The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

The Importance of Play and Laughter for Leaders & Changemakers: How to Connect with Your Inner Child

Due to the uncertain and stressful times we are currently living in, and also because of research I’ve recently read on the importance of a “playful frame of mind” as we evolve as authentic leaders[1], I decided to resurrect and share an article I wrote three years ago[2]. …

Many of us learn that after a certain age, it is not appropriate to play. We get messages that we need to become serious and act like an adult. More and more research has shown how important play and laughter are for health and wellness throughout our lives.

You may have heard that laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, we release endorphins and encourage energy to move throughout our body. In the words of Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and pharmacologist who has spent much of her scientific life studying the mind-body link:

Play and laughter are vital to feeling good. Recreation isn’t merely a frivolous addition to life or a hard-earned reward for work…I believe that in a society driven by a strong work ethic, with so many individuals burdened with workaholism, people aren’t getting enough endorphinergic surges through the bodymind on a regular basis. For you to not be laughing and playing during some part of every day is unnatural and goes against your fundamental biochemistry.

Everything You Need to Feel Go(o)d), 2006

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has conducted research that shows play is not only energizing and fun, but also important for human physical, emotional and cognitive development, and intelligence. Addictions, depression, stress-related illnesses and interpersonal violence have been linked to the prolonged deprivation of play –http://www.nifplay.org . Brown’s TED talk outlines different types of play and provides evidence of the importance of play throughout our lives –http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Based on research by Brown, Pert and others, it is recommended for the health of our minds and bodies that we engage in play and laughter every day.

Types of Play

Research on animals and humans has identified a number of different types of play including:

  • Body Play – when we move our bodies in different ways; for example, jumping, running, skipping or moving our bodies to real or imagined music.
  • Object Play – when we make an object (e.g. a snowball) and play with it, or play with an object such as a soccer ball.
  • Imaginative Play – creating an imaginary friend you interact with (you may have had an imaginary friend when you were a child); creating and sharing a fantasy story with a child; playing “dress up”.
  • Social Play  – playing tag or playing house with others
  • Transformative Play – through digital and other types of “structured” play we learn creative problem-solving.

 Strategies for Incorporating more play and laughter

  1. Travel back in time and identify and write down types of play activities you enjoyed and engaged in as a child.
  2. Reflect on how many of these activities you currently engage in as an adult and how often you engage in them.
  3. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how energized each of the above activities makes you feel – 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “full of energy”.
  4. Identify several play activities you would like to begin integrating into your life. Experiment and notice how they make you feel.
  5. Commit to engaging in some form of play and/or laughter on a daily basis. Ask friends and family for support (perhaps make it a family project to laugh and play at least once a day), and encourage play and laughter in their lives as well.

Your Inner Child

Another way to incorporate more play and laughter into your life is to connect with your inner child. According to Wikipedia “our inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty.” Others say that your inner child is your “true self” … the small child within you that never grew up. Your inner child is naturally fun, playful, and creative. It is also fragile and vulnerable.

Many of us have buried or rejected our inner child, and it takes some time to reconnect with and nurture it. The process may be challenging and scary for some, especially if you’ve experienced trauma. Connecting with our inner child helps us love, accept and nurture ourselves.

Strategies for Connecting with Your Inner Child[3] [4]

  1. Write a letter to your inner child saying that you want to reconnect. It can be a letter of apology or one expressing that you want to strengthen the relationship with her.
  1. Notice and acknowledge the feelings that come up when you connect with your inner child. Rather than “pushing them down” or rejecting them, allow any fears, sadness or insecurities to surface. Notice what you notice.
  1. Express those feelings by writing them down in a personal journal or through painting, finger painting or drawing.
  1. Picture yourself as a 3, 4 or 5 year old and reassure your younger self that they are safe, secure and loved.
  1. Reorganize your living space. Make it more fun. Bring out joyful childhood pictures, stuffed animals and trinkets and put them on your mantle. Paint one or several of your rooms with guidance from your inner child.
  1. Buy a coloring book and color several times a week.
  1. Spend time with children playing children’s games. These could be “hide and seek”, or imaginary games, and creating and telling your own stories.
  1. On awakening everyday ask your inner child what fun activity they would like to engage in today.

Parting Thoughts

Research shows that bringing our inner child out to play and incorporating laughter and play into our days is essential to be healthy and happy throughout our lives. I encourage you to try some of the strategies and to notice what you notice.

I’d love to hear how you connect with your inner child and what you’ve noticed from that experience. Please share your experiences below so we can all learn and grow from each other.


[1] https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

[2] Originally published in the February 2017 issue of Eydis Authentic Living Magazine

[3] http://www.wikihow.com/Embrace-Your-Inner-Child

[4] http://www.creativecounseling101.com/find-your-inner-child.html

How to Find Your Focus during Challenging Times

How to Find Your Focus during Challenging Times

During this time of immense change and uncertainty have you felt distracted, anxious, had difficulty sleeping? If so you are not alone. It’s happened to me and a number of my friends, colleagues and clients I’ve recently spoken with.

Many people are noticing that old patterns or beliefs they thought they had dealt with and/or cleared years ago, are surfacing. Others feel like they’re on an emotional teeter-totter; one day feeling upbeat and positive and the next feeling sad, anxious and overwhelmed.

What has helped me to get focused and stay positive is a decision I made several weeks ago to accept a new position and project in my life. Since that day (March 20), I have felt energized, creative, and focused.

I’m excited to share that I recently was named Ambassador for Canada of Female Wave of Change, a global movement that unites women who are changing the world into a better place. Female Wave of Change offers women from all walks of life a safe space where they can be their authentic selves, be economically empowered and grow into leaders and changemakers who shape the world for their own futures and for future generations. “I join(ed) FWoC because I feel so aligned with their Purpose, Vision, Mission and Core Values and I want to be part of this amazing group of women (and some men) and contribute to expanding and strengthening this incredible wave of change.”

To learn more about the Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values of the group visit: https://femalewaveofchange.com.

Ingun Bol, the founder, from the Netherlands, started the movement only 3 years ago and currently has Ambassadors in more than 40 countries. Achievements to date include: 1) designing and rolling out Women Leading in Change; a 12 module group online leadership program for women who want to make impactful changes. The program prepares women to be authentic leaders drawing on their feminine qualities and values; 2) designing Reshape the Future a modular online program aimed at empowering and teaching participants to become agents of change by building on their inner strengths, talents and capabilities. This leadership program was initially to roll out in April 2020 and has been postponed till September 2020; 3) Hosting their first global conference in Johannesburg in September 2019 where a Call to Action on Human Rights was developed.

In addition, Ambassadors with the support of their “Wavemakers” from different parts of the world, have been designing and implementing impactful projects such as one that taught poor African women financial literacy and supports them to secure mortgages they eventually pay off so they can own their own homes.

Areas of focus for various months in 2020 were identified last year and due to COVID-19, the leadership team recently revisited their priorities and decided to offer free virtual webinars, workshops, coaching and dialogue sessions related to the Corona Virus and situations we are all currently facing, and open these up to everyone.  I was honored to have the opportunity to moderate a recent Panel of Older Wise Women where they shared their Purpose, their Visions of the World after COVID-19 and their views on Feminine Leaders of the Future.

You may access recordings of recent virtual webinars/workshops, etc. on the Female Wave of Change YouTube Channel and learn about upcoming workshops and events on Facebook at Female Wave of Change Global . We’d love to have you join us!

What new “thing(s)” are you creating or focusing on during this time when we’ve all been forced to slow down and reflect? Perhaps it’s your garden. Perhaps you’re cooking more and trying new recipes. Perhaps you’re drawing and painting. What is energizing you and keeping you focused? I’d love to hear from you below.

Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

Change and Creativity: Creating Possibilities out of Chaos and Uncertainty

I believe that embracing change is a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities.

During these uncertain and challenging times it may seem counterintuitive to think about change and creativity together in the same sound bite. That said, believe it or not, this is the opportune time for you to tap into and express your creative side.

I encourage you to sit down, close your eyes and take a few moments to pause and reflect. Ask yourself, what positive changes have come out of this pandemic for you, your relationships, your community, your business, your work?

For many, it is the opportunity for the first time to work from home. If this is you, it may be an enjoyable and productive experience; or it may make you realize that being on your own, you miss the camaraderie of colleagues, easily get distracted, and find it challenging to get work done. This is a gift, as now you know that working on your own at home is not a preferred option for you.

For others who own their own businesses, initially you may have experienced fear and have had to “let go” of some of your employees, and yet when you “go inside”, you realize that your business is not exciting you anymore and hasn’t for some time. You may have been feeling uninspired but didn’t know how you could exist and earn a living without your “tried and true” business or job. This is a time to experiment with different ways of running your existing business. It is a time ripe for innovation.

Now you have the opportunity to explore what “lights you up” (see https://pamela-thompson.com/believe-that-you-are-here-to-make-a-difference/ for an exercise on how to identify your passions), and to clarify your core values (refer to https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/ for more details), so that when you return to a “new normal” , whatever that looks like, you will be in a position to reinvent yourself , whether it be to find that job of your dreams or start that new business you’ve been putting off for some time, perhaps years.

What about key relationships in your life? What realizations has this time of social distancing “brought up” for you? It could be the conscious awareness that connection and regularly speaking with friends and family is really important for you. I’ve found that I want to call and FaceTime or Skype with close friends, rather than text or email them. I feel a strong need to be in community. Fortunately, I am part of a Women’s Circle that meets face-to-face every 2 weeks. We met via Zoom for the first time this past week, were creative with our process, and it worked really well. A fun and creative activity my husband and I have planned for this evening is a virtual birthday party for one of our young granddaughters.

A tool I’ve found helpful during these times is journalling using writing prompts such as: What is the silver lining in this experience? Have my priorities changed? What is most important to me? How can I change my life so each day I focus on those things and people that are most important to me?

I invite you to begin meditating daily if this is a new experience for you and/or something you’ve been “putting off” and meaning to do for a while. I find Deepak and Oprah’s free 21-day Meditation Experiences (e.g. Finding Hope in Uncertain Times – https://chopracentermeditation.com/store/product/156/hope_in_uncertain_times_streaming); extremely helpful to ground me and keep me focussed on the positive during these times of massive change and uncertainty.

It is important to express your feelings during challenging times. Drawing and/or painting may be helpful for you to release negative feelings and to create positive “pieces”; paintings or drawings that remind you of hope, connection, and people and activities that bring you joy and connect you with your inner child.

Visioning is another tool to create possibilities out of the current chaos and uncertainty. Ask yourself, What do I want the world to look like after this pandemic? Do I see more people aware of climate change and the actions we all can take to protect animals and improve the environment? What is my role in this? What actions can I take toward making this world a better place for my family, community, workplace …?

Do you envision a community where you are connected to your neighbors and have mechanisms in place to enable you to be kept aware of and able to respond to those closeby who are in need?

“I believe that humanity is essentially good and

 that we are all interconnected

I believe that everything happens for a reason.

The Universe provides me with what I need

And Great Spirit is guiding me toward fulfillment.

Nature connects me with my soul.

I believe that life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest and that  I am here to help build peace in the world.”

 (excerpt from “Learning to Dance with Life” my #1 best selling book, p. 6)

What do you believe? …

What opportunities have presented themselves/are appearing for you in these uncertain and chaotic times?

How are you tapping into and expressing your creative side?

I invite and welcome your thoughts and comments below.

What habits are you choosing to release from 2019 and bring into 2020?

What habits are you choosing to release from 2019 and bring into 2020?

A habit is defined as: “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior … ; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary …: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition”  (Merriam-Webster dictionary – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit)

When we choose to make something a habit, we integrate it into our lives and regularly repeat it, so over time we don’t have to make a decision about whether or not to do it. Becoming consciously aware of the benefits a positive habit brings to you, such as a feeling of calmness and being grounded that comes from meditating daily, is beneficial. Such positive results support you to continue those behaviors.

What habits have served you well in 2019 that you wish to bring into 2020?

I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on those habits that have supported your physical, emotional, social and spiritual health and to writing them down.  A personal example is – The habits I commit to continuing in 2020 are:

  • Daily meditation
  • Daily stretch routine
  • Regular yoga classes (3 times/week)
  • Regular walks in nature (3 or more times/week)
  • Listening to my body and trusting in its wisdom.

What new habits do you wish to embrace in the New Year?

The new habits I commit to embracing are:

  • Unplugging from technology for 24 hours or more every weekend
  • Writing on a regular basis (i.e. 4 or more times/week for 20 minutes or more each time)
  • Ending my days reflecting on what I am grateful for and any lessons learned
  • Having regular massages and/or energy work (every 6 weeks to 8 weeks)
  • Becoming more conscious of living in the present moment and practicing mindfulness
  • Meeting with friends one or more times/week
  • Increasing the percentage of plants and legumes in my diet to 50 percent

What habits do I commit to letting go of/releasing in 2020?

  • Judging myself and others
  • The belief that in order to be loved and valued I need to perform and achieve each day
  • Spending so much time on the computer daily.

Writing down what you commit to, strengthens the possibility of you actually creating new habits and releasing old ones that no longer serve you.

I’d love to hear what habits you are bringing into 2020, what new ones you are creating and which ones you are choosing to let go of. I invite you to share your thoughts below.

How to Feel the Fear & Take the Leap

How to Feel the Fear & Take the Leap

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase: Just do it! OR Feel the fear and do it anyway. Sometimes these words are easier said than done.

I’m someone who has experienced a lot of changes throughout my life and taken my share of leaps. That said right now I feel some resistance to fully taking the leap into my new business focus and direction.  So I asked myself: What’s holding me back?

This is what came to me:

  • I will be so passionate that I will work night and day and burn out. I have a deep-seated belief (that I thought I had let go of) that If I throw myself passionately into something that I will lose my work-life balance and it will ultimately affect my health, relationships … Do you relate?
  • My fear of not giving enough
  • Fear of not spending enough time with family and friends.

Have you noticed any resistance or fears surfacing as you move toward your dreams for the New Year and a new chapter? If so, I encourage you to take some time to “go inside” and ask yourself: Why am I resisting moving forward? Notice what thoughts and emotions come up for you and where they are in your body. I invite you to journal about those thoughts and feelings.

If you notice a strong emotion coming up, identify where it is in your body. Notice what color it is and if there is a texture associated with it (e.g. dense, heavy, sharp). Breathe into it and say “Thanks for protecting me all of these years. I now choose to release and let go of you.” Then imagine that emotion in a bubble in front of you and thankfully release and let go of it. See it floating off into the sky or breaking into a million pieces. Then go back into your body. Imagine there is soft, golden healing light coming into your body from the top of your head down to your toes. Go to the place where you let go of the intense emotion and imagine an opposite emotion (e.g. happiness and fulfillment) and visualize what that looks like for you. It could be a glowing golden ball of light. Imagine that glowing golden ball of light on awakening each day and if/when the fear or resistance shows up. Know that you are loved, safe and protected.

If you’re still feeling the presence of a strong resistance or fear in your body I invite you to ask the question: For example; Why am I resisting creating a plan? For me, my logical left-brain says: “You know what to do. You teach people how to plan and facilitate strategic and operational planning sessions for organizations.” When I ask the question again and go into my body, what comes up is that at this point in my life I’m balking structure. Can you relate? I’ve spent so much of my life dreaming new dreams and starting new businesses and initiatives that part of me is tired and wants more ease and spontaneity.

Here are a few lessons that have supported me to “take my next leap” and that came to me when I asked: How can I move forward and have the healthy, happy, balanced and abundant life that I want in 2019?

  • Carve time out each day to nurture yourself whether it be a walk in nature, a yoga class or coffee with a friend.
  • Create a vision board and every morning look at it and say aloud: I’m so happy and grateful I’m living a life that includes … (and at the end say) this and MORE!” (tip from Mary Morrissey)
  • Put activities into your agenda to support you to do what you need to feel healthy, happy and fulfilled plus run a profitable business that you enjoy (or do work you love) that makes a positive difference in the world.
  • Plan to meet with one or more friends once a week or more for coffee and/or a walk
  • Listen to your body and if you feel you need a nature “hit” go for a walk through the park and/or by the ocean and take in all of the beauty that surrounds you
  • Reach out to one or more potential new clients each week day
  • Make time to do something creative several times a week. It could be writing a new blog or LinkedIn article, painting, dancing …
  • Remind yourself of your essence for this year (mine is “playfulness”), feel in your body how it feels to be playful and ask How can I be playful today?
  • Include at least one stretch (i.e. one thing that puts you out of your comfort zone) at least once a week.

I welcome your thoughts and experiences you’ve had when starting something new below. “What beliefs and emotions have come up for you? What strategies have you found helpful/that have enabled you to take the leap; to feel the fear and do it anyway?”

How to Stay Happy, Healthy & Mindful during the Holidays

How to Stay Happy, Healthy & Mindful during the Holidays

The holidays are a time of joy, laughter, connecting with family and friends, and celebration. They also may be stressful on our bodies, minds and “pocket books”. With our already busy lives, extra baking, shopping, gift-wrapping, and entertaining can make us feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Here are a few tips to help you to stay healthy, happy and mindful during the holidays and beyond.

  • Take time for you – Holidays are a time to give to others, and they are also a time to give to yourself. Schedule time in your day for that yoga class, to go to the gym, for that bubble bath. Rather than jumping out of bed each morning and “hitting the ground running”, do a full body stretch; close your eyes and scan your body from head to toe noticing any areas of tightness or discomfort. Breathe into those areas and release that tension or discomfort.
  • Spend time in nature at least 3 times a week (for 15 to 30 minutes or more). Being in nature is SOoo therapeutic. Focusing on the beauty that surrounds you takes your busy mind off that never-ending “to-do” list. Did you know that the Japanese have done longitudinal studies that show when we spend time in forests (they call it forest bathing or forest therapy) it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our body produces; which means it strengthens our immune system. During stressful times it is particularly important to keep our immune systems strong so we don’t end up with that flu or cold after our guests leave!
  • Celebrate YOU! At the end of each day identify at least one thing you want to celebrate about yourself for that day. It could be something you accomplished or how you responded in a stressful situation. When you constantly give to others without nourishing and celebrating yourself, you will become depleted and may also become resentful and/ or ill.

I’d love to hear your strategies for staying happy, healthy and mindful during the holidays. Please share them below. Feel free to pass this on to others you care about.

[1] Here is a useful resource on mindful eating: http://thecenterformindfuleating.org/

 

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