Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from your vacation? This is how I felt after a recent trip to Michigan during my sons’ spring break. Admittedly, this trip was not a real vacation. You see, my family is in the throes of moving, so Chris and I spent the week searching for potential homes and plugging the boys into a new school they will attend when we make the transition. While we managed to squeeze in some family fun time, the trip was to be a productive week more than a restful time away. It is safe to say we felt sapped and zapped by the time we returned home.
Everyone was worn out from the early mornings, shared beds, missing naps and busy pace. Once home, the boys began back-biting and bickering with each other. I was on my last nerve. Have you ever felt like you have nothing left to offer? Well I sure did. At one point we loaded up for a grocery store run. I heard the boys volume increase and escalate. I quickly pointed out that our brain’s relational circuits were obviously OFF and we needed to take a breather.
First, we took a couple of minutes to breathe deeply and quiet ourselves. Deep breathing from your belly not only allows more oxygen molecules to travel to your brain but the brain has specific neurons that link our breathing to our state of mind here. I then announced it was time to practice appreciation. The boys were still offline and not very excited about this step so I offered an incentive. I said, “Whoever participates in the appreciation exercise can play at the playground once we leave the store.” As expected, this bonus grabbed their attention and they quickly volunteered to do the appreciation exercise.
We took turns sharing something we appreciated about each person in the car. As we were talking I started to feel lighter and I noticed the scowls on the boys faces were disappearing. Next, we took turns sharing about something that makes us smile. I asked questions to help the boys expand on the memory they were sharing in how the moment made them smile, and how the joy felt in their bodies. By the end of the discussion we were all smiling and giggling. The exercise turned around our sour moods and activated our brain’s relational circuits. Appreciation dramatically transformed the tone of our day. We enjoyed our time together at the grocery store. The boys were getting along. The teasing disappeared. We ended our fun with joy and play at the playground.
What could have been a painful, non-relational time of bickering, teasing and crying turned into a fun and engaging outing. Quiet and appreciation are skills that can go a long way to shift our moods and turn our dimmed relational circuits back on. When the brain’s relational circuits are on, our ability to navigate life and relationship dramatically increases. We better handle the moments fatigue and busyness threaten to rob our joy. Spend some time today reviewing moments of joy and appreciation then notice how you feel.