Tag Archives: mindfulness

A moment of Mindfulness

mindfulness

A Moment of Mindfulness

By Angela Englander February 10, 2015

 

Mindfulness is a practice that can easily get forgotten when life gets busy, when we are stressed or nervous or frustrated or simply too busy or rushed. When we are on overdrive our system may feel sped up, as if we have had too much coffee, or perhaps you needed the caffeine to get your system pushing past your limits in the first place. This chronic pushing ourselves and going beyond our limits may make sense in the context of our busy lives and our busy culture but does it make sense biologically and from an evolutionary lens?

When we stop listening to our body’s signals we tend to fill up with stress hormones and exhaust our body’s natural storage of hormones and enzymes. In the moment we feel alive and have the energy to attend that extra meeting, run that race, stay out at that party, or get in to work a little early for a meeting. In the long term your adrenal glands (the ones responsible for your energy hormones) can literally burn out. Taxing these organs leads to feelings of exhaustion, depression, apathy, avoidance, weight gain, trouble sleeping, and a number of diseases. This adrenal fatigue also leads to boredom with life, increases risk taking behaviour, reduces impulse control and can lead to putting yourself or others in dangerous situations just to feel alive. The numbing between the adrenaline rushes and the feelings of exhaustion when not in over drive make it that much harder to switch gears, and who wants to slow down when life can be so exciting?

If you do find yourself wanting to slow down, to allow your body system’s to naturally rebalance and avoid diseases, or if you want to feel naturally calm and content, this moment of mindfulness is for you!

Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, this comfort is very important because I’m going to encourage you to spend an entire minute in this position during your mindfulness. Put your phone aside and remind yourself that for the next minute you are just going to slow down and be at peace. Take a deep breath, feel the life giving energy entering your lungs. As you exhale blow the air slowly out of your mouth and focus on what the air feels like on your lips. Is the air warm or cool? As you continue breathing take a moment to focus on your back, is your spine straight? Are you leaning to the side or backwards of forwards? Without judging yourself just take a moment to notice what your body is doing. As you take another deep breath focus on your gratitude. Find one thing that you are really grateful for and focus on that thing for the next thirty seconds. If you can’t think of something to be really grateful for, you can be grateful that you can read, you are able to breath, and you are alive. These everyday blessings that we so easily take for granted are gifts. Take a moment to notice how privileged you are to have these blessings. Take a moment to be thankful and really feel that blessing of having these gifts. Thank you for spending this moment of mindfulness and I wish you peace on your healing journey. If you have any questions please e-mail me angela@waystowellbeing.ca

Self-Care in Nature

Serene Forest

Self Care: Is It Time to Visit a Forest?

By: Anna Bystrova      February 8, 2016

Photo: Kevin Wang from https://flic.kr/p/hpPwfV

Let me ask you a simple question. How often do you go outside? No, not to get to the car or hop onto a bus to get to work or a place of study. How often do you go for a walk in a park? How much time out of your schedule is dedicated to spending time in a forest? If you are like any average city person, chances are your answer will be “not very often”.

Modern life places a lot of expectations on our lifestyles, often trapping us in schedules that we can barely keep up with. Going to the forest? We hardly have enough time to fit in lunch! Time constraints are often cited as a common reason why people do not spend time in nature. With fluctuating economy and pressing debt issues, we are forced to work longer hours, or find ourselves splitting between 2 or 3 jobs to keep up with bills and dreams. There are also such crucial participants in our lives as family and friends to add to the schedule. Entertainment media has entered our lives quite some time ago, and it found a solid spot there, bordering between giving us an outlet to relax and eating away our precious free time. In more recent years, social media proudly took the title of a Time-eating Monster, planting its roots deep into our schedules. A lot of us have even more commitments we have to comply with on a regular basis. Among all these important commitments and daily hassles, it is easy to regard self-care as the least important of them, dedicating very little time to it, if at all. This absence of self-care in light of busy schedules, challenging and demanding jobs/study programs, interpersonal relations, worries about future and financial stability increasingly more often lead to high levels of stress and extreme fatigue, at times even leading to a burnout or stress-related mental illness.

Understandably, for many the concept of self-care might seem like a luxury one cannot afford. However, do not fall for the claims of corporate producers and questionable know-how entrepreneurs trying to sell you another new product or service that promises that it is the only thing you would ever need to feel happy. There are many small lifestyle changes and inexpensive or free activities that you can add to your routine that will help you relax, unwind, return to your centre or even hold through a very challenging chapter in your life. You can refer to one of our articles for a list of pleasant activities to start with. You can chose the ones that you like, or make your own list.

As part of your journey of discovering the best self-care tools that suit your needs and preferences, consider exploring your relationship with nature. It has been know for a long time that interactions with nature are beneficial to general and mental health. Numerous studies have been conducted to explore this correlation. Exposure to nature and moving to countryside for a prolong period of time has been used by doctors as prescriptions for poor physical and mental health throughout the history of industrial world. Including readily accessible green spaces in cities is a part of urban planning and urban development research is partially due to the correlation between general and mental health and nature.

Social stress has been recognized as a risk factor for development of mental disorders. In addition, city living and urban social stress have shown evidence of being associated with increased prevalence of such disorders. In light of these factors, it is important to find accessible ways to support reduction of stress in urban population. Various modern studies indicate a strong association between availability of green space in cities and fewer cases of stress related mental illnesses. Some studies suggest that even availability of observable green space in the neighbourhood environment can have a positive effect on mental health. However, active participation in green spaces tops the charts of benefits to your general and mental health, offering stress reduction properties, immune function support, cognitive improvements, and much more. Some studies suggest that visiting forests away from the city that offer a serene feeling have even greater beneficial properties. Hopefully, these brief points will encourage you to explore ways to include nature in your self-care routine.

Remember – taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is a necessity. As with many other issues in life, prevention is always a better choice than intervention. Taking care of yourself now will help you avoid a dangerous slippery slope of stress related issue in the future. Find self-care routines that are right for you and prioritize them while making your schedule.

And do not forget to visit a nearby park or forest. May I challenge you to do it this weekend? Maybe even today?

References

Annerstedt van den Bosch, M., Östergren, P.-O., Grahn, P., Skärbäck, E., & Währborg, P. (2015). Moving to Serene Nature May Prevent Poor Mental Health—Results from a Swedish Longitudinal Cohort Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(7), 7974-7989.

Lederbogen, F., Haddad, L., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2013). Urban social stress – Risk factor for mental disorders. The case of schizophrenia. Environmental Pollution, 183, 2–6.

Li, Q. (2010). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine,15(1), 9–17.

Nielsen, T. S. & Hansen, K. B. (2006). Nearby nature and green areas encourage outdoor activities and decrease mental stress. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 1(059), 10.

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A. L., & Kingham, S. (2013). An ecological study investigating the association between access to urban green space and mental health. Public Health, 127(11), 1005–1011.

Selhub, E. M. & Logan, A. C. (2012). Your brain on nature: The science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness, and vitality. Toronto, ON: Collins.

Therapy to Prevent Cancer?

chapter-18-health-and-personality-10-638

Therapy to Prevent Cancer?

By: Angela Englander December 20, 2015

I’m sure you’ve heard that stress is hard on the body, maybe you have been told to treat yourself better or that self-care is important. Has anyone told you that certain personality traits and thought patterns could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer? This article explores the personality traits and choices that put some people at a much higher risk for developing cancer while other people do not have as high of a risk. Through exploring psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics new insight into the disease process and healing from the inside out can be gained. After completing the short self-reporting questions, read through the suggestions below and remember to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca if you have any questions!

Although people are in no way, shape, or form to blame for developing cancer or any other disease. There could be some ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. I was very surprised to stumble upon so many seemingly positive and pro-social personality traits and choices that could put someone at a higher risk. To determine if your personality and choices could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I go out of my way to make other people happy?
  • Do I regularly put the needs of other people ahead of my own needs?
  • Do I push myself to achieve things even when I am exhausted?
  • Do I feel like relaxing and taking time to myself is a waste of valuable time?
  • I have a lot to worry about?
  • Am I keeping a secret that I would be ashamed if people found out about?
  • Did I experience being sexually or physically abused (especially before the age of 18)?
  • I have a deep hatred for myself?
  • I am unworthy of love?
  • I have a hard time to express my anger and hurt feelings?
  • I have a hard time asking people for a favour or saying no to a request?
  • I regularly volunteer and give to others?
  • I don’t know what I want or I don’t know my purpose?
  • I feel confused about who I am?
  • I put the needs of my friends, children, partner, and parents before my own needs?

The more questions you said yes to, the higher your potential risk for developing cancer at some point. I am not saying doing any of the above things is a bad thing, balance is the key factor here. The great news is that there are many ways to challenge and change choices and patterns of interactions that will decrease your stress and lower your risk for developing cancer. The following strategies may be key ingredients to your healthy and happy life:

Learning to let go

Letting go is a really hard thing to do. Setting ourselves free from the negative and critical things we have been told about ourselves. Learning to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. There are a number of reasons we hold on to the past so tightly, sometimes it is the only connection we have to our parents, sometimes it helps us to understand who we are and define ourselves, other times it helps us to feel grounded in an otherwise chaotic world.

Take a deep breath, feel the warm air entering your body, filling your lungs and diaphragm with health and vitality. As you slowly breathe out picture yourself releasing the stress and tension from your system. As you take another deep breath in, visualize bringing vitality and positive energy into your system. Feel the positive energy going from your lung into your core. As you exhale realize you are taking a step towards the self-care and healing you deserve. Feel free to take a couple more deep and healing breaths, you deserve them.

Being Present in your Body

Being present in your body can be a very hard thing to do, this skill is especially hard for people that have experienced violations to their boundaries because indeed their body was not safe in those experiences. This is a healing day, you can be safe in your body now and learn how to be present and aware of your body, you can learn the skills you need to be safe now.

If you have not experienced violations, have successfully gained safety in therapy, or are feeling like you want to be present in your body and gain an awareness of your body’s needs. This exercise is called the body scan. This mindfulness based exercise works by building the brain maps for various areas of your body and helping bring a conscious awareness to the signals your body is sending you.

This exercise is suitable for people with all types of bodies and ability levels, if any body parts are experiencing pain, numbing, or no sensation at all simply close your eyes and visualize that part of your body healing. Begin by focusing on your toes, perhaps you can feel them on the ground, feel whether you are wearing socks or are barefoot. Visualize your feet as a healthy and vital part of your body system. Think of how feet impact your life. Next move up to your legs. If possible gently squeeze your shins or thighs with your hand. Can you feel the pressure or the warmth or coolness of your legs? Visualize the energy pathways in your legs, what colour are they? Slowly move your focus to your hips. As you move closer to your hips and core some people who have experienced sexual violation may feel themselves getting nervous, remind yourself that you are safe in this moment in time and continue. Feel your hips and bottom against the surface you are sitting on. Close your eyes and visualize your hips, do you see a colour or feel a particular temperature? Can you tense and release your muscles? Slowly move your attention to your abdomen. Is it quiet or do you hear a rumbling? Is there any tightness or tension in this part of your body? Put your hand on your abdomen and take a deep breath, can you feel your abdomen expanding as it fills with air? Realize the amazing capabilities your abdomen may have to help you absorb nutrients or expand to allow more air into your system. Move your attention up to your shoulders. Gently move your shoulders from side to side, do you feel any tension or tightness? Cross your arms across your chest and give yourself a hug. You have done well during this body scan exercise. If you would like you can take a minute to focus on your head and neck and face. Paying attention to various feature and organs you have and their purpose in your life.

Finding yourself

Lastly we will take a moment to focus on gaining identity and finding yourself. People who give too much and struggle to say no often also have a hard time describing themselves and understanding who they are. They may feel confused and unsure of who they are and what they really want. Feel free to grab a piece of paper and answer a couple simple questions to help you figure out who you are. At the top of the page write your name. Write out your favourite food, your favourite ice cream flavour, or the last thing you ate. Next write out your favourite show, movie, or the last thing you watched on a television. Have you read any good books or magazines recently? Write down something you learned or enjoyed or found amusing while you were reading. Although these may seem like simple things to write, they begin to draw your attention to facts about yourself which helps your brain to both accept yourself and conceptualize who you are and what you enjoy. Developing an identity and sense of self is much like building a muscle, it takes focus, perseverance, and consciously paying attention.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and are a step closer to healing and preventing cancer and other diseases. You deserve to be happy and healthy. If you feel like you need more support in changing patterns that are increasing your potential risk of cancer and other diseases please reach out to me, your doctor, your therapist, or other healing professionals in your community. Have a great day and as always, good luck on your healing journey.

References: Attitudes and Cancer. (2014). Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/attitudes-and-cancer

Bond, L. (2015). The Cancer Personality. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.laura-bond.com/2011/09/the-cancer-personality/

Mate, G. (2015). When the Body Says No – Dr. Gabor Maté. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://drgabormate.com/book/when-the-body-says-no/

Wellisch, D. & Yager, J. (2008). Is there a cancer-prone personality? Cancer Journal for Clinicians 33 (3) 145-153