So, are you one who still hasn’t developed goals for the New Year? Are you more focused on your child’s IEP goals with no time left to think about yourself or your family as a unit? Don’t worry, you are not alone. But, don’t give up, it’s not too late.
Here are my tips for experiencing your best year yet! I warn you, these suggestions may surprise you as they have less to do with productivity and more to do with reducing stress and enjoying life’s journey. I believe that by focusing on increased laughter, sleep, and time outdoors in nature, we are giving our bodies space to refuel. As I have started becoming more intentional in each of these areas, I can attest that I feel happier and am more empowered for whatever comes my way as a wife, special needs parent, and business owner. So, let’s begin…
This month, I posted about the therapeutic benefits of laughter on my social media outlets. Why laughter?
~It stimulates many organs and increases endorphin release in your brain. This "feel good" chemical can help to improve your overall well-being and quality of life. Who doesn't need that?
~Laughter activates, and then cools down your stress response. This makes you feel relaxed for up to 45 minutes after a good laugh.
~Laughter stops distressing emotions. You can't be depressed or angry and laugh at the same time. So, the next time you get down in the dumps about your life or your child's situation, think about something funny that your child did or said and laugh!
Laughter also has the ability to strengthen relationships, enhance teamwork and diffuse conflicts. All of these are welcomed in our home, how about you?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) set new recommendation averages for sleep in 2015:
~Young children (ages 1-5) should average 10-14 hours/day
~School-Age/Teens (ages 6-17) should average 8-11 hours/day
~Young Adults/Adults (ages 18-64) should average 7-9 hours/day
So, there is no condemnation parents if you or your kiddos are not getting the right amount of sleep. For all of us, I am sure that there is room for improvement. But let’s consider why improving our sleep habits can be important.
Benefits of SLEEP
Researchers at Harvard and Boston College found that sleep may help enhance the creative process. It has been also found to decrease anxiety in adults and improve attention and learning in children. Researches added that severe and consistent sleep deprivation can impair learning. However, it is suggested that we try to find a way to improve our sleep each night, as sleeping longer on weekends does not yield the same results.
Tips for Improving Sleep
~Be consistent! For individuals with Autism, consistency is key when learning new concepts. Try to develop a sleep routine and stick to it. Adding a picture list or social story to show the routine may be helpful
~Reduce visual stimulation as you get closer to bedtime. For example, we shut off tablets and T.V. at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This helps our kids’ brains to start winding down.
3. Get Outdoors
I must admit that my husband is much better at getting outdoors than I am. I believe it comes from his years of living in a rural community and my years of living in the city. He was even wise enough to use this passion in caring for our children. One day when our daughter with Autism, “Amazing Grace”, was quite fussy as an infant, my husband decided to take her outside for a walk. It was magical how she calmed down almost instantly. He and I began to use this strategy regularly with the same results. I was so excited to see this simple yet powerful remedy in action.
What are the benefits to being in nature?
~Improves mental health, such as a reduction in depression
~Rigorous activity outdoors translates to better academic performance
~Reduces stress levels and increases feelings of happiness and overall better health
So, no matter what your goals are for the New Year, consider taking time to increase the amount of laughter, sleep and time spent outdoors for your family. This may translate into significant benefits for everyone.
Comment below and let me know about one of your top goals for 2018. Let's support each other in the journey!
health.com (2013), https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-benefits-of-being-outdoors_us_5938266ce4b014ae8c69dce0
Crystal Sanford, M.Ed., M.A. CCC-SLP has practiced in the field of speech-language pathology since 1998. As a licensed clinician and fellow parent, Crystal's passion is supporting families of Autism and related social language challenges. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her husband and two children in San Diego, CA.