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Are your kids stressed about homework after school? Or maybe they are having trouble quieting their mind in the evening at bedtime? Both mindfulness and nature help bring a sense of calm to your children when they need it most.


“Nature meditation can help you cultivate a loving connection with yourself, the earth, and the entire web of life,” according to Buddhist meditation teacher Mark Coleman of Awake in the Wild. Through techniques like sights, sounds, and stories, we can help our children harness the calming aspects of nature during bedtime, dinnertime, car rides, and other moments throughout their day.

The best part is that nature meditation does not always have to be performed outdoors; from visualizations to nature sound apps, there are so many ways to experience mindfulness using nature even from inside the comfort of your home.

Sights

Amazingly, just looking at pictures of nature scenes can make us feel similar to actually spending time outdoors. A recent study found that you can reduce stress by simply looking at images of nature. When participants viewed pictures of natural scenes, their stress level decreased because their parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us calm down) was activated.

Another experiment proved this by observing brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers discovered that when participants viewed scenes from the natural environment, the parts of their brain associated with empathy and love lit up. On the other hand, when they looked at urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated.

There are so many ways for our kids to feel mindful from looking at nature:

1 | Get outside

Visit zoos, mountains, forests, hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, botanical gardens, canyons, and caves, and enjoy clear starry nights, rainbows, sunsets, and sunrises. Help your kids capture these moments by taking pictures so they can look at them anytime they want to relax.

2 | Observe nature using various media tools

This can include videos, photographs, slideshows, and even 3D or 4D movies at an IMAX theater. Check out these nature documentaries, Jason Silva’s “Shots of Awe,” and Louie Schwartzberg’s “Gratitude Revealed.”

3 | Practice meditations that tap into nature scenes

For example, the Over the Rainbow Breathing meditation instructs children to breathe in each color as they visualize a rainbow and then say a positive affirmation either silently or out loud.

4 | Add a fish tank to your child’s room

They will love lying in bed and watching and listening to fish swimming around a tank. A colorful fish tank adds to the natural atmosphere in the room and provides something tranquil and soothing for your child to enjoy as they try to fall asleep.

Sounds

For hundreds of years people have known that the sounds of nature can soothe our soul and improve our mood. I recall how happy and relaxed I felt while sitting on the beach and getting lost in the pattern of the crashing waves, walking through El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico and focusing on the gushing of the stream below, and hearing the lovely chirping birds in an arboretum we visited. But until recently, scientists did not understand why nature sounds have such a powerful effect on our bodies and minds.

A group of researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) in England just discovered that these sounds physically alter the connections in our brain, reducing our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct. Their study, published in “Scientific Reports,” is the first to use brain scans, heart-rate monitors, and behavioral experiments to identify an actual physiological cause for how nature sounds impact us.

After observing adults who underwent functional MRI scans while listening to various soundscapes of natural or artificial environments, researchers found that activity in the brain’s default mode network, such as mind wandering and task-free states of wakefulness, varied depending on the background sounds being played. Listening to artificial sounds, for example, was linked to inward-focused thinking like worrying, while nature sounds were associated more with external-focused attention that is more calming. In addition, heart rate data showed that the nature sounds led to a decrease in the body’s fight-or-flight response and an increase in parasympathetic response that helps the body relax.

Not all nature sounds have the same calming effect. The best sounds are those that give us a sense of natural space and mimic the biorhythms of an ecosystem like a forest. Studies show that it’s based on how our brain interprets different noises. Loud chirping and croaking is just not going to cause the same calming feelings as sounds of water, which are very soothing because of their slow, rhythmic whooshing noises from crashing waves, the pitter patter of rainfall, or the rush of a flowing river.

By listening to soothing sounds of nature, children can feel more mindful. Ask them to sit back and close their eyes while they listen to the relaxing noises they hear. Teach them how to use visualization techniques and their own imagination to feel the full effect. We can bring the serene sounds of nature into our daily lives using the following tools:

1 | Nature meditation CDs and apps

There is an entire industry focused on selling relaxation music. You can choose from a variety created specifically for children or focused on the types of sounds included. Try out a few different kinds to see what your children likes best. Some have music along with nature sounds and others are just the sound like rushing water or chirping birds.

2 | Record your own

Take along a recording device during a nature walk, trip to the beach, or other excursion out in nature. Capture those relaxing sounds to play again later.

3 | Indoor water fountain

One of the local spas by my home has a relaxation room with the most soothing man-made waterfall on the rock-covered wall. Consider adding a small waterfall to your home to enjoy.

Stories

Throughout history, poetry has fascinated readers and inspired them to understand the world in a deeper way. Many nature lovers have used poetry to communicate their connection to the environment. We can inspire our children’s sense of awe for the natural world by reading descriptive stories and poetry that essentially transport them from their bedroom into a tranquil forest, mountaintop, or other amazing place. When we witness the beauty and vastness of nature, even through words on a piece of paper, it can trigger a number of powerful positive emotions like awe and relaxation.

Try these ideas with your kids:

1 | Library

Have fun checking out different books from the library known to have colorful descriptions of nature.

2 | Poetry

Introduce your children to a variety of nature poetry and challenge them to write their own. Some of the most famous nature poets include: Robert Frost, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, P.B. Shelly, and John Keats.

3 | Journaling

After visiting a beautiful outdoor location, such as the beach or botanical garden, encourage your kids to journal about their observations so that they can refer back to it for some mindful moments based on those memories.

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Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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