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26/Jan/2018

To start off the New Year, I thought writing about finding self-compassion for oneself could be quite beneficial.  When creating resolutions we often think about health and perhaps setting a goal for going to the gym more or eating better.  I think in addition to this, learning to find self- compassion could create a huge positive impact on your life and well-being.

I am sure, just like me, there are times when you can be quite hard on yourself and judgmental.   I have often discussed with clients that it is not uncommon for us to speak negatively internally to ourselves and that we find our brain saying things that we would probably never even say to a perfect stranger or even someone we dislike.

So much inner turmoil can stem from criticizing ourselves.  As humans, we all go through difficult times and we can be easily hooked by re-hashing these events by questioning what we could have done or should have done or what we did wrong.

Finding self-compassion is about feeling loved, accepted and appreciated.  Learning that deep down we are okay and recognizing that no matter what is happening in our lives we deserve love, happiness and appreciation.  Through finding and building self-compassion we can also be working on creating a tool for ourselves to utilize when we are suffering or experiencing distress, and it can be that supportive voice that helps us find beauty and meaning.

A simple way to look at self-compassion is the opposite of being self-critical.  Practicing noticing this difference when life is going well, and when it is hard, is very important.  Self-compassion takes time to build, but awareness and practice of using a self-compassionate attitude can give you an internal source of emotional regulation and resilience.  It can help you to be more connected with the present and the beauty of life.

bigstock-153164384small

The following is a simple mindfulness practice you can start today to begin working on cultivating self-compassion:

Arrange yourself in a comfortable position, eyes opened or closed.  You might place your hands on your heart or lap.

You are going to start by thinking about different objects – it can be a person, animal or anything else – until you find one that brings up natural and uncomplicated feelings of warmth and love.

Now continue to concentrate on this object you feel love towards.  Let the image of it, in your mind, become clearer.  Do you notice any relaxation, tension, or lightness?  Just note that.

Now try saying the following phrases to the object you are picturing.  Feel free to change the phrases:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Repeat these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body to be as strong as they want to be (continue for about 5 minutes).

Now picture that person saying the following phrases to you:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Picture the person saying these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body be as strong as they want to be (continue this for about 5 minutes).

kathryn-camacho1

Sourced from The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond


29/Dec/2017

res·o·lu·tion

 noun; a firm decision to do or not to do something.


That time of year when our use of the word RESOLUTION tends to skyrocket is just around the corner. As a new year approaches, we often naturally find ourselves thinking about what goals we would like to set for ourselves in the upcoming year.  We make promises to ourselves, and perhaps also to our friends or family, about what we plan to do differently, what we plan to start, and what we plan to stop.  Creating New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to not only make plans or set commitments for the upcoming year, but also to reflect on the past year.

2017

Although it may sound like a simple task, many of us struggle with it.  Some of us may feel that we cannot narrow down our list and may feel overwhelmed by the number of things we would like to accomplish, while others may feel that they cannot think of anything they would like to start, stop or change in the New Year.  Even for those of us that have a clear idea of what we would like to achieve, we may find ourselves doubting whether we can actually do it, or whether we actually will.

We would like to provide you all with some useful steps to follow when setting your New Year’s Resolutions this year.  These strategies will help you to narrow down what you value in life and set commitments in accordance with those values.

STEP 1:  REFLECT MINDFULLY

First and foremost, take some time to reflect on the past year.  Take out a blank piece of paper and answer the following questions:

  • What did you accomplish this past year that you are proud of?

Remember, this is something that YOU are proud of accomplishing and not only something from which you received recognition from others. What is important is not the size of the accomplishment or the reward of that accomplishment, but rather that it was an accomplishment at all.

Accomplishments may not always provide pleasure or reward and they may not always be recognized by others as accomplishments, and that’s okay.  For example, if you had been avoiding asking someone out on a date, but then did it, even if they rejected your invitation and left you feeling let down and embarrassed, you may still consider the act of asking the person out an accomplishment.

  • What were you grateful for this past year?

Thinking about what you are grateful for can highlight areas of life that are important to you.  It can identify people or things that you value and cherish, which can act as foundations upon which you set goals for the future.  For example, if you identify that you are grateful for your job and the lifestyle it allows you to live, you may be more inclined to set New Year’s Resolutions that help you to grow within your job or further develop your skills for your job.  Whereas if you find yourself noticing that you are not grateful for your job at all, perhaps that realization will allow you to set resolutions for change in that area of your life.

  • On a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = not at all, and 10 = completely), how connected did you feel within each of the domains listed below over the past year?

If any of these domains are not at all important to you, feel free to skip them, however, if you hold any value in the domain, reflect on how connected you were in that area of your life this past year.  Also, feel free to add your own domains if you think of one that is not listed here and is important to you.

Family relationships
Intimate relationships
Friendship
Work
Health
Spirituality
Community involvement
Leisure
Personal growth

See if you can identify some domains that were lacking compared to others this past year, and perhaps that will help you to set New Year’s Resolutions targeted to improve that domain in the upcoming year.

STEP 2:  IDENTIFY VALUES

Once you have finished reflecting on the past year, use the information you gathered to identify who and what is important to you.  This will help you later on when you are ready to set some resolutions because you will be able to recognize who and what you want to move towards in the New Year.  For example, if you noticed that you were proud of your accomplishment of asking someone out on a date, you were grateful for your friends who supported you when you were turned down, yet you were still feeling disconnected in the intimate relationship domain of life, perhaps you can use this information to set a resolution that will help you move towards becoming more connected in that domain despite the disappointment you had endured in the past year.  It is a New Year, a perfect time to try again, and it is always worth it if it is something that really matters to you.

STEP 3:  SET S.M.A.R.T. RESOUTIONS

Setting New Year’s resolutions, in more generic terms, is goal setting.  Some of you may have heard of SMART goals in goal setting.  Making your goals SMART increase the likelihood that you will be successful in achieving them.  It allows you to structure them in such a way that they almost feel that they can be held in your hands as an object rather than feeling like they are floating somewhere in the clouds.

** In brackets I added some substitute words that I found on Project Smart which I felt are also relevant to the objective of SMART goals, and particularly in setting New Year’s Resolutions (https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php).

S – Specific (Significant)

Make sure each resolution that you set is clear to you and that it is specific enough that you would be able to explain it to someone else in just one sentence leaving as few unknowns left as possible.  See if you can answer who, what, where, when, why, and how for each goal you set.  For example, saying that your goal for the New Year is to be healthier is not a specific goal, whereas saying that your goal is to be healthier by exercising four days a week for at least 30 minutes and eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day IS a specific goal.

M – Measurable (Meaningful, Motivational)

Make sure that you are able to measure your progress with your goal.  Are you able to identify when you are moving towards that goal or away from that goal?  For example, are you able to measure if you are being healthier if you don’t have anything to reference that goal with?  What does ‘healthier’ mean to you?  A measurable goal would be like the example above of exercising 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes – you would easily be able to measure whether you had done this or not.

A – Achievable (Attainable, Adaptive, Action-oriented)

Make sure that you have the means to achieve your goal.  Are there barriers to achieving your goal that are completely out of your control?  If you are setting a New Year’s Resolution that has the time-frame of one year, is this goal achievable in that time-frame?  For example, if your goal is to become a doctor, is it possible to complete all the necessary education and training to do that in just one year?  This does not mean that you should not set resolutions that will take longer than a year, but perhaps the end goal needs to be broken down into smaller, more achievable goals.  For example, if becoming a doctor is your end goal, then perhaps your New Year’s Resolution could be to have all your medical school applications submitted by the end of the year.

R – Relevant (Realistic, Reasonable)

Make sure to check in with your values to identify whether the goals you are setting are actually relevant to YOU.  Do not set your goals based on what other people want you to do (unless your underlying reasoning is because it is important to you to make that person happy), and do not set goals based on things you feel you should do.  For example, if you set a goal to attend Church weekly solely because your family is very religious and want you to attend Church regularly, is this goal truly relevant to YOU?

T – Time-based (Trackable)

Make sure your goal has a target date.  With New Year’s Resolutions, this target date is usually sometime within the year, but the more specific you can get with your time-frame, the better!  You can ask yourself questions like:  What can I do this week?  What can I do in the next month?  What can I do in 6 months? And so on, that may help you move towards a long term goal.

A new year provides opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.  We understand and can appreciate first hand that setting New Year’s Resolutions can seem like a daunting or overwhelming task, but we hope that the strategies above help you to identify what is important you through mindful reflection and set goals that are in line with what you value.


From all of us at JMA, we wish you a very Happy New Year full of values guided living!

jessica-rickus1


20/Oct/2017

meditate

To Begin I’d like you to watch THIS VIDEO.

What thoughts came up for you as you watched this video?  Were you able to relate to what the individuals were saying?  Did you understand why they answered the way they did?  I’d like you to take a moment to reflect on a time when you made a mistake, and some of the things that you said to yourself.  What sort of words did you use?  How did those words affect you?  Now think of the last time a loved one came to you and told you about a mistake.  How did those words differ from the ones you told yourself?  I’m willing to bet that there is a big difference in how you speak to yourself versus how you speak to others.

Why Self Compassion?

I’m sure you’ve heard the term self-compassion before.  Maybe you wondered why it was important, or why people even bother talking about it.  Maybe you thought you didn’t need to be self-compassionate, or that it simply wasn’t something that would impact your life.  Kristin Neff (2012) suggests that self-compassion is more than looking on the bright side or attempting to avoid negative feelings.  Self-compassionate people are able to recognize when they are suffering, but act kindly towards themselves.  Neff (2012) further explains that studies have indicated that individuals with higher levels of self-compassion experience less anxiety and self-consciousness when asked about their weaknesses, display more wisdom and emotional intelligence, and often experience higher levels of social connectedness and overall life satisfaction.

If we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, we can learn to let go of our mistakes and shortcomings, and move forward from them.  This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring them, but rather not allowing them to hook us into a pattern of self-depreciation and dislike.  Instead, we can accept our mistakes/shortfalls/situations for what they are, learn from them, and move forward.

So how do I be Kinder to Myself?

Being compassionate towards oneself is similar to the way that we express compassion for others.  As in the video above, it is clear that many of us are better able to be compassionate towards our loved ones than we are to ourselves.  Learning how to be self-compassionate will not happen overnight; it may take time, practice, and trial and error.

Neff (2012) posits that there are three main components to having compassion for oneself:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. A sense of common humanity
  3. Mindfulness

compassion-components

In short, these three aspects of self-compassion involve being understanding towards ourselves and our downfalls; recognizing that we are not alone and that other people struggle as well; and practicing living in the moment and accepting some of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  What self-compassion is not, is self-pity, self-indulgence, or self-esteem (Neff, 2012).  To learn more about how you can be more self-compassionate, click here to read Kristin Neff’s chapter on The Science of Self-Compassion.

jenny-thomson

Source:  Neff, K. D. (2012). The science of self-compassion. In C. Germer & R. Siegel (Eds.), Compassion and Wisdom in Psychotherapy (pp. 79-92). New York: Guilford Press.



meditation

Although gratitude is a well-known concept, it isn’t something that the majority of us bring to mind on a regular day-to-day basis.

That being said, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude in your daily life!  There is substantial research on the power of gratitude and the connections expressing gratitude has to human relationships, mood, and overall self-reported wellbeing (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Rash, Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011; Watkins, Woodward, Stone, & Kolts, 2003).  It is no surprise that gratitude is linked to increased satisfaction in relationships, improved mood, and increased well-being.  With benefits like these, why not make it a point to practice more gratitude!

Here are some ways to help you cultivate gratitude on a daily basis:

1. Write down three things you are grateful for each day.

  • This is an incredibly simple suggestion, but is very effective in recognizing the things in your day you are grateful for.
  • Write down these things in a notebook or journal, and keep it in a visible place where you will see it. This helps ensure you remember to do it each day!

2. Download a gratitude app on your mobile device, and use it!

  • Apps can be a great tool because they are easily accessible if you use your mobile device regularly.
  • Two gratitude apps I have tried are Gratitude 365, and Gratitude Journal. Both of these apps allow you to write short entries in addition to including photos of the things you are grateful for each day.
  • The homepage of the apps display your entries on your own monthly calendar. This is great to see an overall recap of the things you were grateful for in an entire month.
  • These apps also include a Reminder feature, so you can set the app to remind you to write an entry each day at a certain time – great for forming a new habit!
  • As an added tip – it can sometimes be meaningful to do this activity with a loved one and record what each of you are feeling grateful for that day.

3. Express gratitude towards the people you are thankful for in your life.

  • Write down a list or a letter including the things you are most grateful for about a person who is meaningful to you.
  • Once you have completed the list, share it with the person, either by telling them the next time you see them, phoning them, or maybe even sending your letter in the mail!
  • You can check out this video for an example of expressing gratitude towards loved ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

 If you don’t want to commit to any of the above suggestions, watch this YouTube video on Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDMoiEkyuQ

 This video is a wonderful reminder of how many things there are to be grateful for each and every day – I hope you find it as inspiring as I did!

kayleen-willemsen1

 

Sources

Emmons, R.A., & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Count blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

Rash, J. A., Matsuba, K.M., & Prkachin, K.M. (2011). Gratitude and well-being: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 350-369.

Watkins, P.C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R.L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 31(5), 431-451.


9/Feb/2017

As this Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I thought I would share some tips on making your celebrations this year, your most fulfilling yet! Through utilizing techniques I have learnt throughout my work with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I hope we can help make this year feel less like a commercial holiday and more like a meaningful and fulfilling day with the one you love!

pic


Tip 1: USE VALUES-BASED DECISION MAKING. I challenge you to try to plan your Valentine’s Day in a different way this year. Instead of planning or buying what others think you should get (including large corporations, and flower shops), I would suggest planning something that perhaps doesn’t even cost much or any money at all, but that would bring meaning and fulfilment to your relationship. Whether it’s actually having a conversation after preparing a home cooked meal together, or taking a hike, or cuddling up to watch your favourite movie together, just try and plan something that is connected to what matters to the both of you!


Tip 2: USE MINDFULNESS- I encourage the use of mindfulness as much as possible throughout your time together. Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts about something stressful that happened at work earlier that day or something you have to make sure you get done the next, try and keep yourself grounded throughout each moment of your day. Engage your senses, notice the things you can see, feel, hear, and smell and bring yourself back to focusing on your breath whenever you find yourself not in the moment. Just try and stop to smell the roses (pun intended) during your quality time together!


Tip 3: USE GRATITUDE- Lastly, show gratitude. Don’t be afraid to express your thanks, appreciation, love and respect to your loved one. This can be simple but can have quite an impact on your relationship!

I hope you can use the combination of these tips to help make not only this Valentine’s Day, but each and every day to come thereafter, your best yet!

kathryn-camacho1


15/Dec/2016

res·o·lu·tion

 noun; a firm decision to do or not to do something.


That time of year when our use of the word RESOLUTION tends to skyrocket is just around the corner. As a new year approaches, we often naturally find ourselves thinking about what goals we would like to set for ourselves in the upcoming year.  We make promises to ourselves, and perhaps also to our friends or family, about what we plan to do differently, what we plan to start, and what we plan to stop.  Creating New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to not only make plans or set commitments for the upcoming year, but also to reflect on the past year.

2017

Although it may sound like a simple task, many of us struggle with it.  Some of us may feel that we cannot narrow down our list and may feel overwhelmed by the number of things we would like to accomplish, while others may feel that they cannot think of anything they would like to start, stop or change in the New Year.  Even for those of us that have a clear idea of what we would like to achieve, we may find ourselves doubting whether we can actually do it, or whether we actually will.

We would like to provide you all with some useful steps to follow when setting your New Year’s Resolutions this year.  These strategies will help you to narrow down what you value in life and set commitments in accordance with those values.

STEP 1:  REFLECT MINDFULLY

First and foremost, take some time to reflect on the past year.  Take out a blank piece of paper and answer the following questions:

  • What did you accomplish this past year that you are proud of?

Remember, this is something that YOU are proud of accomplishing and not only something from which you received recognition from others. What is important is not the size of the accomplishment or the reward of that accomplishment, but rather that it was an accomplishment at all.

Accomplishments may not always provide pleasure or reward and they may not always be recognized by others as accomplishments, and that’s okay.  For example, if you had been avoiding asking someone out on a date, but then did it, even if they rejected your invitation and left you feeling let down and embarrassed, you may still consider the act of asking the person out an accomplishment.

  • What were you grateful for this past year?

Thinking about what you are grateful for can highlight areas of life that are important to you.  It can identify people or things that you value and cherish, which can act as foundations upon which you set goals for the future.  For example, if you identify that you are grateful for your job and the lifestyle it allows you to live, you may be more inclined to set New Year’s Resolutions that help you to grow within your job or further develop your skills for your job.  Whereas if you find yourself noticing that you are not grateful for your job at all, perhaps that realization will allow you to set resolutions for change in that area of your life.

  • On a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = not at all, and 10 = completely), how connected did you feel within each of the domains listed below over the past year?

If any of these domains are not at all important to you, feel free to skip them, however, if you hold any value in the domain, reflect on how connected you were in that area of your life this past year.  Also, feel free to add your own domains if you think of one that is not listed here and is important to you.

Family relationships
Intimate relationships
Friendship
Work
Health
Spirituality
Community involvement
Leisure
Personal growth

See if you can identify some domains that were lacking compared to others this past year, and perhaps that will help you to set New Year’s Resolutions targeted to improve that domain in the upcoming year.

STEP 2:  IDENTIFY VALUES

Once you have finished reflecting on the past year, use the information you gathered to identify who and what is important to you.  This will help you later on when you are ready to set some resolutions because you will be able to recognize who and what you want to move towards in the New Year.  For example, if you noticed that you were proud of your accomplishment of asking someone out on a date, you were grateful for your friends who supported you when you were turned down, yet you were still feeling disconnected in the intimate relationship domain of life, perhaps you can use this information to set a resolution that will help you move towards becoming more connected in that domain despite the disappointment you had endured in the past year.  It is a New Year, a perfect time to try again, and it is always worth it if it is something that really matters to you.

STEP 3:  SET S.M.A.R.T. RESOUTIONS

Setting New Year’s resolutions, in more generic terms, is goal setting.  Some of you may have heard of SMART goals in goal setting.  Making your goals SMART increase the likelihood that you will be successful in achieving them.  It allows you to structure them in such a way that they almost feel that they can be held in your hands as an object rather than feeling like they are floating somewhere in the clouds.

** In brackets I added some substitute words that I found on Project Smart which I felt are also relevant to the objective of SMART goals, and particularly in setting New Year’s Resolutions (https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php).

S – Specific (Significant)

Make sure each resolution that you set is clear to you and that it is specific enough that you would be able to explain it to someone else in just one sentence leaving as few unknowns left as possible.  See if you can answer who, what, where, when, why, and how for each goal you set.  For example, saying that your goal for the New Year is to be healthier is not a specific goal, whereas saying that your goal is to be healthier by exercising four days a week for at least 30 minutes and eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day IS a specific goal.

M – Measurable (Meaningful, Motivational)

Make sure that you are able to measure your progress with your goal.  Are you able to identify when you are moving towards that goal or away from that goal?  For example, are you able to measure if you are being healthier if you don’t have anything to reference that goal with?  What does ‘healthier’ mean to you?  A measurable goal would be like the example above of exercising 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes – you would easily be able to measure whether you had done this or not.

A – Achievable (Attainable, Adaptive, Action-oriented)

Make sure that you have the means to achieve your goal.  Are there barriers to achieving your goal that are completely out of your control?  If you are setting a New Year’s Resolution that has the time-frame of one year, is this goal achievable in that time-frame?  For example, if your goal is to become a doctor, is it possible to complete all the necessary education and training to do that in just one year?  This does not mean that you should not set resolutions that will take longer than a year, but perhaps the end goal needs to be broken down into smaller, more achievable goals.  For example, if becoming a doctor is your end goal, then perhaps your New Year’s Resolution could be to have all your medical school applications submitted by the end of the year.

R – Relevant (Realistic, Reasonable)

Make sure to check in with your values to identify whether the goals you are setting are actually relevant to YOU.  Do not set your goals based on what other people want you to do (unless your underlying reasoning is because it is important to you to make that person happy), and do not set goals based on things you feel you should do.  For example, if you set a goal to attend Church weekly solely because your family is very religious and want you to attend Church regularly, is this goal truly relevant to YOU?

T – Time-based (Trackable)

Make sure your goal has a target date.  With New Year’s Resolutions, this target date is usually sometime within the year, but the more specific you can get with your time-frame, the better!  You can ask yourself questions like:  What can I do this week?  What can I do in the next month?  What can I do in 6 months? And so on, that may help you move towards a long term goal.

A new year provides opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.  We understand and can appreciate first hand that setting New Year’s Resolutions can seem like a daunting or overwhelming task, but we hope that the strategies above help you to identify what is important you through mindful reflection and set goals that are in line with what you value.


From all of us at JMA, we wish you a very Happy New Year full of values guided living!

jessica-rickus1


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J Marlin and Associates Inc. offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy services to help individuals increase their sense of vitality, well-being, and fulfillment.

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