ENCOURAGING KINDNESS AND MINDFULNESS WITH THE HAPPYSELF JOURNAL
We've talked a lot about homeschooling recently and shared many learning and play resources to keep your little ones entertained but we're also aware that during these strange times, children might need additional help from a mental health point of view to allay any worries and fears. We sat down with Francesca Geens, founder of the The HappySelf Journal, to find out more about how to nurture enquiring minds and to encourage a positive mindset even in the most difficult of circumstances.
HI FRANCESCA, CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHAT IT IS THAT YOU DO?
I'm a mum to a 10 and 14 year old, former Art Historian and previously running a technology and productivity consultancy and started working on the journal as a side project. I launched in the summer of 2018 sending out all the orders myself from home whilst still working full-time. After a few months it quickly became apparent the journal was taking on a life of its own and it's been an amazing family adventure ever since.
We now ship to over 100 countries and the journal is available in 8 languages and I run the business full-time with my husband from our home in rural Kent. Luckily we now have a warehouse who deals with the fulfilment side of things and our home is free from boxes, envelopes and Royal Mail bags.
WHAT LED TO YOU SETTING UP THE HAPPYSELF JOURNAL?
As a mum I was especially concerned at the constant press and statistics around child and teen mental health. It seemed to me there was much focus on the rise of these problems and lack of resource to deal with it rather than anything on prevention. There is so much interesting research being done in the field of positive psychology and 'the science of happiness' which clearly shows that simple practices like gratitude have a profound impact on our mental and physical health. So I thought why not introduce these techniques and habits to our children and set the foundations for good mental health habits? I love pen and paper and beautiful stationery so the journal brings all of these things together.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN OF KEEPING A DAILY GRATITUDE JOURNAL?
Our journal is structured so as to introduce science backed habits like gratitude practice, kindness, mindfulness, time in nature, connecting with others, offline time etc. Now, more than ever, we need to know that doing these simple practices make a real difference to how we feel - and they have been shown to impact our health, immune system, happiness levels, resilience, confidence, sleep etc.
I also encourage parents to do the journal with their children as it leads to some lovely conversations and creates a safe space in which worries or other observations of the day get shared. I get told repeatedly that these conversations have brought up all sorts of topics, like bullying or worries at school, which the child had not otherwise felt comfortable talking about.
DO YOU THINK IT'S EVEN MORE IMPORTANT IN THE CURRENT CLIMATE?
With so much uncertainty and changes to our daily routines it's a good time to start journaling. It brings an important structure to the day and allows us a quiet time to reflect and process the day in a positive way.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER TIPS FOR HOW PARENTS CAN BEST SUPPORT THEIR CHILDREN IF THEY'RE FEELING WORRIED OR ANXIOUS ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW?
Being open and talking about it and making sure they know it's totally normal to have these feelings at the moment. Explain what you do yourself when you feel this way (and make sure they see you do these- like meditating, exercising or spending time with a journal) and find activities you can do to help reduce anxiety like baking, craft, staying active etc. Focussing on the positives also helps- good news stories (about people helping each other or recovering) or ways you can take action yourself (like helping neighbours) are also really good ways to stay positive.
AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW WE CAN BEST PREPARE OUR CHILDREN FOR WHAT LIES AHEAD ... POTENTIALLY BEING AWAY FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR SOME TIME LONGER?
As we don't know how long it will take before some sense of 'normality' returns I think it's important to look at ways to stay connected and come up with some new rituals like shared stories, colouring or games over Zoom with friends and family.
CAN YOU SHARE ANY HELPFUL TIPS FOR MUMS AND DADS TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE MINDSET, TOO?
I think there is lots we can do to impact how we feel. Being able to take some time for yourself is especially important- maybe to read, meditate or journal. Staying active, eating well, limiting news and social media and making sure you stay connected with friends and family. We are lucky that technology can help us with these. Having some sort of routine which allows us to bring these into our day, even if it's just 10 minutes, will have an impact on our mood and energy levels.
JOURNALING ASIDE, WHICH OTHER MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FOR YOUNG CHILDREN?
I find that children are really open to learning mindfulness techniques when they understand how these work - and that they are especially fascinated by neuroscience. Teaching breathing techniques, meditation (through apps like Headspace which has a dedicated children's section) and yoga are all great habits to embrace.
FINALLY, WHAT MAKES A HAPPY HOME FOR YOU?
A safe space to be yourself, have time for each other and feel at peace.
Thank you so much to Francesca for sharing such thoughtful and practical advice with us. Find out more about The HappySelf Journal here. And why not print off our Colour Me Happy colouring sheets created in collaboration with The HappySelf Journal? They're perfect for both children and grown ups to enjoy. Simply right click to save and then print off.
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