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The Magic of Music

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #8 – The Magic of Music

February 9, 2024

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

It started out as a boring, blank wall in my living room. I searched high and low for a piece of art to fit the space, but nothing seemed to stick—until I came up with the perfect solution: a big screen TV!  A seemingly simple job of hanging a television turned into a big project that required extensive electrical work as well as new drywall, texture, and paint. After all this effort and expense, I admit that I rarely watch television. So what was my motivation for mounting a TV on the wall? To chill out with calming music videos on YouTube!

There’s something incredibly soothing about going through my workday enveloped in the gentle sounds of piano concertos, the soft lull of Native American flutes, and the ethereal hum of harp music. And bonus: these videos showcase mesmerizing visuals — everything from schools of brightly colored fish gliding through the vast ocean to scenes of cozy coffee shops with crackling fires and steam rising from cups of hot tea. There are even music videos to help reduce your dog’s stress and separation anxiety and videos of cuddly cats purring.

My personal favorites are the “Hobbit House” videos, which feature cozy and rustic settings reminiscent of the dwellings found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” series. These videos often showcase peaceful nature scenes with lush forests, rolling hills, or quaint cottages, accompanied by relaxing instrumental music. Viewers are invited to immerse themselves in the enchanting ambiance of these fantasy-inspired settings, providing a tranquil escape from the stresses of daily life.

A television prominently displayed in my living room makes me feel like I’m living in a highbrow art museum, except instead of Monet and Van Gogh, I’m treated to rotating episodes of “Moonlit Lullabies” and “Sunset Serenades.”

Music has a remarkable ability to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls. Its melodies and rhythms can evoke a wide range of emotions, from joy and love to sadness and nostalgia, providing a comforting soundtrack to life’s ups and downs. Beyond its emotional impact, music has been scientifically proven to have therapeutic effects on the body, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and even alleviating pain. Perhaps Bono, the well-known lead vocalist of the rock band U2, said it best: “Music can change the world because it can change people’s moods.”

If you’re in the mood for some mellow music, try out these popular genres:

1. Classical music: Pieces by composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach are often cited for their calming effects on the mind and body.

2. Ambient music: Ambient sounds and music featuring nature sounds, such as rainfall, ocean waves, or birdsong, can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

3. Instrumental music: Music without lyrics, such as instrumental jazz, piano, or guitar music, can help to calm the mind and promote relaxation.

4. Slow-tempo music: Music with a slow beat, characterized by a relaxed rhythm and gentle melodies, has been found to reduce heart rate and induce a state of relaxation.

5. Meditation music: Specifically designed music for meditation, featuring repetitive patterns and serene tones, can help to quiet the mind and reduce stress.

So, the next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a break. Find a calming video or audio soundtrack, sit back, and let the music carry you away. You might be surprised at how much healing power lies within those magical melodies.

Questions or comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

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From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

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Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

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Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

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Sit. Stay. Breathe.

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #7 – Sit. Stay. Breathe.

February 6, 2024

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

The children were sitting on a multi-colored rug in their classroom, calmly awaiting my arrival and eager to see which therapy dog would be joining our Mindfulness class that day. I, on the other hand, was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, my monkey mind in overdrive… What if I were late to class or worse, I missed class altogether? That would throw off my whole schedule for all the classes and meetings I had planned for that day, not to mention leaving a roomful of disappointed children.

Thankfully, traffic soon started flowing again and I arrived at the school just in the nick of time. As I settled into one of the tiny blue chairs normally reserved for little ones, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and be vulnerable with the children. I shared with them that I was feeling a bit stressed because I had just spent an hour on the freeway and I was worried that I was going to be late to class. “Would you help me calm down by taking a few nice, deep breaths with me?,” I asked. These darling third graders immediately jumped at the opportunity to help me feel better and together we closed our eyes and started to slowly breathe in and out three times.

Ah…what a difference those three breaths made! I immediately felt more centered, the children were attentive and ready to learn, and therapy dog, Dandelion, was contentedly chewing on a crunchy dog chew, adding a calming presence to the classroom.

Breathing is a fundamental aspect of mindfulness and teaching children the simple act of taking deep breaths is like giving them a superpower, where they feel empowered and in control of their emotions. And, by making breathing exercises fun, perhaps associating them with blowing bubbles or pretending to be a dragon releasing gentle puffs of air, we’re introducing mindfulness in a language that resonates with their youthful spirits.

 

The playful aspect of mindfulness is what makes it so accessible to children. Blowing bubbles becomes a metaphor for letting go, and pretending to be dragons allows them to embrace their power within. It is a reminder that, as adults, we too can infuse a sense of playfulness into our own mindfulness practices, turning what might seem like a chore into a joyful exploration of the self.

As I looked around the room, I marveled at the impact of such a simple yet profound exercise. It was a reminder that mindfulness isn’t just a technique; it’s a shared experience that connects us on a deeper level. The classroom, once filled with giggles and the buzz of anticipation, now exuded a calm energy that set the perfect stage for our mindfulness session.

 

The experience also served as a poignant lesson for me who, at times, still needs a gentle reminder to slow down and center myself amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life. And, the vulnerability I displayed in admitting my stress became a bridge that connected all of us. The children, with wisdom beyond their years, became my teachers, showing me the power of the present moment and the effectiveness of a few intentional breaths.

As I left the classroom that day, I carried with me not just the gratitude of witnessing the transformative power of mindfulness in children, but a renewed commitment to integrate the practice into my daily life. And the gentle wag of Dandelion’s fluffy tail seemed to whisper to me: “Remember to sit, stay, breathe and be open to all of the experiences that life has to offer.”

 

Questions or comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

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From Pain to Peace

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #6 – From Pain to Peace

February 6, 2024

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

As I perched precariously on the edge of a chair in the ER, doubled over in pain, I couldn’t help but reflect on the unexpected turn my day had taken. The night before had brought on a sudden onset of excruciating abdominal pain and hours of vomiting. I was certain I had a bout of food poisoning, likely triggered by lunch the day before at a new restaurant in town. I had been down this road before and I was prepared for a round of fluids and anti-nausea medication and then sent home to rest and recover. I was not, however, prepared for what happened next.

After a blood draw and a CAT scan, the attending physician came in and matter-of-factly said, “You have acute appendicitis and we’ve called in a surgeon from another hospital to perform surgery on you tonight.” I barely had time to call and text a few friends to let them know where I was before I was whisked off to surgery.

The uncertainty of the outcome and the pain that accompanied the whole ordeal was a bit overwhelming, but in the midst of it all, mindfulness emerged as my trusty co-pilot.

Mindfulness meditation is the ability to be fully present in the moment and to become aware of sights, sounds, and sensations in the body. As challenging as it was, I focused on the sensations I was feeling instead of allowing my mind to be consumed by worries about the impending surgery. The soothing feel of a just-warmed hospital blanket, the steady rise and fall of my chest as I breathed, and even those darn air compression leg wraps they insist you wear to aid circulation helped steady my mind.

The surgery itself was a blur, a journey into the unknown realm of anesthesia-induced oblivion. When I awoke in the recovery room, the pain was there, but so was the awareness cultivated through mindfulness. It was a tool I could continue to rely on as I embarked on the road to recovery. Practicing mindfulness was by no means a magical cure, but redirecting my attention to the present moment felt like swapping out my pain playlist for a chill meditation track.

For anyone who has ever undergone surgery, you know that recovery is seldom a linear process. There are good days and challenging ones, moments of progress and setbacks. Mindfulness was my constant companion in those moments of frustration and fatigue. Whether it was the awareness that it was time for another pain pill or the acceptance that my body needed a nap, mindfulness allowed me to navigate the ebb and flow of the recovery process.

Beyond the physical aspects, mindfulness also played a crucial role in managing my emotional state. The vulnerability that comes with surgery and the scars left behind can be emotionally taxing. Mindfulness provided me with a space for self-compassion, allowing me to acknowledge my emotions without judgment. It became a practice of kindness towards myself as I faced the reality of my changed body and the journey I had undertaken.

As I write this post, the three little laparoscopic incisions on my abdomen serve as a visible reminder of that journey. They are not just marks on the skin but symbols of resilience, of a mind that found calm amid chaos. With mindfulness as my anchor, I was able to navigate the choppy waters of life with newfound steadiness.

When life throws you curveballs, as it inevitably does, I encourage you to explore the power of mindfulness. It may not erase the pain, but it can offer a space for peace, acceptance, and even growth. Remember, you’re not alone in your struggles, and within you lies an inner strength waiting to be discovered. So, take a deep breath, be present, and allow mindfulness to be your compass towards hope and healing.

Questions or comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

Read more
Read more

Come On, Get Happy

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

Karen Lee Stevens discusses Arthur Brooks' new book entitled Build The Life You Want

BLOG POST #5 – Come On, Get Happy

January 3, 2024

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

If you grew up in the ’70s like I did, you probably remember teenage heartthrob, David Cassidy. With his tousled hair, infectious smile, and soulful voice, Cassidy captured the hearts of millions of teenage girls, vis-à-vis Keith Partridge on the hit TV show, The Partridge Family. Every week, Cassidy serenaded viewers with the lyrics to the show’s theme song, Come On, Get Happy. I was beyond smitten by both the boy and the bubblegum music.

Fast forward five decades, and the word “happy” is getting its fair share of media coverage. Perhaps it’s due in part to the research of Harvard professor and happiness expert, Arthur C. Brooks, whose latest book, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier shot to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. This timely tome delves into the science behind happiness, drawing upon cutting-edge research and real-life examples to provide practical guidance on how to cultivate greater joy and fulfillment in our lives. And when you think about it, who among us couldn’t use a little more joy in their lives?

(Side note for all you “O” fans out there: Brooks’s co-author is none other than TV titan, Oprah Winfrey.)

Karen Lee Stevens discusses the science behind happiness.

Happiness, Brooks says, is not just a fleeting emotion; it’s a state of being that many of us actively pursue. We all want to be happy, and in this search for joy, we often find ourselves exploring various avenues, from self-help books to mindfulness practices. And then there are those of us who entertain the notion that material possessions hold the secret to our bliss. Sorry to break it to you, but happiness doesn’t come in the form of a fancy sports car, an extravagant home, or a private jet.

Happiness, it appears, is brewed from engaging in the little things in life, which helps elevate our emotional state and fuels resilience, creativity, and overall happiness. Sipping a steaming cup of tea, sending a note of gratitude to a friend, or —my personal favorite — basking in the soothing presence of a beloved pet are examples of ways we weave together a tapestry of well-being. I’ll bet you can think of many other simple activities that bring you joy. When you actively seek out the small pleasures, it’s like flipping a switch in our minds, illuminating the brighter side of life. In other words: we’re happier.

Karen Lee Stevens talks about the science behind happiness.

Perhaps David Cassidy was on to something with his jovial jingle. Happiness, it turns out, is not a mysterious destination; it’s a joy-filled journey. It’s not about chasing an elusive feeling, but about actively engaging in thoughts and activities that contribute to a life that aligns with our values and brings us fulfillment.

So, as we follow a path toward a happier life, let’s remember the somewhat sappy song by a ‘70s heartthrob and the words of a contemporary happiness guru. Let’s come together, get happy, and build lives filled with joy, gratitude, and the simple pleasures that make each day a brighter, happier journey.

Karen Lee Stevens discusses the science behind happiness.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

Read more
Read more

Hoppy Hearts

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

Therapy Dogs of Santa Barbara - Blog Post - Hoppy Hearts

BLOG POST #4 – Hoppy Hearts

December 5, 2023 IN HONOR OF INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

The day started off like any other Tuesday, but it soon turned into something magical that would open me up to the joys of volunteering. I was helping out at a local animal shelter and the lead volunteer suggested we bring bunnies into a local nursing home for an animal therapy visit. I was intrigued and immediately scooped up a fluffy bunny with velvety fur that felt like a cloud under my fingertips. Her gentle twitching nose and floppy ears added to her charm and her big, expressive eyes invited me into a world of softness and warmth.

The nursing home, with its antiseptic hallways and harsh, fluorescent lighting, was sorely lacking any soothing ambience and personal touches that could have greatly contributed to the patients’ recovery. Determined to make the best of the visit, I made my way from room to room, offering a visit from my charming new friend. As I stopped in the doorway of one room, I could see an elderly lady slumped over in her wheelchair, staring listlessly at the wall. Her adult daughter sat nearby and motioned for me to come in. Mom was nonverbal, but her eyes followed my every move. I explained that I had brought a bunny for her to pet and gently placed the fluff ball in her lap.

The elderly lady sat quietly and smiled during our brief visit. Honestly, I didn’t think I had made much of an impression, but I was about to learn the true power of pet therapy.

As I said my goodbyes and started walking down the dreary hallway, the elderly lady’s daughter ran after me, tears streaming down her face. “That was the first time my mom has smiled in weeks!” she managed to say in between sobs. She went on to explain that her mom recently suffered a stroke and was no longer able to speak. In the grip of depression, the elderly lady found solace and joy when that little bunny nestled in her lap.

On that day, with that little bunny, a spark ignited within me that would illuminate my path toward unforeseen possibilities and growth as an animal therapy volunteer.

Like me, if you’ve ever volunteered for a cause close to your heart, you know it’s not about the accolades; it’s about the difference we make in the lives of others. And that’s what International Volunteer Day is all about. Celebrated each year on December 5, it is a reminder that the world is in need of the unique gifts only you can offer. Whether it’s taking a therapy dog into a school where at-risk children can practice reading aloud to a nonjudgemental listener, serving meals at a homeless shelter, or planning a gigantic gala for a global audience, your contribution is like a beacon of light in a sometimes dark world.

In the end, volunteering is not just about the impact we make; it’s about the connections we forge and the lives we touch. The elderly lady’s smile, born from a simple visit with a bunny, echoes the profound truth that volunteering has a ripple effect of compassion. So, let today be an invitation to embrace the magic that unfolds when you offer a piece of your heart to those who need it most. Each act of kindness, no matter how small, has the power to brighten someone’s day and, as I’ve witnessed countless times, even transform their life.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

Read more
Read more

Attitude of Gratitude

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #3 – Attitude of Gratitude

November 7, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

It’s that time of year again…the leaves are changing colors, the weather is getting cooler and our thoughts are turning to parties, pumpkin pie, and peace on earth. This month, as I wrap up my fall Mindfulness classes just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll be teaching my students about Kindness and Gratitude.

It’s a subject the children consistently rank as one of their favorite classes in our 4-week program. Perhaps it’s because of the shiny red heart I place in each child’s outstretched hand to hold during our Loving Kindness Meditation. As we settle into our seats, close our eyes and begin taking slow deep breaths, we send kind thoughts, first to ourselves, and then to our friends and family, to our community, to all the people in the world, and then to all the animals on the planet. We also reflect on everything we are grateful for in our lives. It’s a powerful exercise that elicits heartfelt emotions of peace, love and joy.

At the end of class, the children get to take home the red heart and it serves as a gentle reminder to slow down and send kindness to themselves and others and to reflect on the many blessings in their lives.

Like the children in my classes, we adults can cultivate a Mindfulness practice that includes being kind and thankful for all the special people and things in our lives. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start and I’ve included some of my favorite Mindful traditions that you can adopt this holiday season and share with the youngsters in your life.

Mindful Eating – Thanksgiving dinner is a feast for the senses. Encourage kids to savor each bite by eating mindfully. As they take slow, deliberate bites, they can focus on the textures, flavors, and the joy of sharing the meal with loved ones. It’s a moment of shared mindfulness that enhances the sense of togetherness.

Mindful Games – Kids often have tons of energy during the holidays and we adults can channel their excitement into mindful games. If they have a dog or cat, simple activities like fetch, tag or hide-and-seek can become opportunities for kids to practice Mindfulness by paying attention to their pet’s movements and expressions.

Gratitude Journaling -Journaling is one of my favorite ways to reflect on my own blessings, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. You can help kids create their own gratitude journal or simply buy a notebook. Let them write down or draw the things they’re thankful for. They can also include photographs of things they love, favorite places, or people they appreciate. Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to encourage Mindfulness and what I like to call “an attitude of gratitude.”

Mindful Walking – After the Thanksgiving meal, embark on a mindful nature walk with kids (weather permitting!). The crisp autumn air, the sound of leaves crunching beneath their feet, and the sight of nature’s vibrant colors offer the perfect setting for Mindfulness. Encourage kids to use their senses to connect with the world around them.

Mindful Storytelling – As the day winds down, put on some cozy PJ’s and snuggle up with your kids (and pets!) for a storytelling session. Share tales of gratitude, random acts of kindness, and the adventures of the day. You can even create a “Gratitude Jar” and write down things you appreciate and place the pieces of paper in the jar. Then, whenever you or your child needs a pick-me-up, take out the slips of paper and read aloud to one another.

Cultivating Mindfulness during the holidays can become a truly heartwarming and enriching experience for you and your children. These activities can help kids learn to appreciate the small things in life and make the most of every moment. So, this Thanksgiving, serve up a generous portion of Mindfulness alongside the pumpkin pie and savor the precious moments with your family.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

Read more
Read more

Finding Your Inner Goat

“Unleashing Happiness” a monthly blog by Karen Lee Stevens

Founder and Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens shares her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

BLOG POST #2 – FINDING YOUR INNER GOAT

October 6, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

Whenever I teach Mindfulness to children, I’m prepared for just about anything. Recently, I was guiding a group of enthusiastic 5th graders through a calming breathing exercise and after ringing the singing bowl, signaling the end of our practice, I asked the kids how the exercise made them feel. I received the usual answers… Calm! Happy! Sleepy! Tired! Happy AND Calm! And then, amidst the chorus of young voices, one boy exclaimed with exuberance – “I feel GOATED!”

I thought I had heard just about every possible answer to this question, but I admit this was a new one for me! Curious, I asked him what “goated” meant and he proceeded to tell me (with even more enthusiasm this time) that he felt “the greatest and the happiest I’ve ever felt in my whole life!”

Now, all you sports fans probably know exactly what he meant. Even the folks at Merriam-Webster know what he meant. (Side note for all you logophiles: The dictionary recently added 690 new words to its already beefy book including — you guessed it — “goated”). GOAT, it turns out, is an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time and is often used to describe football or soccer players who are considered the absolute best in the history of the sport.

So there you have it. This youngster who felt “goated” had tapped into something truly extraordinary — his ability to change his state of being simply by practicing Mindfulness. He had essentially unleashed his inner greatness and discovered a source of strength, calmness, and resilience within himself that made him feel extraordinary.

We often think of mindfulness as a practice reserved for adults seeking stress relief and inner peace. But here’s the thing – mindfulness isn’t just for grown-ups. Children, too, can benefit immensely from these simple yet profound techniques that include deep breathing, guided imagery, and maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of their thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. For children, this practice can be a superpower.

So, the next time you hear a child say they feel “goated” after a mindfulness practice, don’t be surprised. Instead, celebrate it as a beautiful reminder that they are calling upon their inner goat — their superpower — to transform their young hearts and minds into something truly magical.

As for me, I came up with my own acronym for GOAT — Go Out And Teach. And that’s just what I’m going to continue doing because that’s my superpower — helping kids navigate life’s inevitable ups and downs through the practice of mindfulness and feeling the greatest and the happiest they’ve ever felt in their whole lives.

Questions, comments? Contact Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

More Blog Entries

The Magic of Music

This month's blog explores the remarkable ability music has to heal us emotionally and physically, transcending language and cultural barriers to reach the depths of our souls.

Read more

Sit. Stay. Breathe.

In this month's blog, Karen's learns that children can be teachers of Mindfulness and help adults remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and stay focused on the precious present moment.

Read more

From Pain to Peace

In this month's blog, Karen shares her experience undergoing an emergency appendectomy and how Mindfulness helped her navigate the pain and uncertainty of an unexpected surgery.

Read more

Come On, Get Happy

This month, Karen talks about the science behind happiness in Arthur Brooks's new book, Build the Life You Want.

Read more

Hoppy Hearts

This month, Karen shares a sweet story of a fluffy little bunny and the joys of volunteering.

Read more
Read more

Unleashing Happiness

“Unleashing Happiness” by Karen Lee Stevens

We are thrilled to introduce our new monthly blog by Founder and new Director of Wellness Programs, Karen Lee Stevens. Learn what inspired Karen to pursue Mindfulness and share her insights as she explores regular topics and experiences through the lens of mental health, wellness and the human-animal bond.

DISCOVERING MINDFULNESS- BLOG POST #1

SEPTEMBER 5, 2023

by KAREN LEE STEVENS

Not that long ago, I was running two businesses, caring for an elderly loved one and trying — quite unsuccessfully, I might add — to have some semblance of a social life. To say I was burnt out would be an understatement.

When I came down with a bout of bronchitis that was determined to stick around, I knew something had to change. My ER doctor friend, James, suggested I try Mindfulness, a form of meditation that encourages one to “pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, with curiosity and non-judgement, and notice your thoughts, feelings, surroundings, and sensations in your body.”

I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a whirl. In the beginning, I listened to guided meditations on apps like HeadSpace, Breethe, and CALM. Later, my friend, Pamela, introduced me to 10% Happier, a podcast and book by the same name created by Dan Harris, the now retired journalist for ABC News, who endured a panic attack on live television in front of millions of viewers. If meditation worked for someone as stressed out as Dan, I figured it could also work for me. Every morning, I’d press play on my iPhone, close my eyes and let the narrator’s voice wash over me.

If I’m being completely honest, some days my meditations were fantastic — enlightening even — and other days, an email message or distressed phone call could send me tumbling all the way back to the starting line. As one of my teachers would often say, “Meditation is simple, but it’s not easy.”

As I dove more deeply into the world of Mindfulness, I started noticing little changes in my overall well-being and outlook on life. Snarky texts lost their sting and aggressive drivers no longer ruffled my feathers. Friends even starting giving me gifts like crystals and t-shirts that boldly stated “Heavily Meditated.”

I felt like I was onto something and it felt expansive.

I began to wonder if I could adapt our popular ARF! read-to-a-dog program, which gives shy and reluctant readers a safe and welcoming place to practice their reading skills. This time, however, I envisioned children practicing Mindfulness with a sweet therapy dog sitting calmly nearby.

One of our smart and dedicated volunteers, Cat Smith, and I began training to become Mindfulness Instructors through Mindful Schools and MindUP for Life, the brainchild of actress Goldie Hawn. Today, Cat and I teach Mindfulness to children in elementary and middle schools and give them the tools they need to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while increasing focus and resilience. Our therapy dogs are right there beside them, adding a sense of calm and happiness to the classroom.

The classes aren’t just for children; their teachers also participate to de-stress during their busy workday and to model the desired behavior in their students.

The children affectionately call Mindfulness their “superpower.” Week by week, they eagerly embrace the lessons and breathing exercises as well as the peaceful moments with our therapy dogs. As instructors, we witness positive changes after just a few short weeks. As for me, my journey from burnout to balanced is a gentle reminder that the power to change resides within each one of us, nudging us to spend more time in the precious present moment. It’s in this place of stillness that Mindfulness — our superpower — begins to light up our lives… one breath, one gentle tail wag at a time.

Stay tuned for Karen’s next Blog Post in October!

Questions, comments? Contact her at Karen@TherapyDogsSB.org

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