Christopher Willard

Christopher Willard, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of over 18 publications for children and adults. An internationally sought-after speaker and mindfulness educator, his books include Growing Up Mindful, Raising Resilience, The Breathing Book, Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, and Alphabreaths Too.

Author photo © Kevin Day

Also By Author

Christopher Willard: How We Grow Through What We Go Th...

Most of us are familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress. Fortunately, there’s another way we can respond to extreme adversity. This is what researchers call post-traumatic growth—and it’s something we’re all biologically “hardwired” to access, to turn even our most difficult experiences into a source of resilience and strength. 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with clinical psychologist and author Dr. Christopher Willard about “how we grow through what we go through”—which is also the title of his new book. Tune in as they explore how meditation can literally be lifesaving; avoiding the trap of spiritual bypassing; the “10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows” of our lives; embodiment practices and nervous system self-regulation; mindfulness and the capacity to respond rather than react; the practice of stretching the breath; acting ourselves into a new way of thinking and feeling; how there are many ways to healing and recovery—and finding the best for yourself; the power of posture; the connection between self-compassion and personal transformation; the practice of putting your hand on your heart; becoming a source of co-regulation for others; the concept of downstream and upstream reciprocity; and more.

How to Cultivate Generosity in Our Children

 

Nearly every spiritual tradition has a practice of generosity and giving. We call it Dana in some traditions, Caritas in Christianity, Tzedekah in Judaism, alms or communal sharing in others, or in the United States, “The Holiday Season” stretching onward from Black Friday through the New Year. These spiritual (and commercial) practices existed long before the term “positive psychology,” but the principles overlap significantly. We know now that making a practice of kindness and generosity leads to physical and mental health and social and spiritual benefits.

In families, children are often in the “getting” role, while adults are in the “giving role,” but how can we encourage that spirit of generosity in the next generation?

We are wired to be generous, and both neuroscience and well-worn clichés tells us we feel more joy in giving than in receiving. However, our consumer culture tells us the opposite, that getting will make us feel better. These messages run counter to the spiritual and scientific wisdom showing health and happiness come more through giving than getting. Just imagine if our society received just as many messages urging us to give than get, if people camped outside stores for days just to donate to the latest charity.

Among the many benefits, generosity also builds trust between people. Studies show that the giver’s brain regions associated with trust and connection light up, fostering optimism, reducing depression, and creating healthy attachments, showing us why cultures develop practices related to gift-giving. The benefits even extend to just witnessing an act of generosity.

 

So how can we encourage generosity our families? Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Involve your kids in the decision for charitable giving, taking into account what your family’s values are: Social justice, the environment, health issues that have impacted your family, presents for children or families in need, and so on.
  • Follow the lead of my friend’s grandmother who gave the grandkids $100 each year, with $50 to spend on themselves and $50 she would donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Remember that giving can also include your time or your support. Volunteer as a family, a practice shown to boost happiness, empathy, and build closeness.
  • Give experiences; the happiness will last longer than the lifespan of a toy. Perhaps travel, theater tickets, or museum passes.
  • Donate toys to make space for the new. Notice together which toys are getting lonely and would be happier in a new home, saying thank you and goodbye to old toys, and imagining the happiness they will bring after they’ve been donated.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Raising Resilience by Christopher Willard, Pysd.

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, teaches at Harvard Medical Schools, and leads workshops worldwide. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

Christopher Willard: Growing Up Mindful

Christopher Willard is a licensed psychologist who focuses on mindfulness, anxiety, and learning issues. With Sounds True, he has released a new book and companion audio called Growing Up Mindful: Essential Practices to Help Children, Teens, and Families Find Balance, Calm, and Resilience. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Chris and Tami talk about the inherent difficulties of being a child and how mindfulness practice can help ease the tensions of growing up. They discuss the different ways one can teach meditation techniques to kids, as well as the different ages at which one can start this instruction. Finally, Chris shares his vision of how mindfulness could be a powerful public health intervention—one that could possibly have an essential place in the future of childhood education.
(59 minutes)

You Might Also Enjoy

Donna Eden and David Feinstein, PhD: The Power—and P...

Tapping is a simple form of energy psychology that can help you transform difficult emotions, overcome addiction, anxiety, or depression, change self-defeating habits, and more. Today, there are over 175 peer-reviewed scientific studies supporting its efficacy. Yet despite 20 years of growing evidence, many people remain skeptical. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the authors of the new book, Tapping, Donna Eden and David Feinstein, PhD, about why the technique works and how to practice it successfully. 

Listen in to this exciting, illuminating conversation on: energy medicine and the subfield of energy psychology; thought field therapy and emotional freedom techniques; how tapping produces such incredibly fast results; auras and chakras; acupressure points and piezoelectricity; the acceptance statement and other tapping protocols; breaking the cycle of inner judgment and negativity; the deep and authentic personal work tapping requires; subjective units of distress (SUDs) and the affect bridge; obstacles to change and psychological reversals; tapping as a tool for trauma healing; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Erica Djossa: Releasing the Mother Load

What have we done to our mothers? Sociologists call our times “the era of intensive mothering,” a period in which moms must be it all and do it all for their children and families. Psychotherapist and maternal mental health specialist Erica Djossa has made it her mission to teach today’s mothers how to take care of their well-being in a sustainable way. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Erica about her much-needed new book, Releasing the Mother Load, and the steps we can take to challenge the norms and change the culture around mothering. 

Enjoy this empowering discussion of: values-centered mothering; mothers as martyrs; the pressures facing a generation of “overinformed, overeducated, and overwhelmed” moms; equally sharing our household duties; the cost of cognitive or invisible labor; boundaries; using the “load map” to redistribute the work; “mom rage,” its roots, and the unique nature of anger in motherhood; identifying the “red light and green light” times for difficult conversations with partners (and sticking to them); overcoming perfectionism; self-compassion; re-parenting yourself while you’re parenting your children; the disempowering belief that I’m failing as a mom; effective self-care for moms (it’s not just bubble baths!); advice for making changes—start small; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Peter A. Levine: From Trauma to Awakening and Flow

After 50 years of helping thousands of clients in trauma recovery and now in his 80s, Peter A. Levine, PhD, continues the work of healing—both others and himself. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the beloved Sounds True author and groundbreaking creator of the Somatic Experiencing® method about his personal journey and ongoing mission. 

Give a listen to this inspiring conversation about the importance of community, the power of compassion, and the profound wisdom of the body, as Tami and Dr. Levine discuss: personal writing as a tool for working with trauma; self-compassion and kindness; conception trauma and procedural memories; the archetype of the wounded healer; the body as healer; how both trauma and wisdom are passed from generation to generation; conversations with Einstein; getting to the root of where you’re stuck; the promises and pitfalls of psychedelics; lessening our fear of dying; on-the-spot techniques for feeling safe in your nervous system; the ongoing nature of healing; the journey from trauma to awakening and flow; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

>