Putting the “New” in New Year. When in Doubt, Sing!
TLC GUEST BLOGGER: Barb Dorrington, MEd
Almost everyone chooses to come up with a New Year’s resolution. For myself, I’ve identified two goals, one for work and one for my personal life. My work resolution is to once again examine all the resources TLC has to offer. There are some new books, online courses and podcasts. Two exciting new resources that come to mind include “Brave Bart and the Bully,” which speaks to the issue of bullying with a focus on communication and skill building, and the Life Events Checklist, a screening tool that helps identify potentially traumatizing life events. Podcasts are also available like TLC Founder Bill Steele presenting on the role of private logic. This podcast will help us make sense of a child’s choices, especially when they do not make sense to us.
And how am I putting the “new” in new year personally? For me, “new” stands for notice, experiment and wonder. My personal resolution is to show more compassion for myself, especially when I forget things or when things drop out of my hands from growing arthritis. Is this a self-centered resolution? Not really. Brain research is showing that if we can be compassionate with self, we open the door to compassion for others. Compassion is about being connected to others with an inclination toward action. Relationships are essential to feeling safe, calm, useful and hopeful about the upcoming new year.
Empathy also has a lot more to do with the emotions and thoughts of others. Noticing others without judgment and seeing a situation with a “beginner’s mind,” as Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, would say, allows one to be positively curious. And curiosity fosters hope. Experimenting has to be with allowing oneself to make mistakes. By definition, an experiment is designed to determine an outcome, so there is no right or wrong here. My experiment this year is to demonstrate being more loving toward others. Not only do they benefit, but it is like putting on my own oxygen mask and loving myself. Finally, showing wonderment in a mindful way also allows me to be curious and imaginative in a non-judgmental way. Ultimately it is all about compassion for myself and others. This is exactly the recipe for the positive attachment and support we want to promote when working with children with traumatized histories.
So where does singing come in? Well it is kind of like a social experiment. When we sing, we trigger our brain to hear calming and self-regulating sounds. As Stephen Porges, a professor of biological psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, notes, in singing, we do everything right for our social engagement system. We connect, especially if we sing in a group, we listen, we breathe in and exhale in a controlled way, and we are using our all important mouth muscles. Porges referred to this as “yoga for our social engagement system.” More ideas like this are interwoven in the many courses and resources TLC offers.