Category Archives: health

mental health

Taking time for mental health is something often forgotten. While many separate mental and physical health, they are closely linked in my opinion. When something is weighing heavily upon us and we have difficulty dealing with it yet still continue to go about our daily lives, we end up with mental trauma and anguish. 

Taking time to ensure we have good mental health is equally as important as making sure our bodies are healthy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or anything that is making your quality of life less than ideal, please visit a medical professional. Please do not wait until it goes too far. 

If you see a loved one suffering, do not avoid them. Engage them and offer your support. People need to know they are cared for.  You might be the one thing that shows them that life is still worth living. 

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meditation in modern life

This weekend I have had the very fortunate opportunity to spend it with a group of ladies with the same common interest.  We have all gathered to learn how to teach meditation.

What interests me about meditation is that while some consider it to be “New Age”, it seems that every culture and religion has some form of meditation; they may just call it something different.  Prayer with a rosary, meditation with a Tibetan mala… really, not much difference there.

Mindfulness is a buzz word that has been thrown around lately, but what does it mean to you?  Do things with intention.  Recognize what it is that you are doing.  Mindfulness is being taught in some schools.  Being mindful while eating is a tool used for some diet regimes.  All forms of meditation.

You can sit to meditate.  Lay down to meditate (be careful not to fall asleep, although, that is yet another form…), or walk to meditate.  This one is most difficult for me because walking is associated with thinking for me, which is the opposite of meditation.

Nature lends itself to calming and quieting the mind and is a wonderful place to sit and be still.  Have you ever tried it?  It is blissful.  It seems to melt away the stresses of what we do during our daily grind.

In the path of my life, it makes sense that meditation and mindfulness is present.  Along with minimalism, where intention of what lives or comes into my space, mindfulness is also present in every decision I make when it comes to consumerism or purging.  I become more acutely aware of the disarray in my space and it affects my inner serenity.  I wonder, does it affect yours also?

A meaningful life

What does it mean to live a meaningful life?  Does it mean success in respect to financial gain?  Success in a career?  A happy family?

Perhaps the definition is different for everyone.  We are all driven by different desires and needs.  Some feel the need to have a prominent career and work long hours.  This may give a sense of fulfillment to that individual, and if it does, that is great.  None of us are made the same.

Growing up, we are conditioned from an early age to think about what we want to be when we grow up.  How you will make your living is supposed to be the biggest part of being an adult, and we tend to get lost in this concept.  We are defined by our jobs.  By our titles.  When we meet new people, that is inevitably one question that comes up early in the conversation…so, what do you do…and of course we rattle off what we do to make ends meet.

But we are so much more than that.  We are not just our jobs.  What is it that you will reflect back on and see that your life had meaning?  Will you look back and say wow, I made a lot of money and be happy with that?  Or will you say wow, I made a lot of money, but I never had time with my loved ones or to do the things I had always wanted to do?

Millenials coming into the workforce have the idea that their time off is equally as important as the time they spend at work.  They appear to value their personal time more than GenXers do.  At least here in North America…Europeans have had a different philosophy for many years, one to be admired I believe.

A meaningful life to me means that I have left this world better than I found it.  That I have touched the lives and hearts of others in even a small way.  I find that I can do that in my career, but I also spend my personal time to do more of that.  I enjoy my family time and give myself to my children with all my heart.  I enjoy my time with my friends, and do what I can to make their happiness a priority too; because when they are happy, so am I.  I volunteer.  I have my own groups that I belong to that bring me joy as well.

I don’t want to feel that I have spent all my time at work without putting in at least equal the effort to make the rest of my life matter as well.  How do you make your life meaningful?  Is there something special that you do? Please comment if you would like to share.

 

physical clutter affects everything

Clearing physical clutter is important.  It is important not just because it cleans the space you live in, but it cleans your mental space too.  Having stuff linger in your space affects many aspects of your life, whether you realize it or not.  It hangs over your head.  It’s one of those things that you think you will get to…eventually.  But when is that?  When does eventually come?

I had a garage full of waste.  I had a deck that needed work, and the debris ended up in my garage.  I didn’t think it through, I just knew that the deck needed to be fixed, and I would deal with the debris after the fact.  It was hidden in the garage, right where I should have been parking.  But for over two years, that clutter invaded my space and was constantly on my mind.  Not only that, I also had debris from some minor renovations I had done inside my home from up to four years ago.  It was sitting in my workroom in the basement and sitting on my mind, knowing full well that I needed to manage it at some point.

On an unrelated topic, but still relatable, I have a fantastic friend who pushes me to do things from time to time, in the best possible way.  He also needed to remove clutter, so we made a plan.  Yesterday, we were able to clear all that debris away for both of us.  We both have a clear space and that opens up mental space also.  I am able to park in my garage once again, and I have the ability to free up some of that mental space all that debris was taking up for something much better.

Sometimes we do not realize how much space and energy that physical clutter takes up in all facets of our lives.  If you consider one simple thing:  I had two winters of not being able to park in my garage.  That means two winters of wondering how much snow we received overnight, and expending energy to clear snow off my vehicle in order to get to work in the mornings.  Had I taken the time to remove that mess when it first was created, I could have spent those five to ten minutes every morning in a more relaxed way.

Clutter is a burden in many ways.  This long weekend is a perfect opportunity to tackle some of those burdens.  I have taken care of what was burdening me so that I can now appreciate the fruits of my labour.  I hope you can do the same.

taking time

Vacations are wonderful.  You plan and prepare for the trip, decide which sights you want to see and when.  You plan every day to be a full as possible so you can fit everything in to your limited time, because if you don’t, you won’t have a chance to do all the things you wanted to do.

But during that vacation away, did you think to take a day to just relax?  Maybe sleep in a little, or spend a lazy day exploring the forests or the beaches?

These vacation days create a lot of memories too. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe they create more memories than running from the art gallery to the science centre then to the zoo…you get the idea.

We did all of the planning.  I had every day scheduled with where to go and what to see.  In the end, what my children wanted to do won out.  We peeled away one activity for another.  We didn’t do all the things we had planned.  We spent way more time sitting on the beach watching sunsets and looking for crabs instead of going to the sights that we had on the schedule.  We took a morning and strolled through a forest and created a fairy home at the base of a giant redwood tree.

We created memories.

Yes, we did a lot of the scheduled stuff and hit the highlights.  But in retrospect, the highlights really were about exploring nature that was new to them.  About seeing the glimmer in their eyes as they discovered something they had never seen before.  It was about their pure excitement and joy the first time they dipped their toes in the salty ocean water.

These are the things that will create the memories that they will remember for a lifetime.

lazy summer days

Summer days are meant for doing a certain amount of nothing.  It rarely seems the case these days, as I watch my friends and their children rushing to summer hockey camps, day camps, intensive swimming lessons, and a plethora of other activities to fill their summer days.

What happened to just having nothing to do?  To the days of going to the park and playing, or reading?  What happened to just being a kid?

This isn’t a popular perspective where I live, and I would wager it isn’t where you live either.  These days, everyone needs to be scheduled to the hilt, because if you aren’t busy, you are wasting your time, right?

Wrong.

There is so much benefit in just allowing yourself time to be.  Time to sit and just watch the day go by is so mentally therapeutic!  Being busy does not equal being productive.  This is something I have learned after years of having too much going on in my life.  There is still too much going on, but I am still a work in progress too.  I am officially on holidays for two weeks, and while my time clock may be stalled, work wise, my actions have not.  I still have lists of things I wish to accomplish during my time off, but I know full well that there are too many lists and too little time.  Where do I fit in time for me?

It’s ok to let the dust settle in the corners once in a while, or for the dishes to wait until morning.  We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while so that we can function optimally.  Don’t forget to take time out to relax and do nothing.  There is so much value in just being.

adding karma to your kindness bucket

Doing things for others isn’t just a selfless act.  It is a selfish act also.

I’m not referring to the you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours mentality.  When we do things for others out of the goodness of our hearts, we receive gifts back in the form of good karma that we get to add to our buckets.  This good karma comes back to us in a multitude of ways.  Perhaps it is that unexpected settlement cheque that comes in the mail after a minor accident, or the person in the drive thru ahead of you who decided to pay it forward and covered the cost of your pick-me-up mid-afternoon latte.

Beyond that, we also also experience that whole neuroscience of giving part of ourselves to others.  When we help others, we also help ourselves.  We experience an increase in endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains.  Yes, science actually backs up being a good person.  When we have a surge of endorphins, our bodies actually feel healthier.  So there is the selfish part of it.  When we help others, we are helping ourselves too.

The best part is, that helping others is contagious.  Going back to the pay it forward idea in the drive thru, where I live, this has become a bit of a thing that goes on from time to time.  Maybe it is the Canadian kindness mentality, maybe not.  But, when this begins, it can often continue on for a dozen people or even more.  This positive energy leads to more positive actions which means more goodness in our world.

So, keep adding karma to your kindness bucket.  Let it grow and overflow.  Because it’s good for the world around you, and it is very good for you too.

the future of dietary recommendations?

I have enjoyed my Sunday ritual of sitting at my computer and writing my weekly blog.  To those of you who follow along weekly, and for those who have popped in today or once in a while, I want to thank you for joining me.

Recently, the Canadian government released a draft of the new version of Canada’s Food Guide.  I was interested to read that under the Guiding Principle 1, there has been a shift from “meat and alternatives” to “protein-rich foods – especially plant-based sources of protein”.

Now, those who know me well would tell you that while I have a predominantly plant-based diet, with the odd bit of seafood and a little cheese once in a while, I do not force my diet or opinions on anyone.  I do believe that everyone is free to choose for themselves, and the same is true for my children.  My older son is the same as I am in his choices.  We have plant-based milk to enjoy.  I like soy milk in my coffee, and he is crazy about coconut milk.  Conversely, my younger son still enjoys dairy milk, and so I buy that for him to consume.

What the current draft of the dietary recommendations has done for me is reinforce what I have been doing.  It will also help to bring along a shift in the thoughts of the general public.  Plant-based diets are highly nutritious, providing all the essential components needed, particularly when it is a diet with a variety of different plant foods.

I know there are some people out there (my ex-husband for one) who would say that you need to eat meat in order to gain the proteins and amino acids required for a healthy body.  I am not going to argue anyone’s opinion.  But I do encourage people to do the research for themselves and choose the diet that meets their needs.  There is no one perfect diet for every person.  We are all individuals with individual needs.

For myself, and for the positive environmental impact that these changes will produce, I am quite excited to see Canada taking the bold step forward so far with these recommendations.  While it is still in a draft form and there are many changes that could still take place, I am proud to see that the steps are being taken to recognize how plant-based nutrition is advisable for the majority of people.  I would like to congratulate the Government of Canada for taking these steps, and I hope to see this movement expand beyond borders and move into other countries to create a global movement.

authenticity

Be your authentic self.  Buzz words.  Everyone is saying things like this it seems these days.  But what does it truly mean?

I’m sure we all have our own take on what it means to be authentic.  But without spending time alone with yourself, how do you truly know if you are your own true authentic self, or if you are picking up on pieces of stronger personalities?  How do you know you aren’t just being what you are expected to be?

In this world, being authentic is hard.  There are expectations out there.  Go to University.  Get a high paying job.  Get married, have a family.  Don’t get divorced.  But where in all this does it fit to be truly authentic?

It doesn’t.

I have lived that life.  I was who everyone wanted me to be.  I did the education, I had great aspirations and hopes for a career.  I had the six figures.  I had the marriage and the family.  And all the illusions I had to maintain to keep up that façade.  I was miserable.

I got separated.  Parts of the false me started to fall away.  I opened up about the horrors of my relationship and people were shocked and stunned by what I had kept hidden.  But this is part of my story.  The true me.  I looked at my life and realized I wasn’t happy in that career.  I wasn’t truly interested in doing research or the other things I needed to do in order to be successful in that world.  I dropped it.  And I can tell you, it felt good.  It was a burden lifted off my shoulders that I didn’t realize I was carrying around.

I started exploring who I felt I was.  It was a redefining period of time.  I explored things that made be happy.  I sat.  I meditated.  I did yoga.  I went and spent time with just myself.  I was lost for over two decades, but somewhere in the silence, I found me.

Not everyone likes the me I am today, and I am ok with that.  I have been passed up for opportunities that I am more than qualified for simply because I no longer follow the corporate rules, and that is ok.  I forgive the people and the situation.  I thank the Universe for the experience and go forward knowing that I am exactly where I need to be, because where I am, is where I am accepted for who I truly am.  I am welcomed and encouraged to be my own authentic version of myself.  It has turned out better than anything I have ever expected or imagined.

That feels better than all those goals I had been chasing.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t enjoy pieces of that time because there are many parts that I loved and would do again.  But knowing now what it is to be fully me, I will not sacrifice my authenticity for any of the chairpersons, department heads or managers that think they have control over my fate.  They don’t control anything.  I am free.

And I am very happily and authentically me.

what strength means

You could look at the literal word and think of bodybuilders or construction men or firefighters even.  That is simply physical strength though.  What about the other strengths out there?

Strength to me is determination and courage.  Strength is the struggling student who works a full time job, still makes it to classes and still completes all the requirements to graduate and move their life into a new plane.  Strength is the cancer survivor who stays positive during the surgeries, the radiation treatments and the chemotherapy while still being that positive beacon for her children and her husband.  Strength is the father going into that surgery knowing full well that he may not wake up from the anesthesia yet taking the chance because if he doesn’t, the cancer still wins.  Strength is the wife who stands by his side and supports him because that’s all she can do.

Strength is the child who stands up for his friend against the schoolyard bully, even though he fears being the next target.  Strength is the single mother who gets up and goes to work every day to a job that causes her pain, yet she goes anyway because that is what her children need her to do.  Strength is the woman who leaves an abuser before it goes too far.  Strength is the man suffering depression, but he still gets out of bed every day.

I see all these people around me.  Perhaps they do not see their strength, but others do.  Strength is all around us.  We all have our own battles.  Some are more visible than others.  Don’t judge others based on what you think you see, for their story is like an iceberg: you may see the tip poking out above the surface, but the rest of the story and reasons for who they are and why they do what they do are hidden underneath in the dark waters.

Have an open mind and an open heart.  Give acceptance and love.