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Yama #1: Practicing Ahimsa

I first learnt about Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras while staying at an Ashram in Rishikesh, India. Patanjali discusses the eight limbs of yoga, the first of which is Yama. The five Yamas are a set of moral values. The first Yama in Sanskrit is called Ahimsa which means non-harming. It consists of being kind to yourself and all other living creatures.

Are you mindful of your thoughts, words and actions?

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Practicing Ahimsa starts as soon as you wake up in the morning. Most of the time we are in such a rush getting ready for work and organizing the day that we don’t take a moment to appreciate the simple things around us. For instance, the food in the fridge and cupboards, unlimited water right from the tap, the bed you slept in, the blankets that kept you warm. Try taking a moment to appreciate all the gifts that are easily at your grasp. Then praise yourself for being kind to your body by giving it rest, water, and food to provide yourself energy during the day. Additionally, how often do you reflect on the kind things you did for yourself and others throughout your day? Did you take time to do things you enjoy such as reading, cooking, or exercise? It is common to feel more energized and less stressed when you take time to engage in activities you enjoy.

A big phenomenon in today’s media saturated society is body image. It is common for people to start comparing themselves to the images they see in magazines and movies. Yet another way to practice Ahimsa is to love yourself, including your body and the abilities that you possess. Everyone has a different body structure and we are all unique beings – embrace the gifts and quirks you are given. Many people attend the gym or an exercise program that works for them, whether it is because they want to make healthy changes, gain self-confidence or relieve anxiety and stress. It is common for people to start feeling better about themselves after exercise. However, it is also important for everyone to listen to their body. When we don’t listen to our bodies, injuries, illnesses and negative self-talk can occur. For instance, if you are in a yoga class trying to hold tree pose but your balance is off, be kind to yourself. Our first reaction may be to think “why can’t I do this” or “your balance is not good enough.” Instead, it is important to let any judgment and expectation go. Praise yourself for showing up to your mat and practicing self-care.

Are you practicing Ahimsa toward other beings in your life? It is important to practice kindness not only with ourselves, but also with other people, creatures and the environment. Are you kind to the people and pets in your home? Are you taking time to wish them a good morning and ensuring they also get food, water and affection? Showing people and animals that you care about them makes them feel loved and valued. If you live on your own, make sure you take a look in the mirror and give yourself a smile and wish yourself a good morning. Do you greet people with a friendly smile on the street or when you enter your workplace? A smile can be contagious and can spread more positive vibes. Do you take an interest in other people by learning about them and effectively listening to what they are saying? Being in the present moment giving them your undivided attention shows the person they are important and what they have to say matters. Do you offer to help others, whether it is opening the door or simply offering your assistance if you see someone struggle? When you offer your help to others it not only benefits them, but it can also make you feel happier.

This blog asks several creative questions. These questions help you gain insight into your inner world and outer world, and help you to become the best version of yourself. You may notice some people do not smile back or offer a helping hand. It is still important to be kind with your words, thoughts and actions. Sometimes we don’t know what hardships other people are going through. It is important to be compassionate and pass no judgement.

Embrace the journey, we are all human and can make mistakes. As you practice Ahimsa, you’ll start diving into deeper self-reflection, find inner peace, and discover the gifts in your life.

Ahimsa is the first Yama, however there are still four more. The Yamas will be continued. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog about Ahimsa. Remember be kind to yourself and all other living beings.

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Stacey Harris, MSW, RSW

What Is Happiness?

What do Taylor Swift, that guy whose best attempt at romance was to send you a picture of his junk, and bell hooks have in common? Well, if we managed to look past the catchy lyrics, the nauseating brocabulary, and the penetrating eloquence, we’d see that they all just want to be happy. But what is happiness, anyway? I know it seems like a question for philosophers, but as a therapist I’ve learned that how we define happiness actually has serious implications for our mental health.

Most of us grow up believing that happiness is the emotion we feel when things go our way. Good grades, good relationships, good job, good health, that sort of thing. Most basically, it’s about the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. This concept of happiness is so normal that it seems weird even to think about it.

The bad news is, this happiness has a serious dark side. For starters, it’s actually impossible to control things so that we only feel pleasure and never feel pain. Built right into gain, praise, pleasure and life are loss, blame, pain and death; trying to cling to one side of the coin while rejecting the other is like, well, trying to cling to one side of a coin and rejecting the other.

The other problem is that when we try to cling to pleasure and avoid pain, we tend to act in less than awesome ways. Addiction, abuse, neglect, deceit, manipulation, people-pleasing and even more macro level issues like economic exploitation and environmental destruction can all be traced back to a fundamental attachment to pleasure and avoidance of pain.

The worst part? Even when we do manage to grab onto this happiness, it tends to be pretty superficial, and it disappears all too quickly.

In summary, the conventional brand of happiness kind of sucks. The good news is, there’s a competing vision of happiness: not the presence of pleasure and absence of pain, but a life lived in accordance with one’s values. Our values are what we cherish most deeply – depending on the person, they could be stuff like compassion, adventure, family, love or humour – and, if we want to get really philosophical about it, they’re an expression of our most authentic selves.

The happiness of authenticity has nothing to do with feeling good and not feeling bad. This type of happiness recognizes that humans just sometimes feel terrible and sometimes feel great, sometimes win and sometimes lose. With this happiness, we shift our focus from that fact – which we can’t control – to what we can control, that is, whether or not to act in alignment with our values regardless of the circumstances. The added bonus is that if we’re not chasing pleasure and avoiding pain, we’re much less likely to be awful to each other and ourselves.

The best part? Acting in alignment with our values leads to a deep, lasting contentment that makes pleasure and pain seem feeble in comparison. It also happens to be the foundation of unshakable self-esteem. But don’t take my word for it; experiment with chasing this second type of happiness rather than the first, and see how quickly it changes everything.

(This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of The Community Edition.)



John is a therapist and coach with two Master’s degrees in counselling and four years of clinical experience. He is self-employed at Transformation Counselling and works with adolescents and adults on issues ranging from trauma and addiction to dating and spirituality. In his spare time, he loves to hike, reflect on the meaning of life, and eat nachos.

Getting Ready for Mother’s Day: Self-care for Moms

With Mother’s Day fast approaching it is important for us moms to practice self-care. At Bliss we believe that self-care is important for everybody, but it is super important for moms for several reasons. Reason number 1: we need to maintain our sanity SOMEHOW. And reason number 2: we need to model for our children that they matter. Yes, you read that right – you teach your children that they matter by showing them that you matter. Kids don’t respond to what you tell them, they respond to what you show them. If you live your life as a martyr to the needs of others, you are not teaching them to honour and cultivate their self worth, a skill they will need in the years to come.

Now, I know that it can be difficult to find the time to take care of yourself, especially when children are small and they depend on you for…everything. But it is absolutely essential, and completely doable if you start with the little things and build to a self-care ritual that works for you and your family.

Here are some suggestions for practicing self-care as a mom:

Alone time – take a bath, read a book, go for a walk, meditate, go to the gym, journal. These can all be quick 15-30 minute practices or afternoon-long relaxation events, depending on what you need/have time for!

Forgive yourself – we all make mistakes, there isn’t a mom alive who doesn’t have flaws. In fact, there isn’t a human alive who doesn’t have flaws. Instead of beating yourself up, practice forgiveness. Show your kids that it is ok to make mistakes and that it’s important to own them, apologize for them, and then move on.

Build a support network – have friends who don’t claim to know what is best for you but who support you, who listen and don’t judge. Those are the best kinds of people, and you deserve them. Make time for them, laugh with them, and explore common or new interests with them.

Take a nap – if you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted give yourself the rest your body and mind need, even if only for 15 minutes. You deserve to rest.

Say “NO” – it’s ok to say no to things. You would never justify a yes, so don’t feel like you need to justify a no. No is a good enough answer. It can be difficult at first, but once you start practicing saying no it gets easier – I promise.

Try a new recipe – only if you like to cook. If you don’t it’s perfectly ok – order from or visit a new restaurant! In fact, it’s probably a good rule to just try something new once in a while.

Write a gratitude list – regularly remind yourself of all of the wonderful things in your life. Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed we forget to acknowledge the things that are working well. Trust me, you will have more than you realize.

Get outside – take your kids for a walk in nature, play basketball, have a picnic, kick a ball, read a book. It’s also ok if you do this alone! If you enjoy being outside make it a part of your self-care routine either way.

Allow yourself to have your feelings – crying is ok, feeling angry is ok. It’s how you handle your emotions that matters most. In fact, it teaches your kids that it is ok to have emotions, and that feeling them isn’t a bad thing. Again your job is to model for your children, not to hide what you are experiencing. No one ever says we need to hide our happiness, why should we hide anything else?

Order dinner in – it’s ok if you are too tired to cook! Even if that ends up being most nights…been there!

Hire a cleaning lady – it doesn’t mean you are a failure, it means you have different priorities. That’s ok, and you should not feel ashamed to make that decision for yourself.

Most importantly do what works for you! This list isn’t exhaustive; there are so many other ways to care for yourself. Don’t gage yourself based on what other moms are doing, do what works for you. And remember – you matter. Your kids want a mom who is available and you can’t be present if you are exhausted and emotionally depleted. Take care of yourself and everyone will benefit from it, I promise.

I’ll say it once more in case you really need it today: You matter.

“Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.” Glennon Doyle Melton


Tammy Benwell, MSW, RSW

Meditation to Release Anxiety

Feel free to set a timer for 10 minutes.

Sit in a comfortable position on a pillow on the floor or in a chair. Find a focus point to gaze at, or softly close your eyes.

Be present in the moment.

Don’t worry about what has happened earlier today or what needs to happen later on.

Be here in the moment and focus on the breath.

Let the space around you be free of judgement. Imagine sitting by the window and the sun beaming with light. The rays of the sun are shining in through the window and radiating positive energy all around you.

Take a deep breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, two times. Inhale cleansing air in, exhale any tension that does not serve you. Inhale Confidence, Exhale Fear.

Then coming to the natural rhythm of your breath as you breathe in and out of your nose.

Inhale, bring awareness to your breath.

Exhale, ground your feet into the earth.

Inhale, lengthen through from the base of your spine to the crown of your head.

Exhale, draw the navel slightly back towards the spine.

Inhale, rest your hands in your lap on top of one another, palms facing up or hands resting on your knees.

Exhale, relax your jaw, allowing space between the teeth but still keeping your mouth closed.

Inhale, lift the shoulders up towards your ears

Exhale, round your shoulders back and down.

Inhale, soften the muscles in your face including the space between your eyebrows.

Continue to breathe, feel free to count your breath. Inhale 1, Exhale 2, Inhale 3, Exhale 4. Continue at your own pace until you reach 10 then start from 1 again.

When thoughts arise and distract you from breathing, imagine a cloud gently floating the thoughts away.

Bring awareness back to the breath; feel free to place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart. Inhale to feel the stomach lift, exhale to feel the stomach to lower.

Bring attention to your heart, inhale love, exhale anxiety.

Continue to breathe at your own rhythm.

Once the timer goes off slowly open your eyes to come back to the present moment.

Meditation on a regular basis helps us become more focused, reduces anxiety and helps to increase our self-awareness to our physical body, emotions and thoughts.

Take a moment to thank yourself for taking the time to practice.

Stacey Harris, MSW, RSW
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Credit for window photo: Sunlight, Jason Tessier

Why Is My Pain So Stubborn?


Pain is the most common reason someone sees a physiotherapist. How pain impacts a person’s identity, their relationships and their outlook on life, are typical factors for an individual to seek counselling support. Consequently pain is one of healthcare’s greatest challenges. We’re literally spending billions of healthcare dollars on pain management without a true solution to the problem.

Why isn’t there a solution?

This is because pain is individualized. You could have 5 people with the same injury and they will all present differently, with different amounts of pain. Their bodies will all react differently to the same approach. Conversely, their brains will react differently too. For some, pain may be seen as a challenge that needs to be tackled and overcome, for others it may be perceived as a threat that is robbing them of their personhood; both mindsets can be detrimental to recovery. Whether it be stress and frustration adhering to the slower pace an injury demands or overcoming anxiety and fear as the result of an injury, these are just two examples in a multitude of ways people comprehend pain. Interestingly, most people believe pain is experienced the same way by everyone, like we’re cars made on the same factory line. There is a belief that we all heal the same way and that the same therapeutic approach works for everyone; a one size fits all. If this were the case, North Americans wouldn’t be spending approximately $600 billion dollars per year toward the care and management of chronic pain. For practitioners and the healthcare system as a whole, this is where the challenge lies.

New research over the past 5 to 10 years has shown that pain depends on many factors. One small factor is your actual injury. Your actual injury may cause pain, but did you know that within 15 seconds of experiencing pain your brain changes the way it thinks about an injured area? So, if you hurt yourself reaching for a cup of coffee, your brain will think differently about how to reach for a cup of coffee while you’re experiencing pain. If you don’t recover from your injury, this new pathway can create adaptations in your brain that modifies your body and movement compared to how you moved before you experienced your pain.

Check out this amazing video from one of the world’s leading pain researchers:

Now, let’s take it a step further. Research also indicates that your experience of pain is greatly influenced by your current and past experiences with pain, your ability to cope and manage with emotional responses to stress, your work-life balance, your support system and much more. This is called the biopsychosocial model of pain. Considering all these factors, can we really attach all of our focus on our tissues as the main or only source of our pain? The more we learn the more we can confidently say “No.” In fact, through medical imaging, researchers have found that people can have disc bulges, meniscal tears, osteoarthritis, and many other diagnostic findings without the experience of pain. There have been multiple reports that show people without pain having the exact same MRI findings as someone with pain.

Check out the findings comparing MRIs for people with and without low back pain.

Adam Meakins Photo for Blog

Can this go both ways?

If we can be pain-free regardless of a muscular, tissue or skeletal change in our body, can we experience pain when there is no longer a tangible change in our physical structure? Totally! There are many people that experience pain for years following an injury, but their injury has been fully healed. So how do they still experience pain? Current science indicates that all the other factors discussed above may continue to influence pain for years following an injury and lead to a life with chronic pain.

You may want to ask yourself the following: Have I returned to sleeping well following my injury? Am I avoiding certain movements? Is the pain I’m experiencing hurting a relationship at work or at home? Does my pain lead to feelings of fear or anxiety in certain situations?

Check out this video about how pain can be impacted by our daily lives:

What does that mean?

It means we believe you can get better. It means that we don’t take a “one size fits all” approach to your pain but rather an integrated look at what could benefit you. It means with the right approach we can calm things down and build them back up. It means we can retrain your brain to overcome pain and return to previous levels.

Are you looking to find out more? At Bliss Counselling and Strive Physiotherapy & Performance, we’re committed to providing a multi-disciplinary and in-depth assessment to ensure we can work together to find the best plan of action for each individual client. Check us out at www.bliss-therapy.org and  www.strivept.ca.

Have a great day,

Mike Major
Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy & Performance

Melissa Reid
MSW, RSW at Bliss Counselling


About the Authors:

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Mike graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2006 with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Immediately upon graduation, he was accepted into McMaster University’s Physiotherapy program where he graduated with a Masters of Science in Physiotherapy in 2008. Prior to becoming a physiotherapist, Mike served in the reserves for 9 years as a member of the Artillery in the Canadian Armed Forces. ​

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Melissa Reid is a Registered Social Worker with a Master’s degree in Social Work. Ms. Reid received her undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo after which she pursued a certificate in child abuse studies, and finally a Master’s in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario. Ms. Reid has also participated in numerous educational conferences on trauma, grief and bereavement.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time


Ask any busy person what they need and most will respond with “MORE TIME”. More time to work, more time at home, more time to relax. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the things we need or want to do. While committing more time to a job or a project might seem like the solution to your stress, it is important to remember that time is a finite resource. By spending more time on something that stresses you out, you are stealing hours from other activities that are important to your health and wellbeing.

Energy is a different story. Energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. Learning how to manage your energy will help you to use your time more effectively and reduce the pressure of to-do lists and deadlines.

The Body: Physical Energy

Cultivating physical energy requires you to develop healthy habits surrounding nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest. Significant lack in any of those areas can impact your basic energy levels, as well as your ability to manage emotions and focus your attention.

Identify rituals that will help you with the process of building and renewing your physical energy. These rituals could include:

  • walking, jogging or running
  • a yoga or gym routine that you enjoy
  • cooking meals that you can love to make (and to eat!)
  • finding a restaurant you love with a relaxing atmosphere and healthy food
  • a bedtime routine to help you wind down
  • a relaxation technique that you can employ quickly and in public when needed (such as a breathing or visualization technique that works for you)

The Emotions: Quality of Energy

The ability to manage your emotions is an important skill, and can improve the quality of the energy you bring to your work regardless of the external pressures you face. To do this, try to check in with yourself at various points in your day – how are you feeling? How is that affecting your ability to remain present or work? What can you do to help yourself navigate or process what you are feeling? If we routinely check in throughout the day, we are better able to stay on top of emotions that normally would affect the rest of our day.

You can also cultivate positive energy by learning to change the stories you tell yourself about the events of your day. Develop more hopeful stories, and that positivity will help you keep negative emotions in check.

The Mind: Focus of Energy

Many view multitasking as a necessity in the face of all the demands we juggle, but it actually undermines productivity. Think about what multitasking requires of us – a temporary shift in attention from one task to another. Multitasking is just a glorified version of yielding to distractions, and distractions are costly. It’s far more efficient to focus your full attention on one task for 90 to 120 minutes, take a true break, and then devote the same attention to your next task.

The Human Spirit: Energy of Meaning and Purpose

We tap into the energy of the human spirit when our activities are consistent with what we value most and with what gives us a sense of meaning or purpose. If what you are doing really matters to you, you are more likely to radiate positive energy and enjoy yourself.

To access the energy of the human spirit, you need to clarify your priorities and establish accompanying rituals in three categories

  1. Doing what you do best and enjoy most.
  2. Consciously allocating time and energy to the areas of your life—work, family, health, service to others—that you deem most important.
  3. Living your core values in your daily behaviours.



Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, MA, MBA, RSW

Rethinking Rejection


“Rejection sucks” you say. Or at least, you think it’s you who says it. But the fact is that the voice in your head worrying about the “no” you got from The One You Yearn For isn’t really you – it’s your ego, the part of you that hates being denied. Let’s put our egos aside and try to find a healthier perspective, shall we? Because when you’re feeling down-and-out after someone alters the movie script ending you had in your head, at best you’re not seeing things clearly and at worst you’re letting someone else smother your self-esteem. It’s time to change the way you think about rejection.

First of all, let’s look at what rejection really is.

You’ve got something built up in your head about what you want from a relationship. The problem is that everyone else does too, including the person that you want to want you. So the #1 cause of rejection is just a dissonance in stories – theirs is different from yours, and they’re simply honoring that. It has nothing to do with you, really. It boils down to an incompatibility of mutual goals, and they happened to notice that before you did.


Second, try to realize that what’s going on in your head is a fictional account of how you wish things were. The fact is that even if your beloved said “yes” and committed to you, things would not likely turn out the way you’ve been imagining. Trying to force chemistry certainly won’t work in your favour either. Accepting that the scenario you long for is more imagination than reality will help you find the power to move on. So try it! Because the sooner you re-imagine your life, the sooner you can find someone whose inner movie will match yours.

And finally…

Why are you even longing for someone who’s not responding to you? You deserve better, so I think you need a new mantra. And I’ve got just the one for you: “I don’t want to be with anybody who doesn’t want to be with me.”

Repeat this until it becomes second nature to you. Chasing someone who’s constantly going the other way is doing nothing but leading you off of your own track toward happiness. Stand in your power, in the certainty that the one who’s right for you is the one who clearly sees how you’ll make a great addition to their life, and whose inner movie feels more magical once you enter the picture.


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Chantal Heide is a Human Relations expert with a successful practice helping clients learn how to find and keep a “magical” loving relationship. She is a public speaker, workshop leader, private coach, writer, and frequent media contributor. Find her on 570 News and Huffington Post Canada.


Self-care vs. Selfishness

If you find yourself thinking that the concept of self-care must be inherently selfish, you are not alone. For many of us, the very idea of putting ourselves first in any given situation feels wrong, or at least something to be avoided when desired. Nobody wants to think of themselves as selfish, or have others think of them that way.

But we are here to reassure you that a self-care practice and a selfish attitude are fundamentally different things. Here is why:

When someone is selfish they put themselves first in most, if not all, conceivable situations. They take up seats on the bus for their bags or their feet, even when there are others who could obviously use a break from standing. They won’t come to your birthday dinner because they don’t like the restaurant you chose. They expect you to drop something that is important to you in order to help them with something that could easily be done without you, or with the help of someone else. They are their own priority more often than not, but they might not even realize that this is the case.

When you practice self-care you continue to take others and their needs into consideration, but you learn to recognize that your needs are also worthy of consideration, and sometimes even need to be a priority. You might practice saying no to needy friends and family members when they ask too much of you. You might spend a night away from your kids or your partner when you notice you need some alone time. You might decide to pursue an old hobby that you haven’t had time for in a while, even if it means saying no to some extra projects at work.

Furthermore, when you practice self-care it benefits the people in your life. If you’re taking better care of yourself, you’ll probably notice that you become more enthusiastic at work, more patient with loved ones, more relaxed at home, and hopefully more content overall. While those who have a selfish attitude might benefit from their actions, those benefits typically do not spill over to others.

One of the most detrimental things that our society teaches us is that we have to choose between ourselves and others. You can take care of yourself and still be an extremely supportive partner, parent, family member, friend or coworker – in fact, it just might make it easier.

And rest assured – the fact that you are worried about being selfish probably means that you aren’t.

September Resolutions

New beginnings are typically associated with New Year’s Eve. The atmosphere of excitement, camaraderie, and reflection that most people experience around the end of the holiday season lend well to the creation of resolutions and motivation to change. Yet so many of those resolutions fail as people return to the regular routines and expectations of their everyday lives. If you are someone who tends to ditch the grand promises made in the passion of the year’s end, there is another, more measured option for you – September.

Students understand the promise of September better than anyone else. It can be a magical time, especially if school is your thing – you’re fresh off of what was hopefully a relaxing or adventurous vacation, and can look forward to an exciting first few weeks before your new classrooms and new teachers begin to feel as mundane as they did last year. For many older students, especially in high school or university, September is the time to take initiative and alter the bad habits of your previous year.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting articles geared towards those students who are beginning a new school year. However, we firmly believe that September doesn’t just offer a fresh start to students. Are there some goals that you have been sitting on for a while, or habits that you have been meaning to change, but haven’t found the inspiration to begin yet? Well, what better time than September!

Maybe the reason that most New Year’s Resolutions fail is that they are made at the wrong time of the year. Why not try to create a fresh start for yourself in September, when your life would likely otherwise be rather ordinary? Not only will this allow you to have a clear idea of what you can reasonably expect from yourself on a day to day basis, but you will have better weather and a more daylight hours to work with. If you have kids, take advantage of the fact that their days are occupied and their bedtimes are earlier, if possible. If you don’t have kids, take inspiration from the back to school hype and set some September Resolutions. They might be less exciting, but they will probably be a lot more achievable.


Ariel Benwell

Just Say No

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others for help – reaching out when we need assistance, big or small, is an important skill for individuals to learn.  However, there is a flipside to this equation. While we should acknowledge the importance of asking for help, we must also learn how to say no occasionally. The very idea of saying no when others ask for something is difficult for a lot of people. In my experience, people avoid saying no because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, let anyone down, or disappoint anyone.

But does that “anyone” include yourself? It should.

What must be established is a careful balance between helping other people out and taking care of ourselves. If we could all pay attention to what we need first, and take care of ourselves a little more (what is typically and inappropriately called being selfish), we would be a lot happier and have a lot more energy to share with others.

So practice saying no.

It doesn’t have to be harsh, and you are welcome to explain why you feel you need to say no. But you also don’t owe it to anyone else to explain why and how you are taking care of yourself. Just because someone you love asks you for help does not mean that you are in any way obliged to help them, especially if it will place you in some sort of discomfort or distress. It also does not mean that you are telling them they will never receive help from you in the future – being selective about when and how you help is not the same as leaving them to fend for themselves.

Start with saying no to small things, like super sizing your fries, or going out for a drink with a colleague. Then move into no’s that can be more difficult to handle, like continuing to take on extra projects at work or paying for a family member’s phone bill. People may get upset because they are not used to you saying no, but new dynamics within your relationships will eventually normalize, and if you can feel a little less resentment towards someone close to you, the relationship will be much better off.


Heather Anderson, M.ED., C. Psych

A New Theory of Addiction

For a long time, far too long, the dialogue surrounding addiction has been dangerously inaccurate. The belief that the central cause of addiction is the addictive substance itself has influenced the way we treat individuals struggling with addictions, the type of legislation we create to regulate drug use, and often the way we talk to children about drug and alcohol use.

But recent research has opened the door to a new way of thinking about addictions. Studies of both rats and human beings show that what matters more isn’t access to addictive substances, but the amount of support and depth of connection felt by individual people.

Human beings are social creatures, and when we are suffering we rely on connection with other creatures to help us through. We thrive on emotional and social support. However, when we are not receiving that support, when we are isolated or traumatized, we seek that connection wherever we can find it. Substance abuse is just one example of how we can build that connection with something other than a fellow human being.

What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is focus on building a strong support base for ourselves for those who are struggling. We know that groups such as AA can provide that support for those already struggling with addictions, as can families, friends, and therapists. But we must also begin to provide support and connection to people before they begin to look for those bonds elsewhere – the solution can also be the method of prevention.

Watch the video linked below for more information:


“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

Tammy Benwell

Reframing Your Goals

Just about everyone will tell you that is important to have goals. You hear it in school, from your parents, from well-meaning friends and co-workers, and on just about every motivational/well-being website. Seriously, the message is everywhere. And for some people, the process of setting and achieving goals is quite simple – they decide what they want and work diligently until they get there. Those people are go-getters, and I admire them. For others, like myself, the prospect of setting goals – and then achieving those goals – is daunting (read: nearly impossible).

It isn’t that I choose goals that are unattainable, or that I am overwhelmingly lazy. But there is definitely a disconnect between myself and my goals, and I have spent some time recently trying to figure out why that could be. I think I may have stumbled upon an answer.

Typically, when I go about writing down my goals for the next month or next year, I pick common goals, vague ones that most people probably relate to. This year I am going to be healthier, eat better, exercise more, and procrastinate less. I would also like to keep my room clean for a week straight, if possible. And I think, “yeah! These goals are good – they will make me a better/healthier/happier person and they are totally normal…” The problem is that I don’t care. I would love nothing more than to want to be healthy for the sake of being healthy, but I’m just not that good.

What I need to do is make myself care about the goals that I set. Make them personal. Frame them within the context of my life and the things that I care about. So, rather than just deciding that I would like to eat healthier I should reframe the goal using my interest in sustainability and environmental health. I will make it my goal to lower the environmental impact of my diet. Not only does this mean less eating out (all that waste!), but it significantly decreases the amount of unhealthy options available to me. Instead of wishing that eating healthy was something I valued, I have to recognize that it isn’t and reframe the goal based on something that I do value.

Goals are tricky – they can either serve as daunting examples of our own incompetencies, or they can keep us from becoming complacent and encourage us to live to our best potential.  However, it is important to frame our goals in a way that works for us, not for others, and not choose goals because we think that we absolutely must be a certain way.  

Now I just need to find a creative way to reframe the ‘clean room’ goal. Wish me luck!


Ariel Benwell

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