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.

mindful eating squrrel

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.

box breathing

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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

I’m 16 and I don’t know what to do with my life. What can I do?

First of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s hard to know what the future holds when you are in your teens.

It’s through life experiences and exploring more about yourself that you’ll be able to find areas that you want to pursue. And know that there will be many different pathways you can take and that’s ok! If you view it as a journey, keeping learning more about yourself and keep an open mind, you’ll better equip yourself for finding things in your life you are passionate about and/or jobs or careers you want to pursue.

I would suggest working towards….

  1. Joining a school club
  2. Volunteering
  3. Working
  4. Traveling
  5. Exploring your own strengths
  6. Exploring Post secondary plans
  7. Taking up new hobbies
  8. Obtain life experiences
  9. Being curious about the world around you

Best of luck finding that path for yourself. Remember to have gratitude for what you have in life already.

How To Find Your Why, Passion, And Purpose In Life – Holistic Wellness RN

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is that feeling of fear or uneasiness that we all can experience in our life. When it’s really bad, it can leave you unable to face the challenges in your day or even not want to be around other people. It can be an uncomfortable feeling that can leave you feeling tense, sick or having a tightness in your chest. The good news is that by utilizing coping strategies, one can really help to improve the management of their anxiety.

When to seek help for your Anxiety?

Anxiety can be severe and can take many forms such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. If you feel your anxiety is severely effecting your life, I’d encourage you to seek help from a health professional.

Ways to Improve Coping Skills

1) Get lots of sleep. Anxiety is tiring and you are much better equipped to handle it when you are rested.
2) Practice yoga, meditate, or learn relaxation techniques.
3) Listen to music
4) Breathe deeply. Take big deep breathes and exhale slowly. Try this Navy Seal technique “Box Breathing”
5) Try Thought Stopping. When you have a negative thought, say to yourself Stop and replace it with a positive one.
6) Talk to loved ones. Human connection can go a long way in helping to support you through difficulties.
7) Identify triggers. What is causing the anxiety? Try to find the patterns to what causes your anxiety.
8) Go for a run, walk, bike or dance.  Exercise can have a profound impact on your ability to manage anxiety. 
9) Have a good morning routine that sets you up for success each day. Tony Robbins calls this priming.
10) Eat good food
11) Limit your intake of substances
12) Drink water
13) Practice gratitude. When you focus on the positive things you have in your life, you’ll feel more confident that you can tackle your anxiety.
14) Try the 54321 grounding technique. When you are feeling anxious, try to do this things. Look for 5 things you can see, find 4 things you can feel, listen for 3 things you can hear, find 2 things you can smell, and find 1 thing you can taste.
15) Pyramid technique. When you experience anxiety , slowly count to 10 with each breath and then back down to zero.

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?

teens computing

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.

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.

1   Squamish Spit Estuary Trail

This peaceful nature preserve is a flat, easy wander that is only a short 10 minute drive from downtown Squamish.

Located at the tip of the Howe Sound and bordered by the Spit on the west, the Squamish Estuary provides some of the best local views of the Stawamus Chief and is home to literally hundreds of species of birds and other habitats. The 3.2 kilometer trail features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Getting there:

Heading north on the Sea to Sky Highway, continue past Downtown Squamish until you reach Industrial Way where you will turn left. Turn right at the Queen’s Way intersection and follow Queens Way until it curves left and becomes Government Road. Take Government Road 1 kilometre past the train tracks, to a small sign for The Spit on your right. Continue down the gravel route until you reach another T intersection where you will turn left. Follow the gravel road until you reach the hiking trail head signs on your left for the Estuary.

2.  Four Lakes Trail

This hiking gem in Alice Lake Provincial Park weaves its way through 4 different lakes and can be competed in 2-3 hours.

4 lakes trail

Roughly 5km north of Squamish on Highway 99 sits the picturesque Alice Lake Provincial Park, home to a classic Squamish hike. The 4 Lakes Trail is an easy 6.5 km loop that meanders through creeks, second growth forest and visits four distinct mountain lakes. Which makes it a great place for calming oneself from the stresses of day to day life.  

Getting There

Alice Lake Provincial Park is located along Highway 99, 5 km north of Squamish on the east side of the highway. Follow the signs for the park and the trail is accessed either via Alice Lake itself or via the Stump Lake entrance, which is just opposite the entrance to the park and offers its own parking for hikers.

 

3.  Ray Peters Trail

Walk among mature evergreens right off highway 99. The Ray Peters Trail weaves its way through various branches or smaller trails, but is fairly easy to navigate because it is surrounded by roads at its edges. Hiking here can take from 30mins to 2 hours depending on the trail you take.

Ray Pe

This popular Squamish trail, the Ray Peters trail is great for all ages and users. This gently sloping area is the remains of a very large piece of the dormant volcano on Mt. Garibaldi that blew off and slid 10 kilometres down eons ago. Now part of the Cheekye Fan, it is a rambling expanse of pleasant woods and some old pavement from a defunct trailer-court of the 1960s. The area is a peaceful getaway close to Squamish.

Getting there:

The most convenient access point is just across Ross Road from the lower parking lot at Don Ross Secondary School, because this gives assured parking. There are also a few trailheads near Highway 99.

 

4. Loggers Lane Trail

Running along Loggers Lane Road lie a few easy trails to get out for a family walk. This is probably the best of the trails for the younger crowd due to the small distances.

Loggers lane

Combined with the busy Loggers Creek Trail, Nature Trail provides a large area of paths among old trees, wetlands and bubbling brooks. Prior to the Mamquam River changing its course westward in 1921, this area was its estuary. The maze of side channels along the original path of the river provided the necessary mixing of fresh and tidal waters that salmon and trout need for rearing juveniles. This was a prolific fishing area and the Squamish people caught a lot of their wintering supplies in the old mouth of the Mamquam River.

Getting there:

The best access point is parking at the Squamish Adventure Centre and crossing the street to the paved path and turning right. Soon you’ll be immersed in the forest with a couple pathways to chose. Alternatively, parking at the Smoke Bluffs parking lot of Loggers Lane works as well.

 

5.  Ocean Front Loop- Newport Beach

Squamish’s most dog-friendly beach, Newport Beach, is the site for an easy loop for the family. The rustic, sandy centrepiece of Squamish’s oceanfront where dolphin, whale and other marine life sightings are not out of the ordinary.

Getting there:

There is an access point for walking trails in Downtown Squamish near the corner of Vancouver Street and Second Avenue.

From Downtown Squamish, head west down to the end of Cleveland Avenue past the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Co. and turn left on Vancouver Street. There, you will see the Yacht Club. Turn right. Signs will direct you towards the beach.

Be aware of the development in the area that may affect this route. The Developer states “Public may experience trail closures from time to time on the loop trail. We encourage users to park closer to the Yacht Club or Brew Pub and start the loop from there or, park at Newport Beach on the Oceanfront.”

 

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.

walk squamish

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

Problematic Smartphone use, Nature Connectedness and Anxiety

Richardson et al dig into how these 3 items relate to one another.  Society’s disconnection from nature has paralleled an increase in smartphone use.  Some findings from their research:

  • Human relationships with nature bring mental well being at a time of huge demand on health services
  • Nature connectedness benefits?  Life satisfaction, Meaningfulness, Vitality, Happiness, Higher self esteem, Mindfulness, Balanced emotional regulation
  • Selfie taking and phone use emerging as predictors of decreased connectedness with nature
  • Nature connectedness is a key part of a healthy life and planet

 

Problematic Smartphone use, Nature Connectedness and Anxiety, 2017, Richardson et al, University of Derby

Parenting in a Digital World-Strategies from Ross Laird

teen digital parenting

Ross Laird, PhD RCC is a clinical consultant and best-selling author on themes of addiction, trauma, creativity, and healing. He has won multiple awards for his writing, clinical work, teaching, and scholarship. He offers up the following 8 strategies for parenting in a digital world.

1. Be mindful about screen time.

2. Don’t sacrifice interpersonal communication.

3. Limit recreational screen time.

4. Resist new and fancy gear.

5. Explore the emotional benefits that kids derive from online cultures.

6. Practice digital transparency.

7. Focus on self-regulation and collaboration, not surveillance.

8. Talk things through.