Mindfulness may be fundamentally understood as the state in which one becomes more aware of one’s physical, mental, and emotional condition in the present moment, without becoming judgmental. Individuals may be able to pay attention to a variety of experiences, such as bodily sensations, cognitions, and feelings, and accept them without being influenced by them. Mindfulness practices are believed to be able to help people better control their thoughts, rather than be controlled by them. Try a couple of these strategies and see what they can do for you.

Focus on your breathing.

When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.

Wake up Early

Choosing to awaken a little earlier in the morning not only allows you to begin your day with mindfulness but also extends the amount of time you have to enjoy life. Give it a try for a week or so. You may be surprised at how much more you enjoy your mornings with just a few extra minutes.

Pay attention.

It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it.

Live in the moment.

Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.

Accept yourself.

Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.

Awaken with Gratitude

When we begin the day with gratitude, we train our minds to look for the positive rather than focusing on the challenges, frustrations, and slights we have encountered throughout the week.  The key to making this habit effective is not the number of things you feel grateful for or even the amount of time you spend in gratitude, but rather the intensity of focus and feeling you have around the effort. A mindful gratitude practice means immersing yourself in the emotion so that you feel deeply and profoundly blessed.

Do a Mindful Body Scan

The simplest way to get in touch with how you’re feeling is to do a mindful body scan. A body scan is a meditative practice in which you focus on each part of every area, often beginning at the toes and moving to the head.  The key here is to train your attention on each specific part for a moment and pay close attention to how you feel.

Practice a Morning Breathing Exercise

Do you pay much attention to your breathing? Practicing mindful, focused breathing, even for ten minutes a day reduces stress and promotes relaxation. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles.

Notice Your Thoughts

If you allow negative thoughts to run rampant first thing in the morning, you lose the best time for creativity and productivity. Many people wake up feeling anxious and filled with dread, as the cycle of rumination and negative thinking begins the minute their feet hit the floor.

Practice Morning Meditation

Meditation is the centerpiece of practicing mindfulness exercises. It does not take a genius to understand that practicing mediation at some time during your day is going to be an important part of your mindfulness routine. Taking time to meditate for just ten minutes a day will support all of your other daily mindfulness habits, as meditation is a form of strength training for your mind.  The purpose of meditation is to observe the patterns and habits of your mind and learn to tame the incessant chattering of your thoughts. With practice, you’ll gain more and more control over your thoughts, rather than your thoughts controlling you and your emotions.

Write in a Journal

Working through a journal for ten minutes is an excellent mindfulness habit because you completely focus on putting your thoughts onto paper. It’s a way to liberate your mind from the mental chatter that can set your morning off to a negative or anxious start.

Be Present with others around you

How many people around the world begin their days with little to no interaction with the people they hold most dear? What are we working so hard for anyway, if not to spend quality time with our loved ones? The best place to start is be being present with those around you, even for just a few minutes before you begin your work or school day.

Eat Breakfast Mindfully

If you eat breakfast, even if it is something simple like a piece of toast or a cup of yogurt, then consider making breakfast a mindful activity. Mindful eating involves both what you eat and how you eat it. Being mindful about your breakfast is a great way to reevaluate your food choices while slowing down enough to appreciate what you are eating. Eating healthy foods at breakfast can set the stage for smart food choices throughout your day.

Recite Positive Affirmations

As a mindfulness habit, affirmations are positive phrases that you repeat to yourself, describing who and how you want to be, using the present tense, as though the outcome has already occurred. Establishing a positive affirmation habit first thing in the morning can impact the outcome of your entire day. Positive affirmations, when practiced deliberately and repeatedly, can reinforce chemical pathways in the brain, making the connection between two neurons stronger, and therefore more likely to conduct the same message again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Nature-Based Therapy?

Humans’ disconnection from nature seems to be an ever increasing global challenge as our world becomes more technologically advanced and urbanized. Theories from evolutionary psychology, such as the Biophilia Hypothesis, argue that early humans were immersed in the natural world for millions of years and that a detachment from nature seen in modern humans is a source of psychological distress. The therapeutic properties of time spent in natural environments are becoming more well known and in response, mental health therapists have begun to harness nature’s restorative capacity by challenging convention and offering therapy outdoors.

What is EcoTherapy?

Ecotherapy is the name given to a form of experiential therapy that incorporates counselling interventions in the natural world to improve the client’s growth and development. There are wide ranges of treatment programs, which aim to improve mental and physical well-being through doing outdoor activities in nature. Examples include nature-based meditations, physical exercise in natural settings, horticultural therapy, adventure therapy, conservation activities and nature-based therapy.

What does Nature-Based Therapy look like?

The concept of Nature-Based Therapy combines the inherent benefits of being in nature with a benefits of a therapy session with a trained counsellor. Nature is viewed as a healing partner in the counselling process. The outdoor environment has the ability to encourage different affects in relation to internal worlds. For example, a wooded forest can feel comforting to some while to others this might symbolize a fear they are challenged with. While different therapists will conduct a Nature-Based sessions differently, the concept is similar. This could look like a walk and talk session in a natural setting to applying metaphors from the natural environment to their current life situation.

Benefits

Nature-Based Therapy is an effective means to boost mental wellness and has many psychological, physiological, and social benefits. The psychological effects of therapy in nature include lower blood pressure and research shows that exposure to nature will have profound impact in the decreasing of cortisol levels which can lower stress levels. As well, research also points to increased resilience, improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially with other members of their community and society at large. Natural light, fresh air, exposure to trees and plants seem to improve many people’s outlook on life in a positive manner. One positive aspect of a Nature-Based approach for when an individual is depressed involves how people often retreat into indoor spaces, isolating themselves from the world around them. Using nature based therapy can help people to receive the benefits of being outdoors while still engaging in therapy in a less intimidating environment than a traditional office setting. The calming effect of nature makes it the perfect backdrop for a counselling session.

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Imagine being outside with a blue sunny, sky while you feel the soft snow beneath your skis and you feel the wind on your face.  Any one that downhill or cross country skis will tell you that skiing makes you feel healthy and happy. But while the physical benefits of being outside in nature and skiing are obvious, it has only been in recent studies that science have proved that the mental benefits of snow sports are just as valuable. A study led by Stanford University found that city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of depression than rural residents and a 40% increased risk of mood disorders. 

No stranger to finding creative ways to connect people to nature, Heather Hendrie is a Squamish based clinician who offers Ski Therapy in addition to her regular clinical practice. As an avid skier, former ski instructor and outdoor guide, Heather hopes to add ski therapy sessions to her suite of offerings this winter.  Heather became interested in the healing power of nature through her healing journey, where nature provided great relief and a sense of perspective leading her to pursue a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counselling, specializing in Wilderness Therapy.  Ski therapy seems a good fit for Hendrie, who made headlines when she created the “Lifts of Love” event in Banff.  An annual singles speed dating event held at Mount Norquay. It follows naturally that she’d take her therapeutic work to the chairlifts and groomed trails.   I caught up with Heather to discuss this interesting form of therapy.  

What is Ski Therapy? 

Heather describes Ski Therapy as a playful, Nature Based  way to connect with a therapist while moving one’s body.  The therapeutic process is at work while breathing fresh air, taking in the surrounding scene and engaging in bi lateral movement that is proving to support significant reductions in the levels of both bodily distress and emotional stress. These combined emotional physical and physiological benefits could make ski therapy a real 2 for 1 type practice, and ideal for people who’d like to try a novel approach in therapy. 

Where do you offer Ski Therapy? 

Heather hopes to offer sessions through maintained cross country skiing trails at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.  Making this therapeutic modality accessible to more people is currently a passion of Heather’s, as skiing has historically been such an exclusive pursuit. 

Do you need to know how to ski?

While Heather’s background is as a guide and instructor, the focus of ski therapy is healing and relief from symptoms, rather than the technical aspects of the sport. 

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What theoretical approaches do you use? 

Heather applies a Transpersonal, humanistic, mindfulness-based, experiential approach to her work, inspired by such leaders as Rogers, Maslow, Van Der Kolk and Peter Levine.  

How do you manage confidentiality with others around? 

Confidentiality looks different outdoors than when sessions are conducted within the confines of an office, but fortunately, the field of therapy is increasingly being de-stigmatized. That said, Heather mitigates any concern in this area by always addressing consent and confidentiality with a client before beginning work together.  

 

Interested in learning more about Ski Therapy? Check out https://heatherhendrie.com/

The term “mindfulness” was defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.  This free challenge is for anyone who’s looking to add a little more calm into their daily life.  Mindfulness can help you to help you break down old thought patterns, tap into the present moment, and find your inner calm. It’s all about getting down to the basics of mindfulness in a fun and practical way.  Think of it as a self-development tool that helps you deal with things more mindfully on a daily basis. If you are new to mindfulness, this is a great way to see what it’s about.

How to get started?

Simple!  Just read each day’s challenge activity and spend the 5-10 mins needed to complete the challenge. Each day, try to do the next item listed.  It’s that easy.

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Day 1  Gratitude Challenge

Welcome to day 1!  To start out the mindfulness challenge, we are going to simply try to focus our attention on things that you are thankful for in your life. Research has linked gratitude with a wide range of benefits, including improving sleep patterns, feeling more optimistic, strengthening your immune system and feeling less lonely and isolated.

 

To start, find a comfortable place to sit and take 10 big deep breaths.  Your task today is to simple close your eyes and think of 5 things that you are thankful for. Think about people in your life, experiences you’ve had, good fortune that’s come your way, etc.  Or it could be as simple as a new shirt you bought.  Just think to yourself “I’m grateful for….” and come up with 5 items. An alternative is that you can write your 5 things down in a journal.   Finish off this challenge with 10 deep breaths.

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Day 2  Eating Mindfully Challenge

Today you are going to take some time to mindfully eat a single item of food.  Find a small food such as a grape, peanut, raisin, etc.  The objective of today is to spend the next few minutes paying attention to everything about that small bit of food. Notice the texture. What does it feel like?  Hold the item under your nose, and inhale naturally. With each in-breath, notice any aroma or smell that arises. Bring awareness also to any effect in your mouth or stomach. Now bring the  slowly up to your mouth, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it.  Place the item gently into your mouth, without yet chewing. Hold the item in your mouth for at a few seconds, exploring it with your tongue, feeling the sensations of having it there. Notice this pause and how it feels to take some time before eating the raisin. Next and with each small bite, feel your teeth going into the food and slowly chewing each bit of the food. This exercise should take you 5 to 10 minutes to get through that small piece of food.

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ground technique

Day 3   The 54321 Grounding Challenge

Today’s mindfulness challenge involves using your senses to ground yourself. Find a comfortable place to position yourself then go through each number and calmly identify each of the items listed.

Take a deep breath to begin.

5 – See: Where ever you happen to be, look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.

4 – Touch: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the shirt against my shoulders.

3 – Hear: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.

2 – Smell: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favorite smells.

1 – Taste: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.

Take another deep breath to end.

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Day 4    Mindful Seeing Challenge

This simple exercise requires a window with some kind of view to the outside world and a couple minutes to complete.  Your task is simply to comfortably position yourself looking out that window and observing and noticing everything that you see.  Paying attention to any trees or leaves that are moving. Notice the colours of the stop sign or street lights. Items moving in the wind. What shapes and patterns can you see in your view?  Try to see the world outside the window from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with these sights. The intention is to be aware and observant on the world around you.

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Day 5  Box Breathing Challenge

How much attention do you bring to your breathing? Practicing mindful, focused breathing, even for a few minutes a day reduces stress and promotes relaxation.  Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles.

Today’s mindfulness challenge is a simple 4 count hold  breathing challenge. You begin by expelling all the air from your chest and then keep empty for a four count hold.  Then, perform your inhalation through the nose for four counts. Hold the air in your lungs for a four-count hold.  Maintain an expansive, open feeling even though you are not inhaling. When ready, release the hold and exhale smoothly through your nose for four counts. This is one circuit of the box-breathing practice.  Try to continue this breathing for 5 minutes.

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Interested in going more in depth into mindfulness?  Learn more:

Free 8 week course.  Online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course (MBSR)

Mindfulness Exercises   Free Online Mindfulness Courses

20 Reasons why Mindfulness is good for you   Mindfulness Meditation Benefits

Sleep is a fundamental need for humans to function at there best.  In addition to proper nutrition and exercise, a regular good nights sleep  can help lead to better wellness in people. Struggling with our sleep can have negative effects on how we perform in our daily life. Beyond making us tired and moody, a lack of sleep can have serious effects on our health. Increasing our propensity for obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. The good news is there are lots of proven strategies that can help those that struggle with sleep to improve and get some shut eye.

Try some of these tips to get you a better night’s sleep:

1) Relaxation techniques, including breathing exercises or meditation, may help you fall asleep.

2) A warm bath, shower, or foot bath before bed can help you relax and improve your sleep quality.

3) Exercise can have a positive effect on sleep. Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.

4) Eat a small healthy snack (such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers)

5) Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia.

6) Blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime. Try to avoid electronics right before bed to reduce your exposure to blue light before bed.

7) Caffeine can significantly worsen sleep quality, especially if you drink large amounts in the late afternoon or evening.

8) Optimize your bedroom environment by eliminating external light and noise to get better sleep.

9) Try to get into a regular sleep/wake cycle — especially on the weekends. If possible, try to wake up naturally at a similar time every day.

10) Long daytime naps may impair sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping at night, stop napping or shorten your naps.

 

benefits of a good nights sleep

To clarify, I assume you mean overeating or eating unhealthily because remember eating good food is helpful.

There are lots of better ways to handle stress! It’s great that you are asking this question because it shows that you want to make some changes in how you are coping. Overeating would be considered negative coping strategy. It works but it’s not a very good long term solution for handling stress. Finding some positive coping strategies is important so that you have some lifelong coping methods to deal with stress. This is usually dependent on the person and what makes someone feel better. Does talking to friends help? Taking a bath? Doing some art? We all need to find those things that we can do to make us feel better when we are stressed. Here’s a list of a few general things you can do. Try different things and add things as you find things work.  Most importantly, do those things when you are feeling stressed to help you out!   Wishing you all the best on your journey.

Stress

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi for stress management.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Learn to manage your time more effectively.
  • Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
  • Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
  • Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you enjoy.
  • Seek treatment with a counselor or other mental health professional

How should I go about transferring colleges? I have been feeling extremely depressed and anxious. Will going to a new school help me grow and cope or should I stay and develop where I am at?

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This is a common thought when things are not going well at one place. Having been a counsellor in schools I’ve experienced many students that have changed schools due to the same feelings.

First off, it sounds like it’s been really hard for you. Going through depression and anxiety is not easy and with the stresses of school it can make it that much harder. I hope you’ve sought out some supports (schools usually have great counselling access for free) and have some positive coping tools to help you deal with what your going through. If you haven’t already, please visit your family doctor and discuss what’s been going on with you.

Changing schools would change the environment around you but this would involve a lot of transitioning which would add stress to your situation. In most cases, I’d recommend students try to make it work where they are. Where they are comfortable, have some supports, know their way around, etc. The experience of depression and anxiety is an internal process that is not going to magically change by changing your outside surroundings. A person experiencing depression that gets put in Disneyland, still is a person experiencing depression.

I would encourage you to seek out support for your wellness as your first plan of action at your current school. If when you are feeling better and you still want to change schools, then go for it. Remember that facing adversity can be a positive thing that helps you grow stronger. Building resilience is a lifelong process that will help you face bigger challenges in the future. All the best in your journey.

I’m a very socially awkward person. Recently, I’ve been trying to go out on my own (but I still suck at social interaction), and I was wondering, is it okay to go on your own to a coffee shop/fast food place or is it too weird?

First off, Congrats on taking that step to face your fears and do it anyway! You are well on your way to making this better for yourself. I think that is the key to really feeling more comfortable in public places. Slowly, gradually expose yourself to spaces that you don’t feel comfortable in. If you commit to this, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier. If you want to take it farther, try attempting to smile at 3 people you pass by in your day. To supercharge the process, see a certified counsellor or psychologist and they can support you systematically desensitize yourself to these situations that scare you.

In terms of going out on your own, Yes, of course it is ok to go to any place by yourself. Take a look at this pic.

Coffee shop

You’ll notice so many people working or just using their phones in a coffee shop. Looks natural right? It is very common for people to just go to a space to enjoy a coffee and do some work or school.

As an aside, try not labelling yourself socially awkward because really, humans can just be shy or have trouble around people they don’t know. That’s normal and something that people can work on and totally ok! It’s important to tell yourself the right stories.

Best of luck on your journey!

5 Reasons to Try Nature Based Therapy

Nature-based therapy is an effective means to boost mental wellness. Nature is viewed as a healing partner in the counselling process. For instance, when an individual is depressed, they often retreat into indoor spaces, isolating themselves from the world around them. Using a nature based therapy approach can help people to receive the benefits of being outdoors while still engaging in therapy.

1. Nature based therapy can be less intimidating than a traditional office setting

Nature based therapy

The traditional office setting can be seen to be an intimidating experience for some clients. The face-to-face interaction can be off putting and cause unease in some. Moving therapy to an outdoor space can alleviate this as some people experience nature therapy as less intimidating than an office setting. 

2. Enhanced self-concept, self-esteem and self-confidence

Employing nature is a potent therapeutic intervention in combating negative self concept or self esteem. One study found that combining exercise and nature and participating in group exercise activities outdoors improves both mood and self esteem. 

3. Nature based therapy can improve anxiety and depression.

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced anxiety and depression. It’s not clear exactly why outdoor excursions have such a positive mental effect. Yet, in a 2015 study, researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.

4. Nature based therapy can lower stress levels

 

Research shows that exposure to nature will have profound impact in the decreasing of cortisol levels. The calming effect of nature can have a profound effect on stress levels.

5. Psychological effects of therapy in nature include lower blood pressure

Natural light, fresh air, exposure to trees and plants seem to improve many people’s outlook on life in a positive manner but also reduce blood pressure. Research also points to increased resilience, improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially with other members of their community and society at large.

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for many.  I sat down with the Squamish Chief to discuss some of the issues peoples face this time of year.

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Q: For some, this time of year can be difficult. What are some ways to make it better?

A: Limiting social media, if that is a trigger. There is some research that shows life satisfaction decreases with increased use of social media.

Also, trying to plan holiday schedules so they are more manageable is helpful, too. Make sure you factor in “you” time. Also, be honest with yourself about what you can handle and be OK to say ‘no’ if you feel something is too much.

Q: With divorce, often one parent or the other is alone for part of the holidays. What advice do you have for people who find themselves alone at Christmas?

A: One of the big things is practicing gratitude or doing things that shift the focus away from yourself and into the community. For example, volunteering or getting out and connecting with friends. The Squamish Library has a great resource to help people find volunteer opportunities.

Be sure to practice self-care, too.

Q: There’s a lot of financial pressure at this time of year. What is your advice for tackling that stress?

A: Try to stick to a budget when it comes to gift giving. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It really is the thought that counts. A lot of people forget that simple component.

Q: Obviously, some people don’t celebrate Christmas at all, but in our culture, we are bombarded with the holiday. What about those folks?

A: It is hard to avoid. At this time of year, too, there isn’t very much light. It can be more isolating at this time of year. Keep up with things that are important — getting into nature is a big one. Even just a five-minute walk can have such a positive impact on mood and energy. Keep up with exercise and social connections — go for a coffee with someone, for example.

Q: What about for kids? People expect this to be a happy time for them, but it isn’t necessarily a calm and peaceful time for all children.

A: Kids can feel the stress of adults, so, modeling self-care is important. Keeping kids in their routines is also important: where they are able to do the things they are supposed to be doing at a time when things are a bit chaotic with travel and going to see extended family.

Making sure they are getting enough sleep, definitely.

Q: What about if things do go off the rails? Say, Christmas dinner turns into a big fight, for example.

A: That is where letting go of expectations and just accepting things for what they are comes in. It is a stressful time for a lot of people so those kinds of things do happen.

Going back to that gratitude thing is such an important piece — you are together with the family and things can happen, but that might not be the case next year. Always remember that even though things happen, you are together.

 

Original article below

Ways To Combat Stress Around The Holidays