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13/Feb/2018

hearts

With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching, and the holiday seasoning winding down, I found myself reflecting on the important people in my life, and how we choose to celebrate these people.  When we think of birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and other important holidays, what do we think of?  For me, the first thing that pops into my mind is gifts.  Chocolates and flowers for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries, expensive presents, gift cards, and even money for other important occasions.  But is this how we really want to celebrate the most important people in our lives?

While gift-giving can be a great way to show a loved one that you’ve been thinking about them, spending quality time with loved ones is also extremely important.  A study outlined by NPR in a December article suggested that people felt most loved during times of interaction rather than when receiving gifts.  However, during busy holiday times, such as in December, people often feel additional stress at having to rush to spend time with people close to them.

During these times of high stress, such as Christmas, we often lose sight of being present.  We become consumed with worries about making it to every family gathering, getting the right gifts, and planning out every detail of our holidays that we may forget to stop and enjoy the moment.  Christmas may be over for this year, but we can still practice being more present with our loved ones.  Take some time to breathe and ground yourself before attending that birthday party or anniversary dinner – leave the stress from work and home where they belong, and practice being in the moment.

Instead of focusing on gifts for your upcoming anniversary or birthday, why not begin a tradition that involves spending time with one another, or going on an adventure every year?  Maybe you and you partner decide that every year on your anniversary you will try a new restaurant in a different city, or that every Christmas you will plan your annual trip together.  Try shifting your focus from giving and receiving material items, to making new memories and living a fulfilled life.

holding-hands

All in all, I think we sometimes lose sight of why we take time out of our busy lives to see the people who are important to us.  We want them to feel loved and appreciated, and know that they are important to us.  So maybe try something new – make some great memories that will last a lifetime with the people that are most important in your life.

jenny-thomson

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence 


22/Jun/2017

Your day demands a lot from you.  You have to make dinner, get ready for school, complete a report for work, take your kids to the park… the list goes on and on.  You may find yourself wondering where the time goes during the day, or be in shock that you’ve arrived at the end of the work week so quickly.  Our lives and the world around us demand so much of our time and concentration that our brains think and worry about a litany of things, while distracting us from the present.  We can often find ourselves on “auto-pilot”, forgetting many key aspects of what we’ve actually done.  Our daily schedule will be full, and our engagement, not so much.

Being present and engaged in what is happening in front of us can be hard when we are trained to value multi-tasking.  Science has dispelled the myth of multitasking time and time again, noting that we don’t actually engage in more than one task at a time, but rather we shift our attention between tasks.  If we consider a situation where we are speaking to a person in front of us and browsing through Instagram simultaneously, we often believe that we can do both things and be fully engaged.  The truth is, we’re not.

To stay present and get the full value out of life’s experiences is clearly challenging, but not impossible.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to stay engaged throughout the day:

  • Limit distractions.

Stop playing with your phone when the person in front of you is speaking to you, or wait until the show you’re watching is finished before trying to finish a report for work.  Trying to do more than one task at a time has our mind constantly shifting from one thing to the next, making it difficult for our mind to learn to focus for long bouts of time.

  • Make time for the things that are important to you.

We often try to do everything and then end up accomplishing nothing.  If something is important to you, schedule a specific time in your day to do these things that matter to you.  The world around us asks so much from us that we often procrastinate or simply forget to do the things that bring us the most joy.

  • If your mind wanders, bring yourself back.

With so many things on the go it’s easy to become “scatter brained”, and worry about tomorrow’s problems.  If you find that your mind is wandering while doing things that matter to you, bring yourself back into the present by noticing 5 things you can feel your body making contact with.  Next, notice five things in your environment that you can see or hear.  This small exercise helps you to bring attention to your body in space, and helps to bring your focus back to where you are in relation to the world.

renee-raymond

Source:  American Psychological Association.  (2006).  Multitasking: Switching Costs.  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx


19/May/2017

I want to be able to wear a blouse tucked into jeans, but am waiting until I have lost weight and am in better shape to do so.  My friend has had severe panic attacks and is waiting to “feel better” before resuming work and social activities that she used to love.  What do we have in common?  We have pressed the “pause button” on life while we wait for things to feel “right” or “better”.

Has this happened to you or someone you know?  What are you waiting for?  What needs to be “fixed” before you can move on with the life that you desire?  We all know that our time on earth is limited.  The harsh reality is that if you live until age 85 that means that you will spend 31,025 days on this earth.  I am 67 years old so, by my calculation, I have 7,300 days left to live.  That is a sobering thought and helps me to put into perspective every day, every hour and every minute that I am not engaging in activities that are most meaningful to me.

How many days do you have left?   

         31,025                 –  (                                X        365      )  =                     days left to live.

# days to age 85                 Your current age

 

Now, how are you going to spend your remaining days?  Will you sit back and wait for something to be “fixed”?

Here are some tips for that will help you to get the most out of your life.

  1. Get out of autopilot. Practice both formal and informal mindfulness to keep you in the present moment.  For example, eat a meal for the first 5 minutes in silence.  Notice everything about the food and your surroundings.  Or, schedule an hour a day with no electronics.  Stop to smell the roses.
  2. Choose to live a life that is most meaningful to you. Identify your values (i.e. family, work, friends, health, education, etc.) and look for ways to move towards those values with every decision that you make.
  3. Increase your production of endorphins, the feel good drug. By exercising in your training heart rate range for 30 minutes a day, you can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depressed mood and increase the amount of energy that you need to engage in other meaningful activities.
  4. Adopt a mantra – “This too shall pass”. Everyday things happen that result in stress, fear and anger, but a few days later those events are hardly remembered.  Learn how to sit with those thoughts without letting them control your reaction.
  5. Choose to observe rather than neglect and to do rather than avoid. Rather than trying to get through the day, see what you can get out of the day.  You will find greater direction and purpose in your life.

If you want to understand how these suggested strategies may change your life, Vicktor Frankl wrote a great book about how humans need purpose in their lives called Man’s Search for Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust.  It’s a moving and fascinating story of the people who suffered in the concentration camps and how meaning in their lives kept some of them alive.

janet-marlin1



The Mondays:             A phrase used to describe someone that has a bad mood when he or she                                                       comes to work or school on Monday.

case-of-the-mondays

We’ve all been there.  It’s Sunday evening, and that inkling of the new workweek beginning in a few hours has crept in.  Maybe you feel sad that the weekend has ended, maybe you feel anxious about the to-do list for the week ahead.  Even if you love your job, the start of the work week for many of us comes with mixed emotions and often a case of “The Mondays”.

If you have seen the movie Office Space, you may be able to relate the monotony of the waking up to the screaming alarm clock on Monday morning and not wanting to leave the comfort of your bed.  In fact, you might argue that a case of “The Mondays” is natural.  From an evolutionary standpoint, we have been conditioned to seek out problems as a means to protect ourselves from danger.  So it is somewhat natural to seek out what’s wrong and focus on it; however, it is more likely that when thinking about the start of the workweek, this become less of a protective mechanism, and will likely make it more difficult to be happy.  The good news is that you can train your brain to shift to a more positive perspective.

Below are some simple tips to help you beat the Sunday Blues and set a good tone for the work week ahead and hopefully cope with a case of “The Mondays”.

Make Sundays enjoyable.

One of the worst things you can do is to end Sunday in a stressed-out mindset, sleep poorly, and start the workweek off on the wrong foot.

Instead, this Sunday, plan to do the Monday preparations earlier on in the day.  Organize laundry, choose your outfit, iron and pack your lunch in the morning.  If needed, review your work calendar and address emails before 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.  That way, you can take some time in the afternoon or evening to do one or two things you actually enjoy.  Watch a favourite show, plan a movie night, make a meal you will look forward to, spend quality time with family and/or friends, go for a walk or practice some yoga – anything that you enjoy doing.

 Studies have found that when we have something positive to anticipate, we feel better and more optimistic[1].  By simply re-structuring your Sunday to complete the to-do list items earlier on in the day, you are setting the stage to not feel as rushed and finish the day with an enjoyable activity.

Be Present.

Our minds are very good at wandering.  Maybe it is during your commute into work, or perhaps while sitting at your desk, you may find your mind wandering to the deadline later in the week, or the meeting in a few hours.  Rather than letting it distract you or stress you out, take a mindful moment and practice being present.  Tune into your breath, notice your surroundings, and take a moment to reconnect.  When we do tasks mindfully, we increase our attention and focus, minimize our risk of errors and you may actually find yourself becoming more efficient at work!

Reward Yourself.

One way to make “The Mondays” better is to treat yourself to something at the end of the day.  It doesn’t have to be extravagant or take much effort, but by practicing a little self-care you can give yourself a pat on the back for tackling the first day of the week!

Why not spend some time:

  • Reading for 10 minutes in your favorite chair.
  • Make a cup of your favorite tea and savor it for a few minutes.
  • Listen to music you enjoy (this is one that helps me with my commute home).
  • Do some yoga or stretches.
  • Draw a bath.
  • Really anything that would be a little treat that you can reward yourself with.

 End the Day With a Grateful Pause.

If you read our blog on Gratitude a few weeks ago you know how valuable this practice can be. Since many of us are rushing from point A to point B, you may feel like you simply do not have the time for this.  The best way to do this is to connect it to something you already do.  Try to think of something good that happened during the day before starting your car for your commute home or before you put the key in the door as you arrive home or while cooking or even while brushing your teeth before bed.

All the above are good habits to adopt to help manage stress after the weekend (and especially after a holiday).  Start by trying out a few of the above strategies to take back your Sunday and find a cure for a case of “The Mondays”’.

stephanie-corras

[1] Van Boven & Ashworth (2007).  Journal Of Experimental Psychology.  https://www.psychologies.co.uk/self/life-lab-experiment-mind-2.html



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.


21/Dec/2016

As we continue to count down the days to the holidays, it can be easy to lose sight of what the true meaning of this time of year is about.  Over the last few weeks, we have shared some Mindfulness Strategies for the Holidaze and some goal setting tips for Setting SMART New Year’s Resolutions to offer a helping hand for getting the most out of December.  None the less, there are times when the most wonderful time of the year may not always feel so wonderful.

Though it’s been said, many times many ways (pun intended), mindfulness is great tool that can help give some perspective to allow for present moment connection.  There are many different times and ways to practice mindfulness.  Below are some helpful activities the whole family can try out to help stay connected to what you really value this time of year.


Mindfulness when Travelling:

santa-car

For some of us, the hustle and bustle from point A-to-B is an essential part of the holidays.  Unfortunately, unpredictable weather conditions, traffic, and the occasional “are we there yet?”, travelling may feel more like a chore.

Ask everyone in the car to describe what they see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste.  Put on some favourite holiday music, create games out of passing cars and landscapes, or have everyone reflect on what they have enjoyed most about the holidays so far.  One of my favourite games to play in the car while growing up was the License Plate Game.

Here is how you play:

Play as individuals or as a team, and try to see how many different license plates you can find on your trip.  If you will be making many trips, a fun option may be to write them down and over the course of your holiday travel, see how many different license plates you find.

As simple as it may be, this simple task can be helpful to take your mind off how busy the roads are or how late you are running, and encourages you to notice your surroundings and connect with the people you are travelling with.


Mindfulness during Gift Opening:

scarf-girl

If gift opening is a popular tradition in your home, this is a great opportunity to practice informal mindfulness.  Similar to the mindfulness while travelling, this strategy is one the whole family can try.

Start by taking in your surroundings.  What do you notice?

What sounds do you hear?  Yes, it may be noisy, but amidst the noise what can you really hear?  Crinkling of paper?  Laughter?  Heartfelt thank you’s?  The fire place crackling?

What do you see?  What colours are the wrapping paper?  Are there ribbons or bows?  Children having fun?  The lights sparkling on the tree?

What do you smell?  Your morning coffee or hot cocoa?  The scent of breakfast lingering or dinner in the oven?  Do you smell pine needles or wood on the fire?

What do you feel?  The texture of the wrapping or tissue paper in your hand?  How does it feel in your hands?  Where are you sitting?  On a chair or couch?  Is the room warm and cozy?  Are your feet in socks or slippers?

Can you taste anything?  Perhaps the sips of cocoa or eggnog?

By slowing down and connecting with your senses, you may notice some simple joys that may have gone otherwise unnoticed.


Mindful Communication:

santa-hats

This is one mindfulness practice that is useful every day, however, is an important one for me around the holidays.  Spending time with family and friends, especially those we do not get see often, is a common tradition for many.  Practicing mindfulness while communicating with our loved ones can be a gift in and of itself.

To practice mindful communication, it is important to be fully connected to the conversation.  Make eye contactListenWait patiently for the other person to finish before speaking.  Limit distractions.  If smartphones, TV, or video games are big distractions, suggest limited use during times when gathering with family and friends.  Encourage family to leave their devices in another room, or provide a phone basket for everyone to keep their phones in to reduce the autopilot nature of phone checking every so often.

A little goes a long way when it comes to mindful communication, and it will be sure to feel good to fully connect and communicate with everyone.


Mindful Eating:

gathering-around-table

It is no surprise the holidays come with lots of excuses to indulge which can certainly challenge our waistline come January 1st.

Practice eating awarenessBegin to notice your hunger cues in your body. Engage your senses.  Notice the smells, taste, and texture of the foods.

Practice becoming aware of the food in front of you.  Are you fully aware of the food you’re choosing?  Do you like everything that is on your plate?  Do you notice when you have finished a certain food item?  Do you enjoy every bite?

Being mindful while eating can be a challenge, so take your time, and enjoy the moments around food this holiday.


Stay tuned in the New Year for more on Mindful Eating for Weight Control!

We hope these Mindfulness tips help you take time to notice the simple joys of the holiday season.

From all of us at JMA, we wish you and yours, a happy and safe holiday.

ornament-banner

stephanie-corras



December has arrived, and the holiday season is officially upon us.  But does it ALWAYS feel like it is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’?

presents

The holiday season is a time when many experience feeling stressed, overwhelmed, in a daze, and maybe even angry (think:  the mall parking lot on Black Friday/Weekends/Boxing Day)!  Some also experience effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, for short), resulting from less daylight during this time of year.  Luckily, there are things you can do to help you stay present, maintain connection to what’s important, and do the things that are meaningful to you this holiday season.


 1.  Stay Present

There are so many things to think about in preparation for the holiday season that it is often difficult to stay present and focused on the here and now.  For example, you may be decorating your tree, but thinking about what presents you still need to buy, which day you need to attend a holiday party, and what you should make for dinner.  This distraction may take away your enjoyment of decorating the tree, as you were not fully “there” while doing it.

Instead, try and implement mindfulness into your holiday activities.  Engage all of your senses, and focus on your experience of that activity instead of thinking about what you have to do next.  To relate this back to our tree example, if you were decorating mindfully, you could be paying attention to the texture of the tree branches and how they feel on your fingertips, the colours of the ornaments, the placement of the ornaments, the sound it makes when you place an ornament onto the tree, the smell of the tree, etc.  If you realize that you become distracted by a thought, notice the thought that distracted you and bring your attention back to focusing on the tree.

decorating

Try and make a point of staying mindful during each holiday activity that you do.  It may also be helpful to engage in a more “formal” mindfulness practice, and dedicate a specific time for it each day.  You can check out apps such as “Stop, Breathe, Think” (available on both Apple and Android devices) or scroll down to read previous blogs we have written to find out more information on beginning a formal mindfulness practice.

2.  Making Meaning

Some holiday stress may result from the disconnection of the activities we are doing and the reasons as to why we are doing them.  There is sometimes a sense of obligation in the holiday season, when we feel like we are obligated or “should” do activities, even though they may not be important to us.

Think of three people who are important to you.  Some examples could be parents, children, spouse, coworkers, friends, or community members.  Now, think of three things that are important to you during this holiday season.  This may include things such as generosity, tradition, connection to others, kindness, etc.

baking

Now compare the things you have listed as meaningful to you to your holiday to-do list.  Do all of the activities on your list correspond to one of the people or things you listed as being important to you?  This comparison is helpful for reminding us why we are doing the activities we have planned for the holidays, and it often makes activities more enjoyable when you know they are fueled by something that is important to you.  Furthermore, if you realize that there are to-do’s that do not correspond with any of your values, it gives you space to make a decision as to whether you would still like to maintain that activity or not.

3.  Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

We can’t stress this one enough!  If you do not schedule activities, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and as though you do not have enough time to complete all of the things you need to do.  Scheduling your activities allows you to plan specific times for each task, and removes the pressure of not knowing what to do next.

Use a blank calendar, day planner, or a smart phone calendar to plan out which days you will do which activities.  If it is a large activity (e.g. buying gifts for the whole family), break the activity down into smaller steps and schedule the smaller steps into your planner.  For example, you may schedule creating a list of gifts, when you will phone someone to go with you, or multiple days of shopping so you do not feel pressured to complete the task in a single day.

When you are creating a schedule of your holiday to-do’s, do not forget to include your regular activities such as exercising, attending work or classes, and volunteering.  Many self-care activities tend to fall by the wayside during this time of year, so it is important to ensure you are continuing to complete self-care activities, even if they may need to be less frequent.


We hope that some of these tips may help you stay present, connected to what’s important, and allow you to find time for activities that are meaningful to you during this holiday season.  If you think that you would benefit from one-on-one support during this time of year, please do not hesitate to contact us to set up a FREE consultation to find out how we can help.

From all of us at J Marlin and Associates Inc. to you, Happy Holidays!

kayleen-willemsen1


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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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