by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 8, 2019 meaning of rituals, rituals for self care, rituals for tranformation, rituals to reduce stress0 comments
Rituals, reducing stress and adding joyful meaning to life
5 Rituals You Should Try For transformation and wellness
Ever wonder why Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts every game? Rituals have enormous power to sooth and inspire as well as bring back balance to mental health by reducing anxiety and increasing confidence. According to the National Institute of Health, there are 3 primary functions of rituals, to manage emotions, to work towards goals, and to connect with others. From an evolutionary perspective we are creatures who have evolved to perform rituals including those of meditation or contemplation and group rituals. Have you ever knocked over a salt shaker and thrown some over your back? Do you attend church on Sunday? Do you pray? Have feast for the Easter holiday? These are all rituals. Flashback to the biblical era everything from attending Sunday worship, to praying for rain and lighting candles for the deceased, its clear that having a close relationship to spiritual rituals is very much a part of our cultural history. Still, whether we are referring to managing the emotional impact of times of stress, to ignite our faith, or to enhance wellness, many successful and happy people rely on rituals. The science behind why rituals work is compelling according to Scientific America. With some many different kinds of rituals we should really define that there is a difference in the Sunday beer drinking ritual, an obsessive hand washing ritual, versus a morning meditation ritual or a communication ritual with our partner. A ritual should be one that we complete with full attention and the deliberate effort to set an intention, reduce stress, or experience a divine aspect to ourselves, or foster our relationship to the spiritual realm.
Rituals can become a reliable tool for manifesting of our goal’s and enhancing our wonder, rituals have deeper embedded meaning. A beneficial ritual should be life sustaining and it is also true that the repetitive behavior of addiction and psychiatric obsessive-compulsive disorder both have the component of rituals built into them. When performing a ritual we are completing an act that becomes instinctive, our brains go into a flow state that doesn’t require higher order processing, the automatic nature of this state which can reduce our anxiety and promote calm. When we examine singing a hymn in a church, this is group ritual that can promote a sense of unity or connection among group members and with a deeper feeling of connection, these emotional components have clinically been show to reduced expression of aggression.
With so much to gain from incorporating rituals into your life, we are brought to the great burning questions, how do we incorporate more of them into our life? Start small and incrementally by adding a ritual component to something you already do, if you have never prayed or meditated it might be a large leap to attempt that everyday. A more manageable step might is to create a weekly goal. Some couples have a weekly ritual around problem solving and talking through emotional issues at the end of the week. Even meal-time can be a ritual when we bless our food or offer a moment of gratitude for the abundance on our plate. Others find that monthly rituals that set an intention with the full or new moon are the perfect time and space to set a goal for the month. Ultimately, we need to create rituals that are meaningful and manageable for you as an individual.
Meditation Ritual- whether daily, weekly, or monthly, meditation has a massive impact on wellbeing, stress reduction, and positive mood. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily makes a difference.
Love Ritual- Happy Couples have ways to celebrate the passage of time, they have yearly traditions that allow them to connect with the growth and change of their relationship over the years. It is also recommended that couples have a weekly communication ritual to release any residual emotional reactions and better connect.
Meal time ritual- Nourishing our bodies with life sustaining foods in a quiet and comfortable distraction free zone is a great way to enjoy eating. Eating has historically been an activity that is a part of ritual, think of the foods that surround every major holiday. It is also a time where families can connect to each other.
Self Care ritual- Whether it is journaling, fitness, using essential oils, or gardening, doing small things daily is important for your vitality and stress management.
Full Moon ritual- The full moon is the perfect time to release negative thought patterns and the new moon is a time for us to create new goals. Making time for a meditation under the moon light syncs us in to time and space and the greater cosmos. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there is something sacred that we experience when we cast out focus on something as grand and magical as the world around us.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 14, 2018 counseling for depression, counseling for PTSD, meditation, mindfulness, nature therapy, Nutrition Counseling, outdoor yoga, stress managment, wellness counseling pittsburgh, wellness pittsburgh, yoga0 comments
Yoga. To many, the word conjures up images of Instagram perfection and beautiful backgrounds. Thousands of years ago, the poses (asanas) were only part of the defining point of a yoga practice. Yoga by ancient definition means “union.” A union of spiritual, emotional and physical practices of wellness. The poses are an integral part, but not comprehensive whole of the practice. Patanjali, one of the forefathers of yoga defined yoga as, the neutralization of the vortices of feeling.” An intense definition, but the meaning of yoga must encompass all that it is, in a few words.
In this modern day of technology and constant stimulation, it is essential to unplug from your phone and laptop and connect with yourself. The benefits of yoga intertwine the spiritual, emotional and physical goals of the practice. Yoga has even been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. The physical benefits are easier to notice, but the spiritual and emotional impacts cannot be underestimated. The first step to a yoga practice is openness for change and self-improvement. The rest of the benefits will follow:
The beautiful Instagram pictures exemplify the increased flexibility regular yoga practice results in. However, there are many other physical benefits that are not as easily photographed. Yoga practice increases the functioning of the immune system, the digestive system, circulatory system and bone health. By toning and strengthening the muscles and ligaments, yoga can help prevent injury and increase an individual’s metabolism.
Pranayama (breathe control) increases the functioning of the respiratory system. Certain sequences can help with insomnia, but overall yoga helps to increase energy levels in an individual. The physical benefits are often noticeable with a consistent practice. Health benefits of yoga can be even further multiplied by practicing outdoors as nature has its own beneficial effects.
When my 3-year-old niece gets upset, my sister has taught her to belly-breathe. This has a calming effect on her and can prevent a temper tantrum. Practicing yoga is calming and can reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Participating in physical activity releases endorphins in the body, which makes people feel happy. Yoga increases concentration and ability to focus on a task at hand.
One of the most important aspects of yoga is being present and mindful in your body. Not comparing your current state to anyone else and manifesting a non-judgmental relationship with yourself.
Yoga encompasses all religions, spiritually the practice seeks to remind its followers that they are part of a bigger picture. We are connected to other beings and the environment. Contrary to some beliefs, the practice of yoga does not aim to convert anyone to a religion. Yoga is not a religion. The practice aims to seek a higher consciousness or meaning behind everything we think and do.
Everyone comes to the mat for a myriad of reasons, relieving stress, moving on your mat after a hard day at the office, or to try a new pose seen in passing….The pull towards stepping on the your yoga mat may even vary day to day. However, whether the practice is home-based or in a studio, it will help improve your moods, increase energy levels and bring a new level of self-awareness, among other power benefits. The versatility of a yoga practice can alter depending on your schedule or how you feel. It can vary from a 5 minute mindful child’s pose to a vigorous 90 minute vinyasa flow. Any practice can make a positive impact in your life and begin a ripple effect towards those around you. Yoga can be incorporated into a wellness plan including nutrition counseling, meditation, and mindfulness.
By Lauren Shaffer, Certified Yoga Instructor and Wellness Guru of PittsburghLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 5, 2018 anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, counseling, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, licensed therapist monroeville, licensed therapist pittsburgh, meditation, nature therapy, stress managment0 comments
Green & Serene; Nature Therapy Reduces Stress
Mindfulness, mantras, fitness and new age therapy are all devoted to finding ways to enhance wellbeing, joy, and alternately to decrease stress levels. Combating the effects of stress are increasingly important for all of us as we manage demanding lives. One of the best ways natural ways to enhance feelings of wellbeing is by practicing fitness or some form of exercise therapy. In many studies, cardio vascular exercise is explored and compared with placebos and even pharmacology and it is verified to significantly impact and reduce the symptoms associate with anxiety and depression. Yet, there seems to be new evidence that we can even further enhance the benefits of exercise.
Increasingly, we learn that the great outdoors may have many secrets to enhancing our wellness potential. In fact in a 2013 study published by the National Institute of Health, cortisol levels were measured in people who had taken a long walk indoors and others who had done the same walk outdoors in a green serene setting. Those who had gotten their cardio amidst the trees had significantly less cortisol in their saliva than those who were indoors. Peaceful outdoorsy people have long felt the call of the wild and reported the great benefit of getting their fitness fix by hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. We know that we can boost endorphins and decrease cortisol levels from the experience of being outdoors. Keep in mind the Cortisol is a hormone produced in the body by the adrenal glands, its activating presence leads to the physical responses involved in “fight or flight.” When cortisol is contained in overabundance in our bodies it can lead to many forms of disease, weight gain, and chronic stress to name a few. So in short, discovering ways to reduce cortisol’s overabundance in our bodies is vital, the mental health community is ready to explore many ways to expound upon the health benefits of spending more time outdoors.
Here are a few of our therapists top 12 to be well, ways to enjoy the outdoors:
Learn to forage for wild edible plants and berries with an expert guide.
Take your lunch break outdoors, even a ten minute walk helps.
Learn how to do a walking meditation.
Create an outdoor space at your home.
Pack a picnic with your dog or your partner.
Try to go camping.
Do some star gazing.
Take a flower sniffing tour.
Plant a garden and make some farm to table meals of your own.
Pick up litter, we can even be altruistic with our wellness.
Ask your therapist to do an outdoor walking session.
Take an outdoor fitness or yoga
We love western Pennsylvania and finding ways to enhance wellness with our abundant green outdoor spaces.
This short wellness moment is brought to you by our licensed professional counselors and wellness providers at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Be Well Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and Western Pennsylvania!
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
2539 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville PA 15146Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 14, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness0 comments
Mindfulness in Motion, Moving Beyond Anxiety
“Now days everyone replaces their emotions with Fear” Paulo Coelho
How much of our joy, our comfort, our desire do we replace with the sensation of fear and anxiety? We gain the promotion but then immediately start to wonder how will we maintain it; will we have the time required to devote to our new station? We buy the house but before we even close on it we start to panic about lawn care, taxes, the neighbors seemed a bit odd. After 3 years of the single life we meet the perfect partner but obsess nervously about whether they have called or texted back, do they like us, are we saying the right things? If any of this sounds familiar then please read on.
Often our tendency toward fearful or anxious thinking is so ingrained that we often don’t even realize that what we are experiencing is anxiety in action, perhaps we notice only that we feel bad, sad, hopeless, always keyed up and hyper aware. or maybe riddled with physical sickness. Often when we are adrift in the gravity of this emotional process we may simply think that we are mulling about the possibilities or that we are preventing these bad things from happening by considering them beforehand. The concern is that when we think so deeply about all of the possible negative crisis’s and downfalls that could happen in the future we are zapping ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy the peace and pleasantness of our joys now. We become so fixated on how we will acclimate to the managerial position that the joy and triumph of our promotions victory loses the wind from its sails before the ship leaves the port. This is one of the reasons that anxiety and depression are often co-mingled, anxiety is a feeling state which effects our perception, when we ruminate over the unrealized possibilities around each and every corner depression is often a natural out cursor.
If this is a somewhat familiar song and dance to you, then you may want to try some of these mindful tips to help reduce stress or anxiety.
- Become reflective of your mind’s process, that means mindfully noticing that you’re in an anxious thought cycle as it is happening. Mindfulness is a fantastic tactic in forming awareness of your psychological and emotional process which is the best first step toward change.
- When in an anxious state practice self-soothing, Imagine for a minute all of the situations that you have worried about that have never in fact happened, this is the equivalent of the self-soothing mantra, “everything will be ok.”
- Be patient with yourself. We sometimes get so crafty with our worrying that we then beginning worrying about the fact that we are worrying. No need to add an extra layer of anger, guilt or shame because you are noticing that you are worrying or fearful, remember that these thoughts shall pass as all thoughts and feeling states do. In fact, in a recent study published in psych central, the most helpful statement that one can make to a person experiencing anxiety or panic is that “this will pass, just as all feelings pass.”
- Psychotherapy, there are many forms of therapy which can help, commonly popular Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent intervention to make progress in changing maladaptive thought patterns.
May the best of luck and preparation guide you on your journey!
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville
Contributed by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 1, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, wellness, wisdom0 comments
50 Wellness Keys to Living a Happy Healthy Life
Our therapists and wellness gurus have compiled a list of 50 happiness keys- Be Well PGH!
- Make peace with your past.
- Have faith in the future.
- Find love for everyone but love some very deeply, this may require learning how to love and feel.
- Forgive yourself, forgive others, especially those who have not asked for it.
- Trust yourself and honor your feelings, feelings will guide you if you let them.
- Find a passion, something that makes you feel alive, practice it regularly.
- Learn the difference between being emotionally reactive and emotionally reflective.
- Prioritize a deep sense of safety and never entertain people or places which stir in you feelings of fear.
- Keep dreaming, nurturing the flame in others and yourself.
- Mindfully indulge your bodies appetites for food, play, connection.
- Learn to find and enjoy the comfort in silence.
- Make time for solitude, it is here that our creativity and vitality is rejuvenated.
- Pay attention to the words that you speak to yourself and to others.
- Wish success, beautiful love, and peace for your partners of the past.
- Try your best, push past the limits, that is where the magic happens.
- Know when to quit, some ideas and people are best left behind.
- Be cautious of too much routine.
- Regularly break into song and dance.
- Connect with The Earth and learn to hear The Words in the Wind.
- Learn to breathe with intention and harness the power of your lungs.
- Stare up at The Stars on long clear nights and think of the infinite.
- Don’t let other’s perception of you define your self-esteem.
- If you want to know someone, watch the way that they treat others in their life.
- Cling fervently to your intuition.
- Spend time closely with the elderly, they hold the wisdom.
- Recognize how short and special each moment of life.
- Hold hands while crossing the street.
- If you experience anxiety or depression start to manage it.
- Encourage yourself as you would others.
- Travel somewhere far away where you know nobody.
- Become enchanted with a strange place, person, or idea.
- Scoop a hand full of soil into your hands and smell it.
- Take off your shoes and walk in the grass.
- Stand the wrong way in an elevator.
- Stop and smell the spring flower blossoms no matter how hurried you are.
- Meditate upon love and light, glow with the thrumming of universal consciousness.
- Stretch often, get to know the little intricacies of your body, your sacred space.
- Savor the feeling of your heart beating fast from exercise, kissing, or the unknown.
- Do something for someone who can not or will not return the favor.
- Talk to a homeless person, hear their story.
- Organize your home and office, a organized mind creates and organized space and life.
- Be cautious of being overly organized 🙂
- Strive for balance in all things!!! ^^^^
- Take Vitamins and eat meals made from delicious food instead of powders or meal replacements.
- Eat glorious multicolored fruits and vegetables.
- Indulge in the second piece of CAKE!
- Chew slowly and savor for a long time.
- Create a meal without using a recipe.
- Paint something abstract without caring how it turns out.
- Tell your parents you love them and make sure they know you mean it.
- Don’t speak in the heat of anger, the words can never be taken back.
- Love an Animal as you would a friend.
- Don’t pay attention to numbers on the scale, bank account, or the years of life.
- Know that there is a deep, profound Sacredness illuminating all things.
These are our wellness keys for health and happiness!
Be Well Pittsburgh,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 28, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Everyone does it. So if you don’t mind my asking, when was the last time that you really did it? When was the last time you allowed it to propel you to the heights of Nirvana only to have it gently slide you back down into limp flesh, relaxed? I bet many of you didn’t even know that it could be so good, like sweet cream on a warm summer’s evening. After all, this very act sustains the life you are living.
I want to share with you the secrets of doing it really well. I will warn you, it’s not as simple as it seems. It takes training, discipline and wisdom if you really want to experience its full potential. Take some time for yourself. This time will give you the chance to develop tools that will offer an opportunity for clarity, strength, calm, and wisdom throughout all parts of your living and being.
Come. Take some time. Breathe with me.
There is a common misconception that we know all that we need to about the breathing process. After all, isn’t it our first physical act once emerging from the warmth of the womb? Yet, there are gurus, yogis, monks and other wellness facilitators who devote a lifetime of practice to this complex and exhilarating act. As with most everything, what you see is not what you necessarily get because there are many layers of power to be harnessed and experienced within the act of breathing.
Let us journey to our core. Begin by sitting in a chair in an upright position. Now close your eyes, allow them to gently block the outside world. Find yourself in a warm, tranquil space that exists on the backside of your eyelids. You notice the beating of your heart as it pushes warm, oxygen rich blood to the rest of your body. Begin to connect with the rest of your physical self. Notice the distinct calm feeling in your hands as they rest on the tops of your legs. Open your palms in a position of reception for the energy that is coming toward you. Accept this as a gift, a connection from the universe to you. Your feet should be planted flat on the ground. Notice how the floor feels beneath them. What does it feel like to be connected to something as grand as the earth?
Now that you are settled in a peaceful position, we are going to go even deeper inside. Take a slow and steady inhalation through your nose. Feel the warmth of the air as it makes it ascent from the tip of your nose and fills the back of your throat. Feel your shoulders rise as the air continues to spill inside of your chest, filling you down to the bottom of your belly which has expanded to allow the air space inside.
This breath feeds and nourishes your body as you hold the inhalation and very slowly, let it go, let it go, let it go. The act of taking in should match the process of letting go, equal strength and time allotted to each of them. Notice how your body softens as you exhale, feel your shoulders falling as the tightness disappears from your neck and your brow. Now let’s fill our lungs again, taking in the rich air which surrounds us. All that is full of life and power brings the breath into us until we are full. Now hold the breath as your chest expands and your belly begins to soften on the release. These sacred breaths allow everything within you to fall naturally and evenly away, as you savor in the calm which washes over you on the exhale.
Take attention to your body. Feel the energy coursing through your hands and legs. Such supple feelings of softness as you float in the space behind your eyes. Whatever you are noticing, you are exactly where you should be. You are comforted and cradled in warmth. You are present and you are calm in this moment.
Spend time at least once a day to focus on your breathing and the physical sensations related to it. If you can dedicate 5 or 10 minutes of your hectic day to breathe in this manner, you will notice a greater calm and clarity in the rest of those moments where you are devoted to work and family and all of the other tasks related to living life. Always remember the importance of your breathing. Notice the ever evolving shape and speed of your inhalation and the physical sensations attached to this. Close your eyes and for a brief moment, escape, soothe, relish. There are so many ways to do it simply and elegantly.
Love, peace and happiness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage CounselingLearn More
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 1, 2013 counseling, meditation, mindfulness, reiki, reiki, therapist, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness0 comments
Reiki is an ancient energy and healing technique. Imagine the setting as your Reiki master, attunes to you, tuning in on the subtly flowing outpour of your qui, slowly places her hands above key chakra points on your physical body. The result is the clearing of energy blockages, using a philosophy similarly to that which allows acupuncturists to heal the physical body. The Reiki master works on the Qui, ki, or chi, the life force that exudes from each human and object; once the blockages are healed health is restored. Reiki is valued for its ability to enhance peacefulness, raise and expand ones vibrations as well as soothe emotional turmoil, helps to reduce anxiety, stress or depression. There are many people who state that Reiki has helped to soothe their addiction or behavioral problems as well as to heal biological ailments, and for some, even transcend the physical realm and enter the spiritual. Reiki is a spiritual experience and space where you work on expanding and enhancing the spiritual body. Many local hospitals are now working with Reiki practitioners, having them perform this healing on their sick patients to relax and reduce healing time.
The knowledge of this energetic presence has a fascinating derivation. It is said that all Reiki Practitioners receive their abilities through the essence of the great Reiki master, Usui, who long ago sat atop a mountain in Japan. Usui’s ascension occurred in the midst of a 21 day meditation; it was during the last day that cosmic and ancient wisdom was revealed to him. Usui, with his new found ability became a great healer; it was only later in his life that he began to share this power with a select few, who then shared it with still a few more. The process towards becoming a Reiki master is time honored and much coveted, only one who has reached the highest master level is able to transfer the full vibratory force from one person to the next.
Some people may be confused as to how Reiki is different from a massage. At The Counseling and Wellness Center, individual Reiki sessions begin with the receiver laying atop a traditional massage table and in some cases a chair. Reiki makes use of very light touch and often no touching at all. The Reiki practitioner serves as a channel for the divine energy which flows through each person, this energy outpours from the practitioner’s hands into the points on the recipient’s body, mind, or spirit, which are calling the practitioners sacred knowingness towards healing. The Reiki master is also able to work from a distance by calling upon the power of ancient symbology, through distance Reiki, the master need not be in any close proximity to send the necessary vitality to the recipient.
Reiki is effective in many forms, we offer Reiki for groups, Reiki certification training for practitioners, as well as Reiki for pets.
Group reiki differs from individual, group reiki is done by invoking a meditative setting, the participants will enter a space that may contain soft music, incense and candles. The Reiki master will ask that each person takes a seat as they are guided through a brief guided imagery meditation. Through the progress of the meditation the master will have you contact the divine energy or a sacred seat of wisdom within your self. By giving the participant the opportunity to focus on the mechanics of breathing, you will find yourself in the depths of relaxation. The Reiki master will encourage your conversation with your internal dialogue and he or she, in communion with her own divine self, may even be in receipt of a message for you. You can expect to hear unintelligible chanting that speaks to your unconscious parts, drumming, tuning forks, and bells. Sometimes the participant can expect to be physically touched in one of the Reiki points which are the houses of your chakra energy sources. The Reiki master will work to unblock traumas or point of angst in an effort for your energy to flow in a more harmonious and attuned manner which is the natural flow of your true self. The Reiki master will likely encourage you to drink extra water after your session and for the days to come. Just as the ancient and first Reiki Master Usui meditated for 21 days, Reiki continues to do its work on your physical, emotional, and spiritual self for 21 days to come.
Many people find it helpful to incorporate the bi-weekly or monthly practice of Reiki into their wellness program. The opportunity to focus on breathing and relaxation instills other areas of life with greater bliss and creativity, there are some that even taut some rather astonishing spiritual benefits that have come from their Reiki practice. We will depart from this petite explication while leaving you the reader with the encouragement to continue growing and discovering all of the many parts to yourself and the universe which may compel and enchant you!
In Health and Wellness,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More