5 Facts About Nature (and our mental health)

Canadian springs give us the perfect excuse to get outside. Here are 5 facts about nature and our mental health:

  • When we walk in nature, rumination decreases. We all fall into the trap of the worry cycle – something gets stuck in our thought process and will lead to us ruminating about it. When we go for a walk outside, nature tends to take care of that for us; perhaps through a greater sense of overall calmness.
  • Nature helps to manage stress. Exercise, movement, awe, a sense of wonder – all of it helps to reduce the frayed, frazzled feeling and replaces it with a sense of being grounded.
  • Being outdoors decreases cortisol and increases dopamine. Brain activity associated with being out in nature indicates that the calming effect of green space can affect our brain chemicals – leading to an overall feeling of increased happiness. Sunlight exposure increases serotonin which helps to ward off the symptoms of depression.
  • Nature has restorative properties. We tend to be more focused in nature, more creative and feel more resilient.
  • We sleep better. Being outside at low light (morning and evening) can help to reset our circadian rhythm, leading to more time in slow wave sleep (our most restorative stage of sleep.)

Getting outside daily in nature or an urban green space is a cost effective and simple way to support our emotional health. Setting it as a daily non-negotiable is a sure fire way of leading with balance and conscious choice to support mental health.

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5 Facts About Our Emotions

When it comes to our emotions, there are five things we can keep in mind:

  1. Emotions help us to understand what is important to us. What brings me joy or sadness is going to be different than what brings you the same feelings. Although emotions are fairly universal, the nuance of emotion helps us to form our own personal value system.
  2. Emotions protect us. Every emotion comes with a message which can help us in deciphering which direction to go. When we tune into our feelings, they can help to protect us from what might threaten our value system.
  3. Emotions are meant to just be. It is never our feelings that get us into trouble but rather the action urges that accompany them. If we can slow ourselves down to process how we are feeling, we stand a greater chance of moving to a response versus being led by a reaction.
  4. Emotions connect us to others. We are a relationship species and emotions play a crucial role in our attachment system.
  5. The personal meaning of emotions can change. We grow up learning about emotions in our childhood home. What I learn about anger or fear is going to be different that what you learned. The good news is that through gaining a greater understanding of our emotions, we can let go of the associations or judgements assigned to emotions – allowing for our feelings to work with us and not against us.

Keeping these five facts about emotions in mind can help us to better understand the value that they provide to us. As a result, we can begin to honour our feelings; processing them as we journey through the experiences of our lives.

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5 Facts About Smiling

There is just something about a smile. Seeing someone’s smiling face is an instant mood booster and can lead us to wanting to join in the fun. Here are 5 facts about smiling that back up how good it is for us:

  1. Smiling reduces stress and anxiety. When we smile, we relax our facial muscles; this can help lower our blood pressure leading us to feel calmer.
  2. Smiling is contagious. We tend to naturally be drawn to people who smile and lean into a more positive attitude; this can help when forming healthy relationships.
  3. Smiling makes us attractive. Nothing says ‘don’t approach me’ quicker than a frown does; when we smile we tend to draw people in. Smiling can make us look younger too!
  4. Smiling can lead to a longer life. Along with laughing and having a positive attitude, smiling contributes to the statistics that these habits support a longer life span.
  5. Smiling just makes us feel good. The act of smiling boosts our serotonin, the hormone that helps to elevate mood.

Bottom line? Find reasons to smile; it will do your body and mind good! 🙂

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




Five Facts about Sunlight

I love the quote by Hans Christian Anderson that states, “Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” It speaks to some core elements in feeling content. Here are five facts about how sunshine is linked to our increased emotional health:

  • Sunlight increases serotonin, a hormone responsible for helping us feel calm, centered and relaxed.
  • Exposure to the sun prompts our skin to create Vitamin D, known to help lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation and improve brain function (all great factors for our mental health too!)
  • Sunlight has been shown to increase oxygen in the blood; bringing much needed oxygen to the tissues, including our brain!
  • Sunshine may prevent us from eating too much. The part of the brain that is responsible for mood is also responsible for appetite; boosting your mood can lead to making better choices when it comes to eating.
  • Exposure to sunlight can help re-adjust our circadian rhythm, allowing us to get a good night’s sleep.

Moral of the story? Get outside and put your face to the sun. Drink up its warmth and feel the healing affects of its light 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@fr3nks


5 Facts About Music and Mental Health

When it comes to music, we have all experienced emotional moments when listening to a song triggers a memory, experience or feeling. I can hear “Dancing Queen” by Abba and instantly think of my mom, hear any Randy Travis song and be reminded of road trips with my girls (yes, I forced them to listen to it and they know all the words!) and when I hear “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, I am reminded of high school dances with my friends. Music is uplifting and feeds our comfort system, making an important impact on our mental health:

  • music engages areas of the brain responsible for memory and increasing the efficiency of brain processing.
  • music elevates mood and aids in relaxation.
  • music has the ability to transform a good experience to an unforgettable one.
  • music can aid in motivation – throw on some good tunes when you have to clean the house!
  • all forms of music have been shown to have therapeutic effects.

Incorporating music in our self-care routine is one that is so simple and yet so beneficial. So turn on the tunes; it will do you good!

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


5 Facts About PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop when one has experienced a traumatic event. Here are 5 facts about PTSD:

  1. PTSD can develop not only after having experiencing trauma, but also from having witnessed it.
  2. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event through flashbacks and nightmares, avoiding possible triggers, excessive arousal which includes a hypervigilance to danger, and an increase in negative thoughts and feelings.
  3. We can have post-traumatic symptoms and it not develop into a disorder. This will often be affected by one’s support system, the severity of the trauma, and how the symptoms were treated soon after experiencing or witnessing the trauma. Cumulative trauma can also lead to PTSD.
  4. Although some may experience irritability, increased anger (including outbursts), others will experience flat affect – their ability to feel is dampened by their traumatic experience and its after effects.
  5. Although we don’t often hear about post-traumatic growth when reading about PTSD, it is an important element to consider in our journey to heal.

Knowing about PTSD and how it can affect both ourselves and our loved ones can be an important step to understanding how trauma affects us in the short term (acute stress response) and the long term (symptoms and possible disorder.)

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5 Facts About Indifference

Indifference is defined as lack of interest, concern or sympathy. It can be what feels like a global trait, or it can be quite specific to a person or situation. Here are 5 facts about indifference:

  1. Indifference can develop as a way to protect ourselves. If we grew up in a home in which we were emotionally neglected, we can often appear ‘cold’ to those around us; we can even surprise ourselves at times with lack of what would be considered appropriate feelings.
  2. Overexposure can lead to indifference. This is most often recognized as a feeling of helplessness to the problems of our world. We get inundated with so many images in social media, that we become overexposed to tragedy and this can lead to a feeling of indifference – especially towards being able to fix it.
  3. Indifference is a silent relationship killer. When we stop caring about the little things, the contributions we make to keeping a relationship healthy, to forethought – we run the risk of allowing indifference to change the way our loved one feels about us.
  4. Indifference can be a byproduct of depression or addiction. When we are depressed, we tend to not care. This will send out a ripple effect towards those around us. When addiction is present, its fight for primacy will create a lack of concern for how those around you are being affected.
  5. Indifference can be the price of selfishness. The value that Western society has placed on achievement and success can often lead to greed; we begin to not care about what feeds our soul and instead focus on material happiness. This can lead to feelings of indifference as our focus is misaligned.

The first step in conquering indifference is to recognize the role it might be playing in your life. Tomorrow’s post will explore how we can begin to push back when indifference is present and taking up too much space.

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5 Facts about Curiosity

You know I am going to like this post as I often speak about the importance of curiosity:

  1. Curiosity tempers fear. Most of our fears are perceived – curiosity can help to work away at our worries. Asking ourselves “Does it have to be this way?” is a great start to moving past an engrained fear. So is asking ourselves “Is there another way I can approach this?” Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to imagine a different outcome can begin to work away at our fear – curiosity is our number one tool for this type of approach.
  2. Curiosity helps increase our self-esteem. When we are curious about something, it almost always lends itself to learning something new, and we all know how empowering knowledge can be.
  3. Curiosity can enhance creativity. Working along the same lines as increased knowledge, when we are curious, we tend to be more creative. Creativity feeds our comfort system.
  4. Curiosity promotes an active mind. When our mind is active, it also tends to be more open, flexible and self-reflective – which are all important components to our emotional health.
  5. Curiosity helps to connect cause and effect. When we understand where and why our issues developed, we move to acceptance and structural change.

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5 Facts About Compassion Fatigue

Compassion Fatigue is a condition that can develop over time in which a person experiences emotional, spiritual and/or physical exhaustion; developing cumulatively in those who care for others. Here are 5 facts about compassion fatigue:

  1. It is often described as “the negative cost of caring,” and it is characterized by a reduced ability to feel empathy for those they are caring for. Therein lies the dichotomy, as those in caregiving roles tend to be very empathic.
  2. People in helping professions are susceptible to developing compassion fatigue. This includes those in the medical profession, first responders and therapists. It can also occur when someone is the prime caregiver of a loved one.
  3. Compassion fatigue can occur as a re-experiencing of patient trauma. It is vicarious; the helper experiences a disruption in their system of meaning, and they can begin to feel weighted by the stories they have heard or images they have seen.
  4. Increasing irritability is often the first stage of compassion fatigue, followed by symptoms of withdrawal.
  5. Valuing self-care and setting boundaries (especially in an unsupportive work environment) are two of the most effective coping strategies in preventing compassion fatigue.

For those in helping professions, a great deal of satisfaction comes from helping others. When we are aware of compassion fatigue, we can create preventative measures to decrease the likelihood of it occurring. It requires finding a balance between caring for others while also caring for ourselves.

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5 Facts About Anger

Anger – we all have experience with this feeling in one form or another. Although it is one of our basic emotions, it is often the one we have the most difficulty with. Here are 5 interesting facts about anger:

  1. Anger is meant to protect us. As part of our survival brain, anger triggers our ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This allows us to defend ourselves, as anger allows us to have an immediate response to threats of danger.
  2. Anger is a secondary emotion. We can’t feel anger without feeling something else first – that might be frustration, but it can also be fear, guilt, sadness, hurt, betrayal. We tend to skip over the more vulnerable emotion, straight to anger.
  3. Anger is only in our control when we can slow it down. The moment you move to aggression (yelling, stomping off, hitting something), you no longer have control of it. It may be ‘protecting’ you, but it is no longer serving you.
  4. Bitterness, resentment and hostility are all forms of repressed anger. When anger goes unresolved, it becomes a stone in our heart.
  5. Anger is useful. Whenever we feel angry about something, we can also be curious. “Why am I feeling angry about this? What am I also feeling? How do I want to address it? What do I need to do to resolve this feeling?” As soon as we begin to ask ourselves these questions, we begin to process not only the feeling of anger, but the feelings that are also beneath it.

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