Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psychotherapists are helping people have afterlife connections

Psychotherapists are helping people have afterlife connections with loved ones who have passed away. Their grief reduces or resolves dramatically.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are you an Optimist or Pessimist?

From Elizabeth Scott, M.S., your Guide to Stress Management
October commemorates both "Positive Attitude Month" and "Emotional Wellness Month," which adds up to less stress. Looking on the bright side, as was mentioned in last week's newsletter, Optimism, Joy and The Bright Side, can bring greater emotional wellness and resilience, and both positive attitudes and emotional wellness are associated with reduced feelings of stress. This newsletter focuses on positive attitude development, and the next newsletter will let you know what you can to maintain emotional wellness. This is going to be an October to remember! -Elizabeth Scott

Happy Positive Attitude Month!

This is the month to examine your attitude and follow some simple steps toward a more positive attitude overall. Why? Because when we see things in a more positive light, we tend to feel more hopeful, more grateful, and most importantly, less stressed! Learn what you can do to make important attitude shifts (even if you are naturally prone to see the negative first!), and join us in celebrating Positive Attitude Month!

Q: How Does Positive Thinking Impact Stress?

Does it really matter if you look on the "bright side?" And if you force yourself to see the positive, are you just espousing an artificial view of the world? How does a positive attitude affect stress levels? Find answers to these questions--if you've wondered these things, you're not alone!--and pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.

See More About:  optimism  inner peace  resilience

Who's The Happiest?

What factors go into happiness, and how much of that can we change? Learn about the demographics of happiness, and see what you can do to develop your happiness level and brighten your habitual ways of thinking.

Poll: Are You An Optimist or a Pessimist?

Music and the Brain

How music helps your brain

Playing and listening to music can have multiple beneficial effects on the brain. Here's what the latest research reveals

By Meredith Dault
How music helps your brain

Music can be a magical thing. The right melody can get us out of our chairs and onto the dance floor, or can help us relax and recharge. Hearing a particular song can whisk us back into the past, enable us to tap into deeply held emotions, or help us find the space to dream. And while researchers have long grappled with how exactly music works with the human mind, one thing does appear to be true: music engages our brains in complicated and mysterious ways.

How the brain processes music

In his book This Is Your Brain On Music, professor Daniel J. Levitin writes that “musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural subsystem.” That means that whether you’re picking out a melody on your guitar, or listening to a symphony orchestra, virtually your entire brain is keenly engaged in the process. In fact, part of what makes understanding music’s effect on the brain so complicated is that there is no single musical centre. Like with understanding language, music is processed in different ways: one part of our brain decodes pitch and tempo, for example, while other parts tap into memory and emotion. If you play an instrument, your brain also has to figure out what to do with your hands, while yet another part is used to read notes off the page.

“I think that there is sufficient evidence to say that yes, music does have beneficial powers for the brain,” says Dr. Lola Cuddy, professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University. “But we have to be very careful.” She says that’s because there have been a lot of sensational claims around music that have now been discredited because they couldn’t be proved scientifically (think, for example, of “The Mozart Effect,” which once suggested listening to Mozart’s music could make you smarter).

As Dr. Cuddy explains, there is some evidence that suggests that children who take music lessons will do better on certain kinds of tests —especially around reading and concentration. “Yes, perhaps it’s the music lessons that are sharpening those skills,” she says. “Of course, if you want your child to be better at reading or math, you would probably do better to get her help in those areas, but there is some evidence that adding music is beneficial.” Dr. Cuddy also says there has been research that indicates that people who have music training do better when their auditory skills are tested. “For example, it seems they are better at decoding speech against a noisy background,” she says.

Music, dementia and rehabilitation

Interestingly, music can also play an important role in brain and movement rehabilitation. Some studies indicate that because music and motor control share common circuits in the brain, music can help improve movement in patients who have Parkinson’s disease, or who have lost mobility due to a stroke, as well as in patients who struggle with cognition or language afterward.

Dr. Cuddy’s own research, which is supported by the Grammy Foundation and the Alzheimer Society of Canada, focuses on patients who suffer from dementia. “We’ve found that many of our Alzheimer’s patients seem to retain the ability to recognize music,” she says, describing a patient who could sing along to familiar tunes, even though she couldn’t recognize family members, or look after herself. “That was encouraging,” she adds, “because it shows that not only can we use music to enrich quality of life for patients, we can also use it to help caregivers communicate with their patients. They can sing together, or use music to access memories.”

Dr. Cuddy also says that if they can isolate why certain areas of the brain are spared when dementia sets in, it will help guide future research. “We’ll have a better understanding of why certain parts of the brain are spared or preserved when other memories aren’t,” she says.

Why listening to music is good for you

Ultimately, what we do know about the brain is just the tip of a vast, infinitely complicated iceberg. “There are so many components to music,” explains Dr. Cuddy, "and the networks are distributed through the brain.” In other words, listening to music engages a huge, complicated network—an asset when it comes to keeping the brain fit and healthy for a lifetime.

Whether or not there is hard proof that it’s making your smarter, it’s clear that listening to music can lift your mood and help you relax, which will bring down blood pressure and relieve muscle tension. “Music has a very therapeutic effect,” says Dr. Cuddy. After all, at the end of the day, music is about pleasure—and it’s something that can be enjoyed over a lifetime. “If you listen to music, whether it’s when you’re young or later in your life, it’s likely never to leave you,” says Dr. Cuddy. “People may worry about losing their memories, but we can almost say for sure that music is very likely to stay with you.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hi July.

Hi July.

Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. As a grief facilitator I often hear very touching stories, but yours is particularly difficult in the sense that it involves forgiveness, a more than difficult step to reach in the search for unconditional love. If your journey has brought you there, then it shows that there are no empty gestures in life, and that the hardest lessons are often the most enriching for the soul.



You have an interesting grief story? Share it with us.

Here's a beautiful story by Julie.

Hi Pierre
Thank you so much for this fascinating discussion. I would like to share my own experience of grief. For many years I have worked as a social worker with adults who have complex needs. My work and my family were how I identified myself, and when asked I would say..... I'm a social worker, I have a daughter, I'm in a long term relationship. In 2005 however, one of these things changed when my partner was brutally murdered and my world was turned upside down, I was completely devastated because like many others in the world, I had built my world around him. Shortly after my partner's death, I woke from my sleep having somehow made a decision that "life is very short and that from now on I would live it to the full". I know this sounds quite bizarre but it is exactly what happened. Some called it an impulse decision, some said I had gone into some kind of emotional breakdown, but for me it was a definite calling. In a very short time I handed in my notice at work after 19 years and purchased my ticket to India. My plan was to travel across the North learning about a different culture and in addition I had always wanted to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama who currently lives in Dharamsala. When I reached Dharamsala however, my life completely path took a strange direction, and I began working with Tibetan refugees who had endured years of torture under the oppressive communist regime and I began doing volunteer Human Rights work. In addition to this, I encountered some very deep spiritual experiences which subsequently led me to being introduced to a Geshe (High Tibetan Monk) who went on to become my lifelong teacher in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist practice. Strangely my teacher lived in the Home of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and therefore I got to glimpse him regularly. I spent many months in India and Looking back, I now realize that before the death of my partner, I had identified myself on what I did and what I liked. When one of those things was removed from my life, I was left wondering who am I now? For me personally, I had to go to the other side of the world to truly work through my grief, however by learning how to truly live my life not in the past but in the here and now, I was able to flourish spiritually, physically and mentally as a person. As a result of this experience, I have been able to find compassion and forgiveness for the person who murdered my partner and we are planned to meet for the first time in a few weeks. This is my story and I am sure that there are many others, thank you so much again for this amazing opportunity to share.                 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stress Management Tips (May 31)

Develop An Internal Locus
of Control
Edited by: Pierre Milot, Ph.D.
Research has shown that those with an internal locus of control--that is,
they feel that they control their own destiny, rather than their fate being
largely determined by external forces--tend to be happier, less depressed, and
less stressed. Fortunately, if your locus of control isn't as 'internal' as
you'd like it to be, there are things you can do to change your locus of
control and empower yourself. Here's a process to practice:


A Few

Here's How:

Realize that you always have choices to change your situation. Even if you don’t like the choices
available at the moment, even if the only change you can make is in your attitude, you always have some choices.

When you feel trapped, make a list of all possible courses of action. Just brainstorm and write things
down without evaluating them first.

You may want to also brainstorm with a friend to get more ideas that you may not have initially
considered. Don’t shoot down these ideas right away, either; just write them down.

When you have a list, evaluate each one and decide on the best course of action for you, and
keep the others in the back of your mind as alternative options. You may end up with the same answer you had before the brainstorming session, but this exercise can open your eyes to the amount of choices you have in a given situation. Seeing new possibilities will become more of a habit.

Repeat this practice when you feel trapped in frustrating situations in your life. In more casual,
everyday situations, you can still expand your mind to new possibilities by doing this quickly and mentally.


Notice your language and self talk. If you tend to speak in absolutes, stop. If your self talk is
generally negative, read this article on the effects of
negative self talk and how to make
your self talk more positive.

Phase out phrases like, ‘I have no choice’, and, ‘I can’t…” You can replace them with, ‘I choose not
to,’ or, ‘I don’t like my choices, but I will…’ Realizing and acknowledging that you always have choice (even if the choices aren’t ideal) can help you to change your situation, or accept it more easily if it really is the best of all available options.

Your attitude affects your stress level more than you may realize. This article can help you to learn
more about mental and
personality factors that influence your stress level, so you can make changes to keep stress down.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The 5 Minute Meditation: an efficient stress management tool

Practice 5-Minute Meditation

Meditation has many wonderful benefits.  However, many people don’t try meditation because they believe it’s difficult to practice, or only effective with regular, lengthy sessions. Not true! You can
receive the biggest gains from meditation with frequent practice, and just 5 minutes of meditation actually can bring quick stress relief. So if you only have 5 minutes for meditation, here’s how to make them count:

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 Minutes!

Here's How:
Set a timer for 5 minutes, so you can relax and not worry about staying in meditation for ‘too long’,
missing appointments.

Sit on a chair, close your eyes and relax. Take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm and release
the tension in your body.

Clear your mind of thoughts. Rather than focusing on ‘thinking of nothing’, focus on counting your
breaths, starting from 1 to 10 and then start over and over again.  When thoughts enter your mind, gently acknowledge them and let them go, returning your focus to counting your breaths again.

Continue this for 5 minutes, and return to your day feeling more relaxed and refreshed. Try this
meditation regularly, and you should feel less stressed overall.

Be sure you’re in a comfortable position; little nagging discomforts like scratchy clothes or
an awkward sitting position can be a distraction from meditation.

Don’t get too focused on whether or not you’re ‘doing it right’. (This can actually make meditation
more stressful!) Thoughts may often enter your head, but the process of redirecting your focus to counting your breaths is where the benefit comes from.

Playing relaxing music through earphones (if you're at work) can enhance your practice. It is not
necessary, but it can add to your experience if you can incorporate it.

Meditation has been used for both short-term calming (it can reverse your stress response pretty
quickly) and long-term resilience (regular practice can help you become less reactive to stress!), so frequent meditation is a wonderful and effective
stress management tool.

For best results, try to fit in longer meditation sessions (like 20 minutes or more) a few times per
week. Then, you will be more practiced with meditation in general, and these 5 minute sessions will have more of an impact when you need them!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Does Music Help You Cope with Life's Hardships? Here's one of my ways. What's Yours?

Music in the Grieving Process:  A Zen Moment.
By: Pierre Milot

On this rainy Monday morning, I'm sitting in front of my computer screen lazily reading my e-mails. I'm in no particular mood, if not  a little bored like the weather and I look for things to do later on in the day.  As I discreetly listen to Michael Bubble's warm velvety voice coming through my PC's
speakers and rendering his version of ''The Way you Look Tonight'', I tap my foot on the floor to the cool sensual  Bossa Nova beat, and I think that it's not going to be such a bad day after all. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, in an explosion I flashback to the beautiful face of my loved one, instantly  triggering a kaleidoscope of raw memories I'd rather forget since that awful departure day. At once, the moment is lost and my world is unequivocally turned upside down.   The roller-coaster is back again.

I feel these invisible clawing hands reaching inside my chest,  encroaching my heart like a monster's
tentacles  and with a piercing jab in the stomach, I feel the unmistakable signs of grief creeping up, taking over my life once more.  Not fighting it, for knowing that with grief, there's no going around or under it, I decide to go through it, I stretch  back on my director chair, punch the media player's repeat button, rest my head, close my eyes and allow the music to do its painful cleansing magic.

Surrendering to the beautiful melody, I experience only conflict though, for where there should be soothing tenderness, there is only  growing hurt and sorrow, every musical note a stabbing blade, every word an aching memory:   ''Someday, when I'm awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you...with each word, your tenderness grows...and that laugh that wrinkles your nose...and the way you look tonight'' . 
As the song keeps playing over and over again, I growingly feel the sinewy waves of the music seeping in through every fibre of my being, vibrating at my very core, digging in deeper and
deeper into my pain, and I weep.   There seems to be no end to the tears rolling down my cheeks and I don't even bother to wipe them as they run along my neck  to soak the collar of my shirt.  But as time passes by, slowly,  music becomes only music,  words become only words,  the weeping finally subsides, and I can recapture the moment  once more.
''Here and Now, it's all we have''
Zen Proverb.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grief & Bereavement: A Personal Journey

A Good Day in the Life of a Grieving Widower
By: Pierre Milot

Strangely enough, today is a good day, it's been so long since I've had one. 

All bundled up in my  red checkered construction shirt, and discreetly trespassing on my neighbour’s long country driveway, I'm taking my old dog Max out for his morning walk.  Protected from the cool river wind by the bordering woods, I can feel the hot spring sun gently warming my face and shoulders, and can hear nothing else but the birds chirping, the familiar honking sound of the Canadian wild geese flying high in the clear blue sky happy to come back home, and the delightful crunching sound of gravel underneath my feet as I walk.  With an uncertain smile I breathe in the fresh morning breeze, I feel good. 

Strolling along, lost in thought, I marvel at our capacity to recover from what seems at times like the ''unrecoverable''.  How can it be that today I can smile when only yesterday I was in the deepest of sorrows, with little hope for tomorrow.  As I ponder on this, I reminisce, I think back on that dreadful November day, when, as I was holding my wife's cold dying hand
and counting her last breaths, she left me in so much pain and loneliness.  I remember that while I was putting on a brave front reassuring her that I would be OK, I was prompting her to go towards the ''light'' (as if she wasn't  already there, for where else could such a kind
and loving soul be, but in the arms of an angel).

Little did I know then that very soon I would be kneeling on the ground, bent over in gut-wrenching agony, sobbing like a child, and begging for her to come back.  I would have done everything then, change my religion, give away all that I owned, even my life and soul to see and feel her, to be able to one last time delicately run my fingers through her soft silky hair, as I lovingly kiss her forehead while savouring her particular body scent that I've grown to love so much.

But, if the Divine in his infinite wisdom has granted us the gift of growth through sorrow and pain, he has also given us the necessary strength to overcome the same hardships.  So, reaching inside the deepest confines of my being for that slippery strength, I managed to somehow make the pain more bearable, stand up and shakily face the day one more time.   

Now, in an effort to heal my shattered life, I'm slowly learning to redefine my sense of self, my identity in this strange and scary new world without her, to think in terms of ''I'' instead of ''We'', while at the same time keep her memory alive in my heart.

I will make it, I will survive, I will somehow learn to be whole again but in a different way than before, and when the tough days comes back again, I will always have today, the comforting memory of this ''Good Day'' to fall back on.

Waking up from my reveries, I focus back on Max, my only daily companion these days, as he too, healing from his loss, enjoys the day.  His inquisitive nose intrigued by the pungent odour of last fall's decaying leaves, he decides to investigate further and scratches the ground with an awkward paw to uncover the newly grown fresh tender grass shoots, a welcomed sign of the summer to come. 

The never ending circle of life.

Today is made of my yesterdays, and my tomorrow is made of my today.
Pierre Milot

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Stress Management Tips. This month I am specifically targeting ''Type A'' personalities and very busy people.

Type A Stress Relief
Stress Tips For "Type A" Types

People with "Type A" personality traits
can experience greater-than-average levels of stress. Being time-conscious,
competitive, and impatient, as many Type A people are, can create stress in
relationships, jobs, and other areas of life. (Not sure how much you fit the
typical "Type A" pattern?
Take the Type A Self Test
and see.)

Type A traits can also create obstacles for stress management. Some of
the more effective stress management techniques can feel frustrating for
someone who has a more intense personality. For example, the quiet stillness of
meditation can feel difficult for those who are
impatient, competitive, and used to making every second count at work.

However, certain techniques can work quite well for those with a Type A
personality, and other techniques require just a few adjustments to work well
for type a stress relief. While it might be nice to soften some of the sharper
edges of the Type A personality, it's not necessary to change who you are
before you can start managing your stress. The following Type A stress
relievers can work particularly well for those with Type A personalities, and
can be wonderfully effective stress relievers for others as well.

Use Music
Listening to music is a simple Type A stress relief trick that takes little
effort. When you’re driving, put on some of your favorite music (instead of
catching up on phone calls) and you can enjoy the ride (no more
road rage) and arrive feeling relaxed. If you
need to slow down, play slower-paced music; if you need to energize, play more
upbeat tunes.

Get Exercise
Those experiencing Type A stress may find it difficult to slow down for stress
relief—so why not speed up? Exercise carries many health and stress management
benefits. (Read about
stress and exercise here.) It’s perfect
for those with Type A traits because it offers a paradigm where the more you
rush (on a treadmill, for example), the less stressed you'll feel. Specific
exercise regimens like martial arts, running, or even dancing can provide a
great aerobic workout and a sense of accomplishment. Exercise classes can offer
social connection as well as a little positive peer pressure to push you to
stay on track.

Try Expressive Writing
If you have a Type A personality, you probably like to be more active than
passive. An active way to examine and express your thoughts is to start a
journaling practice, or start expressive writing regularly. Writing about your
feelings—especially if they're intense and it’s done in a time-limited way—can
help you to get them out of your head. (See more on
this type of expressive writing.)
Writing about your plans to fix a situation can also help you feel less
stressed and more able to let go of worries. (See more on
journaling away your worries,
too.) Writing in a
gratitude journal can help you to
maintain a greater focus on the positive events that happen throughout your
day. There are several ways to use writing for stress relief, and they can be
helpful for relieving Type A stress.

Take Time For Hobbies
One issue that Type A people run into is a difficulty balancing work with
the rest of their life. It can be difficult scheduling in time to just relax,
but scheduling enjoyable activities can be a way around the tendency to
over-schedule to the point of being over-stressed and lacking in balance.
Scheduling activities you find relaxing can, out of necessity, require
letting some things go,
so this can be another route toward forcing yourself to cut out things in your
life that don’t serve you. If you tie your hobbies into a
group structure, it will be more
difficult to decide at the last minute that you're "too busy" to take
the time for your hobbies. Start a knitting circle, take a painting class, or
join a band. Make hobbies part of your plan.

Stay Connected
Being Type A can mean you're so busy with work that you don't have as much
time to enjoy the people in your life. But being socially isolated can cause
stress, and having a few supportive people in your life can sometimes work
wonders Type A stress. Making it a point to stay connected with people doesn't
have to take a lot of time, and having people "there for you" when
you need it is well worth the time invested. For those with Type A traits,
sometimes being connected means working on
communication skills and remembering of the
value of relationships. It can also mean just taking the time to
meet up with friends, or reminding yourself
to take a few minutes to say hi to the people around you. This is a stress
relief technique that may not feel like one, but it's an area to focus on that
can really help.

Do Some Yoga
If you really do like the idea of
meditation, but just can’t bring yourself to
sit quietly for that long without feeling stressed from all your thoughts and
your need to stay active, I suggest trying yoga. Yoga brings many great health
benefits, and can incorporate some meditation features (as well as
breathing exercises), but may provide
enough activity and focus that it feels calming and quieting, but without the
type of silence that feels deafening. Also, going to a yoga studio provides a
group environment that may make it easier for you to stay focused and continue
making the time in your schedule to attend regularly.

*If after all these tips,  you still need
something to efficiently calm you down, try the following breathing exercise
that I teach in my Stress Management workshop.  

It is very simple and easy to implement. You can do this exercise discreetly in front of your computer, at the dentist, stuck in traffic, etc...

The Rhythmic Breath

Without crossing your legs, sit down
comfortably on a chair, hold your back straight and let your hands rest on your

Close your eyes and direct your thoughts on
the air that is coming in and out of your lungs while directing the breathed
air towards the top of your nose in the olfactory zone.

Now, start breathing slowly while counting
from one to three.  Then, hold the air in
your lungs while you count another time up to three. 

Once this is done, breathe out slowly while
counting up to three again, then exhale slowly to force out the air left in
your lungs.  In order to accomplish this,
contract your stomach muscles to compress the diaphragm, then start breathing
again up to three, and start once more from the beginning.

At first, start with 3 to 5 minute sessions
and increase the length gradually to reach 15 to 20 minutes sessions.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Laughing, the best medecine ever !!!

Woke up this Sunday morning with more than a touch of the winter blues and feeling ''very'' cranky!!!
So I decided to spend some time applying the theory that '' laughing is communicative''.  So I logged into my YouTube account and spent the next 30 minutes watching people making fools of themselves.  You know what, it works, after the initial resistance, I started to crack up.  One video in particular did it for me (I like to see people being scared).

Watch this one and enjoy:

I love to see people falling down also.  This one is an older one, but it never fails to get me:

Paying attention to the lighter side of things is a very efficient way to create balance in one's life.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's that darn New Year's resolution time again. Try some of these stress management tips.

January 13, 2011

Top Five Changes for a Healthy Life
A Healthy Life Can Be Yours!

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., Guide
In the spirit of developing New Year’s Goals, rather than resolutions, here are some goals that can make a real difference in the level of stress you experience, and the quality of life you enjoy:
Maintain An Organized Living Space:
A cluttered environment can literally drain your energy and cause additional stress! Conversely, a beautifully decorated, soothing environment can be a haven where you can escape from the stressors in your life. Working on de-cluttering your home, getting organized about cleaning, or even practicing Feng Shui are all ways you can work toward the goal of having a beautiful and organized living space.
Learn to Organize Your Time:
By keeping a schedule, learning to say no to excessive demands on your time, and utilizing shortcuts in your life, you’ll be less frantic, and have more time to do the things that energize and de-stress you. You’ll also have more time to do things that you enjoy in life.
Cultivate A Supportive Social Circle:
Those with a supportive social circle, or even just one close friend or partner to talk to and lean on in times of crisis, enjoy healthier, less stressful lives. (And they have more fun!) If you make the commitment to meet more people, and better develop the relationships you have, you’ll find that the payoff is more than worth the effort.
Take Care of Your Body:
If your body is healthy and in good repair, you’re better able to handle stressors in your life. However, an unhealthy body can cause great amounts of additional stress. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, getting massages and pampering yourself are all good ways to take care of your body and make stress management easier.
Renew Your Spirit:
We carry stress in our bodies, and hold it in our minds, so a stressful experience can stay with and keep affecting us after the actual experience has ended. Managing stress in your daily life can be much easier on your mental, physical and emotional state if you take regular breaks from it. There are many great stress-relieving exercises that can help you release both the tension from your body, and the stressful thoughts from your mind, making you more at peace and able to handle the stress that comes in each new day.
As you develop these stress-relieving practices in your daily life, you should experience less stress, and be better able to handle the stress you do experience, leading to a happier, more healthy life.
Hope you keep them up.