shelves honouring famous historical figures or saved in a scrapbook between two old friends, letters protect the memories of lives lived in a way that technological communication cannot. They are tangible, personal and real, in every sense of the word.
Who are you going to write to today?
Credit - Alena Hall The Huffington Post
14 June 2019
The theme of this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness week is ‘Born to Connect: Using everyday moments to connect’. The article below provides a beautiful insight into what your baby may be thinking and feeling, and how you can connect with them.
From the mouths of babes: A guide to understanding your newborn’s feelings
by Dr Andrew Roberts | Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health
The first few months with a newborn are filled with very intense, sometimes confusing emotions as parents learn to adjust to their new roles and way of life. At the same time, your baby is also trying to adjust to huge changes in their world. It helps to remember that both you and your baby are trying to figure things out together, and it takes time and effort to do that.
It’s important to remember that a child’s mental health and wellbeing needs to be nurtured from the moment they are born. Your baby can’t tell you what they are feeling or what they need. There will be times where you might have to guess, and you won’t always get it right.
If babies could talk, here are some things they would tell us.
When we’re enjoying time together
I love when you look at me and smile. (It feels wonderful).
I like when you talk to me or sing to me. (It teaches me about sounds).
I like when you gently rock me or slowly dance with me. (It teaches me to enjoy moving).
I like when you hold me softly in your arms. (It teaches me about touch).
Be patient with me. I’m learning.
When I’m exploring the world
Try to imagine the world through my eyes. I love it when you are interested and explore the world with me.
I don’t like things to change too much while I’m trying to figure all this out. But I don’t like having a really strict routine either – I can’t read a watch yet! Somewhere in the middle is OK with me.
Sometimes when I’m exploring I get scared. I need to know I can always come back to you to feel safe again. Then I feel confident to go back to exploring and learning.
When I’m in danger and I don’t realise it, I rely on you to protect me.
You keep watching and I’ll keep changing. You have my permission to be amazed by me!
When I’m upset (and possibly making you feel upset, too)
Try to stay calm, because this will help me to feel safe and calm. Reach out for help from others.
I will cry when I am uncomfortable. I will cry when I am hurt. I will cry when I am afraid.
I never cry because I am upset with you.
Sometimes it’s all too much. If I turn away, it might just mean I need to take a short break.
My feelings seem really big and scary sometimes. When I’m distressed, try to stay with me and comfort me, even when that is hard for you.
Sometimes it might help to distract me, but most often it helps to just hold me, so I feel that someone understands. Show me that I don’t need to be afraid of my big feelings.
Eventually I’ll get better at calming myself. Again, be patient with me. I’m learning and it’s not easy!
When we’re figuring things out together
This ‘growing up’ is hard work. You can’t ever be ‘too’ kind to me.
I know sometimes we don’t get along. When we have a problem, I need you to be with me again afterwards. I need to know we can get through these things together.
There is no one ‘best way’ that a parent and child should be together. Being curious about your baby’s experience in the world makes your relationship richer. Being kind and caring, and delighting in our babies, helps them feel safe and secure.
When your children have a relationship with you and feel safe and secure, they will not only be more confident to explore the world, but also more confident to return to you in times when they need your help.
Have a great week!
24 May 2019
Mindfulness exercises are a great way to help us relax and focus our mind on living in the present moment. There are so many different exercises we can do. Below is a list of the best exercises that are both simple and very effective. I recommend finding some time to practice one of these during our day.
1. Meditation while walking.
This is my personal favourite. Take a quiet walk in a calm environment and focus your thoughts on yourself and the surroundings. Feel the movement of your steps, the breeze on your skin, and concentrate on the moment. Take your time to let everything else go. Relaxing your mind and thinking positively is the key to this activity.
2. Mindfulness listening.
Take time to listen to every little detail that surrounds you. Sounds such as car noises, birds chirping, machines in operation are simply FILTERED out of our consciousness. When we are mindful we are consciously and deliberately listening to the different sounds in the surrounding environment. We are simply letting sounds flow in our ears while clearing our mind of all thoughts.
3. Mindfulness while breathing deeply.
Breathing is an involuntary body action but when we practice taking and holding deep breaths for two seconds it can become a mindfulness exercise. We have all had times when we get caught up in a situation that’s hard to deal with. Take a deep breath, and in that moment feel the body’s reaction, the expansion of the chest, the cool air inflating your lungs and relaxing. This will help you gather Your thoughts and compose yourself so that you can respond in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner.
4. Appreciating Mother Nature.
Tuning into our natural surroundings and taking a keen interest in every detail of our environment is another form of mindfulness practice. Listening, seeing, feeling and engaging all our body senses in acknowledging the presence of nature all around us is a powerful way to practice mindfulness. Relax your mind and body. Hear the different sounds, see the different colours, feel the rush of wind blowing around you, and the warmth of the sun on your body and take note of the different fragrances in the air. That is all you need to do.
5. Mindfulness practice of imagination.
Imagination is the art of using your insight and visions of different images within your mind. It helps to find an open space with a pleasing outlook to practice this form of mindfulness. Let your eyes see your thoughts clearly. Look at the entire landscape without concentrating on any one specific feature. Allow your imagination to follow the flow of positive thoughts and outcomes. This is a powerful way of converting thoughts and wishes into meaningful actions.
6. Scanning the body.
This technique is best performed lying down on your back or sitting in a comfortable place and remaining totally still during the activity. Take note of your body movements such as noticing the changes while taking breaths, feeling the slight changes, the involuntary reflexes of the body all while remaining as still as possible. Next take note of your body parts such as limbs, joints and skin. Focus your attention on how these body parts feel from your head all the way down to the toes of the feet. This exercise involves both our mind and body.
7. Simple self-meditation.
This style of meditation is about focusing on you. Start by relaxing and making yourself comfortable. Engage your mind in thoughts about yourself such as - What is your character? What makes you unique? What are your values? What do you believe in? This practice requires a lot of concentration to maintain a positive frame of mind. We can too easily slip into self-criticism and negativity. However, when practiced well, this technique is a powerful way of grounding yourself and understanding your true nature.
Visit https://www.creativelifebalance.com/mindfulness-activities-for-adults/ for more information
9 May 2019
“Mindfulness” is a hot topic in Western psychology: increasingly recognised as an effective way to increase fulfilment, reduce stress, raise self-awareness, enhance emotional intelligence, and undermine destructive emotive, cognitive, and behavioural processes. While many people think mindfulness means meditation, this is not the case. Mindfulness is a mental state of openness, awareness and focus, and meditation is just one way amongst hundreds of learning to cultivate this state. Click here to download an article on Mindfulness Without Meditation — published in the Healthcare, Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal (HCPJ Vol9, No 4), a quarterly journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Although mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga. Mindfulness involves consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience with openness, curiosity and flexibility. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world authority on the use of mindfulness training in the management of clinical problems, defines it as: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. Kabat-Zinn calls it, “The art of conscious living.” It is a profound way to enhance psychological and emotional resilience, and increase life satisfaction.
Practising mindfulness helps you:
- to be fully present, here and now
- to become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you
- to become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences
- to experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
- to become aware of what you’re avoiding
- to become less judgmental
- to increase self-awareness
- to learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
- to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
- to learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather
- to have more balance, less emotional volatility
- to experience more calm and peacefulness
- to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion
Informal Mindfulness Exercises – How to be Mindful in Everyday Life
We’re all busy, and many of us don’t have time (or are unwilling to make time) to formally practice mindfulness skills. However, we can practice informally throughout the day. Here are a couple of examples:
1) Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine
Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth (my personal favourite!), shaving, or having a shower. When you do it, totally focus on what you are doing: the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound etc. For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, and as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain. Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down your legs. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower screen, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upwards. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to the shower. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.
2) Mindfulness of Domestic Chores
Pick a chore that you normally try to rush through, or distract yourself from; or one for which you just ‘grit your teeth’ and try to ‘get through it’. For example: ironing clothes, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, making the kids’ lunches. Aim to do this chore as a mindfulness practice. E.g., when ironing clothes: notice the colour and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappear. Notice the hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder. If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you are doing. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
Now write down some informal mindfulness exercises for yourself:
During my morning routine, I will practice mindfulness of ………………………………….….
During my evening routine, I will practice mindfulness of ……………………………………….
During the week, I will practice mindfulness of the following chore (s) ………………………….
Now write down any other quick ’n’ easy informal mindfulness exercises you can think of – e.g. while waiting in queues or at traffic lights you could practice mindfulness of your impatience; or when eating dinner, you could aim to eat the first two mouthfuls mindfully. At the end of each week, pull this sheet out and see how well you have followed it.
Text credit – www.actmindfully.com.au
Photo credit – www.headspace.com
3 May 2019
A play therapy and behavioural therapy-based approach for treating autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, and developmental disabilities.
About AutPlay® Therapy
AutPlay® Therapy was created by Dr. Robert Jason Grant and is a play and behavioural therapy approach to working with children and families affected by autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dysregulation issues, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. It integrates therapeutic models of play therapy and behavioural therapy along with relationship development approaches together in a collaborative model to assist children and adolescents in gaining needed skills and abilities. AutPlay Therapy is a combination of behavioural and developmental methodology that is both therapist-led and parent-led.
AutPlay Therapy has Shown Effective Treatment Outcomes for the Following Areas:
- Increasing Emotional Regulation Ability
- Improving Social Skills and Functioning
- Improving Relationship Development and Connection
- Reducing Anxiety Levels
- Improving Sensory Processing Challenges
- Increasing Concentration, Focus, and Attention
- Reducing Unwanted Behaviours
- Improving the Parent/Child Relationship
AutPlay Therapy incorporates a combination of structured play therapy interventions, behavioural approaches, and relationship development to improve skill deficits in the areas of emotional regulation, social functioning, and relationship connection. When children can learn to self-regulate, possess social skills that relate to the environments they are asked to function in, and learn appropriate and meaningful relationship connection, they are less likely to have behavioural issues and more likely to function in their day-to-day environment successfully.
AutPlay Therapy is an integrative family play therapy approach incorporating a parent training component which values parents as co-change agents and teaches parents how to implement structured play times and structured play therapy interventions at home. Parents learn the procedures and techniques and are shown how to implement interventions at home to increase skill and ability levels in their child. AutPlay Therapy involves both the child and the parent in the therapeutic process and uses a play therapy base that is not only a natural language of the child but enables the parent to be involved with their child in a way that teaches skills and increases abilities within a positive and connecting process.
AutPlay Therapy provides a screening and assessment process to evaluate where a child’s level is at in terms of basic functioning and skill development in emotional regulation, social functioning and relationship development. This procedure allows the therapist to direct specific play therapy interventions to address each individual child’s skill deficits. AutPlay Therapy is appropriate for children and adolescents with an autism disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dysregulation issues, neurodevelopmental disorders, and developmental disabilities from severe to mild impairment. AutPlay is appropriate for children ages 3-18.
There are many nervous system, sensory, dysregulation, and metabolic neurodevelopmental disorders that exist. Many neurodevelopmental disorders have no cure, but there are ways to treat the symptoms that present with neurodevelopmental disorders. AutPlay Therapy has been successful in improving AutPlay target areas in children and adolescents with many neurodevelopmental and dysregulation issues including:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Fragile X Syndrome
- Sensory Processing Challenges
- Intellectual Developmental Disorder
- Cerebral Palsy
- Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder
- Tourette Syndrome
- Learning Disorders
- Social Disorders
- Impulsive Disorders
AutPlay Therapy is an adaptable and compatible treatment approach for autism, dysregulation disorders, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. AutPlay Therapy can be implemented in conjunction with other treatments and often is a part of a collaborative approach to helping children and adolescents advance in skill development.
Evidence Based Practices in AutPlay Therapy
The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the National Standards Project (NSP) reviewed literature to establish evidence-based practices for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder between the ages of birth and 22 years. Both reviews included literature up to and including 2007, and both applied rigorous criteria when determining which studies would be included as evidence of efficacy for a given practice. In 2014, the NPDC conducted an expanded and updated review, which yielded a total of 27 evidence based practices.
The full results and criteria used by the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) can be found on their website NPDC – Autism Spectrum Disorder. The full results and criteria used by the National Standards Project can be found on their website National Autism Center.
AutPlay Therapy incorporates several of the approaches identified as evidence based practices for treating children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.Practices incorporated into AutPlay Therapy procedures include: Cognitive Behavioural Intervention, Modeling, Naturalistic Intervention, Parent-Implemented Intervention, Reinforcement, Scripting, Self Management, Social Narratives, Social Skills Training, and Visual Supports.
Clinical Outcomes and Case Study Results
Clinical outcomes and case study designs have shown that children and adolescents that participate in AutPlay Therapy for six months, one time per week, show a gain in skill development in the targeted areas of AutPlay treatment; emotional regulation, social skills, sensory processing, anxiety reduction, concentration and focus, and relationship connection.
Parent rating scales also support an increase in emotional regulation ability, social skills, sensory processing, anxiety reduction, concentration and focus, and relationship connection for children and adolescents who have been participating in AutPlay Therapy for at least six months, one time per week. Parent rating scales also report feeling more empowered to work with their child, feeling more confident in their parenting skills, increased understanding of their child, and a positive increase in parent/child relationship.
Check out https://www.autplaytherapy.com/about-autplay/ for more information.