Race, and Relations

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This summer, I was too horrified and sickened by the latest incidents of racially charged violence in America to comment on what I was seeing. As reactions flooded social media, I kept quiet because I didn’t know how anything I said could make any difference.Black white hands heart

I waited for the right words to express what was in my heart, and finally one came: relationships.

I believe that relationships – as much as protests, civil disobedience and legislation – can heal racism. I believe this because I’ve seen it and lived it. And while I may not have the solution to our racial problems, I have my story.

Black lives have always mattered to me, from my playmates in kindergarten (where I was among the few white kids in class) to the friends I made as a child and teenager on Cape Cod, the colleagues and co-workers I befriended during my radio career in New York City and Newark, NJ, black women who became soul sisters, and the gospel musicians and African drummers I’ve played and sung with around Boston.

I can’t imagine my life without these people and relationships, and the rich gifts of black culture, music, literature, art, and politics that have colored and shaped who I am. Both reflect the kind of multicultural world I’m most happy living in.

I married a black African who never knew racism until he landed in this country to join me. I watched as formerly racist family members embraced and grew to love this noble, sweet and big-hearted man. I watched that big heart break as he experienced discrimination, humiliation, racial profiling by police on the roads and in white neighborhoods, and the pain of being excluded from his chosen profession by tradesmen who couldn’t see past his color, and foreignness.

Still, I know that my ex-husband opened minds and hearts by simply being the only black person that some Americans had ever had in their home, neighborhood, workplace, or family. He, in turn, has learned a great deal about other cultures from living here.

About 15 years ago, when the “lost boys” and girls of war-torn Sudan arrived in Boston, I saw a whole community of suburban white families take them in and begin to call them sons and daughters. I’m lucky to know these amazing, resilient “boys and girls,” who’ve gone on to raise families, earn degrees and forge career paths here. Meanwhile, their American “parents” beam with pride and love, becoming surrogate grandparents to a new generation of Sudanese-American babies.

The town I now live in is predominantly white, so I’m grateful to see people of color when they cross my path. I might make eye contact, smile, or ask the time, even when I could easily check my cell phone. I do it to engage and say, “I see you. Welcome.”

But there are also times when I watch myself choose to ask questions from the white person behind a desk or cash register, instead of the black, brown, or yellow one. I then ask myself what bias or stereotype I’m operating from, and challenge it.

And so I will keep examining my prejudices, cultivating relationships with people who are different from me, and educating myself. I invite you to do the same, as do Jeremy Adam Smith and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, who say in this important article that, “We all carry prejudices within ourselves—and we all have the tools to keep them in check.” They offer these six ways to reform the racist inside all of us (which they call “implicit bias”):

  • Consciously commit yourself to egalitarianism.
  • But recognize that unconscious bias is no more “the real you” than your conscious values. You are both the unconscious and the conscious.
  • Acknowledge differences, rather than pretend that you are ignoring them.
  • Seek out friendship with people from different groups, in order to increase your brain’s familiarity with different people and expand your point of view.
  • It’s natural to focus on how people are different from you, but try to consciously identify what qualities and goals you might have in common.
  • When you encounter examples of unambiguous bias, speak out against them. Why? Because that helps create and reinforce a standard for yourself and the people around you, in addition to providing some help to those who are the targets of explicit and implicit prejudice.

“Those are steps you can take right now,” the authors say, “without waiting for the world to change.”

My local news channel recently reported that Boston police officers are deliberately developing relationships with community leaders, residents and teen empowerment groups in predominantly black neighborhoods to try and prevent the horror we’ve seen elsewhere in America.

I’m rooting for them all.

A few weeks ago my ex-husband was pulled over by a white police officer for exceeding the speed limit in a white community. Upon examining all the pertinent documents, the officer said, “It’s your birthday? Okay, I’m just gonna give you a warning this time. Happy birthday.” My ex-husband then proceeded to his new job at a predominantly white workplace, where he was surprised with a birthday card and gifts.

It was a good day in that corner of America.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Declare Your Independence

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day weekend with barbecues, fireworks, games 62839-Freedomand gatherings, I invite you to consider where in your life you desire more freedom.

Are you tied to commitments and obligations that no longer truly serve you? Are you striving for the elusive goal of perfection anywhere in your life and trying to maintain impossible standards? Do you keep yourself constantly plugged into other people’s messages, memes, needs and agendas?

One clue is to look for where thoughts of, “I should…” are lurking behind actions and choices that drain you or stress you out.

In other words, if you are “should-ing” all over yourself, it might be time to clean up that mess. (Insert winking emoticon if offended by my vulgarity…)

As I’ve said here before, our time and energy are our most precious resources. In fact, after basic financial needs are met, feeling rich in time is a better predictor of happiness than having a supersized bank balance. Alas, few of us give ourselves time to even think about what we’d do with more free time and energy, let alone cultivate it.

My fellow Americans, 240 years ago the founders of this great nation declared their independence from the tyranny of British rule. Where and how can you reclaim your own sovereignty from the tyranny of your “to do” list, the endless demands of omnipresent media, and any self-imposed, unrealistic expectations? Some ideas include:

–Pause and breathe. Even a few seconds will help, according to Abby Seixas, a psychotherapist and author of Finding the Deep River Within: A Woman’s Guide to Recovering Balance and Meaning in Everyday Life. Seixas says that we desperately need to reclaim our own depth and sense of what matters most in these noisy, distracted times. Her book offers wonderful tools for this process, and the first and simplest is to “remember to pause and stop the busyness and the doing, doing, doing to gather ourselves to ourselves.”

–Decline some invitations. Even fun can be stressful if our calendar is overfull. Say no sometimes, which really means saying yes to yourself, and don’t succumb to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome, as there’s no pill for that…yet.

–Let good enough be your new perfect. Now – in your home, appearance, achievements, work, and self.

–Consume less media. Eleven years ago I interviewed women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup, who told me that Americans ingest more information in a day than our ancestors took in over a year. “We were not designed to handle the hand-picked, specifically-orchestrated-to-background-music bad news of the entire planet each and every day in our living rooms or bedrooms,” said Northrup. In other words, our biology hasn’t caught up to our technology. Be more discerning, and give yourself permission to unplug more often. I promise you won’t miss much.

–Raise your hand less often. Put yourself atop the list of people you want to help. After that person and other immediate loved ones are taken care of, see which causes and committees you genuinely want to assist. Allow others the chance to step up and serve, too.

–Face the “must dos” with appreciation. When staring down dreaded tasks, try saying “I get to” instead of “I have to” to inspire a better attitude. In other words, consider the privileges that lie behind doing laundry and taking out the garbage, namely, that you have abundant clothes and a trash collection service or station when many on the planet do not. If and when your task list is overwhelming, learn to:

–Delegate. ‘Nuff said.

So what’s your declaration of independence this July 4th weekend? Mine right now is:

“I hereby declare that I will not let undone work and unanswered emails keep me from meeting friends for cocktails on the eve of a holiday weekend.”

Go ahead:

“I hereby declare that I will not ______________________________________________.”

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Coaching, Demystified

by Kim Childs, CPPC

Athletic coaching may be as old as the Olympics, but life and career coaching is barely 30 years old as a proper profession. It began in the late 80s with American financial planner Thomas Leonard, who realized that many of his clients wanted and needed more than investment tips to meet their life goals.

The techniques Leonard developed to help his clients complemented, but differed from, those practiced by therapists, mentors and consultants, and this is still largely true for life and career coaching. Leonard went on to create Coach University in the early 90s and train others in his methods, thus establishing a career option that flourishes today.

Fundamentally, life and career coaching is a supportive relationship between the coach and “coachee,” in which the former does not give advice but helps the latter to call forth and cultivate his or her own wisdom, strengths, clarity, courage, motivation, self-confidence and ideas to meet goals of many kinds. Coaches listen objectively to clients’ concerns and desires, ask powerful questions, hold clients accountable to the actions they commit to, and celebrate their forward movement.

There are as many coaching styles as there are coaches. My own approach encompasses the research-based practices of Positive Psychology for more joyful and meaningful living, the techniques of The Artist’s Way for more authentic and creative living, and my training as a Kripalu yoga teacher for more spiritual and holistic living.

During our sessions, I invite clients to set the goals and agendas, and I pull from my appropriate tool kits as needed. I send follow-up notes with reflections, further resources and agreed-upon actions. I smile like a kid on Christmas morning when I receive enthusiastic updates from clients, and I extend compassion when they share their struggles.

I have great affection for my clients, and I’m always rooting for them.

What are the results, and what does the process feel like on the client’s end? I asked my own clients to chime in and they said things like:

–“I knocked off projects that had been hanging over my head for years.”

–“Coaching offered non-judgmental acceptance, mirroring to help me see myself, great listening, and quality questions that helped me dig deeper into what I thought I knew. I left with my head held high and with more energy and aliveness.”

–“My mind is constantly going and over-analyzing, so I needed someone who was structured and looking out for me. Coaching helps me focus on a specific thing, even when I have many ideas, and that helps me move forward.”

–“Coaching helps me bring my game to the next level through the presence of a witness to my process and help in challenging my negative assumptions.”

–“I went in hoping for career guidance and never expected to learn so much about myself or develop so many valuable interpersonal skills.”

–“Career coaching is a great way to jump-start a career change. The coach probes your ideas, provides feedback, and helps you define ‘homework’ to speed the process. You get more organized and begin flying over the obstacles in your path.”

–“I’ve gained clarity of how I want to live in this world…I feel less owned by my commitments…and more capable of making boundaries without falling prey to the idea that I should always be super busy and have something to show for it.”

–“Coaching helped me identify the things that light me up, verbalize how to make them part of my professional life, and develop a plan to make that happen. It can be hard to do all that alone and without a ‘thought partner’ who helps you explore things you might otherwise dismiss.”

–“Coaching gives a broader, bigger picture than therapy. It allowed me to explore who I am, take that broader picture, shift my perceptions, and open up to further discovery. Therapy gets to some of the deepest emotions, and it’s important to acknowledge that coaching and therapy are related.”

Having benefited from both therapy and coaching in my own life, I sometimes refer clients to therapists if that feels like a precursor, or complement, to our  work. A colleague of mine writes this about the difference between the two: “A therapist looks into your past to help you understand the present. A coach works in the present to help you to create the future. Therapists delve deeply into emotions. A coach recognizes the importance of emotions but does not focus on them.”

One of my mentors posits that coaches fill the gaps in a modern society of isolation and virtual connectivity in which people don’t have the access to elders and role models that they used to in such places as religious communities, extended family living situations and other institutions.

Compared to counselors and mentors who are paid for their advice, coaches, again, refrain from giving it. While there is a time and place for advice, in coaching we assume that our clients are wise, resourceful and creative enough to identify their own answers and action steps through our work together. A client of mine once remarked, “You are the only person I know who doesn’t have an agenda for me and is completely on my side.”

Nonetheless, I sometimes challenge my clients to venture out of their comfort zones, based on their stated goals. In this way, I can feel a bit like an athletic coach. One client made me laugh recently when she said, “You’re my personal trainer of mental exercises!”

We all need support for the game of life, and someone to inspire and challenge us to be better. Coaches can be wonderful companions and guides on that journey.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and spiritual development. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

How I “Found” My Dream Job

When clients come in for career coaching, I tell them that there’s no predictable time frame for finding and landing a wonderful job. Much depends on their own clarity, actions, resources and resourcefulness, in addition to external factors that are beyond our control. We then roll up our sleeves and get to assessing and exploring, while I hold them accountable, focus on the positive, and celebrate their breakthroughs.

But there’s something that I never say out loud to clients, which is that my own dream job was nearly five decades in the making. After all, who has that kind of time?

But seriously, what I mean is that the journey to my becoming a coach, teacher and writer of personal transformation has been in process since I was a child, with clues that were always there, and some interesting detours and rest stops along the way.

As a kid, I could sometimes be heard “coaching” my fellow performers (onstage, alas…) in school plays. I also had a tendency to befriend children who seemed lonely or outcast. Later on, I built a fort in the backyard and pretended it was a classroom, dragging my little brothers in as students.

So yes, along with being an occasional know-it-all and helper, I was a bossy big sister.

In high school I began writing essays, and letters to the editor about issues that were important to me, like world peace, authenticity and freedom of expression. While my girlfriends were reading Seventeen magazine, I was devouring self-help books and studying feminism and nutrition. I also formed a support group with friends who, like me, were grappling with eating disorders.

My college years were spent exploring my passions and love of travel while planning for a career in journalism. After meandering through jobs in publishing, public relations and philanthropy in my 20s, I landed in public radio and stayed there for a decade. I loved using my creativity, telling stories and reporting about people who were overcoming the odds and making a difference. My favorite moments were those of meaningful connection with my subjects and listeners.

All of that changed when a panic attack, on the air, in the middle of a newscast, set me firmly on the path of recovery and healing at age 35.

As my own personal development became my primary occupation, I was led to live and train at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, where I learned from some of the best teachers of transformation in the world. It was there that I eventually began leading workshops and yoga classes, and writing about conscious living. Two years later, I left to continue this work in the Boston area.

In my late 40s, I learned of an opportunity to study something called Positive Psychology, and my whole being said, “Yes!” I trained to become a coach and teacher in a field that echoed so much of what I already practiced and believed, and it’s the work I plan to do for the rest of my life.

Our ideal careers are found at the intersection of what we care about, what we’re good at (aka our strengths, which you can assess here) and what we love to do. We then need to factor in our financial needs, and we get bonus points if it serves the world.

Here’s what else I believe:

–There are career clues in what you’ve always loved and enjoyed doing well. If you’re contemplating a career move, take time to write about this. Learn, too, to trust your gut and heart when saying “Yes” and “No” to opportunities, and follow leads that feel enlivening, even if they make no sense. Give yourself permission to want what you want.

–Nothing is wasted. I regret none of the stops on my career journey, because they all got me here. I even use bits and pieces from seemingly unrelated past jobs in my current work. See all of your life experiences as opportunities to learn, discern, gather, grow and prepare.

–You might not always make a lot of money doing what you love. When I first landed in Boston, I worked for the circus to supplement my income. Cirque du Soleil, that is (that was me shouting, “Programs, get your programs here!” and selling overpriced merchandise). Years later, I worked as an administrative assistant for three years, while continuing to teach and write on the side, during a time of transition in my personal life. Today I’m grateful for multiple income streams, and good credit.

Doing work that we love is energizing, and feels like play. Using our strengths and skills in ways that are enjoyable and meaningful is essential to thriving in life. If you can’t quite do that in your job, find other outlets, such as volunteer, family or community projects.

You’ll have to build courage muscles to keep going for what you want when the going gets tough. Staying true to ourselves and our ideals is not easy, but it’s so worth the rewards of living with integrity and personal satisfaction. Get support, whether professionally or in the form of “believing mirror” friends and family members. Appreciate and reward your own bravery, too.

Here’s to your own quest for fulfilling work, and those lucky enough to be on the receiving end of your strengths and passions.

Kim Childs is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and spiritual development. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Healing the Pain of Losing a Pet

Last fall, I was awakened one night by the insistent paw of my cat Sweet Pea, who was eager to head out on her nocturnal adventures. I followed her to the door, where she hesitated, as she sometimes did when the cold air hit her nose.

My beloved Sweet Pea

My Sweet Pea

“You want to go out? Go!” I said, impatiently nudging her so I could close the door and go back to bed.

I didn’t know it was the last time I would see her alive.

When Sweet Pea didn’t appear for breakfast and our morning cuddle, I set out to post notices and photos online and around the neighborhood. After a sleepless and agonizing week, and several false leads involving look-alike cats, I shouted to the heavens, “I need to know!”

The next morning, I discovered that my beloved little fur baby had been killed by another animal.

My anguish and anger kicked off a long spell of grieving. I took my cat’s death personally, and I took it hard. What I’ve since learned is that these are not uncommon responses. So many people who hear my story shake their heads in sympathy, recalling their own deep pain upon losing a pet.

“It’s been years, and I’m still not over it,” is something I heard from more than one person.

“The loss of an animal companion is incredibly painful,” says Aruni Nan Futuronsky, a teacher and coach at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. “They live so deeply inside our hearts. Free from the complications of human relationships, the unconditional love and companionship they offer us is magically bonding, and losing those connections is truly heartbreaking.”

Our animal companions mark our daily routines, Futuronsky notes, and our care for them is intimately woven into the fabric of our lives. We conveniently forget that we will most likely outlive them as we develop deep bonds with these affectionate, innocent creatures who ask so little and forgive us everything.

While we don’t typically get bereavement days for the death of a pet, and not everyone will understand our need to mourn, Futuronsky says we can heal by being true to our feelings and finding safe places to share them. “After my dog Lucy passed, I asked people to send me their remembrances of her, and I received pictures and memories,” she recalls. “My reaching out to others was supportive.”

I held a backyard memorial service for Sweet Pea, with neighbors who loved her. We sipped cider as we shared stories of her antics, and we sprinkled catnip on her grave to say goodbye…and thanks. I also received touching condolence cards from friends and clients, and a surprise bouquet of flowers from the elderly couple next door who wrote that they, too, were “heartbroken over the loss of such a delightful soul.”

The traumatic death of my cat came on the heels of my divorce and several other family losses and challenges over the past two years. This compounded and complicated my grief, as I learned from helpful and validating books and blogs on the particular pain of losing a pet.

Dr. Becky Schoenberg, a Boston-area veterinarian who focuses on end-of-life care for pets, says people who’ve lost animal companions need permission to grieve, a community of people who understand, good self-care, and memorial objects or ceremonies that honor the special relationship.

“Over and over, I hear people say, ‘This sounds silly, but I’ve never cried this much over a human loss,’” says Schoenberg. “I think their grief is sometimes accompanied by a sense of guilt or culpability, even when the animal’s suffering is completely out of their control. There’s something about the responsibility we feel for pets, and the ways in which we’re their source of everything, that makes it so hard to face their loss.”

Allowing ourselves to retreat from the intensity of these feelings, with such healthy distractions as good movies, friends, and recreation, is another important strategy for healing. It’s also helpful to remind ourselves that the pain will lessen in time.

Still, there might be moments—passing a pet store, seeing a photo, or discovering a chew toy under the chair—that trigger tears. It’s just part of the unpredictable nature of grief, and reflective of the love that was shared. I recently had one such moment while watching the movie I’ll See You in My Dreams, as the character played by Sam Elliot consoled Blythe Danner’s character, who had just euthanized her dog.

“It’s hard to lose somebody, no matter how many legs they have,” he said. “It just leaves a big hole.”

Indeed, these small creatures leave enormous holes when they’re gone, and indelible paw prints on our hearts. Our role, once their time with us is over, is to honor those relationships in ways that best serve and heal us. While there will definitely be another cat in my life, there will never be another Sweet Pea. I’m grateful she chose me, and for the time we had together.

Kim Childs is a Boston-based life and career coach who specializes in Positive Psychology. , creativity and spiritual development. She also facilitates workshops based on The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Visit KimChilds.com to learn more and schedule a free consultation.

Reclaiming Our Lives

by Kim Childs, CPPC

During my intensives on The Artist’s Way, there’s an exercise midway through that asks us to track our spending for one week. It’s designed to help us see where our money’s going and whether those expenditures reflect our true values. A similar exercise asks us to track how we’re spending our time for a week, hour by hour.

The results can be sobering for those of us who say we “can’t afford” and “don’t have time for” the things we desire, because they show us where we may be squandering not only money, but also our time and energy. Comparing what we say we want to do with what we actually do may lead us to realize that some changes are in order.

It’s the kind of exercise that prompts the question, “Is this really the life I want to be living?”

Without a doubt, we’re in the midst of a noisy, distracting, anxious time in human history. We’re pulled in so many directions by electronic communications, omnipresent media and overfull schedules. Many people are working more hours and taking work home, and even kids have busier lives than ever. There’s a lot of pressure to do, go, keep up and produce, but at what cost?

If we don’t periodically check in with ourselves to ask whether how we’re spending the currency of our lives reflects our deepest values and desires, we risk losing our lives before they actually end. Such is the message of Bronnie Ware in her powerful blog, Regrets of the Dying, which cites the top five regrets of her patients in palliative care. Here’s what they said:

–I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

–I wish I didn’t work so hard.

–I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

–I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

–I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Do you see yourself in there anywhere? If so, pick the regret that most resonates and make a commitment to address it. I don’t necessarily mean adding to your “to do” list, but instead seeing where you can subtract any time-wasting, energy-wasting and even money-wasting activities from your life to reclaim resources for what’s more personally meaningful.

For example, if you have a latte habit that adds up to $25 a week, could that money be spent on a weekly yoga, dance or drawing class instead? If Facebook and TV suck hours from your life, could some of that time be redirected to conversations and visits with people you love or the pursuit of a new career or creative interest? Can you bundle work activities and errands in ways that free up chunks of time for fun, spiritual nourishment or self-care?

Of course, there are periods in life when the demands of family, illness, work or other obligations intensify and our time and energy for personal pursuits is limited. At other times, however, it’s more likely a matter of transforming lousy habits we’ve developed that rob us of precious resources and ultimately leave us feeling unfulfilled.

To begin reclaiming your life, ask yourself these questions:

1 – What’s truly important to me in life? What do I love to do?
This takes getting quiet and turning within to hear the answers. In other words, it takes time and space for reflection – something that we don’t often allow ourselves. Give yourself an uninterrupted chunk of time, pen and paper at the ready, to explore and note your answers.

2 – Where do my current choices reflect that? Where don’t they?
This is where an inventory of how you are spending your time, energy and money comes in handy. Get real about the way you are actually using these resources, and see where you can reclaim some of them for your deeper desires.

3 – What is one small step I can take this week to reclaim my life?
After you’ve identified a place where you’re wasting time, energy or money, make a decision to plug the leak and use the reclaimed resource for one of your answers to question 1. Remember that small steps are easier to take, maintain and build upon. They’re also less threatening to the part of us that hates change.

Reclaim your life for what truly matters to you. It’s not too late.

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life,  Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Romance Your Life Right Now

by Kim Childs, CPPC

A few days ago I woke up on a cloudy morning with worries on my mind. Some journaling helped me to see that there was sadness beneath the anxiety.  As I finished writing, the sun poked through and I decided to go for a walk in my favorite park. There were just a few of us out there, which inspired me to greet every person I passed. My mood improved a bit with each friendly exchange and, on the way home, I had another inspiration…

I plunked right IMG_1482down and made a snow angel.

This playful act lightened my heart and made me smile, thinking of those who’d come upon my angel later on, perhaps at the very moment they needed a boost…or a blessing.

From then on, it was an awesome day.

Whether or not we have someone special beside us this Valentine’s Day, we can each take responsibility for romancing our lives – and ourselves – whenever we like. After all, how do we really want to treat the person we spend the most time with? Here are some ways to be your own valentine:

Create rituals – Each day, the demands of modern life and electronic communications are relentless. If we don’t deliberately take time for what we truly value, we’re always at the mercy of other people’s agendas. Daily rituals can include journaling, prayer, exercise, meditation, writing a gratitude list, setting positive intentions for the day, writing about what we’re looking forward to or what went well each day, or simply sipping  coffee or tea in sweet silence.  Rituals are about intentionally and consistently unplugging from the busyness of life to honor what is personally meaningful. Candles, incense and music can enhance your rituals, if that feels inviting.

Go play – Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, advises those who want to recover their creativity to take an Artist Date each week. Its sole purpose is to “refill the well” of inspiration and sensory pleasures. These self-directed play dates can include museum trips, concerts, dance and art classes, neighborhood strolls, walks in nature, visits to unusual shops, finger painting in the kitchen and dancing in the living room. Invite your inner kid to set the agenda, and show up with enthusiasm.

Fluff your nest – Do you live in a space that feels good and reflects what you love and value? Do you surround yourself with colors, fabrics, pictures or objects that delight and comfort? If not, begin to “fluff your nest.” It may begin with clearing clutter, which fosters calm and a sense of spaciousness, while making room for new things and energies. Start small, keep it manageable and appreciate yourself each time you let go of what no longer serves you.

Savor the good – The field of Positive Psychology recommends this practice as a way to improve mood and prime the brain for more positivity. It simply involves focusing on what’s good in our lives and saturating the mind with appreciation for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Throughout the day, pause to savor what’s good, including creature comforts, special people, simple joys and natural beauty. Pay attention to what life is constantly offering, even – and especially – during stressful times.

Pause to pat yourself on the back – It’s easy to go through life moving from one activity or achievement to the next and striving for new opportunities without pausing to acknowledge what we’ve done. While self-improvement is a worthy pursuit, it’s important to periodically note all that you’ve already done and accomplished in life. Try saying, “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough,” and remember to honor your strengths and talents, especially the ones that you take for granted.

Give thanks, often – Cultivating gratitude, another fundamental Positive Psychology practice, nurtures a lasting romance with life. Whether it’s noting and savoring things you are thankful for, or giving thanks for misfortune that did not happen and problems that have disappeared, there is always something for which to be grateful. An “attitude of gratitude” can create immediate feelings of abundance, and sweetness that lasts longer than a box of fancy chocolates.

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life,  Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or via phone or Skype.

Rethinking January

by Kim Childs, CPPC

As 2015 came to a close, I felt ready for a long winter’s nap in the wake of some family losses and hardship. “I want to take January off!” I told close friends, while going ahead with business as usual. Well, 2016 was barely a week old when an upper respiratory infection forced me to spend a lot of time “off,” reading all those books I’d wanted to read and starting the contemplative practices I was craving. th

Coincidence?

In recent years, I’ve been rethinking all that gusto we have for new activities in January. I find winter a time for going in – literally and figuratively – and an opportunity for reflection and renewal. Taking cues from nature’s stillness at this time of year would serve us all well. And so, instead of writing a blog this month, I’m sharing this super helpful article by my dear friend and colleague Portland Helmich about making the most of winter.

Squash soup and a good book, anyone?

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.

Small is Big for Making Changes

by Kim Childs, CPPC

In my Positive Psychology training, I learned about the Japanese notion of kaizen, which kaizen1means continuous improvement and represents how Japan rebounded from the Second World War. I believe in the power of small and sustainable changes toward any new goal we have. It keeps the brain from signaling “Danger, danger!” and triggering sabotage as we try to stretch beyond our comfort zone, no matter how positive the new direction.

That’s the thing about change. It’s rarely comfortable, “so easy does it” helps.

In my own efforts to be healthier and happier, kaizen has shown up over the years as:  a daily green smoothie habit that helps me to consume more veggies, morning journaling for clarity and self-knowledge, regular walks for exercise and stress reduction, and the practice of pausing to notice, question and adjust my thoughts when they’re headed downward. In the New Year I’m trying on one meatless day of eating each week and eight minutes of meditation each day (it’s just one of my favorite numbers).

While I may get to other agendas and improvements in 2016, these modest goals set me up for success. I’ve seen this in students and clients, too, as they make small changes that are easy to sustain and lead to bigger rewards. One client of mine has found that just 20 minutes of reflection and reading in the morning leads to a better day.

It’s helpful to attach new habits to existing ones, by the way. Examples include: composing a gratitude list while walking the dog,  reciting positive affirmations when looking in the mirror, listening to inspirational teachers on the daily commute or while in the kitchen, and practicing mindfulness in traffic.

The idea is to make small changes in favor of what really nourishes and inspires us, versus resolving to demolish bad habits, which can feel punitive. When we keep those changes small and enjoyable, we can maintain and build upon them more easily.

“As you know, most New Year’s resolutions are worse than useless; they don’t lead to real change and we feel bad about not sticking to them,” says my favorite neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. “But if you think of this as feeding yourself, being good to yourself, giving yourself a big wonderful gift each day, nourishing something that will pay off big for you . . . well, it sure is a lot easier to keep treating yourself well in this way.” Read more in Hanson’s wonderful post, Water Your Fruit Tree.

I also invite you to spend 10 minutes with Marie Forleo to learn “How Not to Miss your Life” by making sure you are devoting your precious time and energy to what’s most important to you in the New Year.

I wish you big rewards from small changes in 2016. May you water your own garden and cherish your life one moment, one day and one tiny change at a time. And if you want to share your small change below, know that I will be cheering you on!

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.

 

Help for Hard Times

by Kim Childs, CPPC

This month, I’m personally processing another loss as I witness the suffering of so many around the world. I’m learning more about the demands and stages of grief, the words prayer-quotecards-201511-card-6-480x480and gestures that are most helpful to those who are grieving, and ways to cultivate gratitude and other positive emotions when times are hard. I plan to share lessons from this particularly challenging loss later on. Meanwhile, I’m offering resources that have helped me in the following posts and articles. I also recommend honoring difficult feelings in writing or with a good friend, therapist, coach, spiritual adviser or clergy member. Whether you or someone you care about needs comfort and support as we head into the holidays, it’s my hope that we practice extra kindness with each other and find reasons to give thanks amid challenges. Gratitude, appreciation and compassion are uplifting emotions and heart-expanders when hardships would otherwise make us want to close down.

Kim Childs is a Certified Positive Psychology Life, Career and Wellness Coach. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone or Skype.