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

 

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!

How We Process Sadness

A basic tenet of Mindfulness is that we can become aware of and respond to intense emotion in different ways.  The way in which we attend to our thoughts & feelings when experiencing a life event shapes our reality – it is not what happens to us that makes us who we are, but rather how we respond vs react to our experiences.

According to @mindfulonline, a recent mindfulness-based intervention study showed that people who processed things from a wise-minded perspective (balance between left-brain logical mind & right-brain emotion mind) “showed marked reductions in activity in a region of the brain often linked to self-evaluation and analysis (the medial prefrontal cortex). They also showed increased activity in regions linked to direct, moment-by-moment sensory experiences (the lateral prefrontal cortex, especially the insula)”.

wise mind

What does all that mean?  Author Zindel Siegel proposes the following:

Mindfulness Changes How We Process Sadness

The fact that these two regions are tightly connected prior to practicing mindfulness suggests that it is usually very difficult for a person to focus on the moment without setting off thoughts about the self.  The “uncoupling” of these two parts of the brain that is associated with mindfulness suggests that the person is now able to maintain attention on body experience, without automatically activating “stories” about the self. Having actual data showing this phenomenon is hugely important, as it supports the notion of a fundamental neural dissociation between two distinct forms of self-awareness—narrative and experiential modes—that are habitually integrated but can be uncoupled through mindfulness training.

Siegel suggested the data from the study shows we can train ourselves to become less self-reflexive – that with regular practice we can learn to separate the experience from the story and subsequently be more present with difficult emotion without feeling as if we need to react to it.  The goal is to NOTICE what we are feeling (good, bad or indifferent) vs JUDGING the experience before we’ve even fully understood all that it means to us.

Slow things down when processing events.  It is important to honor how we feel, but remember feelings are not necessarily facts.  When we live more mindfully we learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and our ability to tolerate distress dramatically increases.

Pause.  Breathe.  Slow things down.  Notice vs judge.  Respond vs react.  Live mindfully & prosper!

Living in the Present Moment of Life

here&now

Life is in the here & now.  Life happens moment to moment in the present, not yesterday (the past) or tomorrow (the future).

The fabric of our lives is made up of every single moment we experience, good, bad or indifferent, that comes with the journey of working toward our hopes and dreams.  Without failure there would not be success and without lows there would be no highs.  The rich, vibrant woven tapestry that represents who we are comes from ALL of our experiences, not just the ones we like or are happy with.  Every ‘no’ brings us one step closer to a ‘yes’, and every time we experience something unpleasant, not so great, terrible or awful we are provided an opportunity to see what we are made of and see if we can learn and grow from the challenge.

So what would happen if we learned to live life more mindfully and live our day to day lives more in the here and now of life vs holding on to the past or worrying about the future…making the decision to radically accept life as it comes, warts and all, if you will?

Well, what happens with that story line is up to you, but studies show that living more in the present moment of lie, noticing and responding to things vs. judging and reacting is clinically proven to support the following health benefits:

  • Improved mental focus and coping skills
  • Reduced stress, anxiety, depression
  • Strengthened social relationships
  • Healthier mind, body, spirit

Here is an excerpt from #tinybuddha author Matt Richards who decided to try living in the present more – here’s what he found out:

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/life-becomes-beautiful-stop-anticipating-the-worst/?utm_content=buffer70eec&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

I’m glad to say that one day I had an epiphany. I realized that by being so cautious, I was actually missing out on experiencing the amazing backdrop to my journey.  On that day I realized that I wanted to walk to school present and mindful of the wonderful world around me.  I wanted to look around more and experience life in all its glory, not just worry about whether I stepped in poop.  So I did.

And yes, perhaps on occasion my shoe may have met with something nasty, but it made that walk so much more enjoyable. I remember the feelings of oneness and freedom it instilled in me to this day.  And really, that’s what being mindful and present is. It’s saying yes to life and noticing your surroundings. Fully.

It’s saying yes, I might step in something unpleasant, I might get hurt, I might feel silly, I might expose my vulnerabilities, but at least I get to experience every remarkable nuance and opportunity life has to offer too.

So what do you think – want to give this living in the moment stuff a try?  You can get started right here & right now with just a couple of simple steps; repetition and practice are key:

Breathe – take a couple of deep breaths to slow things down

Notice – use your senses to take in information without judgement when life is happening (name all the different ways you may think & feel about what is happening, don’t feel the need to judge it so quickly)

Respond – use wise-minded processing (balance between logic & emotion) to evaluate and make decisions

Be grateful –  choose to see the beauty and good that is out there & purposefully express gratitude for all that is fortunate in your life

Stay active – spend time with people, give back to others, exercise, stretch, take a class, travel, or just be 🙂

Live Mindfully & Prosper!

Calming Anxious Thoughts

thoughts feelings behavior

Our mind is the most powerful tool in our bodies.  How and what we think influences how we feel which directs how we behave.

Racing thoughts – thinking about things over and over, ruminating and worrying – is a symptom of anxiety and can lead to overwhelming emotions and difficulty attending to daily life in a healthy, balanced way

This article by #psychologytoday https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/women-s-mental-health-matters/201604/how-stop-racing-thoughts highlights a few clinically proven #mindfulness tips for how to not only reduce or stop racing or anxious thoughts, but also to re-groove the brain so to speak so that over time our brain responds automatically in a healthier way to stressful situations.  Our brain’s ability to change automatic responses is called #neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.

Here are a few #mindfulliving skills you can try on a daily-weekly basis to help reduce anxiety, increase mental focus and, over time, strengthen your brain’s automatic responses to the challenges of life:

  1. Breathe – take a couple of deep breaths and slow things down
  2. Focus on the present – use your senses to pick up on information, but don’t feel the need to judge anything – notice what you think and feel in the here & now
  3. Wise-minded thinking – ask yourself – “is there another way i can look at this?”.  Generate alternative ways of thinking and assess for cognitive distortions – ways in which we think that can keep us stuck:   
  4. cogntive distortionsEvaluate – journal, write it down, get it out – organize your thoughts and feelings, take a break from things for awhile to gather perspective and come back to assess and understand when thoughts & feelings aren’t so intense.

Live mindfully & prosper!

Lori Corrigan – https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Lori_Corrigan_MA,LCPC_Barrington_Illinois_112096

Mindful Monday

Good Mindful Monday all –

At Foundations Counseling we specialize in helping people manage stress and anxiety, and the psychological concept of Mindfulness is a key concept we utilize and teach to achieve that goal.

One of the greatest things we can do for children is to provide them with tools and strategies to build their emotional intelligence so they can manage the ups & downs of life – and teaching kids a few Mindfulness skills is a wonderful way to help support healthy emotional development.

Here is an article by @hey_sigmund that gives a few tips on how to help kids take a breath, slow things down and respond vs react to life:

Helping Children With Anxiety: What to Say to Children When They Are Anxious

Live Mindfully & Prosper!

Live Mindfully & Prosper

Mindfulness-Prosper

Monday November 2, 2015

Good Mindful Monday all – welcome to Live Mindfully & Prosper!

Who? As a 20-year counseling professional and fellow human being who experiences ups and downs in life like all other humans, I understand the beauty and challenge life can bring.

What? One thing I know that works to help enrich daily life and manage stress is Mindfulness.  Mindfulness is a particular way of noticing and responding to life – noticing vs. judging; responding vs. reacting…think about it, big difference, right?  Mindful living is, in a nutshell, moment to moment awareness of life as it is happening – accepting life as it is happening, with an open mind and heart.  Not always easy to do, but worth the effort for sure with research showing that regular Mindfulness practice can have significant health benefits such as:

  • Enhanced emotional intelligence for improved coping and problem solving
  • Increased awareness for stronger interpersonal relationships
  • Reduced stress for decreased depression, anxiety & blood pressure
  • Improved focus and memory for more proficient critical thinking skills

How? Brain science:  Daily life requires us to interact with others, make decisions and respond to all kinds of things, and over time our brains become wired (grooved like a record) to those same responses or reactions we tend to have over and over.  Many times we are reacting emotionally (right brain response) instead of responding mindfully (balance of right brain emotion processing and left brain logical analyzing), but the good news is our brains have what is called neuroplasticity so we can recondition (re-groove) our automatic responses to life to become healthier over time and with practice.  All good things take time and the clinically proven benefits of Mindfulness are no different – to cultivate mindful living skills so they become a more automatic response to life (versus the reactions we have grooved our brings to do) we must practice them over & over again.

Why? If you start today with adding one element of Mindfulness to your daily life, possibly immediate, but more realistically over time you will likely notice a positive difference in the way you are living and feeling about life.  It may be that you are more relaxed day to day or that you find yourself responding better to things…maybe you are starting to enjoy healthier interactions with people, or you aren’t as easily agitated or maybe you feel life is perhaps brighter, more manageable or hopeful.

30-Day Mindfulness Challenge! It takes time to change a habit; repetition is key.  Start with one small thing, and build.  Give it a try, see what happens, what do you have to lose?  The possibilities are endless when we live with an open mind. 

Where/when? There are many components to Mindfulness and the benefits are many so this Live Mindfully & Prosper (LM&P) page is designed to be a resource for you in all things Mindfulness.  Visit us weekly for information, education, hands-on skills, inspiration, motivation, support & guidance regarding how Mindful Living can help you to live a healthier, happier, more balanced and fulfilled life.

Cheers to Living Mindfully & Prospering all!  Below are a few Mindful Living tips you can get started with right here, right now :).

Enjoy & be well always,

Lori

  • Slow down
  • Take a deep breath (Mindful Breathing)
  • Let go of judgment
  • Pay attention to your body
  • Use all five of your senses to notice things
  • Seek understanding
  • Express gratitude
  • Live life for today, not yesterday or tomorrow