by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2016 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapist, wellness0 comments
Wellness Hacks; 17 for 2017
Our Therapists Have Compiled 17 Wellness Hacks for your Holistic Optimization. We fancy this list diverse and have included something for individuals, couples, and lovers, we think that this list is so good that it may even have the wellness power to turn a hater to a lover or at least a frown to a smile! Why 17 you may ask? Well, because its year 2017 silly and we want to stick with the theme on this one! If you are much like the rest of the world, you may be wondering how you will fulfill your weight loss goals, how to improve your BMI and drop those pounds on the scale. Well in that case, this is not the article for you but you should continue to read anyway because our professional counselors and wellness gurus are offering you our best wellness hacks for your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health, this stuff goes so much deeper than the numbers on a scale, when it comes to wellness, we have you covered! If you’re ever in a pinch, like on Wheel of Fortune or something, just remember this, “You can’t spell wellness without “WE”!”
Smiling when in a bad mood is scientifically proven to alter the mood- Yes that’s right, fake it till you make it has a purpose in psychology, smiling alone can be enough to lift your bad morning grumble back into your best internally smiling face and have your ready to sing a happy tune. Learn more here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smile-it-could-make-you-happier/
Curate a Healthy SEXXX Life- Do it and do it well, meaning feel good about it, find your orgasm, let go of the mindset that sex is chore or will put you on the naughty list. Healthy, safe, mindful, consensual sex is a stress reliever, a mood enhancer, it has predictive power into the longevity of bonds when its studied within the context of long term relationships. Don’t miss a beat, cuddle up to your partner and enjoy those sheets!
Your ego is not your amigo- Ego crusaders, the Buddhists, they know a thing or two about the ego, we don’t want to get all philosophical on you, or um maybe we do?! Ok, you caught us but how can we help but to share our enthusiasm, some magical things start to happen when we shift away from ego consciousness. According to the Yogis and Buddhists, when we let go of ego attachment and “I” we just may end up basking in the golden light of nirvana, ascending enlightenment and finding oneness with the universe, who could argue with that?!
Coconut Oil- Buy it, use it, eat it, rub it, mix it in smoothies, as an eco-friendly non-toxic furniture polish, as a conditioner, as an oil treatment, as an antimicrobial agent, as a source of fat that insulates the fibers which sustain neurofunction!!!!! Holy wow! Coconut oil is all that and some, follow this link for 107 of our favorite coconut oil uses here. http://everydayroots.com/coconut-oil-uses
Brush and Floss With Baking Soda and Peroxide- There is a reason that many of our leading tooth pastes and products use baking soda and peroxide, it’s because they work brilliantly. Give it a try!
Deep breathing meditation- Meditation and deep breathing can calm, energize, fuel the body, stop addiction, we can go on and on and on and we plan to!
Chew Slowly- One of the reasons smoothies and juices have such excellent nutritional power is because they are easy to digest once macerated. Chewing slowly helps our body produce chemicals necessary to digest and nourish. It’s no coincidence that we are hosting a mind body workshop and offering a chewing meditation in January, it’s because these things work! http://www.counselingwellnesspgh.com/wellness-classes-and-workshops/
Boundaries- This is key in all relationships, at other times such as in flings, marriages, or partnerships with psychopathic, narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline types clinging tight to boundaries is imperative. Step one-Create emotional, physical, and interpersonal boundaries which are minimum standard levels for treatment. Step two- if those boundaries are violated accept your hurt and anger as healthy and rational. Step 3- Assess for how to respond. Has this person overstepped boundaries before? Is it likely to happen again? Is it a threat to physical safety or emotional health? Looking at these questions will guide you to make constructive decisions moving forward.
Sleep Hygiene- Our therapists love sleep hygiene and creating wellness routines which examine how we sleep. Our nighttime rituals and how those bedtime pastimes are effecting restfulness is a great way to get those repairative, restorative, and vital Zzzzz’s on track, who could forget that sleep is one of the most fundamental building blocks for emotional and physical health.
Exercise, we can’t say enough about it for emotional wellness and longevity- Per the American heart association, as little as 30 minutes 4x a week has some benefits. We know that most Americans are missing the mark when it comes to physical activity. Yet here it is as an effective tool to boost mood, reduce anxiety, promote calm, enhance body image, yes, it is that good! Get moving whether it’s down dog or a quick jog, and for good measure, talk to your doctor to be sure exercise isn’t contraindicated for you!
Communicate and do it well- Study the language that you use to frame your thinking and your speech, it has much to do with the outcomes you experience and the way people interact with you. Whether in our family, romantic or work relationships, we should use direct, meaningful, purpose driven communication and then sit back and enjoy the results that you can create.
Listen and do it well- As an addendum to ^^^^^ it’s not only speaking that we must master but a large part of speaking is listening, as therapists, listening is our super power but this is a practice which helps all conversation. When we are at our best it’s a 50/50 deal, knowing what we need to say often begins with listening to others, and if we are being real, listening and really hearing is sometimes hard as heck because its often easy to hear what we want to hear instead of what is being said.
Dream Journal- Study those dreams, record them, start to notice the unconscious patterns and communications, it can be a huge opportunity for life transformation. Typically, the help of a psychotherapist who offers dream interpretation is necessary for this. It is often very hard to understand the meaning of our dreams but working with someone who speaks dream language and metaphor will help you to muddle through your unconscious code with ease! Let the synchronicity unfold!
Try a laughing meditation- Think that meditation is just for the strong, stoic serious types? Well think again, there are lots of forms of meditation and this one is one of our favorites. What could be more contagious than laughter? We cant think of much and this is a contagion we would like to catch!
Volunteer- We know, you barely have time to wash your socks and you’re reading these wellness hacks to get better with yourself so why are we getting all humanitarian on you? Take a cleansing breath wellness warrior. Volunteering is great for everyone and if you have never tried it, you might find that most of us are socially wired to feel good about helping. Social Exchange Theory says so if you don’t believe us! This is a two for the price of one deal!
Take time for yourself every week, make it a priority- Alright, now back to you! This one we insist upon, its necessary, its vital, its “ME TIME.” Sadly, the people who need it the most likely don’t take it much but if we are filling up the emotional cups of those who are around us we really need to serve ourselves first. Before you count yourself as selfish, it’s not just for us, it’s for our friends, spouse, and ability to achieve too…
Love and trust yourself first– This self-loving thing is our final point, this is us saving the best for a last. Be watchful of anyone who threatens, mocks, or tries to diminish your love, trust in yourself, and your precious instincts. When we lead our lives with self-love, every action becomes more natural, our behavior more nourishing, this is the final step, with brimming half-full cups we salute, we connect, we tend ourselves, each other, and the planet here! All we really need is a little self-love, la, la, laaaoove!
Peace, love, and good health,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 20, 2014 counseling, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The solar energy and entrance of summers dance beckons forth beads of perspiration and the cherry blossom glow if sun-kissed cheeks. It is time to celebrate the summer solstice and this year the earth has proffered abundantly with her flourishing landscape smiling faces pleased to be enjoying more of life outdoors. Moods seem to be heightened and Peaceburgh united in celebration of earth’s full bloom. As a 30 something woman and psychotherapist the summer solstice has special significance to me as I realize that I am in the solstice of my very own life’s trajectory.
Spring and early summer are behind me, those carefree days hallmarked by revelry of free abandon, newly warmed earth encouraging endless exploration, curiosity and summers long, warm nights fueling choice and impulse to stay a little longer gazing at the starlight canopy glimmering way up there. Yet the more days of life which are offered to any of earths curious travelers, the more thought that may beckon itself towards the distance. As thinking, feeling, planning humans we know that the golden halo of the high summer sun will unfold towards to the chill of October and the stark freeze of January. So we sentient beings do our very best to both remain centered within the ebullient energy of the solstice yet we also concern ourselves with embodying the best expression of all of this heightened opportunity towards the yield of the later season’s crop. The tomato blossoms which I loving tend in June shall nourish me during the less opportune late winter. Much of human suffering is preventable when we simply act in accordance with the earth’s rhythms and offer our selves towards the infinite flow of wisdom which is contained in the grasses and groves around us.
Which portion of your life may you tend more gently, nourish and water more abundantly so that your crop yield will provide more nourishment to your and yours? Are you a staunch singleton or a part of a loving relationship or marriage? Is there an activity or hobby which you have always wanted to take up? How about that extra degree or accreditation which you have wanted to obtain? A part of your spirit urging you to take that trip? Are you uncomfortably shy or angry, what risks are you willing to take to embody the best you? What about that love or a friendship which you have wanted to repair? The solstice is a time of bountiful joy and opportunity, our terrestrial reminder that energy is in full force, to what should we devote ourselves so that we are the most whole and healthful humans we can be?
Pittsburgh has much to do this solstice to celebrate and commune in the worshiping and love of the season! Check out some of these peaceful events!
- At the First United Methodist Church “Re-Source! Creation Spirituality Gathering, June 20-22” Here you can look forward to “Integrating Spiritual Practice with Compassionate Action”, is the theme of this year’s Creation Spirituality Gathering at First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh. Deepen your spiritual practices with people who re-source their walk in the world through ancient wisdom, the new cosmology, co-creativity, and joy for the inter-connectedness of all beings. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox’s keynote address will be “Compassion: The Next Level of Consciousness for Human Evolution”. Find out more at our website. www.re-Source!Gathering.com”https://www.facebook.com/events/597288267044768/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&suggestsessionid=81c6cef650f0c27c601a808714ea119b
- Also not to be missed is The Summer Solstice, Hear The Song of The Heart Celebration! Summer Solstice represents the highest point of light available for inner activation of consciousness, Mike Tamburo and Gallina work in unison to during their vibrational gonging and Kirtan chanting healing ceremonies, if your interest is piqued then follow the link! oin us for a very special Summer Solstice gathering. Create and celebrate community as we light our inner fire with vitality, joy, and renewal. Experience transformation and union through sound, tone, breath, and movement in this Yoga of Sound workshop. Crown of Eternity will lead you through mantras and meditations with a live music soundtrack – creating the perfect environment for you to become absorbed in the sound current. Open a space of inner stillness and allow the song of your heart to arise inwardly from the subtle currents of prana moving throughout your body. Experience the devotional aspects of the Heart Chakra; where there is no conflict; where Heavens and Earth come together in balance. Let your hearts soar through Crown Of Eternity’s live cosmic renditions of sacred chants. Let your minds dissolve in sublime stillness to the sounds of multiple gongs. Meditation on sound is a universal path to self realization accessible to any one and appropriate for any path or spiritual aspiration.oin us for a very special summer gathering. This event historically sells out! Register here: http://www.crownofeternity.com/ai1ec_event/summer-solstice-hear-the-song-of-the-heart-celebration/?instance_id=496
- At the local J and D winery, you can worship with some vino and tunes this Sunday! “Join us for”Wine & Music on the Patio w/ Joy Ike Band”. This lovely Sunday afternoon will include live music from 2pm – 5pm. You can also enjoy local cheese from Emerald Valley Artisans, and of course, delicious wine by the glass and by the bottle will be available for purchase.” Follow the link for more details! https://www.facebook.com/events/1451627521750989/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
- On June 28th head on over to Mookshi Wellness Center for the “Welcome Back Summer Trance-Chant Party/KIRTAN with Vox Lumina” “PARTICIPATE! RADIATE! ELEVATE! Celebrate the return of spring and raise your vibrational state with “trance-chanting”, or what the yogi’s call “Kirtan”. It’s amazing!” Follow the link to get your tickets in advance! https://www.facebook.com/events/1455776654643681/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
Here’s to you; may your solstice be full of radiance, peace, introspection, and connection!
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Individual Counseling/Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 21, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s the time of the year for chills up and down the back, and not the kind that are associated with pleasure unless of course you are polar bear, seal pup, or avid skier! All of us here in the blustery northern hemisphere are struggling to maintain some semblance of energy and optimism yet we may find ourselves faltering with the realities of cabin fevers’ stillness upon us. In fact, according to a mental health organization in the UK this is quantifiably the most depressing portion of the year. The formula calculates: weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. The date usually falls within the second or third week of January highlighting the worst of the winter blues.
Arctic air, decreased sunlight , wind advisories and slightly lower energy levels all work together to compel a human version of hibernation. Sometimes so much stillness induces feelings of boredom and restlessness known as cabin fever and other all too familiar notions such as the winter blues, a very mild form of depression. A subtle difference in energy can be expected but if you are experiencing a more dramatic and sudden change in mood or energy, beyond what is normal or even a mild change for an extended period of time, you should talk with a mental health or medical professional. For those of us who have had it with sluggishness and staring at the same four walls please enjoy the enclosed suggestions which are sure to offer some reprieve to the winter doldrums. Before sharing some tips, I will ask you a reflective question; what can be learned from the quiet and stillness which is upon us? There is indeed something balanced in the calm of the winters freeze, all of life seems to slow and with the quiet one may even be able to discern the hushed sound of each of the individual snowflakes falling. What wisdom are you able to obtain in this year’s winter reflection?
Enjoy the freeze my friends and here are some of my favorite ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit warm and well during this year’s frost!
*Eating seasonable local vegetables will vitalize your body. There is wisdom in syncing up with the earths offerings such as beets, root vegetables, cabbages, coniferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are all a bit higher in sugar which will give you a boost of natural energy that your body is likely craving!
*Don’t like veggies? I bet you like ice cream—there are multiple creative options to enjoy the snow, just stay away from the yellow kind! Find yourself a pristine patch of freshly fallen flakes and follow the link for recipes including more obvious treats such as snow cones, ice cream, and even pancakes! These are also great activities to enjoy with the kids! http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/food/index.ssf/2014/01/try_these_snow-based_recipes.html
*If you can’t beat them, join them! Merge with the cool air by taking advantage of outdoor activities such as skiing, snow-tubing, and ice skating. With the proper cold weather apparel you will welcome some time outside of the home!
*I have written about sun gazing before and it is indeed a highly effective mood and energy booster, with the wind and cold air advisories you still may be able to take advantage of some solar meditation through a window. If that isn’t possible or for an alternate exercise, try to meditate upon a candle flame, breathing fully and with your wide-eyed gazing upon its mini solar radiance spindling about.
*My own favorite cold weather activity is hot yoga which allows me to bask as though I reside in the tropics! If you are less than athletic, take advantage of a sauna, many of the local gyms and spas feature them and will typically allow you to purchase a day pass.
*Unleash your inner nerd by utilizing boric acid to create of rainbow burning pine cones for the fireplace or even light bulbs made of snow! Follow the link for instruction. http://www.dvice.com/2013-1-29/14-geeky-and-unusual-winter-activities-fun-cold
*With all of this time indoors be sure your furnaces filter is changed the recommended 3-6months. Your lungs will thank you and also keep in mind that you still need extra hydration! The heated air tends to be very drying and your body will require much more water than you typically consume.
If you have a favorite cold weather activity or suggestion, please feel free to share!
Sending warm wishes for health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 14, 2013 mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
What if your eyes, your skin and your brain are very much like tiny solar panels connected to your brain? In some capacities they are! Our skin is the largest human organ and it is responsive on many levels to it’s surroundings and stimuli such as the sun. Most any person who lives in the Northern Hemisphere can acknowledge the effect that the seasons have on human cognition, human emotions, and over all sense of well-being. The seasons change and often along with the departure of summer, fall and winter have a marked increase in Seasonal-Affective Disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, general malaise, and even relationship problems. As a large counseling center, we notice a marked increase in incoming client requests in the colder months. If you want to enhance your happiness, enjoy calm and comfort floating through life like a midsummer’s day? Well then it may be a good idea for you to spend some time with your head in the clouds or at the very least with your gaze directed towards the sky. As the cold air descends upon us most of us retreat into our warm and homes and convalesce with our den instinct, along with more time indoors we experience more darkness and harsh overhead fluorescent light. With this in mind, let us examine the specific benefits of sun gazing, it’s origins, and how to do a solar/sun gazing meditation.
In former times, Native American tribes held a yearly sun dance to the approach of the revered summer solstice. The native peoples worship the sun and as a part of the ritual, the sun gazers would dance, fast, and stare directly at the glowing orb in the day sky, this was intended to be an act of communion and rebirth with the earth’s rhythms. As a newly re-popularized trend, Sun gazing is enjoying its resurgence; many of us note that we must reconnect with the earth and her rhythms if we are going to enjoy the full capacity of our health and wellness. Some people report that by staring directly into the sun for 30-60 seconds each morning they enjoy greater vigor, energy, alertness, and focus. You might be wondering “but don’t your eyes get damaged from that?” Many of us recall our mother’s telling us as mall children, “Don’t stare into the sun, you will lose your vision!” After a bit of research, we haven’t been able to find any evidence that supports that claim. In fact, sun gazers note more acute vision and even ocular regeneration as some benefits.
Having trouble staying energized during the day or falling asleep at night? Solar powered meditation may be something you could try! The retina contains several kinds of photoreceptor cells; one of them is specifically responsible for regulating the circadian rhythms which is the bio-chemical/ hormonal process of sleeping and waking. When allowing the sun to contact the open eye, melatonin, one of the primary sleep chemicals is then commanded by your brain to decrease its production. Sleep comes in sync by increasing nighttime melanin production which causes deeper, longer nighttime rest. Contact with the sun will simultaneously increase production of serotonin which is a “feel good” chemical, this neurochemical is targeted in many of the popular anti-depressants on the market today. Just a minute of the suns luminosity can help you sleep better which gives you heightened energy and you can even feel happier in your new found heightened mental and physical acuity! Let us not forget that vitamin d is also synthesized via sunshine and that supports bone health as well as mood!
There is still one more noted and interesting benefit to sun gazing, that it the purported enhanced function of the “Third Eye.” The pineal gland, commonly referred to as the “Third Eye” is a curious part of the brain, it is largely associated with mystical, spiritual, and even psychic purposes. In MRI images, many ordinary subjects show a Third Eye that is atrophied or calcified. On the other hand, many of those who are deemed very spiritual, for example the “Dalai Lama” types show something completely different in this sacred mental cavern. In MRI scans performed on monks while in deep meditation, the pineal gland pulsates an ethereal blue light. Simultaneously, shaman and others who participate in Ajauhausca ceremonies also are said to be decalcifying and developing their pineal gland. Sun gazing is yet another way that we can enhance the powers of your Third Eye thereby heightening spiritual energy.
STEPS FOR SUNGAZING SOLAR MEDITATION
It is a good idea to sun gaze during the first hour or two after the sun has risen or right before it is setting, there are lower concentrations harmful ray spectrum’s during those times. As you begin this practice, aim for the goal of ten seconds during your first day and add an additional ten seconds each day until you work up to one minute which is the maximum suggested time to sun gaze.
1) Raise your hands and aligning your posture towards the sun, tilt your head back to expose your throat chakra and allow your feet to be anchored firmly on the earth. Focus on opening yourself to the energy of the sun and allow your eyes to fall upon the space directly above or below the sun.
2) Breathe deeply through your nose allowing the breath to expand inside of you as you hold your breath for a moment and allow your chest to fall slowly, evenly and gently from out of your nose for 10 seconds-60 seconds.
3) Notice how you feel before and after your mini meditation.
4) A Pro Tip: Turn your inner gaze softly towards your nose where the third eye can be found. This specifically targets the pineal gland and helps in rejuvenating it, you may notice that after your eyes have been warmed you can see many colors and flashes of light while maintaining soft, steady, and abundant inhalation and exhalation. One of the keys is to maintain awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude for the abundant warmth and light. With practice you will be transported to a hypnotic space. People who regularly practice this note that while the sun formerly appeared to be motionless it now pulsates and radiates many colors while they are gazing at it.
Take notice of your energy levels after spending this 2 minutes connecting with the sun and the earth. Do your best to find the time to incorporate this small but powerful exercise into your life for the next 30 days just to see how much of an effect that it has upon your mood and energy. Remember that the body takes time to adjust so one month is plenty of time to really obtain the myriad of benefits. If you miss a day here or there that is ok, doing your best is more than enough. Some people find it easiest to incorporate sun gazing as a part of my morning walk. If you are plentiful on time and are able to do the evening meditation as well then even better for you, otherwise many people find that once a day is more than enough. Remember if the sun is powerful enough to cause the trees and flowers to bloom, to cause the seasons to change, imagine what it can do for you! NAMASTE!
Wishes for brightness, wholeness, and health,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Therapy, Marriage and Family Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Wellness seems to have become one of those kitschy buzzwords, ever floating about, an aspiration, a lofty goal, just another on the list as “something for those other people.” As provocative or anxiety inducing as the term may be for you, it does comprise some ambitious and noteworthy components for the average person struggling to make ends meet while juggling a 9-5 and a house full of other attention demanding cues. Despite what we may often try to ignore, it is in our own best interest as well as the best interest of all of those around us, to regularly checkin with ourselves. By taking some time to reflect, we can determine whether we are taking advantage of the best and most well informed information to guide our self-care plan. If the term self-care plan makes you gasp or giggle, that’s ok too, often it is simply the act of being mindful of the important areas of functioning and turning up your your inner voice, you will be on your way in the right direction.
You may be well served to ask yourself,
“How is your mood, energy, and appetite?”
“How are your relationships?”
“How do you feel about yourself?”
What is it like to reflect upon yourself in such a way? Are these questions which you often do not ask yourself because for one reason or another? Wellness counseling is the exploration of external and internal behaviors which are preventing you from achieving the wholeness and health for which you may be striving. Often as humans we have a long list of wants, such as losing a few pounds, having greater energy, finishing the last parts of our dissertation, keeping our home in better order, being a better parent/child/spouse. If this sounds like you, you very likely may be feeling frustrated and stagnant if your desire to achieve is stilted buy some level of conscious but very amendable behavior. As a therapist who is also very well versed in the relationship between the mind, body, and the many layers of self, I understand that it is important to formulate a life plan which is inclusive of wellness and heath related goals that often extend beyond the benefits of psychotherapy. Together we can work on a new template for life which will encourage and enhance your preexisting strengths and also identify and remove those tendencies which are preventing your complete holistic optimization. Some of the non-traditional areas for which I may be able to help include,
- Breath work
- Dietary examination including your relationship with food
- Health related goals
- Emotions and enhancing your relationship with yourself
- Goal Obtainment
If any of these goals are something that you think you may be interested in pursuing, come in for a free consultation where we can talk about how to get you started on the path to true wellness. At Reviving Minds, we understand that your true human nature is to be vibrant and healthy and with an outside perspective you will have a greater opportunity to grow beyond the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors and instead you will move into a position where you be at your best, exuding contentment and health!
Feel well, live well, be well!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233