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A Review of Paul Coelho’s “The Alchemist” by Tammy Benwell

Book: The Alchemist

By: Paul Coelho

Reviewed By: Tammy Benwell

What the book is about:

The Alchemist is a book about following your dreams, and the struggles that one often faces when attempting to do so.

While sleeping under a sycamore tree Santiago has a recurring dream where a young child tells him that a treasure awaits him at the Pyramids in Egypt. After consulting an elderly gypsy woman, who confirms his dream, Santiago sets out on his journey to Egypt. Along the way he encounters people and circumstances that cause him to doubt his dream, but he also meets people like the Alchemist, who continue to inspire him and renew his faith in the journey.

Why I think you should read it:

I love this book because it touches on one of my core beliefs about the nature of life. I believe in following your dreams, no matter how big or small they might seem. I think that we allow fear and feelings of unworthiness to dictate a lot of our choices in life, therefore limiting our growth. Bad things will happen to us all at some point, and sometimes the bad things can feel quite frequent and overwhelming. Santiago certainly faced his fair share of challenges. But if we can continue to push forward, I whole-heartedly believe that good things can happen. I have witnessed it firsthand, working with mental health patients, their families and my clients at Bliss.

Favourite quotes:

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.”

“People are capable at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself… no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”

Valentine’s Day Yoga Workshop

Trying to plan an exciting Valentine’s Day for you and your partner? Join Certified Psychologist and AcroYoga instructor Heather Anderson for a Couples Communication and Yoga Workshop from 8-10 a.m. at the KW Gymnastics Club! It may not sound like your typical, romantic breakfast-in-bed, but it’s perfect for couples looking for a fun and unique experience!

The workshop combines discussion about relationships, communication, and trust with the practice of AcroYoga, which “blends the wisdom of yoga, the dynamic power of acrobatics, and the loving kindness of healing arts”. AcroYoga is a playful way for partners to interact, explore one another, and to have fun! It typically involves one person lying on the ground using their hands and feet to support their partner, who is balanced above them in various postures. And though it might sound difficult, Heather assures us that beginners can easily participate:

“Some people come into AcroYoga worried that they are not flexible enough or not strong enough. This is not the case! The techniques and progressions in AcroYoga allow beginners to challenge themselves in safe and comfortable ways. Everyone is encouraged to listen to their body and step just outside of their comfort zone, but not beyond.”

All you need to bring is your partner, a bottle of water, and your sense of adventure!

We believe this workshop is great for any couple, whether or not they are experiencing difficulties with communication and trust. Learning how to listen to one another, communicate effectively, and take some risks will benefit any relationship, and the workshop itself is just plain fun! It will definitely give you something to talk about over your dinner plans!

If you are interested, email Heather at heather.anderson@bliss-therapy.org to register. The workshop costs $100 per couple, but due to the therapeutic nature of the workshop, if you have any benefits or coverage you will be able to submit the receipt as Couples Therapy. If you register and pay in advance, Heather will email you your receipt the same day; you are also welcome to pay the day of, in which case your receipt will be mailed to you the following day.

Location: KW Gymnastics Club, 805 Victoria Rd. South, Kitchener
Time: 8-10 a.m.

Coping with Friendship Break Ups

I recently read an interesting article that explored friendship break ups and the silent unrecognized pain and even grief that may occur as a result of this lack of recognition; read article here. In addition to highlighting the emotional impact, the author noted that someone experiencing the end of a friendship may be coping with societal and cultural messages that do not acknowledge, validate or even discuss the hurt and grief of a friendship ending. This lack of validation can impact a person’s belief of what they “should” feel or “should” need in terms of support which may foster a “suffer in silence” environment further alienating the grieving individual. While the article did delve into the differences and similarities of break ups in both intimate relationships and friendships, I found myself hoping the article would provide the reader with helpful ways to cope with or support oneself through this type of loss.

Regardless if we know why a friendship ends or if someone virtually disappears from our life – referred to as ghosting in the aforementioned article, the pain of losing a person and friendship is palpable and can impact various aspects of our day to day life. If we are experiencing the grief and pain of the end of a friendship, here are some tips to help us adjust and cope in our life without that friend.

1. Acknowledge that this is a Real Loss.

Investing time and emotion into someone comes with hopes and dreams for an unknown tomorrow. When a friendship ends so do the unnamed plans and the future that we thought that person would be a part of. Allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss through the recognition that it is the end of something that held meaning for you.

2. Be Realistic about what Energy you have and Use.

When we are grieving our physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual self is doing a lot of work processing the grief while we continue in our day to day. It is not uncommon or unexpected that you may have less energy then you are accustomed to. It may be helpful to put boundaries around how much you do or what more you take on; at least until you feel that energy returning.

3. Beware of the Negative Coloured Glasses.

It can be easy when we feel rejected to internalize that message and attach it to everything we see or do. Messages such as “I never keep friends” or “I am always getting hurt by people” are over-generalizations and at their core untrue. When a friendship ends it has as much to do with the other person as it has to do with us. While it is important to be accountable to yourself in what you may do differently in the next friendship it is not helpful to badger yourself with negative criticism and hurtful inner monologues. Which leads to the next point:

4. Practice Self Compassion.

If the messages you tell yourself are riddled with negativity and self-criticism then your ability to cope with the loss and begin to heal will also be hindered. Think of your inner monologue, would you say these same things to someone you care about? If the answer is no, then why is it okay to say it to yourself? Give yourself hopeful, loving messages which reinforce that you will be okay and you will heal – because you will.

5. Find Your Support System.

Look for the people in your life that care about you and know how to provide you with care and nurturing. Let them know what has happened and how you are feeling and be open to their love and support. Sometimes our support system is just as impacted as we are by grief or maybe that friendship was our support system, it may be helpful to consider counselling where an unbiased confidential environment can allow you to explore the grief while investing in strategies that lead to healing.

Your Grief Specialist Melissa

12 Ways to Create an Intimate Connection

1. Practice Effective Communication Skills

There are many ways to develop effective communication in your relationship. One of them is to be present with your partner, which includes temporarily setting things aside in order to give them your full attention. Put your cell phone away, take your eyes off of your computer and turn off that T.V. Active listening isn’t about you, so hear your partner out. Focusing on them includes making eye contact while they are talking to you. It’s also good to remember that they may just need to vent about something and don’t always need your advice or opinion. Being heard and feeling as though your partner is interested in what you are saying is important, so try not to think about what you want to say next and let them speak their mind. Another thing to remember is to practice empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and try to feel how they are feeling. This can help how you figure out a way to react to them and what they’re saying. How would you want someone to react to you? Reflecting back to them what you heard them say is a good way to show that you are listening. This way, if you get the message wrong they can correct you right away. Finally, practice mindfulness and focus on what is going on right now – not what happened last week or what is going to happen in the future.

2. Maintain Eye Contact

As mentioned above, eye contact shows your partner that they have your full attention. It also shows trust, respect, vulnerability, and openness, and increases the likelihood that your partner will feel understood. For these reasons, eye contact can lead to deeper intimacy between two people. Remember when you first started dating? You could hardly keep your eyes off of each other! When did that change and why?

3. Show Physical Affection

Physical affection does not have to be sexual. It can be as simple as holding hands, cuddling, hugging or kissing. These kinds of physical affection increase the amount of the love hormone “oxytocin” that our bodies produce. This is the hormone that gives us all the good feels! Instead of relying on words alone, show your partner how you feel with actions. Sometimes showing physical affection can be a meaningful way to share how you feel with your partner, rather than just a way to get your partner to have sex with you. Don’t be shy and use your touch!

4. Be Emotionally Available

It may seem like this is an easy thing to do, but many people find it difficult to share details of their lives with others, even with those closest to them. They may worry that they will be judged, or believe that their thoughts aren’t valid or valued. But when we aren’t emotionally available to our partner and don’t share intimate details with them, they may begin to feel as though they are undervalued, underappreciated, or untrustworthy. So go ahead and tell them about what’s going on at work, or with your family and friends. Let them know about your feelings, thoughts, dreams, interests and what you are passionate about. Reveal your personal wants too, like those that come from deep down where you feel most vulnerable. This will show your partner that you trust them to accept the person that you are, and should help increase that intimate connection.

5. Accept Your Partner

Becoming emotionally available to your partner has the added bonus of allowing them to become emotionally available to you. Tell your partner those embarrassing stories that you can now laugh at and share those irrational thoughts that come creeping in. We all have them! Your partner needs to feel confident that you will accept their quirks, insecurities, embarrassments, and desires, and not disregard how they feel or what they’re thinking. Be each other’s best friend, be open-minded, and talk about the things that move you.

6. Share Your Happy Feelings Too!

Tell your partner how they make you feel. What do they do that gives you all those good feelings? Why is your life better with them in it? What are you grateful for? Tell them how they are appreciated, valued and most importantly loved.

7. Be Supportive

You can show support in physical and emotional ways – sharing, listening, touching, holding each other, hugging, kissing, etc. You can give support by sharing advice, opinions, and experiences (just be careful not to tell your partner what to do!). In doing so you can give your partner necessary self-esteem boosts and build up their confidence. It is all about balance. Let your partner know what kind of support you need and how much you need it, but listen to them when they share with you about the support you give and how you can improve in order to best help them.

8. Trust

Trust is an important aspect of intimacy. Supporting yourself and being mindful of your feelings will give you confidence when you are with your partner and when you are alone, allowing you to trust them. Be dependable for your partner, come through on the promises you make, be honest and be open – this will allow them to trust you. Do what you say and say what you mean! When there is trust, the walls you have built will come down and the fears and worries you have will begin to fade away. Trust helps intimacy to grow and to be maintained.

9. Laugh!

Boost your mood and boost your relationship! Be silly, tease, have fun and make each other laugh. Laughing doesn’t just show that we think something is funny; it is also a way to connect with others. Have you ever caught yourself mimicking the gestures or facial expressions of someone you are talking to? Have you ever caught yourself joining in on someone else’s laughter? I bet you do it more often than you think! Laughing makes us feel good and it’s contagious, so share lots of laughs with your partner.

10. Find Common Interests and Do Them Together

What kind of interests do you and your partner have in common? Is there something you’ve been meaning to get out and do together? Why not share in more experiences together? Engaging in activities together and giving yourselves a shared history (maybe even one to laugh about!) will increase your closeness.

11. Go To Bed Together

Remember how exciting pillow talk was in the beginning of your relationship? Bring that back! Take the opportunity when you are both in bed to tell them something funny that happened to you that day or something that’s been on your mind. Give yourselves time together to unwind after a crazy day.

12. Sex

Couples that have a fulfilling sex life tend to feel closer to one another in other parts of their relationship. Recognize that men and women have different sexual response cycles. For men, they may want to be more intimate when they are having sex, whereas women may be more interested in sex after intimacy has increased in other areas. The more you show your partner how loved, valued, and appreciated they are, the more likely they are to want to have sex with you. Build that up throughout the day or week by sending them sexy texts, by telling them they’re beautiful and by expressing how important they are in your life. Make your partner feel desired! Let them know how much you enjoy having sex with them. Have conversations about what you would like them to do to you and what you would like to do to them. Use language like, “it feels good when…” Sex should be fun for both of you, so be silly, laugh, enjoy yourselves and try new things. Remember to stay in the moment. Concentrate on all of your senses – touch, smell, taste, sound, and sight. When you are being present it can make sex more intense. Finally, sex means something different and is different for everyone. Try not to compare your sex life to things you see or hear about from other people. Be free and enjoy your sexual experiences! If you want to try something fun, create a fantasy box and write down fantasies you have. What turns you on? What is something you find exciting? Is there a particular scene you would like to act out? After you’ve written down your idea, put it in the fantasy box. These should be fantasies you would like to try out and some that you think would just be fun talking about and not actually doing. Then, sometime when you and your partner are up for it, pull out the fantasy box and go through a couple. You never know where things might go from there!

Please feel free to get in touch with me at Bliss Therapy if you ever need, or want more information on how to enhance your sex life!


Your Bliss Sex and Relationship Specialist, Lindsay

Bliss Therapy Celebrates Two Years of Counselling

Two years ago we opened the doors to our boutique style private practice in Uptown Waterloo. Since then our mission has been to help the people of Kitchener-Waterloo through the various challenges of love and life, and to develop and enjoy the fulfilling lives we know that they deserve! We are Bliss Individual and Relationship Therapy, and over the last 24 months our eight specialized therapists have counselled over 1000 amazing people.

Reaching this exciting milestone has us all reflecting on anniversaries and relationships in general. No relationship is without work, and as therapists our first instinct is always to help, so to mark our anniversary we have put together the following eight tips for building strong partnerships and relationships.

Eight Tips for building blissful relationships.

1. Toast the past and make goals together for the future

“An anniversary is a time for celebration! Look back and reflect on the accomplishments and periods of growth. No matter what happened… you made it through. It is also an opportunity to set new intentions going forward in your relationship! Take a pause, take a breath, enjoy and celebrate this milestone!” – Kelly McDonnell-Arnold | Sexologist

2. Your relationship is unique. Don’t compare!

“Sex means something different and is different for everyone. Try not to compare your sex life to things you see or hear about from other people.” – Lindsay Kenna | Relationship and Sex Therapist

3. Talk to your partner and share!

“The best way to keep a relationship going strong is to invite your partner on your journey. Communicate your wants and needs clearly, share your fears, and be vulnerable.” – Tammy Benwell | Therapist

4. Trust each other.

“Trust is the backbone of any relationship. If you can develop trust in yourself, you will be able to listen to your feelings and share them with your partner. There also has to be trust that your partner will be able to manage their own feelings in response to yours. With this trust, couples can learn from each other and grow together, rather than apart.” – Heather Anderson | Psychologist

5. Be awesome alone, be awesome together.

“It is important to give one another space inside of your relationship. The word space often scares people because they think their partner is unhappy. The reality is that you are hurting your relationship if each of you does not have the space to be an individual within your partnership. Having space creates healthy relationships. When you take the time to emotionally recharge as an individual, it takes the stress off your relationship and allows you to enjoy each other more as a couple.” – Tonya Beattie | Therapist

6. When you encounter difficult times, trust in each other and the relationship you have built.

“When tremendous loss is experienced in a relationship, such as the death of loved one, it can be difficult, even painful to support or be supported by your partner. Our inclination when someone is in pain may be to try to “fix it”. The reality of grief is that it cannot be fixed; it is our natural response to the loss of someone or something we loved, and therefore it will be experienced. First, recognize that you and your partner will experience grief in your own unique way and it is important to honour that in one another. Provide space for your partner to experience and express their feelings without judgment or the desire to make it better. Finally, turn toward one another rather than the often-easier response, which is to turn away from the pain and hurt, and the relationship. Marriages and partnerships can survive profound loss, and it will take empathy, compassion and mutual respect for each other’s experience of grief to help that happen.” – Melissa Reid | Grief Therapist

7. No one wins when you keep score.

“I think that many busy couples struggle to avoid ‘keeping score’ of who is doing more than the other. Try to consider that even though you may be working at very different things or in different settings, you might both be working as hard as you can and doing a great job with your respective responsibilities.” – Heather Stuart | Therapist

8. Know that you are both right and both wrong.

“In a relationship, both people can be exactly right and exactly wrong at the same time. Try to focus less on being “right” and more on understanding the space in between. You might ask yourself, ‘How can I better understand why my partner feels this way?” When we give up a little bit of power we have the opportunity to gain a little bit of compassion?'” – Jenna Luelo | Therapist

As we here at Bliss head into our third year, our goal is to continue to grow and develop as a practice in order to best help you navigate through the challenges of life, both in your relationships and in your individual journeys!

Want to know more about Bliss Individual and Relationship Therapy’s team and journey? Check out our infographic!


Tips for getting the most out of therapy!

Are you are wanting to understand yourself and your personal goals and values better? Develop skills for improving relationships? Or overcome certain problems? Live a happier more fulfilling life?

While some individuals and/or couples may see a therapist out of necessity it is something that everyone can benefit from, like going to the gym, we don’t necessarily need it, but it has the potential to optimize our lives. I believe therapy is a gift people can give to themselves, their life and to the people they love.

For some, making the decision to begin therapy can be scary, intimidating, confusing and stressful. There’s good news, though! You can work through these feelings and truly get the most out of therapy. Join me for a quick look at some very easy steps that can make all of your therapy dreams come true!

Take your time selecting a therapist

You can’t very well go to therapy without a therapist, right? Right! So, the first thing you have to do is find a therapist who meets your specific set of needs. It’s super important to do this slowly and thoroughly to cover all of the bases to prevent you from feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.

Start out by determining the type of therapist and approach you’re interested in and whether or not they are professionally registered and/or licensed. From there you can create a list of those you’d like to reach out to along with a list of questions that you’d like to ask before scheduling a session. You can always skip this step if you’re feeling adventurous or have received a trust worthy referral, by simply scheduling an initial session with the therapist(s) who strike your fancy based upon your research.

I’ve always believed in the research showing that ‘fit’ is incredibly important in the therapy experience. There is a significant relationship between the therapeutic alliance and therapy outcome. Therefore, you should be able to connect with your therapist in order to make the best progress possible. It’s totally normal to go through an adjustment period at the beginning of your therapy journey, but don’t be afraid to listen to your gut if it’s telling you that you’re not seeing the “right” therapist for the job.

Be open to the therapy process

Therapy is hard work! But it can also be enriching, run, and sometimes even uncomfortable. You will learn more about yourself and the world around you – your relationships, patterns, bad habits, and ultimately what is holding you back from living your best life. It requires you to be open to challenging yourself and making changes, which tends to leave many feeling vulnerable and resistant to the process. Just know that a certain level of discomfort isn’t really a bad thing because breaking out of your comfort zone is the pathway to growth and the end result is worth it.

So, give it your best shot and try your very best to be receptive to both what your therapist is suggesting and reflecting back to you as well as your own self discoveries. Also keep in mind that your discomfort may ebb and flow a bit as you tackle new challenges in your sessions. This is totally normal, too, and all part of process as you venture into uncharted territories.

Set goals and do the work to meet them

Sure, you could just waltz into therapy without an idea of areas of your life that you’d like to improve. However, that makes it a bit difficult for your therapist to guide you through the different phases of therapy as well as making it virtually impossible for you both to gauge your progress.

So, take away some of the guess work by thinking of your goals and intentions for yourself both in and out of therapy. Set intentions for self-discovery and goals for changes you want to make personally, professionally, emotionally, relationally, sexually, behaviorally and be prepared to do the work. Doing so will enable both you and your therapist to set check in dates when your progress can be assessed and tweaks can be made to add new goals or modify existing ones accordingly.

Be honest with yourself and your therapist

Try to think of therapy as the time to be completely candid with yourself and with someone else who will hear what you’re saying in an unbiased, nonjudgmental way. However, this can be an incredibly difficult thing to do since we are all naturally inclined to tell people what we think they want to hear or what we are trying to convince ourselves.

Fight the urge to fall into the censorship trap, though. Instead, go into your sessions with a mission to do your very best to drop your guard as you say anything and everything that comes to mind. Doing so is an effective way for both of you to work together and get to the bottom of the reason you’re there in the first place. It may not always be fun to say and hear the things that will come from these brutally honest chats, but remember the end results are greater than the discomfort you feel in that moment.

Allow therapy to become part of your life

Therapy doesn’t just start the moment you walk into your therapist’s office and stop the moment you leave it. In fact, you need to fully immerse yourself in the process and practice mindfulness in order to get the most bang for your therapeutic buck.

This means doing your homework and holding yourself accountable day in and day out. If you’re therapist suggests you journal, work on your relationships, practice breathing, read books or watch movies – do the work and really make the most out of the process. Make the most of it to maximize your results.

Less Thinking, More Sweating

You may read articles, blogs or tweets writing about our cultural objectification of women and the sexualization of the female body.  I hear more and more women struggle as they work to feel comfortable in their body and with their figure in a society that scrutinizes and comments on the female form. Introduce those insecurities into the sometimes egocentric, often loud, mainly male dominated arena of the public gym and there is the potential for anxiety, over thinking and lowered self-esteem. Sadly these thoughts and cognitive distortions can be counter-productive to the benefits the gym can offer to anyone willing to participate.

For years I have slyly tried to spy on the personal trainers as they worked with their clients at my local gym. From a distance I would watch them and then try to imitate the exercises that they took their clients through. Though my solo version of the trainer’s activities seemed like a cost effective way to benefit from their knowledge without paying the could-buy-a-good-used-car price, my adaptation was saggy, soggier and generally lacking in proper form.  It wasn’t until I had struggled with lower back pain for ten years that I finally decided it was time to get a lot stronger.  I would have to stop spying on trainers like a hokey cartoon villain peering from around the squat rack, and legitimately enlist the help of a personal trainer.

wonder-womanTraining has been a growth experience for me and some of the things that I have discovered in my initial few months of training have genuinely surprised me. For one, I sweat even more than I thought that I did.  I credit this charming fact to an excess of body heat and the awkward nervousness I feel about most things relating to physical performance. Mark my words, despite the help of chalked hands, at some point I will slide off of a machine or drop some kind of dumbbell on my feet simply due to my sweaty, failing grip.

The other thing I discovered is how markedly different the bodily positions (necessary for proper weight training) are from the ways that I had become accustomed to holding my body. For example, while working on strengthening the chest muscles, it is necessary to puff out one’s chest like a superhero.  And when I say, “puff out,” I mean way out.

Many of my training sessions have been focused on the supreme importance of the gluteus muscles. While I certainly knew that within the body one’s rump is a muscular powerhouse, I had no idea that the key to some exercises involved sticking out that rump with wild abandon! After finally letting go of my self-consciousness and doing what comes naturally in order to move heavy weight (e.g. letting your bum muscles expand and exert control), I almost burst with laughter when my trainer exclaimed, “That’s it! Do that every time.” The caboose that I had always tried to camouflage was going to actually come in handy? Well I’ll be darned.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that sexualizes women (and men, but particularly women) in all spaces.  As a public space often characterized by randy pop music, roving eyes, and tiny outfits the gym can be interpreted as an arena that sexualizes women, perhaps more than any other. However, it also presents people with the opportunity to focus upon building strength. The gym can create an environment to empower ourselves to let go of self-consciousness and open up to the opportunity to become stronger than we might have ever thought possible.

Show up, stick your stuff out, and be proud of your fearlessness!

Heart Your Parts

Last week was sexual and reproductive health awareness week.  For those of us, like myself, who are excited by all things sexual reproductive health related, this was a week to be celebrated.  However, as a sexual health lover I do realize that not everyone shares by passion or enthusiasm for this very exciting time of year. While I think the messaging and intent behind “heart your parts” is very sex positive, I do appreciate that not all of us are in a position to heart our parts; so at the very least, my intent in writing this small piece is to talk briefly about how we can take care of our parts!  First things first, let’s name them.  I am talking about vulvas, vaginas, breasts, penises and testicles!  Regardless of gender or sexual expression taking care of our parts is integral to our overall health and wellness experience.

Here are a few keys to taking care of your parts

For those of us with vulvas, vaginas, cervixes and the like, it is important to get regular pelvic exams and pap tests from a health care provider.  Best practice guidelines recommends doing this by age 25 and then having one every 3 years to monitor changes.  It can also be recommended once a person becomes sexually active and this does not have to mean penetrative intercourse only.   Ensure that if you experience any pain, discomfort, itching, bumps, sores or see changes in vaginal fluids that you touch base with a health care provider.  If sexually active use caution and practice safer sex.  Health care providers can test for Sexually Transmitted Infections when going in for a PAP test, but might not automatically, so if you want to be tested ensure that you are asking to be!

For those with penises and testes: practicing regular testicular exams is something that is recommended to start by age 15.  If you ever notice swelling, pain in either the scrotum or penis make sure to see a health care provider.  As well, if you ever notice bumps or sores or some penile fluid or discharge coming from the penis this can also be a good time to see a health care provider.  Again, if you are sexually active it is also a good idea to get regular STI testing to ensure that you and your reproductive parts stay healthy!

Beyond just “taking care of our parts” in a medical sense, there is a lot we can do to take care of our parts in a wellness sense as well.  I work with all different types of clients who experience varying degrees of emotional reactions to their “parts”.  This can be seen in clients dealing with vaginismus, anorgasmia, erectile dysfunction, rapid ejaculation, varying degrees of gender(ed) expression; reaction to sexual abuse, and body image concerns among others.  Therapy can be a helpful venue for people to explore their relationship to their body, gather psycho and sexual education and gain a sense of empowerment and deeper connection to self.  So, in the spirit of keeping our enthusiasm alive in the realm of sexual and reproductive health I wish you a happy, healthy and empowered journey on the path to knowing and taking care of all your parts.


Bliss Specialist Jess Crowe

Simple & Easy Tips to Getting a Better Night’s Sleep!

By Bliss Specialist Jenna Luelo

“Tossing and Turning,” among other common sleep disturbances such as: difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or waking-up in the morning without feeling “rested,” are not only irritating but negative for our overall well-being. These patterns can not only affect your physical sense of alertness but also your mental and emotional health. Need more evidence? Check out this article on the “8 Ways Sleep Benefits Your Life According to Science”.

Keeping all that in mind, investing some energy into getting a good night’s rest should be a the top of your “To Do” list!

Here are a few Simple & Easy tips to help you get on track for a better sleep experience!

  • Start and stick with a routine, even on weekends. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time everyday (or as often as possible) is important.
  • Find your sleep number! How many hours do you need to wake up rested? For most of us this number falls between 7 and 9 hours. Experiment to see what works best for you.
  • Limit the caffeine, especially after 2:00pm (Watch out for hidden culprits!) Caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours, meaning this is the average amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be processed by your body. So when your tossing and turning look to see if caffeine could be the source. (See this link for a good review on Caffeine).
  • Your bed is for sleep (and sex) and nothing else! We can begin to habituate our bed with sleep and restfulness, if we cut out other non-sleep related activities from the bedroom. In line with this theory, if you are tossing and turning, get out of bed and do something relaxing (light reading, meditating, have a cup of warm milk) then try again. Too much tossing and turning can being to habituate your bed with anxiety, so work to make your bedroom a relaxing, comfortable and sleepy place.
  • Your night time routine should start about 30 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to hit the sheets. This means engaging in non-stimulating activities to promote calmness and relaxation. Think light reading, yoga/stretching or meditating as a few simple options. This also means putting our electronics to “sleep.” There is mounting evidence to suggest that the light emitted from your TV, phone, and computer can disrupt your natural sleep cycles (Wood et al., 2013). We want to make sure we cut these out in our sleep preparation.
  • If you find you can’t “turn off your brain” at night and thinking has become a real sleep disruption, I recommend setting up a session with a trusted psychotherapist to discuss your worries and strategize effective stress management techniques.

I hope these tips have been encouraging for you and provide guidance on how to invest some effort into getting a good night’s rest!

*As with all health information and before you begin any new routine, you should always contact your doctor to make sure there are no underlying health concerns affecting your sleep and a contact a sleep specialist if the problem persists.


National Sleep Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from: http://sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene

Schardt, D. (2008). Caffeine: The Good, The Bad, and the Maybe. Retrieved from http://www.cspinet.org/nah/02_08/caffeine.pdf

Wood et al., (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determined the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Egronomics, 44 2), 237-240. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008

Fear-Driven Living

It is not uncommon in therapy to hear that people are living a fear-driven life. Our present culture perpetuates fear in the media through imagery, sensational headlines and terrifying news reports, in turn promoting a fear-driven society.

This fear tendency is actually very common and we can see it in ourselves almost every day. All our fears are rooted in the stories or social constructs that we choose to believe in. When we get stuck in negative stories, this tendency tends to perpetuate itself each time we allow it to manifest in us.

Most of our fear arises in the same way – subtle and unsuspecting. It starts with one fearful thought, which leads to another and another. Before you know it, it has taken on a life of its own. If we are not careful or have very poor self-awareness, this type of habit can literally create panic in us.

What is a fear-driven life?

It is a way of living where thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear. This may be fear of death, fear of loneliness or abandonment, fear of poverty or fear of pain.

What is the impact of a fear-driven life?

The more fearful we are, the more we feel a need to gain control over life. This may present itself through trying to control our environment, the people in it and nature itself so as to avoid death, loneliness, poverty, uncomfortable feelings and pain of all kinds.

What do we know about fear?

The emotional and psychological response of fear can paralyze us into inaction. It can numb our emotions and thoughts, resulting in poor decisions and judgments. It impairs our insights. Any decision that is made out of fear tends to lead to more fear and isolation.

What can we do about fear-driven living?

The good news is that we can change this tendency simply by increasing our self-awareness through mindfulness. The sooner we note this tendency as it arises in us, the easier it is to stop it or replace it with a more positive and holistic approach to living. When we do this repeatedly, we eventually loosen the power that fear has over us.

Suggestions On How To Release Fear

“Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are.”

Acknowledge your fears.

We tend to spend a lot of time and effort distracting ourselves from our fears. Practice mindfulness and become self-aware. Allowing yourself to be in the present and taking note when fear arises makes it easier to stop it or replace it with something more positive and wholesome.

Confront your fear.

Get to know the depth of what needs to be healed and recognize where your fear is coming from. Next time you are making a fear-driven decision or taking a fear-driven action, take a few deep breaths and confront your fear by asking yourself: “what is it that is coming up for me? “what am I afraid of?” “why am I afraid of this?” This will help you to start breaking down unhelpful stories or beliefs. Confronting our fear is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, even when we know it is good for us.

Move away from control.

Make an effort to move away from control and manipulation and move towards strengthening the sense of knowing and trusting your inner truth.

Replace your fear.

When you recognize the presence of your fear, chose to replace it with a calming mantra or affirmation, such as: “I chose to fill myself with love” or “I chose to feel peace.” Stay committed to creating a new narrative for yourself.

Feed positive thoughts.

Remember that the thoughts that you feed are the ones that will remain with you. Next time you are grappling with a fear based thought and a positive and/or more truthful one remember to feed the thought you would like to believe.

Make falling in love with yourself a priority!

Your feelings of happiness and self-worth must come from within. You are only setting yourself up for upset and hurt if your self-worth and self-esteem are dependent on another person’s actions, thoughts and/or feelings.

Creating new stories and new beliefs take time and energy. So be patient and recognize that self-awareness is the first step towards releasing fear.

Live YOUR life!


10 Tips to increase eroticism and desire in your relationship

By Bliss Sexologist Kelly

Never in the mood? Faking it? or just doing it out of obligation? If this sounds familiar, low desire may have entered your relationship. It is completely normal for desire discrepancy to occur between partners who are engaged in a long-term relationship. Just like every other enjoyable thing in life, sex takes time and effort, but the good news is that with some practice, you can absolutely get your groove back.

For 10 tips to cultivate eroticism and increase desire in your sex life, CLICK HERE for the full article.

Here Is A SMART Formula for Goal Setting!

By Bliss Specialist Kelly

Goals give you long term and short term motivation. If you add more structure and focus to your life, you will begin to live life more deliberately, on your own terms rather than simply reacting to life.

The quality of your life is ultimately shaped by the quality of your choices and decisions. Goals that range from the books you choose to read, the time that you wake up every morning and the thoughts you think during the hours of your days.

Here is the SMART formula for goal setting!

S = Is my goal Specific?

For example, you might say, “I want to be healthier.” However, that is a very general statement. Whereas, “I want to exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times per week” is much more specific.

Tip: It’s important to frame your goal in a positive tone!

M = Can I Measure my goal?

It would be pretty hard to measure “wanting to be healthier,” but it is simple to measure 20-minute workouts, 3 times per week. The more measurable a goal is, the easier it is to track. Similarly, if you track your progress towards achieving a goal, the more likely you are to achieve it.

Tip: if your goal is a large one, breaking it down into measurable elements is helpful.

What about goals that involve inner-work, such as: self-acceptance, personal fulfillment, improved relationships or internal happiness? Knowing what something looks like, feels like, thinks like or behaves like is the ultimate measurement for deep change. Ask yourself, “How will my life be different once this goal is met?” “What will I do, be and have, that I don’t right now?” We need to allocate equal attention to our being needs in the same way that our actions meet our doing requirements.

A = Attainable: Is your goal within reason?

Your goal does not have to be easy, but if you stretch yourself is it something you could achieve? You do not want to set yourself up for failure and ultimately let yourself down. Alternatively, you will want to consider, is this truly as high as you can aim or could you possibly challenge yourself a little further?

R = Is your goal Relevant to your desires and life?

Is your goal something you actually want to achieve and that you are able to work toward? It is worth remembering that your goals should be relevant to YOUR life, not anyone else’s. Is your goal in every way, shape and form related or relevant to YOUR vision? Is this something that will truly bring you closer to your ideal future?

T = Does your goal have a good Time frame?

Thinking them is not enough. “Goals once in writing are merely our dreams with deadlines.” It is important to reflect and set a reasonable deadline.

Remember… fulfilled people do not spend their time doing what is most convenient and comfortable. Start making choices that you know are the right ones, rather than the easy ones! As Brain Tracy so beautifully says, “our goals allow us to control the direction of change in our favor.”

Let us help you find your perfect match.

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