Liz Liskin, Clinical Therapist in our San Pedro Clinic, is here to help you lay out a clear – and meaningful – first step to start your year off positively and incorporate simple daily activities that you and your kids can do to stay positive throughout the year!
1. Consider the meaning of (your) life.
If you are not living a meaningful life (meaningful life to you that is), and it is making you feel miserable, no amount of “focus on the positive” and “count your blessings” can make you feel positive about your life.
Take the first step in a positive direction, and consider:
- What makes your life meaningful or fulfilling?
- What makes you happy?
- What do you feel is your unique life purpose?
- Would you live your life the same way even if you knew that you only had a few days left on this Earth? If your answer is no, this may be the right time to make a change.
Everyone will have different answers to these questions. Maybe you feel passionate about taking care of abandoned animals or protecting our oceans from pollution. Or, maybe you’ve always dreamed of acting in a play.
We all have responsibilities that make it hard for us to act on these feelings and bring about drastic change in our lives. Try to identify some small things you can do– like volunteering at an animal shelter once a month – to give more meaning in your life and invite your kids to join you!
Sharing your passion with your kids and encouraging them to also think about what activities make them happy is a healthy way to not only maintain a positive mindset yourself, but also foster that same mindset in your kids as they grow.
Living a more fulfilling life with a purpose and meaning will guide you to a more positive path.
2. Compassion for everyone – and that includes you!
Remember, we are all doing our best and that is all that matters. I think so many of us are perfectionists, trying to be the best student, best daughter or son, best friend, and so on and so forth. We all know how tiring that can be.
Instead of judging yourself or others, let’s take the opportunity to acknowledge their and your efforts and achievements. And when you hear your kids going down a similar path, help them replace a critique with a compliment.
As a recovering perfectionist, I often forget and have to remind myself that “I am doing my very best and that is all that matters.” We all make mistakes. We can’t learn or grow without them so celebrate the process, not the result.
3. Be present in the here and now.
When was the last time you were really immersed in the joy of eating? Looking at your meal’s shapes and colors, smelling it, feeling the texture, and really tasting all the ingredients? Or, when was the last time you went for a walk without a phone and just enjoyed the walk? Smelling the trees and flowers, looking at the colors of the leaves, feeling the fresh air, and touching the trees or flowers?
We can forget to truly enjoy our lives when we are forced to multi-task a lot of the time (okay fine, most of the time); are living in the past, regretting our decisions and second guessing what could have been; or when we are too focused on the future, worrying about what will happen to us, plagued by what “ifs.”
Choose instead to live in the now. When you’re present, you can’t help but be positive because you will begin to notice all the simple things that give you pleasure.
Here are some simple (kid-friendly) ways you can create a short mindfulness practice for each day:
- Take a quick 5-10 minute walk. First, concentrate on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, then start focusing on your breath or move the attention around your body, part by part. Just enjoy every sensation that arises in your body. When your mind wanders away, bring it back gently, without judging yourself.
- Try to be present when you are brushing your teeth. Don’t think about the plans of the day, worries or regrets. Try to focus on the task and really experience it. Notice the sensations you are creating with the toothbrush and the smell and the taste of the toothpaste. If your mind drifts off again, bring it back without any judgment.
4. Self-care, self-care, and self-care.
Find time to take care of yourself! I know, who has time for that, right? But, you do have time – and you need – to take care of yourself.
Whatever it is, find something that you enjoy doing and make it happen. It may be as simple as taking a long bath a couple times a week or spending 15 minutes enjoying a chai latte before you start work in the morning. Or, maybe something as ambitious as going to the gym every morning.
Encourage your kids to enjoy some quiet “me-time” on their own, too. If they enjoy creating art, help them set aside time to draw or paint – just for fun. They’ll benefit from this mental break just as much as you do.
When you are having your “self-care” time, don’t let others interrupt you. Plan this out and coordinate with others in your life so that they can cover you for this uninterrupted pleasure you deserve. Yes, you deserve it.
5. Set Boundaries (limits)
Setting boundaries and limits in your relationships with others (including family members) and within yourself can be one of the best ways to stay positive.
Don’t allow unhealthy interactions, guilt or fear of losing a relationship to weigh you down. Know your limits and make them known. Don’t be afraid to say no. Let people know that you have very clear boundaries, and limit your interactions with them if they don’t respect your boundaries or make you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to eliminate certain people from your life if they are really toxic.
Setting boundaries with people you care about can be hard. For steps on setting boundaries, click here.
6. Stay physically active
You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating, there’s so many mental health benefits to staying physically active! Researchers have found that people who stay physically active have less stress and stay healthy physically and mentally.
TIME recently reported on a study that shows physical activity improves young children’s mental health, too.
So grab the kids and go on a family walk or jog. Sign up for yoga classes at your community center. Whatever it is, make sure it’s not too difficult, but something you can sustain for a long time.
7. Meditate, if you can, daily.
It’s hard to meditate in absolute silence, especially if you are a beginner. I love guided meditations for this reason. Check out some of these websites and free apps that can help you get started!
8. Don’t forget to ask for help!
Any type of change can be difficult, but remember you’re not alone. Connect with your therapist or make an appointment to see a therapist at The Guidance Center so that you can have support in utilizing these tips.
Liz Liskin is a Clinical Therapist in The Guidance Center’s San Pedro Clinic, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. Before Liskin joined The Guidance Center team in October 2016, she worked with adults with severe mental illnesses at the Intensive Outpatient Program at Little Company of Mary and adults with substance abuse and addiction with concurrent mental illness at Tarzana Treatment Centers. Liskin earned a Master of Arts degree in Marital and Family Therapy with specialized training in Clinical Art Therapy from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The College of Creative Studies in Detroit.