Benefits of Gratitude

“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.”  (Harry Hepner, from The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude; S. Breathnach, 1996).

So there it is….the key to happiness, or certainly one of them, is gratitude, and science can back it up! An article in Harvard Health Publishing (online) called “In Praise of Gratitude” reports that two psychologists conducted research by asking participants i20171009_160129n three groups to record daily what they were grateful for, irritated by, or felt neutral about; those who recorded what they were grateful for were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and exercised more. Other research described in the same article reported that gratitude can improve relationships by increasing positive feelings about the person, the relationship in general, and by fostering greater comfort in talking about concerns within the relationship (

In fact, almost everything I came across in my research suggested writing down what we are grateful for, as in using a gratitude journal. “Recording these positive experiences boosts levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy, especially when compared to those who recorded or focused on negative events. Research shows that recording experiences for which one is grateful for only two consecutive weeks has lasting positive effects sustained for up to six months. It therefore behooves us to keep a gratitude journal (Dr. Randy Kamen, online: The Transformative Power of Gratitude

The article also goes on to describe other ways of cultivating gratitude including practicing a gratitude meditation, which trains the mind for greater positivity.  Our thoughts have the power to shape our brains! Negative thoughts are like Velcro (they stick), and positive ones are like Teflon (slide away), so the more you practice gratitude, the more new neural pathways in your brain you will create – we need to actively focus on the positive thoughts and experiences more in order to make them stick!

So what is gracanstockphoto6880387titude? According to Robert Emmons, a leading expert on gratitude, says “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received….In the second part of gratitude, he explains, ‘we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives’” (online: What is Gratitude? Emmons also explains how expressing gratitude can block negative emotion, as seen in this short You Tube clip:

Gratitude helps us in other ways as well. Better energy and self-esteem, improved self-care, improved immune function and decreased blood pressure, among others (The Transformative Power of Gratitude, online – see above link).


Gratitude overlaps with generosity and the practice of mindfulness. Gratitude has the mindset of I have (as opposed to I don’t have) which shifts our attention from being driven to be busy, to one of peace and contentment, say Wolf and Serpa in their book A Clinician’s guide to Teaching Mindfulness, 2015). Once we believe we have enough, giving becomes more spontaneous, which in turns circles back to how gratitude can enhance relationships. And on a mindful note, the best time to practice gratitude is the present – when you are actually experiencing it – being present and mindful in your day-to-day life.

“…. If what we are now has been the result of our past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act”.  (Swami Vivekananada, 1863-1902, India. From 1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom, Lark, L., 2008, p. 49). If you want experience contentment and feel better about your life….practice gratitude!

If you want to download an app to remind you about gratitude, try this Please take the time to watch this short video on gratitude – worth the 5 minutes:

Thank you for reading this blog 🙂




My first love was Elvis Presley, or maybe it was Chico from 70s sitcom Chico and the Man, then came The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors – hubba hubba), followed by The Fonz (maybe I just thought he was cool?!), and don’t even get me started on the Rod Stewart years! (woops – that’s Sir Rod Stewart now). Like most people, my heart has been profoundly broken a couple of times (although not by any of the fine gentlemen named above!), and it is enough to make one wish that love didn’t even exist. 

Yes, love can be e3222194739_9d1aaed24b_nxcruciating (there’s even a themed museum  (, but its is also necessary; some might say necessary for our very survival. Dr. Gabor Mate ( suggests the need for love and belonging/acceptance is our greatest need (The Biology of Loss, two-day conference, November 2016, Shediac, NB). The famous American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, gave us the Hierarchy of Needs back in the 40s/50s, suggesting that once our basic physical needs (food, water, safety, etc.) have been met, it is love and belonging we seek, and require if we are to move up the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualization (

Perhaps that explains why even after painful losses in love, and/or other significant relationships, we humans continue to seek out other attachments. Wemaslow need to attach to survive socially, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. The quality and degree of attachment infants have to their mothers in infancy and early childhood not only lays the blueprint for all other attachments/relationships in that baby’s future, it also impacts brain development (

“Attachment is at the heart of relationships and social functioning” (Neufeld & Mate, Hold On to Your Kids, 2004, p. 17). They go on to say attachment is the pursuit and preservation of proximity and connection: physically, emotionally, behaviourally and psychologically. Dr. Pat Ogden, in her 2015 book Sensorimotor Psychotherapy describes attachment as a strong emotional connection we feel with certain people that endures over time and can include parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and romantic partners (p. 66). 

Of course babies, at least mammalian babies, cannot survive on their own, and need to support of their mothers in order to live and grow, and become independent adults themselves. Attachment is a biologically built-in mechanism for survival, which explains why being rejected by a love interest, or a friend group can be so devastating, and why we somehow find resilience to give love another try. Why else would there be so many songs, poems, and other art-forms about love/heartache and or the joy of love? We need it on so many levels, and like the old saying goes….. “love makes the world go ’round.” As for what happens when we don’t get or give love….well that’s for another blog, but let’s just say it doesn’t have a happy ending. So, enjoy what’s left of St Valentine’s Day, and don’t give up on love…your very survival depends on it! In the meantime, check out this Ted Talk on the science of love:

Or…check out these links to great love songs…….   Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen    At Last, Etta James    You Belong to Me, Bryan Adams    Wicked Game, Chris Isaac  Ho Hey, The Lumineers     Love Hurts, Nazareth   Leonard Cohen, Bobby Bazini    I Love Myself Today, Bif Naked    I Think I Love You, The Partridge Family   I Will Always Love You, Dolly Parton    Love Is, Andy Gibb     Silly Love Songs, Paul McCartney     I Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley    Love Me Tender, Norah Jones (Elvis cover)




Feel Better from the Outside In

You don’t need to hit the gym for an hour, or run 10 k to reap the mood-enhancing effects of exercise. It only takes five minutes to the lift a negative mood state (American Psychological Association. Online: The exercise effect. 2011   A few minutes per day of light or moderate exercise can have lasting positive effect on one’s mental health, especially if it’s outdoors.


How does exercise do this? Without all the biochemical details – it’s the mind-body connection and brain chemicals at work, triggered by movement. Exercise increases neurotransmitters associated with mood, the feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin – the same ones affected  by anti-depressant/anxiety medication).

You can do almost anything for five minutes, right? So how about a walk? Not only does it take just five minutes, but breaking down your goals into small micro steps also increases your mood due to the small and consistent sense of accomplishment or success accompanying completion of the goal, or part thereof (see info re. dopamine’s connection to goals and motivation here

For example, set a small goal of walking, or gardening, or even washing your car by hand for a few minutes, then re-evaluate to see if you want to continue. You could try marching on the spot, taking the stairs, or put on your favourite tunes and spend a few minutes dancing…..just do something physically active and commit to it for five minutes. A few minutes a day can be beneficial. You don’t have to buy a gym membership, or attend intense weekly boot camp classes (but if that’s your thing, by all means go for it!). Start small and find some kind of movement you enjoy. I can tell you from my own personal experience, as well as from my professional perspective – exercise absolutely helps improve mood.

A 2004 article in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing concludes: “Exercise improves mental health and well-being, reduces depression and anxiety and enhances cognitive functioning. Although exercise seems to improve the quality of life of those living with mental health problems, its value is seldom recognized by mainstream mental health services. The evidence suggests that exercise may be a neglected intervention in mental health care ” (Callaghan, P., p. 482).


According to researchers who analyzed results of multiple studies “Exercise is a magic drug for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, and it should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers…” (Southern Methodist Universty, Texas. Online in Science Daily –  My own family doctor once told me that exercise is the cure for everything. He might be onto something!

I saw a tweet a few months back that said “The best time to go for a walk is when you don’t feel like it.” If we always waited until we felt like it, lots of things probably wouldn’t get done and nothing would change. A common expression I frequently say to myself and my clients is that if you keep doing the same things, you will get the same results, so if you want things to change (your mood, weight, relationship, job, energy, etc.), you have to do something differently. Period. And, you probably won’t feel like it. So what. Do it anyway.  Who doesn’t feel better after a walk? And for further inspiration please watch this Ted Talk. It’s worth the 21 minutes!

For more information on exercise and mental health, please see the following links:

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Food – Mood Connection

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.


Hippocrates – the ancient Greek physician, is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine (Wikipedia). Thousands of years later, his words are more relevant than ever with so much of our food being heavily processed and packaged, it’s hardly recognizable as natural food. It reminds me of another great quote from more recent times: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That comes from Michael Pollan’s 2008 book In Defense of Food where he describes exactly what he means by food – food is what our great grandparents would recognize as food. Before the pharmaceutical age, herbs, spices, and other edible plants were used in the form of tinctures, teas, and poultices for healing. Currently in my possession is a medfoodical text book over 100 years old written by doctors from all over the world, and it’s filled with remedies involving herbs and other plants, and includes hand-drawn diagrams for identification. It also  recommends fresh air, water, adequate sleep and exercise for good health. While the advice may be simple, it’s not always easy to achieve, or to maintain if you’re already doing it. With technology, sedentary lifestyles and processed food being the new norm, it can be a challenge to  remember and implement the simple advice from both old and ancient times; practices that could mean the difference between healthy weight and obesity, between feeling foggy and thinking clearly, or between feeling anxious and jittery and feeling calm. You might be thinking food doesn’t have much impact on your emotional state, but more and more it is being proven there is a connection between food and mood.

“Brain function is directly influenced by what you eat, and by nutritional deficiencies, allergens, infections, toxins, and stress” (Hyman, 2008, p. 22).

In his book, The UltraMind Solution, Dr. Hyman also explains that recent discoveries about how behaviour, mood and mental functioning are linked to biology; further advances are finding how our thoughts, feelings and life experiences actually shape our brains and influence our biology (p. 20). The brain, like the rest of the body, requires nutrients to function. By nutrients, I mean food that is nutritious and includes all the biochemical components of vitamins, minerals, and is composed of  carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Yes, fats! The healthy ones, omega-3s and such like you find in nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish. The brain is about 60% fat (see link below for reference), so it’s best to give it a steady stream of healthy fats to maintain optimal functioning. In fact, the article explains that studies have shown low levels of cholesterol (a fat) are associated with depression, aggression and antisocial behaviour. Omega-3s, it explains, are valuable in treating depression and other psychiatric disorders. The brain also needs a steady stream of glucose, but not the refined stuff you get in pop or cake, glucose from fresh fruit and vegetables, and healthy, whole grains. The more processed the food, the fewer actual nutrients it contains. Nutritional deficiencies significantly contribute to many forms of ill health and disease, both physical and psychological.The “livescience” link below has more great info on brain food.

Another great resource on this topic is the book featured below; it also comes as a card pack, which is the version I own, and use regularly with clients in my private practice. Dr. Amen, through diagrams and plain language, describes the areas of the brain involved in depression, anxiety, attention issues, and obsessiveness and the nutrition recommended to better manage these issues and reduce symptoms. As a quick example – for anxiety and attenChange Your Brain Change Your Lifetion issues (as in ADHD), high protein and low carbohydrate foods are recommended because they stabilize blood sugar. For depression he recommends a high carbohydrate diet because carbohydrates (healthy carbs – whole grains, fruit and veg) promote serotonin production, and serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter; and for obssessiveness/being stuck, more healthy fats are advised (such as nuts, seeds, fish oil, olive oil and avocado). Of course it’s important to remember to take a balanced approach and just because high protein may be good for anxiety, your brain and body still need nutrients that come from other sources like fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. Reducing or eliminating refined sugar and caffeine is also helpful. Equally important is understanding how alcohol can aggravate anxiety and depression, so be mindful of your intake, and consider the benefits of reducing or eliminating it. 

To sum up, a healthy balanced diet is important for physical and mental health….what we put into our stomachs does impact how we feel emotionally. A healthy, balanced diet includes fruit and vegetables, protein (meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans), whole grains (brown or wild, rice, quinoa, oats, etc.), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil), and remember food is what your great grandparents would recognize as food. Limit refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and stay well hydrated with clean water. 

It has often been said (in too many places for me to reference them all!) that the stomach is the second brain. Listen to it.

“There is an incredible healing power within each of us that knows exactly where each of our ailments is and knows exactly what to do to correct them. That healing power is available to you at little cost and in unlimited quantities.” (Dr. John Matsen, N.D., Eating Alive).


For more information about this topic, or for other counselling and wellness issues, please contact me at   or visit my web site at

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Making Changes

Every year in January many people make New Year’s Resolutions; they flock to the gyms, and go on diets in an effort to lose weight, get in shape, or change their lives some how for the better. People who work at gyms and yoga studios and so on will tell you how busy the month of January can be. After a few weeks, the busyness trickles off, and things go back to normal. Change is hard. Very hard, which is why starting out with very small goals (or resolutions) and continuing to build on your small successes is more likely to produce the outcomes you want – over a much longer period of time. When you set a goal for yourself, you are in control of manifesting that goal (mostly) as opposed to change that happens beyond your control (downsizing at work, illnesses or accidents, for example). You might want to lose 20 pounds in a month, or at least look like you did, but extreme efforts tend to be impossible to maintain, and goals and lifestyle changes are all about the maintenance. If you want to maintain something – healthier eating habits or exercise, and be able to incorporate it into your life, then start small and make it a gradual process that you can build on. If you want to start walking, then try it for 15 minutes two or three times per week. Once you have incorporated that, then build on it – maybe it’s 20 minutes three times per week. If you want to eat healthier, try adding one glass of water and one fruit or vegetable every day for a week, while picking something small to reduce or eliminate. The following week, reduce/eliminate one more thing and add one more fruit or vegetable. Breaking goals down into smaller pieces both in terms of the outcomes and time frames, will help you reach your goals in a way that promotes maintenance. Being able to reach your goals and maintain the outcomes will also be beneficial for your mental health by improving confidence and self-efficacy. Your self-talk or internal dialogue may be more positive, encouraging and less judgmental, leading to further maintenance via positive reinforcement.

In my private practice, I often have this conversation with clients who know they need to improve their mental or physical health in some way, but they frequently want it all and they want it yesterday! This is not because they are greedy or don’t want to do the work, it’s more because of standards or expectations they set for themselves that are unreasonable high and too hard to achieve. Many people unknowingly set themselves up for disappointment, and ultimately think of themselves as failures, or unable to follow through, perpetuating unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours. Set yourself up for success by breaking your goals into smaller, more doable pieces. Think tortoise and hare approach or less is more. For some people, the slowing down is the challenge. If you recognize that you have an all or nothing thinking style and approach to things, then slowing down and breaking things down into smaller pieces will be an added challenge to the actual goal, but well worth the effort. Think of your goal, or change, as a process rather than an event:  a metamorphosis.


Learn to tolerate any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings that you may not be doing enough, or doing it right, etc. Relaxation techniques such as those found on my Resources page can help with this (

Change takes time….a long time – that is maintaining a change so that it becomes your new normal. It’s longer than you think, although the typical 21 days is a good start. According to the research cited in the article link below, it takes 66 days before a new behaviour becomes a habit. Variations depend on the behaviour and the person, of course. I like this article because it addresses the balanced approach, and discusses the dangers of all or nothing approaches.

Change is so hard, Prochaska actually developed a theory around it to help us understand and achieve it better. There are five stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance (×675.jpg)


If you’re thinking about making some healthy changes in your life, remember to be gentle with yourself. Change is hard, and it takes time for new behaviours to become habits that are fully incorporated and automatic in your life. Break it down into smaller elements and gradually build on your micro-successes. Breathe. For more information or help with change, please visit my web site (, or contact me to book an appointment.

Dianne 🙂

Healthy Boundaries

A book I frequently recommend to clients, Better Boundaries, by Jan Black and 20151009_160245-1(2)Greg Enns, states that healthy boundaries are needed in order to value and own yourself and your life. “Personal boundaries are a set of flexible and inflexible limits [established by you] that let good in and keep bad out” (Black & Enns, p. 13). Here are two more definitions:

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.

A limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends.

So if boundaries are needed in order to value and own yourself and your life – how do we get them? And, if boundaries are so important, why do so many of us seem to struggle with either creating them or maintaining them?

Whatever boundaries we have, we probably learned them from our families of origin or early caregivers. The norms of our families informally throughout our lives and from our families’ cultures and dynamics. If you grew up in a situation where very few boundaries were in place and/or respected, then you may be unaware that your boundaries are being crossed, or that you are crossing the boundaries of others. Perhaps there were no choices for you, or the opposite – no structure at all and you are unaware of your own or other people’s limits and boundaries. If you came from the kind of family where children had little or no voice, where feelings and opinions were not encouraged,  you may struggle with assertiveness, feel powerless at times and unable to speak up for yourself. You may also have hard time saying no to people, feel like you have no say, or that everyone else comes first.  In homes where there was any form of abuse, boundaries are often weak or non-existent. It is possible though, to learn boundaries through other more positive experiences. As you get older and more independent, you might see healthy boundaries in place in other environments and adopt those ways for yourself. Boundaries can be learned at any time, as long as you are aware you have the right to personal boundaries.

Boundaries are closely related to assertiveness; by having personal boundaries in place, you will be more likely to assert yourself. Boundaries demonstrate to you and to others that you have self-respect and self-worth, which are important components of health and happiness. By adopting a self-care philosophy that demonstrates to you and those around you that you value and respect your self, you can improve self-worth and when you treat yourself better, you won’t settle for less from others. You will also be more compassionate toward others, but with boundaries in place you won’t become absorbed in their problems.

It takes courage to make changes like these if you’re not accustomed to having personal boundaries in place, saying no to people’s requests and demands, and allowing yourself time to care of you. The first step is knowing you have the right to personal boundaries. Read more about the role boundaries can play in your life, and start implementing some small changes that can help you feel stronger.

For tips on assertiveness, visit this web site:

For more information about my counselling services, please visit my web site at



I’m not sure where or when I first heard the term self-compassion, but it was a bit of an epiphany. When I mention it to clients, I see the same curious look on their faces. Somehow, believing we need to be nearly perfect, and beating ourselves up when we’re not, has become exceedingly common, and I see it as being very destructive. Lack of self-compassion is creating a culture of anxiety-ridden, over-achievers who are making themselves sick. Literally. I had a psychology professor who talked a lot about “the tyranny of the shoulds,” a term coined by the famous psychoanalyst Dr. Karen Horney (pronounced “aye”), which essentially refers to the hopeless search for our perfect selves and the self-hatred that results when we cannot reach that standard. Out of curiosity, I googled the word tyranny: “cruel and oppressive government or rule.” Sometimes I ban the word should from my office. Words are powerful…try replacing should with want, as in “I want to go to the gym.”

selfcompassionSelf-compassion is not self-pity. One of the better known experts in the area of self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff, who describes self-compassion as the act of being loving, kind and understanding with yourself when faced with your own shortcomings and inadequacies the same as you would to someone else, a loved one, for example. The next time you feel angry at yourself for something, imagine your best friend telling you that very same thing; What would you say to her or him? Now, say that to yourself. This may not be easy; Being hard on ourselves is ingrained in our thought patterns, like unconscious, deep-seated beliefs about ourselves that are for the most part, untrue and dysfunctional. It will take practice. That’s ok. Instead of trying to be nearly perfect, remember, you are merely human.

Dr. Neff’s web site, with further information  6011773fb6015eaabff54faaf840a0feand resources, can be accessed via this link

I want to leave you with a poem by Derek Walcott, which I think gives us inspiration and food for thought on the topic of self-compassion.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

For more information on my counselling services, please visit my web site at






Zen Gardening

Ok, it’s after the full moon in June, the garden centres are booming and blooming, and now there’s proof that gardening is good for you! Not only is it good physical exercise, but gardening is also good for your mental health too, as it improves mood and cognitive functioning As a green thumb zen gardener, this is welcome news! In terms of my work, it’s also great because it gives me one more tool in my toolbox of suggestions for clients on ways to feel better.


Anyone who has ever taken up gardening knows you just feel better while interacting with nature. And while I’m on the topic of nature, between increased societal fears (i.e. letting children play outside) and technology, we now have an unofficial condition called “nature deficit disorder.” The term was coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, where he describes a set of symptoms similar to ADHD and depression, primarily attributed to a lack of physical activity and exposure to the outdoors.

But back to gardening; The benefits of gardening are so definitive they created a therapy for it – “horticulture therapy.” Horticulture therapy is being used in hospitals to expedite the healing process of patients as wells as in jail to calm the inmates (

In addition to being good exercise, research has proven the following benefits of gardening:

Even the dirt is good for us!! Seriously, Mycobacterium vaccae is a harmless bacteria found in soil and has been shown to have similar anti-depressant affects as medication in mice (


You don’t have to have a big garden to reap the benefits of this do-it-yourself therapy…just a couple of potted plants can make a difference. Try house plants, or a couple of potted summer flowering plants, or maybe herbs that are easy to grow like basil and oregano. I have a container garden (see photos) and just today I made hummus and added chives and lemon balm from my garden. Tomorrow, I’m making pesto with my garden-fresh basil, and soon will be munching on lettuce I grew myself.  Dead-heading flowers is the real zen for me though 🙂

So get outside, get your hands dirty, and improve your health, your heart, and your mood. As an added bonus, do your gardening mindfully – really focus on your senses, really seeing the plants, feeling the dirt, smelling the aromas.

Happy gardening! For more information on horticulture therapy, see these links:

To find pout more about my health and wellness philosophy, my counselling or workshops, please visit my web site at

Yes to Yoga

The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke, or to harness/unite (the self with the supreme being – Collins Canadian English Dictionary). The practice of yoga is an ancient Hindu spiritual discipline that free-outdoor-yoga-westchesterintegrates body, mind and spirit through various breathing techniques, postures (asanas), and meditation. Yoga postures provide an excellent means for improving fitness and vitality, while the breathing and meditation provide the overall calming effect on the human organism. Of course there is much more to yoga, but for the purposes of this blog, I will focus on how yoga is being used to treat trauma (including PTSD), and other forms of anxiety, and how the practice itself  is a great teaching tool and resource in the field of mental health.

For some time now, Western medicine has mostly treated the mind and body as separate entities in terms of mental and physical illness. We know now, of course, this is not the case. 75-90% of visits to doctors’ offices are for stress -related ailments (Mood Disorder Society of Canada, 2009). The same study found that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in Canada. Anxiety disorders refer to general anxiety, phobias, PTSD/trauma, OCD, and panic disorder. The most common treatments are a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication. However, more and more, the word about the benefits of yoga to treat mental illness is getting out, as indicated by this news report below from January:

How does yoga work to help people with anxiety-related disorders such as PTSD? According to Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, internationally renowned speaker, author, trauma expert, and founder of The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, yoga – specifically the out breaths, facilitates a more balanced heart-rate variablity, thereby calming the mind and body. A calm body and mind promotes self-awareness and mindfulness, a necessary component in the healing process. You can’t heal without awareness, and you can’t have awareness without mindfulness, and focusing on breath facilitates mindfulness (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine; Webinar Series, 2014). It’s like a really, really good chain reaction. Van der Kolk also reports that in his study published in the Journal if Clinical Psychiatry (2014), “Yoga significantly reduced PTSD symptomatology, with effect sizes comparable to well-researched psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacologic approaches. Yoga may improve the functioning of traumatized individuals by helping them to tolerate physical and sensory experiences associated with fear and helplessness and to increase emotional awareness and affect tolerance.”

In many locations across the country, yoga is also being used to treat Canadian Forces members diagnosed with PTSD (a simple google search will find many references for this), and the Ottawa Anxiety and Trauma Clinic also offers yoga classes specifically created to treat people struggling with the symptoms of traumatic stress.

An article in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice (Uebelacker et al. 2010), reports that “Yoga may be an attractive alternative to or a good way to augment current depression treatment strategies…”

For mental health practitioners, encouraging clients struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, yoga may be a way for them to enhance their recovery and better cope with symptoms by facilitating the awareness and mindfulness necessary for healing. Of course, as with any new exercise regimen, it is always a good idea to consult a physician beforehand, especially for those unaccustomed to physical exertion.

I could really go on and on about this, but I’ll sum up by saying whether it’s anxiety or depression, or anything all all that is having a negative impact on your health, say “Yes” to Yoga!


Dianne Birt – Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) 200

For more information and statistics on mental illness in Canada, see this report called  “Quick Facts: Mental Illness & Addiction in Canada” which can be viewed at this link.

To find out more about my private practice and counselling services, please visit my web site at


Mind Your Health

In order to better work holistically with my clients and have a more formal foundation in mindfulness and meditation, I have been taking the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course through UPEI’s Office of Skills Development and Learning (awesome and I highly recommend it). How is mindfulness defined? “Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing” (Jon Kabat-Zinn).

As I approach the eighth and final class, I want to share the seven “Attitudinal Foundations” of mindfulness: Non-judging; Patience; Beginner’s Mind; Trust; Non-striving; Acceptance; Letting go. There’s really too much to explain it all here, so I’ve summed it up as best I can in the following poem:

Mind Your Health

Mind your health with a healthy mind
Lean on a friend, be someone who is kind
Minds may wander, a fact through and through
Life happens in moments, that’s always been true
Take time for yourself to breathe and just be
Feel what you feel, the truth sets you free
Slow down, be still, be quiet, meditate
Please don’t strive, and do not concentrate
Nourish your body and feed your soul
Find patience and acceptance
Avoid the hole
Be one with nature in the rain and sunlight
Hear snowflakes fall and see autumn leaves bright
Let go of judgement of self and other
Without trust, a heart might smother
Be true to yourself in your heart and mind
And good health will be yours, I’m sure you will find


For more information about my private practice and counselling services, please visit my web site at

Dianne 🙂