Saturday, May 7, 2016

7 Ways To Get To Happiness

When I think back to the time when things were just so murky in my mind, and my thoughts were limited between doom and gloom, if somebody told me that a state of inner peace and happiness would be once again possible for me, I would have told them they were nuts.

For real.

If you consider that depression is a form of brain damage, (imagine a shrunken, miswired brain) it’s no wonder that repairing the brain from depression can be a seemingly tedious and ongoing process.  That’s because it must occur on various levels.  You will have to repair the physical aspect (the cells), the biochemical and electrical aspects (information exchange), and the energetic aspect (the actual thoughts), but the good news is that the brain is so very capable of healing!

To make an analogy: sometimes you can fix your own car, and sometimes you have to hire a mechanic.  I’m going to refer to the DIY aspect of this repair job because there is so much that you can do for yourself.  It’s *your* brain after all, and you know it best.  With a few daily adjustments to your perspective and attitude, you can expand your experience way beyond what may seem impossible during darker moods.

1. Eat for joy. Turmeric to reduce inflammation, chili for endorphins, and embrace high-quality fats! Fats not only quench your hunger, but they make up the protective coating at the ends of your nerves, and actually make them work better! Think: fatty and oily fish, coconut oil, avocados…whatever unprocessed fats are within your dietary parameters.

Also, keep in mind that anything processed, especially starchy, floury, sugary foods are bad news for anyone trying to maintain a stable mood.  Whenever possible, eat unprocessed food.  Consider this: if we are what we eat, then eating processed, garbagey food makes our minds into a miserable, scattered, garbage dump.  The same goes for alcohol and other unhealthy modes of self-medication.

2. Exercise. No matter how minimal, do it. A walk, gentle yoga, even just imagining doing exercises is better than nothing, but do as much as you think you’re able to do… plus a little bit more. Put it on your schedule and make it a habit. It clears out your lymphatic system and cleans out all the seepage your brain has been sitting in, plus exercise adds some feel-good endorphins to the mix.

3. Replace each negative thought pattern you have with its optimistic opposite.  This is admittedly a tricky one!  At times you feel like the cliché cartoon character with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, both nattering at you.  Roll with it: keep restating the positive statements and hold on to the thought that eventually that little devil will lose its voice and go away!

4. Let it go.  When emotions well up in you, be a witness to them.  Just observe the emotion and where you feel it in your body. Just keep observing it as it happens, like a scientist objectively making observations.  Don’t push it away, and don’t get caught up in thoughts about it, just observe it and let it happen. By doing this, the emotion eventually dissipates and you can release it. Another one bites the dust, and new thought patterns are structured.

5. Forgive yourself.  The only way you’re going to climb out of self-defeating thought patterns is if you learn to adopt an attitude of forgiveness and gentleness with yourself.  After all, you’re the best lover and cheerleader you’ve got. You know yourself better than anyone else, so you’re the one who holds the key to healing.   My own imagined key has the words “F@*% it, I choose forgiveness.” engraved on it.

6. Be kind to others. When you offer kindness, you will evoke the emotion of happiness in others.  As smiles are contagious, and the act of smiling (faked or natural) induces happy thoughts, your habit of being kind will also benefit you! (New thought patterns are formed!)

7. Adopt and attitude of gratitude. I have no doubt that you’ve seen this concept mentioned a million times before, but believe me, attitude is everything! When you start to be grateful for all that you have in your life, it begins to transform any feelings of lack and limitation into feelings of abundance. From this perspective, anything is possible -- including a happy, healed brain!

When we make a daily effort to make changes, we can heal ourselves.  It may be a slow-going process with many perceived setbacks at first, but the effects of your efforts will snowball into an exponential change as time goes on.  Just stay dedicated to inner peace and happiness, and you will find that it is truly within your reach!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Be a Mother of Dragons

You know that term “fight fire with fire”?

Well, like a Mother of Dragons, (Game of Thrones reference) you can actually use the fiery heat of chili peppers to get your inner dragon to behave!

What I mean to say is that if your inner dragon happens to be chronic pain or a tendency towards depression, you ought to consider adding chili peppers to your diet daily.  You see, some of the brain chemicals (which act as messengers) and nerve pathways are common between depression and chronic pain.  Chili peppers work their magic by causing a reaction which actually blocks pain signals to the brain!  

Bring on the endorphins!

It’s our body’s natural response to pain.  Our body perceives pain, and endorphins are released to block the signals through our nerves.

Aside from my chili pepper adventures, my own best experience with endorphins occurred after being in labour for more than a day.  Unforeseen circumstances led to an epidural, which took the labour pains away and left me in a flooded, pure endorphin state.  The best phrase I have to sum up that feeling I had on the operating table that day is “strawberry fields forever.” I felt so incredibly peaceful and blissed out in spite of everything that was going on around me.

While I’ve never been able to get that insane level of endorphins in my body since then, I’ve been able to come close with the aid of hot peppers in a spicy meal. The capsicum in the peppers sends a chemical signal (perception) that you are being burned, and the nervous system reacts with endorphins to block the sensation of pain.

To get the blissed out neurological relief that comes from eating chilies (or any hot peppers) a person needs to have some built up tolerance to the capsicum heat.  If you’re one of those people who gets diarrhea from eating chilies, it’s possible that either you haven’t built up enough of a tolerance to it yet, or that there’s something else going on like IBS (in which case you might want to get checked out by your doctor.)

While chilies don’t cause any permanent damage, (and actually have a variety of other health benefits) they do their job through irritation, which means that the more delicate among us can choose to either avoid them entirely… or attempt to slowly build up a tolerance, and eventually enjoy this amazing natural side effect.

Remember how the Mother of Dragons actually burned herself in the fire and survived? Yes, this could be you; surviving, and birthing new power over your dragons. (No pain, no gain, right?)
For those who are well acquainted with the wonders of chili, they know how after the burn, the flood of endorphins after a meal brings relief from any physical or emotional pains.

They also know that capsicum itself does not get digested and will burn just as much on the way out as it did going into your mouth! (For the love of all things holy, you have been warned!)

Friday, April 22, 2016


Turmeric has been getting a lot of press lately for its anti-inflammatory capabilities, but did you know that it can be used as a mild anti-depressant?

This bright yellow powder or mini ginger-like root might as well be the embodiment of sunshine breaking through the clouds. Turmeric is one spice which has brought me so much relief since I discovered what it can do for my physical and emotional states.

Without getting into too much detail, back during a time when the physical, emotional, and financial threats to my being were at an all time high, I sank into a state which my doctor diagnosed as depression. (I’m writing about this because I’m sure it’s something so common that many people have experienced in their own lives, and perhaps you can relate my story to yourself or someone you know. Depression and the usual prescriptions are so common in our society, we need to talk about these things and not be embarrassed about this part of our experience.)

I faithfully took the pills my doctor prescribed me (I can’t remember the name of them now) and I remember feeling spaced out, and as if I was being contained within an emotional straight-jacket.  Maybe during that time I really needed this emotional straight-jacket to get through that period in my life without imploding, but I can’t help but wonder if I could have managed it with turmeric. 

I eventually came off of those pills because I wanted to feel my full range of emotion again, but the throws of life weren’t done with me yet, and circumstances led me to a state of feeling a complete loss of purpose and direction.  That time, depression kept me in bed most of the time, and was seriously sucking away my will to go on. Everything felt hopeless but I really didn’t want to take those pills again, so I searched desperately for something which would give me relief without the side effects. That’s when I found various studies done on turmeric.

The trend I noticed was that studies done on the effects of turmeric alone reported less favorable results than the studies which used turmeric and black pepper together.  Black pepper, it seems is the secret to our bodies actually absorbing the healing agents within turmeric! It turns out that there is a molecule called piperine within black pepper which makes all the difference for the bioavailability of curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric.  You can read all about turmeric and also what piperine does in this paper

I took a chance and took my well being into my own hands. I found out that the dose for taking turmeric for mood issues was much smaller (~1/16th tsp with a good crank of pepper) from the amount taken for aches and pains (~1/2 tsp with several cranks of pepper.)  At first, I blended it with warm milk and honey and drank it several times each day.  The drink in itself was like a warm hug coloured like sunshine.  20-30 minutes later, the emotional clouds would lift.

Using turmeric was a great alternative to the pills I had once taken.  Instead of the emotional straight jacket, it was as if the dark cloud over my head would thin enough that I could function for a while.  There was no emotional limitation, only a gentle but profound mood lightening and brightening.  It enabled me to manage my moods well enough to do the mental work required to find purpose and direction again. 

We humans are living in a very stressful ways and we’ve got to discover our own keys to sustaining ourselves so that we can find our way to creating our own individual impact on the world.

I’m going to throw out a disclaimer here and suggest that anything you read on the internet is not a substitute for professional counselling.  If you are seriously struggling, please consider talking to a doctor, a nurse, or a social worker. At the very least, talk to a friend who can support you in getting you to the help you need.

With that said, if you’re like me and searching for a dyi way to manage life’s ups and downs, please try turmeric when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, dealing with pms (it’s so great for aches and pains), are trying to soothe a stressed out child (turmeric milk, pepper & honey!!) or if you have any other reason for needing more yellow in your life.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Why I Draw Dragons

This week a friend said to me: "I've been enjoying your blog and I like your drawings, but why the

It occurred to me that it must seem strange for me to be using this imaginary creature as a metaphor for disease since it is usually associated with fairy tales and legends of knights and royalty.

The bottom line to my story about this is that just as dragons are made up creatures, so are the labels we apply to the psychological and physical conditions.

Allow me to explain further.

Ever since I attended college for social work, I became increasingly aware of the power that labels have on us.  For example, Jane (a made-up person) is a painter, a lover of zombies, a coding genius, an advocate, a shoe collector, a chain-smoker, etc. Jane gathers these labels from all sources, including herself. These labels form her identity and influence how she views her own abilities and limitations.

Every time there is a diagnosis from a professional, we add to the list of labels we identify ourselves by.  Our egos like to take on those labels and make them a part of our self-identity. (Add "diabetic" to Jane's list.)

On one hand, it is a relief to have a diagnosis to understand that you’re not alone in your symptoms; and on the other, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy which can not only trap a person into the reality of their condition, but drive them ever deeper into their illness and its disabling effects!

If there is ever going to be a way to either to completely escape (if that’s possible) or to create a more positive life experience though self-awareness and self-love while living with that condition, it absolutely does not serve us to closely identify with that label.

For a long time, I identified with being gluten sensitive.  My life absolutely revolved around being gluten sensitive because at that time I needed to protect myself from the devastating effects of accidental ingestion.  Just one crumb of bread would put me into bed for an entire week.  The first two days consisted of excruciating pain (imagine what glass shards would feel like travelling through your intestines), living part-time in the bathroom, and not being able to remember the beginnings of my sentences well enough to actually have a conversation.  On top of this, my emotional state would absolutely plummet. Eventually, the fear of exposure seemed to completely take over my life and along with other stressful factors in my life, so began a struggle with depression. 

At one point I realized that at the times when I saw myself as a depressed person, it really seemed to get the better of me.  Identifying with my depression jacked up my tendency to ruminate, and I began to see how my mental pattern of identifying with it had the potential to take me down a very dark and lonely path. 

In my desperate state, I went with an idea I had in a moment of intuitive clarity.  In my mind, I began to envision the depression as a dark cloud that would visit me at times.  This "dark cloud" was an entity very separate from me, and sometimes it would just visit me for a while.  With this perspective, the mental space it offered allowed me to see the potential in myself to heal.  This was because I could see that my concept of me was very separate from my experience. The result was (for the first time in several years) I began to have some control over these shadowy visits!

With practice and experimentation, I was able to keep the dark cloud away for greater, and greater amounts of time, and I learned to be proactive when I got the slightest inkling that the dark cloud might return.

Because it worked so well for my experience of depression, I thought: what if I apply this to the gluten sensitivity?  The thought of living with the condition for the rest of my life terrified me!  What if I imagined the gluten sensitivity as a personification – like a dragon?!

And so, in my own mind, I became a knight.

Like any knight, I acquired my arsenal: a newly adopted daily homemade kefir ritual, and a whole lot of courage. The goal I envisioned was being able to eat a normal meal at a normal restaurant without fear. (Because gourmet food is a wonderful human experience which I would like to enjoy again while I am still alive!)

In the beginning, there were scary moments. When I started I wasn’t able to digest dairy, so I started with tiny amounts of kefir and endured the reactions.  (Insert fire-breathing dragon metaphor here!) Nevertheless, I lovingly and faithfully prepared my homemade kefir daily. Eventually, the reactions became less, and I increased the daily kefir dosage.  Over the course of a year and a half I gradually healed myself.  All the while, imagined that dragon choking on every sip of kefir, and shrinking just a bit more every day!

Being able to finally have power over my dragon and let go of that fear marked a huge shift in my life experience! Today with the help of a small dose of targeted digestive enzymes, I can eat anything I want, and it is such amazing freedom to live without fear!

And so I thought: what if others made it a practice to personify the conditions they live with? Would it help people to better understand the power they have over their experience by looking at their conditions more objectively?

Humans throughout history have had a need to personify things which seem greater than ourselves.  Think: “Mother Earth, and Father Sky,” and so on.  It helps us to understand abstract things in a way that is friendly and familiar to our human perspective.

When we visualize our conditions as dragons, separate from ourselves, it creates the mental space necessary for us to begin to focus on our true selves. When we take the condition away from our self-identity, we are reminded of our true power to create change in our lives.  We then have the space to rekindle self-love and self-acceptance, knowing that our true selves are far removed from our dragons.  


Have you ever tried visualizing your condition as something separate from you? If you have, I'd love to hear how that went!  Please leave your questions and comments in the area below!

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Friday, April 8, 2016

The Dragon in the Mirror

A funny thing happens when we look at ourselves in the mirror.

Each time you glance at your reflection, you see yourself through the lenses of your perceptions. It can change depending on your mood or psychological state. For an extreme example of this, those experiencing the psychological dragon known as body dysmorphia see a very skewed version of their physical selves, which doesn’t match up with how the rest of the world would describe them.

Any visual artist who has dabbled in the realm of self-portraiture knows about this strange phenomenon. Just have a look at Van Gogh’s series of self-portraits. When his psychological dragons were powerful within him, the way he painted himself reflected this. During his most intense emotional periods, his self-portraits also took on that intensity in the shapes and lines, colour and contrast.  His own perceptions of his eyes, cheeks, and the visceral hallows he painted around himself at times also reflect the way he felt about himself and the world around him at the time of each painting.

The way you see your own self in the mirror may be very different today from how you saw yourself ten years ago. Did you like what you saw then? How has it changed?

Do you see yourself as others see you?

While going about your daily life, the people you interact with recognize you for certain behaviors and traits. The characteristics they see may or may not match up with the way you see yourself. The more self-aware you are, the more you are able to close the gap between the way people see you and your knowledge of how you interact with the world. 

A good way to get know how other people see you is to outright ask them! It can be terrifying to make yourself vulnerable in this way but it can also be very revealing!

A few weeks ago, for the purpose of getting clear on the way I present myself to the world, I posted an anonymous survey asking my friends to tell me my three best traits. The responses included traits which I hadn’t even considered before, but moving forward, I can be more aware of how I use them. (I highly recommend this exercise to anyone wanting to know the strengths they present to the world so that a conscious choice can be made to focus on strengths, and deepen the impact you have on others!)

In daily life, you may get clues about your less favorable traits.  If you want to know more about these, ask someone you really trust to give you an honest answer in the most constructive way possible.  Their answer will hopefully give you insights into how this trait is having a negative impact on your life, and what you can do about it. Sometimes, just being aware of something allows you to create positive change.

Ultimately, being more self-aware will help you to see those mental dragons for what they are (Tweetable!) so that you can start to function at your best while they are in your life. 

When you can pick out the reflection of a dragon’s influence in the mirror, it brings you one step closer to self-acceptance and inner peace. It offers the ability to see that distortion for what it is: a dragon causing a perceptual distortion.  It is very separate from your true self: the non-judgemental watcher and consciousness behind it all.

What do you see when you look in the mirror today? Are you looking through a dragon’s eyes or can you see your true self? How has this changed over time for you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Love Dragons

Did you ever wonder why some relationships drift apart?

Often, what was seemingly harmonious in the beginning changed somehow over time. What is going on here?
When two people come together whether in a relationship they bring all of their life's memories and beliefs and attitudes towards the world with them. Sometimes these things manifest as what I call a mental dragon (e.g.: depression, narcissism.) This dragon compromises the way a person interacts with people.

Life experiences in general cause us to grow and change, and so our internal dragons may grow, shrink, and change.

When you’re in a relationship, and your partner has a dragon, sometimes it is enough to adopt attitudes of acceptance, forgiveness, love, and gratitude to restore harmony in the relationship.

But what if there is a destructive dragon in the relationship such as one person's strong need to constantly control the actions of the other person? (E.g.: jealous behavior, or monopolizing all of your spare time.)

Or what if one person is operating with a dragon that is very powerful and it's causing then to behave in a way that repetitively hurts the other person... badly. (E.g.: Gaslighting behavior that makes you feel like you’re going crazy, or sexual violence.)

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how much you work on yourself and your own mental and physical dragons (while loving and forgiving the other person.) If the other person is reckless in letting their dragon grow instead of working to shrink it, they can easily drag you into their misery.  

The important thing to remember in any relationship this is that it is not your responsibility to help the person to shrink their dragon.

For most of us, having any part in fixing another person’s dragon is not only completely draining, but also impossible. In order for any change to happen, people have to want to fix their dragons, and they have to do it themselves. (In the case of a narcissist, even if the person does recognize their own dragon, they may not actually see any benefit in changing!)

So when you're being hurt by another person in a relationship where you struggle to see yourself exiting, it’s worth asking yourself: is staying in the relationship healthy for you?

Also: is staying in that relationship feeding your internal dragons (think: codependence) allowing them to keep you more and more stuck in your life? Is it worth it?

(Safety Note: If you’re in a dangerous situation right now, I urge you to get in touch with your local women’s shelter and make a safety plan – they often have the resources and the confidentiality like no other!)

Have you ever had to make a brave decision to leave a relationship which was hurting you?  

Please share your comments below. <3

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Complaining, Negativity Dragon

Some people seem to have a constant stream of negativity coming out of their mouths. Whether they are posting on social media, or you’re trying to have a conversation with them, it’s all complaints!

The people around them feel the emotional pull of wanting to help them, but for most of us, it is extremely uncomfortable….you know that awkward feeling of being pulled into that feeling of responsibility for someone else’s emotions? Many of us have a hard enough time managing our own emotions! In the name of preserving our own sense of emotional calm, we duck out of that uncomfortable situation at our earliest convenience!

This is how it goes with chronic complainers.

Author and therapist, Margaret Paul, Ph.D., says that “people who complain are generally people who have not done the emotional and spiritual work of developing a loving, compassionate inner adult self.”  She also says, “Energetically, complainers are pulling on others for caring and understanding because they have emotionally abandoned themselves.”

Complaining is one of those internal dragons people carry around that all started because of feelings of lack.  The act of complaining is a habit which makes people feel more in control in a world where everything is perceivably happening to them.

But what if that chronic complainer is you?  What are you supposed to do with this dragon you’ve lived with for so long?

On the topic of bad events: it’s absurd to think that anyone can control things that are beyond the scope of their own actions…so trying to have control in those situations is pointless.  Complaining isn’t an action that results in any real change either, so again, a complete waste of effort.

Things just happen….but if we choose to focus on the negative aspects, and comment about them, we feed and grow that dragon and the habit of complaining gets out of control.  Soon, you may not even realize that you’re constantly complaining, and driving people away from you. You may begin to complain that nobody is ever around to help you, and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Your current reality may make you feel like you are condemned to your own internal prison -- but this vicious cycle of negativity is a mere mental habit, and like any habit, it can be changed!

Mental habits form much like tires create ruts in a dirt road: the more you drive the car along the same route, the more difficult it is to drive the car out of the ruts.  The only way out of a habit is to do the mental work to change the context of your actions, actively change your perceptions, and to consistently replace the old habit with a new behavior.

The willpower you’ll use to create this new behavior is a mental muscle.  You’ll need to train it like you would train your biceps at the gym.

Just like training to be an athlete, it’s going to take time and patience. Nobody starts training by just walking into a gym and starting off with bench pressing 500 pounds, and similarly, you should not expect to be able to change your habits overnight!

In order to change, you’ve got to create space for new habits by taming that negative, shaming, judgmental voice in your head.  Forgive yourself for being so negative and hostile in there for so long. It’s time to replace all of that prickly scaliness with compassion. Be actively gentle with yourself. 

Let go of that inner battle and redirect your mental focus to what you do want. When your brain stops wasting its energy by being caught up in the guilt and shame, you will be able to divert your energy to change, and your dragon will be able to shrink so much faster!

Consider replacing the constant judgment with feelings of acceptance, and feelings of gratitude for all the stuff that is actually good no matter how seemingly small and simple that thing might be. 

Yes, bad things do happen, but as a large-brained human, you have the capacity to rise above it all.  Shrug off the old attitude of being a victim, because that doesn’t serve you.  What does serve you is compassion for yourself, and deliberate actions which move you gradually towards the emotional place you really want to be. <3


Paul, M. (n.d.) Addiction to Complaining. Retrieved from:

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