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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!


If you read last week’s blog on How to Sabotage Your Next Diet, and if you have ever dieted before, there is a good chance you could relate.  The truth of the matter is, when we diet, we tend to experience feelings such a guilt, shame, and failure, which are not much fun at all.  Food and eating is meant to bring us joy and pleasure, not to shame us for enjoying it.


Mindfulness, the concept of moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment, is becoming a well-documented tool for mental health, but did you know the principles could also be applied to diet?

eating-in-front-of-tvIn fact, most of us likely practice the opposite of mindful eating, we are more likely engaging in mindless eating.  We lack awareness of how we fill our plate, or our portion size.  We eat in front of the TV or computer, and we do not notice cues in our body signaling us that we are full.  With mindless eating, most of us can consume an unnoticed 200-300 calories each day, which overtime can lead to unwanted weight gain.  Consider this: have you ever been eating chips and went to put your hand in the bag, only to find it empty? Or have you ever eaten the last piece of crusty, dried out chocolate cake even though it tasted like cardboard?

Without thought, a lot of the cues in our environment and body go unnoticed.

Below are a series of questions to ask yourself about your eating and eating habits.

Take a few moments to complete the Mindful Eating Self-Assessment Questionnaire[1].


Once you complete the questionnaire, take some time to review it.

The point of this exercise is to start the process of becoming more aware of situations surrounding food.  Why you may eat in certain situations, what your feelings usually are when you are eating, if you are aware of the surroundings that make you more likely to participate in unhealthy behaviours?

We first must begin to notice our behaviours before we being to change them.

Visit our web page for details about our upcoming course and FREE Information Session on OHS’s Balancing ACT for Weight Control



[1]Framson C, Kristal AR, Schenk JM, Littman AJ, Zeliadt S, Benitez D. Development and validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. J Am Diet Assoc 2009;109:1439-1444.


As we continue to count down the days to the holidays, it can be easy to lose sight of what the true meaning of this time of year is about.  Over the last few weeks, we have shared some Mindfulness Strategies for the Holidaze and some goal setting tips for Setting SMART New Year’s Resolutions to offer a helping hand for getting the most out of December.  None the less, there are times when the most wonderful time of the year may not always feel so wonderful.

Though it’s been said, many times many ways (pun intended), mindfulness is great tool that can help give some perspective to allow for present moment connection.  There are many different times and ways to practice mindfulness.  Below are some helpful activities the whole family can try out to help stay connected to what you really value this time of year.

Mindfulness when Travelling:


For some of us, the hustle and bustle from point A-to-B is an essential part of the holidays.  Unfortunately, unpredictable weather conditions, traffic, and the occasional “are we there yet?”, travelling may feel more like a chore.

Ask everyone in the car to describe what they see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste.  Put on some favourite holiday music, create games out of passing cars and landscapes, or have everyone reflect on what they have enjoyed most about the holidays so far.  One of my favourite games to play in the car while growing up was the License Plate Game.

Here is how you play:

Play as individuals or as a team, and try to see how many different license plates you can find on your trip.  If you will be making many trips, a fun option may be to write them down and over the course of your holiday travel, see how many different license plates you find.

As simple as it may be, this simple task can be helpful to take your mind off how busy the roads are or how late you are running, and encourages you to notice your surroundings and connect with the people you are travelling with.

Mindfulness during Gift Opening:


If gift opening is a popular tradition in your home, this is a great opportunity to practice informal mindfulness.  Similar to the mindfulness while travelling, this strategy is one the whole family can try.

Start by taking in your surroundings.  What do you notice?

What sounds do you hear?  Yes, it may be noisy, but amidst the noise what can you really hear?  Crinkling of paper?  Laughter?  Heartfelt thank you’s?  The fire place crackling?

What do you see?  What colours are the wrapping paper?  Are there ribbons or bows?  Children having fun?  The lights sparkling on the tree?

What do you smell?  Your morning coffee or hot cocoa?  The scent of breakfast lingering or dinner in the oven?  Do you smell pine needles or wood on the fire?

What do you feel?  The texture of the wrapping or tissue paper in your hand?  How does it feel in your hands?  Where are you sitting?  On a chair or couch?  Is the room warm and cozy?  Are your feet in socks or slippers?

Can you taste anything?  Perhaps the sips of cocoa or eggnog?

By slowing down and connecting with your senses, you may notice some simple joys that may have gone otherwise unnoticed.

Mindful Communication:


This is one mindfulness practice that is useful every day, however, is an important one for me around the holidays.  Spending time with family and friends, especially those we do not get see often, is a common tradition for many.  Practicing mindfulness while communicating with our loved ones can be a gift in and of itself.

To practice mindful communication, it is important to be fully connected to the conversation.  Make eye contactListenWait patiently for the other person to finish before speaking.  Limit distractions.  If smartphones, TV, or video games are big distractions, suggest limited use during times when gathering with family and friends.  Encourage family to leave their devices in another room, or provide a phone basket for everyone to keep their phones in to reduce the autopilot nature of phone checking every so often.

A little goes a long way when it comes to mindful communication, and it will be sure to feel good to fully connect and communicate with everyone.

Mindful Eating:


It is no surprise the holidays come with lots of excuses to indulge which can certainly challenge our waistline come January 1st.

Practice eating awarenessBegin to notice your hunger cues in your body. Engage your senses.  Notice the smells, taste, and texture of the foods.

Practice becoming aware of the food in front of you.  Are you fully aware of the food you’re choosing?  Do you like everything that is on your plate?  Do you notice when you have finished a certain food item?  Do you enjoy every bite?

Being mindful while eating can be a challenge, so take your time, and enjoy the moments around food this holiday.

Stay tuned in the New Year for more on Mindful Eating for Weight Control!

We hope these Mindfulness tips help you take time to notice the simple joys of the holiday season.

From all of us at OHS, we wish you and yours, a happy and safe holiday.




“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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