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

 

Mindful Eating In 2018

Happy New Year everyone!  Being it is the start of a brand new year, I know many people are looking for new ways to strengthen their health & well being in 2018 and losing weight & eating healthier are likely at the top of that goal list.

Mindful Eating is a healthy living strategy that is clinically proven to help people gain control over their eating habits which can lead to reduced stress, improved mental focus, weight loss & many health other benefits, including:

  1. You learn to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re sated.
  2. You learn to really taste food, and to enjoy the taste of healthy food.
  3. You slowly start to realize that unhealthy food isn’t as tasty as you thought, nor does it make you feel very good.
  4. As a result of the above three points, you will often lose weight if you’re overweight.
  5. You begin to sort through the emotional issues you have around food and eating. This takes a bit longer, but it’s important.
  6. Social overeating can become less of a problem — you can eat mindfully while socializing, with practice, and not overeat.
  7. You begin to enjoy the eating experience more, and as a result enjoy life more, when you’re more present.
  8. It can become a mindfulness ritual you look forward to.
  9. You learn how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day.
  10. You learn what food best fuels your exercise and work and play.

So how does Mindful Eating work?  You start by practicing Mindfulness – learning to be in the present moment while you are eating, fully attending to what you are eating, where you are eating, how you are are eating.  Easier said then done in today’s busy world I know, but if you want something different you must be willing to try something different – so think of this in terms of working smarter not harder & see what you can do to start incorporating a couple of these ‘8 Steps to Mindful Eating’ by Harvard Health into your life:

1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.

2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.

3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.

4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.

6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.

7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.

8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.

What possibilities lie ahead in 2018 for you?!?  What is stopping you from making this your best year yet?  One small step in the right direction is all you need to get started.

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What Is Your Happiness Level?

On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy & fulfilled are you currently with your life?  1 being the worst you’ve ever been & 10 being you are thriving & living your best life…what is your level of life satisfaction & happiness at this time?

If your number is an 8, 9 or 10, rinse & repeat on whatever you are doing because it sounds like you are living well!  If your number isn’t currently an 8, 9 or 10, reflect on the last time in your life you felt happy & fulfilled & think about what was going on at the time – what were you doing or not doing?  What can you do to bring some of that success and meaning back into your life?

If you would like to feel healthier, happier & more fulfilled then ask yourself what are the barriers to success to making that happen?  What actions steps could you take to be happier on regular basis?

A recent article on happiness in Business Insider reports that research shows we can do a lot to create our own happiness.

“40% of our happiness is under our own control.  The rest is determined by genetics & external factors.  That means there’s a lot we can do to control our own happiness.”

Here are nine happiness-promoting behaviors backed by science:

  1. Relationships are essential. A major study followed hundreds of men for more than 70 years, and found the happiest (and healthiest) were those who cultivated strong relationships with people they trusted to support them.
  2. Time beats money. A number of studies have shown that happier people prefer to have more time in their lives than more money. Even trying to approach life from that mindset seems to make people more content.
  3. But it helps to have enough money to pay the bills. People’s well-being rises along with income levels up to an annual salary of about $75,000, studies have found. (That number probably varies depending on your cost of living, however.)
  4. It’s worth stopping to smell the roses. People who slow down to reflect on good things in their lives report being more satisfied.
  5. Acts of kindness boost the mood. Give your friends a ride to the airport or spend an afternoon volunteering. Some research has shown that people who perform such acts report being happier.
  6. Breaking a sweat is about more than burning calories. Studies show that increased levels of physical activity are connected to higher levels of happiness. Exercise tends to help mitigate the symptoms of some mental illnesses as well.
  7. Fun is more valuable than material items. People tend to be happier if they spend their money on experiences instead of things. Researchers have also found that buying things that allow you to have experiences — like rock climbing shoes or a new book to read — can also increase happiness.
  8. It helps to stay in the present in the moment. Several studies have found that people who practice mindfulness meditation experience greater well-being.
  9. Time with friends is time well spent. Interactions with casual friends can make people happier, and close friendships — especially with happy people — can have a powerful effect on your own happiness as well.

If you would like to be happier, healthier or more fulfilled in your life in 2018 & you are not sure how to get there, give us a call at Foundations Counseling Center & we can help get you started in the right direction.

Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC – 847-497-0524

 

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.

 

Mindful Eating In Reality

 

mindful-eating

I came across this article regarding the realities of Mindful Eating & wanted to share because I understand where we can feel challenged at the prospect of incorporating Mindful Eating into our lives on a regular basis.

7 Realistic Ways to Approach Mindful Eating

We only derive the amazing health benefits of Mindfulness & Mindful Eating if we practice regularly to reinforce the skills.  Time is often listed as one of the main barriers to success – making Mindful Eating a priority can seem like ‘one more thing’ on an already long list of things to do each & every day.

This is where Mindset & Motivation come in.  Our brain is the most powerful tool in our bodies.  What we think is how we will behave.  If we don’t think something is possible it won’t be.  Combine a healthy Mindset with & clear understanding of our Motivation for why making changes to our health & well being are so important.  How motivated are you to make these changes?  10/10?  8/10?  5/10?  When the cause truly means something to you & the vision is clear, the daily tasks become easier to complete.

In this Sonima article author Brian Sabin realistically describes his first foray into Mindful Eating & provides tips for making Mindful Eating more doable on a daily basis:

My first time trying a mindful eating exercise, I spent nearly half an hour eating a single clementine. Consuming the fruit so slowly and deliberately definitely gave me a better appreciation for its taste and texture. But it also left me feeling like, “Welp, there’s no way I’ll be able to do this on a normal day.” I’m a working parent of two, which means breakfast is something I often consume standing up, usually while I simultaneously try to fill bowls of oatmeal for my wife and daughter, quell toddler tantrums before they become baby-waking meltdowns, and unload a dishwasher.

Seven simple ways to practice Mindful Eating:

1. Choose healthy, not convenient, foods. Give some thought to what you’re putting into your body and how it will affect you, rather than defaulting to the most convenient option.

2. Say grace. Or have a moment of silence. Do whatever best aligns with your beliefs and traditions and acknowledges the work that went into creating the meal before you.  Be grateful for the sustenance before you.

3. When in a group, try a small dose of silence. Simply eat & appreciate the moment for a minute or two with full attention to what you are doing.  Use your senses – what do you see, hear, taste, touch, smell?  Take it all in & be aware of what you are doing.

4. To slow things down, count your chews. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people chewed almonds at least 25 times or more, their bodies absorbed more of the healthy fats contained by the nuts than other test subjects who chewed only 10 times.

5. Portion your meal based on the time you have to consume it. “If your mealtime is short—for example, during your lunch break at work—plan on a smaller meal rather than just cramming down a large meal quickly”.

6. Avoid skipping meals. When you’re hungry like the wolf, you’re a lot more likely to devour whatever is in your path (i.e., vending machine goodies). This is why it’s so easy to pass over healthier options like fruits and vegetables that might not be as readily accessible or need preparation for consumption.

7. If you do have a spare hour, try this. Take an entire hour (or 30 minutes) to eat dinner. “I prepare dinner, set a timer and say, ‘You are going to stay here for an hour. You can’t leave. It’s part of the exercise. You finish your meal in 15 minutes, you are going to be sitting here for 45 minutes.’ Knowing that they have to be there for an hour really slows them down and makes them deliberately savor the experience”.

Start small.  One step (bite!) at a time.  Rinse & repeat every day. Mindset is everything.  You will be successful only if you don’t quit.

Mindful Eating BASICS by Tasting Mindfulness:

Breathe and Belly Check for hunger and satiety before you eat.

Assess your Food

Slow Down

Investigate your hunger and satiety throughout the meal

Chew Your Food Thoroughly

Savor Your Food

Live Mindfully & Prosper all – one day, one step, one meal, one bite at a time!

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!