New Year New Pages

I Love the thought of a new year with 365 new pages to create, to write, to dream, to live. With a new year there are new pressures we place on ourselves, new expectations, new goals…etc. Maybe we need to take it day by day, be gentle on ourselves and ask simpler questions.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Maybe we need to ask, Did I Love enough today? Yourself and others.

laughingMaybe we need to ask, Did I Laugh enough today? Because everything changes with a little laughter.

201211-orig-deepak-chopra9-949x534Maybe we need to ask, Did I make a difference today? Because you may be the very difference someone else asked for.

Begin there. Let go of the long to do lists, the “day 1” approach, the way we beat ourselves up if we didn’t work out on “day 1” or enjoyed the holidays too much & gained 5 lbs. Be gentle. Begin to ask little questions, simple questions that will begin to move you in the inner direction you need to be going. YOU know yourself better than anyone. What do you FEEL you are missing & begin with that. Maybe you are tired—take a nap. Maybe you are “hungry” for something other than food. Maybe you need more self love. Maybe you need to laugh. Maybe you need to serve. YOU truly do know what you need to be your best for yourself and everyone around you. Begin with the little things and the bigger things will follow.

newyears-quotesyoure-brave-enough-to-start-stephen-king-quotes-sayings-pictures110549-new-year-inspirational-quotes-and-sayings-1

Begin. Day by Day. Happy New Year. Peace and Love to all.  -H

Advertisements

Exercise & its spin on depression

ImageIt’s the new year and every gym is busier than ever, so I thought this would be a good topic to talk about because it hits home with me. You always hear the benefits of exercise, but I am here to attest to the benefits it has on depression.

My husband has had swinging bouts with depression to a point where it almost ended his life & would have altered mine and my little girls forever. We struggled to find a solution that did not involve pills or long visits at a psych office, so he began working out. He began to feel better and even signed up and competed in numerous triathlons. It seems to be his magic, natural cure for the darkness. It brings out the hope of feeling good, the light that helps him deal with the stresses of life. I can literally see and feel a difference in him when he has not worked out for a week, his attitude, his irritability begin to creep in & I remind him gently that he needs to work out to feel better.

If you or someone you love struggles with depression or even a bad day, get them moving, get them doing something that will trigger the good chemicals in their body. I promise it will help.

Here are some good tips that I pulled from the Mayo clinic to help…

Try a happy hour to your health!

Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms

If you have depression or anxiety, you might find your doctor prescribing a regular dose of exercise in addition to medication or psychotherapy. Exercise isn’t a cure for depression or anxiety. But its psychological and physical benefits can improve your symptoms.

“It’s not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety,” says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

When you have depression or anxiety, exercising may be the last thing you think you can do. But you can overcome the inertia. Here’s a look at how exercise can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Plus, get realistic tips to get started and stick with exercising.

How exercise helps depression and anxiety

Exercise has long been touted as a way to maintain physical fitness and help prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other diseases. A growing volume of research shows that exercise also can help improve symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Exercise also may help prevent a relapse after treatment for depression or anxiety.

Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve symptoms of depression. However, smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — have been shown to improve mood in the short term. “So, small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it’s initially too difficult to do more,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn’t fully understood. Researchers believe that exercise prompts changes in both mind and body.

Some evidence suggests that exercise postively affects the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release tension in muscles, help you sleep better and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness.

If you exercise regularly but depression or anxiety still impairs your daily functioning, seek professional help. Exercise isn’t meant to replace medical treatment of depression or anxiety.

The benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety

Exercise has numerous psychological and emotional benefits when you have depression or anxiety. These include:

Confidence. Engaging in physical activity offers a sense of accomplishment. Meeting goals or challenges, no matter how small, can boost self-confidence at times when you need it most. Exercise also can make you feel better about your appearance and your self-worth.

Distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it’s easy to dwell on how badly you feel. But dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and cope in a healthy way. Dwelling also can make depression more severe and longer lasting. Exercise can provide a good distraction. It shifts the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise.

Interactions. Depression and anxiety can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can worsen your condition. Exercising can create opportunities to interact with others, even if it’s just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood.

Healthy coping. Doing something beneficial to manage depression or anxiety is a positive coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol excessively, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on their own aren’t helpful coping strategies.

Tips to start exercising when you have depression or anxiety

Of course, knowing that something’s good for you doesn’t make it easier to actually do it. With depression or anxiety, you may have a hard enough time just doing the dishes, showering or going to work. How can you possibly consider getting in some exercise?

Here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety:

Get your doctor’s support. Some, but not all, mental health professionals have adopted exercise as a part of their treatment suggestions. Talk to your doctor or therapist for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about an exercise program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.

Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of exercise or activities you’re most likely to do. And think about when and how you’d be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a walk in the woods or play basketball with your children after school?

Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn’t have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. Twenty minutes? Ten minutes? Start there and build up. Custom-tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet idealistic guidelines that could just add to your pressure.

Don’t think of exercise as a burden. If exercise is just another “should” in your life that you don’t think you’re living up to, you’ll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or antidepressant medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Address your barriers. Identify your individual barriers to exercising. If you feel intimidated by others or are self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise in the privacy of your own home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don’t have extra money to spend on exercise gear, do something that is virtually cost-free — walk. If you think about what’s stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn’t always easy or fun. And it’s tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don’t fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure and may as well quit entirely. Just try again the next day.

Sticking with exercise when you have depression or anxiety

Launching an exercise program is hard. Sticking with it can be even harder. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can’t or don’t want to exercise.

“What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn’t start?” Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. “You’d probably be able to very quickly list several strategies for dealing with that barrier, such as calling an auto service, taking the bus, or calling your spouse or friend for help. You instantly start problem solving.”

But most people don’t approach exercise that way. What happens if you want to go for a walk but it’s raining? Most people decide against the walk and don’t even try to explore alternatives. “With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it, forget it,’” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Instead, problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. Figure out your options — walking in the rain, going to a gym, exercising indoors, for instance.

“Some people have the idea that being physically active is supposed to be easy and natural,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. “Some think of it as just having enough willpower. But that really oversimplifies it and can make us feel like failures. You can’t just rely on willpower. Identify your strengths and skills and apply those to exercise.”

“Act as if you are and you will become such.”  -Leo Tolstoy
If you begin to believe in yourself, your possibilities and the direction you are taking your life, all will be well in health and happiness. Best wishes for new beginnings, new hopes.
-Love, Heather

Get Creative!

628383_15013214The art of a people is a true mirror of their minds. -Jawaharlal Nehru

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.

-Andre Gide

I thought since I was talking about creativity & making vision boards that I should add some additional tips and tricks to get you moving in a NEW direction. There is a lot to be said about the creativity of the soul…

Here are some suggestions taken from an article 21 Ways to Be More Creative

by Christine Kane and some other good stuff by me!!

1 – Stop watching television

Or better yet, get rid of the damn thing. Any time I teach writing or creativity, this is one of the biggies. TV is a mind-killer. It numbs you. It fills you with emotionally-charged images and over-simplified solutions. It dulls you. Turn it off. Even if this idea scares you, turn it off.

2 – Take a 20-minute walk everyday

It’s easy to become driven about exercise. You go to the Y. You go running. You think that a 20-minute walk isn’t productive or worth much. Take a 20-minute walk and allow the world to just be. Watch things. Stop and smell things. Notice birds. Let the world unfold and show itself to you.

3 – Write with pen & paper (or pencil and paper)

Keep a journal. Do morning pages. Write in long-hand. Typing on a keypad into a computer doesn’t always open up that tactile sense-loving part of us that loves to create.

4 – Write songs to your pets

5 – Dance around the House

Put on old disco (Earth, Wind, and Fire, baby!), or new Madonna, or swing. Put it on loud. Dance

around your house while you make dinner. Or start the day shakin’ your groove thang.

6 – Walk in the rain

I haven’t owned an umbrella in about 10 years. I love the rain. I love walking in it. I wrote the song Everything Green after I hiked in the mountains in the pouring rain. I was journaling about how alive everything was, and I wrote “It was all just rain and mud and wild and green.” That’s how I got my CD title. Walking in the rain can be a happy thing. (Use an umbrella if you want. Rain on umbrellas makes a good sound.)

7 – Make a collage

Magazines. Some Yes Paste. A scrapbook page and lots of crayons and paints and stickers. (And thou.) This isn’t a vision board. It doesn’t have a purpose. It’s just for fun and beauty and making something. I love collaging. I’m not great at it. But I’ve gotten better and better at laying out the page and learning what colors and shapes I love. I always feel more alive when I do one.

8 – Make a list of things you love

My song Loving Hands (on my first CD) was born out of a journal exercise I did where I just wrote a long list of all the things I love. That song remains one of my most requested songs. I had so much fun thinking of things that delight me in the world. Finding feathers, finding pennies, the sound of big flags flapping in the wind, the smell of my cat’s fur when she’s been out in the snow (she smells like a big box of wool mittens). I remember reading it to a friend of mine who just sat there smiling and nodding his head. Even though this was years ago, I still remember how much fun I had making that list.

9 – Write 10 postcards

Go pick out some really cool postcards, and then go to a cafe somewhere, and order your Genmaicha Tea (Okay, get yourself a Latte if you want) and write postcards to friends and family.

10 – Get up early and watch the sun rise

11 – Listen to music you’ve never listened to before.

After I saw the movie Tortilla Soup, I downloaded a bunch of Latin music from iTunes. One of my favorite nights in my memory this year was a hot rainy night thick with humidity. My husband and I opened up all the windows and doors. We pressure cooked (I love our pressure cooker) some black beans, shared a froo-froo mixed drink and made a fantastic dinner while all of my new Latin and Tejano music was cranked up. It was one of those really happy nights, partly because I loved discovering new music.

12 – Eat with your hands

Be a kid again. Make a meal and put the silverware back into the drawers. Eat with your hands. Have some friends over for a silverwareless dinner.

13 – Be quiet

Light a few candles after dark and just sit. Don’t meditate if you don’t want to. Just sit quietly and listen. Watch the candles. Allow for more silence in your life.

We are a noisy people. I hear people say they can’t stand silence. But it is in silence where we can hear the voice of our creativity. Maybe not at first. But it will come.

Drive with no music on. Make dinner in silence. Pay attention to your hands as you slice the veggies. Just be quiet.

14 – Take a nap

15 – Take photos. Real photos. Not digital photos.

My favorite camera is a Pentax K1000. It’s completely manual, and it’s how I learned to take pictures. I’m not very good. When I first moved to Asheville, I used to walk around town on Sundays (the whole town was closed up then) and take pictures of all the buildings. These photos are now a treasure to me because nothing is the same anymore. (Every building has been bought, remodeled and now is filled with stores that sell trickly fountains, Buddahs, and things that smell grassy.)

Take pictures of anything. And have fun in the old method of actually getting your film developed and the excitement of flipping through photos you haven’t seen yet.

16 – Make an event out of watching the full moon come up

One of the things I love about my husband is that he’s always looking for the perfect place to watch the full moon come up. He’ll make an event out of it. We pile in the car and go to this one field or to a bench on the college campus and sit and watch the moon rise.

17 – Read poetry aloud

Poetry is meant to be read aloud. The words and phrases will tilt your brain and open doors like you never thought they would. My favorites: Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, Sharon Olds, Barbara Brooks, and Alicia Suskin Ostriker. There are lots of collections of poetry if you don’t want to pick just one.

18 – Go see a play or live music or live anything

Get out of the house and experience creativity. Avoid mega-blockbuster-Hollywood movies whose trailers begin with the deep gravelly voice saying, “IN A WORLD_” (And then bombs go off and Mel Gibson appears)

Live performance is an exchange. As an audience member you get to participate. I know this because I perform. Every night is different. Everything is about the audience. You receive so much more energy from live shows. Go see the symphony, even the small local symphony. See a play. See some improv. There is so much life on a stage, so many improvisational moments, so much about authenticity. You can’t help but take it in.

19 – Visit a gallery

See another artist’s creation. The downtown of any city is bound to have some great galleries. You don’t have to buy anything. Just experience the artistry of someone gifted in glass blowing or pottery or woodwork.

20 – Write a letter

When was the last time you wrote a letter? I just got a long letter from one of the women who participated in my last retreat. It was funny. And it was fun to read. And I kept thinking, “Damn. It’s been too long since I’ve experienced this.” Every time I write a letter, I feel clearer and happier. Not only is it more fun to make something for someone else, it’s also just a way to get out of yourself.

21 – Stop watching television

This is an important one. It bears repeating. There are so many better things you can do than watch American Idol

I hope during this time of reflecting on a new year that you will take the time to create, to go within to understand yourself better and know that divine gifts lie within.
Best wishes for a creative January.
-Heather

Tap into the vision for your life

VisionBoard2012VisionJon2012VisionKate2012

IT IS A NEW YEAR! the energy, the timing, the need to organize, to begin again seems to play in the air. This year I had my little family sit down and create individual vision boards. Needless to say, they were very resistant and not very excited to begin such a creative process. I had to guilt my husband into the experience & my nine-year-old whined “noooo!” Yet, after begging and pleading, we all sat down and plowed through a large stack of a variety of magazines.

It was such a fun process to see my little girl get excited about all the animal pictures she could find. Rip, tear, cheers and big smiles, as she found pictures that resonated with her heart. She has always loved animals, but this year she made and sold bookmarks for the World Wildlife Fund, constantly makes wishes & prays for the animals safety, and whenever we visit a zoo gift shop she seeks out the stuffed animal that will make a donation to an animal cause. Her heart has been centered around giving & learning about animals, so it was fun to see her work for hours on a project that she ended up embracing and loving.

My husband sat quietly tearing, while I anxiously waited to see his creation. Every detail spoke of his innate loves—images of triathlons, cooking and flyfishing filled the board. His work has been very stressful, so it only made sense that his deep inner spirit yearns for play, for passion, for things he loves and enjoys.

My images ended up telling me of my need for change, adventure, my desire to be surrounded by nature, to travel, to be quiet.

I wouldn’t have pushed my family to do this activity if I didn’t whole-heartedly believe in the creative process of our subconscious minds. There is a magic, a knowing that seems to exist when we just allow our creative desires to come. The subconscious is a very powerful tool that we tend to overlook or think it may be a little “whoo-whoo.” There is so much that is unknown, something that no one talks about because of the unfamiliarity of the mere chance that someone will mis-interpret our view point or belief.

I have always thought about the depths and power of our mind, but never truly understood or experienced the potential guidance our subconscious holds. This is a great story that taps into how powerful the vision of your life truly is…

I was attending my first women’s retreat coach training in Colorado. There were about twenty women in attendance, none of whom I had ever met. For our first meeting together I was sitting near a beautiful, african-american women (the only one in the group). Our first assignment was to one by one got to a stack of pictures that were upside down on a nearby table, pick one and then sit down. I was curious to know what this had to do with retreating, but I followed along and selected my picture. None of us were to look at the images until everyone had chosen one. We were then broken into groups of five women and we each turned over our images. Well, before I turned my image over I sat in amazement as the beautiful women next to me had chosen a image of a african-american woman holding a small child. She got a little emotional and explained to me that she had one little daughter and the image touched her so. I was shocked by the seemingly beautiful magic that was happening. How else could this happen unless we have a innate, inner knowing of what our souls desire is–it longs to share a deep, inner knowing, a guidance.

Needless to say, I was eager to see my image. I slowly turned over my magazine page and there was a young, blonde boy flyfishing up on a rock. I began to weep. It was like a vision of my husband as a young boy. It looked just like him. I even have a similar picture of him up on a rock flyfishing. It was unbelievable. My husband had recently been struggling with some personal depression, so the image touched me. It was as if it was reading my heart, my love for him, but I did not understand why it was affecting me so much that I was sobbing uncontrollably. I thought for a minute and then it hit me with an even deeper surge of emotion. It was the very day that one year earlier my sweet husband had taken a gun, wrote me a goodbye letter and drove to the mountains to take his life. I wept. I wept at the very thought that my soul had such a spiritual connection. I wept knowing how different my life would be without this amazing man in my life. It was then that I realized the power and knowing of the subconscious mind. How else would I have been drawn to this image?

It was a very powerful personal lesson for me. One that will always stay with me and remind me of the innate gifts and powers that are given to us to help guide us in all we do.

CREATE YOUR OWN VISION BOARD

I wish for you at this time that you will gift yourself the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of what your soul needs and desires. Take the time to create your own vision board. Take the time to nurture your souls desires by taking the necessary steps to make this a beautiful experience. You may not understand some of the images and why you are drawn to them, but do not dismiss the message. There may be something within you that is trying to get your attention and longs for you to see it.

Get a variety of magazines—you can pick some up at thrift stores or buy a variety as a gift to yourself. Say a quiet prayer of inspiration and guidance. Go through each magazine and rip out ANY image that you are drawn to–words, colors, someone who looks fit, a couch cushion that you like, etc. Then go through them again to FEEL which ones you desire to include on your board. Then cut and arrange them on a piece of foam-core board. Put the vision board somewhere that will inspire you. Look at it often & seek any inspiration that it shares with you.

This exercise is to help you find a deeper understanding of your soul’s desire, your personal vision for your life, what is needed and essential for your personal growth. Take the time. Do the work. Create. Enjoy the gifts life has to offer.

-Love and Best Wishes. Heather