Blog written by: Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC
Image from: https://pixabay.com
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, it's the perfect time to reflect on the profound connection between gratitude and our overall health and wellness. While many people associate Thanksgiving with a long day of preparation, cooking, and culminating all of those activities into a grand feast, it's essential to remember that the spirit of the holiday goes far beyond food. Gratitude can be a powerful force in promoting mental, emotional, relational, and physical well-being. Practicing gratitude is not just this nice or noble-sounding thing we can do so we can have warm and fuzzy feelings in the moment.
Research has shown that regularly practiced gratitude can significantly impact our health. Studies have revealed that regularly expressing gratitude improves our mood, lowers stress levels, and enhances overall well-being. It's important to understand that gratitude is not merely a feeling but a daily practice. By actively acknowledging the things we are thankful for, we can rewire our brains to focus on the positive aspects of our lives. This has many benefits for our well-being and for those around us. To make this point, let's look at just three benefits of practicing thankfulness.
1. Mental and Emotional Health Benefits:
Gratitude can be a powerful tool for enhancing mental health. When we practice noticing what we can be grateful for, we feed a mindset of thankfulness and shift our focus from what's lacking in our lives to what we already have. This shift can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, gratitude can foster a more optimistic outlook, increasing resilience in the face of challenges and impacting how we interact with those around us. Likewise, our emotions play a vital role in our overall well-being, and practices involving gratitude nurture our emotions. Cultivating gratitude can promote a sense of contentment and joy, leading to a more positive emotional state. When we appreciate the people and experiences that bring joy and happiness, we reinforce those connections and emotions, creating a cycle of positivity.
2. Building Stronger Relationships:
Thanksgiving is often a time for gathering with loved ones, focusing on the relationships most important to us, and being purposeful in giving thanks and focusing on our loved ones. Gratitude can strengthen these bonds. Through a thankful heart, we are able to love deeper, grow more patient with others, offer more grace when mistakes are made, and forgive others and ourselves more. Expressing appreciation for the people in our lives benefits our mental health and deepens our connections with others. Gratitude, when noticed and expressed often, benefits those around us as well. Think of a time someone noticed something they appreciated in you and how that made you feel when they expressed that gratitude.
3. Physical Health Benefits:
The mind and body are closely connected, and gratitude can positively impact physical health too! Research suggests that grateful individuals tend to engage in healthier relationships and healthier behaviors such as exercise, better nutrition, and regular check-ups. Practicing gratitude calms our nervous system, allowing us the emotional space we need to process life’s ups and downs. The reduced stress and improved mental health associated with gratitude can also contribute to a stronger immune system.
Incorporating Gratitude into Daily Life:
Let's explore how practicing thankfulness can lead to a happier, healthier life. Remember, to reap the benefits of gratitude, it's essential to make it a regular practice, not just a seasonal activity. Here are some ways to incorporate thankfulness into your daily routine:
a. Keep a gratitude journal to write down things you're thankful for each day. It may feel awkward initially but do not limit yourself to needing to fill in the space with life-altering things to be thankful for. Even the smell of fresh air, a beautiful plant or flower in your yard, a smile from a passer-by, or a parking space close to the grocery store entrance are all things we can take a moment to acknowledge and be grateful for.
b. Set aside time for daily meditation or reflection on what brings you joy. Do not panic! It does not have to be twenty minutes that needs to be set aside, creating additional stress as you think about how, on earth, you’ll find twenty more minutes in your day. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, or a set time before bed will all do. It is more about taking a few moments to reflect and experience that gratitude, honor it, and train your brain to notice these things throughout your day that count.
c. Express gratitude to others through kind words and gestures. It takes so little time and effort to speak a few words of gratitude to another human being. We all know that feeling when someone takes a minute to smile, say thank you, compliment something, or express appreciation and gratitude for something we have done, something we said, or for some part of who we are and how it makes them feel. Try to do this a few times each day. You will be amazed by how it can put our troubles into perspective.
d. Practice mindfulness to stay present and appreciate the little things in life. We do not have to set specific times aside each day to stay in an attitude of gratitude. Yes, having those set times can be very helpful, but we can also choose to stay in that mindset by practicing being mindful of what we notice. We do not need to judge, change, control, or even fix it—just notice. For example, if you are cutting vegetables for your meal, notice the fragrance as you do so and notice the vibrance of the colors you see. Likewise, if you are relaxing to watch a show in the evening, consider gratitude for the moment to do so and notice the heaviness of your body as it sinks into that favorite chair—the secure sense of being grounded there and relaxed.
Consider writing heartfelt notes, offering a smile as you internally notice gratitude for your loved one at the table this Thanksgiving season, or simply taking a second to express how much you appreciate them to those close to you. Then, be sure to notice the thankfulness in your heart as you observe the smile you just created in them because of your small, simple, but life-affirming gesture!
So, as we all approach this Thanksgiving season, I want to thank all the amazing people I work with. My clients and those supportive colleagues all make the work so meaningful and rewarding. I am so proud of each of you and your willingness to be brave, realistic, transparent, and own what you own! It truly is inspiring to see the transformations. I am thankful for my family and their support.
This year, as I consider all that I have to be thankful for, I especially give thanks for the beautiful life spent with Maggie Mae, my sweet Golden Retriever who made life bearable and joyful through the best and darkest days over the last nearly sixteen years. As many of you know, I wrote a short book on dog loss and grief in her honor, and as a way to process my loss after she left this world in April. It is not fancy, big, or necessarily my best work, but came from the heart and reflects how meaningful that bond was to me. Life has not been the same since losing her, but I am so grateful for the years I had with my beautiful girl. If you have a precious pet that makes your world a better place, give that fuzzball a great big hug, and then do it again for me!
Consider where your focus is right now and the potential of gratitude's impact on your life and well-being. Choose to make it a priority of your focus. Where we put our focus really does matter!
“Where focus goes, energy flows. And where energy flows, whatever you're focusing on grows”
Let's all remember that gratitude is not just a fleeting sentiment to be pulled out once a year; it's a powerful tool for promoting health and wellness in all aspects of our lives. By focusing on the positive, expressing appreciation for our blessings, and building stronger connections with others, we can experience the transformative effects of gratitude. When we practice gratitude, we engage in both the act of giving and receiving. As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, consider making gratitude a core part of your health and wellness journey.
Blog written by Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC
Image from https://creativecommons.org
The National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA) led the movement for March to be declared National Women’s History Month (NWHM) and has since championed the celebration of women throughout our history. Every year, the NWHA announces a theme for NWHM. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” I love this year's theme because in the mental health and wellness profession, we encourage clients to explore, share, and even celebrate their stories. It is through our stories that we discover our strengths, our growing edges, and the richness of our experiences.
You can read more here to learn about this year’s theme and about the many women who are described by the NWHA as having “long been instrumental in passing on our heritage in word and in print to communicate the lessons of those who came before us. Women’s stories, and the larger human story, expand our understanding and strengthen our connections with each other” (The National Women’s History Alliance, 2023).
On a personal note, it was one year ago during NWHM that I had the opportunity to thank those women in my own life, right here on this blog, who contributed to the birth of a dream and the opening of Healthy Horizons. I can hardly believe that it has been a year already. Here, I would like to reaffirm this thankfulness. First, to a loving God who has remained faithful to prepare, provide, and equip, and my deepest appreciation for those women who continue to stay the course with me. It is through their continual encouragement, support, and accountability that the practice is able to help more women and families reach their fullest potential as they overcome the anxiety, depression, grief, and overwhelm so common in our world today. It has not been easy, but with the support of these faithful women, Healthy Horizons continues to grow and serve the state of Colorado, and soon, the great state of Texas!
Blog Written by: Erin Jones M.A., M.Ed.., LPC
Healthy Horizons “honors those who have made that commitment to serve in our armed forces to defend our nation and its people. We thank you and appreciate your commitment and sacrifice.”
Call today for offers & discounts exclusively for veterans!
Veteran’s day is an opportunity to slow down and take a few minutes to ponder the sacrifices service men and women have made to ensure you and I have the opportunity to live in freedom within the greatest country on planet earth. This should be at the forefront of our minds as most of us know a service member or have military family members somewhere in our lineage. We really are enjoying the benefits of a free land because of the brave men and women who fought for that freedom.
The sacrifices are many and extend to a soldier’s family on the home front. As the holidays approach, many families will miss their family members at the table, around the tree, or as that clock strikes midnight who are serving elsewhere or lost their lives. As you consider those you know or love who serve or you see a service member out in public, take a moment to thank them, tell them why you are thankful for their service, and find ways to serve or volunteer in their honor.
I have had the privilege of interviewing a number of veterans and first responders throughout my training about their service. I have asked about a soldier’s life abroad and at home, and how their commitment impacts their family members. One veteran with four tours behind him asked me what people mean when they say thank you. He wondered “are they thanking me for leaving my home and family, or for missing my kid’s plays or games? Are they thanking me for shooting someone they perceive as a threat or for keeping the trauma or nightmares to myself? What does thank you mean?” He added, “are they saying thank you out of obligation? How am I supposed to respond or feel when they look at me with disdain?”
Sometimes, it would seem, that our veterans and their families might be lacking the support they need, not just within the realm of services accessible to them, but within the community, especially in our current sociopolitical climate. While the stigma that has plagued mental health care is being more and more normalized, within the military culture it can still equate to weakness and vulnerability. The apathy, stigma, or even disrespect sometimes felt within society towards those who serve as related to trauma, depression, anxiety, and adjusting to civilian life can leave veterans feeling like it is easier to go it alone. No veteran should walk alone or be forgotten.
How can we help? Get involved. Be bold and say thank you and for what. Do tangible things like showing up for your veteran friend or neighbor. You do not need to “fix them” or have all the answers, but you can listen or just be there. Try mowing the lawn of a military family next door, bringing a meal, offering to fix a leaky sink for the military mom on the home front with the kids, and volunteering or donating to organizations already serving this community. A few of these organizations include Operation Gratitude or Soldiers Angels. Learn with your children, teach them about our country’s heritage and military history through organizations such as the Society for Military History or through virtual tours of our nation’s monuments through Virtual Tours of United States Veterans and War Memorials and normalize a heart of gratitude for our service men and women.
Blog by Erin Jones M.A., M.Ed., LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
“A cancer diagnosis involves so much more than the get well wishes, good intentions, and heartbroken expressions on the faces of those who care about us. Unless you have faced it, walked through it, and contemplated those unknowns, it is difficult to share the experience with others in a way that provides meaningful comfort.”
October. It is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is a month that can truly represent change in many ways.
As the leaves start to turn colors we are reminded that change is literally in the air. We can see it, smell it, and feel it. It is interesting to me that Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was to be observed during this month. BCAM was enacted in 1985 with the intent to promote awareness and encourage screening for the disease. As the second most prevalent cancer among women in the US, it strikes about one in eight American women and over two million worldwide each year. It is second only to skin cancer.
However, if you consider all those who are diagnosed and their loved ones, the disease truly impacts us all. With a cancer diagnosis comes all kinds of emotions, logistics, and complex considerations. It is a difficult journey that requires support and tangible encouragement to navigate.
Join us from 6-7:30 PM at our Loveland office every second Tuesday of the month where you will find love, support, and encouragement through the journey. This group is offered free of charge. Sometimes the simplest expression of support can make all the difference, sometimes it is just being heard-not fixed that helps. Other times it is being treated through a living lens versus a dying lens. People mean well. Truly, they just want to help because they care so deeply. Yet, having others who have actually walked in your shoes and navigated the issues involved can be so much help. You are not alone, we fight together!
Blog post by: Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC, NCC
The Journey to finding balance is rarely accomplished alone. For parents with foster or adoptive children in the home, that same journey can feel overwhelming, filled with anxiety, depression, and panic! It can involve complicated trauma and attachment concerns. This too often leads to a felt sense of isolation and loneliness feeling as though nobody could possibly understand as you struggle to balance the needs of everyone in the home and negotiate the "system." The unique stories of anticipation, hope, joy, discouragement, frustration and fear may not make sense to parents outside of this process.
Come and join us this fall for our Support & Collaboration Group for Foster Care & Adoptive parents. Take advantage of this small but meaningful opportunity for a little respite and support with like-minded parents who truly do "get you!"
This group is offered every second Wednesday of the month from 6-7:30 PM at Healthy Horizon's main Loveland office located at 2707 W. Eisenhower Blvd. Suite 8, Loveland, CO 80537. The group typically runs through the winter months with breaks for holidays. Special guest speakers and activities will be posted in advance. Special rates apply for this group at $25.00 per person. This means that space is limited in each group. Call to reserve your spot in the next group starting in October and let's figure this out together!
Blog post by: Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC, NCC
Original Artwork Design by: © Chuck Ingwersen.
Follow Chuck here https://www.instagram.com/captainscratchy
What does “helping women find balance” mean anyway?
In this blog, I want to explore balance, hope, and healing in your life. More specifically, in this post, I will explore how women can begin to find balance in their lives as it relates to their many roles, responsibilities, and relationships. Once women grasp the complexity of their roles, responsibilities, and relationships, we will explore how these intertwine with the well-being of your mind, body, and soul.
This is so important because as you will soon see, all things matter, and all things are connected! When you find yourself overwhelmed or anxious, responding in your current relationships to past traumas, or struggling with mood, sleeping and eating patterns, it is important to equip yourself with the understanding of what resources are out there to help you navigate the journey.
This could mean considering mental health counseling, nutritional counseling support, spiritual mentoring, lifestyle coaching, or things like neurofeedback.
The first thing I want to bring to attention is the idea of balance.
Let’s face it, Ladies, if you wear enough hats, eventually you will lose balance!
This is an important concept for both men and women, but I hope you will stay with me because I want to specifically explore how this pertains to the complex juggling feat so many women pull off every day without even thinking about it, and the connection between those with lives that are out of balance, in any area, and how this leads to a cascade effect where everything else suffers.
The first step is helping women slow down enough to consider all the amazing roles, responsibilities, and relationships they actually manage in a day! In this face-paced achievement-driven world, women do not often consider all that they are already doing! Yet, this realization can eventually lead to a realistic view of your successes and some potential growing edges.
I want to speak to the women out there who may not even realize all the roles, responsibilities, and relationships that they are managing. Seriously how many hats do you wear on a daily basis?
Do you know which hats you actually need to wear, want to wear, and how to wear them well? Have you taken a moment to consider this and how amazing you already are?
I also want to speak to the women out there who are not only managing many roles, responsibilities, and relationships, but they are doing it while carrying a history of trauma, maybe chronic illness, self-doubt, grief, or a sense of failure, maybe because of the lies that were spoken over you by others in your past.
Blog post by: Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC, NCC
Image from https://creativecommons.org
Why think functionally? A functional approach is a whole-person approach. It is a process, not an event. It is a lens that helps a counselor consider how the physical, emotional, spiritual, and nutritional factors are all connected, and how each influences the whole person.
What we put into our bodies, our minds, hearts, relationships, and spirits; emotionally, physically, spiritually, and nutritionally, what is coming out in each area, and the quality of each of these areas all provide data about the whole person. This is not just where symptoms such as depression or anxiety, bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, or irritability are treated, but where we can look at how each is connected and what the root causes might be that lead to the symptoms that eventually manifest.
Yes, we want to help people feel better and reduce symptoms, but if the root causes of those symptoms are never uncovered and addressed, we are simply applying a band-aid to mask the real issues. Our bodies communicate all kinds of data to us. If we address the foundational issues, we impact symptoms. From the functional perspective, there is rarely a single root cause or issue leading to what are often multiple symptoms. Rather, there are multiple root causes for the symptoms that lead a person to seek care from a therapist or a doctor, and often, these begin long before symptoms are to the point of noticeable consequence for the client. It is also worth noting that honoring what we know about ourselves, or what a client knows about themselves, their body, their values, and goals is as important. Understanding what is working will give a provider important information as well!
Consider the analogy of a spider’s web. If you look at the image above, can you decipher where one strand begins or ends? Where one strand in the web is separate, or not connected to another? Spider webs are designed to work as a whole system made of many parts, and those parts are made of many individual strands that all function as a whole for optimal efficiency. Similarly, our whole being, that is from the perspective of a functionally healthy person, operates the same way. As each strand in the web is connected and works in harmony with all the other strands in the web to serve its whole purpose, so too do our systems function best when working in harmony-each connected to the other systems for optimal, whole, well-being...
Blog post by: Erin Jones, M.A., M.Ed., LPC, NCC
Image from https://creativecommons.org
Healthy Horizons, LLC, is a counseling practice in Northern Colorado with a strong emphasis on the holistic care of women of all ages and the people they love. As such, it seems appropriate that this month’s blog acknowledges Women’s History Month and the contribution of the women whose constant investment of love, support, and encouragement made the realization of our grand opening possible. As the founder of Healthy Horizons, LLC, I must acknowledge a gracious God and the constant love and support of my family. I am grateful for the steadfast encouragement that enabled me to see so many amazing clients overcome anxiety, depression, trauma, and discover more nutritious, meaningful, and spiritually fulfilling lives! Women have joined forces and participated in various social justice movements over the centuries to break down the sex barrier and secure women’s enfranchisement (Holton et al., 2014). Women’s History Month (WHM), though not the ultimate answer to the challenges faced by women today, can be considered the culminated underscoring of all those efforts.
WHM has been celebrated during the month of March across the United States since 1987 and coincides with International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th. In 1978, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to pass Public Law 100-09 (West, 2019), and the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women in California began to observe Women’s History Week. In 1980, former President Jimmy Carter formally proclaimed its observance. Soon after, several schools expanded National Women’s Week to a full month, and by 1986, fourteen states had adopted the expansion. Congress formally adopted the full month in recognition and celebration of women’s contributions and achievements in 1987.
Today, the observance has its own website (https://womenshistorymonth.gov/), and teachers are encouraged to highlight the achievements of women in history all year long, even drawing attention to the personal female heroes in the lives of students. That is a win for us all! Further, modern researchers in specific fields of study are demanding recognition of their female predecessors who shaped their disciplines (Nature Portfolio, 2021; Nature Immunology, 2020). As a result, the long-overlooked and courageous stories of women who have impacted history are surfacing.
For example, when was the last time you planned a trip or hopped on a plane and heard about Mary W. Jackson? Jackson was NASA’s “first Black female engineer and an aeronautics expert who specialized in how air flows around aircraft” (Nature Portfolio, 2021, p. 2). Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in 1849, not only opened the door for other women to enter the medical field, but she was an inspiring model for women’s advocacy and recognition. She was known for refusing assignments in male-run hospitals preferring to open her own hospital for women and children focusing on the poor and providing clinical opportunities for other women doctors (Moore, 2021). Katherine G. Johnson (1918-2020) was considered a trailblazer! She was a mathematician for NASA and her work included “calculating the trajectory for America’s first space trip with Alan Shepherd’s 1961 mission... [and] for the first actual Moon landing in 1969” (Wild, 2020). Women have also changed the perception of trauma and triumph. Consider Maya Angelou whose seminal work “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” (2015) remains so transformational to some that they compose autobiographies just to write about their reading experience with this autobiography (Trower, 2021).
Women have shaped politics as well. For example, Jeannette Rankin entered Congress in 1917 and Patsy Takemoto Mink, who was the first congresswoman of color, was elected in 1965 setting an example for other women to follow (Sanbonmatsu, 2020). If you can think of an area in our history important to you, you can find women in history who helped shape it!
The list of amazing women who have impacted history is long and diverse. To try and fit even a fraction of them into a single blog post would serve as an injustice to their contributions. Likewise, it is difficult to properly acknowledge the contributions of the many women who offered their love and support to me throughout the process that led to the establishment of Healthy Horizons, LLC. Some are pioneers and advocates for women in their own right! They set an example of exemplary service and dedication in their respective fields. Other women served as a reminder to remain true to one’s calling as wife, mother, friend, and believer in a faithful God eager to provide. Finally, there were a few women who challenged the negative self-concept that made the journey, well, grueling at best. To each of you who stayed the course: Janine, JoAnn, Deanna, Ashley, Molly, Gyann, Anastasia, Coreen, and now, Audra and Megan, Thank you-truly-deeply from the heart.
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Accepting new clients for teletherapy within the state of Colorado or in-person sessions in Loveland or Fort Collins!
All of the therapists associated with Healthy Horizons, LLC are independent professionals with their own practices and are independent wellness businesses, separate from Healthy Horizons, LLC.