Introverts aren’t SHY, they’re Wonderful!

Today, most people wouldn’t even guess that my son is an introvert, and I think that’s because he’s been well supported and understood in his early years. He totally enjoys parties and chaos now, but he has a definite limit, and he can identify when he’s reached that limit. That’s when I hear the question, “Can we go home now?”

When I started dating my introverted husband, I quickly learned that being an introvert was a whole thing I had never considered. As our relationship blossomed, I discovered so many things about him that I could not relate to AT ALL.

At first I thought these things were simply preferences, but when my son was born, he exhibited these same tendencies. Once at a birthday party, I found my 4 year old son sitting quietly in his cousins room, looking at books, while the rest of the crew were running around having fun. That’s when it really hit me; this chaos is tiring for him.

I started to notice the following trends in my husband and son;

  • needing a day of recovery after a busy event
  • needing a lot of time to think about something before giving an answer
  • not wanting to do 2 events back to back
  • needing to know all of the details about something before it happens
  • needing to learn new things privately (as in, no one watching)

I knew I had to do something to connect to these people who I loved beyond words, so I found some excellent resources to guide my extroverted mind:

  1. Quiet (Also available as a TED Talk)
  2. The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child
  3. The Introvert Advantage

If you have any introverts in your life, I strongly recommend you read one of these books! Until then, here are the most important, clinically proven findings about introverts, that will help you navigate the introverted waters in your own life.

1. Introverts aren’t shy: Being shy is typically an anticipatory anxiety of socializing. Being an introvert is a fixed temperament or personality type that we can’t change. Shyness is experienced by both introverts and extroverts.

2. Introverts expend energy in social situations, whereas extroverts gain energy. This means that long periods of socializing depletes the energy of an introvert, which is why they are often exhausted after a big get-together or event.

3. Solitude restores their energy. They need downtime after being busy to restore, and especially, to reflect.

4. They have small, but mighty friendships: Introverts are all about quality over quantity, and will have a small, close group of friends. They are known to have deep, significant relationships, where intimacy and authenticity are highly valued.

5. They know who they are: Introverts have a rich inner world, and they spend a lot of time reflecting and examining their experiences, motivations, and relationships.

6. Their brains are actually different: Introverts use a longer pathway in their brain to process complex information, however, they can integrate more emotional and intellectual data than an extrovert.

7. They do deep dives: When an introvert has an interest, they will delve very deep into that subject with intense focus.

8. It’s harder for them to move their bodies: Introverts have to work a little harder at movement because it requires them to use conscious thought to do so.

9. They have incredible long-term memory: Introverts use their long-term memory more than short-term, giving them a wealth of data to draw from (but it can take them a little while to retrieve the information in their brain).

10. They are great listeners: They have genuine interest in getting to know people, and particularly love to be around people who they can learn something from one-on-one.

Today, most people wouldn’t even guess that my son is an introvert, and I think that’s because he’s been well supported and understood in his early years. He totally enjoys parties and chaos now, but he has a definite limit, and he can identify when he’s reached that limit. That’s when I hear the question, “Can we go home now?”

And now, I get why. Introverts are kind of like electric cars, they can perform just as well as their gas powered counterparts, but at the end of the day, they need to recharge.

Why we need to Drink in the Loveliness

We aren’t just here to work and pay bills and rush around. As humans, we have the luxury to witness and marvel at the earth on which we find ourselves. We can all take that breath every now and then and fully drink in the loveliness.

Spring is such a universal time for people to awaken to the natural beauty of the earth. Though there isn’t a lot of evidence that things will get better (because it’s mostly just muddy) there is something that ignites hope, and the promise of renewal when that first Robin appears.

While I am waiting for my garden to bloom, I bought myself (for the first time ever) a bouquet of flowers for no reason whatsoever. They are bringing me so much joy every time I walk past them, and there is a subtle aroma permeating my living room.

I am of the mind that, rather than waiting for “big” things to make us happy, we can enjoy an abundance of little pleasures sprinkled all through our lives.

That morning cup of coffee, sipped slowly. Savouring a good book. Watching the moon, the clouds, the sunrise. Listening to our loved ones. Feeling grass with our barefeet. All the loveliness that is constantly surrounding us and requires only our observation. Most of the loveliness in the world is free, and can be found anywhere in nature. Anyone can, at anytime, tap in to an unlimited bank account of beauty just by stepping outside.

We aren’t just here to work and pay bills and rush around. As humans, we have the luxury to witness and marvel at the earth on which we find ourselves. We can all take that breath every now and then and fully drink in the loveliness.

Play: It’s not just for Kids

Is there a way to hit pause on our to-do-lists and just give ourselves permission to play? I think we must. Play can be simple or elaborate. Think back to your own childhood and remind yourself of what brought you joy. There are no rules, except of course, that you have to have fun!

Every winter, my husband likes to build snow forts for my kids. He puts serious effort (sometimes hours) into each one. I always check from the window watching it unfold, and am astonished that an hour later, he’s still there, working away at it. Admittedly, he is better at going the distance for this type of play than I am, and it’s one of the things I really love about him. This year when we had a lot of snow he made a snow castle on our front lawn.

Not surprisingly, our kids loved it and had so much fun playing in it, even on the frigid -15 days. What was surprising, was that other people seemed to love it too. And by people, I mean adults.

It wasn’t neighbourhood kids that were showing up at our house to check it out, it was grown ups. One man walked down the street in the early, freezing morning just to take a picture of it, and he looked so happy! There were adults slowing down as they drove by to take a picture. Adults stopping to ask questions, like What!!! and Why!!! Adults getting a total kick out of it, laughing and smiling over this crazy snow castle.

Over the next few days, I think we met more people in our neighborhood than we have in the almost 10 years that we’ve lived there. So why is that? Because play is a powerful tool for building community. No matter how out of touch we are with it, play is a fundamental need for everyone, not just kids. Adults especially need that reprieve from worries and responsibilities. We all need to let go, have fun, and enjoy the ride. Play is also a really easy way to make connections and get to know people. When our spirits are light, conversation and laughter flow naturally, and we feel good. So why are these opportunities so rare?

Is there a way to hit pause on our to-do-lists and just give ourselves permission to play? I think we must. Play can be simple or elaborate. Think back to your own childhood and remind yourself of what brought you joy. There are no rules, except of course, that you have to have fun!

The Magic of Reading Aloud

You know those moments when your child is grouchy, whiny, or lashing out? Well, there is an (almost) instant cure that will soothe the most troubled little heart or weary body.

Reading Aloud.

At the heart of this idea is connection, and that’s what children (and any human) need most when they are having a hard time. They need to get physically close to their parents and find reprieve. And what better way to do that than read together! You get a story, a blanket, sit in a cozy spot, and voila! Things are looking up already.

When I see a downward spiral in my home, I announce, “Everyone get a story and meet me on the couch!” Sometimes there is resistance, actually, the more they resist, the more I know they need it.

I particularly like to read chapter books aloud to my kids because the stories are more engaging and then we can really transport ourselves to somewhere far from our troubles (while also exploring more challenging vocabulary too!) However, I do let my kids pick out their own stories, because it’s nice for them to have a sense of control (especially when they are upset) and define their own interests as well.

It is truly amazing how their moods can shift after reading together for just 10 minutes. Once we get that connection back, it’s easier to find out why they were feeling grouchy in the first place, and then we can usually smooth everything over.

Even if your children are older, don’t stop reading to them! Reading together is a great way to connect with older kids. Read aloud what they are interested in and just WATCH as it builds empathy, connection, comprehension, and fosters a life long love of reading –but maybe don’t tell them that ūüôā

My mom has read aloud to me my whole life and I’ve never stopped loving it! Some of my favourite memories with my husband (before we had kids) are him reading to me in the evenings. It was the best.

Even if you only have time for one chapter or one story, it WILL make a difference. And you can pat yourself on the back knowing it is building a rock solid foundation not just for literacy, but for connection too.

How to Build Patience and Perception with Modelling Clay

I think it’s so important to be open to creativity as an adult, and to encourage our children in their exploration. And also, those to- do-lists will always be there, so let’s enjoy the ride shall we?

“When we form something through artistic activity, we are formed and changed in the process, and that spurs the developmental process.” ~ Henry Schaefer-Simmern, Psychologist

One of the things I aim to do with this blog, is to remind myself and you that it really is the little moments in our lives that can have the biggest impact. This afternoon, I was feeling very energized and I knew there were a few (okay, many) tasks that I could have accomplished. But instead, my daughter and I played with modelling clay.

Eily working her will

Modelling clay is a very powerful medium that can develop hand strength, imagination, and our will. It is one of the oldest artistic activities, teaching us about patience, observation and perception. Coming together to create something is its own meditation, and it’s a great way to connect with your child. I’ve found this book, Modelling by Arthur Auer really helpful for getting started, but of course you can just go for it on your own!

My artistic skills are somewhat stunted, but I think it’s so important to be open to creativity as an adult, and to encourage our children in their exploration. And also, those to- do-lists will always be there, so let’s enjoy the ride shall we?

This One, Small Act to Cure a Bad Mood

When I find myself in a mood that I can’t stand, or when I can’t believe how messy my house is, I perform this small, simple ritual to make myself feel better; I clean the kitchen sink.

I take my time, scrubbing, and making it as shiny as can be. Then I leave a little splash of water in it, and I add a few drops of my favourite essential oil. When I am done, my kitchen might not be completely clean, but at least one place in it is pure and fresh and taken care of.

It is a small enough task that I know I can complete it uninterrupted, and I feel a sense of accomplishment, however small it may be. But the best part is, every time I walk through my kitchen, the fragrance lifts me up, and that mood I didn’t like, is nowhere to be found.

Lavender growing in our garden

4 Ways to be a Happy Mama

In my experience, these 4 things have made the most positive and lasting contribution to my happiness. They take time and consistent effort, but without them, I become irritable, exhausted, and impatient.  With them, I am a source of energy, compassion, and creativity.  Even though I often have to talk myself into making these things a priority, I am always, always, so glad I did!

We seem to be in a new age of consciousness when it comes to raising our kids. ¬†We read books on parenting. ¬†We obsess over what they’re eating. We schedule activities. We put aside money in RESPs. We endlessly discuss choices, ideas, and ways to improve the lives of our children. And then, after all that work, we keep ourselves up at night wondering if we’re doing a good enough job.

When you think about it, our children are really lucky! This might be the best time in the history of humankind to be a child. But let’s not forget, that as parents, and people, we need that same care.¬† And no one else can do it for us.

Self-care is a gift that you have to give to yourself over and over, in order to be the best possible version of that incomparable you.

In my experience, these 4 things have made the most positive and lasting contribution to my happiness. They take time and consistent effort, but without them, I become irritable, exhausted, and impatient.  With them, I am a source of energy, compassion, and creativity.  Even though I often have to talk myself into making these things a priority, I am always, always, so glad I did!

1) MEDITATION: Did you know the average person has approximately 40,000 thoughts per day? Our minds are constantly racing; attempting to arrange the pieces of this never-ending puzzle of life. We need relief from this deluge.

Meditation can be as simple as reading a book intently, weeding your garden, or repeating a Sanskrit phrase for 3 minutes. Whatever form you choose, allow yourself a small space each day where you are more than just a series of thoughts in your brain.

If you’re unsure where to start, I found  The Chopra Center’s 21 Day Meditation challenge to be a great introduction to meditation. After a few days, I began to crave that time where I could be free from my meandering, repetitive thoughts, and feel profoundly grounded.

2) SLEEP: You know that terrible saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead?” Well, ahem, you can’t. But if you don’t get adequate sleep now, you are shortening your life span!(1) A chronic lack of sufficient sleep has been associated with: high blood pressure, diabetes, decrease in sex drive, decrease in long-term memory, increase in obesity, increase in depression and anxiety, and much, much more. (2)

We may not be able to get our perfect 8 hours a night every night, because let’s face it,  our children sometimes need us during those hours. But, we can avoid staying up late trying to catch up on things we think we should do. Laundry. Dishes. Your latest netflix binge. It’s okay to do those things once in a while, but not night after night at the expense of your health.

3) PERSONAL CARE: I rarely wear makeup or dress up, but I very much admire a well-put together woman. I read once that you should wash your hair the day before you really need to, and that has seriously (and sadly) stuck with me. I always feel kind of amazing after I put in the effort to wash and style my hair. But, the prospect of doing so always makes me put it off for another day when I have more time.

But time, my friends, is very elusive.  So, I urge you to seize the day and take that extra time to do whatever it is that makes you feel kind of amazing. Isn’t it so much nicer to look in the mirror and say “Wow!” instead of “Whoa!”  Think about it.

4) EXERCISE:This one is a win-win. When you exercise, you, a) feel more energetic and b) are healthier, and therefore, c) look and feel better!

I know the list of reasons why you don’t have time to work out is long,but the benefits are so extraordinary that you’ve got to dismiss the list. The list will be there literally every day of your life, so put yourself on the list too.

A recent study has proposed that exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your life expectancy by three years! (3)  Exercising can improve your mood, sex drive, and sleep, as well as prevent and manage a vast range of health problems.(4)

As parents, we need our energy levels to be at maximum, and the ONLY way to do that is to be active (and of course, sleep remember?). My cousin once said, “the hardest part of working out is putting on your shoes.” And it’s true. Once you get those shoes on and commit to your workout, it’s all downhill! The energy you receive is its own reward.

You may have to experiment a little to find out what kind of a schedule and practice work for you. But just start with something that feels good. Maybe you like to sweat it out on the treadmill or shake your butt in Zumba. Whatever works for you is what works! I know I often get too caught up in what the RIGHT form of exercise is when really any type of movement will do just fine. It has to fit into your regular life or you won’t do it.  And you must do it!

If you read all of this and still feel like you don’t have time, either you’re not being honest with yourself or you’re expectations are way too high. Meditation can be as simple as 3 slow breaths before you get out of bed. Exercise can be  a 15 minute walk around your neighbourhood. If it’s a priority for you, you will find the time. It’s a lot easier to give to your family when you have a reserve to draw from. So make sure your inner well is always full. Your children will thank you for it!

(1) http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

(2) http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-results-sleep-loss

(3) /lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2811%2960749-6/abstract

(4)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676

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