A Little Reminder About the Joy of Seeking Adventure

I can remember the adventures of my childhood; exploring the back fields and woods with my sister, building forts among the thorn bushes, playing by the ‘big pond’ – racing over to the tracks to watch a train barreling by. Each adventure had a story.

When I came across this poem, it was a lovely reminder of the joy that comes when we seek adventure:

Little one remind me 

how to run again barefoot

through the pathless woods.

Show me where the fairies 

hide messages in curled 

up maple leaves.

Show me treasures,

rocks and feathers,

frogs that beckon us

forward, forward through the

curling grapevine.

Lead me under a moon

that is as full as 

our pockets

past chicory & mushroom rings

down, down to the river

where I can see myself

as if for the first time

peering back at me.

– Nicolette Sowder

 

Photo credit:https://unsplash.com/@ban_yido

5 Things We Can Do Less Of (In Order to Get More)

When it comes to our emotional health, there are a variety of things that if we did less of them, we would actually get more in return. From my work with clients, I would say that these are what I would choose as the top 5:

  1. Speak less and listen more. One of the most useful skills I learned in graduate school was how to listen. To listen with the intention of understanding, to get the full picture. We tend to listen with our own emotional filters; coupled with living in a society that teaches us we must have an immediate opinion. By listening to understand, we slow down this process and allow for greater communication.
  2. Get ‘out of our head’ and into our body. From our own critical voice, to rumination, to needless worry – we spend too much time focusing on what’s in the noggin, and not enough time feeling centered and grounded.
  3. Less information and more wisdom. We are on information overload; what our emotional health needs more of is self-reflection – it is here that we gain a greater understanding of ourselves in order to create structural change.
  4. Less negativity and more gratitude. Being aware of our negative bias is crucial to our emotional health. In order to combat the tendency to complain, we can purposely focus on our blessings. Writing them down is especially confirming.
  5. Less rush, more peace. We spend way too much time in the fight-or-flight system – which is easily brought on by a hurried pace of life. By slowing down, focusing on self-care, anchors to our day – we feed our comfort system. And there, we find peace.

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Boundaries and Emotions

There comes a time when we realize that we need to create or tighten our boundaries. Perhaps someone is taking advantage of us, we recognize that a relationship has become enmeshed, or we are allowing someone to treat us in a way that isn’t acceptable. In any case, we decide that some boundaries have to be set. We can do this in such a way as to make sure that we are moving from the position of “I am important and so are you;” to be calm and kind in our approach. We can practice saying it, find the courage to speak up and decide to ourselves that we will be consistent in maintaining the boundary.

From here, we are best served to remember that our emotions are going to play a role in both the setting and maintenance of boundaries. We can be prepared for different emotions: anger when someone tests the boundary, disappointment if the outcome isn’t what we desired, resignation if nothing changes. And the emotion that potentially will provide the biggest hurdle? Guilt. Feeling guilty carries a lot of weight in whether or not we follow through.

It will be important for us to process our emotions as we feel them. To understand that our feelings can simply be felt and that no action is required. We can use our logical brain to remind us of why the boundary needed to be set in the first place, carrying forward with setting our limits. We can take a deep breath and remind ourselves that boundary setting isn’t always easy; it may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar – but in the end, as we begin to feel more confident and at peace in our decision, our emotions come to settle too.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@erinlarsonphotography

 

The Wisdom of Shel Siverstein

One of my girls’ favourite childhood books was “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I came across this poem by him that, although most likely written for children, is also a good reminder to everyone as to how to be good citizens:

Ations

If we meet and I say, ‘Hi,’
That’s a salutation.
If you ask me how I feel,
That’s consideration.
If we stop and talk a while,
That’s a conversation.
If we understand each other,
That’s communication.
If we argue, scream and fight,
That’s an altercation.
If later we apologize,
That’s reconciliation.
If we help each other home,
That’s cooperation.
And all these actions added up
Make civilization.
(And if I say this is a wonderful poem,
Is that exaggeration?)

– Shel Siverstein

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@noguidebook

 

The Benefits of Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a conscious exercise; one in which we purposefully carve out some time (even 5 minutes) to pay attention to our breathing. The basics include:

  • Pick a quiet location, free of distraction.
  • Close your eyes and turn your attention inward to your breathing.
  • Slow your breaths; inhale through the nose, expanding your belly. Exhale slowly.
  • If your attention shifts from breathing, that is okay. Gently encourage it back to the simple act of breathing – in and out.

The benefits of mindful breathing include:

  • It inhibits anxiety, decreasing stress and worry.
  • It distracts us from the things we can’t control and reminds us that we are capable of facing challenges.
  • It helps to still ruminating thoughts.
  • It slows the heart rate, decreasing pain and the body’s stress response.
  • It helps us to recognize calm.
  • It helps us to feel more centered and increases our self-control.
  • It inhibits anger; allowing our rational brain some space.
  • It helps the brain to focus.

When we practice mindful breathing on a daily basis – this can become a lovely anchor activity – we are proactively working with our comfort system to feel grounded and secure. In order to get started, it may help to listen to a guided mindful breathing exercise (there are countless examples on Youtube!)

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Ways to Feel Empowered

Sometimes life can feel as though you have no control over it. That might come from a sinking feeling of what is happening in the world right now, sometimes it can come from our own circumstances – from being too busy or overwhelmed, from being in a job or a relationship that isn’t working for us anymore, from struggling to manage grief or a mental illness. Here are some ways to feel empowered:

  • Get outside. Put your face to the sun, feel the breeze on your face. Take a deep breath and inhale the wisdom of the earth.
  • Create a goal for the day. It doesn’t have to be a big one – try and have it reflect something that you need right now. It might be to cook a meal for the family, sit down and read for 20 minutes, finish writing that report that has been sitting on your desk.
  • Connect with others. Phone a friend, get together on a patio, write a letter to someone.
  • Tame your critical voice. Talk to yourself as though you would a friend.
  • Be curious. Experiment with ways that you can connect with your center; activities that allow you to feel grounded.
  • Find the quiet. Shut off the phone, close your eyes, sit in silence.
  • Practice gratitude. Look for the blessings in your life; acknowledge them.

These are all small, yet productive ways to feel empowered; with productive being the key word. When we feel stuck, it is the lack of movement that creates anxiety, discomfort. Being able to choose empowerment means choosing movement, purpose and pursuit of joy.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@faithgiant

Light woven and Beautiful

A lovely quote from Morgan Harper Nichols:

“I hope
you are able
to remember
what was Light-woven
and beautiful.
I hope
you are able to see
to remember what was,
and carry the goodness
that you will never forget
in the direction
of what is to come.”
― Morgan Harper Nichols

We have the ability to let others see our light; to brighten a dark path so as to experience the future of where we are going. Sometimes, we may surrender our faith when the weight of the world gets heavy. It is, perhaps in those very moments, we must carry the goodness – that which is light woven and beautiful.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@michaelheld

Common Roles we Carry from Childhood

Dysfunction in families shows up as does everything else – on a continuum. Sometimes the chaos and abuse is obvious, other times the dysfunction is more subtle. Through my work with clients, I have learned that the roles we are given in childhood, based on some level of dysfunction, has the ability to be carried into our adult lives as it begins to weave itself into our identity. Here are some common roles we carry from childhood:

  1. The Caregiver. Most often, this role is created when an older sibling is expected to care and look out for younger siblings. Sometimes this may happen out of necessity (single parent), other times from neglect. It can also occur when children feel they must take care of their parent, either physically or emotionally. In any case, the child is placed in this role with little say on the matter.
  2. The Golden Child. This occurs when a family either directly or implicitly deem one child in the family as “the child that can do no wrong.” Parents will deny it – yet all the kids in the family will easily identify who the golden child was.
  3. The Overachiever – Sometimes this role comes from a parent’s need to associate love with success. For the type A child, combining the two can easily lead them into overachieving as they seek their parents approval in order to feel accepted and loved.
  4. The Black Sheep – in large, dysfunctional families, you always tend to find the black sheep – the “child that does everything wrong.” Unfortunately, this child is also the scapegoat for everything the family senses is wrong within its walls.
  5. The Mediator – when there is conflict in the family, one child is usually drawn to being the mediator or peace keeper. This can lead to leaning into being a fixer.
  6. The Sacrificer – this is the child that learned it was safer to fly under the radar, not rock the boat, ‘do as you’re told.’ This can often lead to the feeling that your opinion or needs didn’t matter as sacrificing your own needs was tied to survival.

Childhood roles can become an engrained part of how we function as adults. But they don’t have to be. Once we have identified a role that was given to us as a child, we can begin to give ourselves permission to re-identify ourselves. We can begin to see ourselves in a more objective light, while choosing new skills to avoid defaulting into our old roles. After all, the story is ours and we are free to write a new narrative 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@kyleunderscorehead

June is Indigenous History Month

June is Indigenous History Month in Canada. It is a time to recognize the cultures and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples. It is also a time to recognize the contributions and resiliency of Indigenous people.

Part of our acknowledgement process comes from educating ourselves to the culture and history of Indigenous people. One way to do this is to register for a free online course being offered through the University of Alberta: https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada 

History through story is also a way that we can appreciate the resiliency of Indigenous people. Two books that may interest you (that I highly recommend) include:

“From the Ashes” by Jesse Thistle; a memoir that chronicles Jesse’s life on the streets and how he overcame addiction and intergenerational trauma in order to truly embrace his Indigenous culture. Learn more by visiting Jesse’s website: https://jessethistle.com/ 

“Five Little Indians” by Michelle Good. Reading this book allowed me to gain a greater understanding of residential school survivors and the haunting effects of colonialism. Learn more: https://www.michellegood.ca/ 

“Some people naively think they can hijack or control or harness the wind driving this movement forward. Any effort to do this will fail, because the energy behind this awakening, this force, is coming from all directions. Don’t just believe me, go outside and, using your own breath, try to blow back the wind in the direction from which it comes. Think of the drum, the heartbeat, the songs, and how all these beautiful sounds roll into an echo carried by that wind from the ancestors through to the lives of our children’s children.” – Michelle Good, Five Little Indians. 

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@andrewjoegeorge

Children Learn What They Live; A Classic

Dorothy Law Nolte wrote this poem in 1954. An American writer and family counsellor, she was a mother of 3 and believed in positive parenting. The classic poem is a good reminder that by our own choices we have an impact on our children:

Children Learn What They Live
– Dorothy Law Nolte
 
 
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
 
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
 
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
 
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
 
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
 
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
 
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
 
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
 
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
 
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
 
If children live with security,
they learn to have faith in themselves and others.
 
If children live with friendliness,
they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
To visit the website that her children created in her memory: https://childrenlearnwhattheylive.com/