Why You Need To Practice Daily Gratitude For A Healthier Brain

“Look on the bright side!” and “Be grateful for what you have” certainly are not helpful responses when we’re experiencing pain of any kind, but practicing Daily Gratitude has some pretty incredible benefits. Not only psychologically, but physically as well!

A lot of my resistance in practicing gratitude over the years has stemmed from the misconception (or, misperception) that embracing this practice somehow invalidated by experienced, trauma and pain and my inclination is to say this is because of how it’s generally presented to us- as some simple way to “get over” our struggles. 

However, Daily Gratitude, similar to mindfulness practices of any kind- doesn’t intend to dismiss your feelings and experiences in exchange for thinking positively. Instead, it asks you to acknowledge little things in your life you can appreciate in addition to your current (and valid) feelings.



It’s Evolutionary


It’s very easy for us to focus in on the negative, and as it turns out, this may be in part due to evolution. Our brains pay close attention to what may pose danger because it perceives danger to be a threat to survival. Which makes sense, really. Our biology is most concerned with survival. It’s much more difficult to re-write those pathways, but it is possible to do! 

Practicing Daily Gratitude and mindfulness is important to do consistently because the practice helps to build neural pathways in our brains so that the process becomes more of an automatic response, instead of something we have to do both consciously and intentionally.

As you continue with the practice, it becomes much easier to cultivate a feeling of contentment within your life, while helping to build your resilience. 

Now that I practice Daily Gratitude, I’ve found that negative experiences- while still very unpleasant- don’t affect me nearly as much, and that is an empowering feeling! 

And it’s impact is even farther reaching. 

Think about the times people around you have expressed sincere gratitude to you. It feels so incredible and motivating.

Studies consistently show that employees who feel valued in the workplace show higher levels of morale, do better work, more efficiently, take less time off work due to illness and have higher retention rates. 

I don’t know about you, but I am always far more invested in the relationships where I feel valued, and in which I value in return. 

Ways To Practice

Many people are able to use a dedicated gratitude journal, while others incorporate gratitude into their regular notebook or journal.

These haven’t ever worked into my lifestyle as seamlessly as I needed them to: keeping a whole other notebook up-to-date simply isn’t feasible for me, though I need to be prompted in order to remember the practice. 

Although our Self Care Daily Planner has space to record your Daily Gratitude, there are several months out of the year that I trade my planner in for “brain dumps” on notepads and scrap pieces of paper (hello, market season!).

Thus, I wanted to create a visible reminder to practice this simple habit in an approachable, gentle, playful and versatile manner...

So I created The Daily Gratitude Calendar & Map! 

The Daily Gratitude Calendar by Lavender & Sage

The Daily Gratitude Calendar by Lavender & Sage

The Daily Gratitude // Self Care Calendar


It was important to me that we stick with our tradition of keeping our Planners open-dated so that they can be used at any time. I also wanted for this tool to be a larger piece that would inspire, motivate and empower you to make this a consistent part of your daily routine.

It might initially look small, at 4.5” x 6”, but unfold this illustrated map to an 18” x 12” double sided poster that you can post on your dorm room wall, at your office or workspace, or simply keep on your desk.

The ‘front’ side features 4 undated months worth of space in which you can record either your Daily Gratitude or a small Self Care goal for the day. As you continue to fill them in, watching your calendar grow is not only motivating, but incredible satisfying to see! 

On the reverse, you’ll find some fascinating facts about Daily Gratitude and Positive Psychology, and my favourite tips and tricks for using this calendar to its fullest potential. 

And now, I want to know: Do you practice Daily Gratitude? If no, do you share similar views that I had experienced before learning more about it? How do you practice gratitude each day, if so? 

Alycia DortComment
Relationship Circles

*This blog post was originally written and published for Ethereal Co in October 2018 and has been updated for today.*

There are many things that change as you grow older. Your beliefs, your body, your opinions, your job/career...  But something I've always found particularly difficult is change within relationships.
We've kind of been sucked into this belief that our romantic relationships and friendships are meant to last forever. And then, when they don't, it sometimes feels like a part of your existence has been torn away. Or as though you've failed. 

After having Blue, my mindset on this has changed a great deal.  I've spent a lot of time wondering whether it's realistic to think our relationships are meant to last forever. Or whether "forever" should be a measure of success for our relationships. Is it simply hopeful to expect forever, or is it an expectation that will mostly leave you heartbroken? 
These are the questions I often weigh out to myself.


On one end, you may be perceived as naive and on the other, pessimistic. But shouldn't we hope for forever but recognize that, if we all change over time, there's a chance we may grow out of relationships, too? I think so.

One of the exercises you might be familiar with from therapy is the relationship circles exercise. You make up the tiny dot, and the circles around you grow wider and further away. The people who fit into your closer circles are those you consider your greatest friends & loved ones. It seems like a pretty basic exercise but it taught me something of great value: The people in your life will move freely between these circles, and that is both normal and perfectly okay. When someone moves out of your closer circles, they aren't necessarily gone from your life entirely (although it's sometimes ok if that happens, too). Major life events, location, experiences... These are just a few of the circumstances that shape and impact our relationship circles. 

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When I found out that I was pregnant with Blue, it forced me to think critically about those I kept within my inner circles. Being an unplanned pregnancy, my friends all had opinions on what I "should do", and only a handful of friends chose not to voice their opinions. Those few friends simply said “whatever you choose is the right decision for you, and I will support you either way”. What a powerful sentence that is. I’ll admit, when those friends respected my boundaries and my right to choose, it strengthened our relationship. It validated their space in my life and reiterated their love for our friendship.

Some of the friends who ignored my boundaries and gave their opinions anyway, moved gradually into my outer circles. And some I chose to cut ties with. In either case, I didn't harbour hard feelings for any of my then-friends; I simply wanted to surround myself with those who respected my decision, my ability to choose, and those who helped me feel empowered and supported. Who doesn't want those things? 


I feel we so often maintain relationships with people who don't empower us, support us or want the best for us because we are scared of losing people. Or perhaps because we are afraid to cut ties. 
I've come to realize that we all deserve to have quality and mutual relationships with individuals who share and/or respect our beliefs, values and feelings. 

Being open to changing circles and allowing relationships to form and fade along the way has had a profound impact on my perspective. It's also taught me to savour the now and give up a bit of control to allow my world to develop and grow naturally. And that is a beautiful thing . 

And so this month, I urge you to give up a bit of control. Invest in the people and relationships that fill your soul (including the one with yourself) and become closer to your highest self.

Alycia Dort
Boundaries And Why Every Relationship Needs Them

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the term “boundaries”, I often get this uncomfortable pit in the bottom of my stomach. It’s so often an unpleasant reaction to experiencing toxicity in a relationship.

The truth is that we often see them portrayed this way, implemented after a negative experience with a peer or colleague or friend or partner…
Really, though, boundaries are meant to be proactive as well. They’re meant to help build the foundation of a healthy relationship. And they’re great tools for each side of the relationship.

Not only do boundaries tell us what we value but they help us know how we can best support those we love. They show others how we want to be treated and- when enforced- help to build confidence and great social skills imperative to our self care.

You’ve likely been establishing light boundaries with friends throughout your life, without even realizing it. Maybe you’ve:

  • Asked that friends give you as much notice as possible, if they’re unable to show up for your plans

  • Asked that friends inquire whether you have the mental space to chat before unloading on you

  • Asked that important conversations be done in person and not via text or email

These are all types of boundaries that develop naturally throughout relationships.

Communicating healthy boundaries and expectations with your loved ones can be an important tool for ensuring a long and healthy (and mutually fulfilling) relationship- of any kind.

But how do I know what boundaries to implement?

How do I incorporate them into my relationships?

Won’t I be seen as confrontational or selfish by my peers?

Let’s talk about it.

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be aware of your expectations and needs within your interpersonal life

Of course, these will differ between relationships and you won’t always have the answers, but knowing your needs and desires from those around you is an imperative step for establishing boundaries. Similarly, knowing what you don’t want from those relationships is equally as important.

COMMUNICATE YOUR FINDINGS WITH YOUR LOVED ONES

Okay, this one might feel weird, but hear me out.

While some formal announcement of your needs and desires and expectations isn’t necessary, communicating them to your loved ones is key. Every single person inhabiting our beautiful world is unique. We have different experiences, personalities, passions, etc. And so of course our needs are all different! And as much as you know your friends and family, we aren’t all mind readers. How can we expect our loved ones to respect our boundaries if we’ve not taken the time to communicate them?

ESTABLISH NEW BOUNDARIES AS NEEDED

Although it can feel uncomfortable- especially for those of us who hate confrontation- setting boundaries isn’t mean and it doesn’t have to be negative. Often, we set boundaries because we love and value our relationship, but recognize we need to pivot in order to ensure the friendship lasts.

Maybe we’ve gone through a big life change and our needs or views are now different. Maybe we simply need a change of pace.
Whatever the reason, when we’re feeling a change needs to be made, it’s important to acknowledge that, reflect and establish new boundaries as soon as possible. The longer we wait to do so, the harder it becomes. Sometimes, that discomfort grows into annoyance, frustration or resentment.

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ENFORCE YOUR BOUNDARIES WHEN NEEDED

For me, this is the toughest part. I’m fairly scared of confrontation, and I’m a recovering People Pleaser. My suspicion is that many of you relate.
Combatting this fear starts with re-framing your beliefs surrounding boundaries. Confronting what fears you have about enforcing these boundaries will help you overcome and challenge these (often faulty) beliefs.
Our Negative Thoughts Journal was designed specifically to help you identify and challenge faulty thinking patterns and firmly held beliefs.

Re-framing the need to enforce your boundaries is a powerful tool in your tool box, so think of it like this:

Establishing and enforcing your boundaries is an act of love. Not only is it a form of self care, self love and self respect, but it demonstrates that you value the relationship and want for it to grow and evolve along with you.

Boundaries are merely invitations to grow and thrive together, and that’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it?

Alycia DortComment
Finding a psychologist is kind of like dating
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Having a well-educated, well-informed medical team is absolutely crucial when you live with a mental illness. They act as your guide through what can be one of the most difficult times of your life, they help devise a recovery plan,, and they oversee your progress.

In my own experience, the member of my medical team who has played the most weighted role in my wellness journey has been my psychologist. I have had my fair share of psychologists throughout the years; Thirteen,, to be exact. Some of them I saw for extended periods of time, some of them only briefly, but I remember every single one of them and how I felt whilst with them. A psychologist or therapist can hold a lot of weight in how you perceive the world around you, and so it is important to find the one that's right for you.

The difficulty with finding the right therapist is that it's not a 'One Size Fits All' solution. Much like finding a compatible partner to spend your life with, finding the right psychologist can take a few tries and it is imperative that you don't allow a less-than-favorable experience stop you from finding the right one.

Here are a few things to ponder while preparing for your search:

There are many different factors to consider when looking for a psychologist, and ultimately, it will come down to two things;

  1. What you are most comfortable with, and

  2. Chemistry

When researching psychologists in your area, first consider the basic characteristics of what you want in a psychologist, such as gender. Are you more comfortable speaking with someone of the same sex, the opposite sex, or are you indifferent?

The age group or generation of a psychologist may also play a role in how you interact with one another. Consider the characteristics of those you’re most open and comfortable with in your day to day life.

The second thing you will then want to consider is education and/or experience. Depending on the reason you are seeking a psychologist, this may play a large role in your search.; Especially if you have a diagnosed mental illness, as many mental illnesses have a specific array of skill sets pertaining to living a more functional life. 

Most psychologists have a particular area expertise or training.. Do you need someone specializing in therapy for ADHD? Do you require a practitioner well-versed in therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)? Or, perhaps you would work best with someone who has experience with soliders and Veterans. These are all factors that come into play in your search. 

Psychologists all have different styles of therapy, just as they have have their own unique personalities, experiences, articulation and vernacular. A bad experience with one psychologist is definitely not an indication of your experience with another, which is very important to remember should you feel discouraged. It is also important to remember that your unpleasant experience with a professional does not necessarily mean they are not a good psychologist, but more often that they are simply not the psychologist for you. I simply cannot stress enough that you can't allow that unpleasant experience prevent you from getting the help and support you both need and deserve. 

Before Your Appointment

A great tip to help ease your mind prior to your first session is to inform yourself. Most psychologists will offer a 10 or 15 minute consultation free of charge, either in person or via telephone. This is a time where you are able to ask any questions you may have and also get to know the psychologist. You will then get a decent indication of how you will feel during your session. 

Should your psychologist not offer consultations, do not fret! The majority of today's psychologists have their own websites, which will contain information about their education, experiences, expertise and any other information they feel you may want to know. Don't be afraid to ask questions, as well; This is welcomed by most, as they understand it can be a difficult process. Just like you want to find somebody who is best suited for your therapy, they want to be able to help support you, too.

Your First Appointment

There are a few things to know before your first appointment to make the process move along more smoothly. Typically, you should arrive 10-15 minutes early, if you can, as most offices require that you fill out paperwork on your first visit. If you will be seeing an independent psychologist, however, this paperwork may be filled out during the first few minutes of your scheduled session. This is also customary as they handle the paperwork themselves and often do not have a receptionist to aid in this process. 

Every psychologist will begin their first session by calling attention to a confidentiality agreement, which sets out the laws for which both you and they are liable. This includes the release of information. In short, this is to inform you that what you say to your psychologist is absolutely confidential, unless they have reason to believe you may cause harm to yourself, or others, or unless they are issued legal requirements for the release of information. There is much more to know included in this document, and you should be provided a copy to read through and sign. 

The first session is always more informational than the ones to follow. This is to ensure the psychologist is able to get to know a bit about you, your background, your goals, and anything else that may be pertinent to your therapy thereafter. Future sessions are often planned in advanced, or the psychologist at least has an idea of the route they wish to go. Don't be alarmed by the many questions; It is perfectly normal for the first session to feel a bit like an interview, but it should not feel like an interrogation! 

Finally, it is important to be up-front and honest with your psychologist. Your psychologist is not there to judge you or your experiences, but rather to help you work through the things that are preventing you from living well or functionally. They often provide the support you require, but you also play an important role in the success of your therapy. Withholding information from your psychologist only hinders your health further, and prevents you from progressing. It is normal to feel scared in confiding your thoughts and fears with someone, which is why it is important to find a psychologist that you both trust and respect. 

Remember that your health comes first, and that you owe it to yourself to find a psychologist that is going to empower you throughout your journey.

Leave a little kindness wherever you go,

Aly & Blue

Alycia DortComment
My top 5 creative reads

For the first time since Blue was born, I’ve been able to sit down and read. At least for a good 20 minutes or so. Reading from physical books is something I’ve missed greatly. Audiobooks are great, and they keep me focused while I work, but there’s something about sitting in the bathtub with a great book that just can’t be beat.

There is something motivating and empowering about a great creative read, whether that be instructional, motivational or otherwise. These first 5 books I want to share with you are educational and motivational in nature, but I’ll soon have a post with my favourite Instructional books.

All of these books can be purchased through Chapters Indigo or Amazon, and I’ve hyperlinked each title, but I encourage you to order them through an independent bookstore (support local!). If you’re here in the HRM, Bookmark and Atlantic Newsstand are two local shops that will order books in for you, if they don’t have them in stock :)

Without further adieu!

My Top 5 Creative Reads of 2019 (so far)

  1. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

If you haven’t read any of his award winning books, and you are a creative spirit or entrepreneur, I highly recommend you hit up your local library! Show Your Work talks about the importance of inviting people along your creative journey, and how showing your work helps to build a connection with your community. Kleon makes a point of highlighting that every single artist makes “crappy” work, and that the sucky bits make up the majority of our work. It’s important to share the highlights, but it’s also important to show your progress in the world of social media. Not to mention, showing your work is a great connection tool between you and other creatives.

2. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

First of all, no, this book does not advocate plagiarism. The title isn’t exactly click bait, either, though. Kleon talks about how every creative person, no matter their degree of success or fame, pulls inspiration and elements they love from different artists. He talks about how your work as an artist is essentially a collection of many different elements you’ve “stolen” from other artists, to create something new and original. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this concept in her novel, Big Magic: No idea or concept is original. We don’t own ideas.

There is a distinct difference between (1) copying an artist’s work and mirroring many or all elements from their art and (2) seeing the way in which they paint hair and trying it out in your own work. Kleon also highlights the absolute importance of crediting concepts or ideas to where you found them. Where was the idea sparked? In example, the circle cheeks featured in many of my watercolor portraits were inspired by the Sleepy Eye mugs by Hinkleville Handmade.

In my opinion, this book is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ for any and all creative entrepreneurs.

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know you’ve all heard of this one. No, it’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely a touch spiritual, but whenever I am feeling uninspired or creatively challenged, I like to listen to the audiobook version of Big Magic. If you’ve not read Big Magic, it’s about the magical journey of creativity. She talks about how ideas and inspiration are not stationary- how they ebb and flow. And how they may not wait for you to slow down and bring them to life.

She speaks of the necessity of creative endeavours and how you don’t need to consider yourself artistic to embark on some sort of creative journey. Your art does not need to be for anyone other than you. It’s easy to forget that in the wake of social media, but your creative journey can stay your own little sanctuary.

4. The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

This book was just what I needed a few months ago, and if you find yourself thinking “what the heck am I even doing? Who do I think I am?” Then you, my love, may find this is just what you need as well. Some of this book is a little poetic, but it’s much less spiritual. Instead, Luna has you explore your childhood, your passions… The activities and endeavours you’ve found yourself pursuing time and time again. While reading this book, I was able to uncover many childhood memories that were hiding below the surface of trauma. It helped me to uncover some pretty vital parts of my personality and creative journey, showing me that where I find myself now is merely another reflection of the creative journeys I’ve been pursuing my entire life. It’s very introspective, with activities and questions you’re asked to journal about throughout the book.

5. Mind Your Business by Ilana Griffo

Let me start by saying that I haven’t yet finished this one, but I’ve completed the majority of this workbook. Yes, it’s a business/entrepreneurial workbook, but it has some really valuable information and guidance. Best of all, it’s easily digestible. The way Griffin explains these exercises and business concepts doesn’t make my brain hurt, and that’s saying something! She breaks them down in a way that anyone can understand, and her illustrations serve as a great tool throughout. Highly recommend if you find that you’ve skipped a few parts of your entrepreneurial journey, or need a good refresher.

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Alycia Dort