Category Archives: transformation

The Secret to Keeping the Spark Alive

Dollarphotoclub_76286710-e1423206683651One of the challenges of a long-term relationship is trusting that our partner can change.  After years of the same irritations and missed connections it’s easy to assume that there’s very little you can do to make your relationship fresh again. But the truth is that relationships, like people, are always changing and with a little effort we can make sure that those changes are for the better.

The secret to keeping the spark alive and your connection to each other strong are not only in the grand romantic gestures that happen occasionally, but the small daily moments of connection. The most important thing any couple can do to make those moments count is to be intentional.

Each day ask yourself what you can do to show affection and kindness toward your spouse – then do it. With a little intentional effort you can change your relationship for the better in just a few weeks. Let me be clear, a month of intentional effort is not going to fully resolve major issues or long-standing conflicts but it is possible to change your attitude and set your relationship on a new, happier course.

One way to stay motivated and put my theory of small changes to the test is to have regular relationship check-ins. Our satisfaction with our relationship can fluctuate through out the day just like our mood, so daily or hourly check-ins are not the best approach. When evaluating how your relationship is going and the impact of your new efforts be sure to take the long view. While you may be annoyed at the moment, how would you describe things overall? This broad perspective is just a helpful when things are rocky as it is when things seem to be going well. A weekly check-in can be helpful as long as you aren’t using it only as an opportunity to air your grievances. Make your check-in a balanced conversation about what is working really well and what areas you want to improve – not just what your partner can do but what you want to do for them.

How do we create more connection?
Often we think it is the big things that make or break a relationship but the truth is that it is the small daily things we do that matter the most. Here are three simple ways to improve connection and shift your perspective on your relationship:

1. Hug and kiss at least twice a day.  For a couple that is very affectionate this may seem simple but it’s the non-sexual touches that often get overlooked in a busy week. Physical intimacy can do wonders for keeping you connected and expressing love and appreciation that you may unintentionally forget to say out loud. It also releases oxytocin, often called the ‘bonding’ hormone, which can stimulate a natural sense of trust and connection. To truly reap the benefits, you must be intentional about these moments and take your time. A quick peck as you run out the door is not the same as a 3-5 second kiss or 20-second hug which has demonstrated benefits to your relationship.

2. Use technology to increase the playfulness. It easy to blame our phones and laptops for keeping us apart but these devices can also bring you together. A quick text hello or a flirty message at lunchtime keeps your partner on their toes – in a good way. These messages are easy to send and they can infuse your day with a little unexpected novelty, which is something we all long for. It can also set the stage for conversation and connection when you are finally back together again.

3. Say thank-you. It’s so easy to overlook all the little ways your partner makes your life better each day. The cup of coffee they make in the morning, making sure the trash went out, or an encouraging phone call before a big meeting or project can all be forgotten in the blink of an eye. Yet when someone makes us mad or lets us down, we humans are quick to point out what’s wrong. Saying thank you for the good stuff doesn’t just make your partner feel good, it helps you keep perspective. If you look for something to appreciate each day, you will find countless reasons for loving your partner. That reminder will keep you both happier in the long run.

By: Esther Boykin

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Five Steps to Self Care

running1Self Care. What does it mean to you? Considering it pertains to the self, we’re a subjective subject, no? So here’s my take on the care that is the self.

This day in age, our society is full of extremes. It’s almost as if 30% of the population is either vegan, a yogi or a personal trainer of sorts, living what seems to be an unattainable lifestyle for most. The other 70% will follow an Instagram workout for a week, try those shakes for 2 days, and stretch on a Wednesday. It’s so easy to get caught up in trends only to resort back to what we know; what we’ve taught ourselves is normal and natural.

As a citizen, personal trainer and lifestyle coach, influenced by the extremes, I can tell you with confidence that extremes don’t work! Self care, to me, is about finding ways to FEEL GOOD. Feeling good, although sometimes temporary, should not have a “come down” or crash. So please don’t take my suggestion to feel good as a ticket to binge anything. Rather, ask yourself these questions: What makes you feel good? What motivates you? Who are the people in your life that make you better? That make you want to be better? It’s not easy pulling yourself out of a funk, but start by getting yourself off the couch, and I promise you will feel a lot better!

Balance is the key. Finding balance in our lives, I feel, is THE GOAL. Considering work utilizes the majority of our resources (time and energy – sometimes money), let’s start here. We hear and talk about work/life balance. I believe this to be a great start BUT that leaves us susceptible to disappointment due to high expectations and extreme goal setting. So let’s turn the table a bit… What about balance AT WORK? How many of you wake up and go through the motions? Some days are better than others right? Then you come home and are exhausted, but you told yourself you were going to hit the gym and eat salad. I say, throw that notion out the window. What can you do in the morning for 5 – 10 minutes that will make you feel good? What can you do at 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm? Something simple without your phone, that you can associate and pair with something else like a break at work. Maybe it’s closing your eyes and listening to your favorite song while focusing on your breathing. Maybe it’s writing in a journal and only focusing on positive things in your life or aspirations?

Self care has to be one of the hardest goals to achieve because we so often let other things prioritize themselves over our own well-being. So here are my 5 steps to self care:

1. People – latch on those who make you smile and uplift you to greater heights.

2. Find 5 little things that make you smile and rotate them throughout each weekday.

3. Drink half your body weight in water. I know! Tough right? Every two hours try setting a little alarm to remind yourself to chug!

4. Eat protein before bed. The majority of us are protein deficient because we are bombarded with fast, cheap carbohydrates. Eating protein before bed will help you balance your blood sugar and provide you with more energy when you awake!

5. Get Moving! Especially when you don’t want to. We are designed to move so when we are stagnant we naturally feel lazy, tired and our moods follow suit. Ever notice how annoyingly happy the #fitfam is? Go be like them!

Have fun with it!

In Health,

Jenna Brooks

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Sleep: why is it important and how much of it do we need?

SleepingHow many times have you found yourself rushing to work because, yet again, you decided to hit that snooze button? Sleep is the most important thing that your body and mind require. Getting enough sleep every day is very beneficial to your mental and physical health, which will improve your quality of life significantly. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep helps with growth and development of the brain and mind. While sleeping, your brain forms new pathways in order to help you learn new information and remember information that you learned throughout the day, a process called “consolidation”. With regards to your physical health, NHLI, also states that deep sleep triggers the body to release hormones that promote normal growth in children and teens. These hormones also boost muscle mass, help repair cells and muscle tissue in children, teens, and adults, and are involved in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels.

But what exactly happens during sleep? According to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), sleep has five stages. During stage one, you can easily be awaken and you experience slight muscle contractions. Your brain slows down during the second stage, allowing a release of alpha and beta waves, which help your body temperature to drop, meanwhile your breathing and heart rate remain constant. While in stage three and four you enter deep sleep. At this time, your brain waves change from alpha and beta to slower theta and delta waves; your blood pressure drops and your breathing slows. In the fifth and final stage of sleep you enter a stage of rapid eye movement or REM. These rapid movements signify a state of dreaming, during which you are in your deepest sleep. Alongside the rapid eye movements, your heart rate also increases. Sleep induces the release of several chemicals or hormones into your brain. During the sleep cycle, a number of chemicals are released, such as: serotonin (which affects your mood, emotions and appetite), norepinephrine (which affects response, breathing and metabolism) and adenosine (which builds up in your blood to keep you awake during the day and causes you to be sleepy at night).

There has been much argument about how much sleep one needs, and according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), newborns (0-3 months) need 14-17 hours,  infants (4-11 months) need 12-15 hours, toddlers (1-2 years of age) need 11-14 hours, preschoolers (3-5 years of age) need 10-13 hours,  school age children (6-13 years of age) need 9-11 hours, teens (14-17 years of age) need 8-10 hours, adults (18-64 years of age) need 7-9 hours, and finally, elders (65+ years of age) need 7-8 hours. When you do not receive enough sleep, you become sleep deficient. According to NHLBI, sleep deficiency increases the risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, as well as increases the risk of obesity. People who are sleep deprived will have trouble making decisions, solving problems, and controlling emotions and behaviour. A lack of sleep may also lead to micro sleep, which refers to a brief moment of sleep that occurs while you are awake. An example of such would be if you are driving for a long time and do not remember part of the trip.

However, there are ways to fix your sleep patterns. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), you should keep a regular sleep schedule (i.e., going to bed and waking up at the same time every day), avoid napping during the day, get out of bed if you can’t sleep, avoid caffeine four to six hours before bed, avoid alcohol and smoking close to bedtime, minimize noise and blue light (i.e., light that comes from electronics), make sure room temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, and exercise daily. Keeping these tips in mind can help you achieve and maintain a good and healthy sleep-wake schedule.

By: Bruno Ngjeliu


Adolescent Brains and Mental Fitness

150302071349_1_900x600Everything that a person experiences; thoughts, sounds, sights or feelings, it all requires underlying neural activity in the brain. Neural activity means activity in the brain between the neurons that are there. The more the neurons fire together and join up, the more patterns begin to develop and take shape. These patterns then become the ‘norm’ for the brain, in terms of what that brain routinely does.

Brains and the reality of the world created within a person’s brain takes its form from whatever perspective the brain routinely rests upon. If a young person wakes in the morning and rests upon an idea such as ‘I am alive and so glad I have this day to live,’  or an idea such as ‘I like myself and know I am a good person,’ then this will impact the structure or pattern that that particular young person’s brain develops. Because young people are at such a crucial stage of development, it is important for young people to know how their patterns are becoming set, the more their minds rest upon ideas. And what their brain routinely rests upon can only become a choice for the young person if that young person knows that this choice is theirs to make. Otherwise, young people can become a slave to the brain and as a muscle; it can become weak and more out of their control. They then become more likely to need external feedback in order to feel good as the brain inside their own head is not necessarily working in their favor. Young people can train their brains to work in ways that make them resilient and strong. This will help them to better protect their own mental health but in order to do this successfully; they need to be encouraged to think about what ideas they are routinely allowing their brains to rest upon.

So much growth and change happens during adolescence. It is a prime time to gain awareness of how to train the brain so that mental fitness becomes something the young person feels is within their control, just as taking steps towards physical fitness is within their control also. Young people need to approach the brain as they would any other muscle in the body. They cannot control the muscle completely but they can certainly work to make it strong. Step one in making the brain strong is to become conscious of how experiences are being interpreted. If they make a good choice about how to interpret events, a choice that allows them to see their developing self in a positive way, then their internal strength of mind will increase. Minding mental health matters and young people need to be developing skills to mind their mental health.

 By: Anne McCormack


Young People and Social Media Use – How Parent’s can support them Mind to their Mental Health

socialmediatree-540x440For young people today, social media is an integral part of their world. Parents accept this to be the reality but because parents of today have only ever experienced social media as an adult, it can be difficult for parents to know how best to support their child to mind their mental health while online. Parents can find it hard to relate to what it is to experience social media use as a young person, as they never had the chance to experience social media during their adolescent years. Supervising their child’s interactions online may work at the start for parents but eventually, young people will seek greater independence from parents and that is normal for them to do. Therefore, it is good to think in terms of equipping young people with tools and strategies to mind themselves mentally as well as physically online. There will be times when parent’s are not there by their side so it is good to see the value of preparing young minds for what they may encounter going forward.

One tool or strategy that works well for young people is having knowledge about how their mind is working. For young people about to start into adolescence, the task they are beginning to face in their mind is the task known as identity formation. That means that young people are beginning to look outside of their own small world of family and close friends more. They are beginning, on an unconscious level, to ask themselves who they are in the world and what their place within the world is. Because this task is faced in the unconscious part of their mind, it is therefore not within young people’s awareness. Because of his task, young people can become very fixated on feedback from others online as a way to garner information about what others think of them and therefore, what they are like as a person in the world. This can be a difficult process in many ways for young people as social media is a very narrow filter through which to work out your worth. If young people are given information about their stage of mind development and if this task that they are facing in their mind is explained to them, they at least have the knowledge in their conscious mind and have awareness. They will have awareness about the fact that they are trying to work out their identity. They also will have the knowledge that other people their age are busy working out identities too and that gives them a context within which to understand the behaviour of their peers. Knowing themselves on the inside is a vital tool when it comes to young people minding their mental health. Giving them information about their own mind is one step parents can take; mental health matters so much.

By: Anne McCormack


Dealing With Stress

Nobody thought of bringing a headache pill to the party?Being a full time student while working three jobs I experience stress on a daily basis, whether school, familial or work induced stress, or even simply the stress caused by the strive to reach personal goals. Stress affects several aspects of one’s self, which can negatively influence both one’s physical and mental health. Stress is manifested in an array of bodily responses, as a reaction to disruptions or adjustments. Thus, when these changes are made it upsets an individual’s mental and physical abilities, often manifesting itself into several different symptoms. Some symptoms may be physical, such as: headaches, insomnia, viruses, aches and pains, tense muscles, loss of appetite, and even a loss of sexual ability, while other symptoms may be mental such as emotional instability (i.e., experiencing anger, guilt, and hopelessness). But how do you deal with stress? Everyone deals with stress differently and some methods are not very healthy. Some may become dependent on substances (i.e. alcohol or cigarette’s) and some may simply isolate themselves.

Despite the endless list of negative effects and outcomes of stress, there are a number of strategies to minimize becoming overwhelmed. Personally, I try to make a weekly check list of what needs to be completed so that I can map out my time. This is satisfactory because it allows me to feel like I have achieved something through hard work and commitment. It is very important to have a plan set in place when dealing with stress. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) encourages people to eat healthy well balanced meals throughout the day. They also suggest that physical activity, regulated sleep habits (i.e., getting the proper amount of sleep), and taking breaks when needed are positive stress relievers. They also encourage speaking to someone about your stress, whether that be to your friends, family or to a professional. I personally find that I get more stressed when I do not have someone to talk to, and it is during these times that my stress-induced thoughts keep me up at night.

Exercise is also key when dealing with stress. Two of my favourite exercises to relieve stress include both boxing and yoga. On the one hand, boxing exerts a satisfactory release of energy, which allows for the relief of anger and stress. This ultimately results in feeling calmer. Conversely, the calming properties of yoga through stillness and meditation allow for the gathering of thoughts and elimination of stress and worries for a period of time. It is important to focus on your wellbeing (both mentally and physically) when you are feeling stressed. So next time you are feeling stressed, try going to your local boxing gym and hit the punching bag, or follow a yoga tutorial on YouTube and begin your day with some relaxing, thought-gathering meditation to help set up your stress-reduced day!

By: Bruno Ngjeliu


One Best Tip For Improving Your Marriage

love picIt’s hard to come home to a bad marriage.  When the one place that is supposed to be loving and supportive, is actually cold and lonely, it’s a challenge to keep positive and have hope that things can turn around. As hard as it might be to believe, though, it is possible. I have one tip for you, something you can start doing right away, that will help improve your marriage. It’s a simple tip, but not always an easy one.

Too often, as our relationships start to slide, we begin to lose touch with the positives.  We notice all of the ways that our partner is letting us down, or all of the missed opportunities our partner didn’t take to let us know how much s/he cares.  Over the course of time, we can become very, very aware of just how disappointing our partner is, of how she or he has wronged us, of all of the things that have happened that we just can’t believe makes sense to him or her – why would she even do that?!

And as time goes on, we begin to focus more and more of our attention on what our partner is doing and how our partner is behaving.

Maybe we use his bad behaviour as an excuse for our own petty behaviour. Or maybe we’re just so hurt that we are hyper-aware of every little thing that she does or says, and we interpret it all to mean that she doesn’t really care.

However it happens, for whatever reasons it happens, it can become very easy to spend much more time thinking about our partner’s behaviour, which we can’t control, rather than focusing on our own, which we can.

So here’s my tip: Start noticing small actions you can take to improve your marriage.

If you’d like your marriage to improve, focus on what you can do that would start to move things in a better direction. Are you coming home grumpy and gearing up for a fight each night after work?  Make a point of doing some deep breathing before you walk in the door, and focus on what was good about your day, so that you’re not accidentally giving off a “Don’t talk to me” vibe. Have you been waiting for your partner to make the first move in apologizing/planning a date night/unloading the dishwasher? Don’t tell yourself that it’s ok to base how you behave on how your partner is behaving; instead act from a place of integrity and be the person you would like to be in your marriage, regardless of what your partner is or isn’t doing.

Perhaps you feel that you’ve been doing all of the work in your relationship already, and you’re tired of feeling as though you’re going it alone. Fair enough. You know yourself how hard you’ve been trying to get things on a better track. But if you’re still interested in seeing your marriage improve, it’s never too late to look at what you have been doing and asking yourself, “If this isn’t working, what might work better?  In this situation, what is in my power to change, what might make a positive difference in our relationship?”

If we only focus on what we want or need someone else to do, and then they don’t do it, it can lead to a real sense of despair and helplessness. While we can’t make anyone else do something, we can create an environment between us that is fertile ground for a positive shift in both our behaviours which leads to a positive shift in our relationship.

Maybe this means asking about your partner’s day and showing a genuine interest. Perhaps it means sharing more of yourself, contributing more to the conversation and the atmosphere at home, rather than hiding in the den all evening. It could even mean that you need to count to 10 before responding when your partner is short with you, especially when you feel that attitude is uncalled for.  Maybe you’ll need to do the same thing a few times before your partner trusts that you really are trying to do things differently, and s/he starts to respond in a kinder manner.

When we tell ourselves that we’re not going to change what we’re doing until our partner changes what he or she is doing, we’re setting ourselves up for a stalemate. Someone has to break the ice, make the first move – let it be you. Do something kind, genuine, loving or different, not because it’s your job to fix your relationship, but because it empowers you to know that you have the ability to positively influence the situation, the ability to control how you behave in any situation, and that you also have the ability to start the snowball rolling in the direction of a more loving and satisfying relationship.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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Coping with Change

change-good-now-how-get-employeesOne of my teachers in college taught me that everything we do as psychotherapists can be summarized as follows: pinpoint what change our clients are resisting in their lives and help them stop resisting it.

In Buddhist meditation traditions change or “impermanence” is considered one of the three irrefutable characteristics of reality, the awareness of which is a critical marker on the path to enlightenment.

It would appear that change, or more accurately our relationship to it, is a driving force behind much of our psycho-spiritual aspiration as a society. Why is this? And how can we reconcile ourselves to this ever-present force?

On the one hand we are ravenous for change. We crave bigger paychecks, more harmonious relationships, and healthier bodies. However, when that challenging work assignment comes our way, when our partner invites us to shake things up, or when it comes time to combat our cravings, we often wind up in a state of inner turmoil. The insistence of our conscience meets the uncertainty of the unfamiliar.

So often we block ourselves from experiencing the changes we seek because hardly ever does what we want arrive on a silver platter. Far more often than not we must push ourselves outside our comfort zones to achieve it, or worse yet, face the effects of uninvited change. Our job is pulled out from under our feet, the person we love leaves us, or we receive an unwanted medical diagnosis.

The truth is our minds aren’t very good at contending with new variables. And rightfully so – we don’t know what we don’t yet know. So they will always try to steer us towards what’s worked in the past, or what others have told us will work.  This is why change typically either happens incrementally or gets foisted upon us by outside forces. And this is why it can feel so agonizing – we don’t yet have the evidence we need at our finger tips to assure us that everything’s going to be okay.

The fact of the matter is that we cannot rely on our minds to get us through the most difficult periods of change in our lives. The most natural temptation when things start to fall apart is to try to put them back together again. This strategy may work for a while, but it’s akin to putting all our eggs into one basket. If we don’t allow ourselves to ride the change wave, at least for a little bit, we will never achieve the evidence we need to help us keep moving towards our goals. That familiarity that we cling to will become a rut that we cannot climb out of. Sooner or later change will strike, and we will wish that we had begun to explore outside our box much sooner.

It’s definitely best in times of change to remind our minds that they need to hand over the lead role every once and awhile so that we can allow life to show us more of what’s available to us. Meditation techniques that cultivate a cessation of mental activity can be an amazing tool to assist with this. So can speaking with people who have gone through the type of change that we are experiencing firsthand, or at the very least can hold a completely impartial outlook about our experience. Trained mental health professionals or spiritual teachers can provide a safe space for you to talk about and explore the changes that are unfolding in your life, while helping you stay open to the possibilities that change can hold.

Whatever approach you take, remember that change is a natural part of life. And chances are we’ve asked for it by focusing on the outcomes we would like to experience. So it’s imperative that we relinquish the urge to mentally control it, and instead learn to move with it.

By: Kelly Pritchard

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