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Five Mindful Ways to Enjoy Your Holiday Season

Five Mindful Ways to Enjoy Your Holiday Season
The holiday season can be full of excitement, family, friends, and...busy-ness. Before your season becomes a blur of things to do and places to go, take some time to create intentional practices to help you slow down and appreciate the inspiration of the season. Here are five ideas to get you started.

Use a word, image, or memory to guide your holiday season. Take some time to think about what you truly want from your experience this year, then allow that idea to become a touchstone for your time and energy. For example, if your guiding word this year is gratitude, think about how you can enliven that word in your life, perhaps through journaling, writing a holiday letter of thanks to your friends and family, or finding opportunities to express gratitude within your community.

Getting outside, away from technology, is one of the best ways to slow down and appreciate the here and now. Being in nature calms the body, mind, and spirit, and beneficially affects the nervous system and immune system. Take time to walk in the woods. While you're there, stop to take notice of what you see, hear, and smell. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Plant yourself firmly and remind yourself that you, too, are part of the natural world.

When we become busy and stressed, we change our breathing patterns, taking shorter breaths out of the chest rather than the relaxed, deep breaths that help us feel calm and balanced. Breath awareness techniques can help your mind and body establish a state of relaxation in which you can operate from a state of intentional response rather than stressful reaction. Here's a quick breath awareness tool you might try when you notice yourself feeling rushed and stressed:
  • Close your eyes if you can.
  • Breathe in and feel a touch of cool air at the tip of your nose.
  • Breathe out and feel a touch of warm air.
  • Notice how in each moment of breath awareness you are just here, just now, in the present moment.


In our focus on "getting it all done," we can forget to nourish ourselves. Whole, minimally processed food can reduce our stress levels, provide the energy we need to stay balanced, and remind us of the comfort of a good, healthy meal. Choose colorful veggies and fruits, savor the smells and sights of your meal, and enjoy it mindfully, one bite at a time.

Nothing can take away from enjoying the season like sleep deprivation. Sleep is the time when our bodies rest, restore, and gather the resources necessary to wake up focused and ready for an intentional day. Especially during the busy holiday season, your body needs this time to reset. Adequate sleep helps the body to recover from stress, fight off illnesses, balance hormone levels associated with appetite and food cravings, and improve mood, just to name a few of the benefits of healthy sleep. If you are not waking up feeling rested, consider changing your bedtime routine to help you establish a calm state before bed. A few ideas include creating a consistent bedtime, turning off all technology at least one hour before bed, and avoiding substances that interfere with sleep (alcohol, sugar, caffeine, etc.). Treat yourself to a relaxing warm bath or cup of herbal tea and notice how your body can begin to relax and become calm before you get into bed.

Give yourself and those around you the gift of mindful presence this holiday season. Slow down and create a season of intention. Notice that you can find a moment of peace and joy, and take the time to absorb and extend that sensation.

Many Blessings to you all this holiday season,
Katie Winnell RN, BSN, NC-BC

b2ap3_thumbnail_katiewinnell_thumbnail.jpgKatie Winnell is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Nurse Coach with Credentialing in Clinical Meditation and Imagery and Health Education. She helps clients reveal and activate a lifestyle of wellness though Integrative Nurse Coaching and Clinical Meditation, Mindfulness and Imagery techniques. Katie is now seeing clients through the Integrative Medicine Office of Dr. Carin Nielsen.

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Can Journaling Help You Exercise Smarter?



Spring has sprung in Northern Michigan, finally! More sun and warmer temps beckon us outdoors and inspire us to get out and move. Spring is a great time to enter into or return to your exercise routine*. But just like any other healthy habit, it can be hard to find the motivation to stay committed to moving our bodies. 

Instead of plodding through an exercise routine using highly over-rated willpower to push through motivation obstacles, how about taking a step back to look honestly at those obstacles, as well as your hopes and goals? Observing our strengths and struggles nonjudgmentally allows us to view and explore them without falling into sabotaging self-criticism. Once we are clear on where we are, strengths, struggles, and all, then we can plan the path forward with a clear vision based in reality and inspiration.

So, try taking a step inward to notice the story you may be telling yourself about exercising, a story which may color and shape your motivation and commitment to this healthy habit.  Journaling is a great way to begin this practice. Here are 3 journaling prompts to help you get started:

1) Get clear on where you are right now. Why do you want to exercise? It seems like an easy question, but we exercise for different reasons, some for specific health-related outcomes, some to meet athletic goals, and others to get out and feel better emotionally. Knowing why you want to exercise can help you choose a routine and set goals that will be effective and enjoyable. It can also help you remain realistic about your exercise routine, which helps you to set specific, achievable goals that honor your motivation and path, not someone else's. 

2) Take a peek at your future self. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, imagine walking a path. Ahead you see yourself 3 months from now. What do you see from a whole, integrated perspective? Not just your physical self, but what do hope for in terms of your emotional, spiritual, and relational self? Now, what strengths do you hold that can get you further along your path? Perseverance? Positive attitude? Enjoyment of the outdoors? And what obstacles might get in your way? Lack of social support? Time limitations? Self-criticism? How can you problem solve those obstacles now, so when they pop up, you have a plan to overcome them? Keep this picture (make sure it is realistic!) close, and revisit and revise when it's helpful. 

3) Maximize the benefits. Take a moment at the end of each exercise session to journal about how you feel, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our human brains spend lots of time ruminating on the negative aspects of new habits (no, it’s not just you, we all do it!), and it is more difficult to hard-wire in the positive. So take a minute to revel in your accomplishment and the state you are in after you exercise. What do you feel? Name how your body feels. Name the emotions you experienced while exercising and, positivity, pride? Revisit this positive physical and emotional state when you are low in motivation, remind yourself of what is to come (no worries if you aren't feeling those good vibes, journal about the obstacles you noticed and spend a minute problem solving those struggles).  

Journaling can be an effective awareness practice to help you uncover the stories that either limit you or motivate you. Give it a try, you might surprise and inspire yourself! Most of all, use exercise journaling as a method to explore, not critique. Everything you uncover is more information, neither good nor bad, just more self-knowledge to work with to fine tune your motivation. 

So, explore, journal, and MOVE!

*As always, if you have a specific health condition or are new to exercise, have a conversation with your health care provider regarding your exercise routine. 

Katie Winnell, Board Certified Nurse Coach, Health Educator, and Clinical Mediation and Imagery Specialist, can help you with your wellness plan using coaching, behavioral change, and self-awareness tools. You can make an appointment by calling 231.638.5585.

b2ap3_thumbnail_katiewinnell_thumbnail.jpgKatie Winnell, Board Certified Nurse Coach, Health Educator, and Clinical Mediation and Imagery Specialist, can help you with your wellness plan using coaching, behavioral change, and self-awareness tools. You can make an appointment by calling 231.638.5585.

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Meditation…One Size Fits All?


In our fast-paced, on-the-go culture, a meditation practice can offer moments of calm amidst the chaos, moments which can grow into a lifestyle of greater attention, awareness, and peacefulness. As stressful lives have led to an increase in stress-related illness, the healthcare industry has gravitated toward integrating contemplative practices such as meditation into care plans for those with new or chronic illness. This occurrence is supported by years of research into the effectiveness of using meditation as a tool for stress reduction, chronic illness risk reduction, and for balanced emotional and spiritual health. As western medicine becomes better at understanding the gifts of meditation, it is clear that meditation is an effective adjunct therapy for many physical, emotional, and spiritual illness states. 

In using meditation as an aspect of integrated medical care, however, we must be careful to match the meditation style to both the personality and the symptom set of the client. Though meditation skills, in general, are appropriate for almost all populations, using meditation clinically involves more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Using an evidence-based scientific approach to meditation has taught us that meditation changes the neurophysiology of the brain, changes the parts of the brain that are "on-line" and functioning, and changes brain wave activity in the brain. These changes, of course, are reflected in the body. So, how these practices are taught and applied, among other factors, can determine the outcome. This is important in setting where a particular outcome is desired, where others may not be. Different goals require different techniques. 

Fortunately, we know a lot about how different meditation techniques affect the body and the brain. And we know a lot about how different symptoms and illnesses present in the body and the brain. With the combination of clinician experience, medical history, and the client's own wisdom, specific meditation techniques can be matched to best meet the needs and goals of the client. Mindfulness Meditation may be the right fit for one client, Focused Awareness Meditation more effective for another, while Open Heart Meditation best matches the needs of yet a different client.

Research does indeed suggest that even relatively brief and general meditation training can have an impact, but this same research indicates that the popular impression that "meditation" or "mindfulness" is good for everything or everyone is a bit of a fallacy, especially when used in clinical settings. Clinically, meditation should not be guesswork. Rather, it should be used with specificity regarding the client's own goals, their physiology, and how different meditative techniques impact the brain and body. When meditation training is matched to the individual client, it has the potential to reduce stress, reduce chronic illness symptoms, and open the door to experiences of joy, wonder, curiosity, and peace.

b2ap3_thumbnail_katiewinnell_thumbnail.jpgIf you are interested in learning about how meditation can be effective for your life and health goals, you can make an appointment to begin your journey with Katie Winnell RN, BSN, NC. Katie is a licensed RN, Nurse-Coach and Health Educator with credentials in Clinical Meditation and Imagery. The upcoming Spring 2018 Foundations of Meditation Session, an introductory 4-week class which sets the foundations for your meditation practice, begins April 17th at 6:30 pm at Dr. Nielsen’s office, 413 Waukazoo Ave., in Petoskey. Call 231.638.5585 to pre-register or schedule an appointment.

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