Six Ways to Boost Your Mood NOW

The sun is finally out and I don’t know about you, but the change in weather has had an enormous impact on my mood. If you’re anything like me and you’re determined to capitalize on that improvement, here are six practical ways to build on that momentum and riiiiiiide that boost!

Exercise: Any tiny change is something so no need for any gigantic goal or commitment! Try just going for an evening walk with a friend or family member. The exercise, the fresh air and the companionship, even just for 20 minutes a day, will go a long way! If you already have a routine when it comes to physical activity, try mixing it up once in awhile by doing a fun or relaxing physical activity to reward your body and mind! Like a random dance party in your living room…it’s a great stress reliever! :)

Mindful Five: Start a short mindfulness practice in the mornings to start your day off on a positive note. Open your blinds and feel the sunshine pour down on your face. Bring your attention to your breath and kindly acknowledge any thought or emotion that may cross your mind. Even the most pesky of thoughts can wait 5 minutes. Allow yourself 5 minutes of calm before the hustle bustle of the day begins!

Eat for Joy: There are several foods that help to boost our mood, and there are several foods that serve to keep us down in the dumps. Try adding a few mood boosters into your diet this week: fish, nuts, oats, blueberries, spinach, and (HEY!) dark chocolate. While you’re at it, why not choose 2-3 inflammatory foods to either eliminate from your diet or strive to consume in lesser quantities: sugary drinks, processed meats, cookies and candy, alcohol, caffeine, fried foods and refined carbs, such as white bread.

Drink Water: I’m sure this goes without saying but the majority of us do not consume enough water. Whether you want to increase your water intake for skin reasons, gut reasons or mood reasons, drinking 1-2L of water per day will increase energy, mood and concentration, promote healthy weight management, flush out toxins, maintain complexion and boost your immune system (among other bonuses!)

Gratitude: Write down 2 things you are grateful for each night before bedtime. It could be gratitude for having had enough energy to get out of bed in the morning. It could be gratitude for the sunshine streaming into your bedroom. It could be gratitude for the people around you. Whatever you are grateful for, notice it and thank it for adding to your quality of life that day!

De-Clutter: The KonMari method is all the rage right now. I always say that the state of my apartment is a perfect snapshot of my current mental and emotional state. If there are dishes piling up in the sink and laundry overflowing from my laundry basket, you can probably make a safe bet that I am feeling overwhelmed, overworked or overextended. Taking 10 minutes to busy your body with de-cluttering each day on top of the usual maintenance will help you to wake up to a clean home and start your day with a clear mind.

Be Kind to Yourself: Adopt one self-compassion practice from our previous blog. Instead of responding with criticism or judgment, try being compassionate and curious with yourself. Approach situations from a place of genuine interest and kindness.

And on the topic of self-compassion, I (Kristen) am attending Kristin Neff and Chris Germer’s 2-Day Mindful Self Compassion Workshop next weekend so be prepared for more self-compassion discussion and practices to be coming your way in the near future!

What do you do to boost your mood? What works for you as a quick shake-up if you’re having a case of the grumpies? We’d love to hear fun, practical and creative ideas that help YOU to boost your mood! :)

Kristen Hamilton
Book Review: Attached
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It seems like every week, I end up recommending Levine and Heller’s Attached to another client or friend. It’s just so freaking good. It’s well known that our brains are not fully developed until we are 25 years old. So, in addition to our early childhood experiences, it only makes sense that our early relationships during adolescence would also have an enormous impact on our attachment styles later on. Whether attachment theory is a new concept for you, or whether you are an attachment enthusiast, this book breaks down attachment in a way that is both practical and transformative. Seriously, next time you watch This is Us, or the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (yes, guilty), you’ll be noticing bids for attachment and activated attachment systems all over the place. If history seems to repeat itself ad nauseam or you find yourself making the same relationship mistakes over and over and over, picking different versions of the same partner, this book can help you understand how your attachment style shows up and how you can move towards a place of learned security.

One of the great exercises Levine and Heller lead you through is the Relationship Inventory. This exercise helps you put past relationships into attachment terms in order to better understand what was driving and maintaining the conflict, as well as how attachment plays a role in what partners you are drawn to in the first place. By becoming more mindful of how our attachment style impacts our interactions with loved ones, we can begin healing and become more secure.

If you are interested in learning about attachment, this book is an awesome place to start. (Click here to order now!) If you are interested in taking a step further in exploring your attachment style and really taking a deep dive into your relationships, we are here to walk alongside you and help you start making healthier choices. Feel free to reach out and book an appointment!

Kristen Hamilton
How Self-Compassion Can Simmer Down Your Inner Critic And Help You Be Kinder To Yourself
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Self-Compassion is one of those buzz words at the moment that is significantly more difficult to practice and apply than it is to throw around in conversation. Put most simply, self-compassion is the act of extending compassion to oneself. Let’s take that one step further: Compassion is noticing another’s suffering, being moved by it and to feel a strong desire to help the suffering person in some way; to alleviate their pain. If we can feel so moved by another’s pain that we can extend them warmth and care, then why is it so hard to extend this level of kindness to ourselves?

Kristin Neff, a Psychologist who has researched self-compassion extensively, says: “Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself…instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal feelings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

So who needs to practice self-compassion? Well, everyone. BUT…

Here are some signs that you in particular may benefit from starting a practice of self-compassion:

  • You focus significantly more on your shortcomings than you do on your triumphs.

  • When you think about your shortcomings, you tend to feel very alone and separate from others.

  • When you are really struggling, you tend to believe that others have it much easier.

  • You are constantly feeling that you are not enough.

  • You spend a lot of time dwelling on past mistakes.

So what are some simple ways of incorporating a practice of self-compassion?

Be mindful. Until we start to notice our inner critic, we won’t know when we are needing to extend ourselves compassion. We all have aspects of ourselves that we don’t like. Think about some of those imperfections and listen to the words and language that seem to come up for you. Are there words or phrases that seem to play over and over? Does your inner critic’s voice remind you of anyone in your past who may have been critical of you? If we become familiar with our inner critic, we can begin to notice what situations trigger it and start challenging the validity of these negative statements. We can then start to extend warmth and compassion inward, rather than criticism and judgment.

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one. Many of us tend to judge ourselves more harshly than we would judge others. If your loved one was experiencing what you are experiencing, what would you say to them? Would you tell them to get over it? Would you put them down? Would you tell them that they are a useless, incompetent piece of garbage? Probably not. So why do we find ourselves saying these words about ourselves!? Next time you notice yourself being critical or judgmental of yourself, STOP and ask yourself if you would say these things to your loved one.

Write a letter to yourself. When we are in distress, it is much easier to access the negative than it is the positive. Sometimes it is helpful to think about how a loved one would describe us or how they would speak to us. Try writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of a compassionate loved one. What would they write about your perceived flaw or inadequacy? What would they write in order to remind you that no one is perfect and that just like everyone else, you have strengths and weaknesses? Put this letter somewhere accessible so that you can return to it when your inner critic is around.

Set aside a few minutes for self-compassion practice each day. Be intentional! There are many guided meditations on Spotify and Youtube that focus on self-compassion. If these work for you, great! Otherwise, put on some calming music, close your eyes and come up with some statements that express kindness and love to yourself. These can be personalized to your own unique circumstance or feelings of inadequacy. Repeat this mantra silently for 2-5 minutes.

How do you show compassion to yourself? Let us know what works for you and what doesn’t! Be kind to yourself, folks!

If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, here are a few links:

Kristin Neff’s TedTalk – The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion and Self-Compassion Website

Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Kristin Neff’s Self-Esteem Workbook – The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

How Validation Can Enhance Connection With Your Loved Ones
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Many a parent has asked me to provide a “tip sheet” on how to best support their child’s mental health. How strange it is that we are not given a manual for parenting; wouldn’t that just make things so much easier!? Alas you are in the same boat as many if you are having difficulty navigating how to support your child’s big emotions and foster growth and resilience. I simply cannot emphasize the importance of validation enough. But what does this even mean?! If I validate my child’s emotion, doesn’t that mean I lose control and I am just reinforcing their actions and behaviours? Absolutely not.

Here are some tips on what validation is and is not, as well as a few easy ways of connecting with your child:

Validation is NOT:

  • Agreeing with or approving of your child’s behaviour

  • Enabling your child

  • Jumping to fix-it mode

  • Feeling sorry for your child

  • Minimizing, dismissing or judging your child’s emotional experience

Validation IS:

  • Communicating acceptance of your child

  • A way of connecting and “being with” your child

  • Supporting and helping to label your child’s emotions

  • Communicating that the relationship is most important to you

  • Being present and paying full attention to your child without judgment or shame

  • Normalizing your child’s emotions

Think about a situation in which you have felt invalidated. A situation in which you felt either, rejected, ignored, dismissed or judged for having the very human experience of emotion. Sometimes we invalidate others because we are simply NOT comfortable with the emotions being expressed by the other party. Sometimes we invalidate others because we are afraid. Think about what emotions were covertly (or overtly) considered acceptable versus unacceptable in your own family. Were you allowed to feel angry or were you quickly directed to apologize to the other party, whilst your own emotions were swept under the proverbial carpet? Were you encouraged to just cheer up and keep your chin up when feeling sad? This is not to say wer are going to “get it right” 100% of the time. But sometimes looking at what emotions we may have more difficulty processing and accepting can give us an understanding of why we have difficulty with validating and responding to our loved ones’ emotions, and thus have difficulty really connecting with them.

So what are some examples of how you can validate your child’s emotions?

  • I can see that you are feeling _______. How can I help?

  • I’m thinking this must have been very ______ for you.

  • I think most people would feel similarly in that situation.

  • Wow, how frustrating! I can see why that made you feel angry.

 I recently did a 4-day training for a parenting group called Circle of Security, which is an attachment-based parenting program that encourages looking at your own attachment style and experience of emotions in order to become more aware of how we make ourselves available to meet our children’s needs in order to develop a secure attachment. Much of this blog post comes from what I learned during that training but also from my experience working with children and youth in mental health crisis. We so often miss the simplicity of validating the emotion because we want to come up with a solution. Sometimes because we are uncomfortable with the emotion. Sometimes because we are afraid of the emotion. It seems like the key to connecting is actually more in how we are able to “be with” our loved ones in their emotion and not so much about what solutions we are able to provide and how swiftly we can move through the “negative” emotion into a more “positive emotion. So next time your loved one expresses an emotion, stop yourself from going into auto-pilot and challenge yourself to sit with them in that emotion and connect with them. A few moments of connection goes a long way!

Kristen Hamilton
Self-Care 101

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of purposeful and self-initiated actions and attitudes that contribute to our general well-being. It is taking care of our physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual wellness through actions, intentions and behaviours that increase our overall wellness. Self-care is not selfish. It is not self-indulgent or self-serving. It is crucial. We know this and yet things still get in the way…

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I hear you. We've got all the excuses!

“Are you kidding me?! I don’t have time for self-care!”

Life is busy! I get that. However, I’m going to go ahead and de-bunk this excuse right now and tell you that practicing self-care does not have to take up a lot of time. I’m not telling you to go on a 4 hour hike in the name of self-care. Taking even a few minutes out of your busy day to focus on your breathing or do a quick grounding exercise will help you to shift your body and mind into a restorative mode and you will be able to be even more present as you go about your busy day!

“Self-care is too expensive!”

I will readily admit that a spa day sounds like the epitome of self-care. Most of us can’t regularly do this, however, so we need to remind ourselves that self-care does not need to be a trip to the Maldives or a luxurious day at Casbah. Self-care can be as simple as going for 10 minute walk with your dog. Or treating yourself to your favourite chocolate when you get home from a productive day.  Or telling your husband that you’re taking the night off mom-duty to go for dinner with your girlfriends. Whatever is going to help you re-charge your battery, do that.

“Taking time to care for myself would be selfish!”

 Here’s the thing: You cannot pour from an empty cup. If you aren’t taking time to care for yourself, those who depend on you will ultimately suffer. You want to take care of those around you but you are no less important than them. Perhaps self-care wasn’t modeled for you in your family. Maybe there was an air of shame or guilt attached to people taking time for themselves. Wherever this belief may have come from, the fact is that we are going to do a far better job of taking care of others if we are also making an active effort to be compassionate and kind with ourselves.

What are the benefits of engaging in a self-care practice?

  • Enhanced productivity! Self-care can help you become more productive because your time has been prioritized in such a way that lends itself to your top priorities. When we stop saying “yes” to every request that comes our way, we create space to pursue the projects and relationships that are most aligned with our needs and values. When we have less on our plates, we are more able to concentrate on the things we really want to invest ourselves in.
  • Better physical health! Have you ever noticed that when you are overwhelmed with demands, you tend to get sick more often? There is some evidence that engaging in self-care activates our parasympathetic nervous system which means that our body switches into a rejuvenating state and increases immunity.

  • Increased self-awareness and self-esteem! Engaging in a self-care practice involves reflecting on what brings meaning and purpose to our lives. It requires us to look within ourselves to determine what aspects of our lives need to be accepted and committed to in order to meet our goals. It also requires us to check in with ourselves regularly to see what components of our lives right now may need to be adjusted in order to feel most fulfilled in our lives.

So, you want to implement a self-care practice? Where do you start?

There are 5 pillars of self-care: physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual. 

Physical

  • Exercise.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Get outside.

Emotional

  • Spend time with those whose company you enjoy.
  • Stay in contact with loved ones.
  • Write in a journal or get a mindfulness colouring book.
  • Notice and acknowledge your inner experience.
  • Connect with a mentor or therapist that you feel comfortable with.

Social

  • Call a friend or family member and chat.
  • Join a club or group that interests you.
  • Sign up for a class or workshop at the rec center and get to know others with common interests.
  •  Go out for coffee with a friend or partner.
  • Get down on the floor and play alongside your child.

Spiritual

  • Download the Calm app and do a mindfulness exercise.
  • Explore your values and beliefs through journaling.
  • Make time for reflection and solitude.
  • Get outside and spend time in nature.
  • Find a spiritual community that resonates with your belief system.

Intellectual

  • Go pick out a new book to read or re-read an old favourite.
  • Listen to a podcast on something you’re interested in.
  • Do a crossword or a puzzle.
  • Take breaks during the workday.
  • Set goals and review progress regularly.   

What kind of barriers do you find when trying to engage in self-care day to day? What kind of self-care practices work for you and how do you make it happen? This week, pick one pillar that you find particularly challenging and try a few activities. Notice how you feel before and after. 

Kristen Hamilton
4 Advantages of Online Counselling

So you’ve decided to go to counselling and in your research you’ve stumbled upon online counselling. What is it, you ask? Basically, online counselling, also referred to as telehealth, involves meeting with your counsellor online via a secure video chat platform (think Skype) for your session instead of going to an office. Research has shown that online counselling can be just as effective as the traditional in-person, office-based therapy. Curious if online counselling might be a fit for you? Read on to learn more about 4 of the potential advantages to online counselling that will help you determine if this might work for you!

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1. Comfort

Starting the therapy process can already feel daunting and being able to meet with a counsellor in a place where you feel comfortable, like your home, office or even car, can make it easier to open up and talk about your thoughts, feelings, concerns that are bringing you to therapy.

2. Flexibility

Life is busy. Trying to figure out when you’re going to fit in another appointment can be a huge barrier to accessing counselling. Online counselling can be an excellent alternative as it allows you to fit in a session around your schedule. This can be a lifesaver for busy parents, working professionals and for those who prefer to access supports online over in person. Babysitter cancels? Feeling sick? Instead of cancelling or rescheduling, an online session can accommodate for many of these situations as you determine where you are most comfortable seeing your counsellor. This may mean not even having to leave your home or find backup childcare. Counsellors who provide online therapy also tend to have more flexible schedules and may be able to offer sessions outside of the standard Monday to Friday 9-5.

3. Confidentiality

Who wants to run into their neighbour, or worse, their boss, after attending a therapy session? Online therapy provides an additional level of confidentiality, especially if you live in a small community. Online counselling may also reduce barriers for those who aren’t yet ready for their family members to know they are accessing support, with the ability to meet with your therapist when/where you feel most comfortable and secure.

4. Selection

Research has shown that it’s the relationship you develop with your therapist, rather than the specific modalities or interventions they might use, that is the real key to positive therapeutic progress. Online counselling also means that you’re not limited by geography when choosing a therapist, allowing you to find a therapist that has experience and expertise in the issues or concerns you are seeking help in.

If you're thinking about engaging in online counselling or have any questions, feel free to contact us to learn more! If you're ready to get started, why not book now?

A Little About Liz

Have you ever wondered what your therapist does in their free time? Are they a real human with issues, goals, dreams, just like the rest of us? Does she partake in the occasional glass of cabernet or a craft brew? Do they really meditate or use those relaxation exercises they taught me last week? Why did they decide to do this for a living? So many questions! Well, here's a little about me to prove that I'm a real person too:)

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Who is the most influential person in your life?                              

I would have to say my grandma. She is the most kind, compassionate and strong woman I know. She and I definitely share a passion for learning and education and she has been my number one supporter in my journey this far.                             

What did you want to be when you grew up?

For me, being a therapist was something I knew I wanted to do from a young age. I have always been interested in human behavior and exploring why we do what we do. Supporting those around me and providing a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings is something that I get joy and fulfillment from and have been naturally drawn to. Being able to be a part of someone’s journey is something that I appreciate on a daily basis, being invited into stranger’s lives and witnessing the inner strengths that people are able to harness to move through difficult and painful situations, is an honor for me.                                                             

What do you like to do?                              

I very much enjoy working out, mainly strength training. Going to the gym was not something that I always enjoyed and was basically a chore that I would put off most days. By setting goals, researching how to work out effectively and committing to myself, I have truly developed a passion for working out. I've also noticed how much of a positive impact it has on my mood which helps keep me motivated. I also love spending time with my toddler, taking things slow, hanging out at the park and being silly. I also really enjoy hanging out on patios with my girlfriends having a beer:)                        

What are you working on?

Right now I’m working on personal development. Through the process of building a private practice I have developed an interest in business, something I never thought I would say, and have been reading and listening to podcasts about starting and growing a business regularly. I’ve also been reading more about coaching and teaching at a post-secondary level.   

If money were no object, what would you do with your life?

I would spend my time learning new things. I would love to be a “professional” student and could see myself exploring classes that are outside of my comfort zone. I also love being on campus, going to the library and bookstore. I’m definitely a bit of a geek that way.

What is the book you have recommended the most to clients?                               

Attached. If you’ve ever had questions about why you seem to fall into the same old relationship patterns no matter what, this is the book for you. It is well written, provides tips and skills and anyone could benefit from reading it, in my opinion.

What’s something you’re really into right now?                              

The enneagram. Kristen encouraged me to find out my number and I have been intrigued by it ever since. I find that it offers a lot of insight into our personalities and the motivations that drive how we interact in the world.                              

If you could have only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be? 

Pizza, 100%. There are so many options for toppings and it magically shows up at my door in 30 minutes.

How would friends describe you in 3 words?                     

Empathetic, supportive, and caring.                     

So that's a little about Liz, thanks for reading!

Liz Hagerty MSW RSW                

A Little About Kristen

Have you ever wondered what your therapist does in their free time? Are they a real human with issues, goals, dreams, just like the rest of us? Does she partake in the occasional glass of cabernet or a craft brew? Does she actually meditate or use that relaxation exercise she taught me last week? Why on earth did she decide to do this for a living? So many questions!!

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Hi, I’m Kristen, of The Wellness Collective, and I am a real human. Nice to meet you! Liz and I thought it might be fun to introduce ourselves with a few questions that kind of highlight our interests, preferences, passions, etc.

So here I go….

So, why did you decide to listen to people’s problems for a living?

Therapy is so much more than just listening to people’s problems. I have known that therapy was to be my path since I was 14 years old and found myself sitting on my own therapist’s couch. I struggled with depression and chronic pain, which made it incredibly difficult for me to go to school, focus and stay motivated. My therapist provided me a safe space to explore healthy coping strategies whilst validating my pain and modeling self-compassion. As time progressed, my mood improved and we started exploring other areas that are super important to teenage and young adult development, like the importance of having healthy boundaries, healthy communication and healthy attachments. It became very clear to me that, like my own therapist, I wanted to spend my own time and energy helping youth and adults find their way and overcome their struggles.

Why do you love being a therapist?

I love being a therapist because I love seeing people grow. It’s a profound privilege to walk alongside my clients and hold their hope until they can walk on their own. My job is not to be your life-long therapist. My job is to help you become your own therapist and be able to start coaching your own inner voice when it comes to coping, managing and overcoming the obstacles life throws at you.

You have an entire day off with no appointments, no groceries to pick up and no deadlines. How do you spend it?

Wake up. Make coffee. Listen to a podcast or read. Go for a walk at the beach with my mum, or a quick spin on my new spin bike. Lunch at the Wooden Spoon. (That California Eggs Benny is bomb). A patio hang with my girlfriends. (I do love me a glass of rose on a warm day!) I’d finish my day with a family BBQ where I can catch up with my family and play with my nieces.

If your best friend were to describe you in 3 words, what would they be?

Thoughtful, creative and funny.

What are you most excited about right now?

THIS! I’m super excited to be stepping out into the business world (scary!) with my best friend and business partner, Liz. We’ve literally shared an office for the past 18+ months and sat not 6 feet apart for hours (and hours) on end. I’ve never met anyone else who has so closely aligned with how I enjoy working with clients and the population of clients I am passionate about working alongside. We also have a lot of fun working together and know how to throw down when the work is done!

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

Oh dear. I am a sucker for skin products – masks, scrubs, moisturizers, cleansers. All.Of.It. And stationary. I love fun notebooks, agendas, pens, etc. 

If you could go out for a glass of vino or espresso with one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would most want to kick back with Henri Nouwen. Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest who studied psychology and wrote many books about how his own struggles were instrumental in helping those he counselled and mentored. I came across Henri Nouwen’s writing when The Inner Voice of Love was given to me to read following a difficult breakup. I felt inspired to explore my own identity and how I want to be in relationship with those around me. I went on to read some of his other work and found that his writing tackles a number of universal themes that come into play throughout the lifespan, including loneliness, anxiety, insecurity, love, loss and self-compassion. And if Henri wasn’t available, I’d hit up Kristen Wiig for a cocktail.

What’s something you’re really into right now?

The enneagram! Our friend, Vanessa, enthusiastically introduced us to the enneagram about 6 months ago and I’ve been researching, reading and diving in ever since. Making friends and family take the quiz, listening to podcast after podcast on my commute, typing cartoon characters and celebrities. By the way, I'm a 9, with an 8 wing, if you happen to also be an enneagram nerd. :)

If you made it this far, congratulations! I appreciate you taking the time to support The Wellness Collective. In future, we hope to put out weekly posts about everything counselling and life-related! :) If there are any topics you'd like us to cover, send us an email !

- Kristen Hamilton, MA RCC

Introducing The Wellness Collective

Hi! We are Liz Hagerty and Kristen Hamilton of The Wellness Collective! We offer counselling, coaching and clinical supervision in White Rock and downtown Vancouver. Later on today, we will be posting a little bit of information about us. We hope you'll follow along on here as we write about various mental health and relationship topics. Our goal is to post 1-2 times a month so if you have any topics you'd like for us to cover, please feel free to send them our way by clicking here! We also have an online booking system hooked up so you can easily and conveniently schedule or cancel appointments at the click of a button!

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Stay tuned!

- Liz and Kristen