Celebrating Women with Dr. Meghna Singhal

A Parenting Educator
A Fitness Enthusiast
A Logophile (deduced from personal experience)

A Parenting Educator
A Fitness Enthusiast
A Logophile (deduced from personal experience)

Let’s give it up for

Dr. Meghna Singhal


I am a clinical psychologist and a parenting educator.

In simple words, I teach parents how best to parent. Wait, isn’t that a bit presumptuous? I mean, who am I to tell parents how to raise their children—isn’t parenting instinctive? Well, I wish all of parenting was. I wish we could all simply ‘know’ what’s correct for our children, and how our actions today will impact them tomorrow. But the bitter truth is that we don’t. We don’t always know, we can’t always know. Its true that we have raised children as long as human have been around. But we haven’t known everything about what’s appropriate for children. A few decades ago, it was considered acceptable to spank children. But today we know that physical punishment has an adverse emotional impact on children.

And why not take advantage of the 30 years of research on parenting we have? Like we don’t drive the car people drove 30 years back, and we don’t use the same medical procedures we used 30 years back, so why should parenting be any different?A lot of parents say, “But you know I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” To this I respond I asking back, “Did you really?” (Of course, this means I don’t get that many dinner invites). Yes, parents have always raised children but that doesn’t mean we have always done a fabulous job. You can look around you and see that adults are not always happy. We are prone to anxiety, depression, and a whole lot of mental health issues—we aren’t exactly the paragons of mental health! We are trying hard, yes, and a lot of us have healing to do from our childhoods to become happier and better people. So, isn’t it better to raise children who don’t have to do this healing? Who grow up being better versions of ourselves? I’m sure every parent aspires that for their child!

So, well, as you can figure out, I’m very passionate about what I do! I have been in my field for 20 years now and I love it! I have *wait for it* 3 masters degrees (yes, don’t ask!) and a PhD in clinical psychology. And if that wasn’t enough, I went ahead and did a post-doc too. 

Of course, being a shrink comes with its own moments. Like when my friends thought that the guy I was dating (my now husband) was my MPhil case study! Or the time when a delivery guy hung up on me because I told him I lived in a mental hospital (I was pursuing my MPhil and put up in the girls’ hostel in IHBAS, aka ‘mental hospital’ in local parlance). Or when, because I walked in late, one of my teachers mistook me for a patient and started to ask questions for my mental status examination!

I am currently with ParentCircle, this parenting organization that brings together parents, educators, and experts to raise healthy, happy, and successful kids. What I love about my job is the several hats I get to don- I write parenting articles, facilitate parenting workshops, interact with a lot of parents, conduct live sessions, and interview some of the best parenting experts, authors, and speakers the world over! (See some of the experts I’ve interviewed herehere, and here, and watch some of my live sessions herehere, and here.)

All of this with raising two kids and running a house. I also love baking and am a big fitness enthusiast. And how I manage to pack all of this in 24 hours—its simple planning and time management. I guess I’ve always loved a challenge and right now one of my biggest challenges is managing all the hundred things I do, without compromising on the quality. My super cool hubby, my mum, and my kids (who always lend their enthusiasm for any project I take up) are my strength and pillars of support. With them around, I feel anything is possible!

“If you’re a parent, I’d like to share with you some of the most precious lessons in parenting I’ve learned over the years:

Frustrated with your child’s behaviour? Seething with anger? Pause and breathe. You cannot possibly discipline your child when you’re angry or upset. I know it takes all of one’s self-control to do so, but calm down before you even attempt to say or do anything. It’s called emotional regulation (i.e., you’re learning how to manage or regulate your own emotions). It’s the single most powerful tool in your parenting toolkit. If you learn to manage your emotions, you can deliver any message or lesson to your child effectively. Added bonus: your child will learn how to manage his own emotions. 
Here’s how I do it: When I find myself getting upset at my child’s behaviour, I go stand in the middle of the drawing room and say, “I am so frustrated right now, I think I’ll splash water on my face”, and then I proceed to do exactly that. After I have calmed down, I softly, politely, calmly say to my child whatever it is I want to communicate to her. Now, my kids have started to do this too!

How connected are you to your child? Are you your child’s safe person? Do you make time to connect with your child? We sometimes approach connecting our with child as a duty. But it’s a good idea to take out time to connect with your child. Our children need to know we take joy in them or they don’t see themselves as worth loving. That deep connection is what makes everything possible, including their cooperation. So make time everyday to consciously refocus on your child and shower them with your love.
Here’s how I do it: Everyday, for 10-20 minutes, with each child individually, I do what we call ‘special time’. We do exactly what my child wants in that time—I resist the urge to teach or structure the time with activities. I roughhouse him to help him giggle out his anxieties. I do what he wants me to do, without looking at my screen, running to finish the chores, or taking loo breaks. 

Itching to launch into a lecture? Well, all your child hears is “blah, blah, blah….” When we give unsolicited advice (no matter how well-intentioned) or instruct our kids, they only hear the judgment. Connect before you correct. This means you take time to first reach to your child with empathy (where you truly attempt to understand what it must be like to be in their shoes) and then when your child feels understood, you can proceed to communicate and engage with your child. 
Here’s how I do it: Say, my child is throwing sand around while playing in the playground. Instead of lecturing and scolding, here’s what I say, “You’re really having fun throwing that sand, aren’t you? [empathizing] I see you’re in a throwing mood. What can you find that’s safe to throw? Would you like to throw leaves or flowers [offering a choice]?”  


People can get in touch with me on my email: meghnas@parentcircle.in

Also our FB page https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=parentcircle.com

FESTIVAL OF SUN BATHING

Here’s me, wishing each one of you a Happy & Vit.D rich kite flying season. May you be rich in it!
Go out more often and absorb as much of it as possible.

Watching with bulging eyes and a child’s fascination, I held onto Baba’s finger as we walked down the beach. The turquoise waves were glittering against my eyes and the joy of the beach goers was almost infectious.
“Maybe it isn’t just me. I should find out if turquoise is on the happy colour spectrum according to colour psychology”, I made a mental note.
Almost immediately scrapping away the note; like an inquisitive child that’s incapable of containing her curiosity, I shared my thoughts with Baba hoping to catch an insight. He smiled. Continuing to walk as if he had a preset target in mind. But what was the hurry? We were just taking a morning stroll.
Weren’t we?!
Further ahead on the beach, we reached a stretch onto which the city seemed to have shifted its bedrooms. There were people by the hundreds who were laying there, lazy-ing around against the sub-urban busy backdrop. Spread out on their beach towels, generously rubbing sunscreens onto each other, floating on the turquoise creating an illusion of the black spots created when the eye hasn’t adjusted itself to the sudden brightness.
A few more meters and I could taste the salt in every bead that slipped off mu forehead and onto my lips to a degree that I could go on, no more. Not knowing that it was going to be a long walk, I had neither packed a bottle of water nor a hat; just flopping away in a pair of flip-flops which were beginning to feel uncomfortable in all that sand huh was quickly heating up now.
Holding Baba’s finger a bit tighter I silently signalled for him to stop. But to my amazement he did not just continue to walk he also did not look at me for a second. It was as if he too was silently sending me a message that he couldn’t be stopped. Red in the face with borderline dehydration, a growling stomach and now a slightly peaking temper; I held my ground throwing dead weight on Baba’s fingers.
I’m not sure what happened in that minute. What I saw next is not something I had expected. He looked at me with a child’s irritation in his eyes and then pointed at the sky with the awe of a child at an amusement park. I mean, this was beach and not DisneyLand!
I only understood the situation better after his next set of words, “walk a little more for my childhood’s sake?” Only then did my eyes honestly scan the skies to find the sun changing filters every now and then. There were kites all over. It wasn’t January but May, and yet the sky filled with colour.
And so we walked…

In Northern India, the month of January sees a steep drop in temperatures. The days are shorter and the sight of sun is even more rare. And if you have a chance to talk to the members of Gen X and Baby Boomers, you’ll find out that these freezing months and chilled breezes were invites to colourful kites painting the sky bright.


The kite flying, as my grand parents and parents have explained to me, is an excuse to get out in the sun after all that time of being bundled up under layers of clothing and holed up indoors. It is an excuse to get some exercise and release those chemicals while also absorbing some Vitamin D!

Our body produces vit.D by absorbing sunlight. This ‘D’ helps in absorption of calcium, resulting in healthy bones. Along with osteoporosis, it also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart diseases, depression, diabetes and obesity.
One of the easiest source of vitD that is freely available to all of us is the Sun! But with a growing indoor life style, majority of the world population has a deficiency of it (mostly in the developing and developed nations).

So here are some eatables thatch help you gain more vit.D for a better mood, easier weight loss, stronger bones and better lung functioning.
1. Sesame: It is almost second nature to start craving for sesame (til in hindi) as a part of my regular diet just a soon as the winter comes. They could be just roasted, made into energy balls using jaggery to bind them or in the form of dips! They are one of the most under rated sources of vit.D and easily accessible. (I’m going to share a few links with recipes for the same, at the bottom).
2. Milk & Milk Products: Be it cow milk or alternate sources of milk (soy, almond, etc.), they are both great sources of vit.D! Cottage cheese, yoghurt and cheese also contains certain level of vitamin D. Nowadays, there is also fortified milk and milk products available at stores.
3. Mushrooms: They are a delicious source of vit.D as well as potassium. The level of the vitamin varies among the various kinds of mushrooms. Personally, I can add them to everything, right from soups to appetizers and salads to curries and noodles and pastas and rice (just not the desserts).
5. Egg Yolk: Often discarded for its high levels of cholesterol and disliked for its taste, this yellow softness is a sweetheart. The whites contain proteins but the vitamins and minerals are stores away in the yolk, making the consumption of the whole eggs are wiser decision.
6. Orange Juice: While most fruits lack vit.D except for oranges; they are a good source of calcium as well as vit.D. A glass of OJ can provide us with our daily requirement of D!

So here’s me, wishing each one of you a Happy & Vit.D rich kite flying season. May you be rich in it!
Go out more often and absorb as much of it as possible.


Sesame Seed Recipes:
Sesame Ladoo (power balls)
Sesame Dip
Sesame Sticks
Sesame Milk
Misc.

The Backwards Law

It is only when you love all the colours in a rainbow do you accept the rainbow’s beauty or else you are just knit-picking!

Recently a friend shared an interesting post with me, via social media.
In all honesty its been a little more than a week since he shared it, but today I’ve decided to put it out here and share it with all you people.
Its taken me some time to ‘unpretzel my mind’ and its still a work in process…


‘Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”- the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-entered and shallow you become in trying to get there.’


If you are wondering what took me so long to chew this up, gulp it down and try to digest it… well maybe you should read it once again. And then one more time if you still feel the same way.
And these multiple reads were what I needed to internalise these words in the first place. The idea of always being happy and being positive has been so largely marketed and glamourised that we forget that we are more complex machines than any we have created and that we have innumerous softwares that work parallel to one another and mechanisms which are far beyond our own understanding and control.
It is not just okay to feel low, in fact sometimes you owe it to yourself- if you are low, allow yourself to feel it. If you are feeling upset or even angry, you have a reason; so don’t undermine your own smarts. By this I don’t mean to say that you can do outrageous things and take extreme measures, all I mean is that we need to feel the whole spectrum of our emotions and then act with the best possible alternatives.

Have you ever been given a compliment which not only do you not understand but cannot even believe it because you think the contrary of yourself? And somehow that compliment or comment (as you don’t believe it) comes back to you from time to time.
Ever wondered why someone thinks you are beautiful while you don’t think your complexion is good enough or you are too tall to look good or too broad structured to look cute? Are people really always trying to flatter you? Could they have an ulterior motive to achieve by making you doubt yourself and classify your insecurities flawed?

It is only when you love all the colours in a rainbow do you accept the rainbow’s beauty or else you are just knit-picking!

I’m Just Choosing

I wish to fly 
I’m unloading 
I’m not insensitive 
I’m just choosing 


It’s just another week.
It’s been a regular month.
It’s an ordinary weather.
It’s an average list of chores.
It’s the daily hum-drum.
It’s the same faces around.
But,
But I’m making the most of it.
I’m trying to make my state-of-mind extraordinary.
I’m day dreaming travel and researching hostels.
I’m considering my options and being hopeful for the long weekends.
I’m sprinkling plans and I know some are about to stick.
I’m making me.
I’m making myself happy.
I’m being more than just my immediate surroundings.
I wish to try
I’m learning
I’m not incoherent
I’m just choosing
Am I delusional, you may wonder.
I’m childish and dreamy you might say.
I’m unreliable you might believe.
But I’m happy Is all that I care.
I’m trying is all I know.
I’ll get my tickets stamped, is all that I need to believe.
Sure you wish I saw the reality that you see
I understand that you are uncomfortable with my antiques
You do genuinely try to make me normal
Everyone’s wishful for me to adhere and conform
But I’ve seen people cry under the happy masks
I’ve heard the gloomy silence behind your crackling laughter
I’ve felt the burden of the unshed tears
And I know they weigh me down
I wish to fly
I’m unloading
I’m not insensitive
I’m just choosing

Churning Wheels: Potion Quotient

There are four chemicals that are responsible for human happiness.

(This is the second article of the Churning Wheels series)

With a whirlwind of ideas that I couldn’t address all at once I was left restless for a day or more. So I did the best things that I could think of- ponder, wonder, ignore, convince myself that it’s not my monkey hence not my circus. Over time I tried digging deeper, finding articles or asking people if they knew what I felt; well let’s just say there wasn’t much success there either. Internet is smart but it didn’t know the answer to my unsure questions and left me clueless.

After some more time of self-tormenting I decided that the best way to understand what an individual goes through is by looking at it from a two-fold system:

  1. Their chemical proportions
  2. Their needs as individuals

With better clarity than before, there finally was a direction to look at.

A little reading and some permutation and combinations later, I realised that there are four chemicals that are responsible for most human happiness. The beauty of such chemicals is that they needn’t be injected but we can learn to produce and help product more of them within ourselves.

  • The first chemical is ENDORPHIN. It’s the one responsible for making us feel good after a session of physical exercise, despite all the muscle strain, by reducing the perception of pain and are also responsible for feeling of euphoria; also known as the body’s ‘feel good chemical’.
  • The next one is DOPAMINE. This motivates us into performing better and being achievers. It creates a sense of contentment and high through achievements. It is also called the brain’s ‘reward and pleasure centre’ ; more the dopamine more the productivity. Lowered motivation and enthusiasm is an indicator or low levels of dopamine.
  • Third in line is SEROTONIN. This motivates us to indulge in pro-social behaviours. Its released when we perform acts of kindness towards others, making the world seem like a better place. Commonly known as the ‘happiness hormone’, it can affect the body temperature, cause migraine and regulate appetite.
  • And finally OXYTOCIN. This is the social potion, often also called the ‘love hormone’. It is released through proximity. It’s the reason why sometimes hugs feel more therapeutic than words. It works on the trust, warmth, openness and empathy of individuals.chemicals.jpg

On gaining this new information, the next seemed obvious. I had to know how I could improve the production of these hormones in my body without resorting to chemical substitutes. With it began the next phase of my research and I was surprised at how simple it is to make myself happy!

Here are some steps that can be adopted easily in everyday:

  1. Soak in the sun as vitamin D is fat-soluble and directly effects the production of Oxytocin.
  2. Exercise regularly as it has many mind-body benefits. Staying active helps the physiology and is directly related to the production of Endorphin.
  3. Sleep well because your body needs the rest. It is said that most of these hormones are produced when the body is in a resting state that’s why when we wake up after a good night’s sleep we feel energised and refreshed. By the end of the day, the body has usually exhausted its supple of these hormones, making it tired and deserving of the rest.
  4. Eat a protein rich diet and avoid processed foods. Veggies, unsaturated fats, nuts and seeds are the best way.
  5. Quit or limit your sugar consumption*
  6. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine. They create dependence and interfere in the natural hormone production process.
  7. Listen to music that you enjoy as it triggers the pleasure centres.
  8. Try aromatherapy; esp. lavender and chamomile, as they are known to have relaxing properties.
  9. Practice yoga and meditation as they are known to relieve stress and relax the body and mind.
  10. Practice the art of giving, volunteering and donating in-order to feel good.
  11. Cuddle with loved ones and your pets because love spreads positivity and joy.
  12. Laugh! Laughing in real time is the best medicine for all kinds of situations.
  13. Take up hobbies, do creative things and invest time in yourself**
  14. Have celebratory rituals for all small and big accomplishments (eg. A celebratory dance, treating self with favourite food, etc).

As an adult most of us can consciously put in an effort to improve our own happiness. But as adults we should also take up the responsibility of equipping children with the ability to do so by providing them an environment to be happy and helping them inculcate little activities into their routines. What could be better than a generation of humans being brought up with happiness improvement mechanisms?

Note:

*Refer to “Sugaring it Down” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/10/10/sugaring-it-down/

**Refer to “Try It” https://thehazywhisperer.com/2018/07/26/try-it/

References:

10 Best Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-dopamine

33 Ways to Increase Dopamine to Boost Your Productivity. (2018, March 15). Retrieved from https://helloendless.com/10-ways-to-increase-dopamine-to-boost-your-productivity/

Email OF The Day. (1970, January 01). Retrieved from http://emailday.blogspot.com/2015/09/wwwkeralitesnet-4-happy-hormones.html

Jason Nutzman. (n.d.). What Are Endorphins And 7 Ways to Boost It Naturally. Retrieved from https://mindhealth.co/what-are-endorphins-and-7-ways-to-boost-it-naturally

Mojor, C, (2018, November 06). Te Mystery of Serotonin:Can It Really Make You Happy? Retrieved from http://www.developinghumanbrain.org/serotonin-mystery/

Walls

I have a post it on my mirror reminding me- “You’re Doing Just Fine”

Click For Some Music

There is this person I know. For the longest time that I can remember, I’ve looked up to her for being the ideal one. I’ve spent countless hours trying to be like her and innumerable breaths on aligning myself with her.

I’ve admired her ability to remain poised at the most awkward situations. I’ve tried to carry broad shoulders and stand tall like her. I’ve consciously put in the effort to smile just as delicately. I’ve tried to be like the rays of warming sun on a winter morning, she glows like a glow bug at nights too; lighting up wherever she goes.

She seems to have the strength to empathize with most people and remain approachable to everyone around her. Her laugh is like a jingle and she sways like a feather descending the evening breeze. She screams contentment like no one knows.

She knows exactly what to wear and has a body like there is nothing to care. She is effortless, whether in pearls or dark eyeliner. She has meaningful friendships and the bonds with her family ooze understanding and comfort.

She volunteers for causes that are close to her, travels often, works out everyday and is honest about eating clean. She doesn’t use plastic and has a small but a well-kept and vibrant garden. She is a versatile cook and pays all her bills in time.

This woman, I’ve met quite often. She lives in my head. She has had her name written all over my biggest plans and sometimes on the smaller ones as well.

For some time now, I’ve not been as welcoming of her as I was. It’s about age, maybe, or a matter of decision to place myself before the rest. One day which was like any other, after years of being disappointed in comparison to the ideal, I decided. I made the decision to not let her get any bigger than she already is. I made a pact to give myself a try. I decided to accept myself as a package deal and try and make the most of it. I’m taking baby steps.

Now, I’m beginning to feel comfortable with the idea of not always having perfect hair. I’ve realized that heels make me wobble and maple loaded pancakes are my true therapy of choice. I tend to become overly expressive and loud sometimes, and other times put distance because I need to.

I splash a lot of water while I swim and feel contentment with a rather small and intimate circle. I often get into disagreements with my parents and arguments with my siblings. I love my PJs and Netflix weekends and roll while clutching onto my stomach never-so-seldom. Some days I choose to stay up late and enjoy the party even though I’m aware that I’m going to miss the morning run. I’m making peace with the fact that inconsistent workout is better than no work at all.

For the love of nature I have two indoor plants that I’m grateful for and my room is always naturally well lit, because closing the blinds is a task. I go crazy when I see the rains, watch a sunrise or just chance upon a rainbow, so much so that people think I’m having spasms while I’m just doing my happy dance. I take the floor whenever I see a puppy and don’t care of the sand on my pants.

I’m still working on it as sometimes the other woman clouds my thoughts. I waver in my resolve and wonder if I would be better being a little more like her. Reading the newspaper is still not a routine but I try to make the most of all the knowledge available around me. And for days when I can’t seem to get my head around myself, I have a post it on my mirror reminding me- “You’re Doing Just Fine”.

I take more time for myself now. I spend time in my own company every once in a while and compare notes on my feelings. I’ve come to understand that there is more me in how I feel than anyone else. I’m taking baby steps. Some say I’ve changed, but I’m learning to take that as a compliment on my progress.

I’m working on breaking the walls that my wise self helped me construct ever since I heard something intriguing-

the walls aren’t always saving me,

they are sometimes just limiting me

Some More Music