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01 Apr

Happiness: Everyone wants it but how do we know when we have it?

Happiness is likely the number one goal we hear about from our counselling clients.  They want it and have no idea on how they can get it.  Another thing that isn’t always so easy to answer is, How will you know when you have it?

Finding happiness

Happiness is sometimes seen as being a bit elusive.  For some it may feel a bit like a mythical unicorn.  People who have a more positive outlook on life will tell you that they can find happiness even when things are difficult. If our mind is in a negativity rut it can be very challenging to see the good, even when it hits us on the head.

Happiness can be found everywhere, it is in our daily lives and is within us.  From the movie Finding Happiness there are a seven tips on how to be happy.

Choose Joy

Recently a client told me that they were joyful that they got to spend time with a friend who was terminally ill.  They said the time they spent before she died was very special.  They were able to hold joy and feel gratitude despite their grief. Happiness can coexist with other feelings like sorrow.

Choosing joy means planning for happiness, for many it means having faith.  On the site Becoming a Minimalist they share 12 Intentional Actions To Choose Happiness Today. Two that stand out are treating others well and search for benefit in your pain. It is a simple thing but treating others well does not cost a thing.  Perhaps it costs us a bit of patience or a smile but the price is small to bring a bit of kindness into someone’s day.

Looking for the benefits in your pain can be tricky.  You wonder why something happened and may have a “why me” moment but maybe the simpler question is “what is it teaching me?”.  We are surrounded in the teachings of life.

Are we there yet?

There are some subtle signs that you might be experiencing happiness.  You may have a greater sense of wellbeing, you may feel less tension in your body or maybe you catch yourself laughing.  Happiness is not a destination, it can be found in a moment or a day but it is there.  It happens when we hear about a friend’s good fortune or when we share a smile with a stranger on the street.  It might be found at the end of a particularly challenging day or when we dragged ourself out to see a friend for coffee when we were thinking of cancelling.

You’ve Got it, now hold on to it

While we know it can be hard to find, it can stay with us if we choose to hold it near.  A Huffington Post article suggests that we can appreciate the little things and not sweat the small stuff.  The next time you see the sun  on a wintery day or you notice that it’s warm enough to open the sun roof just let yourself be happy.  Enjoy it and let it bring a smile to your face.  It’s yours if only for a single moment.  As the song goes Don’t Worry Be Happy.

18 Mar

Clearing Clutter: Let’s Get Started

Spring is often associated with cleaning and clearing clutter.  We have talked a bit about emotional clutter but let’s get physical.  When was the last time you cleaned out that junk drawer or emptied the garage out?

There are sites and an abundance of Pinterest boards devoted to cleaning and the clearing of stuff.  Sites like Becoming Minimalist and Fly Lady give us a good place to start. Author and clutter buster, Peter Walsh has made a career about getting rid of stuff. He has written books titled Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? and It’s All Too Much. His newest book Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way To A Richer, Happier Life addresses modern day dilemas such as downsizing your home and aging parents.

A recent trend to North America is Swedish death cleaning.  I heard this term from a friend the other day and wanted to know more.  She  mentioned that her parents had invited the children over to take some of the stuff they wanted because they were “death cleaning”.  Now these parents are young but they just wanted to let go of stuff now, whether if be to Goodwill or their own children.

Start Small

Pick the junk drawer in the hallway or your home office desk top.  Make it a manageable task that you can complete in the time you have set aside.  The satisfaction that you get from that achievement will help carry you through to tackle larger cleaning tasks.

Create a Plan

Create a plan that works for you.  There are lots of templates you can find to get you started.  Find something that appeals to you.  Do you prefer a step by step guide or maybe you would rather use some printables that you can customize and check off as you go.

Becoming a Minimalist offers 10 Principles to Help Anyone Clear Clutter. This can help to get you started.

Set a Timer

Yes, set a timer just as you would when you are baking or making a meal.  It is truly astounding the difference 15 minutes a day can make.  Set the timer, walk into a room with a garbage bag in hand and just go through a pile or corner in that room.  Put things in their place or throw out or re-purpose things that you no longer need.

Label Some Bins

Boxes, bins…it really doesn’t matter.  Have a box for Donating, Selling and Keeping.  You may even want to have a Maybe box to go through again if you are having trouble deciding. As you go through a room put things in their designated box.  Eventually you will have accomplished what you need to and you can move to another room.

The process may seem hard at first but eventually letting go becomes easier and almost joyful.  You will feel lighter and may even find yourself feeling happier and calmer so give it a try.

 

25 Feb

Lists: Why we love them

Lists are the key to my own personal wellness.  I cannot survive a week without using some sort of list.  Lists help me focus and get things done. There are different ones for different purposes but the goal is the same.  To organize the multitude of thoughts swirling around in our heads with the hopes of not forgetting something.

The All Encompassing “To Do List”

This list is likely familiar to many.  It is the list where we do a brain dump of everything in our head and write it down.  This list is both helpful and a tiny bit dangerous.  While we do get things out of our brain and onto paper, it can set us up for unrealistic expectations.

To not fall into the trap of the “Too much to do” list, we suggest keeping the list to your top 10. Remember you can always create a new list when your are done. Use this type of list with caution as it can overwhelm us when we are writing the list to alleviate some of that stress.

The Weekly or Daily “To Do List”

This is a list where we take stock of our week and break it all down.  The weekly list is much easier to manage and if we miss a task on Monday we can move it over to our next day.  We like this list because it gives us a visual of our week. The daily list is fine but if you are someone who overestimates what they can do, the weekly list will likely work better for you.

Think about your week and add things according to how busy your day will be.  If you know you are running around after work on Tuesday, doing groceries and picking up kids, then make your tasks small and achievable that day.  If you have a quiet house on Saturday morning with everyone sleeping in, then use that time for self care and maybe only one of your more time consuming tasks.  Yes, remember to put you on your own “to do” list!

Meal Planning and Fitness Tracker

This type of list is an incredible time saver once you get the hang of it. It means taking time to plan your weekly meals and write a grocery list but it is worth it.  Once the list is set and you have shopped, you no longer have to answer the question “What’s for dinner?” because it is all mapped out.  You can also organize a Pinterest board with your favourite recipes which makes them easy to find when you need them during the week.

 

 

Meal Planner and Workout Tracker

The Cleaning List

The cleaning list can be used for weekly jobs or there are some fantastic spring cleaning lists which help us pinpoint what we need to do to freshen our homes up for the spring season.

You can use a template and create a weekly chore list for other family members.  This helps everybody know what the expectations are for the week.

 

Random Lists

There are random lists for those of us who love lists.  There are lists to plan your Netflix viewing, lists  for us to track our Gratitude, lists for packing and planning trips…..oh so many lists!

Whatever your list, it serves a purpose for you and that is what is important. It lets you take stock, it helps you manage life and it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Lists are perfect for our ever changing, sometimes hectic lives and that is why we love lists!  All of these lists and many more can be found on our LSA Pinterest page on our Lists board. Find one that works for you and start listing!

 

30 Jan

Resistance to Exercise: It’s kind of like eating your brussel sprouts

Resistance to exercise, it’s a thing.  We all know it’s good for us just like peas or brussel sprouts but do we do it?  February is on its way and with it cold days and more snow.  As Canadians we are used to it but it still can make you feel like hibernating.  This means that we can find a multitude of reasons not to exercise. “I’ll wait till it’s sunnier outside.”I don’t want to leave my warm house to go to the gym”. So what can we do to get ourselves moving?

Create a weekly exercise plan

Write it down, put it in your phone. Whatever it takes, but make a commitment to yourself.  If you make a date with yourself for spin class or Zumba you will be more likely to go.  Some gyms even have apps that allow you to put your classes in your calendar and add reminders.  It is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Try You Tube

Well, it doesn’t have to be You Tube but it is a great place to start.  There are lots of videos to choose from.  For example, if you are looking to start a daily yoga practice, you can do this from the comfort of your own living room with Yoga with Adrienne 

Adrienne leads people through 31 days of yoga and if you finish that there is bedtime yoga, yoga for anxiety and even yoga for weight loss.  These videos range from 6 minutes to 30 minutes so they can fit into most busy schedules.

Find a Friend

Do you have a friend who is an avid gym rat or maybe one that keeps talking about getting fit?  Buddy up and make plans to sweat together. Set a night that you can walk together after work or try a membership to a nearby gym. If you don’t have a friend that fits the bill, then find a group.  Usually there are team challenges you can sign up for and join some like minded people. Check out your local gym or maybe even a boot camp group.  The idea of a team is for support and encouragement. You may even make a new friend in the process.  If you are the type that will never let others down but puts you last on the list, then this might just be something to keep you focused.

Tap it Out

If you are fantastic at coming up with excuses not to go to the gym, then perhaps trying a bit of EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique would be helpful. Here is a tapping meditation on resistance to exercise from Nick Ortner’s site the Tapping Solution.  It is a short 12 minute exercise that might just get you started.

07 Jan

Hygge: Living the Hygge Life

This is definitely the winter to learn more about hygge. The first thing to know is that it is Danish and is pronounced “hue-guh”.  It is about getting cozy and embracing simple moments and feelings. It is about the things that make us feel grateful and happy.

For those of us who feel like we are living in the arctic this winter, it makes perfect sense. Hygge is hard to explain but when you feel it you will know you are living the hygge life.

Create a Space for Hygge to Happen

I think my cat embraces this best.  He picks the perfect spot, the one with a bit of sun that has the soft throw for him to curl up and just be. This space is where your brain and body are triggered to slow down and relax a bit and have a moment of calm amidst your busy day.

The author of Hygge House sums it up well on her blog Living Hygee, as leisurely charm. It is a space that signals it is time to gear down, sip on a cup of tea, read a book, have a chat with a friend or maybe even nap.

Be Present

Yes, you have to show up and be present to have the hygge state of mind.  You have to be willing to unplug and just enjoy some of the simpler things in life.  If you show up and be present and create the intention, hygge can happen pretty easily.

This winter we are opening our home up to friends once a month to drop in and enjoy something warm to eat and a board game or two.  We’re hoping to create a space for friends to feel welcome and loved. We’ll see what happens but at the very least we will have an evening at home with good food and a few laughs so what could be better than that?!

 

Hygge is a Feeling Not Something You Can Buy

Now this is a bit tricky because the bread proofing basket and jars for your sour dough starter are things that help you create the feeling of hygge.  The feeling you get from creating the perfect sour dough loaf is what we are talking about.

To create the feelings you want you may wish to surround yourself with a few things. Yes, you may buy a beautiful tea mug or a candle but they are just props to set the stage. Choose a few things that make you feel happy, cozy, and warm in your heart and your body too.

We’ll leave you with a How To map to get you started.  Check out our Pinterest board for a few more ideas.  Enjoy the journey and you will be living the hygge life soon!

19 Dec

Clearing Space for a New Year

With 2018 almost upon us, it is time to take stock of 2017 and think about clearing space for the new year. We want to hold on to the things that worked but let go of some of the things that no longer serve us.

Explore the best of 2017

What was outstanding? What experiences do you want more of?

I look back at 2017 and I realize that for me it was finding me again. Of course that sounds pretty cliche but honestly amongst the many negative and challenging things that the year brought me, I was reminded that I am fierce, pragmatic and tenacious. Adversity sometimes brings with it some distinct advantages. I embraced some new opportunities that have made me feel recharged, hopeful and excited.

What did you love about 2017? Was it the people who came into your life? The new opportunities?

Look at the things that worked and hang on to those. If you have created a new meal planning habit or maybe you have been making a lunch date with a friend once a month, keep doing it! These are the things that help relieve stress and make our lives better.

Explore the worst of 2017

What was soul sucking? What caused you sorrow, disappointment? What will you be happy to leave in 2017?

Be honest about this one. This is for you to let go and clear some space. I know for me that emotional and physical clutter always seem to rear their ugly head at this time of the year.

This may mean letting go of friends that aren’t authentic. It may mean letting go of a habit that once helped you cope but now you are strong enough to let it go.  Clear out the clutter and say goodbye to the negative things that no longer serve you.

Focus on What You Want to See More Of For 2018

As you move into a new year, focus on abundance.  What do you want to see more of in your life?  More down time?  More time with friends?

The focus can be on feelings too. How do you want to feel in 2018? We are great at identifying what we don’t want to feel or have in our lives but let’s turn it around and think about the positive things we want.

Start each day with the thought of……”What will I do today that will help me feel the way I want to feel?”

So clear the clutter, embrace the good and go into 2018 ready to create your best life!

01 Dec

Tips for Getting the Most out of the Holiday Season

Holiday Zen

Each year we start to see articles pop up everywhere about holiday stress and how to survive.  This year we’d like to take an optimistic stance and set ourselves up for a wonderful experience.

Focus on the journey

What we really mean is let an experience be your gift. Childhood memories and adult memories are built on things we have done and people we have shared them with.  A gift of snowshoeing, dance lessons, or maybe just an IOU for a home cooked meal when someone needs a break. Being kind and thoughtful is what really matters. An afternoon creating that terrarium with a friend will mean more than a scented candle.  The laughs, the fun and the social connection builds a bond and it is a priceless gift.

Relax

The one thing most of us never have is time to relax and just be.  Use the time during the holidays to have that much needed pajama day.  Enjoy binge watching on Netflix or reading that book that has been sitting on the shelf waiting for you. Use those things you have been saving for a special occasion like that specialty soap, beautiful candle or a bottle of wine. This is your special occasion. Relax, rejoice and restore.

Meditate

Whether you are a veteran or a newbie, the holidays are the perfect time to meditate.  You can try something new with a tapping meditation from Jessica Ortner for a stress-free family gathering.   

Tapping is Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT.  A great website for more information and some tapping exercises is The Tapping Solution.

Tapping therapy is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Tapping with the fingertips on specific meridian endpoints of the body, while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations, helps to calm the nervous system, rewire the brain to respond in healthier ways, and restore the body’s balance of energy…..(The Tapping Solution)

Stay Positive

No need to anticipate what hasn’t happened or may not happen at all.  Search out the happy moments and choose to focus on those.  Giving less energy to the negative things can help you take you power back and see the holidays through a different lense. Staying positive leaves little room for the negative energy or others that can weigh us down.  Stay in the moment and enjoy.

12 Nov

Resilience: A Powerful Tool for Growth

Resilience is a buzz word these days in health and wellness.  It is what separates one person from another in terms of outcome.  If we look at two people with similar circumstances, each has experienced adversity and challenge but one seems to have not only gotten through it but they seem happier, stronger and full of gratitude. What is the difference, why has one done so much better than the other? One word….Resilience!

Resilience really is a tool kit of coping strategies.  Having strategies and healthy coping skills is what creates resilience, consequently it is what makes us bounce back. In some theories there is a belief that life’s adversities bring a lesson.  The question is what is this situation telling us?  What can we learn from this? Lessons can be  about an infinite number of things, the need for self care, connection, gratitude or perhaps compassion for others.  Resilience brings growth and expansion in our world view.

In the resiliency toolbox we find items such as optimism, ability to problem solve, self-belief and social support.  We may have strengths in some of the areas but can build on the areas that need more development. Here are a few key fundamentals of resilience.

Laughter

Sense of humor is a consistent factor in the many articles about resilience.  When was the last time we laughed at our own challenges? Using humor doesn’t mean that you are ignoring what happened but you are relieving stress and tension with laughter.

Find Connection

Humans are social by nature, we need social connection as a basic need.  We can create a network where we feel safe and loved.  Find the people that get you, find your tribe. These are the people who laugh at your jokes, don’t care if your house is a mess and generally just appreciate you for you.  They are out there and they will be the ones who come forward when you face adversity.

Be Optimistic

Focus on your own personal strengths.  Look for the positives in the situation.  Someone who is going through weekly cancer treatments told me that they were grateful that they got to meet so many other people with cancer and that their situations made them filled with hope.

Attitude

Let’s face it , attitude is everything.  The minute we tell ourselves we “can’t” or “won’t” we erase all other options.  Leave the good options on the table and believe that you can.  Know that we can take action and create a “can do” list.  We don’t need to be defeated we can move ahead by learning, gathering information and making a plan.

 

Do you wonder how resilient you are? In the article 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency, author Jessie Sholl provides a quiz that you can score yourself to see how resilient you are.  If it looks like you need a bit of work in the resiliency department, you can help yourself or see a counsellor who can help you build resiliency skills such as problem solving, use of humor and focus on learning.

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22 Oct

No more Sad Desk Lunch: Lunch ideas that will get you away from your desk

We have a phenomenon that is know on social media as ” sad desk lunch”.  Many of us are guilty of it, eating with one hand while keyboarding with the other.  We convince ourselves that we absolutely need to get the work done and somehow we believe that we can be productive.  We think that taking 20 minutes for a change of scenery and to eat well means we are “less than” as an employee.  Our perception is that if you are in your office that you are working.

Who are we kidding, eating lunch in the same spot that we work all day is not making us more productive.  Taking a break is good for our mental and physical health.  Shifting our brain and moving our bodies to another location is a good thing.

Ways we can keep lunch interesting.

  • Change things up, make a lunch date once a week with a friend or colleague. Put a reminder in your calendar and set a date.
  • Organize the office to pitch in for a team salad bar once a month. Ask each person to sign up to bring in an item.  These can include things like black beans, feta cheese, olives, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, hard boiled eggs and of course lettuces. An office salad bar can last the group for a couple of days and encourages everyone to get together for lunch.
  • Start a Pinterest lunch idea board. Check out our Lunch Ideas board for inspiration.   Create a board with easy healthy lunch ideas that you will look forward to.  Bento box style lunches are kind of an an adult version of lunchables.  There are boxes online  and even a the local bookstore, that make this portion controlled, variety filled  way of eating , fun and aesthetically pleasing. These lunches will be the envy of your co-workers and you’ll want to show them your fabulous meal instead of eating at your desk.
  • Plan an office delivery day from your favourite Thai or Pho takeout on a Friday.  One person can take orders and payments and many restaurants will deliver right to your door.  It takes the pressure off having to make lunch on a Friday and brings the group together.

 

08 Oct

There is Power in Positivity: 4 Things To Get You Started

 

There is great power in positivity. Whenever I ask a client what they want to see more of in their life, they seemed stumped.  We are very good at knowing what we don’t want, finding the negative and wanting to dwell on it. It seems to be human nature, the idea that if we can just go over the negative stuff we can find the answer.

The answer really is identifying what brings us joy and spending our day identifying the positive and trying to focus on an abundance of just that.  Let’s face it, being positive has never made anyone feel worse!

Learned optimism is something you can teach yourself. A quick Google search shows that on any given day our brain makes about 35,000 decisions.  Now imagine if those decisions were focused on the positive. We could choose the decision that brings us more joy, the one that makes us feel happier.

Make a Conscious Choice

Every morning when you get up, set your intention for the day.  Is it going to be a good day or are you going to choose stress and negativity? Start by remembering what you are grateful for and that can guide you in setting your intention. It might be that you are grateful for the beautiful fall weather.  That might mean that your intention is to enjoy every moment you get to spend in it.  Maybe park a bit further from the office or step outside for lunch.

Embrace Positivity

Find out what positivity is all about.  Add a few positivity pages to your Facebook likes.  This will populate your Facebook feed with good things when you check it.  You will start to notice that those negative headlines disappear and are replaced with new ideas and ways to be positive.  We like to follow Happify  because they share tips and thoughts to help us bring more happiness into our life. Positive Energy + is another  great page that is filled with inspiring quotes and positive media stories.

Choose You

One of my favourite blogs is Positively Present.  Dani’s tips are simple, honest and very practical. In her article on making positive life choices, she suggests listening to your instinct and doing what is best for you.  How often do you do something that doesn’t feel right but you do it anyway? It may not be the best decision for you but it is the easier choice that won’t ruffle any feathers.

Do Something You Have Never Done Before

Make it fun, do something that you wouldn’t normally do.  Attend an auction, volunteer at a food bank, go see a car race, have your eyebrows shaped, take a cooking class, speak in front of a large group……the list is endless but it has to be unique to you.  If you are one to put everyone before yourself then focus on doing something for you, if you never step outside your comfort zone then take a leap or if you are stuck in a rut and never do anything different then think outside the box. Ask a friend who knows you well for some suggestions and you will be well on your way to a more positive and happier you

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