With Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, we wanted to write about some ways that you may incorporate gratitude into your daily routine. It’s no surprise that gratitude practice has positive benefits on how we feel (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Watkins et al., 2003). It’s great that we have a day dedicated to gratitude on thanksgiving, but we may also want to work at incorporating gratitude into our everyday routines.

Here are some ways that you may incorporate gratitude into your day:

  • Before reaching for your phone or stepping out of bed in the morning, call to mind three things you are grateful for. If you are having troubles thinking of things right away, notice what you’re grateful for in your surroundings. Maybe it’s having a roof over your head, how comfy your bed is, or a special photo in your surroundings.
  • Use a gratitude app and set reminders to record things you’re grateful for throughout the day. Some examples of gratitude apps are Greatful: A Gratitude Journal, or Gratitude Journal 365. If you’d rather do it yourself, create a note on your phone to record things you feel grateful for throughout the day.
  • Write a letter to someone you love telling them things you appreciate about them, and how much they mean to you. Then, hand-deliver it to them or send it in the mail. Writing a gratitude letter has been shown to increase people’s happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms (Toepfer, Cichy, & Peters, 2012).
  • When your family is gathered for dinner, take turns each expressing something you are grateful for from the day. Research has demonstrated that expressing gratitude to a partner can make individuals feel that their relationship is stronger than those who do not practice expressing gratitude (Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010).
  • Be on the lookout for small things during your day to feel grateful for. Whether it’s a smile from a stranger, a piece of artwork in a building, a beautiful tree outside, or a sunny day – take time to stop and smell the roses!

 

Which of these do you think might work for your routine? Whatever the shape or form, we hope these tips were helpful to find a routine where you can express your gratitude throughout your days.

This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for our families, friends, clients, and you, the reader – thank you for coming on this journey with us.

 

References

Emmons, R., and McCullough, M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective wellbeing in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

Lambert, N., Clark, M., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F., and Graham, S. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574-580.

Toepfer, S., Cichy, K., and Peters, P. (2012). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(1), 187-201.

Watkins, P., Woodward, K., Stone, T., and Kolts, R. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Developmental of a measure of gratitude and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(5), 431-452.

Kayleen Edwards, RP, MA

Losing someone we love is likely the hardest thing that any of us will ever do in our lives. Grief is such a strong and painful emotion, and it can be scary to think about. The loss of a loved one can turn our lives upside down and change our entire perspective on life. Societies often have rituals, such as funerals, to help individuals come together in times of grief and sadness, and these rituals can be so meaningful and important to our healing process.

If you’re grieving the loss of someone, I encourage you to read this post. Grief can be difficult and isolating, and there are often many mixed emotions. This post is meant to help you move through these thoughts and feelings in a way that is non-judgmental and allows you to heal.

We’ve all heard of the stages of grief before, but we believe that everyone has their own unique process, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. The most important thing to remember is that you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. Acceptance of what we are feeling is key any time we have any strong emotion, positive or negative. In other words, it is important to allow yourself to feel however you feel, without trying to restrict or minimize what you’re feeling. This tends to be fairly easy early on in the grief process, as we are expected to be sad or angry in response to the passing of a loved one. Later on, however, when others have seemingly moved on and you’re still in the depths of your despair, it can be more difficult to be accepting of how you are feeling.

It is important to remember during these times that you are not alone, and it is okay for you to grieve for as long as you need to. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that comes up. Perhaps do some mindfulness to really notice what thoughts and feelings are showing up. Often, when someone close to us passes, there are more complex emotions than just sadness; emotions that we don’t always talk about as a society. There may be anger, frustration, regret, hatred, or other emotions that you may think to yourself that you should not be feeling. We are here to tell you that these are perfectly normal feelings to have. The more that you try to make them go away or ignore them, the more persistent they will be. Instead of trying to get rid of these feelings, try holding them lightly. See if you can allow them to be there, and acknowledge that they can’t harm you. They are simply thoughts and feelings, and although they may hurt, you are in control of how they affect you. Hold them gently, and if you have difficulty doing so, it may be helpful to practice one of the following techniques to help you process these thoughts and emotions so that you may be able to hold them more lightly in the future.

1.    Write Down how you feel

Writing can be an extremely powerful action. While we don’t necessarily understand why, writing down how we are feeling and what we are thinking can help us sit with these thoughts and feelings more easily. It’s almost as if we are holding in all of this pent up emotion, and writing it down allows us to release it, and let go in a sense. This doesn’t mean that the thoughts and feelings are going to go away entirely, but that you may be able to better understand them, and begin to move forward.

You can start by writing down what you’re feeling in that moment, and just let your words flow. It may not be in full sentences, but rather specific words. You can try writing on lined paper, or you can use blank paper and colours and write things out the way that feels right. Notice how it feels when you write down those words. Notice what you feel in your body, and how it feels before you write it out versus after. See if you can do this without judgement of your feelings – recognizing that it’s okay to have any thoughts or feelings about the situation. Our thoughts and feelings will ebb and flow like waves in the ocean, and this is all part of the process.

2.    Write a Letter

While general writing can be extremely helpful, sometimes we feel as though we have unfinished business with someone who has passed, or we have things we wish we could have said to them. Writing a letter addressed to the person who has passed can be a really powerful exercise. You have an opportunity to say what you need to say, or what you’d like to say, in any way you want. You can address the person directly, and let them know how you feel about them, how their passing has affected you, maybe how they made you mad, or what you’ll miss about them.

Once you’ve finished your letter, you can save it somewhere, or let it go. Letting it go may be something like crumpling it up and throwing it out, burning it, burying it, or whatever feels right to you.

3.    Honour their Memory

This one is a little bit more vague, because it depends on the individual. This can be different based on the person who has passed and the person who is in mourning. Perhaps the traditional ritual of our society isn’t something that has helped you grieve and move forward, and there’s something else that you need to do. This is likely why celebrations of life have become so popular, because people often prefer to celebrate the life of the individual in a way they would have preferred.

If your loved one really loved animals, perhaps you may volunteer at an animal shelter in their honour, or donate some treats or toys. Maybe you go to their favourite restaurant and order their favourite food with some of their closest friends. Or maybe you plant a garden or a tree in their memory. You can choose to do whatever feels right for you, and whatever makes you feel closer to that person.

4.    Spend time with Loved Ones

Another advantage to celebrations of life is that it allows individuals to speak more freely and talk about the individual in candid ways. Spending time with others who loved this person and being able to reminisce about good times you all had can be extremely healing. While we expect sadness following the passing of a loved one, we often forget about how many positive memories we have with that person. When we spend time with others, it allows us to create a dialogue of positivity around celebrating the individual’s life while also allowing you to mourn their passing. Laughing about funny things that happened, remembering how sweet they were, and just talking about them in a positive light can help you move forward in realizing that this person had an impact in your life, and nothing can ever take that away.

5.    Be Patient with Yourself

This is probably the most important part. Everyone’s grief process is different, and you cannot rush your feelings. Furthermore, just because someone seems ‘okay’ on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting on the inside. You may decide to return to work and go back to a ‘normal’ life, and that’s okay. You may also feel really sad and cry often, and that’s okay too. Likely, you will have good days and bad days, and having a good day doesn’t mean you didn’t love that person – it just means you’re moving forward. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and we have to ride them out even when we’re grieving. So not only should you practice being patient with yourself and your emotions, but also compassionate. It’s okay to be happy sometimes, or angry, or sad.

All in all, every single person experiences and expresses grief differently. We don’t need to fully understand it, but we do need to practice being compassionate towards the process for others, as well as our own process.

Remember, there are people who love and care about you, and you do not need to go through this process alone. It is important to reach out to others during this time, whether that be family members, friends, coworkers, or a therapist. Grief is an extremely difficult and transformative life process, but also a sign of incredible love and devotion. As Thomas Campbell said, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”.

 

By Jennifer Thomson and Kayleen Edwards

Hearing the term “self care” can trigger an automatic eye roll from some, who think of self care as the cliche bubble bath, face mask, or other stereotypical things they may have seen in media. Self care seems to be a buzzword these days, with more and more people using it on social media, television, and marketing. But what does self care actually mean?

To us, self care is something that you do to be a good friend to yourself. Self care activities are things that make you feel recharged, energized, and more like yourself. These activities can come in many shapes and forms. The examples below are just a starting point for the possibilities of self care activities that you may do.

Self Care Ideas

Physical Relationships Creativity Spiritual
·Go for a walk

·Try a yoga YouTube video

·Join a house league for a sport of your choice

·Have a dance party in your kitchen

· Have a warm bath

·Do stretches

·Make a warm cup of tea

·Organize something in your home

·Go to bed early to get 8 hours of sleep

·Get a Massage

·Drink more water

·Spend time in the sun

·Text someone

·Call someone

·Go for coffee

·Tell someone how you feel

·Tell someone why you appreciate them

·Cuddle with a loved one

·Create boundaries – say “no” and express your needs

·Turn off your phone after a certain time

·Limit time on social media

·Play a board game with loved ones

·Go on a date with your significant other

· Journal

·Get an adult colouring book

·Paint

·Make a card for someone

·Look up and make a new recipe

·Take art lessons

·Take dance lessons

·Repurpose an object

·Learn a new skill on YouTube

·Visit the library or book store

·Start a blog

·Work on a home project

·Do some gardening

 

·Spend time in nature

·Meditate

·Pray

·Journal

·Listen to meaningful music

·Find and listen to podcasts that inspire you

·Look up and save inspirational quotes

·Visit a sacred place

·Create a sacred place in your home with candles or scents

·Watch the sunrise or sunset

·Help someone

·Volunteer

 

Did any of these surprise you? Are there some that you are already doing, but never thought of it as self care?

Our challenge to you is to pick at least one of these activities to do for yourself each day. It doesn’t have to be a daunting process that requires a great deal of time and energy! Even one small self care activity like ensuring you’re getting enough water or sitting outside can make the world of a difference.

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

kayleen@rootsinwellness.ca

For those of you who like to run, you know that nothing compares to the feeling you get when you’re outside running with the sun in your face and the wind at your back. But for many, running can seem like a chore, especially at first, and it can be difficult to get over that hump.

So, if you’ve thought about running, tried it, and decided you hated it, then this article is for you!

At First – It Sucks!

When you first start running, especially if you’re carrying some extra weight, it can really suck. You feel like you’re constantly struggling to breathe, your muscles ache, and you may even end up with a headache afterwards.

Let me tell you – this will pass! Any time we begin a journey to weight loss, fitness, or health, there’s always a period of feeling uncomfortable while our bodies adjust. Stick with it, even for just a few weeks, and you’re likely to see improvements in how you feel.

If you don’t, here are some reasons you may be feeling sluggish or achy during/after a run:

  • You’re dehydrated: make sure you drink lots of water before, during, and after a run; your body needs to be hydrated!
  • You haven’t eaten enough: many people enjoy running while fasted (meaning they haven’t eaten in a number of hours), however this doesn’t work for others. If you’re feeling really tired following a run, check your calories and make sure you’ve got enough fuel to get you through your workout and the rest of your day
  • You’re doing too much all at once: it’s okay to start small. We always want to push ourselves, but make sure it’s within reason. If you’re unsure, speak to your doctor about a good starting point, or hire a personal trainer

When I first started trying to get healthy, the first couple of weeks felt like torture. But I didn’t go from no exercise at all to running 25km a week. I started playing volleyball again, going to the gym a little more, then I joined soccer, and eventually got a home gym and started running most days – and that took me a year to progress to! This journey in itself is a marathon, and you need to pace yourself. Stick with it and I promise you won’t forget it.

The other thing that really motivated me was doing a 5k, without any training. Now, you don’t want to do this in a way that you’re going to injure yourself. But what I mean is, I had the intention to start running so I signed up for a 5km race, thinking that would motivate me to train. It didn’t. But AFTER I did the 5km race, and realized that running 5k really isn’t that bad, I was motivated to improve my time. What I learned was that the first 2km are the worst, and then you sort of get into a rhythm. So, sign up for a 5km race by yourself or with a friend, and see where it takes you!

Proper Footwear

Wearing proper footwear is so important when we’re running – if we have unsupportive footwear, we can end up with a multitude of problems. If you’re not sure what to get, don’t worry; I didn’t either! If you go to a store, you’ll notice there are dozens of brands with hundreds of different shoes, all claiming to be for ‘running’. The sales associate may be able to help you, especially if you have a specific issue, but there will still be many choices. It may also depend on where and how you’re running – if you’re running indoors on a treadmill versus outside on a sidewalk versus on a trail, you may require different types of footwear and support.

It’s worth the money to invest in a good pair of running shoes, both for running outside, on the treadmill, and for weight lifting and other types of workouts. We need to have support for our feet and ankles in order to avoid injury. Personally, I have a pair of Sauconys, which I love. They’re super comfortable and lightweight.

For more information on which shoes to buy, check out these articles:

In general, as long as you don’t have any pre-existing medical issues, and you go with a shoe that is made for running, you should be okay (please consult with your doctor first). Go to the store, try some on, and you’ll find a pair that you like.

A Running Plan

It can be really helpful to have a plan when you’re running. Many people get discouraged because they go out and notice they can’t run for very long, and are often winded. If that’s you, then starting on a specific running plan might be helpful. Typically these are found in apps that you can get on your phone, that offer a gradual progression to running a 5k, for example.

Here are a few of my favourite running apps:

Couch to 5k Running App

Strava Run and Cycling App

Runkeeper App

 Map my Run App

 FitBit Activity Tracker

For those of you who aren’t into technology, here are some running plans that are available online that you can follow:

Having said that, I don’t actually use a running program, and never have. They’re just not for me, and I like to go at my own pace. I have a FitBit and when I started running, I was much further along in my running abilities (due to soccer) than most programs start you at. I simply run based on how my body feels, ensuring that I’m pushing myself along the way. It’s been successful for me, and I continue to reach personal records on a regular basis.

Be Patient

Patience is a virtue – one I admit I often don’t have. When I do something, I typically go all-in and I want to get results FAST. That meant that, for me, I wanted to constantly improve and reach personal records every time I ran. Now, this in itself isn’t a bad thing. A drive to run and improve is great – but you need to ensure you’re listening to your body.

I went from running once a week at soccer, to doing that plus 5km four times per week. Not surprisingly, I got injured. My physiotherapist suggested that I had simply done too much too fast, and my body couldn’t keep up. I developed tendonitis in my hip and had to cut back on my running quite a bit. Not only that, but it affected my game at soccer and took a long time to heal. Go slow, do this gradually, and don’t expect your body to do more than it can do. This takes time and it’s worth it in the end if you go slow and steady.

Don’t Pressure Yourself too Much

I’m someone who, even in the best shape of my life, hated running. Now I love it and it’s the thing that I turn to for stress relief, self-care and relaxation for myself. Having said that, running isn’t for everyone. Some people do not enjoy running, and that’s okay!! Lots of people talk about running as the best form of cardio, but there are so many alternatives. So, if you hate running, or just don’t want to run, here are some really great cardio alternatives:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Cycling indoors
  • Sports
  • HIIT workouts

I encourage everyone who is willing and able to get out and try running. Try it with a friend, on a trail, or on a treadmill, and see how it goes. Everyone is different and has different preferences, but the idea is that we’re moving our bodies and being healthy!

 

Jennifer Thomson

Registered Psychotherapist

RP, MACP

Have you often thought about coming to therapy, but then… didn’t? Many things can get in the way of making the call and showing up to that first therapy session.

One of the most common things to get in the way of setting up a therapy session is the fear of the unknown. Often, people aren’t sure what to expect the first time they attend a therapy session, including where to go, what their therapist will be like, and what will happen during the session. This is especially compounded if someone is suffering from anxiety or depression, two symptoms that can make leaving home pretty difficult.

We are here to help clarify what you can expect during your first session with us!

Before the appointment: You are always free to phone or email us to ask us questions before booking any appointment. Once you have decided to book, you may choose to book a free 15-minute consultation call, or to book the one-hour session first. These both can be booked either online, or by phoning or emailing one of us.

Location: Our office is located at 428 Aberdeen Ave. in Hamilton, Ontario. The closest intersection to us is Dundurn St. and Aberdeen Ave. A good landmark is the Aberdeen Tavern, which we are next door to. You can park in the driveway if there is space available, or parking is also available on the road free of charge.

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Office: Our office is located in the lower level of the building. When you arrive, please enter through the side door to the left of the building and go down the stairs to get to our office. You can have a seat in the waiting room, where we have magazines and music to enjoy while you wait. Generally you will not be waiting long, and we should be out to get you in less than five minutes.

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Start of appointment: If it is your first appointment, there are some housekeeping items we have to go over at the start of the appointment. The main one is signing our consent form, which is a formal agreement to enter into a therapeutic relationship with one of us. We will review the form with you verbally, and then give you a chance to review the form on your own to ensure you understand. Please feel free to ask questions – it is important that you feel informed and that you fully understand consent to participate.

During appointment: Have a specific issue you’d like to address in the first appointment? Great! Not sure what to talk about? That’s okay too! We will always ask if there is a specific issue you were hoping to work on or discuss during the first session, so that you don’t feel it is just us asking questions. If you aren’t sure of what to bring up first or there isn’t something specific you can think of to discuss in the first appointment, we will usually ask more questions about the difficulties you have been experiencing so that we may have a better understanding of how to help.

However, it’s also important to us that the whole appointment isn’t just asking questions, and that you feel you are receiving help and ideas right from the start. We will generally give some suggestions or ideas as to what we can work on, and then give you the option to choose what you feel would be most helpful for you. Therapy that is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist is our goal, instead of the therapist just leading the way!

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End of appointment: At the end of the appointment, we may assign “homework” for you to think about or work on for the following week. This homework is always optional, and is totally at your discretion as to whether you have the time and feel if it would be beneficial for you or not. We will also usually discuss what we feel would be beneficial to work on during our next session, so that you have an idea of where things are headed.

We will ask you if you would prefer to book your next appointment then, or if you would prefer to have some time to think about things and email us after to book. We will then process payment, whether it is made via cash, cheque, credit card, or e-transfer. We will then provide you with an invoice, which you may submit to your extended healthcare benefits insurance provider, if applicable.

All in all, you can expect our therapy appointments to last approximately 50 minutes, give or take.

We hope this post clarifies the process of working with us and that learning this information may empower you to take steps towards your own healing.

Have more questions? Feel free to contact me at (289) 689-7194. I’d love to hear from you!

Kayleen Edwards

Registered Psychotherapist