Why We Need Pink Shirt Day

Today is Pink Shirt Day and I love Pink Shirt Day.  I love what it stands for.  I love how it started.  I love all the positive quotes that fill up my social media feeds.  I wish every day was Pink Shirt Day.  

I wish we lived in a world where we didn't need a designated day to remind ourselves that bullying isn't acceptable.  I wish we didn't need the reminder to be respectful in all our interactions.  I wish we were always kind, everyday, not just on Pink Shirt Day.

But that is not the world we live in.  It will never be the world we live in until all of us, especially those in positions of power, start to educate themselves about respect and healthy relationships.  Now I don't want to get all negative on Pink Shirt Day but it does need to be said that if you wear a pink shirt on Pink Shirt Day and post a quote about kindness and equality on your social media feed, that does not excuse how you act the other 364 days a year.  

If you are a person who stands in front of a classroom of junior high students and talks about how a woman needs to obey her husband, then you are part of the reason that we need a designated Pink Shirt Day.

If you are a coach who belittles an athlete for not competing when they are injured and in pain, you are part of the reason we need Pink Shirt Day.

If you are a teacher who asks your students to fill out a "gender" chart and determine if certain characteristics are masculine or feminine, then you are part of the reason we need Pink Shirt Day. (When I first heard about this one I thought the students would fill out the sheet and then the teacher would have a great conversation with them about expanding on the traditional concept of masculinity and femininity and would explain how all of the characteristics could apply to both males and females.  That's not what happened.  Men are strong.  Women gossip.  That's what the class was told in 2017.)

If you are someone who doesn't think our children need to be taught about consent, then you are part of the reason that we need Pink Shirt Day.

If you say things like "boys will be boys", you are part of the reason that we need Pink Shirt Day.

If you are a person who tells your female employee to wear a short skirt to the meeting tomorrow, you are part of the reason that we still need Pink Shirt Day.

If you are a parent who belittles your child when they don't perform as you would like them to at their sport, then you are part of the reason that we still need Pink Shirt Day.

If you are not paying attention to how your kids are speaking to other kids, you are part of the reason that we still need Pink Shirt Day.

If you are not paying attention to how you are speaking to and about others, you are part of the reason that we still need Pink Shirt Day.

I love Pink Shirt Day and I hope that more and more people participate every year.  I hope that people are not just wearing pink shirts but are also having conversations and taking action to make sure that every interaction they have is based in respect and kindness.

I hope that everyday we remember that our kids are watching and listening and they are learning how to act based on how we are acting and speaking and on how we are treating them.  I hope we stop excusing or ignoring unacceptable behaviour and choose to teach kindness and respect. I hope that one day we don't need a Pink Shirt Day.

Calming With Chocolate

I'm not very good at meditating.  By "not very good", I mean downright awful.  

Although I definitely see the value in being able to meditate every day, a traditional meditation practice does not work for me.  I have a hard time quieting my mind when I am sitting there in silence.  My mind goes wild.  I think of all of the things that I need to do.  I think of the things that I could be doing right now.  I feel guilty for not being productive at meditating and therefore wasting time that I could be spending doing something else. Then I wonder why I can't quiet my mind.  I end up feeling worse and more frazzled than when I started.  

It is easy for me to quiet my mind and just "be" when I am listening to music while walking my dog.  I have a play list that I usually listen to while walking Ari that's pretty mellow - acoustic Arkells, the Lumineers with some Marley and Neil Young mixed in for fun.  My mind quiets almost instantly.  

When it got cold out this winter, I stopped listening to music while I walked with Ari.  I don't know why.  I wasn't enjoying our walks as much, and I started to see them as a chore, not something I was looking forward to. My mind would race around while I walked.  I would think about one topic for a bit and then move on to the next and so on and so on.  Nothing got resolved or figured out because my mind bounced around from one thing to the next. I was not relaxed.  I finished my walk feeling more stressed than when I started. 

About a month ago I realized I hadn't been listening to music for awhile while walking.  I'm not sure why I stopped but I did once it got cold outside.  Maybe I thought my earbuds wouldn't fit under my toque, I don't know.

The day that I started again was not a nice day.  It was around -18C with a wind.  According to the forecast, it was going to snow later in the day so I wanted to get the walk done before that happened.  Off we went.  Turns out my earbuds fit just fine under my toque;).

Although I was cold and it was early to be out of the house on a Saturday morning, I felt like I could walk for hours.  We walked three times as long as I had planned on and I loved every second of it.  My mind was quiet and I felt free.  

I am not a Winter person.  I am cold all the time.  Winter driving stresses me out.  I hate snow.  I have gotten quite good at being mindful when walking for all the other seasons, but Winter is much harder for me.  That day though, I noticed the snow covered mountains in the distance and they looked beautiful.  So did the  trees in the park with a dusting of snow of them.  It was calming.  

I think we all quiet our minds and practice mindfulness in different ways and that's OK.  The main thing is that we take the time to figure out what works for us.  I really would like to be that girl in the gorgeous yoga wear sitting in lotus position experiencing inner peace, but that's just not me.

What is "me" and has worked for many youth in the groups I have done, is using chocolate to introduce the concept of mindfulness.  We sit on the floor and get into whatever position is comfy for us and then at the same time we all unwrap a small piece of good quality chocolate and put it in our mouths.  We close our eyes and everyone is quiet and focused only on the chocolate.  How does it feel in your mouth? How does the texture change as the chocolate melts?   How does it taste?  Then when it is gone, we sit for a moment and just pay attention to how we feel before we open our eyes.  This has become a favourite activity in my groups - both for me and the kids!

When we are done, everyone is feeling calmer and more relaxed.  They are present.  It works great when focus is an issue or there is a lot of negative energy in the room.  When we take a minute to be quiet and mindful, we create an open space in which we can talk, listen to others, and learn.

I love hearing about other people's strategies for quieting their minds and practicing mindfulness.    The more strategies I can introduce to others, the greater the odds that they will find something that works for them.  I would love it if you would comment below or email me and share what works for you.  Especially if it involves dark chocolate;)




Create Resiliency

I am reading this amazing book right now about functional medicine.  I hadn't even heard of the term "functional medicine" until recently and wanted to know more about it, so I bought a book by Mark Hyman.  The main concept the book revolves around is that you can "create health". Brilliant!  It's not that I didn't know you could do things to lower the risk of certain diseases, but the concept of being able to create health blew me away.  It's so positive and filled with potential.  When I want to eat something unhealthy (which is a few times a day) I now think, "will this help me create health?" and then it is much easier to resist the craving.  Ok, I'm never going to give up cookies, but I am better now at making healthy choices than I ever have been before.  Thinking this way makes me feel powerful and in control of my health.  I know that making diet, exercise, and social tweaks won't necessarily guarantee my good health, but it can't hurt.  I figure it gives me the best chance at being healthy.

I love the idea of creating something.  It just sounds "big" and filled with possibility. It sounds fresh and new.  It's empowering.  In my programs, I talk about building resiliency skills or becoming self aware.  But doesn't it sound so much more exciting to say that you can create resiliency or create self awareness?  

I know it's just saying the same thing in different words, but maybe hearing that you can "create resiliency" will resonate with some people in a way that "building resiliency" doesn't.  Just like the idea of "creating health" resonated with me.  I've always been a big believer in introducing a concept in a variety of ways so that it is more likely to reach people and make sense to them.  This idea of "creating" something is just one more way to do that.  

Thinking this way is so freeing.  I might be genetically predisposed to diabetes, but that doesn't mean that I have to resign myself to the fact that I am likely going to be diabetic one day because of this predisposition.  I'm not just going to sit around and wait for it to happen.  I can choose to think that even though there is a family history, I can create health by making healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices for myself.  

It is also possible to create resiliency, at any age. We don't need to be born "strong" or "confident".  We can create resiliency one building block at a time.  Just as if we were building a house out of Lego.  We can build a strong foundation by being aware of thought patterns and making any necessary changes.  By being mindful of what is going on with ourselves and around us.  By being grateful for the many beautiful things in our lives that we may not have been aware of or noticed for awhile.  By becoming self aware and accepting of who we are.  By challenging ourselves to always grow in different areas of our lives and become our best selves.  To create our best selves.

I find thinking this way so inspiring.  I hope that reading this has inspired some of you to take action and get started on creating - whether it be creating a physically healthier you, a more resilient you, or doing something that will help you become the best version of yourself.  Creating something wonderful takes time, but you can start today.  

No matter what you would like to create, practicing being mindful is a good place to start. My next blog post will be about a few things you can do to practice being mindful.  One of them even involves chocolate......