Healthier Ways of Being

Tuesday May 26, 2020



My first love was Elvis Presley, or maybe it was Chico from 70s sitcom Chico and the Man, then came The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors – hubba hubba), followed by The Fonz (maybe I just thought he was cool?!), and don’t even get me started on the Rod Stewart years! (woops – that’s Sir Rod Stewart now). Like most people, my heart has been profoundly broken a couple of times (although not by any of the fine gentlemen named above!), and it is enough to make one wish that love didn’t even exist. 


Yes love can be excruciating (there’s even a themed museum  (, but its is also necessary; some might say necessary for our very survival. Dr. Gabor Mate ( suggests the need for love and belonging/acceptance is our greatest need (The Biology of Loss, two-day conference, November 2016, Shediac, NB). The famous American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, gave us the Hierarchy of Needs back in the 40s/50s, suggesting that once our basic physical needs (food, water, safety, etc.) have been met, it is love and belonging we seek, and require if we are to move up the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualization (

Perhaps that explains why even after painful losses in love, and/or other significant relationships,                  we humans continue to seek out other attachments. Wemaslow need to attach to survive socially, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. The quality and degree of attachment infants have to their mothers in infancy and early childhood not only lays the blueprint for all other attachments/relationships in that baby’s future, it also impacts brain development (

“Attachment is at the heart of relationships and social functioning” (Neufeld & Mate, Hold On to Your Kids, 2004, p. 17). They go on to say attachment is the pursuit and preservation of proximity and connection: physically, emotionally, behaviourally and psychologically. Dr. Pat Ogden, in her 2015 book Sensorimotor Psychotherapy describes attachment as a strong emotional connection we feel with certain people that endures over time and can include parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and romantic partners (p. 66). 

Of course babies, at least mammalian babies, cannot survive on their own, and need to support of their mothers in order to live and grow, and become independent adults themselves. Attachment is a biologically built-in mechanism for survival, which explains why being rejected by a love interest, or a friend group can be so devastating, and why we somehow find resilience to give love another try. Why else would there be so many songs, poems, and other art-forms about love/heartache and or the joy of love? We need it on so many levels, and like the old saying goes….. “love makes the world go ’round.” As for what happens when we don’t get or give love….well that’s for another blog, but let’s just say it doesn’t have a happy ending. So, enjoy what’s left of St Valentine’s Day, and don’t give up on love…your very survival depends on it! In the meantime, check out this Ted Talk on the science of love:

Or…check out these links to great love songs…….   Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen    At Last, Etta James    You Belong to Me, Bryan Adams    Wicked Game, Chris Isaac  Ho Hey, The Lumineers     Love Hurts, Nazareth   Leonard Cohen, Bobby Bazini    I Love Myself Today, Bif Naked    I Think I Love You, The Partridge Family   I Will Always Love You, Dolly Parton    Love Is, Andy Gibb     Silly Love Songs, Paul McCartney     I Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley    Love Me Tender, Norah Jones (Elvis cover)




Benefits of Gratitude

Tuesday May 26, 2020

“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.”  (Harry Hepner, from The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude; S. Breathnach, 1996).

So there it is….the key to happiness, or certainly one of them, is gratitude, and science can back it up! An article in Harvard Health Publishing (online) called “In Praise of Gratitude” reports that two psychologists conducted research by asking participants in three groups to record daily what they were grateful for, irritated by, or felt neutral about; those who recorded what they were grateful for were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and exercised more. Other research described in the same article reported that gratitude can improve relationships by increasing positive feelings about the person, the relationship in general, and by fostering greater comfort in talking about concerns within the relationship (

In fact, almost everything I came across in my research suggested writing down what we are grateful for, as in using a gratitude journal. “Recording these positive experiences boosts levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy, especially when compared to those who recorded or focused on negative events. Research shows that recording experiences for which one is grateful for only two consecutive weeks has lasting positive effects sustained for up to six months. It therefore behooves us to keep a gratitude journal (Dr. Randy Kamen, online: The Transformative Power of Gratitude

The article also goes on to describe other ways of cultivating gratitude including practicing a gratitude meditation, which trains the mind for greater positivity.  Our thoughts have the power to shape our brains! Negative thoughts are like Velcro (they stick), and positive ones are like Teflon (slide away), so the more you practice gratitude, the more new neural pathways in your brain you will create – we need to actively focus on the positive thoughts and experiences more in order to make them stick!

So what is gracanstockphoto6880387titude? According to Robert Emmons, a leading expert on gratitude, says “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received….In the second part of gratitude, he explains, ‘we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives’” (online: What is Gratitude? Emmons also explains how expressing gratitude can block negative emotion, as seen in this short You Tube clip:

Gratitude helps us in other ways as well. Better energy and self-esteem, improved self-care, improved immune function and decreased blood pressure, among others (The Transformative Power of Gratitude, online – see above link).


Gratitude overlaps with generosity and the practice of mindfulness. Gratitude has the mindset of I have (as opposed to I don’t have) which shifts our attention from being driven to be busy, to one of peace and contentment, say Wolf and Serpa in their book A Clinician’s guide to Teaching Mindfulness, 2015). Once we believe we have enough, giving becomes more spontaneous, which in turns circles back to how gratitude can enhance relationships. And on a mindful note, the best time to practice gratitude is the present – when you are actually experiencing it – being present and mindful in your day-to-day life.

we are now has been the result of our past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act”.  (Swami Vivekananada, 1863-1902, India. From 1001 Pearls of Yoga Wisdom, Lark, L., 2008, p. 49). If you want experience contentment and feel better about your life….practice gratitude!

If you want to download an app to remind you about gratitude, try this Please take the time to watch this short video on gratitude – worth the 5 minutes:

Thank you for reading this blog 




Dianne Birt, MEd., CCC

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