Posts tagged #mental health

Stressed Out? Try "Forest Bathing"

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I have this habit of spending the vast majority of my time indoors. I even semi-jokingly refer to myself as “indoorsy,” preferring to spend my free time inside rather than out in nature. But often, I find myself feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. A high-stress life of modern society can leave one feeling frazzled and depleted. When we get caught up in our daily lives hustling from one task to the next, not only does our nervous system get tired, but we can experience a sort of “tunnel vision” that has us only half experiencing life.

Here in Eugene, I feel so fortunate to live somewhere with such abundant greenspace. Just being able to sit by the Willamette and soak in the sights and sounds of nature is a little magical.  And as the weather slowly warms up and the sun peeks through the clouds, spending time outside in Oregon becomes even more enjoyable. Even my “indoorsy” self has something to enjoy outside here: the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.”

“Forest Bathing” is the idea that spending time in the forest (or whatever natural setting you might find yourself near) can positively influence your health. Proponents of Shinrin-yoku claim that the connection with our natural surroundings promotes mental and physical well-being.  Through mindfulness, observation, and sensory exploration, forest bathing can help lower stress and bring mental clarity. In studies, test subjects who took a 40-minute slow walk in a forest showed lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who did the same physical activity in a lab setting. Pretty neat, huh?

Shinrin-yoku, at its core, does not only provide benefit to the individual, but also to the forest. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) describes Forest Therapy as:

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

Now, I’m not usually one to feed into pseudoscience, but this makes some sense. It comes down to compassion for your surroundings-- when you benefit from your surroundings in a meaningful way, you tend to take care of it more. Regular Forest bathing walks provide you with a firsthand account of the health and welfare of your surroundings.  Is there trash everywhere? Can you hear birds and other wildlife? Having a mindful experience in nature opens you to small details you might otherwise miss, and gives you the opportunity to take action to take care of the environment which you find yourself in. You win, the forest wins, the birds win-- everyone wins!

The next time you find yourself depleted or stressed, take time to find nature and experience Shinrin-yoku for yourself.  Interested in learning more about Shinrin-yoku? Visit the link below for articles and lots more information from the ANFT.

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Healthy Living.

Vision and Positive Change

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I am a big proponent of challenge and growth. Like a video game, I sit down, focus, and make an attack plan to make it to the next level. Inevitably, I level up—which feels amazing, but once I feel comfortable on that level I can sometimes feel lost. How could I work so hard and so focused to only end up lost?

Well, It turns out I wasn't as focused as I thought. Ouch, ego blow! I guess I am just going to have to dust myself off,  and come up with a better action plan! So, what is this woman talking about? Valid question...

Have A Clear Vision: I think this is where a lot of us can begin to get lost. It's easy to say, "I want things to be better!" "I want to make more money." "I want to be a faster runner." But in what way specifically do you want things to improve? A dear friend of mine always asks, "What are the measurables?" You may be asking," What the heck does that mean?!" But it's quite obvious. What can be measured. What data/information is present? What do you want to see change?  For example; Say, "I want to increase my monthly income to $X dollars a month... or... I want to increase my client retention X% this quarter...or I want to decrease my mile time when running." The fun with visualization is you get to make the rules. It's your vision. Go nuts! Dream Big! Why not? And write it down...somewhere you can go back and find it. That's key. It feels really good to go back and see what you wrote down and see how far you have come.

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Support The Vision: Spend time daily. Even if it's 1 minute or 10 minutes. Call it meditation, or prayer, or write it down, or have mantra you say out loud. It sound weird, but it's important. Tell the  people in your circle; friends, family, coworkers.  This creates accountability, which may feel like pressure. But to make a diamond of coal we need pressure. Pressure can also be called motivation. This feeling of pressure is in your mind. Which can be challenging in it's own right. Then, like your Vision, you remember, "Hey, this is mine! I am manifesting change and it feels hard. And that's OK!  Much of what is worth doing is not easy. It takes determination. You will not regret working hard. You will not regret staying focused. You will not regret being loyal to your vision. Conversely, walking away from your vision (because it feels difficult) may create a path of regret or self defeat. Good news though, it is completely natural to loose focus, and the gift with energy and thought is it's never to late to star all over again!

Open your your heart and mind for the change:  Open yourself up to the notion that you could be experiencing greater success. Yes, this may be sounding a bit "self-helpy/cheesy",  but it's a necessary step. It's difficult because it's not an A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 situation. It's not cut and dry. I can admit this part was challenging for me since I'm a  Type A person who prefers consistency and clear cut path.  But once I decided I was all in with my vision I rolled up my sleeves and asked myself, "OK, what can I do differently today?" One of my recent vision goals was to increase my retention percentage in a recent quarter. I'm going to be real honest here; it was a bit of an ego blow to acknowledge that I needed to improve in this department. You see, I fancy myself quite talented in my trade and thought, "Hmpff! Me need to improve?! But I was killing it! Right?!?" Oops! Looks like I had allowed myself to get a little too comfortable. Ouch! Again, it is not easy to admit this to you. I have spiritual practice and part of it revolves around the letting go of the ego. Well, the joke was on me.  (Insert Laughing at self! Hahaha!) And in the spirit being really honest, I was not initially laughing. I was irritated!  But, I looked myself square in face (literally and metaphorically) and  asked myself why I had this resistance? Why was I limiting myself...Oh Boy! Eureka! That was it! I realized I was placing limitations on my potential. Upon seeing this I was then open to acknowledge that I was a little scared. That's all...just a bit of fear.

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Put The Vision To Work: Make that dream do some heavy lifting. Treat it like a science experiment. This is the fun part. What I loved about this process was I could just pick one thing at a time, and simply try it. Then sit back and see what happens. I looked at my daily work practice and tore it apart. I consulted with others in my field, asked questions and tried new things. For example, as a massage therapist we do a lot of listening. I made a specific goal to ask more open ended questions and listened better. I followed through with clear questions about the clients' expectation for the massage. And when the appointment was over I asked direct questions about  the issues originally brought into the room and if they felt like they were addressed. This helped! Of coarse I was already doing this with clients, but my process was not as distilled and focused as it could have been. Another thing I tried was writing directly to my clients, going the extra mile as they say. I wrote to them about difficult things they were facing in their lives, about progress we had been making together in their treatment, or simply to say 'Hello' and thank them for their loyalty. Every day I thought about my clear vision. I spent a small amount of time "manifesting it" through meditation (again, call it what you like to match you). Then I opened my mind to the idea that it would work. And at work, I took to making small and significant changes. All said it was simple, but not always easy! I also suggest giving yourself grace when taking on new challenges. Growth isn't always linear. There are ups and downs. There is quiet a bit of two steps forward and one step back...but you are moving forward. Be grateful to yourself for growing.

I'm Happy to report that my retention vision Goal was reached.  Yay! It feels amazing to see the hard numbers in front of me (though I still have room to improve and I plan on it) Honestly, it's a little spooky and wild and beautiful! Now I know this really works. One of the many gifts of self growth and challenge is that it never ends. One may feel annoyed by this, but choose to feel excited about it!  And now I'm armed with this wonderful 'How To' for visualizing and making positive growth and change in my life. Will it be hard work?  Yes. Am I stoked to see where this wacky adventure takes me, Absolutely!

I'm excited for you and for me! Cheers on the road to success!

May You Be Well,

Lily Lunnemann

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Mental Wellness.

Keeping up with New Year's Resolutions

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Chances are that, by now, you have fallen off the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Research shows that almost 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are ditched before the second week in February. Overly lofty goal and aspirations can quickly fall by the wayside once the holidays are in the rear-view mirror and we settle back into the routines of our normal lives. I always start the year with a list of goals, and usually by the end of the month I am back to my old ways. This year, I made a resolution to eat fresh veggies every day (we’ve got a long and complicated history). In order to maintain these goals long enough to develop into healthy habits, I have noticed that two things help me to rediscover my aspirations: mindfulness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is a critical tool to that helps us to stay aware of our actions and thoughts.  It can be invaluable when setting and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions. Being mindful to the reasons why you chose that goal can hone down what is really important to you in the coming year. Instead of deciding to exercise more, examine what it is that makes you want to exercise more.  Why has it not happened already, and what do you need to change in order to attain this goal? Mindful examination of behaviors may lead you to create different resolutions. Instead of telling myself I need to eat more healthy, which is vague, it really comes down to adding more vegetables to my diet. When you feel as though you are falling off the wagon, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is detrimental to my efforts?”  It is way easier to microwave some leftovers than make a fresh salad, but is that necessarily the best for me? Mindfulness brings you to an objective place to analyze your actions and habits in order to move forward again.

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“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Creating new habits is really difficult and takes time. Acknowledging this is the first step to helping achieve those New Year’s Resolutions.  They don’t come overnight, and they will have obstacles. Accept slip-ups with grace, forgive yourself, and make the choice to get back in the game. By doing this, you not only show compassion for yourself, but allow the faults and failures that lead to true change over time. This helps gently reaffirm your original goal. It is fine to have a week or even longer where your goals fall by the wayside; that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Failure only happens when you stop picking up where you left off.

I hope you have success in your goals for 2019. If you slip up, remember to accept your obstacles with grace and keep on keepin’ on.

Posted on February 14, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Self-care.

The Value of (Dis)Connection

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When was the last time you ate a meal alone without looking at your phone or computer? If you are like the vast majority of people, myself included, electronic devices have crept their way into every aspect of your life. The average American spends close to ten hours a day in front of a screen—TV, phone, or computer.  That adds up, and can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  Beyond being a distraction, this tech-heavy lifestyle can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways—but it doesn’t have to.  Here are some ways to turn off and tune back into real life.

Limit & Be Discerning

When you begin to limit the amount of tech-time throughout your day, it becomes apparent how often we tend to mindlessly indulge. Is it really beneficial to binge watch Law and Order for eight hours straight? Certainly not—I can think of a lot of things to instead that have a better impact on my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  Making impactful choices allows you to take control of the technology in your life, rather than becoming the proverbial slave to it. For example, once a week I only watch television I can learn something from—Nature docs, cooking shows, that sort of thing—for only an hour or so rather than all day.  This way, I feel good about the content I am watching, and I have time to put what I learn to good use.

Practice Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh often tells the tale of savoring a cookie as a child.  Sitting in his front yard, he would take his time eating and being present to all his surroundings.  In much the same way, we can be present to whatever it is we are doing, be it eating, walking, or even scrolling through Facebook.  

First, only do one thing at a time. In our crazy, hectic world, multi-tasking is so encouraged that we tend to forget just how to do one thing at a time. Instead of juggling three things at once, try instead sitting in the present with one.  Don’t check your email while scrolling through social media and watching TV in the background. Instead, do one thing with your full attention, and notice all the subtleties of it.

Second, slowwww dowwwnnnn. The average user looks at an Instagram post for one second. What’s the rush?  Try this—the next time you are looking at Instagram (or Facebook, or anything online) give each post 10 seconds.  Look at all the details, read the captions, give it some thought, and then when you are ready, move on to the next.  At first 10 seconds might seem like a lot, but you will retain much more information, and be more mindful in the process.

Check out— even for a little while

Taking breaks from the constant inundation of social media, news, and images can have a great impact on mental and emotional health. Consider designating one weekend a month as a “screen-free” weekend.  Take a hike, spend time face-to-face with loved ones, or even schedule a spa day as a way to honor the present moment away from distractions. By engaging in activities in which phone use is either discouraged or impossible, you engage more fully with your surroundings.

Can’t commit to a full weekend? Try enacting a screen curfew for yourself.  Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by handheld electronics such as phones and tablets can have a dramatic effect on your sleep cycle. By shutting off all the screens at a certain time in the evening, it can alleviate these effects, and promote deeper and more restful sleep.



3 Tips For Supporting Friends In Difficult Times

I recently had some dear friends go through something really terrible. It's not my place to talk about their tragedy, and I won't, but it has made me dig deep and think about how I can support and encourage these sweet souls while they go through their challenging time. 

How do we best "show up" for someone who is suffering? Do we call?  Give space? Avoid the subject? Bring food? All good questions. I have walked hand in hand with many clients and friends as they face serious health concerns, big uncertainty, death of a loved one, and various other heavy hitting issues. For me, it was an honor and a pleasure to "step up to the plate" and offer love and support.

If you are finding yourself at the helm of a loved one in need, here are some things to take to heart;

#1-SOMETIMES IT'S WHAT NOT TO SAY; 

Be mindful with your words. Thankfully the interwebs are incredibly helpful here! If someone dies, or is sick, or really scared,  there are probably 50 websites the say, "Things you shouldn't say to a grieving person...or sick friend...." Google it! Sometimes silence is better than putting your foot in your mouth. Mindfulness with our words is key, especially when we are facing delicate situations. 

#2-Help With Chores

When the walls feel like they are closing in, and life is overwhelming it is easy to get behind on daily tasks. A hot meal or some grocery shopping can be powerful. Running an errand, walking their dog, taking their kids to the park, washing their car....scratching a To-Do off the list may prove very helpful. Always do a little feeling out of the situation first. Try not to smother someone with love. With email and texts being so common place, its easy to drop a line in a non-obtrusive way noting that you want to help with errands, if they are interested....and spell it out....say you're interested in making and delivering a meal, or washing their car, or helping with animal, and ASK whether or not that sounds good to them.

#3-Listen

Sometimes the best gift we have is an open heart, listening ears, and a quiet mouth. I believe in checking in with loved ones as they face difficulty. Yes, it can feel uncomfortable. Yes, it can feel hard. But it's important to feel validated and heard when life is at it's toughest. Tact, once again, is key. Take diplomatic steps at appropriate times to reach out and ask how their process is going. Prefacing with, " I want to check in with you and what you're going through...if you want to talk...If you DON'T want to talk about it, that's OK, too." If you get a green light and they want to talk, you can simply say, "May I ask you about your grieving?' "Is it OK if i ask about how your health is?"....etc... Then sit back, and use your best present listening ears that you've got!

We cannot take pain away. We cannot fix big problem for others. We can offer our love. We can  hug. We can listen. We can be there with them as they suffer and help them through. May you  and yours be well. And may this help you care for those you love.

May You Be Well,

Lily 

*Images compliments of Creative Commons*

The Life-Changing Magic of Perspective

Life is a funny thing. It seems that all our lives we are told that pursuit of happiness should be our life’s purpose. That finding joy, elation, and contentment are the things that will bring us satisfaction in our lives, but as we look back over our own individual histories, I think we often find that the times that formed us the most…the times that caused us to grow most as people…the times that left the most lasting impressions on us weren’t the times of joy and happiness, but the times of difficulty and struggle. 

Difficulty works in an interesting way. While it is within our happiness that we may get to just sit back and enjoy, it is not within happiness that we forge ourselves. It isn’t within joy that the strength of our character rises up to meet the challenge. It often takes our adversities to get us to stand and say “No. This is who I am, and this is what I stand for.” And for that, I am truly thankful for all my difficulties. While ease makes almost no impression on us, struggle forces us to grow in ways that last well beyond our experiences of it. 

Though I am a white male and have had a relatively easy life, growing up as a gay man I have certainly been no stranger to discrimination. I have experienced what it’s like to be “other.” What it’s like to be called names—to be excluded. I’ve known what it’s like to feel that I would never be able to have a normal life. I’ve known what it’s like to be trapped by fear. Fear that my parents wouldn’t accept me. Fear that my friends would no longer be my friends. Fear that I would never be able to enjoy the life that I wanted. A life with a family. A life with a partner. A life with kids of my own….the most basic things that the majority of people so quickly take for granted.

Our challenges in life have the tendency to divide us. Someone is dealing with cancer. Someone is struggling with the death of their child. Someone is attempting to overcome the emotional abuse of a parent. Someone has just been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Or a thousand other circumstances that all make us feel like we are unique in our struggle. And while each of us does experience these things in our own way, there’s a time when we must realize that our struggle absolutely unifies us. No being on the face of this earth exists without difficulty. And here we can begin to find a sense of community. Of connectedness. Of comfort in knowing that whether we are brown, black, man, old, young, woman, white, christian, or buddhist… we all encounter pain and difficulty. The longer we keep our stories of struggle to ourselves, the longer we must carry their burden, and the longer we let them have power in our lives. In sharing our stories, we lighten our load, and when we refuse to feel shameful about them, we can allow them to positively affect us. As we come around to the idea of this sort of "community," we begin not just to discover our truth, but to forge it--to create it as we make meaning out of difficulty. With a deep opening of our hearts we courageously step toward vulnerability, and we can let that vulnerability empower us to take what is difficult, turn it around, and use it to create a sense of humanity. 

That isn't to say vulnerability is easy. To be vulnerable is to admit that we don’t have it all right. To be vulnerable is to admit that we have been hurt, and that we can still be hurt in the future—to admit that we have hurt others. It is to be unashamed of our emotions. To be vulnerable is to admit we’ve made mistakes. It is to open ourselves at the deepest level, stand there in front of someone in the full rawness of our life experience, and have no apologies about it. So while vulnerability is one of the scariest leaps one can take, it gives us the ability to look at another human being and know that they, too, have known pain. It allows us to look at one another and say “It’s ok. I’ve been there, too.” 

This experience can truly transform us as people. It transforms our relationships and our outlook on life. It lets us turn things upside down so we can stop saying “I am here DESPITE my struggles” and instead say “I am here BECAUSE of them.” With that, we take the first steps on a long journey toward the discovery of our identities, and we realize it isn't the ease of life but the misfortunes that create the power of our stories. It is within our story of struggle that we find community; from this sense of community we can look for the meaning in difficulty, and I, for one, am thankful for my difficulty. I hope you are, too. 

In health,

Sean