27 Practices to Maintain your Wellbeing

A few of the most important ways to maintain good mental and physical health include taking care of yourself and your relationships, being active in your community, spending time in nature, feeling a sense of purpose, along with making time for things you enjoy!

I put together a list of 27 different wellness activities that you can incorporate into a healthy lifestyle below! See which well-being activities you are already including in your life, and choose a few more to add into your routine.

  1. Attend a yoga class. Yoga is a great whole body workout that ties your movement to your breath, providing benefits for mind, body, and soul. With plenty of free options online, along with studios slowly opening up, there are many class options to choose from! The types of classes may vary, for instance, restorative yoga is more relaxing and slow paced while a yoga-strength-flow may be more energizing and challenging.
  2. Dance. Whether its taking a class or simply putting on your favourite song and dancing around the house, dancing is a great aerobic activity that improves your mood, increases feelings of happiness, releases endorphins, and improves your memory as you practice remembering different routines!
  3. Go on a nature walk. Try out a new trail or park, or explore a different part of your neighbourhood. A daily walk is a great way to increase your steps, improve your cardiovascular health, support your joints, and may also slow down memory decline.
  4. Get creative with art. Expressing your creativity through art is a wonderful outlet, whether you prefer to write, draw, paint, sculpt or take part in any other artistic activity. Letting your creativity flow is beneficial in relieving stress, increasing brain plasticity, boosting self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. Making art is truly a therapy.
  5. Spend time with your pet. Studies show that spending quality time with your furry pet by cuddling, playing, or simply being around one other may add years to your life by reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, providing companionship, and keeping you fit.
  6. Try a new recipe. Preparing and eating the same usual things can get too boring after a while. Break your habit and try either a new type of food or a new recipe every once in a while. This encourages mindful awareness as you take in your meal with all your senses, sparks enthusiasm and interest to help sustain your appetite, and allows your body to gather a variety of nutrients from different food sources!
  7. Take a relaxing bath. After a stressful day, what better way to unwind than to relax in a hot bath? Make sure to add some essential oils or epsom salts to help soothe any sore or stiff muscles. Did you know that epsom salts contain magnesium which eases arthritic joint pain and reduces inflammation within the muscles? Lavender essential oils are best known for their calming effects, reducing anxiety, insomnia, and eczema.
  8. Visit a museum. Even if you are stuck at home, did you know you can virtually explore a museum from across the world? Many sites are offering free virtual tours online. Click here and also here for lots of options! Learning about something new every day is a great way to keep your mind sharp and active.
  9. Play a musical instrument. Have you ever heard the saying, “making music makes you smarter?”. Well it’s true! Research shows that regularly playing an instrument encourages neural plasticity in the brain to increase brain cell size and connections for improved cognitive skills. Even regularly listening to classical music provides similar brain benefits.
  10. Be social. As naturally social beings, when we interact with others it benefits our health on both a mental and physical level. Good friendships add happiness and positivity to your life, and create a sense of belonging and purpose. Phone, zoom or message a friend, plan a (socially distanced) outing, or strike up the courage to introduce yourself to someone new.
  11. Read a book. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a good book. It expands your imagination, opens your mind to new perspectives, and creates new ideas in your reality. Regular reading increases your vocabulary and comprehension skills, and is also a great way to ease stress, reduce your heart rate, and create a state of relaxation and calm.
  12. Meditate. Take some time out of your day to enjoy a few minutes of quiet meditation. Try to focus on your breath, turn your attention away from any thoughts or distractions, and simply be present in your own stillness. Meditation has an incredible impact on your mental health, focus, creativity, stress, sleep, addictions, and pain management. It can also be incorporated into a yoga practice, a nature walk, or with just about anything you do during your day.
  13. Try strength training. While aerobic exercise is great for cardiovascular health, it’s so important to include strength exercises to help build muscle and prevent muscle loss (sarcopenia) that naturally occurs with older age. Join a gym, try a free online class, use weights at home, or be creative and use anything in your house as a weight (ex. soup cans, water bottles, a bag of rice) to create your own strength workout from home.
  14. Sing out loud. Do you ever catch yourself singing in the shower, in the car, or around the house? Turns out singing is actually quite beneficial to your health! Studies suggest it expands your lung capacity, strengthens your immunity, improves your posture, helps you sleep, lowers stress, and is a natural anti-depressant.
  15. Play chess. Known as “the game of kings”, this board game has been played for over 1500 years. Regular practice is excellent for improving memory, your IQ, creativity, problem solving skills, focus, and exercising both sides of the brain at the same time.
  16. Challenge your balance. When we think about physical activity, we often forget about challenging our balance! Especially important during older age, balance training helps prevent falls, reduces the risk of lower-extremity injuries, and improves your body awareness (proprioception). Try standing on one leg, reaching in different directions while on one leg, walking on your toes or heels, or doing the above (safely) with your eyes closed!
  17. Practice kindness. Kindness is teachable and contagious. Whether you do a random act of kindness or see someone else being kind, a cardio-protective hormone called “oxytocin” is released which lowers blood pressure and increases your self-esteem and optimism. Additionally, serotonin is released which increases feelings of happiness, and the stress hormone cortisol is reduced. This goes to show that an act of kindness truly is beneficial for both those on the giving and receiving end.
  18. Drink water. As simple as this sounds, drinking an adequate amount of water each day not only keeps you hydrated, it also increases your focus, energy, alertness, improves digestion, boosts skin health, lubricates your joints, helps maintain blood pressure, and regulates body temperature. Our bodies are made up of 73% water, and our blood is 92% water. Make sure you get your 8 glasses a day!
  19. Get adequate sleep. Our bodies need sleep to restore our energy, repair tissues, and replenish necessary hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. This normally happens in the sleep cycle called “non-REM” sleep, which occurs naturally in our earlier part of our sleep. The longer we wait to go to bed (ex. after midnight), the less “non-REM” sleep we get. Try your best to go to sleep early and get 8 hours if possible.
  20. Add a little sunshine. Getting a few minutes of sun every day helps maintain vitamin D levels in our body and boosts our happiness with a release of endorphins. Specifically sunshine causes the release of the hormone serotonin, which helps improve your mood and helps you stay calm and focused. Some research also suggests sun exposure helps strengthen your immune system, and improves your sleep by regulating your body’s circadian rhythm.
  21. Smile and laugh. Studies suggest that those who smile and laugh more often live longer too! By simply smiling, our brain perceives that we are happy and releases more “happy hormones” that release stress, lowers blood pressure, temporarily reduces levels of pain, and even strengthens our immune system. As a bonus, when you start to smile or laugh, there’s a good chance others will reciprocate and smile or laugh with you! It’s contagious, and a great way to instantly improve your health.
  22. Keep learning. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn but never had the chance to? Perhaps you have some extra time now, and should consider taking up something new! Whether you’re interested in a course on history or psychology, learning a new language or even how to knit, learning new information is a great way to keep your mind sharp well into old age. Just about any form of learning creates new neural connections and pathways in the brain.
  23. Disconnect from technology. Many of us spend more time than we should on our computer, phone, TV, and other screens. Although our devices are useful and important for school, work, socializing and relaxing, make sure to take regular breaks away from your screen throughout the day. You’ll likely notice improved sleep, more present-moment awareness, and greater productivity.
  24. Start a gratitude journal. Recognizing and appreciating positive things in your daily life is proven to increase your optimism, improve your self-esteem, reduces your stress, and make you feel happier with your current circumstances. Begin by simply writing down a few things you are grateful for that day and feel free to add as much detail as you’d like. Over time you will have created a great collection of inspirational material that you can look back on and read when you need to feel uplifted.
  25. Practice positive affirmations. Be kind to yourself and change your negative thought patterns into positive ones. Words are powerful. What we repeatedly think in our mind, we believe, and then turn it into reality. Use motivational and positive phrases like “I am capable”, “I am strong”, or “I am enough” to retrain your subconscious mind into truly believing in your abilities and becoming the best version of yourself.
  26. Eat healthy foods. What you eat affects how you feel. In the growing field of nutritional psychiatry, research confirms that when our brain is deprived of good quality nutrition, inflammation and oxidative stress increase. A diet high in refined sugars is especially linked to impaired brain function, including worsening the symptoms of mood disorders like depression. Aim to eat high quality foods that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress.
  27. Get a massage. Not only does it feel great on sore muscles, massage has an effect on the cellular level by reducing inflammation in ways similar to anti-inflammatory medication. Other benefits include reduced pain, stress, anxiety, blood pressure, increased quality of sleep, and improved mood. Massage after exercise is especially beneficial in speeding up muscle recovery associated with strenuous activity, and is an effective aid in recovery after an acute injury.

Always,

Paula

Natural Remedies to Recharge Your Immune System

Summer is slowly coming to an end, and as much as we don’t want to admit it, the colder weather will be here sooner than we know it. While we will soon be pulling out our cozy sweaters and fall boots, sipping on warm teas and hearty soups, let’s not forget to make sure our bodies are functioning at their best to stay as healthy as possible. Our immune system is fundamental in defending against harmful pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. If you’re looking for natural ways to improve your immune function, I’ve listed 5 immune-boosting herbs below!

1. Echinacea is a popular herb remedy with immune-enhancing properties, and is best known to treat the common cold and flu. Echinacea is also thought to lower your risk of developing the cold, and even shorten the duration of your cold, by increasing your count of white blood cells used to fight infections. With high levels of antioxidants, this herb has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore may also be taken to reduce inflammation in the body that is associated with chronic diseases. Echinacea’s variety of active compounds make it beneficial to use for several health issues including the treatment of pain, migraines, anxiety, and lowering blood sugar levels.

2. Thyme, a common herb that may be found in your garden or spice drawer, is in fact an antibacterial and antimicrobial herb. It is great for treating a cough and sore throat, and may be taken together with Echinacea for treating the common cold or flu symptoms. Thyme also has beneficial properties of supporting digestion, reducing bloating, and providing you with important minerals such as iron and vitamin K.

3. Elderberry extract has been used medicinally for years to fight infections, boost immunity, heal burns, as well as improve complexion. Today it is mainly used for the common cold and flu because of its antioxidant and antiviral properties. You can often find elderberry extract as a tincture, in lozenges, gummies, or capsules.

4. Wild Cherry is used in small amounts to target the lungs and effectively reduce cough, mucus, pneumonia, and other symptoms of the flu. It’s considered a “respiratory relaxant”, as it provides a heating/cooling feeling, similar to the cherry flavours of cough syrup. Its sedative and bronchodilator effects ease the severity and duration of coughing and opens the airways.

5. Propolis, or bee’s glue, is another amazing immune-boosting compound made by bees when they collect the contents of plants. This substance is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. While it is best known for treating cold and flu-related symptoms (including sore throat and sinus pain), propolis is also used for wound healing, burns, acne, and mouth sores or infections. As the beneficial properties of propolis are becoming more well-known and popular, it may be easily found in capsules, throat lozenges, cosmetics, and dental products.

Note: Please make sure to consult your doctor or naturopath before trying any of the above supplements.

In addition, the key to having a healthy immune system is to ensure you have a healthy lifestyle. Following the recommended physical activity guidelines to exercise regularly, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your intake of alcohol, not smoking, getting adequate sleep, minimizing stress, and taking steps to reduce infection (ie. washing hands) will help keep your immune system in its best state.

Always,

Paula

The Strength in You

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize and observe our strengths at the same level we recognize and observe our weaknesses. Yet, balance is necessary in order for us to fully appreciate our lives.

Perhaps for a long time, our mindset has been accustomed to more easily seeing and judging our own weaknesses. Although we may not have noticed, our strengths have always existed. While this may be a habit we picked up long ago, think of how much clearer our self-perception will be if we shift our vision to see both a positive picture alongside the negative.

Turning inwards to focus on yourself is an important part of understanding positive psychology and the strength that you can embody. When you recognize your strengths, you can then think about ways to enhance and develop them. You can use your positive traits to move yourself into more positive life experiences. Once you see your strengths more clearly, you might also begin to notice other positive changes in your life: for instance, viewing yourself in a positive light, developing self-confidence and self-efficacy. These qualities may thereafter assist in gaining confidence to pursue goals and develop more hope in your life. Perhaps achieving your goals will also lead to greater life satisfaction and provide a positive affect on your daily life! As you can see, simply knowing that you possess your unique strengths may be the key to uncovering your potential in life.

Your strengths are within you, but they can also be shared with and emulated in others. In fact, you may be already sharing your strengths with others in your life without even knowing it. Perhaps people may admire certain qualities about you, and you may inspire or impact their life in some way. We can maximize and grow our individual strengths by turning to people we admire most. Think to yourself, what is their greatest strength? How can I incorporate this into my life? It may be that you admire a certain person’s bravery, courage, or the way they show gratitude and appreciate all the little things in life. Whatever it may be, consider taking it upon yourself to embody this attitude or quality for a while. It’s amazing how setting a goal, being determined, and building a habit can make what once seemed a weakness into one of your greatest strengths.

Always,

Paula

Positive Mental Health

Mental health is an increasingly important topic in today’s society, especially in relation to practicing and maintaining positive mental health. In recent years, there has been a surge in the abundance of resources and education around positive thinking, mindfulness, and healthy self-care practices. However, did you know that the study of positive mental health has been around since the early 1950’s? Prior to this, the focus of psychology was on mental illnesses and the abnormalities of human behaviour. Now more than ever, researchers and people alike are interested in the positive aspect of psychology and ways we can enhance our mindset and function, while preventing negative outcomes.

In 1955, social psychologist Erich Fromm defined mental health as “the ability to love and create”. During that same time period, Marie Jahoda (1958) who was also a social psychologist, characterized mental health as “the positive condition that is driven by a person’s psychological resources and desires for personal growth”.

Marie describes several characteristics of good mental health:

  1. A healthy attitude towards the self, which includes self-acceptance, self-esteem, and accuracy of self-perception
  2. The pursuit of one’s potentials
  3. Focused drive that is integrated into one’s personality
  4. An identity and values that contribute to a sense of autonomy
  5. World perceptions that are accurate and not distorted because of subjective needs
  6. Mastery of the environment and enjoyment of work, play, and love

Within the topic of mental health are the terms primary and secondary prevention.

Primary prevention is stopping the problem before it happens using preventative, prophylactic measures. For example, making mental health education, resources, and assistance available to the public to reduce the chances of becoming physically unhealthy and psychologically unhappy.

Secondary prevention is lessening or eliminating the problem after it has appeared, taking action to address the issue. It is at this stage that psychotherapy may be used as treatment to regain positive mental health. A great example of a secondary prevention is teaching someone to unlearn negative thoughts and behaviours, while adapting positive ones instead.

Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, explains how to use optimism and attributional retraining as a therapeutic approach. His books on Learned Optimism (1991) and Authentic Happiness (2002) give excellent examples as to how to retrain your thinking:

It starts with teaching people the ABC’s related to the negative events in their lives. A is for the adversity, B is for the belief about the underlying reason of the event, and C is the consequence in terms of your feelings. An additional D can also be used to dispute the previous counterproductive belief with compelling accurate evidence.

For example:

Adversity: Anna’s perception that her friend Rose has been ignoring her.

Belief (of Anna): Rose does not like her because Anna is “no fun”.

Consequence: Anna feels bad about herself.

With positive thinking training, Anna will learn other explanations for Rose’s behaviour that will leave her feeling better about herself.

Disputation: Anna adapts a more optimistic approach by remembering Rose has previously mentioned she has been very stressed with her work and school tasks and that they take up a lot of her time. Anna remembers the last several times they spent together, Rose had mentioned how much fun she had. Having made these more optimistic attributions, Anna is able to feel much better about the situation.

The ABCD strategy can be applied to numerous situations in your daily life and can be a helpful way to retrain your brain to think more positively. Try this out yourself by simply writing out the ABCD’s of an event that happened in your day. Could you benefit from thinking more positively?

Always,

Paula

Mindfulness for Kids

Mindfulness practice is becoming widely popular among individuals wanting to improve the way they think, approach problems, manage stress, and increase focus and creativity. Through research, it has been shown to improve the outcomes and manageability of various health conditions such as heart disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, psoriasis, immune disorders, inflammatory issues, in addition to anxiety, depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We often use a mindfulness practice to heal, or to correct something that is already out of balance within ourselves or our lives. What if we can use mindfulness as a preventative practice to adapt into a lifestyle in which being mindful comes naturally, and where mindful, positive thinking is an automatic behaviour?

In order for this to happen, I think mindfulness practice should start from the home. When we incorporate healthy living in our everyday personal environment, we set an example for others who share our space with us. Not surprisingly, we set an example for those little ones who look up to us the most- the kids! Even if you don’t have children of your own, I’m sure everyone who has had some interaction with a child knows that kids learn from their environment and will often mimic frequent actions and behaviours of adults. If we as adults adopt a healthy mindset, maintain a positive outlook on life, and practice regular self-care and kindness, think of all these life-skills and healthy behaviours that will beneficially impact your kids as they grow and develop!

With school starting up amidst a pandemic, it is important now more than ever to educate kids about mindfulness practices that can help combat potential stress and anxiety. Children may feel anxiety and internal stress even though they may not express it in the same way adults do, so it’s important to pay attention to any subtle changes and introduce fun, creative activities that allow for moments of self-expression, acceptance, and calm.

There are so many resources on the internet around this topic, but here are a few easy ideas to get you started:

  • The Headspace app has an entire section dedicated to kids filled with guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other activities with themes around calm, focus, kindness, sleep, and waking up. This app has plenty of resources suitable for toddlers to teens and adults as well!
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga has plenty of yoga videos (free and paid) that are fun and educational. They even have ideas for yoga games and printable guided meditations as well. Alo Yoga (on youtube) is also a great resource for kid-suitable yoga videos, each with a different theme of mindfulness such as being brave, positive, focused, present and kind.
  • If your child is able to read and write, try encouraging a daily journal where they can write how they feel, or write about a recent happy experience or memory. Even drawing a picture expressing positive moments from their day or something they are grateful for can be rewarding.
  • Try teaching the 5 breaths method when they are unhappy or upset about something. Before they get too upset, suggest breathing in and out slowly for 5-10 breaths as a way to calm the mind and centre their thoughts and emotions. Parents, this is a great tool to use for your stressful moments too!
  • Practice mindfulness during other daily activities, for example while eating, socializing, and going for a walk. When you do each of these, make sure to set an example of taking in your surroundings, experiencing and appreciating them with all your senses. Avoid multitasking or diverting your attention to unneeded things during this time, like your phone or tablet. Teaching kids to live in the present moment is an essential mindset to carry through as they grow.

I hope these ideas help you get started with creating a positive, mindful environment in your home with your littles.

Always,

Paula

Will Smith’s Top Tips for Success

Undoubtedly one of the most successful stars in Hollywood, Will Smith is more than an inspirational role model in the movie and music industry. During numerous interviews and talks, he frequently shares motivational and mindfulness advice, and discusses his secrets of how he has achieved success in life. For this reason, Will is now famously known for his powerful speeches around these topics and has become a new icon of inspiration for many.

A few of Will’s top tips for personal motivation and success stem from an inner perspective of mindfulness. I’ll share a few of these below, along with how we can apply these practices to our daily lives.

1. Adapt an inevitability mindset

Will Smith shares that hard work and seeking out the right people and situations have been key to his success. As much as we’d like to think that success comes from talent, he explains that a strong work ethic and determination will take you further.

“I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.” – Will Smith

To create the outcome you are looking for, you must first put yourself in an environment where it is inevitable for you to achieve your goal. For instance, if you want to exercise more, what do you have to change about your environment to make it inevitable to exercise? If you want to eat healthier, what can you change in your environment to inevitably eat better? Simple things like meal prepping, buying whole foods, and having a good pair of running shoes will set you on the right path towards a healthier lifestyle.

In a similar way, you can more likely set yourself up for success by surrounding yourself with successful, hardworking, well-rounded people. You’ve heard the phrase before, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. While this may not be true in all cases, it might be worth making necessary changes in your social circle if you’re constantly surrounded by negativity, tension, or people who bring you down.

2. Make exercise a habit

Will Smith explains that through exercise, he strengthens his motivation for success. Exercise of course strengthens the body, and in turn, it improves brain function. Various studies have confirmed that exercise enhances the brain’s plasticity and increases cell growth in certain regions such as the hippocampus- an area responsible for learning and memory. The stronger you become physically, the more energy you will have to tackle your day, and your mind will be able to favourably grow and adapt to stressors in your life. Will says, :

“When you’re running and you are there, there’s a little person that talks to you and that little person says ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ ‘My lung’s about to pop,’ ‘I’m so hurt,’ ‘I’m so tired,’ ‘There’s no way I can possibly continue.’ And you wanna quit. Right? That person, if you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running you will learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.”

3. Include daily meditation

Setting aside time for a few minutes of quiet, daily meditation can help with anxiety and bring increased focus and clarity. While doing this practice for yourself is a great starting point, Will Smith stretches the usual definition of meditation to include mindfully improving the world around you. For him, this form of “meditation” has become an integrated ritual in his life. He explains that a happier, more focused person will ultimately be a positive influence for others and the world. Whether your meditation includes reading an inspiring book or volunteering for a local cause, it’s important to live out your meditation and mindfulness practice by paying it forward in your community.

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other people’s lives better.” – Will Smith

The more we take time to focus on peace and clarity in our minds, the more content and grateful our hearts will be. This continuous cycle encourages more motivation and mindfulness, and creates a positive effect on others.

If you’re inspired by Will Smith’s advice, start incorporating an inevitability mindset, regular exercise, and meditation in your daily life. Mindfulness sets the foundation to develop motivation, and the opportunity for success.

I highly recommend to watch Will Smith’s full motivational video, please click below!

Always,

Paula

The After-Yoga Effect

Don’t you just love that feel-good ambience after finishing a relaxing yoga class? I always feel so refreshed, rejuvenated, and able to re-focus onto the tasks of my day ahead. I love how I can incorporate self-awareness and mindfulness into a daily yoga practice, eliminating any negativity and judgements of thoughts. Knowing that this ancient practice is in fact a mind-body movement meditation, it allows me to let go of my day thus far, release any tensions and worries I may have, and simply be in the present moment. Personally, I find yoga an excellent tool for self-care and a useful way to de-stress.

Photo by Cedric Lim Ah Tock on Pexels.com

“It’s not about being good at something, it’s about being good to yourself.

Practicing yoga is about tending to your mind, body, and spirit all at once. When you’re setting aside time to care for your mind and body, the focus should not be on perfecting a certain pose, or comparing yourself to the way another person looks during a pose. When you are on your mat, it is your place to embrace the person you are today and appreciate the way your body serves you. Even if you don’t get all the movements quite right and may need to take extra breaks throughout the class, you should still congratulate yourself and be proud for showing up! In the end, it doesn’t matter how you do yoga, it’s the fact that you do it. Yoga allows you to slow down, marry your movement with your breath, and just be. It allows for moments of gratitude, awareness, and self-appreciation.

When we really try to listen to our breath during our day-to-day moments, including during yoga or any kind of meditation, have you ever noticed that our deep inhalations and exhalations sound very much like the ocean? If you haven’t noticed yet, I encourage you to try it! Using your breath as your anchor, close your eyes and bring your mind to focus on your rhythmic belly breathing. Sit for a few minutes at a time and simply listen….every inhale and exhale resembles the waves of the ocean, rising and falling in a continuous cycle. The sound itself is meditative and relaxing. If you add in movement, you will notice that the wave of your breath is still there. It is always present- in good times, in bad, and throughout our entire lives. We can always choose to focus back to our breath, we can use our internal anchor to create a sense of calm and stillness within ourselves.

“You can see yourself as simply a wave in the ocean – or you can see yourself as the ocean.”

The next time you decide to listen to your breath, whether that’s simply taking a mindful couple of deep breaths or while practicing a yoga class, perhaps you can think to yourself…do I see myself as a simple wave, or the entire ocean? I hope you can find the courage, strength, and empowerment in recognizing that you are the ocean. You are wonderfully capable, strong, worthy, and loved. You have everything you need inside you to heal from stress and hardship. You can use your body through yoga and breath for self-healing, nurture, and care.

I encourage and challenge you to see yourself as the ocean, to use your natural breath, and to chase after that wonderful after-yoga feeling of weightlessness, freedom, empowerment, and serenity.

Always,

Paula

Wisdom and Courage

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

– Reinhold Niebuhr

This serenity prayer has become a mantra for many people struggling with life challenges. It reveals that wisdom and courage are intertwined, and suggests that these qualities are possible for everyone.

Positive psychologists define wisdom as the ways and means of planning, managing, and understanding a good life. It is also described as an expertise in conduct and the meaning of life. It often comes with age, especially with vast experiences and the ability to think more abstractly. As expected, wisdom is associated with many positive traits such as a sense of self, less materialistic pleasure, and more interest in reflection and personal growth. Wise people appear to be more open to experiences in general, more flexible with adapting to the changes of life, and possess greater amounts of gratitude and appreciation for life. Clearly, wisdom is something worth cultivating.

Likewise, courage is a virtue that is well looked upon. It helps people face their challenges despite their present fear. Courage comes in many different forms such as physical (ex. soldiers putting their lives in danger for the greater good), moral (ex. admitting a difficult truth), vital (ex. a patient battling illness through various treatments), psychological (ex. struggling with a mental illness), and civil (ex. standing up against discrimination). In essence, it is taking action even when you feel it’s outside your comfort zone, standing up for something you believe in, having self-confidence, being brave, having the strength to rise up against the norm, facing challenges even if you are not sure about the outcome, being mentally and physically strong, and exemplifying self-less behaviour. If you look back through history, you can find many examples of courageous people, from Rosa Parks to your local firefighter.

Over the journey of our lives, we can instill a mindset to cultivate greater wisdom and courage for a fulfilling life. It is not easy to develop these qualities, but with mindful practice, it is possible. For instance…

To develop Wisdom:

  • Consider learning from successful people you admire. ask questions about their work-life balance so that you can apply them in your own life
  • Practice time management by reflecting on your past week and determining how you worked towards your goals, what went well, what you can improve upon, etc.
  • Share your knowledge, especially to those younger than you, as you can provide them with wisdom and valuable life perspectives

To develop Courage:

  • Face your fears associated with dating and making new friends by introducing yourself to twice as many people today as you did yesterday
  • Stand up for the truth when your rights or the rights of others are violated
  • Pursue your deepest interests with a passion

Wisdom guides our action, and through that wisdom, we make good choices when challenged by the social and physical world. Courage follows suit when prompted by a pressing challenge. Let’s aim to cultivate both of these virtues in hopes of a positive future.

Always,

Paula

Emotion-Focused Coping

Have you ever felt the need to hide your emotions? Or you blame yourself for becoming too emotional? When we think about regulating our emotions, what often comes to mind is suppressing the “bad” ones and trying to feel the “good” ones. What we’re left with is a negative sense of self along with emotional distress and imbalance. Positive psychologist Annette Stanton of University of California thinks we’ve placed too much of a negative connotation on our emotions. Through years of research, she encourages a healthier way of addressing our day-to-day emotions and feelings through an approach called emotion-focused coping.

Emotion-focused coping involves an active movement toward, rather than away from, a stressful encounter. Emotional processing (attempting to understand our emotions) and emotional expression (free and intentional displays of feeling) are encouraged. With this method, it is important to acknowledge and realize your feelings are valid, take time to figure out what you are really feeling and why, and allow yourself to feel and express your emotions without judgement.

In a 3-month study involving women with breast cancer, those who used emotion-focused coping techniques perceived their health status as much better, had lower psychological distress, and fewer medical appointments for cancer-related pain as compared to those who did not use this technique (Stanton et al, 2000). These same results have been replicated in studies involving other cancer types and illnesses, and in different cultural groups.

Another study examined different types of coping as predictors of disease severity of acute coronary syndrome, a cardiac disease. Patients who used emotion-focused coping had less severity overall, as its possible this method may moderate the heart’s reactivity to stress. This has great implications for creating psychological interventions in those who show symptoms of diseases related to stress reactions.

Even with minor daily stressors such as traffic, junk mail, and unexpected change of plans, or more significant issues such as financial shortages and minor illnesses, we have the choice to approach them mindfully or avoid them. Many people, especially those within a Western context, seem to benefit from expressing their emotions in a meaningful way. However, other cultures who are accustomed to suppressing their emotions may find that this coping method does not align with their values.

If we turn our attentions away from unpleasant feelings each time we experience them, we would learn very little about how these feelings influence us and our friends. Emotion-focused coping may foster a better understanding of our experiences, and over time we may develop the tendency to face our stressors directly and repeatedly (instead of avoiding them on occasion). Emotional pain does subside, time heals both psychological and physical wounds, and we can take back some control with effective coping skills.

Always,

Paula

In Search of Mindfulness

How often do you find yourself turning on the TV to “see what’s on” and end up watching it for 3 hrs? Or aimlessly scroll through social media only to realize an hour has passed by? These habitual autopilot experiences may provide short term pleasure, but often distracts us from what’s happening in our own world. This kind of mindlessness may lead us to feeling bored, empty, and unsatisfied with our lives. On the contrary, it is the intentional moment-to-moment experiences that give us joy and fulfillment in our lives.

For the majority of our fast-paced and future-focused society, mindfulness is undervalued. Many of us have our eyes constantly on our phone, we forget to take in our surroundings, and may lose touch with our inner selves. I think it’s time we begin pursuing mindful moments, as these are the experiences that will fill our lives with pleasure and meaning.

I’m sure we can all agree that moments are plentiful in daily life. The potential for each moment is reflected in our thoughts, feelings, and other physiological forces. To add on, a single day can present upwards of 20,000 moments that are opportunities for engagement, for overcoming the negative, and for pursuing the positive. Take, for example, a toddler who plays outside. The typical child will bring attention to everything in vision and will happily share their thoughts of what is being experienced. When something is added to their surroundings (ex. a butterfly flying by), they shift their attention and experience it. By seeing that each moment in our lives has potential, we can learn to actively pursue a more mindful daily life.

A short excerpt from a research paper by Langer (2009), states:

It is important to take at least a brief look at what mindfulness is and is not: It is a flexible state of mind – an openness to novelty, a process of actively drawing novel distinctions. When we are mindful, we become sensitive to context and perspective; we are situated in the present. When we are mindless, we are trapped in rigid mindsets, oblivious to context or perspective”

What if the next time you notice you are feeling bored, or start driving on autopilot, you take that as a nudge to search for novelty in the next few minutes? What if you seek out new experiences with people who are different from you? Practicing mindfulness may have benefits for your psychological and physical health, your academic or work performance, and your socio-cultural well-being. These searches may lead us to a greater appreciation for diversity and a deeper existence filled with meaning.

Always,

Paula