Lighten Up for the New Year

Contributed by Karen Schrantz

“Enough is as good as a feast.” –Wise fortune cookie proverb

My yoga instructor offered an interesting challenge for her class this month: Lighten up. It was not meant to be the typical New Year’s resolution to exercise more and lose a few pounds, but to look at my life with more levity. Last week as my family ate dinner at our favorite local Thai restaurant, I shared how the challenge from my yoga instructor to smile more each day has been producing some fun results. As I walk down school hallways at work, I’ve noticed that when I smile at the teenagers and they smile back. School administrators seem to lighten up too. I confessed that I’m going to need some practice for this to become easy for me.
fortune cookie
After dinner we opened our fortunes. “What does ‘enough is as good as a feast’ mean?” inquired our 8-year-old son. That was the beginning of a very interesting family conversation that touched on gratitude, healthy eating, balance, and Yoda (all topics lead back to Star Wars in our house). We began to see that how you look at things determines your happiness. More is not always better. “It’s looking at the glass as half full instead of half empty,” I offered. “Oh, that’s just looking at the bright side!” our son replied, “kids are good at that!”

We’ve heard about how a positive outlook on life invites better health and happier relationships. But as adults, with all our busy-ness it’s easy to see the glass half empty: to notice the problem instead of the opportunity. It can become an unnoticed, established pattern for our lives. With the responsibility of parenting, it can feel hard to get it all “done”: work, chores, homework, activities. Children can often give us a different perspective.

I still haven’t become an expert at lightening up. My kids helping me learn. Some examples from our house:

After dinner chores need to be done.
My response: “Let’s go. Time to get going with jobs. If there’s time, we can have fun after we’re done.”
My child: “Wouldn’t it be fun to turn on some music and see if we can get the chores done before the 5th song? That would be fun now.”

Cold, gray, rainy day (10th in a row!)
My (internal) voice: “I am so tired of this rain and gray! It’s so depressing! When will the sun come out?”
My child (noticing the grey day): “I love these kinds of days because we they are perfect for snuggling, drinking hot cocoa and reading aloud under a blanket. Can we do that today?”

Practice. You get the idea. The thing is, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Lucky for us, we have children who will give us reminders. Will you join me in practicing? As my children know, it is more fun together.

Observe. Observe your situation from a neutral perspective. For example: the dishes need washing.

Pick a “lighter” perspective. I appreciate that we have just had a family meal together.

Feel and reflect. Notice how your body feels when you practice with the new view. Does your face soften or tense? Does your breathing speed up or slow down? Is this new perspective uncomfortable? Unfamiliar? Freeing? Joyful? What has this new perspective opened in others? Will your request for help sound different?

And… do it again. That is what practice is. You won’t be perfect. Smiling more can be done in each moment. The shift in perspective is sure to bring more joy to our New Year.

About the Author. Karen Schrantz is a certified facilitator for Sound Discipline. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the UW’s Evan School of Public Affairs. A former classroom teacher, she has worked as an education consultant for the past 14 years. She teaches parenting classes in Seattle and Bellevue and lives in West Seattle with her husband, 11-year old daughter and 8-year old son.

Sound Discipline is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Take a look at our calendar for workshops. If your family donates monies to support good work in our community, please put us on your list.

Photo credit: ukslim