New Roots Therapy Blog

Thoughts on Life, Love, & Wellness! New Posts Every Wednesday.


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Overcoming the Winter Doldrums

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

As the end of January approaches, many of us are feeling broke, worn down, and cold!  By now, the holidays are long gone and the feelings of optimism and energy we may have felt at New Year’s have begun to dwindle as the realities of work life, bill payments (“I spent HOW MUCH on holiday gifts?!”) and cold, dark days hit us.  If this sounds familiar to you and you’re looking for ways to get re-motivated, the following list of budget-friendly ideas may be helpful in boosting your mood and energy levels and helping you get through the winter doldrums:

  1. Too cold to go outside?  Bring nature indoors with potted plants!  Indoor plants are well known for having many health and mood-boosting benefits, such as:  reduced stress, anxiety, and fatigue; increased memory, attentiveness, and feelings of well-being; increased oxygen levels to help improve breathing; purified air; etc.  Indoor plants can also help to increase feelings of compassion and purposefulness, by giving you something to care for.  Another way to bring nature indoors and help boost your mood:  create your own composition of nature sounds at naturesoundsfor.me.  This free, interactive online tool lets you listen to compositions made by other users, as well as create your own mix of nature sounds!
  2. Plan a games’ night in with friends.  This is inexpensive and fun!  It’s easy to isolate ourselves in the chilly winter months.  However, socializing and connecting with loved ones is a natural mood booster.  Also, consider making standing dates with friends and/or family members to keep your social calendar active and keep the winter “blahs” in check.
  3. Get your vitamins.  Certain supplements have been linked to mental and emotional well-being.  For example, Vitamin D, B-Complex Vitamins, and St. John’s Wort are all said to aid in the treatment of depression.  If you’re considering taking any vitamin supplements, always speak to your doctor first.
  4. Start your day with gratitude.  Research shows that gratitude is linked to greater feelings of happiness, increased resilience, and stronger relationships.  When we take the time to acknowledge what is good in our lives, we create space to experience more positive emotions.  There are many ways to practice gratitude throughout the day (e.g., saying “thanks” in-person if possible, or mentally; writing 3 things that you are grateful for each day in a gratitude journal; etc.).  In the book, “Five Good Minutes”, the authors Jeffrey Brantley (MD)  and Wendy Millstine, suggest starting your day with the following gratitude practice:
  • Breathe mindfully for about a minute.
  • Set your intention.  For example, “May this practice open my eyes in wonder and appreciation.”
  • Breathe mindfully for a few more breaths.
  • Now reflect on something in your life that works or supports you.  For example, “My heart is strong”, or, “My father is well”, or, “My e-mail got through”.  Quietly say thank you.
  • Reflect on something that – in its absence – is good.  For example, no toothache, or no sickness in a loved one, or no hurricane or tornado.  Quietly say thank you.
  • End by opening your eyes and moving gently.

For more information and techniques about mindfulness and mindful breathing, check out mindful.org.

5.  Exercise is well known for being a natural mood booster.  If you can bear it, bundle up and go for a walk a few times a week!  Or, check out your local recreation centre to see if they have an indoor track.  As well, certain yoga postures have been linked to greater balance, not just physically, but with our moods as well!  Check out these “Mood-Boosting Yoga and Breathing Postures” for an illustration of poses designed to decrease depression, anxiety, and stress – and increase confidence, clarity, and energy!

How do you get through the winter blues?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

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Welcome, 2014: Setting Your New Year’s Resolutions!

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

Lately it seems that New Year’s Resolutions have gotten a bad rap.  How many of you have had this experience: you tell a friend or family member about your resolutions for the new year, and they respond with a chuckle, saying something along the lines of, “tell that to me again in two weeks if you’ve managed to stick it out that long!”?  Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions isn’t necessarily easy.  Not long after the ball drops in Times Square, many people find that they’ve already “dropped the ball” on their goals for the year ahead!  We imagine that this has to do with a number of things, including setting unrealistic goals, lack of access to important resources, setting goals that you’re not truly invested in to begin with, etc.

But, in spite of all this, some research shows that setting goals at the beginning of the year, as opposed to any other time of year, can actually increase the likelihood of achieving those goals, particularly if you approach your resolutions thoughtfully.  The beginning of the year is a natural time for purposeful reflection.  The intersection between the end of one year and the beginning of another is a perfect opportunity to examine where you’ve been (e.g., your accomplishments and hardships from the previous year) as well as where you’re heading (e.g., who do you want to become and what do you hope to experience in the year ahead)?  As 2013 comes to an end, we encourage you to take pause and consider what is truly most important to you at this time in your life.  Ask yourself the following questions: how did I live out my values in the past year, and how can I more intentionally live out my values in 2014?

If you plan to set any resolutions for 2014, consider watching the following short video for more information on the science behind New Year’s Resolutions and tips on how to be successful in your goal setting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqbAsr6wN_I

You can also check out our previous blog post on goal setting, including how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals and the importance of planning for failure when striving for success, for more tips on how to create New Year’s Resolutions that stick.

Here’s to your New Year’s Resolutions!  Wishing you peace, love, and wellness in 2014!


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Overcoming Procrastination

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

When it comes to time management challenges, procrastination takes the cake…and it’s not a tasty cake, at that!  In fact, procrastination has been linked to such unpleasant things as poorly managed stress, health issues, and sleep complications.  If you struggle with procrastination, you’re most likely familiar with its costs and you know that it’s a habit worth rectifying…today, not tomorrow!

It’s important to note that procrastination is a specific type of “putting things off”.  In essence, procrastination occurs when we delay important tasks without good reason, or as a result of anxiety.  What do we mean by, “without good reason”?  Basically, this means that the delay in completing a task occurs for reasons other than those which would actually help to increase productivity.  In other words, it’s a needless delay.  By contrast, when we choose to delay a task because we know that, if we wait it out a bit, we’ll have more of the tools and/or resources available to us to do the job well, that’s not the same as procrastination – that’s just good planning!  The same goes for when we delay an important task because there is another more important task which needs to be completed first – that’s called good prioritizing!

It’s important to distinguish procrastination from the acts of planning and prioritizing, which are healthy time management skills.  You can do this by paying close attention to your repeated behaviours around a task, as well as tapping into your feelings about a task.

Try this: use a “Procrastination Mapping” chart to help you distinguish your procrastination habits from your healthier time management strategies.  This chart invites you to identify:

  • What types of activities/tasks you tend to procrastinate:  Do you notice any themes?  Are there certain types of tasks you tend to put off more than others?
  • How you tend to procrastinate:  What are your procrastination behaviours, or stalling techniques?  For example, do you watch t.v. instead of working on an important task?  Suddenly get the urge to re-organize all of your drawers?  Make a snack…and then a cup of tea…and then wash up the dishes?
  • Why you procrastinate:  Procrastination can occur for several reasons, such as feeling overwhelmed and/or anxious about a task and unsure of where to begin;  feeling creatively stunted (e.g., writer’s block); succumbing to distractions; simply dreading the task at hand; and lacking confidence in your abilities, which often goes hand-in-hand with holding unrealistic expectations for oneself.  What are your specific reasons for procrastinating?  What feelings do you notice coming up in regards to a particular task?
  • Whether or not the behaviour you’ve listed is truly procrastination, or if it’s more an example of putting things off in order to ultimately increase your productivity.  Tip: if you notice yourself saying/thinking things like, “I do my best work under pressure” or “I have plenty of time to get that done!”…chances are, you’re about to engage in procrastination behaviour.

Once you’ve completed the mapping exercise, you’ll have a clearer picture of your procrastination habits and you’ll be better able to develop strategies for moving out of procrastination and towards greater productivity.  The following are examples of strategies you can use to help break your procrastination habit:

  • If you lack confidence in your abilities, find opportunities to grow your skill set – take a course, or do some research.  It might be necessary to re-assess the standards you’ve set for yourself, as well.  Perfectionism and procrastination are close companions, but perfectionistic standards are the enemy of productivity.  Remind yourself: it’s not about achieving perfection, it’s about making progress.  Progress is your goal.
  •  It’s important that the environment you’re working in is conducive to productivity, particularly if distractions are an issue for you.  Remove visual distractions, such as clutter; turn off your phone; shut the door; etc.  One of the greatest distractions for people these days is the internet and, in particular, social media sites.  If this is an issue for you, try using a program such as http://getcoldturkey.com/, which will block your access to social media sites, games, etc. for set periods of time.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a task/project and unsure of where to begin, start by breaking it down into much smaller chunks.  Asking a friend or colleague to help you with this type of planning can sometimes be helpful, particularly if you struggle with planning tasks more generally.  Chip away at the larger project, one small chunk at a time!
  • Make sure to take breaks as you work through a task.  It’s often recommended that you follow every 50 minutes of work with a 10 minute break.  Taking short, scheduled breaks can help to increase your focus during work times and mitigate feelings of overwhelm, lack of concentration, and burnout.
  • If you’re feeling creatively blocked, try changing up the scenery – go out for a walk, try working from a different room/location, or have a quick brainstorm session with a friend to “get out of your head” and try to generate some new ideas!
  • If you just hate, hate, hate the task at hand, try rewarding yourself upon completion.  The size of the reward should be comparable to your degree of productivity – if you completed several parts of the task, then you get a big reward!  If you accomplished a little bit, you get a small reward!  Another strategy is to try committing to the task for a short period of time, such as 10 minutes.  The idea here is that you commit to focusing on the task for 10 minutes and, if at the end of 10 minutes you’re still loathing it, let yourself walk away for the time being.  Oftentimes, once we get started on the dreaded task, we’re able to keep going for longer than we expected!  It’s similar to the notion that, the most challenging part of exercising is getting into your workout gear/getting out the door/getting to the gym – once you’re dressed and where you need to be, it’s usually not as bad as you were anticipating!

Here’s to your progress and productivity! 🙂


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Goal Setting: Planning for Failure is Key to Achieving Success!

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

Setting clear and achievable goals can help to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem.  When you’re working towards something that is important to you, and when you do so in a purposeful way, you are likely to feel more positively towards yourself.  Setting clear goals at the outset of any new venture – whether it be related to work, relationships, fitness, personal development, etc. – is really important; without clear goals from the very beginning, it can be easy to lose sight of what you hope to achieve, and it becomes more difficult to measure your progress along the way.  It’s for these reasons that we like to spend time discussing counselling goals with our clients in our very first meeting.

One of the frameworks that we’ve found helpful for setting healthy goals is the “S.M.A.R.T.” system.  The S.M.A.R.T. system is a well-known and effective method for goal setting; it specifies that goals should be:

Specific:  The “who, what, when, where, and why” of your goal

Measurable:  How will you determine progress? How will you know when your goal is met?

Attainable/Action-oriented:  How will you achieve your goal?  What resources will you use?  What steps will you need to take?

Realistic/Relevant: Is the goal realistic, in the sense that it is something you have control to change?  Why is the goal important to you in your life at this time?  How is it connected to your values for living?

Time-bound: By when do you plan to achieve this goal?  What is your timeline?

Each aspect of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is important and builds upon the others to strengthen and clarify your goals.  That being said, when setting goals, we’d encourage you to pay particular attention to the “R”; that is, making sure your goals are realistic and relevant.

The reason that we highlight the “R” elements is because, so often, people will set goals for themselves that are quite simply unrealistic and unachievable because they leave no room for slip-ups!  Then, as soon as they miss a day at the gym, or as soon as a disagreement happens with their spouse, it’s all out the window.  “All or nothing” goal setting simply won’t work.   In order to experience success in your goals, you must leave yourself some room for failure.  We suggest adopting an “80:20” attitude when it comes to realistic goal setting – that is, 80% of the time you will be acting in accordance with your goal, and 20% of the time you leave room for human error!  Setting realistic goals means that you’re expecting to have both good and bad days right from the outset, so when the time comes that you fall off track (and you likely will, as we all do!), you’ll be better able to view the situation as a momentary lapse, rather than taking a totalizing perspective.

The other “R” factor, relevance, is also of particular importance.  If your goals aren’t relevant or meaningful to you, then you’re less likely to achieve them.  Ask yourself:  what are my reasons for wanting this goal now?  What are my reasons for not wanting this goal now?  If it turns out that your reasons for not wanting the goal outweigh your reasons for wanting it at this time, then it may be beneficial to re-assess the goal in the first place.

Happy goal setting!


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Creating Motivation

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

People often talk about “finding” motivation.  How often had you heard someone say something like the following:  “I’ll go to the gym, just as soon as I find my motivation”, or “I finally found the motivation to clean out the garage!”?  How often have you said similar things yourself?  People talk about motivation as if it were a stable entity that they’d misplaced, like a set of keys or an old receipt!  We’re all susceptible to thinking about motivation in this way, particularly as we lead such busy lives.  However, how would our lives be different if we stopped thinking about motivation as something out there waiting to be found, and instead thought of motivation as something that we could create in our lives every day?

Here are some ideas for transforming your relationship with motivation, from one that is passive (i.e., finding motivation) to one that is active (i.e, creating motivation):

1) Do one small thing differently every day:  When it’s “same old, same old” day in and day out, the last thing you’re likely to feel is motivated.  So, change it up by doing one small thing differently each day!  For example, today you could take a different route to work, tomorrow you could try a new place for lunch, and the next day you could wear the shirt in your closet that you’ve never worn before but have been meaning to.  Doing one small thing differently each day can help you feel more invigorated and excited about your life (keyword here: small) .  And when you create excitement, you can create motivation.

2) Do things that build your self-esteem regularly:   What makes you feel good?  If you don’t know the answer to this question, try using a simple mood diary to raise awareness around your moods, including when you feel at your best.  Do you feel good about yourself when you’re socializing with friends?  When you’re exercising regularly?  When you’re being creative?  When you’re reading about topics that interest you?  When we do things that contribute to our personal well-being, we create an atmosphere of motivation in our lives.  Pay attention to what makes you feel truly good about yourself, and make it a practice to do those things more often.

3) Connect with your community:
  When we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves – when we feel that we belong somewhere – we often feel a greater sense of motivation.  Try volunteering your time to an organization or cause that is meaningful to you.  Join a club or a group that interests you.  Talk to other people about their lives and experiences.  As you seek out opportunities for connection, you are also creating motivation.

4) Live in synch with your values:
  When we live in accordance with our values, we’re more likely to feel better about ourselves and more engaged in our own lives.  When we’re purposeful about this – that is, when we pay attention to how we’re living out our values in an intentional way – then we’re even more likely to create a sense of motivation in our lives.  Try this: write a list of your top 5 values.  These might include things like honesty, connection, determination, generosity, compassion, etc.  Then, each day, pick one value that you will demonstrate in your daily goings-on.  At the end of the day, write down whatever you did to demonstrate that value.  For example, if you choose to highlight “generosity” for the day, then during the day you might decide to buy coffee for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop, or you might decide to spend an extra 5-10 minutes chatting with a friend, or you might offer a kind word to someone who appears to need it.  We create motivation when we purposefully attend to our values and our corresponding behaviours.  Every day, there are countless opportunities for living in line with our values and creating motivation in our lives!

There will always be things in life that we don’t particularly want to do (cleaning the toilet, anyone?), but when we actively create an environment of motivation in our lives, it can be easier to do those things that feel like grunt work, and we can feel more engaged in our lives overall!


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Jump Start your Routine: Try Something New!

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

Given that we’ve decided to start a brand new blog, it seemed appropriate that the theme of our first post would be around trying something new!

Clients often tell us that they feel as though their lives are in a “rut”.  They feel unsatisfied and/or bored with life as it is, but are unsure of how to change it.  People often think that getting out of a rut means doing an overhaul of their lives, which can then lead to feeling overwhelmed and, thus, not making any changes at all (and so the rut continues).

Getting out of a rut doesn’t have to mean changing up your entire life!  Even the smallest change to your routine can yield big results in terms of how you feel.  Making one small change to your regular routine can lead to increased feelings of inspiration and motivation, which can help support even greater changes down the road.

Things as simple as: taking a different route to work, trying a new type of food, waking up 15 minutes earlier, trying a new bodycare product (shampoo, soap, lotion, etc.), listening to a different radio station, etc. can be all the jump start that you need towards feeling more energized in your daily life.

If you feel like you’re in a rut, why not try doing one small new thing today and see where that leads you?