The Power of Gratitude

GratitudeOne of the anecdotes for anxiety and depression is gratitude.  As humans we have a variety of life experiences; joys and hurts.  We chase the dream (illusion) of being happy 100% of the time; especially since we live in a world where marketing experts create the impression that we will obtain happiness in their product.  Instead, the reality of many is the experience of anxiety and depression (inherently, in part, a result of those same marketing schemes).

Gratitude does not take away the experience of hardship, however, it allows us to have a more holistic, integrated perspective as opposed to being trapped in a “negative filter” – a world view of only considering what is wrong.  When we are consumed by these negative images and thoughts, we suffer.

Don’t get me wrong, being oblivious to a concern that we need to attend to can also cause suffering.  For example, consider someone who has the experience of chronic pain.  When the body signals pain, the intention is to get our attention.  Perhaps we need to slow down, discontinue repetitive movements, or go and see our health care provider to investigate the problem.  Completely ignoring the pain signal may result in further injury to our body worsening our situation.

Being overly focused can be damaging in a different way.  A hypersensitivity to pain can cause us to immobilize and shut down.  The focus becomes what we cannot do; self-worth and confidence can decline due to interpretations: “I am not contributing enough”, “I’m broken”, “I have no value”, “I am a failure”.  A solution is to acknowledge the pain, and then shift your focus to capabilities rather than limitations.  “Even though I have this pain, I am able to enjoy spending time with my family.”

Rather than remain stuck in whatever your problem area is (chronic pain, money, relationship, work, loss, ________) consider something that provides gratitude.  The mental shift that occurs is profound.  When you fill the space with gratitude there is less room for sorrow or anxiety.  Acknowledge the problem area and then orient to gratitude.  “Even though ___________, I am grateful for family, our home, living in Nova Scotia, my ability to make choices, a career I love, caring friends, learning, experiences that allow personal growth.”

Global gratitude is helpful; such as, “I am thankful for my home”.  However, contemplating the seemingly smaller things in life provides us the details that matter, because these are the things that really do matter!  “I am grateful for my cup of coffee in the morning, the warm embrace of my daughter, the kiss from my husband, watching the eagle fly by, having an engaging conversation with a friend, the look of realization/insight/relief on a client’s face, the warmth of my comforter as I crawl into bed.”

To make room for contentment and peace of mind, I encourage daily practice of gratitude – both routine and random moments of gratitude!

Falling in Love All Over Again…with DBT


Last night a package arrived at the post office with my new books: DBT Skills Training Manual and DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets.  Yipppeee!!!!  I was so excited to start flipping through the pages to see what revisions have been done.  However, I had to delay that gratification because my husband gently reminded me that it was time to get out of work mode for the night.

I have to confess that I’ve had a love affair with DBT since I was first introduced to it in 1997 when a wonderful mentor, psychologist Dr. Donna McDonagh, worked tirelessly to bring DBT to Correctional Services of Canada to help rehabilitate women inmates.  That is a whole other topic though.  When it came time to train trainers (to ensure treatment integrity) Donna set the bar at psychologist’s being the trainers.  Her bar also was set at PhD level psychologists.  Because of my passion for DBT, and a vote of confidence from another colleague, Donna hesitantly agreed to allow me to be trained as a trainer.  Something I am forever grateful for!

In case you are wondering, DBT stands for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.  DBT was developed in the early 1990’s by Dr. Marsha Linehan to help those with chronic suicidal behaviours with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Simplistically the goal was to help them with emotion regulation and improve relationship functioning.  Her first manual was published in 1993 and over twenty years later research shows that a variety of individuals can benefit from the various DBT skills.  In fact, all of us can benefit from some (or all) of the skills in the manual.  I regularly incorporate skills in my practice for a variety of concerns ranging from situational stressors to severe disorders, and I regularly try to practice what I preach!

My initial assessment from flipping through the pages –  the manual and handout companion are amazing!  Revisions are extensive because of widespread application of DBT that research has empirically validated, as well as feedback from users of DBT.  There is expanded information including specific targets for addictions.

I feel like I am falling in love with DBT all over again and cannot wait to further “get to know” the additions and changes and incorporate them into my practice.

Desiderata poem – so beautiful and full of meaning!



Every time I go one of my friend’s house I admire a wall hanging that he has of the full Desiderata’s poem written by Max Ehrmann.  There is a lot of value in these words and I think they speak for themselves.  I encourage you to read the poem when you have a moment to reflect fully on each sentence.  Enjoy!

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”


Part 2: What Gets in the Way of Living Your Truth?


Once you orient to your truth, which encompasses goals, relationships, self-respect (values), there may be some barriers to living your truth.  Barriers include Circumstances, Absence of Skills, Perfectionism/Fear of Vulnerability, People Pleasing, Avoidance, Cognitive Distortions, Expectations, Habits, Pathology (self or others), or Attachment Disruptions/Traumas.

Circumstances can include relational losses, financial difficulties, lack of resources, and environmental restrictions.  Solution: Work within your limitations rather than completely give up. 

Absence of Skills is such things as not having knowledge as it relates to regulating emotions, setting goals, ingredients to healthy relationships, assertiveness skills.  Solution: Opening yourself up, and finding opportunities, for learning.

Perfectionism/Fear of Vulnerability Perfectionism is different from healthy striving.  We are driven to do more – and be more – for fear of being judged (by self and others).  The result is we are driven to overachieve, or paralysis and we do nothing.  Solution: Develop a plan and build mastery/confidence one step at a time.

People Pleasing is when we put other’s needs ahead of own to avoid judgement or conflict. Solution: Dr  Brené Brown’s mantra “Chose discomfort over resentment”.  Be true to yourself so you aren’t resentful and do it in a way (if possible) that minimizes damage to the relationship.

Avoidance is when we are numbing out, escaping, or simply avoiding because making changes is too difficult.  Solution: Behaviour Activation to face what you are avoiding by simply doing what you know you are supposed to be doing.  I know, easier said than done, but it works!

Cognitive Distortions includes “all or nothing thinking”, “jumping to conclusions”, “emotional reasoning”, “catastrophizing” –basically our thinking has run amuck.  Solution: Cognitive restructuring to create realistic awareness and self-talk from a “Wise Mind” perspective.

Expectations versus reality is as it sounds and the greater the gap, the more distressed and out of balance we become.  Solution: Change expectations, or reality, or both

Habits are something that we repetitively do without awareness.  What we continue to practice is what we manifest.  Solution: Create new healthy habits, which will initially require effort but after a period of time will become second nature.

Pathology is when we, or someone in our life, have a non-treated mental illness, addiction or personality disorder then intrapsychic and interpersonal chaos is guaranteed to exist.  Solution: Insight into the disorder, diagnosis, boundary setting, and treatment.

Attachment Disruptions and other Traumas create emotional injuries (stuck points/hot spots) we carry with us because the trauma changes our world view, belief systems, brain wiring, and the trauma settles into our body.  Solution: Psychological treatment is proven to help change brain neuroplasticity through insights, and encouraging environmental and behavioural changes.  Therapy also helps clear the trauma from your body reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Fill in Your Blank _____________ Because we are all unique beings, we each have our own barriers to living our truth.  What is yours?

“What’s Your Truth? Live Your Truth: Part 1


“What’s Your Truth? Live Your Truth” was the topic of my presentation at the May 3 Well-Within Chiropractic Mind-Blown event specific for Well-Within Women.  Also on stage were Dr. Joan Rosenberg, psychologist from Los Angeles who spoke about Emotional Mastery, and Dr. Celina Spence, Chiropractor and organizer, who spoke about the Mind Body connection.  It was a high energy day with an equally high energy audience.  The message from all three of us was about the importance of getting to know yourself and how to navigate the rocky terrain of life without losing yourself. My talk began with identifying needs within and orienting using Mindfulness skills to three areas of effectiveness to enhance functioning.  These are adapted from Dr. Masha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy modules on Core Mindfulness and Interpersonal Effectiveness.  Here is a post that reviews the Core Mindfulness skills  These skills are then applied to assessing your health in the areas of Objective Effectiveness, Relationship Effectiveness, and Self-Respect Effectiveness.

I would suggest starting with Self-Respect assessment.  What are your values and beliefs?  Is it health, wealth, simplicity, learning, fairness, growth, solitude, companionship?  When you know your values and beliefs it helps you prioritize demands in your life.  Second is the objective assessment.  What are your goals?  Immediate, short-term, long-term?  Finally is the area of Relationship Effectiveness and includes all relational interactions.  Are those relationships healthy and if not what needs to change?  Next you need to ask: How do the areas of objectives and relationships line up with your self-respect?  Is there potential conflict between them and how do you make adjustments without losing your self-respect? Are there competing values that I need to be aware of (e.g. solitude and companionship)?  Moment by moment we need to be assessing these areas and making adjustments accordingly.  Rigid but Flexible is the key, think of a backbone…oooohhh…Dr. Celina will like this analogy…the backbone is a rigid structure, but bends according the demands placed on it – internal and external.  Keeping in alignment will increase efficiency.  The three areas of efficiency are like your backbone and we need to bend without breaking.  Asking yourself “What’s My Truth?” is like your chiropractic adjustment keeping you aligned.

Here is an example of how this works.  Self-respect focus is the value of friendship.  The objective is to find an activity to do with my friend, let’s call her Linda. Wink Wink.  :)   The key is to find an activity that maintains the relationship without damaging it.  Sooo, my friend Linda LOVES shopping, and I, on the other hand despise shopping.  (Note: She was the perfect person to call to help outfit me for the event.  As well, thanks to the staff at Lou Lou Clothing and Accessories on Prince Street in Truro, NS for their help!)  Alternatively, while we both like outdoor activities, I tend to push the envelope and when I suggest a little hike, Linda knows that this is much more daunting than how I innocently present it and likely will be a 10km rough terrain hike – all uphill!  So our goal is to settle on something more suitable so we are not avoiding each other, thus causing damage to the relationship.  Dinner out tends to be a safe terrain for the two of us so we can meet all three of our needs.  Well, there is one downfall to that as it tends to conflict with the value of health because it usually involves potato skins and chicken fingers.  But sometimes we need to compromise one value for the sake of another.

Rather than being stuck in autopilot or at the whim of whichever direction the wind decides to blow you, I encourage you to tune into yourself to be the captain of your life and direct your sails accordingly.

Part 2 will focus on the things that get in the way to Living Your Truth.

Settling In To The Change


We did it!  We finished the majority of the office with only minutes to spare before my first client walked through the doors Monday afternoon.  Honestly, it felt like I was on a television show trying to meet the deadline before the host yells “Move That Bus!”  We worked all weekend putting together the furniture and trying to finish the trim work (and realized we needed more so that is on the agenda for this weekend).  On Monday the tools and saws were still in the room, along with sawdust.  My family scrambled to help me get everything ready: moving the tools out, vacuuming, mopping, and putting the furniture in its proper place, literally with minutes to spare!

Client response has been great about the new location, which is a huge relief.  I am grateful for their support.  Feedback included:  “The space has more warmth” and “It is a very relaxing environment”.  The transition was intended to make life more organized and less complicated without compromising the therapeutic milieu (environment) and therapeutic alliance.

Along with some finishing touches with the trim work this weekend, moving all my books into one place will help with getting more organized – and lessen the clutter in my living space.  As mentioned in my previous post, changes are unsettling; however, as time passes the unsettled feeling turns into contentment.  As well as contentment, I feel deep gratitude that is hard to put into words but the feeling is incredible!  I am especially thankful for the support from my husband and daughter; support in the decision to have a home based office and help making it happen.

There are many components that aid in making positive changes in your life.  First, there is the decision.  Then there is determination and taking the steps toward something new, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in the changes.  Finally, support from others makes these transitions much easier.  It is important to note that this final step can be complicated.  I often advise new clients that making changes can actually put a strain on relationships, because, more often than not, those in our lives will resist the changes.  To mitigate this, enlist those who are advocates for your betterment, and, most importantly, trust yourself!

Changes and Transitions


Making changes in our lives can be exciting; however, can also cause us anxiety as we move from the familiar.  Even if that familiar is something negative (but that is a whole different topic).  I have been reflecting on the disruption of change as I make the move to relocate my office.  Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about all of the possibilities and benefits; including the yearnings to work on writing a book, which I am anticipating will be easier with a home based office.  Despite that, there is a sense of sadness – a grief reaction to the loss of the old.  As I packed my belongings, I reflected on how thrilled I had been when I had moved into the office in downtown Stewiacke September 1, 2011, and felt sad about leaving.

I am not leaving something negative; in fact, I am leaving something positive.  I looked around the office and experienced deep gratitude for being able to sublet the office from Nova Forest Alliance.  In addition to providing the space, Terry and Wanda were always so kind, welcoming, and helpful.  I would make calls requesting that they turn up the heat so I would have a nice warm office when I arrived, and on occasion had to request that they leave a note on my door that I was running late due to traffic.  I don’t suppose that they will continue to do this for me.  Okay, maybe not.  My sincere thanks to both of them.  I also had the pleasure of getting to know Sonja, owner of Focus Massage and Yoga Studio, when she moved into the building; developing a new friendship in the process.  These reflections generate sentimental emotions!

We are creatures of habit, and it is not easy to make changes.  We remain in our “comfort zone” to prevent disruptions in our lives.  Keeping the status quo can be limiting, and sometimes detrimental.  If I had not relocated from Truro in 2011, then I would not have experienced the above mentioned blessings.  So, I encourage people to consider if there is something in their lives that they might want to push outside their comfort zone – even if only by an inch.  That nudge, an incremental change, could actually change your whole life direction!  I’m curious as to the new blessings that will emerge and manifest with this recent change.

“The 3 C’s of life: choices, chances and changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”