Brenda Leonard “Your truth, your voice, your story”

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The Bond Between Pets and People

Whether they slither or swim, creep or crawl, prowl or prance our pets hold a place in our hearts that’s difficult to describe but not hard to express.  They’re part of our family coming with us on vacation, sleeping on our beds and starring in our family pictures.

There’s really nothing like coming home at the end of a long day and seeing that wagging tail and feeling the unconditional love from your dog to help you unwind and shake off the weight of your day. Of course if you’re coming home to a cat, the excitement may be a little more restrained, but the feeling of contentment that connection with Sir Pounce-A-Lot brings is priceless.

There’s no shortage of research on the value of the bond between pets and their owners. In fact, a 2014 study by the HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation) determined that there are significant health benefits to owning a pet and in fact some doctors are even prescribing pet ownership to help with specific health conditions from heart health to PTSD.

In fact, studies have shown that pet owners have lower rates of depression than non-pet owners. They have lower blood pressure levels in stressful situations and simply engaging and playing with our pets increases our dopamine and serotonin levels which leaves us feeling more serene and peaceful. While people with dogs often see the greatest health benefits in pet ownership even watching fish in an aquarium can boost those serotonin levels and help us relax.

Pet ownership meets a fundamental human need – the need to be touched. The impact is no better demonstrated than the Team Greyhound Prison Program where inmates in Ohio can earn the privilege of caring for rescued greyhounds. For many of these inmates, the relationship with the dog is the first time they’ve experienced genuine affection. Other programs have inmates training dogs that may become guide dogs for the blind or companion animals for the disabled. Inmates participating in the programs talk about the impact the dogs make on their lives through giving them a sense of responsibility and the capacity to see beyond themselves for the first time.

The benefits of connecting with a pet reach from childhood to our golden years. Children who have pets learn to see beyond themselves, develop a deeper sense of compassion and generally have higher self-esteem. For seniors, a survey of 1000 Medicare patients noted 40% of those surveyed saw a doctor less frequently than the rest of the group. The group seeing a doctor less often were pet owners. Seniors with pets have lower blood pressure, feel less lonely and depressed and often tend to be more active. In fact having a pet even helped Alzheimer’s patients experience fewer anxious outbursts.

Aside from all the scientific research, it all comes down to love. Doesn’t matter if it’s feathers or fur, scales or skin, without a doubt our pets make our lives richer and fuller. Could there be anything better?

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If I Woke Up and Didn’t Have an Eating Disorder…

If I Woke Up and Didn’t Have an Eating Disorder… Years ago, I was asked to contemplate the following miracle question (concept from solution focused therapy):

post_image1“What if a miracle happened overnight and you woke up no longer having an eating disorder. What would be different? How would you know? What would you do first? Who would be the first person to notice?

” My answer was simple in nature, yet, at the time, felt impossible to achieve. I though I had dug a hole too deep this time… I had no idea how to ever get back to such a normalcy with my relationship with food. I, however, didn’t feel like what I was asking for was too much though… Perhaps, it was this piece that made me have hope that recovery could be possible.
Years later, as a clinician, I often ask my clients the same question. Their answers are usually very similar to the one I gave all those years ago… to not have to think about food all the time… to be able to go to the kitchen and make breakfast without having anxiety about it or letting whatever I chose determine the rest of my day… to be able to eat with my family/friends without having to have special conditions or preparations put in place… to be able to eat until I was full and then stop… to give myself permission to have seconds… not needing to punish myself afterwards. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? There were no requests to be able to grow wings and fly to the moon or wanting to be able to solve P versus NP (one of the six unsolvable Millennium Prize Problems). The answer usually entails taking back the control food has had in their (our) lives.

It is possible you know… Maybe it doesn’t come in the form of simply waking up one morning and living life differently, but the end result can still occur. How? Well… there is no one correct way or an exact equation in getting there. That’s not a bad thing, as it allows for treatment to be tailored to your needs. Connecting with a therapist who has an understanding in eating disorders and disordered eating is a good start though! Likely, food has become a coping mechanism in some form and purpose. Looking at the underlying reasons, and gaining healthy coping skills is definitely important. In the mean time, here are some helpful points to consider…

1. Is that going to help you in the long run? Sure eating, or not eating, whatever is in front of you might make you feel in control, comforted, distracted, etc in the short term, but how is it going to help you in the long term? Does it teach you how to cope in a healthy manner, or will it continue feeding your unhealthy relationship with food.

postimage22. Are you really pissed off at those peas or is it about something else? Sometimes we eat, or don’t eat, to avoid feeling our emotions. The peas don’t have anything to do with it… Try to take a moment and recognize what and why you are feeling the way you do and deal with it accordingly. Feeling sad? Comfort yourself with a bath, a hug, a blanket, draw, read, etc. Angry? Assert yourself, set up boundaries, take healthy appropriate action, etc…

3. Separate exercise from food! Wait at least an hour after eating to go for a walk, run, bike ride, etc. Don’t exercise if your intention is to burn calories. Give yourself time to digest and work through the emotions and thought process that may come up after having eaten. Exercise has a time and place, however, it’s important to build other skills/coping mechanisms to work through anxiety after meal times. Do a paint by numbers, read, draw, answer e–‐mails, do the dishes, journal, etc.

4. Dieticians Are Great Resources! See a registered dietician (preferably one with experience with eating disorders/distorted eating and practices from a Health at Every Size framework) to learn about portions sizes, nutitional value and meal plans. You might have to relearn what is healthy and normalized, especially if you have been sick or dieting for many years. Maybe you were never taught in the first place. Creating meal plans can help with preparation and making sure you are getting enough of what you need nutritionally. Following a meal plan leaves less time for scrambling, which often leads to high–‐risk situations.


profileimageKaren McGratten,M. Div.
Specializing in the Treatment of Eating Disorders
Guelph, ON

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Personalities are so Psychodynamic!

PsychodynamicPersonalities are so nifty. They really are. Each and every one comes in a one-of-a-kind expression. There are a lot of elements to what composes personality psychology; one of these elements being commonly known but possibly misunderstood. Many of us think that being an extrovert means being an outgoing person and alternatively that introverts are the shy guys. Although there is some merit to the generalization, it doesn’t paint a completely accurate picture of how this element of personality is owned and operated.

22256417_mExtroversion and introversion are not two exclusive categories but exist rather on a continuum of how you, as the unique individual that you are, allocate your mental resources. If you spend more of your energy processing what’s happening in your inside world rather than interacting and focusing on your outside world you likely tip more towards the introvert side of things. As more of an introvert you will also likely charge the battery of your being in solo, in other words, alone time may be one of your closest companions. If you are more of an extrovert you likely have a tendency to charge your battery in the company of others. Extroverts refuel by the exchanging of thoughts, ideas and emotional connections with others.

Research shows that personality remains fairly stable after the age of 24; however, it also notes that there is wiggle room. Nature and nurture can both tango with your tendencies throughout different stages in your life so be mindful of shifts in yourself and those around you. We can get confused and angry quite frankly when people change; change can be disorienting. Sometimes it takes time for people to understand why they are changing themselves too so patience is always virtue with yourself and with others.

I personally experienced a personality shift and took a slide across the introversion-extroversion scale when I went through a painful loss in my life. I used to be living on the edge of extroversion (I’m talking 99th percentile, assessment verified!). I was out and about every chance I got. Then my puppy Phoenix, before she even turned three, was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer. I felt as if every bit of joy in my soul shut down, went out of business and left town for good. Although she was not a human child, it was still like she was an extension of me. I loved this 120lb tiger-striped, drool-face English Mastiff more than words can say. I had to make the excruciating decision to put her down in the matter of a week, and on impact, my life changed. My personality followed suit.

To Read More of Jaime’s Great Post, Click Here
The polite convention is to put other people mentioned in the subject paper writing service before the speaker my colleagues and i.

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Forget Black and White, Let’s Think in Color!

People have the tendency to think in a black and white. It’s all in or all out; it’s off or it’s on; it’s healthy or it’s unhealthy. However, your body does not think in black in white, in fact, it very much thinks in color! Your body looks at a meal and says “What can I get out of this?” or “What do I want to hold onto? ” and definitely “!” when there is a little green goodness in the mix.

My boyfriend works really long hours operating his seasonal business in solar pool heating. When he gets home sometimes he just wants to throw a pizza in the oven or BBQ a big juicy steak. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I hear people beat themselves up saying “Oh I was so bad last night” (which again is thinking black and white, you’re either ‘good or bad‘). Even when you feel like eating what you perceive as ‘unhealthy’ snacks or meals you can always add beneficial things to it.

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Are you tired? Are you dragging your heels and not having much fun these days?

Are you tired? Are you dragging your heels and not having much fun these days?

Do you feel like you are losing your spark, and are you becoming resentful and grumpy?

If you daydream of going for a nap far away from everyone, then you are likely tapped out, emotionally bled out, fatigued out, and at the cusp of burnt out.

How did this happen?

Well life happens, and you are a person that helps other and then in addition you get yourself in a mind trap of ‘do do do’ that end up strangling you, instead of helping you live your best.

I know this more than anyone as I love to help others. I wear many hats, and there is is a lot of things that must get done in my life with the hat of a business woman. I am the person that people to come to help and I troubleshoot, to create solutions to get results; and there is a lot of people in need of help and need solutions. I am also a single mom of two, and I currently do not have any clones, so what often happens is that I get myself blind-sighted into tunnel vision out of my quest to help others, and I fail to see that I am running out of fuel, and I begin to stop liking what I do, or the people that I love.

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