Exercise To The Rescue

One of the most holistic solutions within our control for managing & reducing depression & anxiety is exercise.  A new study published in a recent Forbes article states “…research analysis suggests that moderate aerobic exercise may be one of the most effective approaches available for treating major depression.  It’s the latest in a convincing docket of research showing that exercise, perhaps more than any other single method, can serve as a curb against a tenacious condition that affects millions, with tens of thousands of new patient added every year.”   

Wow – exercise helps “more than any other single method”!  Participants in the referenced study did about 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for a little over nine weeks.  The types of exercises included walking, biking, swimming and jogging & team sports.  The results showed “a large and significant antidepressant effect from aerobic exercise on par with or even surpassing typical results for antidepressant medications.”

Best results were achieved with about 45 minutes a workout session, three to five times per week.  Measured health benefits of regular exercise – strengthened mental, physical, emotional, social, personal & professional health & functioning:

Sounds great, right, sign me up…but where do we get started if we’re not already physically active but believe in the benefits of doing so?  A few tips to help get started…

  • Make your health a priority. Find the time to work out.  Start small & don’t quit.  Put it on the calendar & challenge the reasons why you don’t want to follow through.
  • Dig deep on your motivation for wanting to exercise more – why specifically is it that you want to make this time for your health & prioritize your self-care?  How will your life be improved?
  • Little things make a big difference.  Just get started doing something, somehow, someway more days than not.
  • Set short & long term goals & take things one day at a time.  One daily push-up is better than none!
  • Buddy up! Find a personal or professional partner to help motivate you & keep you accountable to staying committed to a regular workout routine.  An added benefit to exercising with a partner is social interaction which is also a very holistic way to help manage stress & treat anxiety & depression.
  • Be kind to yourself & enjoy the journey. Breathe – meditate – stretch…get outside & enjoy life & nature if you can.
  • Do what you can, when you can, how you can.  Meet yourself where you are at each & every day & if nothing else just do one small thing to be happy & healthy & care for your mind, body & soul today.

Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC – Foundations Owner & Clinical Counselor – Lori@FoundationsCounselingCenter.org

 

How You Living?

How you living?  I watched a very powerful inspirational video recently by minister & motivational speaker Dr Rick Rigsby that highlighted the importance of asking ourselves this important question early & often.

Life is busy & sometimes we live our day to day routine attending to the commitments of family, friends, school, work, community, etc. on autopilot.  We navigate through the daily, weekly, monthly journey of life, but often times we are going through the motions not really knowing or understanding what the impact is on our life as a whole.  How often do we check in with ourselves & assess how we are doing – truly doing?

Personally, professionally, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually…where are you at in your life?  How are you living?  What do you think about your life?  How do you feel about it?  Are you largely happy or unhappy?  Fulfilled or unfulfilled?  Stressed or overwhelmed?  Healthy or unhealthy?

There are many different aspects of our lives that make up our whole self & often times one or more of those individual components are not as great as we would like them to be.  We don’t always realize the negative impact a lack of health & happiness in one or two areas of our life is having on our life as a whole.

So what can we do to cultivate greater understanding & awareness for the quality vs quantify of our lives?  One answer is to pay closer attention to our physical well being as our bodies are a strong indicator of overall life wellness.  Our bodies can provide a lot of information about the many different aspects of our life & health if we take the time to pay attention.  Headaches, stomachaches, skin problems, high blood pressure, back pain can all be indicators that chronic unmanaged stress or fear or hurt or anger about something is negatively affecting the quality of our life.

A recent article by MindBodyGreen states “80% of visits to primary care physicians are due to symptoms ultimately caused by stress or emotional problems”.  In the counseling profession that is known as a psychosomatic disorder which is physical ailments that are caused by emotional or psychological factors vs a medical illness.

It is the mind-body connection.  There is an actual physiological process that our bodies go through when we are overwhelmed, stressed, or experiencing difficult emotions. When we are fearful, angry, sad or chronically worried our brain’s limbic system – which supports a variety of functions such as emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory – gets activated & sends out chemicals like adrenaline & cortisol that suppress our immune system & make us vulnerable to illness & infection.  During those times our bodies are susceptible to increased inflammation, autoimmune & stomach problems, irritable bowel issues, colds & flu, higher blood pressure, sore muscles & irritable behavior.

So if you check in with yourself & notice that you haven’t been feeling particularly well & those symptoms are not otherwise accountable by a medical diagnosis, then there is a good chance that chronic stress or challenging thoughts & emotions are the cause.

The good news is there is something we can do something about it!  The first step is to become aware so check in with yourself early & often to know how you are truly living & feeling.  Next, take a few deep breaths & try to really understand what is going on – what are you thinking or feeling & how are you behaving?  Are you having a hard time focusing or thinking about things but don’t know how to say them?  Are you feeling a particular way about something but not letting others know how you feel?   Ask yourself what is important to you in your life & what you would like to do to achieve your hopes & dreams.

Seek to understand what your body is trying to tell you & figure out what you would like to do about it.  The only thing we have control over in life is ourselves as individuals so if we want to be happy & fulfilled then we must take personal responsibility for making that happen & work to change the direction of our lives if need be.

If you realize there are things in your life that are overwhelming or unsatisfying & don’t know how to solve those problems, then consultation with a counseling professional may be a great step in the right direction to help you make the changes that will bring you closer to the life you truly desire.

Peace & good health to all.

 

Gratitude For Health & Happiness

A simple expression of gratitude can immediately lift the health & happiness of yourself and those around you.  Regularly being thankful for the good things, no matter how big or small, can strengthen your health in so many different ways – mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, occupationally, intellectually.

When we find things each & every day to be grateful for – start with food, water & shelter if you are lucky to have & count your blessings from there – we can experience scientifically proven health benefits including:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved physical health
  • Strengthened coping skills & mental focus
  • Reduced and managed stress
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced self esteem

Here is a list of 100 ways to be grateful this holiday season:

100 Ways to Be Grateful During the Holidays

A few of our favorites:

  • Think about how many holiday seasons you’ve experienced. Every one of them is a gift. Be happy that you’re alive!
  • Spend time with friends and make new memories.
  • Make a list of things you’re thankful for.
  • Create a vision board.
  • Write someone a letter to tell someone how amazing they are.
  • Start writing in a journal; make sure to end each entry on a positive note.
  • Speak with kindness and be compassionate.
  • Give hugs—lots of hugs.
  • Send a friend an inspirational text message to help them through a long day.
  • Donate to a good cause.
  • Do what you love.
  • Notice the small things in life.
  • Make it a priority to always say “thank you.”
  • Make a list of people you’re thankful for.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • Be mindful.
  • Stay active.
  • Love yourself.
  • Appreciate every moment.

We at Foundations Counseling Center are beyond grateful & thankful for all that is good on the planet near & far this holiday season!  May each & every one of you be healthy & blessed.  Peace to all!!

Lori Corrigan

Befriending Fear

fear-limits

Fear is a natural human response to perceived threats – we’ve been hard wired to protect ourselves since ancient times.

In many areas of today’s modern world, though, we as humans are more protected from imminent harm and the body’s naturally programmed physiological response to stress (fight, flight, freeze)  is something we need to be aware of when it’s happening so we can manage and limit the damaging health effects of chronic fear.

understanding-fear-main

Instead of fighting, fleeing or freezing from our fears, Dr. Ronald Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Mindfulness Meditation expert, proposes a healthier option of befriending our fears with Mindfulness.

Befriending Fear: Working with Worry and Anxiety

Dr. Siegel suggests (and Foundations Counseling agrees!) that practicing Mindfulness is a great way to help you deal with your worries or fears in a healthy way.  Begin by noticing three things when something arises that you worry about:

  1.  Your physiological response to stress.  Become aware of the sensations in your body – what are they telling you?  Racing heart?  Shallow breath?  Clammy hands?  Headache?  Stomachache?  ‘Lump’ in your throat?  When you notice a physiological response to stress, take a few deep breaths (inhale through your nose & exhale out through your mouth) to slow the body’s response down.
  2.  Your thoughts & emotions.  What are you thinking or imagining in your head?  Are you thinking best case scenario or are you judging what is happening as total catastrophe on the spot?  What you think leads to how you feel which determines how you behave.  If you are open to different ways of thinking and can learn to process your thoughts from a wise-minded perspective (balance of right brain emotion & left brain logic), then you have a new, perhaps more hopeful situation before you.
  3. Your behavior.   What you think & feel leads to how you will behave.  Notice how your body is reacting to stress and become aware of your thoughts & feelings.  Ask yourself if there is another way you can look at things (and there always is if we can be open & flexible) – different thoughts & emotions = different behavior.  Perhaps when you worried more & only saw the negative outcomes then your behavior became avoidant of the situation as opposed to radically accepting that you are worried about it, so recognize your fear as the normal physiological response that it is and take a few deep breaths to slow down the mind & body’s fight, flight, freeze response.

overcoming-fear-quotes-1        Live Mindfully & Prosper all!

The Brain & Stress

The Brain & Stress

The prefrontal cortex area of our brain processes risk and emotional response and is the most sensitive part of the brain to the detrimental effects of chronic stress.

A recent Yale study finds that improving coping skills to help manage stress more effectively can be built by strengthening the brain’s physiological response – and that can be done by ‘rewiring the brain’ by creating new neural pathways (neuroplasticity) with mindfulness, which is a specific way of noticing and responding to life as it is happening in the present moment.

Dr. Russ Harris of The Happiness Trap suggests we can experience the following health benefits with regular mindfulness practice:

  • to be fully present, here and now
  • to experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
  • to become aware of what you’re avoiding
  • to become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you
  • to increase self-awareness
  • to become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences
  • to learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
  • to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
  • to learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather
  • to have more balance, less emotional volatility
  • to experience more calm and peacefulness
  • to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion

So how do you practice mindfulness to ‘rewire the brain’ and improve coping skills?  Here are 10 Easy Ways You Can Practice Mindfulness!

mindful

Enjoy, be well & Live Mindfully & Prosper all.

Live Life Today

Living in the present moment of life – moment to moment awareness; noticing vs judging; responding vs reacting – are basic tenets of Mindfulness, which is a purposeful way of living that can foster many positive health benefits with regular practice.

mindfulness benefits

The only thing we ever truly have is this very moment right now.  A lot of the stress and anxiety we experience as humans along the journey of life is when we consistently process life with a past or future lens.  The past has already happened and the future has yet to exist.  Yes we are affected by our previous experiences and yes we do need to plan for the future, but ruminating or worrying too much about the past or the future can make us eternally dissatisfied with the present moment of life.

In a recent blog post, Charlie Ambler from Daily Zen writes about how living for today can enrich life:

The culture of hope and forward-thinking plans has always relied on a perpetual sense of dissatisfaction with the present moment. Only those who are unhappy with themselves now feel the need to work so single-mindedly towards a glorious later.  There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. We run into problems, though, when we obsessively try to plan life in advance. The best lives are led fully day-by-day. People who are good to others, work hard, cultivate mindfulness, and discipline themselves end up growing into new, better people.

So take a deep breath and go forth in your next couple of minutes, hours, days and weeks being mindful of life as it is happening – with moment to moment awareness; noticing vs judging, responding vs reacting.  Note how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, personally, professionally when you slow things down and smell the roses a bit.  Be grateful for who you are and all that is as each and every day of life is a gift.

Inspirational video for living for today by Louie Schwartzberg:

 Live Mindfully & Prosper all!

Building Resilience

resiliance

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress” – or ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

Not always easy to do – ‘bouncing back’ from the difficulties and sorrows we experience in life – but critical if we want to live our best life in spite of the challenges we all experience in our journey as human beings living day to day life.

So when stress or adversity arises what can we do to roll with the punches?  The APA suggests the following 10 ways to build resilience:

  1.  Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.

  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

  3. Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

  4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

  5. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

  8. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

  10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

    Try one or two of these suggestions and build from there.  Stay strong, breathe and take life one day (minute, hour) at a time.

Health Benefits Of Generosity

health benefits of service

Did you know there are many health benefits we can receive when we give to others?  Studies show that helping others or engaging in altruistic behavior (unselfish regard for others ) can positively impact our lives personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally, physically and socially.

A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that helping others can boost our self-esteem, mood and purpose in life, which in turn supports healthy well-being in a variety of ways.

According to a 2014 article in Huffington Post, here are “7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health”:

  1. It will keep stress in check.  Helping others keeps stress hormone cortisol in check to help manage stress.
  2. Happiness at work depends on it.  Being a team player makes people feel more committed to their jobs.
  3. It’s beneficial to the greater good.  We all benefit from each other’s generosity.
  4. You’ll enjoy more years of life.  Helping others reduces mortality risk.
  5. It keeps the cycle of “good” going.  Thinking about our altruistic behaviors leads to a cycle of giving.    
  6. Your marriage will be stronger.  Generosity is a key factor in happy marriages.
  7. It promotes mental health.  We feel better about ourselves when we give to others.

help-others

And we can do a lot or a little to derive these great health benefits – one small thing can make a big difference for the giver & the receiver.

Cheers to giving!

Workplace Wellness

workplace wellness

Wellness in the workplace starts with wellness in our workforce.  Healthier, happier employees leads to greater productivity – a win / win for everyone.

And when we’re talking about workplace wellness we are, as this recent article in Entrepreneur suggests, talking about the human impact – people.  Workers are the core of our workforce, and their mental, physical, emotional, social health affects businesses greatly.

As Entrepreneur explains, workplace wellness programs “inspire & align” the workplace, and have significant impact on building a strong team in your workforce in that they:

Bring teams together

In a 2015 Mental Health America report of nearly 2,000 respondents, an alarming 80 percent said they tend to work alone because of an unhelpful or hostile work environment.  What’s more, among the 2,175 U.S. hiring and human resources managers surveyed by CareerBuilder in March 2015, 37 percent said office gossip was a top productivity killer. So how can HR turn gossiping coworkers into a supportive team? With workplace wellness.

Fosters trust between employees & leaders

In a survey of more than 800 full-time, U.S. employees conducted by Globoforce in November 2015, 47 percent said they don’t think their company leaders care about and actively try to create a human workplace. What’s more, in a 2015 survey of close to 800 North American employees conducted by Achievers, just 45 percent said they trust company leadership. Without that trust, employees are more likely to be disengaged from their work and to look for a new employer. Trust is key to getting the emotional connection to work, which is at the core of all business success.

Boosts morale & motivation

According to the Achievers survey, 57 percent of employees said they aren’t motivated by their company’s mission. And when employees don’t feel like their work has meaning, they’re less motivated to do it. That means decreased productivity and engagement.  Well-designed workplace wellness programs should reinforce the company mission and values at every turn, orienting newbies and reconnecting veterans in need of a boost.

For more information regarding wellness programming from Foundations Counseling, contact Lori@FoundationsCounselingCenter.org or call 847-497-0524.

Gratitude For Good Health

Benefits-of-Gratitude5

Here at Foundations we are big fans of gratitude!  Research shows that expressing gratitude can help improve our health in so many different ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, personally & professionally.  Happier Human provides a more specific list of the many health benefits being grateful can offer:

The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life

While expressing gratitude by no means is a health cure-all, being regularly grateful for the things you do have in your life instead of ruminating about the things you don’t have or don’t like can provide you with a mindset that will lead to important health benefits such as:

  • Improved health & happiness
  • More fulfilled careers & social relationships
  • Increased optimism & decreased materialism
  • Healthier self-esteem & stronger resilience
  • Better quality sleep & increased calm
  • Higher rate of productivity & goal achievement
  • Stronger leadership skills

So if you are interested in finding tools to help you feel better & live a healthier, happier life, try expressing a statement of gratitude to yourself once per day each & every day for 30 straight days & see what happens!