Achieving Grace

When I was going through an especially tough time in my life, I was given the lovely advice that “grace builds upon nature.” At first I was not entirely sure I knew what it meant, but I also knew that it was relevant to what I was going through at the time. Since then, I have reflected upon that advice many times; I have used it with clients, and I continue to say it to myself when I feel I need a gentle reminder.

I believe our true nature to be good. I also believe that when we are being true to ourselves, there is a sense of calm, an underlying confidence, and a feeling of being whole. It is the part of ourselves that is compassionate, both to others and to ourselves. If we are able to access that part of who we are, even when struggling, we can find grace. Grace is about courteous goodwill, it is about choosing to take the high road, it is about holding your head high and keeping your chin up. Grace is about opening up the space, even when its hard to, to recognize your blessings and through that process you will recognize your strength. Grace is the honourable process of knowing you may never get the answers you are seeking, and yet choose to forgive; becoming wrapped in faith that you can heal.

Grace builds upon nature; what a lovely little piece of advice 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

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A Lovely Quote About Light and Dark

I love this quote by Og Mandino:

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino

I often remind clients that we learn just as much about ourselves from what hurts us as from what loves us. This quote by Mandino can remind us that although we strive to feel light, to make our choices and goals line up for movement and growth, to design our lives with a focus on meaning and purpose, we can also not deny the dark.

We cannot get through life without challenge, without pain, without being hurt, without struggle. In accepting the dark, we make way for the stars; those pinpricks of light that allows us to remember that without the dark, we would also not feel the infinite possibility of light. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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The Effect of Intergenerational Trauma

I have just completed both a podcast and a book that feature what I would consider to be examples of intergenerational trauma.

The first was a podcast called “Finding Cleo;” featuring Connie Walker, a journalist for CBC Radio, who explores cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Although the podcast is primarily about trying to find answers, and therefore closure, to Cleo’s family, it also themes the damaging effects of both residential schools and the 60’s Scoop; times in Canadian history in which the government attempted to strip Indigenous people of their culture in an attempt to assimilate them.

The second was a book entitled “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. Based on her own family’s story, Hunter brings us to a devastating time in Poland’s history where during the Second World War Jewish families were persecuted for their culture. Hunter writes about her ancestors, the Kurc family, and what they were forced to endure due to the atrocities of the darkest war in our world’s history.

Intergenerational trauma is what happens when the effects of trauma in one generation affects the next one (and sometimes the ones after that.) Unresolved trauma can often lead to self-destructive behaviours, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress symptoms, addiction, and a decreased ability to securely attach. What happens intergenerationally isn’t the actual traumatic experience itself, but rather the effects that accompanies it.

Understanding intergenerational trauma is important when considering the effects of persecution to a people or a culture; especially in examples we continue to see in our present society. Compassion, kindness and empathy can help support those who are navigating through the quite often rough waters of intergenerational trauma.

To check out “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30267929-we-were-the-lucky-ones

To check out “Finding Cleo” at CBC Radio: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/findingcleo

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Get a Little Green

In an article entitled “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults” by Katherine Schwab and featured on Fast Company, Schwab writes about a new study coming out of Denmark that shows that “children under 10 who had greater access to green space had 55% less risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.”

55%. That is quite a high number considering they came to that conclusion after having controlled for such factors such as urbanization, family history, socioeconomic status/factors and parent’s age. 55% less risk of mental disorders in adulthood.

Although the article features how these types of studies can affect urban planning, it would seem the message we can take from it is much simpler. Let’s get outside.

In many ways, we have lost the comfort of “just sending our kids out to play.” Gone are the days of our childhood where we donned our sneakers and play clothes, left the house to explore the back fields and forests – without cell phones – and returned when we instinctively knew a meal was close to being on set on the table. But perhaps we can still create enough space for our kids to get the green space they need with less of a focus on piling up their weeks with activities, and more of an emphasis on taking walks after school or supper, grabbing a soccer ball and heading to the park, fishing at the dock or setting up a tent in the backyard.

55%. That’s enough of a reason to get green 😊

To read the full article: https://www.fastcompany.com/90313598/kids-surrounded-by-greenery-may-grow-up-to-be-happier-adults

Photo credit: http://Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

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Friendship Goes a Long Way

We have just come back from a lovely long weekend visiting friends in Upper Economy, Nova Scotia. It was time to reconnect and relax; enjoy the beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy, while taking in the local sights and sounds of typical Nova Scotia life.

The friends we visited are imports to Upper Economy and it has been two years since we have seen them last; they decided to move to the Bay of Fundy from our area when an opportunity presented itself to uproot and replant. It always amazes me how time moves so quickly; how moments move into days and days into months; and before you know it, years have begun passing. And so it was time – a seat sale later, we were booked to visit our good friends.

And as it usually happens, upon seeing them, it was like no time had passed. Hugs were squishy, smiles were plentiful and conversation flowed easily. Our walks along the Bay of Fundy were perhaps the highlight of our trip; just seeing the ocean feeds the comfort system. The time spent together truly was priceless; and the laughter – always the ultimate sign of deep and lasting friendship. Not to mention the tears at the airport, as once again, time passed too quickly and we were once again ready to board the plane to return home.

The moral of this little story? Get the seat sale; book the trip. Feed your soul 😊

Photo credit: Me, from the shores of the Bay of Fundy

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A Cool Concept by Marie Forleo

In a recent podcast in Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with Marie Forleo we hear from entrepreneur, Marie Forleo with the concept that “everything is figureoutable.” Here is what she has to say:

“What this is is a practical discipline. This is an approach to life that can make you virtually unstoppable. Not unstoppable in the sense that everything will go your way; cause you know that it won’t. And not unstoppable in the way that you’ll never get disappointed, or feel defeated, or find yourself in impossible situations because we all do. But unstoppable in the most pragmatic and profound sense; meaning that nothing, no thing, no situation, no circumstance will ever again stop you from moving ahead. And here’s why this idea is so important – because whether you realize it or not, the actions you take, every moment of every day are shaped by what you believe……what we say to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds, matter.”

Everything is figureoutable. I like it 🙂

To hear the full podcast: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/own/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/e/60881207

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Isolation versus Loneliness; Is there a Difference?

In a recent article I read entitled “Isolation and Loneliness: What’s the Difference?” featured on GoodTherapy, they explore these two concepts in a way to get to understand their differences.

“Isolation occurs when a person has little or no contact with other people. It can occur over long or short periods of time and is a distinctly physical state. Isolation may be characterized by staying home most of the time, refusing interpersonal interaction and avoiding social situations…….Loneliness, on the other hand, is an emotional state. It’s defined as feeling alone or separate from others, or as feeling empty. Loneliness may accompany social isolation but can be caused by other things, such as breakups, moving to a new location, or the death of a close friend or loved one.”

Although a person can experience both isolation and loneliness and they most often feed off of each other; it would seem that isolation is perhaps more centered around behaviour whereas loneliness focuses more on feeling. Exploring the differences may be a first step in moving towards alleviating the feelings of emptiness that tend to be created from either state.

Regardless of what is causing either our inclination to isolate ourselves or our feelings of loneliness, we are a relationship species and need connection in order to feel well rounded and whole. Challenging ourselves to “make our world a bit bigger” might be an important step in trying to manage either isolation or loneliness.

To read the full article which includes symptoms and causes: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/isolation-loneliness-whats-the-difference-0312197

Photo credit: http://Photo by George Bonev on Unsplash

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The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, best known for leading the resistance to South African apartheid, was infamously incarcerated for almost 20 years, and then become President of South Africa from 1994 – 1999. Today we turn to some of his wisdom for inspiration:

  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important – and you do that by being genuine and humble.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a lovely example of how one person has the ability to help create greater compassion and love for human kind. He was able to rise above his fears to tirelessly pursue his goals. As Nelson Mandela would say “Fools multiply when wise men are silent.”

Photo credit: http://Photo by John-Paul Henry on Unsplash

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Facts Before Fill-Ins

Clients will often come into therapy with only partial facts and they fill in the rest. It’s human nature, after all, to make assumptions. If a friend doesn’t answer our text, we might assume that they are mad at us, if someone stands us up for a date, we assume that there must be something about us that turned them off, if our spouse comes home in a bad mood, maybe it was something we’ve done.

The damage really isn’t in the assumption. If we tend to overthink, over-analyze or ruminate; however, our suppositions can often lead us to creating a full story in our minds; one that may feel very real and can carry consequences. Sometimes our emotions take over and we follow with an action that we then regret, other times we inwardly carry the weight of something when it isn’t ours to carry. It can become an emotional roller coaster, creating more heartache and worry than was ever intended. We begin to see the situation through an emotional lens and not a factual one.

The first step is to ask ourselves “Am I making an assumption here? Is how I perceive it the way it actually happened? Did I fill in the blanks before getting all the facts?” Perhaps the text didn’t get answered because our friend simply got busy and forgot, perhaps we got stood up not because of anything we’ve done, but because the person ascribes to that kind of crummy behaviour, perhaps our spouse’s bad mood was caused by a crappy day at work.

Ask questions with the intent to gather information. Allow the rational part of the brain to temper the emotional one. Facts before fill-ins – works every time 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

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A Good Message About “Letting it Go”

Recently, when I was doing some painting in the house, I threw in one of my Great Big Sea CD’s; Something Beautiful. As I was listening, one of my favourite songs from the album came on called “Let It Go.” I especially like the chorus:

“Let it go, let it go
This is smaller than you know
No bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road
Let it go, let it go
Got to leave it all behind you
Give the sun a chance to find you
Let it go”

Sometimes when we are told to “let it go” it doesn’t seem possible. In the context of this song, it is meant as a way to not sweat the small stuff, to not get too caught up on the things that you can’t change, to not let little things that might have annoyed you during the day continue to bother you.

I especially liked the line “give the sun a chance to find you” as it is often the case that getting caught up on the little things can lead us to feeling dark and stormy. Thanks Great Big Sea for that little reminder about giving ourselves permission to “let it go.” 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

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