Finding beauty in unexpected places

Finding beauty in unexpected places

Late this past Saturday afternoon, as Nova Scotians were swept in a swirl of snow, Torontonians were bathed in unexpected sunshine.

Moderate temperatures and clear blue skies had coaxed even the most hesitant outdoors.

I was leaving the hospital after a good visit with my father and came upon an unexpected sight; on the slope of a large hill sat dozens of families and couples enjoying picnics. Behind them stood a large crowd of onlookers all gazing across the park below. I wondered if a concert was about to begin and thought maybe it had already started since many people had their cameras out, all pointed in the same direction. I could hear nothing, nor see anyone performing in the natural amphitheater below.

Then I realized what everyone was gazing at: a glorious sunset spreading its last rays over the skyline of the city. Like animals waking from deep hibernation, people had stumbled outdoors, dazed by the beauty of the mid-winter sun.

Even in the greyest of winters, we can find windows of warmth and light.

I hope that now you have dug yourselves out from under, you too are able to pause and catch glimpses of the unexpected beauty that surrounds us.

Warm thoughts in a wintery week,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The art of being present

The art of being present

It is February 2nd – Groundhog Day.

Legend has it that if the groundhog emerges from its den and sees its shadow, it will retreat, and winter will slog on for another six weeks. If it doesn’t see its shadow, spring will arrive early. Judging by the amount of snow we’ve had this week winter is far from over.

In the early darkness of winter evenings, I sometimes catch myself wishing the days away, yearning for the warmth and light that come with spring. Dark winter nights can have a distinct Groundhog Day feel to them.

As much as I’m excited for the sunshine ahead, I’m determined to appreciate the season that I’m in. This past Monday brought with it a slate of school closings, a massive dump of snow and sporadic white out conditions. After considerable debate about whether we should go out for our lunchtime stroll, Mackenzie and I forged out to enjoy a surprisingly pleasant walk through the winter storm. From the inside it looked foreboding, but once outside we were able to appreciate the beauty of fresh snow, enjoying the squeals of laughter rising from children playing gleefully in a snowbank as we passed.

I feel the bite of winter air as I step out each morning and am reminded of the gift it is to wake up and commute to work on foot.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll take blue skies over grey and a surplus of sunshine over shovelling snow any day of the week. But I’ll continue to practice presence and find gratitude on even the coldest of days.

Regardless of whether the groundhog sees its shadow or not, I hope you will join me in practicing the art of being present, and find some little ways to be grateful for the season that we are in.

I don’t believe that chunky rodent is clairvoyant anyway.

Even in the greyest of winters, we can find windows of warmth and light.

I hope that now you have dug yourselves out from under, you too are able to pause and catch glimpses of the unexpected beauty that surrounds us.

Warmly,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Purging spaces and making room for what matters most

Purging spaces and making room for what matters most

It’s January, a perfect time for new beginnings.

In a world brimming with constant activity and incessant stimuli, our living spaces often mirror the chaos we might experience in daily life. Clutter accumulates, objects pile up, and our surroundings can become overwhelming.

The act of purging goes beyond mere decluttering; it’s a transformative process that transcends the physical realm. It involves sifting through belongings, evaluating their significance, and intentionally parting ways with items that no longer serve a purpose or bring genuine joy.

Like the Tasmanian Devil, I am whirling around our home donating or chucking out items that no longer serve us. My goal is to rid our home of one bag per day. Joe is not quite sure what is going on. To be fair, I may not have given him the heads up, but by osmosis he can’t help but jump on the decluttering train.

Instead of winter darkness, I’m fuelled by internal light. One small piece at a time, one day at a time, I vow to emerge from my clutter, making room for what matters most.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Gifts from the Universe

Gifts from the Universe

This month has been a bit challenging for me. My father’s health is declining, and as a result, I’ve made a few extra trips to Toronto in recent weeks.

On the last flight to Toronto, I wasn’t feeling particularly chatty. I sat beside a polished young woman. She was well-coiffed, armed in high heels, a white designer bag and immaculate make-up.

She didn’t make much eye contact, so I took it as my cue that we wouldn’t chat. I developed an internal story about who she might be based on her appearance. As we got up to leave, she stood and with her perfectly manicured hands passed me my bag from the overhead compartment, even though she did not have one of her own.

This thoughtful gesture prompted me to revise my initial appraisal of her. We chatted as we stood in line for our bags, and I learned that she holds a doctoral degree in genetic engineering and is dedicating her life working to develop drugs to cure hereditary illnesses. She was passionate, thoughtful, and inspired. My superficial impression proved to be very wrong.

This brief interaction encouraged me to be more open to the idea of getting to know people before judging them.

On the flight home, I felt exhausted, after five days in the hospital at my father’s bedside. An elderly woman, was sitting beside me, scribbling furiously into a journal. Her notes were organized and meticulous. Remembering my earlier vow, I threw her a line, asking if she was a writer. It turns out she holds a master’s degree in divinity and has spent the latter part of her life on a spiritual quest.

The next three hours proved to be a fulsome conversation around topics of Buddhism, consciousness, spirituality, quantum physics and mysticism. She writes under the penname Augusta. The conversation was good enough that I ordered two of her books. I left the plane feeling grounded, calm and appreciative.

I am grateful to the universe for sending both women my way. I wonder how often people of potential importance in our lives are sent to us, but we miss the opportunity to benefit from them because we are closed off or not looking.

I am renewed in my commitment to being open and receptive to what the universe has to offer. I hope you will do the same.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Over the holidays I had the chance to spend time with family and friends. One young fellow, Ewan, captured my heart.

No matter what we did, Ewan was filled with excitement, fully enjoying the wonder of each moment as it unfolded.

“This was the best day EVER!” he exclaimed after jumping from the wood-fired sauna into the ice-cold lake.

“I can’t believe I got to chop down my first tree!” he shouted gleefully as the tree hit the ground.

Even when collecting rocks, he did not complain under the burden of the large, heavy bag he was carrying. His only utterance was “It’s so much better with you helping me carry the load.”

At the tender age of ten, Ewan understands that there are some burdens too big to shoulder alone. This is a truth that we somehow often lose sight of once we hit adulthood.

Having more people does indeed lighten the load. Our group programs exist for this very reason, to make sure no one walks alone. When we’re in good company the load we carry inevitably becomes easier to shoulder.

What better way can there be to start the new year than to join a community of people that understand.

If you have not yet signed up for our January program, Emotions Management, there are still a few spots available. If you’ve already completed it, we look forward to seeing you at our monthly Maintaining Health program on January 18th.

Happy New Year!

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Hardwired to Help

Hardwired to Help

Hardwired to Help

When people call 911, it’s an indication that something is wrong, and they require help. We’re trained to look for problems.

The same is true for most military members, health care professionals and first responders.

When things are going well, the phone tends to be silent. People reach out because they need something. Our work trains us to approach each interaction looking to quickly assess the problem, and see how we might assist.

This can be a hard pattern to step out of when we leave the office or our work.

It can be exhausting. At work, there may always be a problem. When we go home, it’s important that we allow ourselves to rest. It makes the challenging moments more rewarding and keeps us healthier in the long run.

Allow yourselves to enjoy the silent moments when they occur. Our best selves emerge after stretches of quality down time. This is only possible when we are able to truly allow ourselves to be off duty.

Warm thoughts,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong