Archive of ‘Health’ category

4 Mindfulness Practices for Your Family

Mindfulness may be a term you have never heard or hear all the time. Regardless of how familiar it may be, it is often hard to define. When I introduce mindfulness into therapeutic work, I use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s simple definition: Paying attention, on purpose, without judgement. This perspective allows for full appreciation and engagement with the present. 

Imagine the benefits of being just a bit more present-focused and mindful in our lives, work, school, and especially in relationships with ourselves and others. I have included a few mindfulness practices and resources at the conclusion for families with people of any age to foster awareness, acceptance, and connection.  Breathwork

1 – Breathwork

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to your breath. By being mindful of our breath, we can begin to realize the power that it has. The breath is the most effective way for us to affect our nervous system. Each inhale engages the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and each exhale engages the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Bringing awareness to our breath can have a direct effect on our entire nervous system in an effort to bring it into balance when feeling dysregulated. We often encourage children or adults to “take a deep breath” in overwhelming situations without being mindful of what that looks and feels like. It takes practice and practicing as a family can further solidify its effectiveness. 

Belly breathing – Place your hands or a stuffed animal on the belly while lying down. Practice breathing into your hands or making the stuffed animal move up and down. In this way you are taking a true deep breath by expanding the lungs completely so that the diaphragm pushes the belly to move. 

Ratio breath – Ratio breath acknowledges the different parts of our nervous system that an inhale and exhale engage. By working to extend the exhale to be longer than the inhale, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Begin by breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 6 seconds. Adjust this ratio as needed to practice extending the exhale.

2 – Yoga/Mindful Movement 

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to your body and what it may be trying to tell you. Research shows the tremendous benefits yoga has on the mind, body, and connection between the two (The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk). Whether yoga is familiar or new to your family, it is accessible to everyone. I have included free resources to reference at the conclusion, but also feel free to define what yoga or mindful movement looks like for your family. My favorite option is to let the child(ren) lead the class and choose what postures feel most comfortable, challenging, and relaxing.

3 – Guided Imagery/Meditation

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to our thoughts and feelings. Guided imagery and meditation are grounding practices that encourage mindfulness, stillness, and relaxation. This can become a part of your morning or night routine by listening to or creating moments of stillness as a family. 

Guided imagery can be used in combination with a total body scan or progressive muscle relaxation by imagining a warm light traveling throughout the body, recognizing, and releasing any physical tension along the way. Another accessible option for all ages is a counting meditation. Start by simply counting your breath and each time a thought or feeling comes up, pause to notice and then start over counting from 1. See if you can count 10 or 20 breaths uninterrupted. Finally, the following is a short grounding meditation focusing on the 5 senses to bring our awareness to the present moment. 

Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste or say aloud 1 positive self-statement. 

4 – Nature Walks 

Nature is therapeutic as it is. Taking a walk outside and paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to what nature has to offer can benefit all the parts of ourselves and our ability to connect with others. While enjoying a nature walk with your family, I encourage mindful curiosity which could look something like the following: 

  • Having a conversation about what parts of nature stand out on the walk for each person and why. 
  • Creating a family sculpture with natural objects found in your yard, a walk through the neighborhood, or a local park. 

Online Resources

written by Emily Koenig, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Emily!


Creating Your Yellow Brick Road

What does it mean to feel at home?

There is a debate as to whether home is a physical place or a feeling. Dorothy captures this desire to fill the void of feeling distant, whether it be mentally or physically, when she recites, “There’s no place like home” (Fleming, 1939, 1:39:01). Home is the feeling of warmth, understanding, and inner peace. How do we capture the essence of home
when we are far from it? Whether it be a vacation, work trip or a new residence, feeling at home is essential.

What is a part of your home?

Think to yourself, aside from the physical structure, what else is a part of your home? Loved ones, beloved pets, specific scents, articles of clothing, and certain foods cultivate feelings of familiarity. When moving to a different city, visiting a foreign country or when physically distant from the ones I love, I turn to my phone. It houses resources, enabling me to bring my support system wherever I go. From calling my parents to ordering my favorite foods to my door, my phone is a portal. I can look at photos of my miniature schnauzer when I miss her cuddles, video chat with my best friends, and make to-do lists to feel a sense of structure over my time.

Finding peace.

Home can be anywhere, but it requires skills and resources to capture that feeling. Counseling provides clients with the coping skills to be patient and find inner peace. Our lives and the world around us are ever-changing. With teletherapy, you too can be a couple of clicks away from feeling at home.

Fleming, V. (Director). (1939). The Wizard of Oz [Film]. Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

written by Marianna Vanillo, M.S., LPC-Associate,
Supervised by Molly McCann, M.S., LPC-S


The Power of Pausing

In a world that constantly tries to make you feel like you’re not enough, resting can be a very brave thing.

A few weeks ago, I visited Montana to spend time with my family and friends. As I sat in the cabin on vacation, I was uncomfortably aware of the texts and emails popping up on my phone and going unanswered (first lesson: turn off your email notifications when you’re on vacation).

As our worlds become more and more virtual, the ability to take work with us wherever we go becomes more and more possible. We go on vacation, but why not bring the laptop and work while we’re there? We can be productive anywhere these days, even in a secluded cabin.

There seems to be an unspoken expectation to remain accessible. Always. I mean, who doesn’t have a smartphone these days?

The email notifications pop up. The text messages roll in.

Usually, they’re not all that urgent. And, usually, we attend to them as if they are.

As I pushed away the inner urge to pick up my phone and laptop during the trip (and failed a few times and succeeded a few times), I had several realizations:

Resting can feel awkward and foreign.

Not being readily available to others can feel uncomfortable.

Being present with people in real-time is good for our souls.

Most things can wait.

Yet, we live in a society that hasn’t normalized or encouraged rest and pausing.

And so, even when we find ourselves in remote locations surrounded by peaceful nature, it can feel strange to unplug – like we’re breaking some unwritten rule and wasting our week away in the land of unproductivity. 

Here is a case for pausing and why it’s more important than rushing to respond to that text: 

1. Your nervous system gets a break.

In 6 Ways to Give your Nervous System a Break, Crystal Hoshaw writes, “The nervous system truly craves space and silence. Every activity is a little stimulating. Truly giving our nerves a break means we’re feeding them the minimum amount of stimulation possible and maximizing rest and rejuvenation.”

2. You get to connect with yourself.

When we pause, we create space for reflection and tuning into how we feel. This leads to less knee-jerk reactions and more thoughtful responses.

3. You get to connect with so many other things:

nature, your meal, your breath, your family.

You take some of your power back.

Taking time to pause helps rewrite the story that says you have to be available to everyone all the time. That’s not true, not healthy and extremely draining.

You give yourself an opportunity to find meaning in more than achieving. 

I won’t pretend unplugging is easy. Here are a few small ideas that still have the power to add up to big shifts: 

A walk around your neighborhood or in nature without your phone

Putting your phone on airplane mode as you begin or end your day

Taking five minutes to close your eyes and breathe. Even one minute!

Making a conscious decision to respond to non urgent emails and texts at one designated time each day vs scattered throughout the day.

All of these acts allow us to become more intentional with our energy, more grounded in our bodies, and, frankly, more relieved.

You are more than what you do.

I felt that as I listened to the rushing river and the chirping birds. As I stared at the magnificent mountains. As I sipped a cup of tea and tuned into the conversations that were happening right in front of me.

Written by: Jamie Alger, LPC-Associate                                                                                                     Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S


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