Man looking sad with caption: wellness tips for easing winter sadness (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is characterized by feelings of depression and lethargy occurring on a seasonal basis, most often during the fall and winter months. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that 10 million Americans experience SAD and another 10 to 20 percent of people face mild symptoms. If you’re suffering from a seasonal mood slump, check out these simple winter wellness tips to keep your mental health strong.

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Aaron Stark had a painful and abusive childhood which almost ended in tragedy at his school. It was a not so extraordinary act of kindness and a strong and understanding childhood friend that changed his destructive mindset and saved his life.

After a decade of recovery and sharing his story, Aaron has been able to put the past behind him and dedicate himself to his family. He’s a man on a mission to use his very personal story of triumph to help other young people feeling lost and confused walk into the light. He wants to reassure those who are suffering that there are people who care and that they’re not alone.

This video highlights the importance of seeing and helping children in pain. Please do not see those who bully, those who are quiet and introverted or those who are needy as children who are trying to push your buttons. Take some time to investigate and find out how their needs are not being met and how you can make a difference.

Most children enjoy being creative with pencils and crayons. But did you know there are an impressive number of reasons why both kids and adults should partake in this peaceful pastime? 

The significant benefits of coloring are now being realised for all age groups as it takes its place alongside yoga and meditation as an enjoyable way of improving mental and physical well-being.

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Cartoon picture of girl sitting in front of blackboard with compliment written on it. Build 'em up hot seat friendship activity.

This is a powerful activity to use in the classroom at any time a student is in need of some extra love and care or as a focus activity during International Day of Friendship. It’s one we’ve included in the Ripple Kindness Project for Schools primary and elementary curriculum as it can have such an incredibly positive impact on children who are being acknowledged and complimented. read more →

Art and music have been used for years in various forms of therapy due to their healing powers, but many people don’t understand how big a part they can play in boosting mental health and overall well-being. Not only do they promote wellness by giving an individual an outlet for stress and anxiety, but they can help you socialize and provide a confidence boost, two things that are important for all ages but that are essential for young people.

Music, especially, can make a big difference in the life of someone who is battling stress, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. It can help a student do better in school by waking up the part of the brain that processes language, and it can help young people get involved and active in school activities. Music can also help form bonds with other people, allowing the individual to stay social and connected. read more →

These funky little relaxation jars are so easy to make and are wonderful visual aid for helping kids calm themselves when they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

They’re a popular aid for parents but we also encourage teachers to use them in the classroom and have included the instructions in our primary/elementary school curriculum.  read more →

When one of your children, (student or biological) is hysterical because they’ve just had an accident or some sort of perceived trauma, what’s your first challenge? You need to understand what has happened, so you can soothe them. This of course is impossible if the child is blabbering and sobbing incomprehensibly. Your naturally wise self invites the child to calm down. What’s the most effective way to help calm a child? “Alright sweetheart, take a deep breath, ooh there you go. Lovely, well done. And another deep breath and blow it out. That’s it. One more…” and voila, the little person is already calmer and quieter, has decreased the adrenalin and cortisol (stress hormone) in their cute little body and is now well on his or her way to being well again. They are more empowered because they can be understood and you are more able to help them because you can comprehend the situation.

Now how would it be if we applied this simple yet awesome process to ourselves and our young people before we/they get in a pickle? How would it be if we chose to apply this simple mind/body technique to everyday living? How much calmer would you, your students and your classroom be? read more →

Meditation has been used since ancient times as a means to reduce stress, calm the mind and increase inner peace, and most spiritual traditions have some form of meditation practice. Therefore, there are many different types of meditation. Generally, we can say meditation is any practice where you focus your attention on specific internal or external processes, whether it is your stream of consciousness, your sensations, your breath, repeating a mantra or identifying sounds.

Nowadays, most people use the word meditation to refer to relaxation techniques and mindfulness. In order to see what techniques are suitable for you, you should learn more about different types of meditation and try them out. Any meditation practice is highly beneficial and have been around for millennia for a reason. Science is finally catching up with the importance of meditation, and we have just heard confirmation from Harvard neuroscientists’ study that meditation grows our brains. We present you with reasons why you should take up meditation today.

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A large percentage of employees globally are disengaged and business is struggling to know what to do about it. The disengagement problem cost the US economy more than $500bn in 2014 so why, when the stakes are so high, is this such a difficult problem to solve?

In fact, an employer cannot directly engage any employee no matter how much money is thrown at the problem. The employee themselves has to feel engaged from the inside. This is a feeling that can’t be bought with movie tickets, achievement certificates, team lunches and the plethora of other rewards that may be available to middle managers who are tasked with keeping their teams motivated.

So if money can’t fix this, what will?

Ironically the fast track to engaging employees might cost nothing at all, and is one that everyone is equipped and empowered to start using today as either a manager, a co-worker or a customer.

We’re talking about gratitude… a no cost solution! read more →

Cathy Domoney shares her very personal journey through depression and anxiety.

I’m stubborn, really stubborn, I mean I hate being told what to do (as my poor long-suffering husband will happily verify). Some people say that this is my strength; some say it’s my weakness. I’d say it’s my motivation, my driving force, my rocket-fuel. When people tell me that I can’t, I go out of my way to prove them wrong. This has led me to overcome illness, have children, change careers, publish a book, move countries to mention a few things. This can have the opposite effect on the person hearing it, however. Let me explain.

The Mistake

When I was a child I was affectionately described as a ‘mistake.’ (I prefer the term a wonderful surprise). My parents had their pigeon pair at the appropriate age and place in their lives, they were complete and content. But when they went from the UK to Australia for a holiday, they came back with a stowaway! Being the youngest sibling by ten and thirteen years, I got told what to do and think from a very young age, by multiple sources. Of course, when your sister is ten years your senior and bullies and belittles you relentlessly, and frequently informs you that she resents the day you were born, it translates as pressure.

I lived in fear and was constantly the recipient of emotional abuse. I behaved the only way that brought me peace. I began to be the best possible person I could be and made sure not to make any mistakes that may be used as ammunition against me in my already powerless world. I would never be told what to do as I’d already done it, I never had arguments because I’d done nothing wrong and I pushed my voice way down where it couldn’t be heard and, therefore, couldn’t ‘rock the boat’. This was a short-term solution which got me through my childhood but was to have long-term consequences anchored to years of depression and panic attacks in my adult life. It’s something I still struggle with today and it can be exhausting. These ridiculously high expectations that I placed upon my child-self, because of the actions of others, kept me in an emotional prison for decades.

It’s also had a huge impact on my health. I now have three auto-immune diseases. I’m the sort of person that believes that illness of the body has deep routed emotional triggers. I’ve taken pills prescribed by doctors, but until I investigated why I was feeling the way I was, my illness remained dominant. Wasn’t it Sigmund Fraud who introduced us to the term ‘sublimation’? Where we push down emotions but they later manifest somehow? Well, I believe that in me, it manifests in chronic illness. From the age of 18, I’ve danced with chronic illness. That’s when my journey into self-discovery and my thirst for knowledge of the human condition was born. read more →

The older I get, the more I’m hearing people complain of a lack of joy and fulfillment in their lives. Personally, I think this is often caused by an imbalance in physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs. In other words, people are not allowing themselves the right amount of sleep, nutrition, exercise, work, security, intellectual stimulation, attention, sense of achievement, socialization, fun, time alone and so on.

While exploring ways to increase happiness, many people identify a lack of spiritual satisfaction which often leads them on a journey of gratitude.

What is Gratitude?

Robert Emmons is recognized as the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He describes gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life” and explains it as an acknowledgment and an appreciation of things that are given to or done for someone. He goes on to say that the good feelings associated with gratitude inspire people to create the same feelings for others.

Most people learn basic gratitude as children when they’re taught to say thank you, show respect and help others. But in this busy and disposable world, it seems many have developed a sense of entitlement, feeling it’s their right to live their lives a particular way, instantly have the best instead of working and saving for it and taking so much of their lives for granted.

Why is Gratitude Important?

Positive psychology research proves that gratitude is strongly associated with the emotions that help people enjoy greater health and happiness. It can also play an important role in nurturing relationships and can even inspire people to take better care of themselves.
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As important as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to create this within themselves. It is very empowering for a child to create positive beliefs in themselves so it is much harder for people to tear them down.

As our children learn behaviours and wire their brain, affirmations are very effective in nurturing self-belief in childhood, which will stay with them throughout their life.

We all develop our belief systems about ourselves and the world around us from our environment. Our family and friends, role models, television, magazines and advertising can either be nurturing or damaging.

It is important that we learn to take control of our belief systems and the younger that we learn, the easier it is. It can be as simple as affirming the positive beliefs that we would like to grow up with. Negative beliefs can impact our lives greatly and can be hard to shift as we grow older.

Affirmations are a powerful and holistic way of building a positive mind and happier children. Nurturing their authentic self and helping them to enjoy the magic of childhood.

“Affirmation takes advantage of our reward circuits, which can be quite powerful. Many studies have shown that these circuits can do things like dampen pain and help us maintain balance in the face of threats.”
- Christopher Cascio, PhD.

Put simply, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create your belief system. Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when that belief is challenged.

If your affirmation is "I am wonderful just the way I am", and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will come to mind to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, "I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!”

Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.

What we think about ourselves, is how we develop 

If we feel we are worthless, we will behave like we are worthless. If we believe that we are special and loved, we will behave like we are special and loved. 

The word believe with a candle and a selection of affirmation cards for children.

This is why affirmations are so important to help children develop positive foundations on which to grow. Once we have matured, it is hard to change those foundations.

Affirmations also provide us with the opportunity to learn to look at ourselves in the mirror. This is the most effective way to say an affirmation and learning to do this as a child makes it much easier to do. Many of us find it quite confronting to look ourselves in the eyes, let alone say “I love you” as we do.

Why we need to be kind to ourselves

This leads to the next benefit if affirmations. They teach us positive self-talk, to speak to ourselves with kindness. As we grow, we can develop a habit of criticising ourselves, harming our own self-confidence and lowering our resilience. For children to learn positive self-talk from a young age, helps prevent self-criticism, as a strong and positive belief system has already been created from within.

As bullying is such a huge issue that many children face at some time, self-confidence is the very thing that will help them deal with these situations. Keeping a positive mind is essential. This can be really difficult when children are dealing with bullying behaviour. By developing positive mental pathways, children are more resilient and self-assured, coping much better than if they had a low self-esteem.

Many children who bully lack confidence, so feel a need to belittle others to make themselves feel better and more in control. Children with a positive self-image feel less inclined to bully others. Uniting a class with a quick two-minute affirmation at the start of a school day could make the world of difference to troubled children.

Creating an inner confidence as children can shape our whole life. Every aspect of our life is affected by our self-confidence. It affects our ability to learn and participate at school, socially, creatively, our relationships, achieving our goals and dreams, and most importantly our standards. With little self-confidence, we often lower our standards or ‘settle’ for what we believe is achievable.

Just a few positive words spoken to ourselves each day can, amazingly, make such a difference to our whole body, our mind, our heart and physically too. There is much research on how the heart and mind are wired to communicate and how a happy and positive mind can improve overall health.

Make today the day that you try affirmations with your children. Helping them to shine with confidence as the unique individuals that they are.

Introducing your children to affirmations

Affirmations can be implemented into your daily routines very easily. Only taking a few minutes each day.

Introducing Affirmations   

It is a good idea to talk to your children about using affirmations so they understand what they are for and how they work. Keep it fun and encouraging. “Affirmations teach you new and positive ways of thinking. They can help you believe in yourself, feel happy and help you to feel better when you are angry or sad. Let’s try them and see what we think!” "Affirmations encourage kind and happy ways of thinking, you will remember them when you need them most."

Another way to introduce affirmations to your children is to place affirmation cards around the house in areas that they will see them. Just reading the words will help them affirm positive beliefs. On the mirror in the bathroom is a great spot or on the breakfast table.

It will also help if you were to lead by example and read the affirmations as well. You may like to do your affirmations together. You may find that this allows you the chance to discuss emotions or issues that they may be experiencing, opening doors for conversation. Working together on your affirmations may just have you shine together.

3 cards displaying positive affirmations for children

Looking in the mirror

One of the most valuable lessons affirmations offer, is being comfortable looking at yourself in the mirror and learning positive self-talk (talking to yourself with kindness and positivity). Many of us find it hard to look at our reflection without being critical, judgmental or negative about ourselves.

Affirmations are the most powerful when we say the words to ourselves whilst looking into a mirror. These positive words are literally building our own self-belief. Young children introduced to this concept feel more comfortable and far less confronted looking at themselves in the mirror. If you find that your children feel it is difficult to look into the mirror to say their affirmations, it is best not to push them. Affirmations are still very effective by just reading the words aloud to yourself. Children that are visually impaired will use this technique.

Repeating Affirmations

Affirmations are more effective when repeated and it's best to repeat an affirmation 3 times, saying the words louder and with more confidence each time. This helps affirm the belief. You may like to work on one affirmation a day or one a week, depending on how confident your child is with each affirmation. If they seem to struggle with an affirmation you may like to continue working on that one longer.

Girl in a meadow of flowers hold a bunch she's picked. Louise Hay quote about affirmations.

Helpful Tips

You could also take a little time to discuss the affirmation and how your child feels about it. Perhaps even write a long list of their qualities to help boost their confidence and help them to recognize their values. Some children may prefer to work on the affirmations on their own and this is ok too.

It is important to show respect for your child and their feelings and not to push them too hard if they're feeling uncomfortable. Positive affirmations should always be introduced in a fun and exciting way. Use them to help children be the best that they can be and to nurture happy and positive feelings.

Never should affirmation cards be used for punishment, in time out, or in relation to any bad behaviour. As affirmations are such a wonderful tool, it is important not to bring a negative tone to them.

Young Children

Children using affirmations under the age of 5 or 6 when they're not yet reading, can be read the words by their parents for them to repeat. This works very well and affirmations used at this age create strong and healthy foundation.

AUTHOR: Roxanne Wilkins -  Nurture Cards
Roxy created Nurture Cards in 2009 after her own personal and family struggles with her young children. As she saw other young children suffering with low self-confidence, bullying, negative self-image, anxiety, effects of divorce or unhappy family dynamics, she wanted to create a tool to help them through these tough times.

Nurture Cards are used worldwide by children, counsellors, therapists, primary teachers, early childhood centres, disability services and much more. I also have other resources for improving sleep and self-esteem.
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