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

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!

My Kerosene Lantern & My Flies

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are”
– Kurt Cobain

Have you ever seen a kerosene lantern?
Have you noticed it burn?
When you light the wick, it glows with a warmth so strong. The glow attracts hoards of flies and moths like kids around a candy cart; they crowd around, buzzing and dancing as if in an a-cappella. The flame moves like an enchantress at the heart of a party. As the enchantress puts in the hours, the gathering begins to dull down and the insects scatter. A dark blanket covers the enchantress that continues to glow, as if unaware of her lost grip.
The lantern is blamed for being a possessive lover who hides away her spirit, refusing to share her with the rest of the world. This love story is, however, one of melancholy.

So busy entertaining and enjoying, the enchantress never realises that the sooth that envelopes her is her own creation.


The lantern is my physical being. The glowing wick is my spirit. The flies, bees and moths are all the people that have come and gone; the ones that have been around.
What’s the sooth then, I wondered?
It is the only proof that stands witness to all the effort, burning and wear and tear that has gone into the process of being me.

Do I like who I am today? Of course I do!
Am I the perfect version of who I wish to be? Well I am the version that I wanted to be sometime ago. Now my plans have evolved.
I once read somewhere:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; Remember what you now have was among the things you only hoped for.

-Epicurus

Why is it then that the work that was put in to make me- me, shows itself in the form of a layer that also sometimes suffocates my light?

I’ve always been a people person and yet it burns me out from time to time. For the first time I recently heard myself ask a friend, “Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe Social Media is just Media. There is more to my everyday than what I choose to put out there?” While it did give me a false momentary celebrity air, but it spiralled down on me just as fast. I realised that I was losing touch with myself and becoming irritable. I realised that the line between my primary and secondaries was getting blurred.

To my own surprise I was at ease on realising that I had been pushing myself. The road to this realisation had un-timely outbursts and un-necessary emotional breakdowns for over a week with highly confusing actions, the realisation itself came as a moment of comfort. As if my body was showing signs, like the sooth in the lantern, that I’d burnt myself well and needed some cleaning.

What followed was pretty much me pampering myself to comfort through music, food, sleep and everything else. I spent a couple of days being everything that I needed, un-bothering by the social code of conduct.
Took a day off work with no other plans for the day. Got into bed a little early and stay there a little longer. Stood under the shower and let it all out. Painted my toes an electric purple and spent time moisturising. Didn’t indulge in small talk or conversations that weren’t helping me. Looked at the moon and tried counting the stars till my neck hurt. Ate by myself. Played with the strays. Watched movies in languages that I don’t understand. Played dress up in the middle of the night. Re-read parts of books, just because. Said ‘No’ to polite tasks. Listened to groovy dance music at the crack of dawn. Ran alone. Called up friends whom I’ve not heard from in a while. Laughed until my eyes spilled. Wrapped fairy lights around my body and sat with a tub of my favourite ice cream to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. re-runs.

And just like that, with a little effort and time, the glow of my lantern has begun to return. The weight of the sooth is lifting and I feel more at ease with myself. Finally able to feel my thoughts flowing and more in tandem with my surroundings. Ready to be with people and feel entertained by the buzz of it all.
It is a small amount of time invested in cleaning which is going to last me quite a while and has also earned me some added comfort. If I had to do the math, I’d say I’m looking at some great returns on investment.

Don’t waste another minute thinking that you’re failing when really all you’re doing is growing.

-Chani Nicholas

Hey!
The last few days for me have been all about thinking, re-thinking and sometimes over analysing. I wouldn’t say it was all dull, grey and dark but there sure have been showers of gloom. It was this period of looking at myself that had me sharing this piece.
If you’ve read it till the end and felt like you understood what I’ve been upto, then maybe you have been there, are headed there or are there right now. Treat it like a cleanse, it makes you dirty and uncomfortable but you only get out better; so hang in there!

VALIDITY

Its necessary, but more from inside and almost never from the outside. Ironically we do the opposite.

In general, it is a criteria to measure the quality of any information. It is indicative of its logical and factual soundness.
Eg. “You make a valid point/argument.” or “There is no proof that validates your stories” (basically means that you think the person is lying).

In case of statistics and research, validity is understood as the extent to which the results or findings correspond to the actual reality.

To think of why this concept has made it to my choice of word for this week, it is because of something that I caught myself doing.
I willingly went ahead and undid my hour long effort because someone’s opinion of the outcome didn’t seem very positive towards it, even though I was convince that it was fairly good for the occasion.
I’m not saying that valuing and respecting someone’s opinion is wrong. But make sure its someone else’s opinion, not necessarily your reality!

Have you ever felt like you have used validation as a tool to measure your affection towards someone, or someone has used it for you? I know I have allowed people’s validation drive me from one task to the next.
It doesn’t confirm their love for me, but it sure makes me distant from who I am. And the worst part, when you pay attention to someone post validation, its never a long term result or unconditional love. It becomes a cycle- there is constant need to fit into the box or match a certain expectation.

The day I caught myself doing this and realised that their approval was not always bringing me happiness I decided to try and be more conscious of this and evaluate my actions.
After all, Life is too short to please everyone while making yourself uncomfortable and disconnected!

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

Love

If love is so important, then how come none of my heftily paid for education ever covered it under life skills?

Click here to set the mood

Love is all I need.

Love; to grow each day

Love; to look forward to tomorrow

Love; to create something to hold onto

Love; to have something meaningful

Love; to appreciate all that we already have

Love; to value what is achievable

Love; to exist

Love; to just be

Love; to find our self

Love- is all we need!

If love is so important, then how come none of my heftily paid for education ever covered it under life skills? How is it that we are never taught at home to provide this priceless service for ourselves as a way to nurture?

If that’s all that it takes to be at peace and make sense of the crazy world, then why not start with myself? If, charity begins at home, then so should the loving.

Why not love ourselves just as unabashedly, selfishly, unconditionally and respectably as we expect and long to be loved by someone else?

WE could all do our little piece in this world- its free!

  • Plant the pots and nurture them despite the busy schedule
  • Have a bed-time routine, read, pamper, listen to music, sing
  • Catch more sunrises in the company of comfort
  • Get an adrenaline high more often- take a walk, run the trail, click that hill, dance to those songs
  • Pick a hobby, let age be no bar- not all hobbies can be as old as you are and not all can pay, some are just meant to make you feel better
  • Earn that dessert you crave instead of starving your way through it
  • Laugh more often and let the world see your molars, find more reasons to show that smile
  • Visit a new place, no matter how clichéd and soak in its beauty
  • Show gratitude to the winds for whispering sweet nothings in your hair and the stars for flirting with you through the twinkles
  • Respect comes with acceptance- gift it to yourself with a disproportionately huge bow on top

No one has a quick formula to happiness, and the ones who claim to have are the ones struggling the most. Open your hearts to making a fool of yourself and forgive the ignorance of the ones who run to judge you. Love yourself, not with blind faith, but by knowing that it’s okay to be different from most. After all, we are not the output of economies of scale, but individual creations of the universe.

So Love,

Love; because how can we ask for more when there isn’t much to give?