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To start off the New Year, I thought writing about finding self-compassion for oneself could be quite beneficial.  When creating resolutions we often think about health and perhaps setting a goal for going to the gym more or eating better.  I think in addition to this, learning to find self- compassion could create a huge positive impact on your life and well-being.

I am sure, just like me, there are times when you can be quite hard on yourself and judgmental.   I have often discussed with clients that it is not uncommon for us to speak negatively internally to ourselves and that we find our brain saying things that we would probably never even say to a perfect stranger or even someone we dislike.

So much inner turmoil can stem from criticizing ourselves.  As humans, we all go through difficult times and we can be easily hooked by re-hashing these events by questioning what we could have done or should have done or what we did wrong.

Finding self-compassion is about feeling loved, accepted and appreciated.  Learning that deep down we are okay and recognizing that no matter what is happening in our lives we deserve love, happiness and appreciation.  Through finding and building self-compassion we can also be working on creating a tool for ourselves to utilize when we are suffering or experiencing distress, and it can be that supportive voice that helps us find beauty and meaning.

A simple way to look at self-compassion is the opposite of being self-critical.  Practicing noticing this difference when life is going well, and when it is hard, is very important.  Self-compassion takes time to build, but awareness and practice of using a self-compassionate attitude can give you an internal source of emotional regulation and resilience.  It can help you to be more connected with the present and the beauty of life.


The following is a simple mindfulness practice you can start today to begin working on cultivating self-compassion:

Arrange yourself in a comfortable position, eyes opened or closed.  You might place your hands on your heart or lap.

You are going to start by thinking about different objects – it can be a person, animal or anything else – until you find one that brings up natural and uncomplicated feelings of warmth and love.

Now continue to concentrate on this object you feel love towards.  Let the image of it, in your mind, become clearer.  Do you notice any relaxation, tension, or lightness?  Just note that.

Now try saying the following phrases to the object you are picturing.  Feel free to change the phrases:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Repeat these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body to be as strong as they want to be (continue for about 5 minutes).

Now picture that person saying the following phrases to you:

  • May you be happy
  • May you be healthy
  • May you be safe
  • May you be loved

Picture the person saying these phrases a few times and allow the positive feelings in your body be as strong as they want to be (continue this for about 5 minutes).


Sourced from The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond


I’m sure we have all had those moments of craving something sweet or salty or savoury.  It feels like nothing would pleasure us more than satisfying that urge to indulge in what we may be craving in that moment.  Whether it’s a reward, a treat for ourselves, or a way of coping when we may be feeling stressed or down, it’s often quite a powerful sensation and urge that may at times be difficult to simply ignore.

The problem with cravings is if we buy into them too often, they can take over our daily diet.  The more we engage in those cravings, the more likely you are to find that you start to gain weight, realize you aren’t eating the nutritious diet you should be, and then secondary problems with mood, like guilt or shame, may arise.

Due to mindfulness’ popularity and our curiosity about the benefits it can provide, it did not surprise me to find that research has been undertaken to see the advantages it can provide to many areas of our life, including eating.  Through my own research I have found information relating to the benefits of mindfulness in not only effectively reducing food cravings, but also helping to lose weight and find space from troublesome thoughts.

“The results showed that participants in the experimental group reported significantly lower cravings for food after the intervention compared to the control group.  The findings are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms like prevention of goal frustration, disengagement of obsessive thinking and reduction of automatic relations between urge and reaction” (Alberts et al., 2010).

Check out this full article, to see all the details about what researchers have to say about using mindfulness to decrease food cravings.

Because of our expertise in Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), as you may have noticed from previous posts, we have created an ACT for Mindful Eating course to help you work through eating related challenges, including cravings!  For more information about our ACT for Mindful Eating course that starts this September, please contact Michelle Urbanc at 905-317-8890 or by email at today!


Alberts, H. et al.  (2010, March 23).  Coping with food cravings.  Investigating the potential of a mindfulness-based intervention.  Appetite, 2010 (199). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.05.044


It is not uncommon for people to describe how they may have wished they had dealt with a situation differently — whether they feel as though they may have let someone take advantage of them or on the flip side, they may feel they reacted too aggressively.  It is times like these when utilizing assertive behaviours to deal with not only day to day issues, but also perhaps stressful or uncomfortable situations, is usually most beneficial.

The easiest way I like to describe assertiveness is learning to find the balance between being passive or aggressive.  It’s that middle ground where you wish to communicate your point without intentionally hurting others.  An assertive person expresses his/her opinions, needs and feelings without ignoring the opinions, needs or feelings of others.  In contrast, aggressive people react to their emotion and attack or ignore others’ opinions in favour of their own, while passive people don’t state their opinion at all.


For different people, depending on the situation, they may feel more or less confident in using assertiveness skills.  These situations could include dealing with a boss or senior figure at work, family, friends, and authority figures, or even as customers.  No matter the situation though, if you learn how to incorporate more assertive behaviours, it should help you be able to feel in charge of your own behaviour with a method and specific goal in mind for a given situation.

Here are some common ASSERTIVE Behaviours you can start including in your daily life to help build on your assertiveness:

  • keeping good eye contact
  • maintaining a relaxed posture that says you are open to what is being said
  • maintaining an expression that goes along with the message that you want to deliver
  • using a conversational tone
  • speaking openly and to the point – start, change or end a conversation – address issues that bother you
  • make requests and ask favours – refuse a request if you don’t want to do it
  • expressing positive and negative emotion as well as honest thoughts and feelings
  • reaching goals without hurting others in process

My challenge to you now, is to try the above behaviours throughout the next couple of days; as a customer, with your boss, with family and friends.  See if you can notice not only how you may have acted differently, but also how the other person responded and how you felt afterwards.  Did you reach your goal?  If you did, you are definitely working towards finding the balance of assertiveness!



I am sure I am not alone in ever wishing away the next few tough days at work or getting an unpleasant appointment or test over with, dreaming of the weekend. I LOVE WEEKENDS, I get to go where I want, take my time doing so, and enjoy ample time with my loved ones.

But, as my use of mindfulness and other aspects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has increased over recent years, I have also found myself reflecting on the importance of soaking up each day or rather each moment, instead of trying to rush through week days to arrive at my very short lasting weekend.

Incorporating fulfilling and important tasks into your daily life is so important– including on week days! Seeing as though 5 out of 7 days of the week (that’s 71% of our time) are week days I’d say using those days to do things that are important to you and bring you closer to the life you want is crucial. Otherwise, we can all end up spending the majority of our time rushing through life and missing out on a full life.

For example, this week I have made it my mission to do something that aligns with what is important to me every single day.  Here is my schedule:

Monday: Call my Mom and plan a dinner date for next week

Tuesday: Go to the park with my Husband and dog in the evening

Wednesday: Go out to lunch with a group from work

Thursday: Write in my journal on my break at work

Friday: Go to the gym in the morning

So my challenge to you is to try to not just live for the weekend. Yes, weekends are a great break for many of us, but I encourage you to make the best of your time during the week too. Not only spending time at work but with the other hours you have to spend with your loved ones, taking your time and doing things that bring fulfillment to your life.




Through my work with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I have always found having the discussion regarding primary pain versus secondary suffering not only useful, but usually eye opening for many clients (as it also was for me when I was first introduced to the concept).

As symptoms and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings arise, it is almost second nature for us to try and palliate or rid ourselves of these symptoms as soon as possible!  A problem usually arises, though, if there isn’t a simple and easy fix to our unpleasant situation.

When someone has been dealing with symptoms on a chronic basis and they find they feel stuck in their suffering or that their suffering is getting worse, it can be important to begin to decipher the difference between their primary pain and their secondary suffering.  So let’s start with that:

Primary Pain:  This is the root of the problem.  These are the actual unpleasant feelings you would experience inside your body, whether it be feelings of chronic pain, depression, anxiety, etc.

Secondary Suffering:  This can be looked at as the havoc/problems the primary pain can cause in your life.  This is the additional pain that arises when you resist and react to your primary pain.  For example, if your primary pain is anxiety and you cope by avoidance (i.e. not spending time with friends, avoiding your regular gym class, avoiding family events), your secondary suffering would be the loss you experience by not spending time doing these things that bring fulfillment to your life.

Because we live in a quick-fix culture, and things like chronic pain, depression and anxiety may not always be helped by a quick fix, ACT’s approach is to help to reduce and eliminate the secondary suffering.  One may not be able to quickly or efficiently reduce their primary pain, but many have found that by reducing secondary suffering by working on completing daily behaviours that bring them closer to the life they want (i.e. still going to spend quality time with friends or attend your favourite group gym class), the volume of the primary pain may eventually turn down, and the even bigger bonus is that doing so guarantees a decrease in their secondary suffering!

This may sound easier than it looks – and that is true – it takes an individual’s commitment and acceptance every day to make choices that bring them closer to the life they want.  Strategies like mindfulness can help keep you grounded and accepting of each moment.  Continued reflection of your daily choices and committed actions will also help with keeping you on track.  Use patience and perseverance to work through making committed actions daily because the reduction in secondary suffering will definitely be worth it!




As this Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I thought I would share some tips on making your celebrations this year, your most fulfilling yet! Through utilizing techniques I have learnt throughout my work with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I hope we can help make this year feel less like a commercial holiday and more like a meaningful and fulfilling day with the one you love!


Tip 1: USE VALUES-BASED DECISION MAKING. I challenge you to try to plan your Valentine’s Day in a different way this year. Instead of planning or buying what others think you should get (including large corporations, and flower shops), I would suggest planning something that perhaps doesn’t even cost much or any money at all, but that would bring meaning and fulfilment to your relationship. Whether it’s actually having a conversation after preparing a home cooked meal together, or taking a hike, or cuddling up to watch your favourite movie together, just try and plan something that is connected to what matters to the both of you!

Tip 2: USE MINDFULNESS- I encourage the use of mindfulness as much as possible throughout your time together. Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts about something stressful that happened at work earlier that day or something you have to make sure you get done the next, try and keep yourself grounded throughout each moment of your day. Engage your senses, notice the things you can see, feel, hear, and smell and bring yourself back to focusing on your breath whenever you find yourself not in the moment. Just try and stop to smell the roses (pun intended) during your quality time together!

Tip 3: USE GRATITUDE- Lastly, show gratitude. Don’t be afraid to express your thanks, appreciation, love and respect to your loved one. This can be simple but can have quite an impact on your relationship!

I hope you can use the combination of these tips to help make not only this Valentine’s Day, but each and every day to come thereafter, your best yet!



As a counsellor using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on a regular basis, I always enjoy sharing concepts that I come across that are interesting and have also had a personal impact on my life.

One such concept, that I try to remind myself of regularly, is the concept of the “Happiness Trap”.  I have to admit, before my work with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and ACT, I was probably in the same boat as many, in maintaining the belief that life is only “good” if we are feeling happy, excited, and full of laughter all the time.  Although we may wish this for many of our loved ones and self, the reality of life indicates that just experiencing positive emotions, all or even the majority of the time, is not realistic.

Take for example raising children.  To say that being a parent means you are experiencing “feel good” moments and feelings all the time probably would make most, if not all the parents reading this, giggle to themselves.  As a parent, you are sure to go through times of happiness and excitement, but there will also be times of sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger and frustration.  All emotions are not everlasting and what this concept is trying to do is to help us to realize that living a full and meaningful life doing the things you want to do, while making room for our ever-changing emotions, can help lead to healthy and balanced life.

This concept has not only opened my eyes, but also those I work with, in changing our perspectives on life and what we would like to get out of it.  In part, this concept highlights the use of acceptance. Acceptance that as humans, our actual “normal state” consists of an ever-changing flow of emotions, just like the weather.  It also reinforces the fact that when we do have to deal with negative emotions, that’s ok!  We do not have a character defect because we are not happy all the time and we do not have to let a change in emotions dictate what we want to accomplish on any given day.

I hope this concept helps you open up to the wide range of emotions we as humans all get to experience throughout life!!

To find out more about this concept I have attached a video by Russ Harris below.



  • Concept Sourced from “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris


Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all the things you NEED to do, let alone enough time for the things you WANT to do?  Don’t worry, although many people are often in the same boat as you, there are some tips you can start using today to help encourage values-based decision making (AKA: making time for what is important to you)!

Step 1:

Start off by working on clarifying what is important to you.  Ask yourself who and what matters to you.  Many of us will begin by listing the people or things that others or society think should matter to us, but this exercise is really to help you reflect within on who and what actually matters to you.

Step 2:

Once you have begun clarifying who and what actually matters to you, then you can begin to mindfully notice the choices you are making on a daily basis.  Notice if these choices are bringing you closer to fulfilling your values (also known as “towards moves”) or further away (also known as “away moves”).

Step 3:

Once you get a sense of how often you make towards/away moves, you can start to actively challenge barriers that come in the way of making more “towards moves” (including thoughts!).


I have identified from Step 1 that my health is important to me.

In Step 2 I notice that I’m really good at making excuses to not to go to the gym.

For Step 3 I would begin to challenge any barriers or thoughts that may come up as I make my plans for the gym.

For example, I am driving home from work and was planning on attending the gym right after I got home, but tricky thoughts began to appear like “I deserve a night off” or “I am too tired”.  I would begin to challenge these thoughts by asking myself – would skipping the gym bring me closer to the life I want? Or further away? Most likely – if I did skip the gym – I would be going home and watching TV on the couch instead.  Thus, I begin to challenge these thoughts and realize in the short term that avoiding the gym may make me feel good, but in the long term – to me – watching TV is not that important and is not bringing me closer to making time for what actually matters to me!

So go ahead and get started! Begin implementing the above tips, and see if making time for what matters to you contributes to a more fulfilling and rewarding life!




“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the moment non-judgementally” – Jon Kabbat-Zinn

With its recent growing popularity, many of you have probably heard the term “mindfulness” over the last few years and wondered what exactly it is.  Whether it was during a yoga class, on television or from a friend, during those times you have probably been intrigued by the practice and what benefits it could bring to your daily life.  The following are some tips and guidelines in regards to starting to practice mindfulness TODAY.

First of all, I should mention there are a few ways to practice mindfulness.  First, there is formal practice.  This practice can be seen similar to meditation, where you set aside time to complete just mindfulness practice.  Below is an example you can try by setting aside 15-20 minutes for a formal mindfulness practice;

Body Scan Meditation

Start with a few minutes of breath meditation – noticing the rising and falling sensations in the belly with each breath.  Next, bring your attention to the sensations of contact with the chair and the floor.   Once you have a sense of your body in space, bring your attention to the toes of one foot.  Notice all the sensations coming from these toes.  Observe whether they seem warm or cold, relaxed or tense.  See if you can notice how the sensations coming from your toes are not solid, but rather are made up of a series of momentary micro-sensations strung together over time.  Try to bring an attitude of interest or curiosity to these sensations, observing how they subtly change from moment to moment.  Should you notice at some point that your mind has wandered into thoughts or been drawn to other sensations, gently bring it back to the sensations in your toes.

The meditation proceeds in this manner.  The order in which you scan your body regions isn’t crucial, though it’s easiest to sustain attention if you do this systematically, moving progressively from one end of the body to the other.

Throughout this exercise, try to cultivate an attitude of curiosity, interest, and investigation toward all the sensations coming from your awareness.  Practice accepting whatever you discover, whether it’s a pleasant sensation or an unpleasant one.  As in other forms of meditation, whenever you notice that the mind has wandered away from the particular area you’re exploring, gently bring it back.

  • Sourced from “The Mindfulness Solution” by Ronald D. Siegel


The other, and perhaps easiest way to begin practicing mindfulness, is informal practice.  Informal practice allows you to practice mindfulness at any point in the day, no matter where you are or what you are doing (i.e. brushing your teeth, going to the park with your children, in a meeting at work).   They are ways to simply allow you to engage in the present moment while engaging your senses and below is an example of how you can practice mindfulness during your morning routine;

Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine

Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, making the bed, or taking a shower.  When you do it, totally focus attention on what you’re doing:  the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound, and so on.  Notice what’s happening with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain.  Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down your legs.  Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin.  Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower curtain, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upward.  Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo.

When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and let them come and go like passing cars.  Again and again, you’ll get caught up in your thoughts.  As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what the thought was that distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.

  • Sourced from “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris


Mindfulness is a great strategy to help you to engage in your daily life and avoid functioning on auto-pilot day in and day out.  It is a way to help you to stop and smell the roses in life (or as seen below, enjoy the scenery during a walk) while learning to accept all that you may face on a daily basis.  I hope incorporating mindfulness into your life benefits you as much as it has benefited me!



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