Spring has finally sprung! As May comes to a close, I’m struck by the beauty and rainbow of colours that surround us this time of year. The first few weeks I spent soaking up all the greenery and sounds of the wild life while sitting on my swing or at the park or during nature walks. Then, like many of you, I spent much of the long weekend with gardening tools pulling weeds and planting new flowers. Last weekend was devoted to working on the vegetable garden. As I reflect on these experiences, I begin to see many parallels between counselling and gardening. Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, uses the gardening analogy to talk about the steps involved in creating a happier, more resilient brain including being aware of the garden, pulling weeds, then planting flowers. First, as with mindfulness practice, you notice and become attuned to the present moment. This alone can do wonders to combat against stress, anxiety and depression by grounding us to the present, independent of our feeling states. Personally I’ve been finding Tara Brach’s “RAIN” meditation especially helpful to keep myself calm during difficult parenting moments. Secondly, from simple worry to complex trauma, the key to healing involves identifying and challenging negative internalized beliefs, messages that, like weeds, can literally crowd out the good experiences and leave us feeling alone, ashamed or hopeless. I had the pleasure, along with two of my colleagues last week of hearing Natalie Zlodre , head of the Trauma and Resiliency Institute in Toronto, talk about how she applies the principals of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) to help trauma survivors break old destructive patterns and move towards new healthier ways of being and interacting with others.
Finally, a big part of counselling involves planting seeds of new beginnings and leaving it up to the clients to decide what they want to cultivate. My work has been inspired by the exciting advancements in the field of neuroplasticity and interpersonal neuropsychology. As Norman Doidge wrote, the brain literally can change itself. Exercises like Daniel Siegel’s “Wheel of Awareness” or Rick Hanson’s “Take in the Good“, can help to shift our focus away from worry or fear caused by our natural negativity bias and exasperated by adverse life circumstances. Planting new thoughts of recent positive experiences or aspects of oneself such as accomplishments, favourite activities or loving experiences help individuals become more balanced, loving and successful. Like gardening, digging in the dirt of our lives can feel overwhelming at times but even the toughest weed or most destructive pattern can be pulled out at the root; opening the door to a beautiful new life.
Please give us the gift of your feedback. Comment here or on our facebook page. I hope you will take time to enjoy the bounty of fragrances and blossoms that fill the air this time of year.