Pyramid Psychology Article

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness – for Teen Girls (and Parents too!) You know that feeling you get when you’re having a great time with your best friend or you’re doing something you love so much… that feeling of happiness? Well, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness when it comes to my own life and the world of the teen girls I work with. 

Oftentimes, they tell me how little they experience joy, motivation, excitement, contentment, peace, and happiness. Their lives are filled with stress, anxiety, pressure, sadness, and sometimes feeling nothing. The thought-feeling loops continue to feed each other, whether it’s sadness, anxiety or whatever they are experiencing. And it’s hard to break out of those cycles once they get started. As a parent looking from the outside-in, you might feel the urge to scoop them up in a great big hug and tell them it’s all going to be ok or shake them (gently) and say please snap out of it!

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

I’ve decided this month to do some digging into this thing called happiness. I’m just chipping away at the tip of the iceberg and learning there is so much to this concept- What is happiness? Why do humans seek it? How much influence do we have over our own happiness? 

I’ll be going down the rabbit hole a few times this month, I’m sure. I’ve started my journey of rediscovering happiness by reading “The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin” and I’m taking the Science of Happiness course by Berkeley University of California. 

Research suggests that a person’s happiness is made up of things like their genes and circumstances, but up to 40% is determined by a person’s daily actions! So, in fact, your daughter (and you) have a lot of sway when it comes to your levels of happiness. I want to backtrack a minute because the definition of happiness and the interpretation of what that means can be so different for people- so for the purposes of this article, when I’m saying happiness, I’m thinking about her subjective interpretation of well-being (how good am I feeling right now and overall, how satisfied am I with my life).

Whether you’re a parent of a teen girl or you’re a teen, let’s get into some practical ways you can start bringing more happiness into your life:    

What makes me feel happiness? 

You are uniquely you. From your personality to your interests and strengths, you have your own unique profile. In order to bring more happiness into your life, a good place to start is to know what makes you happy. It will most likely change over time, you’ll add new things to your list and drop others. If you stop and think to answer that question, what comes to mind?

I asked myself and a few others in my life and these are just some of the ideas that came up – 

  • Hearing people laugh
  • Being near water
  • Learning new things
  • 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Photo by Liz Sanchez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

    Completing a goal or task

  • My daughter, best friend, partner, mom, dad, etc. 
  • My dog, cats, hamster, etc.
  • Gatherings with the people I love
  • Loud family dinners
  • Hiking
  • Reading 
  • Heavy blankets
  • Being in nature/outdoors
  • Watching my kid do their thing
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Good morning texts
  • Playing hockey
  • Smell of freshly fallen leaves
  • Receiving small gifts
  • A massage
  • Travelling with my sister
  • Listening to music
  • The sound of the ocean
  • Singing birds
  • Quality time with loved ones
  • Yoga
  • Cup of tea
  • Funny movies
  • An afternoon nap
  • Dancing

What’s on your list?

 

Happiness – See it, Feel it, Hear it, Taste it, Smell it

I’m a food person- like I can truly appreciate the most delectable meal and feel like I am in tastebud heaven. My mom makes the most amazing manicotti. Just writing about it reminds me of the  warm savoury tomato-cheese smell, the flavour explosion when I take a bite and the popping colour contrasts of the spinach, tomatoes, and pasta. In that moment and even now thinking about it, it puts a smile on my face.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Florendia Vaidana on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Some say happiness is found in the pleasures we experience in life. Whether it’s what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, etc., paying attention to your world through your senses can turn the decibels up on your happiness. 

You can try this a couple of ways. First, try thinking of something you already know makes you happy. It might be something from the list you created above. Let’s say you pick being with your best friend. Try thinking of that person and the thing you might be doing together and imagine what you see in front of you. Imagine your best friend’s characteristics, what they are wearing, the space you are hanging out in, the colours and objects surrounding you. 

Ok now try imagining what you would hear, your best friend’s voice, their laughter, music or noise playing in the background, a familiar buzz of the place you’re hanging out in, etc. Do this with all of your senses and really experience that thing that makes you happy in full way. You can do this exercise at any moment to recall that great feeling and bring happiness into your present moment. You can also try this exercise while you’re doing the thing you enjoy and take a few seconds to check-in through each of your senses. 

The second exercise you can do to bring more happiness through your senses is to actively treat yourself to more pleasure. Think of things that are pleasing to each of your senses and include those as much as you can in your daily routine. Below are a few ideas for each sense.  

Visual/seeing

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Roman Melnychuk on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

  • Decorate your room with your favourite words or colours
  • Wear clothing that appeals to you
  • Get outside in nature and look around
  • Read a book
  • Hang a new piece of art
  • Choose a new background for your phone/computer/tablet
  • Paint 

Feeling/touch

  • Pick out clothing that feels nice to the touch
  • Add some new bedding
  • Fidgets
  • Take a bath
  • Pet a soft animal
  • Get a massage/give yourself a massage
  • Dress extra cozy

Hearing/sound

  • Make/play a favourite upbeat playlist
  • Try sound dampening for a period of time
  • Listen or watch something funny
  • Listen to sounds of nature (e.g. waterfalls, rivers, animals, etc.)
  • Try autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)

Smell

  • Bake/cook
  • Use essential oils 
  • Make a cup of hot chocolate
  • Hug your favourite person and give them a good sniff (I know sounds a little bizarre- but trust me)
  • Smell your favourite article of clothing
  • Use a really nice smelling shampoo
  • Think of the smells of nature you most enjoy
  • Remember smells from your childhood that remind you of happy memories
5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Canva. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Taste

  • Bake/cook
  • Take your time when eating something you enjoy
  • Use flavoured gum or mints
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Experiment with new foods/drinks

Bringing happiness to the greatest number of people

Turns out when you do things for others it actually boosts your own happiness. It is kind of a mind over matter thing in some ways. If you’re grumbling and not really happy about doing the thing for the other person, likely you won’t get the happiness perks. But if you are doing something kind for someone else or you feel like you are contributing to someone else’s well-being in some way, you will also reap the benefits of increased happiness. Volunteering or joining a group that has the wellness of others in mind is a great way to do this. You can also look at singular acts, like making or getting a thoughtful gift for someone, helping someone with their chores, offering to lend a hand without being asked, asking someone about their day, sending someone a “I’m thinking of you” text, etc. It doesn’t have to a huge gesture, anything that adds to the happiness factor of another person, will count towards yours as well.  

Connection and Happiness

As a general rule, people are social beings. You benefit from feeling connected to others and it’s a pretty natural desire that most of us have. To take control of your happiness in this area, think about the current friendships and relationships you have. Who is a part of your inner circle? Do they have your back, lift you up, support you? 

You can think of the people in your world and put them into 3 basic categories – you have your toast, sweet milk, and your sour grapes. Looks like I’m making this about food again. Your toast people are kind of plain, neutral if you will. They are the people you might consider acquaintances, maybe you talk to them sometimes, maybe they are part of a larger friend group or a relative you don’t see that often, and you really don’t have a ton of positive or negative associations with them. You also have your sweet milk people. They are the people you most like in this world. They have your back, treat you well, support you, you enjoy their company most of the time, and you have positive feelings towards them. Then you have your sour grapes. They are the people that don’t treat you well, maybe they lie, break promises, backstab, bully, are two-faced, and overall when you think of them you are probably conflicted or feel pretty negative about them. 

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash. 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

In order to boost your happiness, you want to put time and energy into your sweet milk people. The more you focus on those relationships and making those a top priority the less room it leaves for sour grapes to spoil the day. Chances are you’ll also have many more moments of positive feelings when you’re with your sweet milks. Don’t have a lot of sweet milk people in your life?

Here are a few articles on how to meet new people:

Move your body to find happiness

I know, it probably doesn’t need to be said, sleep and exercise are good for you. You know this, I’m sure. Happiness is something that is felt in the body just as much as in your mind. You can use movement in your body to up your levels of happiness. Mercey Livingston wrote an article here on 4 ways exercise makes us happier and Dr.Debra Fulghum Bruce  writes about the chemical responses that happen in our body and how to consider the “right” movement for you.

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Teens in image used in article on this blog called, 5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Whether you are dancing, running, doing yoga, skiing, walking, hiking, going to the gym, playing a sport, stretching, or standing in your power poses, physical movement is a great way to increase happiness. It’s important to start where you are and move from there. If you do very little movement throughout your day and you imagine yourself exercising each day, but that seems impossibly unmotivating, start small. Take your dog for a short walk, call a friend and walk through the mall or shoot on some basketball hoops, choose a beginner workout video and follow along, etc. Be kind to yourself through the process and watch as your happiness meter climbs.

 


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

My Teen Doesn’t Have A Lot of Friends – Should I Be Concerned?

I’ve had parents mention some concern about their teens only having 1 – 2 friends… Is this something to be concerned or worried about?

Having friends and changes in friendships are a very normal process for teens and their identity development – at different times we all have different people in our lives. Teens are going through that process right now, figuring out what type of people they want in their lives.

There are  some factors that may lean your teen towards wanting a small friend group. For example, if they are a little more introverted – or have introverted qualities – or maybe they feel most connected in close, intimate relationships.

I remember my middle school self – I got along well with a lot of my peers, but I really just had this one friend – she and I spent a ton of time together. She had this electric keyboard and we would hang out all weekend and write parody songs together. We had a blast! I just had the one close friend, really. And that was great for me.

So I think it depends on where your teen is at with having just one to two friends. If those two friendships are really close, good friendships, that makes a big difference.

Photo by Ana Municio on Unsplash

Questions to Ask

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when it comes to your teen’s friendships:

  • Does our teen enjoy spending time with their friend(s)?
  • Is your teen saying or are you noticing behaviours indicating they may want more friends?
  • Do they seem satisficed with their friend groups?

Whether your teen has lots of friends or just a few, there are other elements that are more important.

Other Things At Play

It’s important to recognize if this is a preference thing, or if there is something else at play. 

Does your teen need to work on social skills? Confidence?

Consider how this might be getting in their way of making friends. If these skills are missing or underdeveloped, it can be really challenging for teens to make or keep friends.

It is important not to assume here. Ask your teen about their friend group – get to know how they see their friendships and what they value about them. In lending a curious ear, you may learn more about whether this is a preference, or their way of bei

ng, or if there are underlying difficulties or challenges that are preventing them from making more friends? If you discover your teen is really shy and strugglin

g to with talking to others, check out this blog I wrote just for them: How to Get Past The Shy: 4 Conversation Tips for Teens.

Something to Think About

One thing to consider is asking yourself if your concern is something that is coming from a projection of your experience growing up, or something you experienced as a teen. It can be helpful to practice a little self-reflection on your own friendships growing up and how that might impact the way you view your teen’s friendships. It might also lend itself to having empathy for your teen’s friendship woes as they come up. What were your friendships like? What were some things that were difficult with relationships?

Check-in with yourself and see if there’s a bit of parallel with your own experiences when you were younger.

Love,
Chantal


If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook – thank you!

Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.

To connect, send an email to info@pyramidpsychology.com


 

4 Conversation Tips for Teens: Getting Past the Shy

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

A lot of teens have been saying to me lately that they are unsure how to start up conversations with people or keep conversations going. If feeling shy is part of the issue, this blog article with conversation tips is for you!

Here are the four tips on how to better your conversations, meet people and feel more confident:

Conversation Tips #1: Pay Attention to Your Inner Critic/Voice

What is your self-talk saying to you? What labels does it give you? I’ve heard teens that I work with say ‘I’m shy, I’ll just screw up, I don’t know what to talk about, etc.” Pay attention to the messages your inner critic is saying about your ability to have conversations.

Once you have awareness of that, you can start to think about what your goal is when it comes to talking to others. What do you want to be able to do in your conversation with others? What would it be like to have a good conversation? 

Photo by Anne Nygard on Unsplash

Try the following ladder exercise to begin changing what your inner critic is saying and increase your confidence with conversations.

First, imagine someone who is really good at conversations – Is it someone you know? A friend or an adult in your life?  What do you notice about the way they have conversations? What are some things they are saying? What do you imagine their inner voice says to them about talking to others. Some examples of things they might be thinking or saying:  ‘I’m a people person, I have lots to say, I’m confident, I’ve got this, I’m good at talking to people, etc.’ 

Picture a ladder, with the top of the ladder representing your ideal thought about having conversations; the version of you that is great at talking to others is at the top of the ladder!

Take a look at that ladder and think about where your thoughts are right now – maybe they are somewhere in the middle or towards the bottom – and imagine each rung is one step closer to being a confident conversationalist.

There are two things needed to move up the ladder (picture needing both hands to climb a real ladder – you move your left hand up, and then your right, left, right, etc.) Your left hand is like your inner game; When you practice changing what your inner voice is saying, to more confident thoughts. Your right is the tactile game; actually going out and doing the talking/practicing.

Conversation Tips #2: Ask Questions or Share A Compliment

Some tactile tips that teens have shared with me are:

Tip #1 Ask a question (people generally like talking about themselves). Be curious about them! Asking open-ended questions is helpful here, which are questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” like Did you see that movie? Try instead, What movies have you watched lately? What did you like best about the book we read in class? How did you figure out the assignment today?

Tip #2 Compliment someone. It has to be an authentic, genuine compliment. Really faking it will be felt by the other person. But if you see something you like that someone is wearing or doing, it’s okay to say it. Something like “that’s a really cool t-shirt, did you buy it at ….? No? Where did you buy it?” 

Conversation Tips #3: Scroll Social Media for Topics to Talk About

Another thing I’m hearing teens say is that they don’t have anything interesting to say. This is where social media can be your sidekick! If you’re interested in specific topics like politics, social justice, sci-fi, fashion, exercise, environmentalism, etc., you can look them up and find information so you have things to chat about. It doesn’t matter what you’re drawn to, scrolling a bit can help you find things that interest you so you have something to bring to the conversation. You don’t have to know everything about it. Just a little.

If you’re still a little stuck, here are 120+ conversation starters by Cheeky Kid to get you started! Remembering just a few of these will be a helpful conversation tool to have in your back pocket.

Conversation Tips #4: Get Out of Your Head

Once you’ve worked on your inner critic and have some topics to discuss, you’ll be using your right hand on your ladder (remember that’s the tactile side) to practice real conversations.

Sometimes while we’re in a conversation we get stuck in our head. So we’re worried about what we’re going to say instead of listening to what the other person says. And often if we actually listen to the other person, that can be enough to get us to the next level.

Photo by Alex Quezada on Unsplash

If you’re in your head thinking “what am I going to say next, what am I going to say next” it can be a slippery slope.

Stop and listen. Be in the moment. Some ways you can stay present are:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Push your feet against the ground and notice the feeling.
  • Focus on a physical feature of the person – look at their eyes or their lips for example.
  • Try out the mindful/being present exercises in this article by Positive Psychology to make being present a common part of your life.

 

If you love to read, I recommend checking out The Teen’s Guide to Social Skills: Practical Advice for Building Empathy, Self-Esteem, and Confidence.

And remember to BE YOU! There’s nobody quite like you. If you need a little reminder on why being you is the best way to be, you can read my article The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to Be Yourself.

Love,
Chantal


If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook – thank you!

Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.


 

10 Ways to Survive the Holidays with Your Bestie During a Pandemic

I was taking a socially distanced walk with one of my best friends the other day and I felt so grateful to see her in person, hear her voice, and laugh and complain about life – especially during the holidays –  with one of my favourite people in the world.

It got me thinking about friendships and how important it is to connect with friends and people who bring us up, especially in your teen years! Friends can be the anchors that help you get through everything. They can be the fuel that encourages you to go for it. They can be the rock that is there for you, kind, genuine, trusting, and loving you just the way you are.  With a lot of the country going into some form of lockdown over the holidays, those moments of being together and hanging out with friends are going to be trickier to have.

Photo by Harold Wijnholds on Unsplash

Here are 10 ideas on how you can get through the holiday season with your besties this year (in no particular order):

1. Go For a Walk  Find a spot and go walking or hiking together. You can explore and talk and there’s the added bonus of moving your body which is a great mood lifter.

2. Bake Cookies Together (virtually that is) – Set a time to meet virtually and pick an activity whether it’s baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, painting a picture, making an ornament, etc. Once you have the activity in mind, each of you gather materials or one of you gather materials for both and do a drop off at the other’s house. Hop on-line and let the magic and laughter begin.

3. Try a Class Together  Another virtual option is to try a class together. You can challenge yourselves to a workout, dance, yoga, art class and much much more. You can start here for some upcoming events.

4. Enjoy the Snow – Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating… Getting out there in the snow gives you some face to face
Chantal

Photo By Nicolas Gras on Unsplash

5. Gaming Together – Need I say more?

6. Do Something for Others – Inspired by my friend (thanks Mel!) Helping others feels good over the holidays is even better alongside a friend. Meet up with your friend and shovel driveways together or break up the ice on the sidewalks. You can find ideas that easily allow you to be distanced and safe while helping others. The community will appreciate your good deed. And bonus – you get to hang out with your friend.

7. Start a Group Chat – Having a group chat can be a great way to stay connected. Make it a place where friends can drop funny photos, memes, and quotes to get you through the day. Your group chat can put a smile on your face and let you know you are not alone.

8. Drop Off a Gift – Doing a little surprise drop off for a friend can make their day and let them know you are thinking of them. You can even consider making something yourself, so it’s extra special. There are some great DIY ideas you can start with here.

9. Make a Tik Tok – Make a Tik Tok video and dedicate it to your bestie. You can also make a Tik Tok together or come up with friend challenges that you can participate in together in a fun way.

10. Mail Something to Each Other – You and your friend can agree to write each other a letter or make a card and then send it by snail mail. It can be fun and different to receive mail this way!

Add to the list – Let’s keep the list going! What other ideas do you have to get through the holidays with your friends this year?

If you are struggling with your friendships and you want to learn who to let into your squad of BFF, follow me on Instagram for weekly ideas and tips: @therapywithchantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to Be Yourself

A teen was saying the other day how they were tired of changing their personality to match their friend group – they said “it’s hard to be yourself”. Have you ever thought, “if I act like myself how will people react?” and “what if they judge me? Changing your personality or the way you behave in order to make friends and fit in will likely leave you in inner chaos and feeling completely dissatisfied.

​If you want to feel good in your skin and be yourself, even if it feels like a scary possibility, consider these 10 reasons below on why being yourself is best.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

10 REASONS WHY BEING YOURSELF IS BEST

1. More to Offer – If you spend your time and energy trying to act like everyone else, your thoughts, feelings and personality get lost in the mix. Being a copy of someone else is like eating the same food every single day; it can get to be kind of dull. When you stop putting all that energy into changing who you are, you will be able to let your unique personality shine through and you will have so much more to offer.

2. Independence – Part of being a teen is starting to gain more independence and a sense of self. Getting to know what you like, believe in, and think is an important part of growing up. The more you get to know and show this part of yourself, the more agency you grow. That’s your ability to act independently and make your own free choices. Sounds good right?!

3. The Best of Friends – When you change who you are to fit in, you are not likely to be spending your time with “your people”. It might be hard to get along with your friends and you may realize that they are not true friends. When you start behaving like yourself, it is like a compass finding the best kind of people and best kind of friends in your life.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

4. More fun– Being guarded or watching what you say, think, or feel takes a lot of effort. It’s like putting up a fortress around you and constantly watching for chips or cracks in the foundation. Letting that guard down and being yourself means you can focus your attention on doing the things you love and having fun doing them.

5. Discover Your Talents – Everyone has skills and unique talents to share with others. In order to develop them, you need time to discover them. Being yourself allows you to figure out what it is that you like and what you’re good at. Everyone benefits from that!

6. Within Your Control – Spending your time constantly worrying about what others think is like throwing money in a shredding machine – it gets you nowhere. There is a much bigger impact you can have on yourself and others, and that is to recognize what is outside of your control and what is within your control. For example, others thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are not things you have any control over. You may be able to influence people, but ultimately their choices are theirs. Now, your own thoughts and behaviours are definitely something that are within your control and within your ability to choose. Your response is also within your control. You choose how you want to respond to others and to situations. Would you rather be worrying all the time or having fun with people who like you for you? You get to choose.

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

7. Boost Your Confidence – Being yourself might seem risky at first, but this risk is worth the effort. Your confidence depends on your ability to take risks. The more risks you take that move the needle towards the person you want to be, the easier it gets and the more it boosts your confidence. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or scary, but it does mean it will be worth it.

8. Dust Yourself Off – Part II of boosting your confidence. I don’t want to sugarcoat things so I am going to say that sometimes acting like yourself might feel like a total bust or a failure. If that happens, know that failure is something that everyone experiences and it also boosts your confidence. How you handle failure is the key. So, if being yourself means you lose a friend, gaining a new true friend is now a possibility. If being yourself means you stop participating in a certain group, finding a new group who like the same things will now be an option.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

9. Discover Your Hobbies – Changing yourself to fit others molds is kind of like sitting on the sidelines instead of being in the game. If you commit to being yourself, you will start to find things that you enjoy and get to do those.

10. Live Adventures – Speaking of sitting on the sidelines, getting to know who you truly are (and you are changing all the time) allows you to be living your life instead of watching it go by. Adventures and experiences that you might see others having on social media or in your peer groups can be yours to have. Or even better, you can be creating your own adventures. And I don’t know about you, but living my life sounds much better than watching others live theirs.

It’s not always easy to be yourself. It starts with taking the first step. A mentor once told me, “be yourself and the world will adjust” and I think they were onto something pretty good.

Sincerely,

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

The Hate Kids Give in School – How to Help When Your Teen is Being Bullied

Your daughter comes home in tears because a peer said some nasty things about a picture of her on social media. Teens will be teens? No. This kind of thinking isn’t going to cut it. ​Whether it is verbal, social, physical or cyber, Bullying Canada states if someone is hurting or scaring another person on purpose and that person is having a hard time defending themselves- This is bullying. ​

I’ve definitely heard the concerns from parents- if I get involved will I not making make it worse?  If I get involved, am I not just enabling them to never learn how to figure out their own problems? There are ways to get involved that can empower teens while letting them know they are not alone.

As a parent you might notice a gut wrenching feeling taking you back to your teen experiences with bullying. Whether you were a bystander, the one doing the bullying, or the one being bullied, everyone has a story of bullying.

Just the other day, I was sharing with my kids about my experiences of being teased about my curly hair when I was younger. My kids responded to this story with empathy and a desire for justice. This reminded me that as parents, you and I can be a part of the solution when it comes to bullying.

If you want to help your teens stand against bullying, even though it’s a complex social issue, here are some things to consider:

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES AND VALUES

You can use your experience, even if you were a bystander or the person bullying. There are lessons and insights you can put forth for your teens to consider.

Focus on sharing your values and on how you want to behave as a human and let those guide these conversations (e.g. kindness or caring). Actions speaks loudly- consider how you are showing and living your values daily.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

TEACHING ASSERTIVENESS AND CONFIDENCE SKILLS

Assertiveness is different from aggression. Being assertive is standing up for the things you think, feel, and believe by expressing yourself in a way that is honest and respectful of others thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

This includes being open, listening to others, being accountable, apologizing for mistakes, expressing yourself, seeing your fellow humans as equal, sharing your appreciation of others. The best way to do this is by modeling it!

Consider the way you talk about others in front of your teen (or in general). Think about the interactions between your teen and yourself- are you open and listening? Do you name it when you make a mistake? Are you ok with disagreeing on viewpoints? Do you let them know when you appreciate something they’ve done or the way they’ve behaved?  

It’s a work in progress.

The next best thing to modeling is capturing teachable moments and jumping on those brief  but important conversations.

Remember teens are really orienting to their peers so knowing their friends and the groups where they spend their time will also help you have an idea of what they are learning and being influenced by.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

BUILD ALLIES

Always encourage your teen to tell someone they trust if they are being bullied or witnessing bullying – you, a teacher, coach, guidance counsellor, etc. It can be really hard to share if someone is hurting or scaring you, so be patient with your teen and keep those invitations open.

Remind your teen they are not alone- and reassure them that you are part of their squad. Proceed in a collaborative way with your teen by asking them how they would like to handle the situation and who they think could help support.

*** Ok this may sound contrary to what I just said but it is important to know there will be times when your teen will ask you to tell no one. Listen to them and their concerns about sharing, show them compassion, and let them know that you may still have to reach out to others in order to change things and support them.

Encourage your teen to find friendships that are supportive (on-line and in person). If your teen does not have those friendships already, consider how you might support them in that area. Encouraging them to join a group, club, trying a new hobby or volunteering can be great ways to meet new people.

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

CHECK OUT ONLINE RESOURCES

The internet has so much information on bullying as well as specific steps to take to help resolve situations. Do some research and share the really interesting stuff you find with your teens. Here are a few ideas:

There are also great resources online with the aim of letting teens know they are not alone in their experiences. Here are a few resources you can check out:

​*** This is nowhere near an exhaustive list- please find and add in the comments what you find 😊


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Feelings As Visitors: How To Welcome All Feelings Even The “Bad” Ones

  

Learning From Our Feelings 

Ok today we’re writing about tricky feelings, those feelings that are difficult to experience, those that are pleasant, and feelings in general. I want to highlight that our relationship with our feelings is pretty important and if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better. 

​I’ve decided to start by sharing a poem that I find quite profound and helpful in how I experience feelings. I like this poem for many different reasons, but mainly because, for me, it talks about how we can have a relationship with feelings and experience feelings in a way that isn’t scary. If we spend less time trying to avoid or deny a feeling and more time listening and learning about it,  the experience may be easier to have and may teach us something.

Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,

Feelings Don’t Last That Long

Learning and listening to our feelings may open the door to opportunities, as Rumi said, and the reality is feelings don’t necessarily last as long as we think. Feelings come and go and are constantly changing, but we may tend to perceive them as lasting a long time or not lasting long enough.

I saw a post on social media that shared a picture with two lines. The top line symbolized
How long we think a feeling is going to last.

Beneath it was another line that symbolized
How long a feeling actually lasts.

​What it showed is typically we anticipate that tricky feelings are going to be more intense, last much longer, or be more scary than they actually are. It’s important for me to say that feelings are legitimate and some feelings are very difficult and painful to experience. YES, this is true and this is the human condition. Even those feelings don’t continually happen, we kind of tend to bob in and out of them in the mix of all our other experiences.

So this topic is about how to deal with tricky feelings and feelings that are difficult to have.

​In our society, we are kind of taught to do a couple things with feelings.

One of them is to chase or gather a feeling that we really love. Say for example the feeling of happiness, excitement or joy. We’re always striving to have that feeling and have lots of that feeling, you know like the pursuit of happiness. In this case there is often a scarcity mentality, like there is just never enough of that feel good emotion. We can also become concerned about moments we are not feeling those more positive feelings, sending us on a futile hunt.

Another thing that we’re taught is not let ‘bad feelings’ in or to avoid, deny, or change them. There seems to be messages of shame around experiencing certain emotions that are perceived as negative like anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, etc.

if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better

If you imagine yourself as a little person inside a house and you think about feelings as visitors or guests, there are some that we openly invite in,

“oh yes, come on in and take up all the space you need”,

feelings like happiness, joy,  peace, or calm.

Then there are other feelings like sadness, pain, or anxiety that we decide “I don’t want to have this feeling” so we slam the door in their face.

The thing is these guests, the feelings, don’t just go away like that. They are quite persistent that they have something to share with you, and will just keep trying to find a way to get in. Those feelings end up kind of sticking around a lot longer than they need to, which can cause problems.

 

Photo by Canva

Thinking of feelings as guests or visitors, like Rumi wrote about and another book I will share with you, allows us to interact with them in a very curious way instead of being scared or reluctant to experience feelings, even if it’s one we think may not be great to have around.

The book ‘Visiting Feelings’ by Lauren Rubenstein is a great resource. It has beautiful artwork and a poetic tone to the writing. This book invites people to consider what a feeling might look like, sound like, feel like, and takes a curious approach to feelings.

I really wanted you to take a moment to sit with that possibility. Feelings as visitors, as guests.

Temporary. Impermanent. Not forever.

They will not last forever: good, bad, or terrible. I want to invite you to think about the different feelings you experience everyday and approach them with curiosity rather than judgement.

​Consider asking the following questions of your feelings:

What does this feeling want me to know? What does it need right now? What is one thing I can do to learn more about it? Can I journal, draw, talk to someone about it, build it with clay, splatter paint to represent it, blast music that sounds like it?

Box Journaling

 

If you’re onboard with this idea of feelings as visitors or at least onboard with trying it out, I would invite you to try a journaling exercise. There are so many ways to journal and I am going to share one as I was inspired by Carla Sonheim, who shared this in a webinar.

Ok in reviewing my video above, I chuckled because I don’t quite know my left from my right, but rest assured the concept of box journaling is legitimate. I like box journaling because it combines free flowing ideas and creativity, as well as, some structure and idea prompting so that you can come away with an idea or an action to take that might be helpful.

For box journaling you will need a sheet of paper and a black marker (you can use a pen or pencil also). If you have pencil crayons or coloured markers, you can also use those. Start out by drawing a large box on your paper. You will then be dividing the box into 5 sections.

Section one: ​Draw a horizontal line under the top line of the box (creating its own little box within the larger box) and this is where you will put the date and you can add where you were when you journaled.

Section two and three: Underneath the horizontal box create two vertical boxes. These will take about two thirds of the page. The one on the left is the largest and the one on the right is slimmer. The left box is where you will put your free writing. The slimmer panel box on the right is where you will grab ideas from the free write and create a list of themes, ideas, key phrases, action items, etc.

Section four and five: Underneath the section 2/3 boxes you will create two smaller boxes that are about equal in size. They will take up the rest of the space on the paper. The box on the left will be for a drawing. This can be a squiggle, scribble, symbol, stick figure, or any kind of image that helps represent something about your writing or how you are feeling in that moment. The last box on the right is a miscellaneous box. You can continue some free writing here, continue your image, paste a quote, add an affirmation or word that inspires you, etc. You get to decide what goes here.

 

Box journaling can take as much or as little time as you have. If you only have 10 minutes, spend 5 minutes on the free write journaling and the rest in the other sections. If you have a little longer, give yourself at least 5-10 minutes to free write and then a few minutes with each of the other sections.

There’s an idea of what you can do to start to be curious about feelings. Consider for yourself, what are some other things you can do to invite feelings in and learn more about them while they are visiting?

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.

Anxiety and Nightmares: How To Curb Their Appearance

 

Everyone Has Nightmares

Everyone has had a nightmare at one time, or at least it’s safe to say that most people will have a nightmare at some point in their life.

How old we are (developmental stage), what’s going on in our lives, and what we’ve been exposed to can impact the type, frequency and intensity of the nightmares we might experience.

In this video and blog we will talk a little about why we have nightmares as well as some ideas to help prevent and respond if you or your child are having nightmares.

I have to apologize (and laugh a bit) because my dog burst into the room in the last few minutes of the video demanding attention. You can hear her nails tapping along on the floor as she gets closer to me. It’s slightly distracting but I was on a roll and I didn’t want to stop. There will be no clickety clacking in future videos.

I promise!

The noisy culprit on our summer vacation last year

​I really enjoyed creating the video and blog because I decided to ask the young people in my life. I have a demographic from 6-20 years old. My husband also wanted to share his input, but he did not quite fit the demographic of the folks I’m reaching out to – so thank you and a shout out to him for his passionate support of my practice.

Why Do People Have Nightmares? 

Well the thing is, it is not entirely understood- here is what science is telling us so far:

  • At night, our brain continues to actively process the daytime sensory input (what it saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt)
  • The brain connects to memories and past experiences at night
  • Emotionally charged thoughts that we have during the day that the brain is still working through, like thoughts that lead to us feeling worried, scared, anxious, appear during sleep
  • At night, we process thoughts and memories that we might be avoiding during the day
  • Being stimulated by an image, video, or event that we continue to think about can cause nightmares
  • Food intake and exercise that interact with our body and brain and impact our sleep

One thing research tells us for sure is that while we are sleeping there is still a lot of electrical activity happening in the brain which activates certain parts of our brain and that can create images and narrative (or stories) if you will, which are our dreams and our nightmares.

Routines, reassurance, protective symbols, grounding and making meaning can be helpful in coping with nightmares

 

Photo by Tayla Jeffs on Unsplash

When it comes to anxiety and nightmares, it is common that a person with a lot of thoughts that lead to anxious or fearful feelings can be a prime candidate for having nightmares.

It’s not to say that everyone that has anxious, negative, or fearful thoughts and feelings will have nightmares, but there is some information that states a link there. Nightmares linked to anxiety can be difficult because they may be caused by anxious and fearful thoughts and feelings, but they may also leave us feeling more anxious and fearful, thus becoming a bit of a loop.

Photo by Tine Ivanic on Unsplash

The young people I spoke to said the reasons they have nightmares are, seeing something scary, like an image or a video, or something that lead to a scary feeling could result in a nightmare. Another reason might be if they are experiencing something stressful that they are thinking a lot about or something they are worried about, it can carry over into their sleep. Also, if there is an event or a circumstance that played out and left them feeling worried or scared or anxious, it could be a traumatic event or it could be something that they’ve got on their mind, whether it be an upcoming performance or a fight that they had with someone they care about.

Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash

Ways to Curb Nightmares

Food
I was curious about the possible link between food, exercise and the impact on  nightmares. I didn’t find anything so specific that said “eat this and you won’t have nightmares” or “avoid this to stay clear of nightmares”, but I certainly found some information about the quality and quantity of food that we have just before bed or sleep time and the potential impact.

For example, if there is something interfering with your digestive process at night, that can impact our sleep and lead to nightmares. If there are certain types of foods that are rich in certain nutrients or lack certain nutrients that can impact your sleep, increasing your chance of having nightmares.

A quick personal anecdote, I’ve noticed a link between eating cheese late at night and having the most bizarre dreams/nightmares. There is no scientific research to back that one up, but for me it’s about noticing and being aware of how certain foods might impact the dreams and nightmares that I have.

Photo by Lidye on Unsplash

Exercise
I found information that linked exercise to the prevention of nightmares. If we exercise regularly during the day, it releases different hormones into our system and those are mood enhancing hormones. If we have an enhanced mood, then it’s more likely that our thoughts are leading to more positively experienced feelings. If we have more positive feelings, it decreases the amount of time for stress and negative thoughts. If you are not going to sleep with a lot of stress or negative thinking, then it lessens the chances of having nightmares.

​Love it!

Continuing on with the exercise piece,  one way of lessening the frequency of nightmares is ensuring that you are doing things throughout the day that produce happy feelings and encourage joyful moods.

Photo by Tevarak Phanduang on Unsplash

Routines and Rituals
The young people I chatted with said that it was helpful for them to have some sort of routine and ritual that is part of their bed time. Some examples of this were using prayer or some sort of affirmative statement (may I be safe, may I be free from bad dreams).

We also talked about actions that contribute to relaxing and calming the mind and body as being helpful. For example, focused breathing, massage, meditation, snuggling a pet, a bath, journalling or using essential oils.

Photo by Sarah Darweiler on Unsplash

Protective Symbols
A more commonly known symbol of protection when it comes to dreams is the dream catcher. The specific symbol isn’t necessary, if there is a symbol that works for you to introduce, it’s more about what it represents. I’ve known people to use guardian angels pins, horseshoes, crucifixes over a bedroom door and red fabric meant to keep bad dreams away- it can be anything really. The representation of the protective symbol or ritual that has to do with going to sleep and feeling protected and comforted.

Photo by Dyaa Eldin on Unsplash

Comfort and Reassurance
Reassurance from a parent or another safe person after a nightmare can also provide that necessary comfort. A simple, “I know that was scary for you”- can provide the gentle reassurance that is calming and soothing. Hugging a pillow can be another comforting action.

Dreams and nightmares can be caused by the ongoing electrical activity in our brains at night

Distraction and Grounding Practices
Transitioning from the feeling and state of having a nightmare to a more safe and settled state is really important. Thinking about something completely different or something really good may be helpful. Having a book by your bedside that makes you feel good or makes you laugh can be a great to have. If you have a younger person that has had a nightmare, you can read the story to them. and you can also place the book gently on their lap. The weight of the book along with the soothing voice as you read combines comfort, distraction and a grounding response.

You can try taking a drink of water or splashing your face with water. Colouring, writing, petting a furry friend, looking at your fish aquarium, are some other ideas and really anything that gets your mind off of the nightmare can be helpful.

Caging the Nightmare
I really like the idea of “caging the nightmare” and I’ve used it for kids as old as 11 but I think it could be a reflective exercise at any age.   This is a simple art activity where you invite the person to draw a picture that represent the nightmare in some way. They do not have to put details if they don’t want to. Once they have complete the image, invite them to draw or create a cage for the nightmare in some way. Children can get pretty creative with this. I always encourage them to create a cage that is secure and strong and that only they have the power to open it if they choose. This act can be pretty helpful to prevent future nightmares.

Sometimes, once the nightmare is caged up really good, I might invite them to have a conversation with the nightmare and ask them questions like, why did they come to visit? what is it they wanted them to know? what makes them stronger/weaker? It can give some good insight on what our child is worried about or frightened of.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Thought Dump
Our active minds may begin to race especially at bedtime when there is a little less stimulus coming our way and things are a little quieter. Some of those thoughts may be the ones that interfere with our sleep. Having a way to write those down or draw them can be a way of getting them out so that it doesn’t carry into our sleep.

The “thought dump” is where you take your journal or something you can write or draw your thoughts out on- unfiltered, pouring them out freely for a set amount of time, maybe 2-5 minutes. This technique can literally and metaphorically feel like it is getting the thoughts out so that they are not ruminating in the mind or carrying as much weight as you go to sleep.

Sometimes it can help at the end, after you are done writing or drawing to crumple the paper up or if you are typing it on your phone doing a big DELETE.

Making Meaning, not Interpreting
The last thing that the young folks shared with me is getting to the root of the nightmare. Not necessarily interpreting the nightmare, but rather understanding and being curious: “why is it that I might be having this kind of thought? What’s happening in my life right now that is stressful that might be leading me to have nightmares? What is it that I’ve been thinking about? What are some things that have been making me feel scared, anxious, negative?”. You can entertain these as self-reflections, journaling, or talking to a trusted person.

There are links between the foods we eat, exercise, and preventing nightmares.

Ok so that’s a little bit on nightmares. I would like to invite you to share in the comments any strategies that you use that work really well to prevent nightmares or respond after a nightmare. Or, if you have a great book that you’ve used to help children or teens respond to nightmares, let us know.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

Happy dreaming.


Chantal Côté

5 Practical Ways to Take Control of your Happiness

Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with.

If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.