Stepping Into Our Potential

I really like this phrase. Not only does it convey that we all have potential, it also provides a nice image. Like the seas standing in front of us, all we need to do to experience its vast promise, is to step forward; to get our feet wet.

We all have potential – to be kinder, to be more knowledgeable, to be healthier, to be dedicated, to be thankful – to work towards the goals we have set out for ourselves. But what, ultimately, helps us achieve our potential? What is the one thing that will help us take that step?

Productivity. Our potential lies in our productivity; it finds itself linked to the actions we take to get to our goals. We can have written them down, figured out how we are going to proceed, but until we take action, they are just ideas and words on paper. Willpower won’t do it; it is tied too much to emotion and if we are feeling blue or unmotivated, our willpower takes a nap along side of us. Procrastination is potential’s greatest enemy, as it pushes for delay and neglect.

What we need to achieve our full potential is productivity. Schedule your actionable items into your calendar, build your time – including rewards!

Step into your potential – after all, it is patiently waiting 🙂

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Hoping for Change

People come to therapy because they are wishing something would change. Sometimes it has to do with someone in their life, sometimes it has to do with themselves; in either case, there are times when we are willing to change, and other times when we have gotten stuck in hoping for change.

What is the difference?

  • when we hope for change, we tend to convince ourselves that the future will be different. For example, we may be dissatisfied with a relationship and know that things are not where they should be, but we stay the course, hoping that things will change with time (let’s face it, they usually don’t – at least not without accountability and professional help.)
  • when we hope for change, we procrastinate. We may be aware of something that we want to change or improve, but aren’t doing much about it. An example might be breaking an unhealthy habit or knowing we need more self-care in our lives.
  • when we hope for change, we spent too much time lamenting on the problem and not on the solution. If you get the sense that you are in the “poor me” cycle, then you probably are.

When we are in the process of actively changing something, we are dedicated and feel purposeful. We have faith in ourselves that we can get there, no matter how slowly or how many stepping stones it may take. We give self-doubts only a little bit of time and space before settling back into accepting that we are our own solution 🙂

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The Happiness and Success Obsession

Let’s face it – we live in a society that is focused on both happiness and success. Not unworthy goals by any means, but have we gone too far? Has it moved from something attainable to something that feels far away and impossible to achieve?

“I just want to be happy” is a statement I hear over and over again in therapy. I am always curious as to what that might mean for someone; what that would look like, how ‘being happy’ would feel. After exploring it in more detail, we tend to settle instead on what it would mean to be content. It tends to lend itself nicely to a peaceful feeling, a more realistic feeling for what we ultimately strive for.

In a similar way, the word ‘success’ carries with it a heavier weight. It is too big of a word – does it mean financial success? Success in life? In love? In our career? The pressure we feel to be happy and successful keeps us focused on the future, making us more prone to experiencing fear and anxiety.

Perhaps all we need to do is re-shift our focus to the present by softening the words and therefore the expectations we place on ourselves and our loved ones. We are much better served to aim to create a satisfying life in which we feel content. Then it feels simpler, more peaceful, more attainable.

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Ways to Increase a Growth Mindset

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth one; today’s post we look at ways that we can increase your growth mindset:

  • Work at improving your self-esteem. Although this may seem like a big one, it is a worthy goal and there are many ways to improve self-esteem; everything from taking an objective look at your qualities, to therapy, to self-help books or courses designed to create a more accurate self-image.
  • Surround yourself with others who share a growth mindset. We are very much peer-oriented – find people who belive that success is achievable through effort and agency.
  • Look to contribute. Let’s not underestimate what contributing to our community can do for supporting an open and inclusive attitude.
  • Give failure it’s fair due. Let’s face it – we learn from our mistakes. Be grateful for them, learn from them and move forward out of them.
  • Create action plans. Progress loves movement and action plans help us to work towards goals.
  • Create an accomplishment jar. Put a jar in your kitchen in which everyone in the family can jot down their accomplishments. It can contain everything from a good test score, to helping the neighbour shovel their driveway, to learning from a mistake.

By increasing our growth mindset, we allow ourselves to be open to a continued sense of being able to create for ourselves a satisfying life.

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What is a Growth Mindset and Why Do We Need it?

When we think about our ability to best support our emotional health, we can reflect upon our mindset. Based on the work by Dr. Carol Dweck, we learn that when we have a fixed mindset, we tend to believe that our character, personality and intelligence are innate and static, whereas when we have a growth mindset, we believe that those same qualities can be continuously developed.

People with a fixed mindset tend to be self-critical and will avoid challenges. A fixed mindset will often lead to giving up easily, as success becomes attributed to the belief that “either you have it or you don’t.” A growth mindset tends to lend itself to greater flexibility, with belief that effort builds mastery; the brain is capable of continued growth and that persistence and accepting challenges will create stepping stones to success.

It would appear that the type of mindset we ascribe to most likely comes from variables such as what we were taught about agency growing up, both through learned behaviours and experiences. It would also seem that our level of self-esteem most likely contributes to our overall mindset.

Having a growth mindset is a worthwhile goal; it allows us to create space for other people’s viewpoints, accepting constructive criticism, and having faith that we can move through challenges in our lives.

Tomorrow’s post will provide some tips as to how to increase a growth mind set.

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Great Tips for Falling Asleep

In a recent article entitled “5 Tips to Calm a Restless Mind Before Going to Sleep” by Jade Wu and featured on Psychology Today, Wu features some tips for falling asleep that are creative and can use our imagination to help guide our minds into feeling calmer and more settled. Two that I especially found compelling (quoted):

  • Transfer lingering thoughts from your brain to paper. “Your brain is juggling thoughts and working hard to keep them spinning because—goodness forbid—you might forget to worry about something important. I like to use the download technique right before bedtime to catch everything that’s still nagging at my mind. Sometimes, if there are well-formed thoughts worth exploring, I write them down in my journal.”
  • Walk yourself through a scene. “Our brains are language machines, designed to be very good at telling stories using words. And all of our thoughts are just stories that our brains tell in order to help us make sense of the world. When you talk yourself through a scene in your mind, it’s much easier to slow down and control the pace. You can take your time to walk from room to room in an imagined house, or from tree to tree through a memory of your favorite park. Try to fully get into the scene and use all five senses. What do the leaves on the trees look like? Is it a windy day or a still and sunny one? What do you smell? Do you hear children playing or birds chirping? Take a look at the flowers on the ground—what color are they? How do they feel between your fingers? By doing this, you’re taking up room in your mind that your brain would otherwise dedicate to racing thoughts.”

Doing these types of exercises when our minds our restless at bedtime can help to not only take the pressure off of falling asleep. Not only are they great distraction techniques, they can also use our imagination to better strengthen our ability to calm ourselves, bringing body and mind more in sync.

To read the full article (she had some other great tips too!):

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Let’s Not Underestimate the Power of Dancing

When is the last time you went dancing? As we age and mature (and tend to enjoy a quiet evening at home over pumping it up at the clubs), we often don’t have the opportunity to dance.

Last Friday evening, Kurt and I attended a lovely Christmas wedding. With the ceremony and reception being on the same street on which we reside, AND it being a Friday evening, I was sure that we would be home by 11 pm. After a typical work week, I feel the lull of a quiet Friday evening at home; enjoying pizza and a wine spritzer. If Kurt is lucky, I will make it through two episodes of our current show.

Looking forward to the wedding, it lived up to my expectations; the ceremony was lovely, tablemates as well. Speeches were simple and funny. Food was delicious – imagine poutine at a wedding reception? And there was dancing. Get you moving, feel the vibes in your whole being, bring you back in time, keep you up on the dance floor dancing. A few slow songs thrown in there, and the night was perfect.

I could give you a few psychological reasons that dancing is good for you, or I can just tell you from experience that it is good for the soul. It lightens you; it is joyful. Take the opportunity to dance when it presents itself; or create one – dancing in the kitchen works too. You will be glad that you did.

PS: We got home at 1 am 🙂

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3 Important Daily Affirmations

Daily affirmations are an important way to keep ourselves on track when it comes to achieving optimal emotional health. By saying something that is affirming to ourselves, we replace old patterns of thought that may be limiting us. Daily affirmations increase our confidence and allow us to stay focused on our value.

Typically, affirmations are more effective when they are concise and they begin with the words “I am.” We can create our own affirmations based on specific goals, or use more generalized ones that simply affirm our value.  The idea is to say these daily in a planned matter – first thing in the morning, sticky note them on your mirror, journaling them at night. They can also become part of your distraction techniques when dealing with a difficult situation or emotion.

Three that tend to be a good place to start, focus simply on self-love:

  • I am worthy of love.
  • I am worthy of respect.
  • I am important too.

By incorporating affirmations in our day, we set our minds to a clearer, more positive path.

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A Canadian Resource for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a complex bio/psycho/social mental illness that include influencing factors such as genetics, personality and temperament, and cultural norms. Those who struggle with self-image and perceptions about their appearance tend to be at risk for developing an eating disorder; add the tendency to achieve perfection and/or trauma to increase the risk.

An important resource for those struggling with an eating disorder is the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, operating Canada’s only national toll-free helpline (and instant chat), providing support and treatment options to people across Canada. Of callers to the helpline, 45% are those personally affected, 30% are concerned loved ones, and 15% are health professionals.

Their extensive website features a blog, countless resources for understanding eating disorders as well as tabs as to where to get help.

Their toll free number: 1-866-633-4220

To visit the website:

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Hobbies That Are Good for Emotional Health; Post 2

Yesterday we touched on three hobbies that tend to be shown in the research as promoting our sense of well-being. Today we will explore three more activities we can engage in that can help sustain good emotional health:

  • Music. Playing it or listening to it, music helps us to feel connected to our inner self. Nothing gets us feeling nostalgic as a song from our high school days or the songs we recall from our childhood. Music can not only naturally lift our mood, we can use it purposefully to help process feelings. Feeling sad? Listen to something upbeat. Feel like singing along? Create a playlist where you know all the words to the songs you choose.
  • Reading. Whether it be for pleasure or to learn something, reading is an activity that can help us to stay aligned to what our interests are. We can totally get lost in a good book (I still believe that hobbits exist thanks to reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” when I was a teenager), or we can resonate with books that validate what we are going through. Setting aside time to read is a habit well worth forming.
  • Crafting. Being creative is a wonderful way to pull ourselves out of our worries and focus on the here and now. It allows the planning parts of our brain to map out what we need, what to pick up and when to set time aside to work on a project. Whether it is cute Christmas decoration that you found on Pinterest, or an interest in learning woodworking, being creative is another wonderful way to connect with our inner selves.

Choosing activities that promote emotional health is important. So is self-care. When we set time aside for our hobbies and interests, we combine the two. 🙂

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