Butterflies

Butterflies
Last spring, Emilie was given a live butterfly garden kit for free at a yard sale. She lovingly stared at the box the whole way home, talking and talking about how she was finally going to have a real butterfly for a pet! I tried to explain that once the butterfly came out of its chrysalis, she would have to set it free. Emilie shrugged off my pessimistic comment and continued to explain why her butterfly would be different. She would love and care for her butterfly so well that it couldn’t possibly leave her. I smiled and then rolled my eyes.

Weeks passed, and we watched her science project come to life in the hanging basket strung up in the corner of her room. Every day, we would peek in and look to see if there were any changes yet. Then finally, one morning, the first butterfly emerged! In a few days, the rest of them would be ready and we would have to let the butterflies go free. While we all excitedly talked about the upcoming liberation, I could see the disappointment in Emilie’s eyes. When I asked her if everything was OK, she just shrugged her shoulders and walked away.

The day finally came to let the butterflies free, and the whole family gathered in front of the house to watch. On my way out, Emilie quietly pulled me aside and asked, “Do you think at least one butterfly will sit on my finger before it flies away?” I sheepishly smiled at her, not wanting to get her hopes up and simply said that I had never seen that happen before, but you never know!

The girls all gathered around the basket and Emilie began to unzip the lid and pull it back to let the butterflies out. One by one, each of the butterflies flew up into the sky and fluttered around the yard. Madeline and Samantha were ecstatic and screaming with excitement. Emilie, on the other hand, looked disappointed. She leaned up against her bike with a flat expression on her face. I knew she was sad that none of the butterflies had landed on her finger.

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I miss Em a lot lately. I miss everything about her sweet, beautiful face smiling up at me. It is sometimes hard to understand why I don’t still have my little butterfly. There are days when my face, I am sure, looks a lot like Emilie’s did the day we let her butterflies go. I want her to be with me. I want to hold her and listen to her constant talking. I pray for help, strength and patience to endure the longing my heart feels for my little girl.

Last week, I was having a particularly hard day. School was over and it was so beautiful outside that we decided to play in the backyard for a bit. Madeline and Samantha both jumped on the swings and I sat down on the grass to watch. A few minutes later, Madeline leapt off the swing and came running towards me pointing into the air and shouting for me to look up. A large, beautiful butterfly was flying by and softly landed on the ground in front of me. It was gorgeous!

Madeline bent down to get a closer look and said, “Mom, I think I want to hold it.” And I automatically responded, “Madeline, butterflies don’t really like…” My eyes widened and my heart stopped as I watched this beautiful butterfly walk right onto Madeline’s open hand. I couldn’t believe it. I truly had never seen something like that before. In that moment, I could feel my body being filled with love and happiness. I could feel her, my baby, with me. It was wonderful. Madeline held the butterfly up to her face to get a closer view and then smiled up at me with excitement. She then turned to Samantha and asked if she wanted a turn too.

Samantha excitedly held her hand next to Madeline’s and I watched in shock as the butterfly was passed easily over onto her hand. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was amazing! A few moments later, the butterfly flew away and I was left catching my breath, wondering if what I just saw really had happened at all.

Again, it was wonderful. It was… a good day.

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This post originally appeared on The Parker Five.

Celebrate Fall Foliage (PHOTOS)
The stress and strain of constantly being connected can sometimes take your life — and your well-being — of course. GPS For The Soul can help you find your way back to balance.

GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.

There’s something about the changing of leaves that makes us smile. As fall turns landscapes into an autumnal palette of colors, it’s a reminder that it’s never too late to seize the day and try something new. Let the leaves in this guide inspire you to make a change this fall that will keep you happy all year long.

For more GPS Guides, click here.

4 Ways to Change Your Mental Channel — And Tune in to a Better Mood
By Jan Bruce

If you can wish someone well, you will happier yourself. This is one of the most powerful lessons Chade-Meng Tan, Google engineer and mindfulness expert and author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

Carolyn Gregoire, who wrote about it in a recent post, points out one of the exercises Tan does during his lectures: Tells the audience to imagine two people, and do nothing but wish them happiness. He then says to spend 10 seconds each hour the next day wishing two different people well.

It’s a very simple act, seconds of an attention shift, that can make all the difference in the world. That’s because, as we teach at meQ, your attention, and thus your thoughts, determine your peace of mind. (Read more on how your thoughts affect your stress level.)

Take 10 seconds out of every hour during an eight-hour day, and that’s 80 seconds — less than two minutes — spent in an entirely different frame of mind. It might not seem like much, but it is.

What I love about this exercise is the simplicity, the focus, the way in which it makes you change the channel and in so doing, creates a burst of warmth, energy, and peace — which happens when we turn our attention toward a) someone besides ourselves, and b) a positive thought.

Change Your Channel

Here are a few more ways to change your mental channel — and your whole day — by tuning in to a better mood.

Give someone your undivided attention. Doesn’t seem like much — but we’re not as good at listening as we think. That’s because it’s so easy to be distracted, we feel rushed, and often, we interrupt in an effort to “fix” the situation. But sometimes all that person needs you to do is listen to her. That kind of nonjudgmental ear can do a lot for that person, and make you a better communicator. (More on how this reduces stress.)

Don’t take the bait. Just this time, let it go. Your loved ones, be it your mother, your sister-in-law, whomever, knows what buttons to push, and when they do it, it’s easy to fall into your same old reaction pattern. Just this once, tell yourself to let it slide off you and out of your attention. Don’t waste any energy on it. They love you, but you’ll gain nothing from taking the bait again. You may trigger a shift in your communication.

Do someone a solid. Taking even just a few minutes to do a friend, colleague, or your partner a favor can make a difference — not just to them either, but for you, too. The smallest act, be it making a call or an introduction, picking up something on the way home, or taking a simple task off their plate, will make you feel great. And they’ll never forget it. (More on how five-minute favor can change your day.)

Reflect on the good stuff. At the end of another busy workday, jot down the good stuff that happened and why it matters to you. This shifts your focus from the few flubs or disappointments, and onto the things that have the potential for growth, learning, and change. You’ll leave the office with a little more spring in your step. (See my post on how this practice can change the quality of your evening — and your health.)

Want to dramatically reduce your stress? Take our 28-day challenge.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, http://www.mequilibrium.com, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

For more by meQuilibrium, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

Computers Actually Might Not Be Making Us More Introverted
Do you only arise from the depths of your private room like a mystical unicorn once in a blue moon? Do you prefer Netflix to the company of other people? Do you mentally prepare yourself before going to a party?

If you answered “yes” to any, or all, of those questions, then you might be an introvert. Ironically, introverts are having a moment in the Internet spotlight. (The Huffington Post certainly has written plenty about them.)

In a new video, the PBS Idea Channel asks if the bookish caricature we see in popular culture is really what an introvert is, and if technology is making us more or less introverted.

It’s Simple, Easy And Free — And It Will Improve Your Health
The human body is made to move, but in today’s world, we don’t do nearly enough of it: As many as 50 million Americans, according to one count, are living sedentary lives.

But the simple act of walking is great for your health; research has linked it to a host of benefits, from a healthier weight to reduced fatigue to relief from stress and mild depression symptoms.

At the same time, the link between inactivity and chronic health problems has been firmly established. A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with lower life expectancy, slower metabolism, and increased risk of heart attack.

Walking is simple, easy — and free. And there are a few simple, er, steps that can supercharge your typical stroll. We combed the research and talked to Sue Parks, CEO of WalkStyles, Inc., and co-author of iCount: 10 Simple Steps To A Healthy Life, for some tips.

Here are seven ways to optimize your walks for maximum physical and mental health benefits.

Walk through a green space.

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In addition to the physical and mental health benefits of walking, spending time in nature has also been associated with stress-relieving and mood-boosting benefits. A 2010 University of Rochester study even showed that just 20 minutes spent in nature was enough to make people feel more alive.

“Nature is fuel for the soul,” University of Rochester psychology professor and lead author of the study, Richard Ryan, said in a press release. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”

Stuck in the city? Even a little greenery at your local public park could do the trick. A recent UK study found that walking through urban green spaces could put the brain into a state of meditation.

Keep track of your steps.

fitness tracker

If you have a largely sedentary lifestyle, using a device to track how many steps you’re taking each day (like the Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone Up or a plain-old-fashioned pedometer) could help encourage you to walk more often and longer in your daily life.

“A great start is a pedometer,” Parks says. “If someone wants to upgrade, great. But, a simple pedometer can make the world of difference, is simple to use and won’t break the bank.”

Making those changes starts with the awareness — which is where fitness trackers come into play, according to Mayo Clinic researcher Gabriel Koepp.

“Most of the folks I talk to that start wearing it have no idea how many steps they take per day,” Koepp told Good Morning America. “They think they’re active … but people find out they only have 500 or 2,000 steps per day, and it’s kind of an eye opener on the things they need to do for their health.”

Even if you’re already walking those often-recommended 10,000 steps per day, tracking might help incentivize you to keep up the good work.

Walk when you need to solve a problem.

walking meeting

The ancient Latin phrase solvitur ambulando translates to “it is solved by walking.” And that still rings true today: Walking can open the brain up to ideas and insights that may not have been possible while sitting at a desk staring at a screen.

“Several of my most complex problems have been solved during my walks,” Darya Rose recently wrote on Lifehacker. “Your brain truly appreciates a break from the screen.”

Get the right shoes.

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The right shoes are important, even for short walks. In addition to preventing injury, good walking shoes will keep you comfortable — which could increase the likelihood that you’ll get out and walk more in the future.

“Making sure you have comfortable shoes is huge, because if your feet hurt, the rest of you hurts,” says Parks.

Avoid extended walks in high heels or flip flops — both serious offenders when it comes to harming feet and throwing off the body’s natural alignment.

Make it mindful.

woman country walk

Walking has long been practiced as a meditative activity. When you’re in an urban area especially, make your walk more mindful by tuning into distractions, rather than shutting them out. Taking a stroll without paying any attention could mean missing out on the full stress-relieving benefits of walking, says Parks.

“Being focused and paying attention wherever possible — and untethering ourselves from technology so that we’re focused on what is around us — is really important,” she says. “You’ll notice all these things that you hadn’t noticed before.”

Try the Walking Meditations app to do a full guided meditation during your walk (so long as you’re in a quiet, safe area) or just go out for a 20-minute walk with the goal of being present to your body and surroundings with each step.

Walk with friends.

fitbit review

Walking can be an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends and family, and could offer the added mental health benefits of social support, which has been linked to boosts in mental health and even longevity.

Furry friends count, too! Research has found that people who own dogs are more likely to take regular walks — and to be generally more active, The New York Times reports.

Squeeze a walk in wherever and whenever you’re able.

walking city

“People have no time, and most think they have to go somewhere to exercise,” says Parks. “That becomes the daunting thing.”

Ultimately, according to Parks, any walk is a good walk — and the exercise will provide a number of physical and mental health benefits. Whether it means parking a little further from your office or taking an afternoon break to walk twice around the block, increasing your step count will always pay off, and it’s easier for most people than finding the time and energy for a longer workout.

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