10 Fun Ways to Enjoy Life Like a Kid


Photo courtesy of D Sharon Pruitt

My Mom was good at connecting with the 'child within' and she shared her gift generously with us kids. I remember the first time we went to a fast food restaurant. How many people can say that? My Dad was very formal and would never be caught dead in such a place.

One day it was lunch time, my Dad was at work. Instead of making the usual p,b & j sandwiches, my Mom said, "Let's go to Smack's!" This was ages ago, before McDonald's ruled the land. Smack's was a McDonald's precursor. Amped up on the adventure, we ordered our hamburgers and french fries. At the table my mother, as if she were performing a most solemn magic trick, taught us how to dip our french fries in ketchup for a new, fascinating taste sensation!

Imagine taking something as mundane as eating french fries and making it a mystical experience. That's what kids do all the time. We adults could use some of that magic from time to time. Here is my take on 33 Ways to be Childlike posted by Tiny Buddah:

1. Read a book you loved as a kid. Where the Wild Things Are! Everyone Poops! Pippi Longstocking! Green Eggs and Ham! El Raton Perez! What's your favorite?

2. Figure out how something works. It's so easy to Google the craziest things like How do worms have sex? Or what does a pineapple plant look like? Learning just for the hell of it is incredibly entertaining.

3. Fill out your own permission slip to go to the aquarium, a museum, or a nearby tourist attraction. If something looks interesting, take a break and go! Having kids helps because they are a good excuse to drop chores and head out. One Friday my daughter got home from school and suggested we go to Starbucks for her favorite frozen drink. I was tired and there was dinner to prepare so I resisted, but when a teenager says she wants to spend time with you, you go. The break was totally refreshing. The permission slip? Oh! I ordered-in from the Falafel Bar instead of cooking dinner!

4. Do something fun.  When I'm working at home and need a break I grab a ball and go outside with my dog. He's the world's worst at fetching but he makes up for it in enthusiasm. Watching him jump up to catch the ball in mid-air lightens my heart with childlike joy.

5. Explore. Walk around your block without any
intention. Just see what’s going on, maybe even using a big fallen
branch as a walking stick.
I can do this in my own back yard or even the drive between home and the office. When you take the time to pay attention and just look it's as if you are seeing the familiar for the first time.

6. Run or skip if you feel like it.  My favorite is to put on some revved up dance music, maybe Shakira or Lady Gaga, and dance like no one is watching… Because (this is so great) no one is!

7. Be silly and laugh out loud. Look for funny things in your day–they’re always there–and let yourself laugh about them. And if you laugh 'too loudly', like I do, let it rip! I was in a shop the other day. I was laughing with the clerk about something silly.  An old friend, who I haven't seen in years, popped up and said, "I thought I recognized that laugh!" That my laugh precedes me is something I've learned to accept. It's a little embarrassing and wonderful at the same time.

8. Try a new look. Think the kid from Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy, when he dressed himself, but a little less ridiculous. This is why God gave us accessories. Grab a bright scarf, those shiny earrings, a big, thick belt and your mommy's (I mean, your) highest heels. Strut your stuff like those kids on Toddlers & Tiaras.

9. Remember something awesome and call a friend to share it. This is most fun with someone who shares the memories, or similar ones, like a sister or your best friend from college. My son just went to his Junior Prom. After the photos were taken and he left with his date, my husband and I smiled and laughed remembering our own prom nights. Those were good times (and thank god my son isn't as crazy as we were!)

10. Tell someone they’re your hero. If you admire what they do, look right in their eyes and say, “I think you’re pretty awesome.” I know this is corny, but kids are corny like that and not afraid to show it! 

I swear, when you share your admiration frankly and directly with someone, endorphins are released, producing a natural high that is very child-like and makes everyone feel good.

You get the picture? Great! Have fun and read all 33 ways to reconnect with the kid in you at tinybuddha.com.

3 Ways to Get Over Your Fears



How many ways can a human being be afraid? Let me count the ways… There's all the usual suspects, you know, the phobias. Then there's what we psychologists like to call existential fear. Ugh, do I really want to go there? No.

Let's keep it simple. When we're afraid we are often caught up in an expectation loop. I expect to be able to do or be 'thus and such' and I'm afraid I won't be able to.

For instance, I expect to be able to go to sleep when I lay my head on the pillow. When I don't, fall asleep, that is, I get anxious which naturally kicks up the fight/flight response which doesn't allow me to relax and go to sleep which then increases my fear the later into the night this craziness goes on. We can generalize this process: For fear of falling asleep I could plug in fear of failing at anything or fear of success for that matter. Fear of basically not living up to our self-imposed expectations.

So how can we break the expectation/fear loop? Here are a few ideas to try:

1) Lower your expectations. People see this as somehow letting ourselves down. That's too bad because it really is a key ingredient to achieving our goals. High achieving people don't set themselves up with conquering Mt. Everest their first day in hiking boots. It's been studied. If you want to achieve a lot, start with focusing on step one, then step two.

Anyone who is in recovery knows that if they imagine having to stay sober for the rest of their lives the stress will send them right back into the arms of their drug of choice. "One day at a time." Sounds corny, but it works. When I can't sleep I tell myself to give up on sleep and just relax and be happy with relaxing. Usually I can do that and by morning I'm rested.

2) Visualize yourself at your reasonable goal. Some people call this faking it 'til you make it. I prefer to think of the Michelangelo allegory. You know, the story about how he told the observer that his method of sculpting was to visualize the finished piece trapped inside all that marble. All he had to do was take away the excess.

Visualize your inner beauty, grace, calm, skill, whatever it is and give it life. Sometimes, when I'm nervous before making a presentation, I imagine myself as a Queen of old directing the troops to bravely go forth to defend the nation. I stand up straighter, my voice is more sure. What I feel isn't made up. OK, maybe the tiara is. But the qualities are genuinely in me. The visualization helps me access them. They are in you, too.

3) Replace the fear with patience. You've heard of positive self-talk. Well, this is what it sounds like: It sounds like your best girlfriend or your Mom, if she's that kind of mom, or it sounds like you when you talk to them. Talking to yourself with compassion is so much harder.

If you are afraid that you will never be able to get away from your fears, remember 'Never' is an unrealistic word. 'Never' rarely exists in nature or in human kind. Feed your soul a bit of compassion because life isn't easy and a dose of patience because reaching your personal Mt. Everest takes time, persistence and fortitude.

There are many steps from here to the summit, but remember, each step has an amazing view.

Learn to Meditate with Jon Kabat-Zinn


Jon Kabat-Zinn, author or Wherever You Go There You Are, has done a lot to debunk meditation and make it accessible Western minds. The benefits of meditation, physical, psychological and spiritual, are being proven in scientifically rigorous studies over and over again. So give Dr. Kabat-Zinn a listen and learn how meditation really is a gentle and easy exercise. You may be doing it already and don’t even realize it!

Why We Blame Our Parents via Well Blog

When I was in graduate school, Alice Miller's book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, was required reading. It's a little book, not more than 150 pages, yet it carries a big punch.

Clinical Psychology grad students, like med students, are apt to diagnose themselves with whatever illness they are studying at the time. Depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, I had it all. As I read Miller's book I was amazed to learn I was an abused child. My parent's benign neglect, according to Miller, was more harmful than I had realized even with years of therapy.

If you blame your parents for your problems, or even if you don’t, be sure to read this fascinating obituary of Alice Miller, a psychoanalyst whose focus on family dysfunction started it all. Her work alerted therapists to the problem of child abuse, but it also offered adults the opportunity to blame their difficulties in life on their upbringing.

via well.blogs.nytimes.com

Back then, in grad school, as I absorbed this information I also had to learn to move beyond
the blame game and take responsibility for myself. After all, my
parents gave me a great deal that was positive as well as hurtful. Plus, where was the hope? What was going to change my life from one of chronic frustration to self-actualization? A person has the choice to paint themselves as a passive victim or take self-action and make the best of what we have.

As a therapist I assure my patients that exploring their experiences in childhood is not about blaming the parents for their woes. It is to examine their reality, the good, the not so good, the downright harmful, so that they can accept, forgive, if necessary, and move beyond it.

Whether you are a fan of Alice Miller or not, she stirred the pot,
got people talking and helped many, myself included, to have the
courage to face the dark side of our childhoods. On a larger, important scale, Dr. Miller
did a great deal to alert society to the hidden danger of child abuse
and our responsibility to help children too young to take
responsibility for themselves.

A Bittersweet Mothers’ Day

DSC04560 Today is Mother's Day. I woke up wondering if I was going to get my usual breakfast in bed made by my sweet children with the supervision of their father. As the time went by and I waited, it occurred to me that if I wanted breakfast before Noon I had better get up and make it myself. My sweet children are now teenagers and nothing, not even mother-love, gets between them and their sleep!

That's OK. Mother's Day isn't that big a deal at my house anyway. My biggest perk is getting to ignore the dishes waiting to be put away. But with a hands-on husband and self-sufficient teens, it's not that different from any other day.

The thing about Mother's Day is the attention it brings to Moms who are no longer with us as well as those who are. In that way Mother's Day, for a lot of us, is more like Memorial Day. My mother died ten years ago. Could it possibly be that long ago?

My friend on Facebook, Mark Wozniak, brought another dimension of Mothers' Day to my attention: mothers who have lost their children. Mark is the program host for All Things Considered at WBFO, National Public Radio in Buffalo. He and his wife lost their teenage son, Alex, to cancer. He generously wrote the following:

"Happy Mother's Day! It's not my favorite
observance, as both of my grandmothers had died before I was born, and
my mom died when I was 12. But I began celebrating it again after our
son and daughter were born. It has been bittersweet since he passed
away in 2004. So, I offer special Mother's Day greetings to my wife,
and to all bereaved moms, who have given life, and then endured its

In the Hallmark card commercialism that has become Mothers' Day in America, we have forgotten that this holiday (as in 'Holy Day', not just 'good excuse to go to the all you can eat buffet') was originally created to honor the mothers of fallen soldiers of the Civil War.

Thank you, Mark, for this gentle reminder that motherhood, and fatherhood, too, for that matter, takes great courage. It is that courage that we choose to honor today.

Happiness Vs. Pleasure


Today Explore What's Next introduces new contributing writer, Dylan Broggio, LCSW! Dylan is a clinical social worker who loves working with adolescents and adults. We look forward to hearing more from Dylan in the future. I loved her article about the difference between happiness and pleasure. It really got me to think of discipline in a whole new light. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

In revisiting a favorite book of mine, “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” with the Dalai Lama, I am rediscovering  a theme that is interwoven in so many aspects of our lives… the idea of pleasure versus happiness.

The Dalai Lama says our main purpose in life is to seek happiness.  Though pleasure and happiness are clearly separate, it appears we can get these two confused from time to time. The idea of pleasure in our lives is fairly easy to conjure up;  the embrace of a loved one, a sunny Saturday afternoon, a beach vacation, a bowl of ice cream, the thrill of buying a new car or house, sex, getting a promotion!  The idea of happiness in our lives… a little more complicated… Love, affection, closeness, compassion, and gratitude.

Pleasure comes from external stimuli, things outside of us, that are short lived. The Dalai Lama states, “Happiness that depends mainly on physical pleasure is unstable, one day it’s there, the next day it may not be”.  Whereas true happiness comes from an internal source, and it remains constant despite the ups and downs of daily life.

Most of us do not always choose what is “good” for us- that is, what leads us toward happiness. Instead we decide to indulge in those short lived pleasures of life, expecting long term happiness.

There’s nothing wrong with pleasure, but sometimes those pleasures can get a bit out of control and become destructive; that 3rd piece of cake I had today definitely qualifies, choosing to lay on the couch rather than get daily exercise, thinking a bigger house will make us happier.  Sometimes they become full blown addictions to sex, alcohol, drugs, or gambling. The difficulty (for me anyway) is struggling to choose to move toward happiness – not just immediate rush of pleasure.  The conflict is when the relationship between pleasure and happiness becomes out of balance. When we think our pursuit of pleasure will give us happiness… really, we’re fooling ourselves.

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