Where are your kids getting their dopamine?

Our bodies and brains are wired to release a “feel good chemical” called dopamine when we eat, have sex, or exercise. We also get a dopamine release from creating something, accomplishing something or being in the flow state of learning.

Our culture has introduced many more dopamine producing activities to younger and younger children: Sugar, caffeine, TV, movies, porn, youtube, video games, social media, are all designed to flood massive amounts of dopamine into our systems. Our current culture seems to promote fun, excitement, productivity and keeping busy.

The problem is that our brains and bodies aren’t designed for this much dopamine. Some experts theorize this is one of the reasons we are seeing such a huge increase in ADHD, depression, anxiety, addictions and other brain centered differences.

Not everybody reacts the same way. I can’t get out of shopping malls and casinos fast enough but I have family members who come to life and love the dopamine release of shopping and gambling. When my kids were little, my daughter could be in a room with the TV on and barely notice, but the TV had a hypnotizing effect on my son that turned him into a zombie. We tend to gravitate towards things that give us these delicious hits of dopamine. When we get rewarded with dopamine, it motivates us to come back for more….and more….and more.

Can your kid sit in a room with her favorite sugary treat and not be tempted? If you take away the cookie or the ipad, does your son hyperfocus on the object until he gets his dopamine hit? Can your teenager sit with her phone nearby and not be tempted to check it? Every text alert or social media “like” is designed to release dopamine and create addiction.

When we don’t reward our brains with dopamine (by checking our phone or eating sugar, etc.) we can create anxiety and insomnia. But overtime, the flooding of dopamine in our systems creates addiction and increased feelings of depression.

So basically, the world our kids are growing up is a challenge to their mental health.

What can we do?

  1. We need to become really deliberate about where we get our dopamine and not just follow a “If it feels good, do it” mantra.
  2. Observe ourselves and our children closely to see where we might be flooding our systems with too much dopamine.
  3. Re-wire the brain BEFORE we become addicted and show signs of depression and anxiety.

I have a lot to say on this topic and invite you to join me for a FREE Webinar called,

“How Much is Too Much?” Screen time, Dopamine and Mental Well Being.

In the meantime, here are a few life hacks below to help you and your kids conquer this challenging culture.

  1. Establish a Streak – Middle School kids have discovered a dopamine hit from “maintaining streaks”, or seeing how many days in a row they can text friends about silly things. Instead, establish a streak of how many days in a row you made your bed, walked your dog, ate a vegetable. Mark it off on a calendar and celebrate your victory. Check out the app Calm and start a meditation streak.
  2. Create Something – When we can get immersed in a project, creative or not, it can give us a healthy dose of dopamine. Many of us think of art or music but for me, creating webinars, class content and writing blogs count. Encourage your kids to create a Rube Goldberg, a fort, or cooking project.
  3. Seek balance. Don’t let your kid play a video game WHILE also watching TV (choose one!). Turn off ALL alerts on their phones so they don’t hear “So & so posted a new video!” No cell phones while studying, or in the bedroom while sleeping. Buy an old fashioned alarm clock. Try allowing movies and video games only if interspersed with exercise. Save sugar for special occasions.
  4. Music! Turn music OFF on video games but turn it ON while your child is doing an activity you’d like to reward. Playing music shoot hoops outside or while they set or clear the table, might help them linger and want to do it more often.

5-minute mood makeover for Moms

You’ve probably heard that practicing gratitude is a good thing to do. The problem is, when something is “good for us” and we hear we “should be grateful for what we have” we feel more obligated than elevated.

I’m not a morning person. I wake up slowly, quietly and a little grumpy. Starting my day by being grateful that I’m alive and that I have a good bed is an easy shift. If I try to be ecstatic first thing in the morning it feels fake. Thinking about my morning latte gets me out of bed but it’s not exactly the mood makeover I’m looking for.

If you really want to elevate your mood, to feel fully alive, appreciated, and full of potential, try being grateful for something you don’t yet have. Think about something you really, really, really yearn for: winning the lottery, swimming with the dolphins while sailing around the Caribbean, your personal villa on Lake Cuomo, winning a coveted award, having 20 more children, whatever your fantasy, write it down in full sensory detail. You are going to use your imagination to create a fabulous feeling.

I used to do this in high school. Instead of doing my homework on the 45 minute bus ride like the smart kids did, I fantasized about the one thing I thought would make my life better: the perfect boyfriend. What he would look like, how jealous everyone would be of me, how he treated me, I’d get off the bus like I was walking on air. (I think one of the reasons teens are struggling today is they are looking at social media to feel bad about what they have, instead of using their imaginations to create what they want….but that’s another blog post)

So let’s do it now!

Imagine you just won the lottery and the holy crap, OMG, mind blown feeling that would come over you. Notice the thoughts that run through your mind, “I never have to worry again!” “I can do anything I want” “I can relax!”.  Allow yourself to be grateful and wowed by this amazing gift! Write down everything you would do. Where would you go? What would you do there? Would I find you Zip Lining through the rain forest of Costa Rica? Skiing all day in Vail then cozying up by the fire with all your loved ones in a beautiful mountain cabin? Sipping a Mai Tai in Maui while watching the sunset on the beach? Chocolate tasting in Brugge?

Imagine the expressions on your families faces when you told them the news. Who would you give money to? What would you buy for your loved ones? Imagine their reaction when they see the gift. Who would be the most excited? Would you have a “Pretty Woman” moment on Rodeo Drive with your fashionista niece? Would I see you at a car dealership with your teenage son? Checking out boats in Hawaii with your hubby? Touring estates in Carmel with your parents and a real estate agent?

Who would you hire? A personal organizer? A really good accountant? An interior designer? The most amazing teachers for your kiddos? A life coach for your husband? 🙂

Write down everything you can think of that you would do and notice how it elevates your mood? It’s important to pick the fantasy that speaks to your deepest yearning. Then, when you are feeling amazing, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do today to make my fantasy come to life?”

Aloha & Pura Vida!


New Year, New You

Let’s make 2018 your best year yet!

You’ve been pretty growth oriented up until now. All through childhood and your twenties, you learned A LOT, you grew mentally, emotionally and physically. You took risks, tried new things, created, accomplished and focused on creating an exciting future. 

Now your life is very full. Raising kids is exciting, stimulating and constantly changing. 

It’s common for overwhelmed parents to slow down their own growth and enjoy living through their kids. As kids grow into teens, and then out of the house, many parents can find themselves with low-grade dissatisfaction. 

Some Moms and Dads feel guilty because they have the life they wanted, but still feel like something is missing. They didn’t realize that their brain is wired to seek comfort and familiarity, and this habit is an obstacle to creating an exciting and inspiring life.

Life coaching, self reflection, planning and deliberate actions will release the guilt, override the brain’s natural habit, and create the life you are meant to have. 

Doing a year-in-review can help you reflect on what’s working, what isn’t, and what actions steps to take towards building a new comfort zone that serves your goals.

Let’s take a look back to see what 2017 has to teach you.

Grab a journal and write down your answers to the following questions:

 1. What did you create in 2017?  Either by default or on purpose, what were the results of your actions or non-actions when in comes to your health, career, family, community, spiritual life, home, financial, etc. 

2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?   

3. What thoughts did you think in order to make these successes possible?         

4. What areas of your life are running smoothly and easily?   

5. What hard times did you have to go through in order to enjoy these areas of your life?  

6.  What areas of your life aren’t working for you and need to change?

7. Have you tried to accomplish this goal in the past but didn’t get the result you wanted?


8. What is different this year, that you are ready to commit to? 

9. How have you grown or evolved as a person in the last year? 

10. Who has helped you and supported you the most in this last year?

11. Which relationships would you like to strengthen and build this year? 

12. What is the biggest, most amazing dream you can imagine for yourself in 2018?  When you think about this dream, what emotions can you feel? What is one small baby step you can take towards that goal and feeling those positive emotions. 

You don’t have to have an exhilarating, exciting life. Nor do you need to have a perfectly balanced and beautiful life. You just need to have a life that is 100% authentically YOU. 

In order to squeeze ourselves into a life that isn’t quite right for us, we do things like over-eat, over-drink, over-work, over-exercise, binge watch netflix, worry, complain, ruminate, etc.  We have to come up with elaborate ways to avoid ourselves. 

If you want to change a habit, get to the root cause, and build positive momentum towards being more authentically, joyfully yourself, schedule a free life coaching session today.

Schedule your free coaching call



Don’t forget to give back, TO YOURSELF, this holiday season

You’ve heard the saying “It is in giving, that we receive” and I know you get this.

You live it every day. You work hard so your kids are fed, clothed, clean, kind, warm, educated and happy. At the end of the day, you get to feel satisfied in a job well done and valued by your family. You love buying the perfect gift to see your kids faces light up. Doing for others, gives you joy. Up until a point.

If ALL you do is give, and you don’t do enough receiving in return, you fall out of balance. Falling out of balance shows up differently for different people: resentment, jealousy, overeating, overdrinking, for me, it’s recurring illness and chronic pain.

If you’re waiting for your family, co-workers or mother-in-law, to appreciate all you do for them, you are going to be waiting for an awfully long time.

Instead, follow these holiday hacks to start giving back to yourself this holiday season. They will help you feel appreciated and balanced after a season full of giving.

  1. My favorite Christmas tradition is checking into a hotel room BY MYSELF for two nights after Christmas. There is nothing quite as wonderful as a day where 100% of the decisions are based on what YOU want to do. Where shall you go? What do you feel like eating? What are you in the mood for? How long do you want to stay? LUXURY and a great way to make sure you still remember what your own inner voice sounds like.
  2. If you can’t take an overnight, take a day. Sun up to sundown. Get a good book, explore a new area, check into a day spa. The key is to not DO anything, just to BE, and enjoy being yourself in this beautiful world we live in.
  3. Buy yourself a present. If you are out shopping for others and you find something you really love, BUY IT and wrap it up!  Who says gifts have to come from others? You were very good this year and you deserve something beautiful. Put it under the tree and get creative with the tag. Sign it “Your #1 fan” “Your favorite admirer” write a nice note that says “for all you do”.
  4. Say thank you. If you work and work but never hear ‘thank you’, it’s easy to slip into resentment. Learning to thank yourself for what you do is an incredible life skill. “I thank myself for putting wrapped gifts under the tree for my children .” “I thank myself for upholding our family and religious traditions.” “I thank myself for donating toys and food.” “I thank myself for cleaning my house and cooking a great dinner.”
  5. Make a brag board. Write down all the things you did that you are proud of and post it on the refrigerator for your family to see. “Bought red shirt for the school assembly.”, “contributed to teacher gifts”, “drove on field trip”, “swept the kitchen floor”, “made chili for dinner”, “hung lights”, “folded laundry”. Doesn’t matter how mundane, it just feels good to write down all you’ve done and post it like a trophy on a shelf. Revel in your accomplishments and appreciate yourself.
  6. Celebrate your accomplishments! You made through the crazy holidays! You only lost one present, you didn’t burn the turkey, you remembered to water the tree, so many victories! Get together with your girlfriends and raise a glass to yourselves.

So if you are likely to overdue the giving and doing this time of year, create balance by giving yourself the appreciation, solitude and recuperation time you need.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” 
― Parker J. PalmerLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation


Have you fallen into the responsible mom trap?

Stay home moms are especially vulnerable of falling into these two traps but working moms can certainly find themselves stuck here too.

I asked a client the other day, “What percentage of your daily tasks are done out of obligation?” She figured about 90%. 90%!!! This is self imposed slavery!

Feeling like you HAVE TO do something traps the spirit and makes you feel powerless. “Shoulding” your way through life will wreck havoc on your energy and rob you of your own power and sense of authority over your life. It’s a mental prison and it takes it’s toll.

The most common reason why you hear moms say obligatory things like “I have to pick up your brother” “I need to start working out” or “I really should get a head start on my Christmas shopping” is because we want to feel important.

Many of us quit our jobs to stay home and raise kids and we need to prove that we are needed, valuable, and that our lives have purpose. The last thing we want is for someone to think we are sitting on the couch, watching reality TV and eating bon-bons. We take our mothering job seriously by filling our lives with obligations. 

If this sounds like you, the question to ask yourself is, “Have I accomplished my goal of feeling needed?

Can I check the box that says “I’m a responsible mom”?

If so, let’s check it and MOVE ON to something more freeing and empowering for the human psyche.

The second trap we can fall into, trying to prove we are hardworking responsible moms, is commiserating with other hardworking, stressed out people.
It took me FOREVER to believe my husband when he told me that he wants to hear how easy and joyful my day was! He would come home from work and talk about how stressed and overwhelmed he was, so I would pick the most stressful part of my day and share back. Solidarity, it’s how women support each other. You tell me what’s bugging you, I tell you what’s bugging me, we vent, we laugh, we feel better.

What he was asking me to do instead felt so rude!
Girlfriend: “My kids are such slobs. They leave their stuff everywhere, complain about having no food to eat yet still manage to make a mess in the kitchen.”
Me: “My kids are delightful in every way. They never make a mess and if they do, they clean it up.”
WHAT!? That is NOT how we support people we care about! But husbands are different than girlfriends.

When we complain to our husbands, he sees our problems as something he needs to fix.  When we share our crises, mishaps and exhaustion of the day, even with good intentions, it makes him feel more depleted and wondering why he’s working so hard in the first place.

Focusing on the negative put us into our own mental prison instead of giving ourselves permission to fully enjoy those moments when everything is going smoothly and easily.

Can you check the box that says, “I’m a hard-working Mom”? If yes, let’s check it and MOVE ON to focusing on those moments in the day when you felt deeply relaxed, present in the moment, and truly grateful. Share THOSE moments with your husband. Then he feels like his hard work is worthwhile because his kids get to be with a happy, balanced mommy all day.

Are you ready to MOVE ON from hardworking, needed and responsible? Start by replacing “I have to” “I need to” and “I should” from your vocabulary and replace it with “I choose to”, “I intend to” and “I will”. You’ve earned your Supermom patch, it’s ok to kick your feet up, relax and do some fun things just for you.