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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

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

Therapeutic Nature Based Therapy: Nature as a Healing Partner

Ecotherapy

As our technological society advances and urbanizes, it is apparent that we are putting distance between ourselves and how our ancestors once lived. Could it be that perhaps our distance from nature could be having an impact on our psyche? There are some that aim to bridge this divide by bringing humans back to their roots, in nature. Nowhere is bridging this divide more important than in the therapeutic work that counselling professionals do.

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 therapeutic nature-based counselling.

What is Therapeutic Nature-Based Therapy

Nature based therapy

Therapeutic nature-based counselling is an aspect of ecotherapy that has shown great results for work with individuals and/or groups. It encompasses working with clients in a natural setting with an end goal of individual and/or family wellness. This style of therapy has a close relationship to family systems theory in that both theories recognize the inter-relatedness of being and our surroundings. 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 therapy approach can help encourage individuals to move outdoors while still engaging in therapy.

Further, nature-based counselling helps cultivate awareness in individuals as they explore their relationship to themselves, others and their sense of place in the world and natural surroundings.
The fundamental process for therapeutic practices in nature is the reconnection to nature as a reconnection to self. (Jordan, 2009)

Effectiveness

Research on the effectiveness of therapeutic based nature therapy is limited but encouraging. However, there has been considerable research into the effects of individuals spending time in forests. Several studies demonstrate the unique factors that forests can have on individuals and the counselling process.

In Japan, a very popular and well-studied concept is Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing. This involves the simple health improvement strategy of immersing oneself into a forest. The effectiveness of this practice is well documented with benefits such as immune function enhancement while in contact with forest environments. It also has been shown to lower elevated stress levels when in natural environments (Lee et al, 2012).

The therapeutic rationale for having experiences within nature is to encourage clients to awaken their senses. An important step in truly grounding oneself through distress. Buzzell and Chalquist (2009) cite enhanced self-concept, self-esteem and self-confidence as benefits to therapeutic nature-based therapy. They also believe that to facilitate treatment of mental health issues or improve family relationships, employing nature is a potent therapeutic intervention. It has been shown to improve mood, anxiety, stress, and depression. It has also been demonstrated that it works well for a variety of ages. Nature therapy is about utilizing these demonstrated benefits in order to help facilitate a client’s therapeutic goal.

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.

Doucette (2004) outlines the nuances of walk and talk therapy as walking outdoors whilst engaged in counselling. Walk and talk therapy happens outside the usual confines of an office space. In Doucette’s research with adolescents, therapist and participants met over 6 weeks, once per week for 30-45 minutes or walking outdoors on school grounds. This research found considerable improvements on individual’s moods. Participants discussed what had happened that week and they were taught strategies during the sessions, which included ways of managing stress and painful situations, positive self-talk, mental imagery and through focusing techniques to reduce stress.

Considerations

Moving from the confines of the traditional four walled therapy space involves some considerations in order to be successful. It is important that during the initial client assessment that any initial fears about the outdoors be discussed. Comfort levels with the weather can vary and are important to mention. If the client gets cold easily, it obviously best to avoid the outdoor space when the temperature dips down. Client safety in outdoor spaces is important and so it is recommended that simple well-worn paths, which do not have any obstacles, are best.

It is imperative that the therapist knows the area well before embarking with clients in an outdoor space. The therapy should be the focus, not trying to navigate both of you back from an unknown path.

The confidentiality piece is important and needs to be addressed at the initial assessment. While the four walled office space provides you with a contained, private venue for intimate discussions and limited interruptions, the outdoor space brings with it other challenges. For example, it should be discussed what the client is comfortable with when other people are encountered on the trail. Would they prefer to stop conversation, lower their voice, or continue talking?

Case study

Michael was a bank teller. His past counselling experiences had not been positive. Michael mentioned that his previous counselling sessions had brought up very difficult feelings that he did not know how to handle. At assessment, Michael talked about his family history, which included how his mother and father’s marriage had been unstable with numerous splits and walkouts. He noted that his father was very volatile in his family interactions while his mother had been very self-absorbed. Michael had grown up with a poor sense of self, quite often adapting himself to others’ needs and wishes in order to be liked. Michael was mistrustful and it was apparent that he felt attacked and persecuted through the therapist standard line of assessment questioning. There were long pauses and silences in the subsequent sessions and Michael reported feeling very ambivalent about therapy. The therapist suggested they might meet outdoors and walk together, as the sessions indoors felt so difficult, and for them both to see how this felt. They met at a local municipal park, walked, and talked as they made their way through a quiet forest loop. In the session, Michael talked more about how he felt and the session went well. At the end, the therapist asked Michael how he felt about this way of working. Michael report that he found it much easier to talk without the room and the eye contact of the therapist and that compared to his previous experiences of therapy it was much easier to open up and share with the therapist outdoors which they were walking. In subsequent sessions, they met in forest locations, walked, and talked. The therapist also found it easier to tune into Michael on an embodied level and make contact with him more easily than he had done indoors. At times, Michael would stop and make eye contact with the therapist when he had an important thing to say in therapy. As the sessions progressed, Michael was more able to initiate contact in this way in the therapy and began to be more able to stay in touch with painful feelings whilst moving outdoors.

Integrating Nature into your counselling practice

Incorporating therapeutic nature-based therapy into your practice is not for every client or clinician but there are many that would benefit from the alternative setting for therapy. When you think of those resistant clients that really struggle in the traditional setting, it can be worth it to look for new spaces to engage them in therapy. By incorporating nature in a relational way into your practice, this can support new internal perceptions which help individuals to reflect, challenge and support new ways of thinking on their therapeutic journey. Nature has been healing through the times and so, an important consideration for clinical work. As society becomes more urbanized, it will be important for therapeutic work to remember the inherent connection we have to the natural world. As Abrams so eloquently describes in his book The Spell of the Sensuous, “By acknowledging such links between the inner, psychological world and the perceptual terrain that surrounds us, we begin to turn inside-out, loosening the psyche from its confinement within a strictly human sphere, freeing sentience to return to the sensible world that contains us.”

For further reading:
– Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind – Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist
– Nature and Therapy: Understanding counselling and psychotherapy in outdoor spaces – Martin Jordan
– Eco psychology – nature as therapist http://counsellingbc.com/article/ecopsychology-nature-therapist
– Back to Nature – Martin Jordan https://www.academia.edu/1502225/Back_to_Nature

References:
Abrams, David (1997). The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
Doucette, P.A. (2004) Walk and Talk: an intervention for behaviourally challenged youths. Adolescence 39(154), 373-388.
Jordan, Martin. (April 2009) Back to Nature. Therapy Today
Jordan, Martin (2015) Nature and Therapy: Understanding counselling and psychotherapy in outdoor spaces

Juyoung Lee, Qing Li, Lisa Tyrväinen, Yuko Tsunetsugu, Bum-Jin Park, Takahide Kagawa and Yoshifumi
Miyazaki (2012). Nature Therapy and Preventive Medicine, Public Health – Social and Behavioral Health, Prof.
Jay Maddock (Ed.),

nature therapy

Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy

As a result of stressful situations in daily life a, research is pointing us in a direction of getting back to our roots. Nature therapy, a health-promotion method that uses medically proven effects, such as relaxation by exposure to natural stimuli from forests, urban green spaces, plants, and natural wooden materials, is receiving increasing attention.

 

It is empirically known that exposure to stimuli from natural sources induces a state of hyperawareness and hyperactivity of the parasympathetic nervous system that renders a person in a state of relaxation. This state becomes progressively recognized as the normal state that a person should be in and feel comfortable.  Could this immersion in nature be helpful for you?

 

 

Teens who drink high-caffeine energy beverages such as Red Bull or Monster may be more likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, a new study suggests. The findings suggest that the same personality traits that attract kids to energy drinks — such as being a risk taker — may increase the chances that they’ll use addictive substances, the study authors said. http://bit.ly/2mlvL7g

7 Rules for a Happy Life

happy life

James Michael Sama offers up a list of 7 things that we can do in our day to day life to live a happier life.  How many of these are you doing on a daily basis?

1. Help those you can, whenever you can
2. Stay true to your commitments
3. Remain courtesy at all times
4. Be honest and genuine with everyone
5. Care less about who’s right and more about whats right
6. Do your best to avoid drama
7. Show your appreciation for others

Curious about what science says about becoming happier?  Time magazine writer found that science believes there are 3 things we can all be doing to train our brain to be happier.

Social groups alleviate depression

depression help

Building a strong connection to a social group helps clinically depressed patients recover and helps prevent relapse, according to a new study. While past research has looked at the importance of social connections for preventing and treating depression, it has tended to emphasize interpersonal relationships rather than the importance of a sense of group identity. In addition, researchers haven’t really understood why group therapy works. “Our work shows that the ‘group’ aspect of social interaction is critical,” the authors note.