How to be Happy Book Review

How to be Happy Book Review

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Book Review by Marie O’Sullivan

How to be Happy – 52 Positive Activities for Children by Marneta Viegas

Whether you are a mainstream class teacher, working in Learning Support and running a Social Skills group, a Home School Community Liaison Officer searching for simple tips to support families, an Special Needs Assistant, a parent, or just someone who wants help the children in your life to develop positive coping skills, “How to be Happy” by Marneta Viegas (founder of Relax Kids) could be a very useful additional to your toolkit.

This book consists of 52 positive and affirming activities aimed at nurturing children’s emotional development. It is written in child-friendly language, with lots of accompanying pictures. The foreword features Rosie and Keane, who explain that their parents are separated and that the tips in the book are what they do to feel happy.

Topics covered include: family time, make and do, being kind, moods and feelings, school, being positive, bedtime, relaxing and mindfulness. The family time section suggests tips such as creating conversation starter cards and selecting one from a jar as a prompt at mealtimes. Another idea is to generate a list of free and fun activities that families can do together, such as creating sock puppets. The book is relatable, because it doesn’t make assumptions about family structures or budgets.

Suggested make and do activities include creating homemade worry dolls, acknowledging that children can find transitions and changes in their lives difficult to cope with. Another tip is to create a “treasure box” and to gather items with positive associations to cheer the child up on a tough day.

Another activity talks about sensory overload in a way that children can relate to and features a number of ideas to try out that won’t impact negatively on anyone else. The book uses a weather analogy to help children to identify how they are feeling – a stormy day, a frosty day, etc. It describes how we might feel when we are having e.g. a dreary day and what we could do to improve our mood.

The school section covers how to cope with homework, tips to improve focus and concentration and how to manage stress. Strategies to foster a positive attitude include cultivating appreciation and gratitude by focusing on what is working well in our lives. There are a number of ideas about how to cue the body for restorative sleep, such as repeating affirmations, listening to a story and having a relaxing bath.

One of my favourite tips is how to activate our “happiness switch”, it’s portable, free and easy! The children explain that this is a tool they use when they are feeling stressed out or angry. The first step is to recall a time when you felt really happy. Close your eyes and focus on the memory. Use your five senses to heighten your awareness of how it feels to be happy. In this simple meditation, the children are encouraged to think about what they saw, heard, etc. Squeeze the thumb and first finger together while concentrating on the happy memory. Now the children can press their happiness switch to access this happy time whenever they need to. They can also repeat a positive affirmation to amplify the positive associations.

This book contains lots of activities that could easily be adapted for the classroom, such as creating a relaxation corner, goal-setting and using positive affirmations. It is aimed at children aged 4-7, but I have adapted ideas from the book in my client work and used them with adolescents and adults also. I highly recommend this book and also the free taster schools pack. I completed my Relax Kids training in 2016 and it was one of the most enjoyable and affirming workshops I have ever attended.

How to be Happy is available from Relax Kids ISBN 978-1-78279-162-1

P.S. My copy is dog-eared, battered and has often been out on loan, which is one of the highest accolades I can award any book!

Marie O’Sullivan is a teacher, counsellor and Anokha Learning course author. She has a Masters in Child and Adolescent Counselling. Marie’s articles have been featured in InTouch Magazine and regional and international press. She is also an expert author and regularly contributes to a parenting magazine.

Put on your Oxygen Mask!

Put on your Oxygen Mask!

Thanks to my lovely cousin Fiona in Milan for inspiring me to write this blog post! Fiona thanked me for sharing such great content at this time as she and her family are isolated in Milan trying to tune out of the sound of constant sirens. How utterly terrifying and how privileged am I, to be writing this half in my front door and half in my garden?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost count of the weeks/days on purpose. I’m trying to stay in the moment, not looking back or forward, like most, getting through the days. Lots of us here in Ireland still feel a little removed from the trauma and horror that is going on elsewhere in the world. Yet I think the mood here started to change last week. The initial response on social media to covid 19 almost felt like a call to arms to be productive, to get busy doing and responding. I don’t think we gave ourselves enough space and compassion and it seems there’s more of an acknowledgement of that need now.

I realised myself that every conversation I have now usually involves some exchange of information that is scary. Most decisions we try to make are decisions we cannot be sure of. If, when, maybe, we just don’t know. The things we took for granted like the drudgery of doing weekly shop is now putting us all into high alert. Am I the only one beginning to wonder if I need to change my clothes after shopping too? All the things we have to think about and consider…on it goes! Our minds are taking us to places and territory we are not familiar with. We have an amount of answers but some of this we have to navigate for ourselves and make our best judgements to protect ourselves and our loved ones. As we meet our other demands of work, new ways of working, parenting, caring, providing and so on, all the while our minds are full of the background noise and worry.

I’m not a psychologist or as qualified as all of the wonderful people I get to work with in Anokha Learning. But I’ve overcome many struggles and adjustments. My son has a long term auto immune condition and I have long since adjusted to periods of being somewhat cut off and modifying my life choices. Some of this has only been a privilege, and I will always be thankful for the journey. So I want to share some thoughts and I hope they resonate with you.

First I think we all need to remember to put on our own oxygen masks. No matter how many demands you have placed on your right now please try to tend your own wellbeing and don’t neglect it. Everyone else will suffer if you do, and everything will feel worse and harder for you. Maybe we all need to acknowledge that our minds are overloaded and exhausted. There is so much thinking to be done but also so much to be felt. Everyone is in a different situation with different coping mechanisms. So can we start by being kind and compassionate to ourselves and giving ourselves space to feel and space to rest. If we are generous enough we can extend this compassion to others, even if the panicking or overreacting/controlling is driving us mad. It’s just a response, most likely to fear. Some days will be better than others. Some days we will be more generous with our compassion and some days we won’t have it to give. And on those days I wish you ‘a day’. Just have a day, get through it, do what you can but also try to keep hoping and know that the next day might be better. If you can, I encourage you to be brave. Be brave with yourself. Push yourself a little more with the self care than you would have before and for some of us that means being brave. I’m not talking about becoming Instagram perfect, I’m talking about making yourself a priority sometimes and allowing yourselves some of the things that comfort you.

I have a list below of what has worked for me, things that provide a bit of comfort, self care, inspiration and keep my head above water. I hope there’s something there for you or something that sparks some inspiration.

Keep on top of the basics, there’s a lot of comfort in the daily rituals of hot showers/baths, clean clothes and doing the daily basics. You don’t need a special occasion to wear something special, bright or just not wear the same thing every day!

Anything that involves using your senses can provide a little boost for the mind. Linger a bit longer over that coffee or mint tea smell, bring it outside even if it means putting your coat on over your pj’s. Look at the sky because it’s always moving and changing. Smell some citrus fruits and put a few pieces in your water. If you like essential oils, candles etc, use them now. Play your music and keep the background noise cheerful. Look at beautiful things or just look up to the sky and listen to nature.

Smile. It might not be how you feel but my goodness is it infectious and you might just trick yourself into feeling positive! I really notice these days how much friendlier people in my area are, it’s like we now see how connected we really are by just being human and being in the same situation. We see another human out for a bit of exercise and we are genuinely so happy to smile, nod, wish them well, because we really do want everyone to be well. Sometimes smiling through the pain or worry comes naturally, sometimes it means being brave and tricking your mind – you are sending a positive message out into the world and also to yourself. If someone smiles back you can’t help but feel good.

Give your mind a break. I don’t really like meditation and I actually hate switching off. So I have to make myself. I find sleep stories or meditations great to pop on. I would say I nearly always think to myself, I’ll never switch off, and then I don’t remember when it happened but it did! And it’s like setting a little reset button, it might get me off to sleep at night or at least I have given my mind a break.

Be honest. You don’t have to open the absolute flood gates but it’s ok to be real with people and let them know how you are feeling. We all have different levels of openness and it takes courage for some of us to open up. Allow people to offer you some comfort and compassion by being honest. Most likely they might feel the same or had similar feelings and will be more likely to open up too. This can also apply with your children. We automatically shield them from so much but if we can be honest to a level we know they will feel safe with, chances are they will be more comfortable sharing their own discomfort.

Do anything that lights a spark in you or that just feels lovely. We are so good at looking after everyone else and providing endless ideas of what might make someone else happy. It might be something you haven’t done for years, paint, draw, sew, wear something lovely, dance, pull out a photo album,plant something, listen to a podcast, anything that inspires you. I love taking photos of pretty much anything outside and looking at nature helps me feel grounded – no matter what the world keeps spinning.

I could go on, but I’ll sign off for now. I hope you found this helpful to read, please do let me know. Keep smiling, be brave, put your oxygen mask on everyday that you can. And when you can’t, have a day and try again tomorrow. Thanks for reading – Fiona, Quinn,  Course Director – Anokha Learning

Breathing Techniques for Anxious Kids

Breathing Techniques for Anxious Kids

In light of all the current uncertainty in the world we are sharing two free resources from our Scared Kids Helping Children Cope with Anxiety Online Course by David Coleman.  There’s a video and an audio download of a breathing technique for you to teach a child to help switch off adrenaline. This practice is specifically about getting extra oxygen into the system. Once there’s extra oxygen there the heart gets the message “I can slow down now”. You may find it helpful to use this technique for your own personal anxiety or stress too. As outlined in the audio, practise is really important so that this technique becomes an automatic experience. We hope you find this helpful for you and your children. We are now offering 50% off the Scared Kids Helping Children Cope with Anxiety Course for a limited time to help everyone out. If you would like to find out more about the online course please click here.

10 Tips to Boost your Child’s Self-Esteem from David Coleman

10 Tips to Boost your Child’s Self-Esteem from David Coleman

Self-esteem can seem a bit intangible. We can’t really see it, hold on to it, or touch it in any way. Despite this, we are often acutely aware when it is missing, especially in our children. They can seem to have a very negative opinion of themselves, or they seem unconfident, overly dependent, or conformist.

So if you want to give a child the best possible opportunities in life, then helping them to have high self-esteem is a great starting point. To help you along that road, here’s a free download with  my top 10 tips for building your child’s self-esteem.

David Coleman, Clinical Psychologist

Build your Self-Esteem Online Course Review by CK Fitness

Build your Self-Esteem Online Course Review by CK Fitness

We were delighted to have Cillian Keane from CK Fitness participate in our Build your Self Esteem Course recently.  Here’s what Cillian had to say on completing the online course.

Thank you for letting me do the course. It was great to learn more and delve into the tool and strategies to build self-esteem. To start I really liked it included links to additional support for those who need that extra support: i.e counseling. There were loads of different links that people could choose that can guide them to the best of what is needed.

I generally liked how each module was broken down, like focusing on core beliefs, how to eliminate worries, etc. I really enjoyed that it got me thinking by asking questions and filling out the worksheets. This is exactly how I learn and was very beneficial. Instead of just following the videos, it was great to be able to cement your learning with the worksheets.

I have done the wheel of life before so it was a great added too. Lovely to even see what area you can note of where you are performing well at. I liked that everything was defined i.e the definition of low self-esteem and the causes of low self-esteem and how to build your self esteem overtime.

I enjoyed drawing a timeline of events, really handy and easy to do. This is what made the course really good – none of the tasks where difficult to do and implement. I liked the part of how self-esteem has effects on our body- fight/flight/freeze etc. Another important topic that was covered was goal setting which is very pivotal in my day to day life too.

Overall, it is the first time I have done a course like this and honestly I took a lot away from it. I think this would be a really beneficial course for anyone struggling with self belief, motivation, resilience and essentially self-esteem issues who need some tools and strategies. Everything in the course was well laid out and really well explained. I enjoyed that you had to reflect on certain questions that were asked and come up with your own unique answers. It was easy to navigate and each module detailed exactly what was going to be learned. The quizzes and additional material were great too to cement more learning.  Click here for more information about our Build your Self-Esteem Online Course. 

Cillian Keane – CK Fitness

Personal Trainer & Nutrition Adviser, Mental Health Speaker and Advocate


Breathing Techniques for Anxious Kids

How can I help a child or teenager with Anxiety?

Struggling to Cope with Child or Teenage Anxiety?

Scared Kids Helping Children Cope with Anxiety is an online course written and presented by David Coleman, the well known Irish Clinical Psychologist. David collaborated with Anokha Learning to develop this course on the Anokha Learning Platform. We all hope that completing this course makes a big difference to the lives of children and teenagers and lets not forget the adults making an impact!

This course is for anybody who either lives with children, cares for children or works with children. The main aim is that the person doing this course comes away with great confidence, a set of skills, techniques and ideas they can use to help children with anxiety, as well as addressing any personal adult anxiety.

Course participants will deepen understanding with background information provided about anxiety as well as further exploring how the workings of the brain relate to anxiety. Lots of take away strategies are provided to enable adults to work with a child to help them process and deal with their anxiety, so it doesn’t stay a problem for them in the long term.

The course consists of 8 modules that are all in video format. In Summary:

  • Freaking Out – How can I tell if a child has problematic anxiety?
  • Upstairs, Downstairs – Understanding how a child’s brain processes anxiety
  • Be Still my Racing Heart – Helping children to respond to the physical symptoms of anxiety
  • I Think Therefore I Am – How a child’s cognition’s affect anxiety
  • Walk in my Shoes – How children’s emotional understanding impacts on anxiety
  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Addressing a child’s anxious behaviour
  • I Worry Too – Resolving adult anxiety so we can help children resolve theirs
  • A Second Opinion – Knowing when a child’s anxiety might need professional help

The course also includes a free full course transcript eBook download, free audio download of breathing exercises to switch off adrenaline, free audio download of muscular relaxation to relieve physical tension, free audio download of guided visualisation to break from anxious thinking and a free adult stress management diary and guide. A Certificate of Completion is also provided so the course can also be used for professional development.

Our system is really easy to access and navigate via Mobile, PC or Tablet. We advise allowing 10 hours to do the course. Some people may spend longer on the additional strategies or stress diary. Access to the course is for 12 months so there is plenty of time to complete the content and also to reflect and revise if needed. There are no assignments to be submitted.

For more information click here

Click here to Enroll Now


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