by Megan McDonough
Talking is not a favorite activity for my teenage son. I’ve tried a thousand different questions in an effort to encourage conversation, including the worst one ever: “What happened today?” The answer, of course, is “Nothing.” So, I ask a few more questions. Within a minute or two, I get the eye roll and the exasperated sigh, like conversing with me is torture, which, I suppose for a 15–year-old, it is. I keep trying, though, and yesterday on the ride home from school, a new strategy gave me a glimmer of hope.
Instead of asking the usual question, I simply said, “Tell me about something that happened today that I do not already know.” When he told me he had math, it didn’t count because I knew that already. The same held true for eating lunch and going to school. Yes, these are the typical in-depth responses I get. Finally, he did tell me something I didn’t know about his day. This led to a string of sentences — a veritable gold mine of teenage conversation. This was my lucky day.
In The Luck Factor, psychologist Richard Wiseman shares the habits of lucky people based on his research of following over 400 lucky and unlucky subjects. One principle Wiseman shares is to make your own luck by cultivating a relaxed attitude towards life.
Parenting a teenager can be a stress-inducing activity. It’s easy to get frustrated and tense with what is normal adolescent behavior. One of the metrics Wiseman looked at in his research on luck was neuroticism because, as he puts it, “People who obtain a low score on the neuroticism dimension of personality are generally calm and relaxed, and people who obtain a high score are more tense and anxious. Lucky people score much lower on neuroticism than unlucky people, and this makes a big difference. Because lucky people tend to be more relaxed than most, they are more likely to notice chance opportunities.”
Lucky for you and I (pun intended), a sense of calm and relaxation can be cultivated. One of my favorite ways to cultivate calm is through the practice of yoga, and there’s one practice in particular that every single person in the world can do, no matter what size or age. It’s called Yoga Nidra.
In this practice, you simply lie down, close your eyes, set an intention to relax and move your attention sequentially to each part of your body, scanning your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. If you need help because of a wandering mind, consider listening to a teacher for the practice. The Integrative Restoration Institute, founded by Richard Miller, has conducted most of the research here in the States about the restorative effects of the practice on populations varying from the military to the homeless to students.
When your teenager is being, well, a teenager, take a deep breath, relax and smile. This open approach will make you far more receptive to new and novel strategies to make lemonade from lemons. This is, after all, your lucky day.
—This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.
Megan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.
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