One of the components of my co-parenting class for parents in high conflict situations is “cultivating joy and positivity.” Because co-parents can experience a great deal of distress, consciously working at cultivating joy and positivity is very important. It is obvious that feeling joyful and positive simply feels better, but why else is it important?
Reasons to Cultivate Joy and Positivity
- It helps children feel safe. Children whose parents are in conflict are likely feeling worried and anxious. Being in fearful states a lot of the time can create a baseline of nervousness and irritability, and negatively impact a child’s overall mental health. We can’t feel joyful and afraid at the same time.Consciously cultivating joy counteracts fear and helps children feel safe and grounded.
- It helps children see the world as a good place. Children live in their parent’s “emotional soup.” They are greatly impacted by their parents’ moods and outlook. If parents are worried and angry, children will feel that and absorb it. Children see the the world through our eyes. If we see goodness, they will learn to see the world as good. Seeing the world as good creates more happiness and a desire to be engaged in life.
- It creates kindness and compassion. When we are in states of anxiety or fear, we lose our capacity to feel into, or have compassion for others. You can think of emotional states as being either “open-hearted” or “closed hearted.” In open-hearted states, we can feel into the experience of others, in “close-hearted” states we can’t. When we feel joy (an open-hearted state) it helps our children feel joy, and naturally leads to compassion, which naturally leads to kindness.
3 Ways to Do It:
- Bowing. Bowing is a practice that can be very powerful in helping physically acknowledge what is good. Bowing can be as simple as nodding your head. Bow a hundred times a day to the goodness in people you meet. Bow to the many people, the majority that would never harm you. Bow to people who bless you with with “have a nice day,” to people who offer to help and people who say thank you. Bow to people who work hard and people who care for their loved ones. The world will become a better place for you as you notice all that is good and all the ways that people are kind. As the world becomes a better place for you, it will also become a better place for your children. When you are looking for it, there is no end to goodness. Find it for the sake of your children.
- Gratitude Rituals. Create a ritual every day at dinnertime or bedtime in which you review the day with your children and name things that you are grateful for. It is amazing how focusing on and talking about what you are grateful for can change your state of mind quickly. There are so many things that we take for granted, and having a gratitude ritual not only puts you and your children in a more joyful frame of mind, but also helps you be aware of the things that actually contribute to ease and comfort. Examples: I’m grateful for having a car that takes me all the places I want to go. I’m grateful for indoor plumbing! And of course, expressing gratitude for the people in our lives that we love will open the heart and allow joy.
- Taking in the Good. Neuro-psychologist Rick Hanson, a person really worth getting to know, http://www.rickhanson.net/ created a skill he calls “Taking in the Good.” He says that our brains are wired to take in negative experience much more readily than positive. Because of that, we actually have to make an effort to notice what is good, and take the time to allow our brains to absorb. “Taking in the Good” does not mean ignoring the difficult things in life, it just means noticing good moments, as they so easily goes unnoticed. To take in the good, you simply notice when a good moment is happening, and extend it, or really let it sink in. The more you do this, the more you will naturally be oriented toward joy and positivity.
- Have Fun Every Day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Be silly, tell jokes, create opportunities for laughter!
Bowing to you and wishing you joy!