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How to Make Your Own Jam

How to Make Your Own Jam

Making your own homemade jam is a great place to start your canning journey. The recipes are simple, and the process is usually pretty quick (approximately 2 hours, including clean up).

There are many benefits to making your own jam & jellies.

  • You know every single ingredient that goes into the jam or jelly.
  • You have them in your kitchen and use them all the time – fruit, sugar, pectin, and depending on the jelly maybe apple cider vinegar.
  • When done properly, these jars can be stored in a cool, dark spot for up to 18 months without spoiling.
  • They make excellent homemade gifts or additions to a charcuterie board that will impress your friends & family.
  • The price of groceries is beyond ridiculous, and the supply chain is uncertain. It’s cheaper to buy local, in-season fruit and make your own. All my recipes use only simple ingredients and I choose local as much as possible.

Each batch of jam is slightly different but yields approximately 6 250ml jars of jam. Once the process is complete, they are shelf stable for up to 18 months (but they won’t last that long, they are so good).

Equipment Required

To preserve acidic foods such as fruit, tomatoes, onions & pickles you will require:

How to Make Your Own Jam

For Canning in general you will need:

  • A large canner (pot)
  • A jar funnel
  • Jar tongs
  • A canning basket
  • A magnet

All of this can usually be purchased as a kit at either Walmart or Canadian tire.

For Jams/Jellies

  • Either a case of 250 ml jars or 125 ml jars.

Storage:

  • Find a cool, dark, dry place (usually in the basement) to store your canned goods.
  • They should keep for up to 18 months.

Suggestions:

Canning is a very specific science, and you will find loads of misinformation on the internet.  Please only use recipes from trusted sources such as Ball or Bernardin.

Here is a list of recipe books that I recommend for beginners:

(These are not affiliate links)

Homemade Raspberry Jam

This is your standard jam recipe that your Grandmother may have used.  It’s clean, simple and oh so delicious!

Warm Raspberry Jam

Ingredients:

6 ½ cups crushed raspberries¼ cup lemon juice
3 ¾ cups of white sugar1 packet of liquid pectin

Directions:

  1. Wash berries in cold water
  2. Wash jars & lids in hot soapy water & rinse well.
  3. In your canning pot, fill halfway with clean water & a splash of white vinegar. Turn on to boil. Add in 6 250 ml jars and allow to boil (this will sterilize your jars).
  4. Add the canning disks to a bowl of very hot water, set aside.
  5. In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, combine fruit, lemon juice & sugar. Bring to a boil and mash the fruit using either a potato masher or remove from heat and use an immersion blender.
  6. When fruit is at a full boil, add in the entire packet of pectin, squeezing out every drop.
  7. Stir constantly until pectin is fully incorporated and bring to a boil for 1 full minute.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Pull the jars from the canner with your jar tongs and place on a tea towel lined counter, next to your pot of jam.
  10. Place your jar funnel on top of a jar. Using a clean ladle, begin to fill the jar. Leave ¼” head space. Repeat until you have jarred all your jam.
  11. Wipe each rim with paper towel dipped in white vinegar.
  12. Using your magnet, place a disk on each jar without touching the jar or the rubber with your fingers.
  13. Screw on the bands to finger tight. Do not over tighten.
  14. Using the canning tongs, place each jar on the basket in your canning pot.
  15. Bring to a good rolling boil and set your timer for 10 minutes.
  16. After 10 minutes, turn off your heat, slowly remove the lid, tipping it away from you as the steam will be hot.
  17. Using your tongs again, remove each jar and place on a tea towel. Do not disturb for 24 hours.
  18. Be sure all lids “pop” and you are unable to press the disk down.

Storage:

Remove the ring, label & date your jars and store your jam in a cool, dark, dry place.  Refrigerate once opened or if seal is broken.

Canning Classes

If you would prefer to make your first batch of jam with a little in-person guidance, I offer Jam Sessions where we will learn the proper canning methods.

This class is held in my home (Bracebridge, ON).

To learn more, click here.

Be sure to SHARE this post with your friends on your social media!!

Please leave any questions of comments below. I will respond as quickly as I can.

Happy Jamming!!!

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Calendula – Why & How to Grow it!

calendula

Learn how & why you should grow Calendula in your garden. We offer FREE Calendula Seeds, so you can grow your own and reap the benefits!

Why Grow Calendula

Bright yellow and orange flowers, historically used for medicinal and culinary purposes, come from easy calendula care when growing this simple flower. Commonly called the pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), the calendula flower has long been a staple in British cottage gardens.

Petals are used in cooking, and were used as yellow coloring in cheeses and butters in centuries past. When used in stews, broths and salads, these petals add a spicy taste similar to saffron to many dishes. All parts of calendula plants are useful in many ways. The plant is said to stimulate the immune system and is currently used as an ingredient in many cosmetics.

Flowers and leaves of the calendula may be dried and stored for later use. In the vegetable garden, calendula draws aphids away from valuable plants. While uses of calendula plants are diverse, growing calendula in the flower or herb garden is an optimum use of this attractive plant.

Calendula plants are frost tolerant and somewhat cold hardy and add long-lasting color and beauty in a flower bed or container.

Planting Calendula

Calendula is easy to grow from seeds directly sown in the garden or containers. Plant seeds in early spring and repot or transplant sturdy seedlings after the threat of frost. Calendula will tolerate poor conditions but grows best when it has rich soil. Once established, it doesn’t need much water or fertilizer to grow. Calendula is a full sun plant, however, it’s not a fan of sweltering hot temperatures and might start wilting in intense heat.

Calendula has no serious insect or disease problems. They can sometimes be susceptible to powdery mildew (remedied by good air circulation), and slugs and snails may feed on them, especially young plants. Keep ground areas clear of debris to minimize slug and snail damage. Aphids and whiteflies can sometimes be a problem; spraying with water or treating with insecticidal soaps can control these pests.

Light

Calendula generally prefers full sun, but it sometimes languishes during the hottest months unless it receives some afternoon shade in hotter areas.

Soil

Like most members of the daisy family, calendula needs a well-drained soil high in organic material. Dense, wet soils can cause the roots to rot. This plant tolerates a wide range of soil pH but prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil.

Water

Water frequently until the plants are established. Mature plants thrive on only occasional watering. Avoid too much water with these plants.

Temperature and Humidity

Calendula prefers mild summer temperatures and may die away by the end of summer in very hot climates.

Fertilizer

Calendula does not need much in the way of feeding. If planted in fertile garden soil, it requires no additional feeding at all. Marginal soils may require feeding with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, but over-feeding can make the plants leggy and spindly. Container plants require monthly feeding with a diluted, balanced fertilizer.

How to Care for Your Calendula

If deadheaded regularly, this plant can bloom from spring through fall and beyond. In warmer areas, the calendula may take a break from blooming during summer heat and then put on a show as temperatures fall in autumn. Regular pinching keeps the 1-3 foot (30-90 cm.) plant bushy and prevents tall, spindly stalks.

Now that you’ve learned how to grow calendulas, take advantage of their long-lasting blooms in the herb garden or light shade area. Experiment with use of calendula flower petals to replace saffron in recipes. If you are so inclined, use plant parts as a topical treatment for minor scrapes and cuts.

How is it prepared?

Calendula can be found in many different preparations. It is the flower heads that are used to prepare the calendula medicine. 

Calendula extract can be prepared as a tincture to be taken internally or as an ointment to be used externally. Calendula ointment, calendula oil or calendula cream can be used to promote wound healing on the skin, especially shallow wounds by applying it around the area. 

Furthermore, calendula plants can be prepared as a tea which is one of its more traditional uses. Calendula tea is a gentle way to incorporate the healing properties of the flower into your daily schedule. This way it helps to soothe all of the tissues of the digestive tract while also calming the body down. 

Benefits for inflammation in the body

Soothing and Healing

Possibly the most important and well-known properties of the Calendula herb is its anti-inflammatory action. These anti-inflammatory properties allow calendula oil to topically soothe inflamed skin and rashes of any kind. It both works to soothe and calm down the reaction on the skin as well as heal the skin so that this reaction does not continue to happen in the future.

In addition, these actions make this an incredible tool for healing tissues internally as well. Calendula has an affinity for the digestive tract. It helps to stimulate the digestive function decreasing stagnation and allowing food to move through our bodies. It also helps to support any of the digestive tissue along the way that is inflamed or compromised in any way. It can heal the tissue and tighten it up making it more resilient to stressors. At the same time, it can help to decrease pain by calming the tissues themselves. This can help it to relax the muscles and can be especially helpful in digestive cramping or period cramping. 

Overall this herb is one that works to soothe the entire body from an internal and external place.

Cautions

Caution should be taken when using calendula over deep wounds as it is so efficient at healing that it could theoretically heal the outer layers of skin before the inner layers. Those with an allergy to the Asteraceae family including daisies and daisy-like plants should avoid using calendula in any capacity as it could elicit an allergic reaction. 

Calendula Tea

To make a tea that soothes internal mucous membranes, add calendula flowers to water in a ratio of a tablespoon of fresh or two teaspoons of dried flowers to a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer or allow to steep for 10 minutes.

Naturally Knotty Farm
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Keep Growing – How to Identify & Care for your Seeds

Keep Growing

Welcome to our Keep Growing Project! If you haven’t already requested your seeds, you can do so here.

We grow many things on this Farm from beautiful flowers, medicinal plants & herbs to delicious fruits & veggies. Most of these plants produce seeds to ensure their circle of life. We collect the seeds that Mother Nature gives us and pass them on to you!

Our Moto here on the Farm is – Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy Minds. Growth is essential to life, without it, eventually we wither up and blow away. We want to encourage your growth – mind, body & spirit. We also think there needs to be a little adventure, a lot of faith and a dash of curiosity. This is why we send you seeds unlabeled. We want to spark your curiosity and sense of adventure and never lose your faith.

All the seeds we have shipped out originated on this farm. We grew them all, harvested them, dried them & stored them for you.

Identify your Seeds

Calendula

Bright yellow and orange flowers, historically used for medicinal and culinary purposes, come from easy calendula care when growing this simple flower.

Petals are used in cooking, and were used as yellow coloring in cheeses and butters in centuries past. When used in stews, broths and salads, these petals add a spicy taste similar to saffron to many dishes.

The calendula flower or flowering herb is an annual which will readily reseed. Too much calendula care can result in stunted or slow growth. Poor to average, well draining soil and only occasional watering after plants are established is the secret to growing prolific calendula plants.

Chinese Balsam

Chinese Balsam / Impatient

Chinese Balsam or Garden Balsam, is grown for both its showy multicolored flowers as well as its medicinal use in both Indian and Victorian gardens alike. Known for the explosive nature of its seed pods which is where the genus impatiens got its name.

Self-seeding annual.  70 days to flowers.  Plant prefers full sun, rich soil, frequent watering.  Sow directly in spring garden or grow in pots.  Barely cover seed, tamp securely, and keep evenly moist, warm and in the light until germination, which takes 3-6 days.  Easy germination, quick bright flowers and magical seed ejection makes this a child’s favourite.  Space plants 6” apart or let them fall where they may.

Birdhouse Gourd

Birdhouse Gourds

Birdhouse gourds make an ideal gardening project for the whole family. The hard-shelled hanging fruits are not edible but are wonderful for craft projects such as creating decorative homes for the birds. 

The vine and leaves are incredible soft & fuzzy to the touch and grows quickly.

Start seeds indoors 6 weeks before last frost. Transplant to garden bed in a sunny location. Support mature plants with a trellis.

Leave the gourds on the vine until after frost, when the vine has died completely. Allow your gourds to dry indoors. Give them a good scrubbing with a water/vinegar mixture to kill the mildew that may grow as it hardens. Once you can hear the seeds rattling inside, cut your hole for the birds, empty the gourd & decorate as you please. Hang outside for the birds to enjoy.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe is 90% water and loaded with electrolytes!! Be sure to have some on those dog days of summer to stay hydrated!!

Plant cantaloupes in full sun in well-drained soil. Cantaloupe plants need about 85 days to mature, but don’t rush planting. Sow seeds only when temperatures reliably stay above 10 – 15 degrees C. Plant in groups of two or three seeds spaced 2 feet apart.

We hope you enjoy your FREE Gift from us! Everyday, nature shows us how she grows, adapts & evolves to the world around her. You can do the same!!!

Please share your seed journey with us, either on Facebook or in the comments below!

Keep Growing!!

Naturally Knotty Farm
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FREE Groceries – Growing Food from Grocery Store Scraps.

free groceries

This year, in the greenhouse, I will be experimenting with growing food from our kitchen scraps. Here are 10 foods you can regrow with regular kitchen scraps.

Regrowing Food

Grow vegetables from scraps:

1. Green Onions

Green onions are arguably the easiest and most popular vegetable to regrow. All you have to do is cut them from about an inch from the roots, and leave them in a glass of water.

2. Celery

Cut off the celery, and leave about an inch or two from the base. Place the base in a bowl of water and leave it where it can get adequate sunlight. As new leaves begin to sprout from the middle, allow for it to gain thickness for about a week before transferring it into a pot of soil.

3. Romaine Lettuce, Bok Choy, Cabbage

Romaine lettuce is as easy to regrow as celery! Leave the stump of the lettuce in a bowl and fill the water halfway. And once the leaves have regrown for a few days, transfer your the stumps into soil.

4. Carrots

Okay, we’re not exactly regrowing the carrot itself, but actually the carrot top, which surprisingly comes with a wide range of uses. You can turn it into pesto, add it to soup, or even saute them. Simply leave the top of the carrots–with a bit of the carrot attached–in bowl or plate of water, and place them where they can receive adequate sunlight.

5. Leeks

Leeks regrow the exact same way as green onions–although they might take a little longer based on their sheer size. Leave about two inches of leek from the bottom, and place them in a bowl of water.

6. Onions

You can also regrow spring onions from an onion bulb. Make sure the root part has about half an inch of grown attached. Place it directly in soil and cover it with a layer of soil. Water it periodically to keep the soil moist. Just keep cutting the green sprouts off when they’ve regrown. You’ll never have to buy spring onions again!

7. Basil, Mint, and Cilantro

A lot of herbs can easily be regrown. Make sure there’s about 2-3 inches of stem. Place the stems upright in a glass of water. When the new roots begin to sprout, transfer the herbs into a pot of soil and let the aroma flourish.

8. Pineapple

Okay, not a vegetable, but imagine regrowing a pineapple in your home. How amazing and exciting would that be? And not to mention it’s also easier than you think. It just takes a bit of patience, as pineapple can take up to two years to bear their first fruit.

The trick is to grab a hold of the pineapple crown by the leaves and twist and pull it off so the stalk is still attached. Remove some of the lower leaves to expose the stalk. Make sure there is no fruit flesh as that will rot the stalk.

Place the pineapple crown in a glass of water and allow new roots to sprout–this usually takes about three weeks. Then transfer to a pot with fast-draining soil. The plant should begin to resist gentle tugs at about two months. At this point, it means that your replanting worked, and that it’s time to look into pineapple plant care!

9. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are super easy, but you will need some serious real estate–it’s probably not suitable for an apartment. Stick toothpicks around a sweet potato to prop it up in at the rim of a glass, only half-emerging it in water. When the roots reach about three to four inches, plant it in soil.

10. Potatoes

Just leave your spud in a dark corner, forget about it, and it’ll just sprout. I know we’ve all been there. But there’s probably a quicker and healthier way to do it. Cut a potato in half. And where you see the dented “eyes” on the skin, plant the potatoes in soil with the “eyes” facing up. That’s where the plant will begin to sprout in a couple weeks.

Growing Food from Kitchen Scraps

Save Space & Money

Most of these veggies can be grown in relatively small spaces which is great for dense urban areas. All you need is a sunny widow, a few pots & some soil.

Here I am growing Green Onions, Celery, Carrots and Turnip.

Once I have a good root system, I will transfer all of them to potted soil that is big enough to hold the root base and enjoy my harvest.

Green onions and carrots I simply use the greens to add to soups or salads.

The celery & turnip will regrow fully or I can use the greens as the pop up.

What Do You Grow from Your Kitchen Scraps?

Regrowing food is becoming a hot trend. The price of groceries is expected to skyrocket along with potential food shortages makes this an economical solution as well as a great teaching tool for your children.

Please tell us in the comments what you grow and provide us any tips or tricks you have learned along the way.

Naturally Knotty Farms
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3 Simple Herbal Tea Infusions

Herbal Tea

I’m going to preface this post with full transparency. I am not an herbalist. However; I have been enjoying the benefits of herbal tea for years!! We use teas for just about everything. I have chosen some simple recipes with very common ingredients that most people have at home. If not, they are at all local grocery stores.

Herbal Tea

Chronic Pain Tea

Most of your regular garden herbs are highly medicinal so it makes sense to have them close at hand. Basil, thyme & oregano all have pain & inflammation-reducing properties and they make a wonderful, highly drinkable tea!!

2 cups water

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh Basil, Thyme & Oregano

  1. Add chopped herbs to a 473 ml jar
  2. Bring water to a boil
  3. Pour boiled water over herbs
  4. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes
  5. Strain out the herbs
  6. Add honey if you wish

Drink daily, as often as needed, to help relieve chronic pain & inflammation. It may take several weeks of daily use for pain to subside.

Non-habit-forming pain reliever!!!

**Pregnant women should avoid using large amounts of basil.

All three of these herbs are also great for the immune system, so drink this when you feel a sickness coming on to help you get better quickly.

Herbal Tea

Thyme, Peppermint, Honey Tea for Coughs

“Tis the season to be snotty…”

Thyme & Peppermint are especially good for treating persistent coughs, with Thyme being a potent natural expectorant & Peppermint acting as a decongestant. A few spoonfuls of honey to help sooth the throat, and lemon juice is an antibacterial and adds a boost of flavor & Vitamin C.

2 cups water

1 tbsp fresh Thyme

1 tbsp fresh or dried Peppermint

2-4 tbsp Raw Honey

1 lemon wedge

  1. Bring the water to a boil & pour over herbs.
  2. Let steep for 10 – 15 minutes
  3. strain out herbs, and stir in honey.
  4. Drink 1 – 2 cups, as needed to relieve a persistent cough.

** Nursing Moms should avoid Peppermint as it can reduce the supply. Spearmint is a good alternative with similar benefits.

*** While Thyme & Peppermint are highly effective for treating coughs, sage, oregano, and rosemary are also beneficial and can be substituted if that’s what is growing in your herb garden.

Herbal Tea

Children’s Calming Herbal Tea

It is common knowledge that children can easily become overstimulated and, for lack of a better word, rambunctious. When it comes time to bring your child back to center, this calming tea can really help. Catnip, in particular is an amazing herbal ally for children, as it has a gentle calming effect that promotes relaxation and sleep. Lemon balm and chamomile are flavourful herbs that are safe for children and also have a calming effect. all three of these herbs have the added benefit of being good for children’s digestion. In the summer time, pour this tea into popsicle molds for a fun, healthy, relaxing treat. Small amounts of this tea can be given to babies over the age of 6 months.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 tbsp dried lemon balm
  • 1 tbsp dried catnip
  • 1-2 tbsp raw honey (optional) (NOT to be given to children under 1 year)

Instructions:

Bring water to a boil and pour over herbs. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes, then strain out the herbs. Add honey, if using.

Serve hot or iced.

Dosage

  • 6 months – 1 year: 1 – 2 teaspoons daily
  • 1 – 2 year: 2 – 4 teaspoons daily
  • 3 – 7 years: 2 – 4 tbsp daily
  • 8 – 12 years: 1/4 – 1/2 cup daily
  • 13+: 1 – 2 cups daily

Have you tried these Herbal Tea recipes? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or share any other tried & true home remedies you use!

Naturally Knotty Farms
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How to Save our Ontario Farmland

Save Ontario Farm Land

Between 1996-2016, Ontario saw equivalent of 5 family farms paved under each week.

Over the past two decades, Ontario lost farmland at a rate of 175 acres (about 70 hectares) a day, the equivalent of five family farms each week, according to a recent analysis of census data from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). 

That loss has largely been on the urban rim of Ontario’s cities, where outer suburbs meet with some of the country’s best-quality soil, which is being replaced by houses on large lots, new roads, highways and strip malls at a daily magnitude roughly equivalent to 135 football fields between 1996 and 2016, the OFA said. 

The analysis is part of a new advocacy campaign launched this month by the farm group, which seeks to give the preservation of Ontario farmland used for food production new urgency.

Among the most recent threats to farm country, according to the OFA, are Minister’s Zoning Orders, or MZOs, a powerful mechanism used by the province to override local councils to fast-track development that, until the election of the Progressive Conservative government under Doug Ford, was rarely used in the province. 

Save Ontario Farm Land

Use of MZOs raises ‘significant issues’ for farmers

“There’s significant issues with MZOs and the lack of long-term planning,” said OFA president Peggy Brekveld, a northern Ontario dairy farmer. 

She pointed to a number of recent examples where Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark used his extraordinary power to override local planning processes, including fast tracking a housing development in Caledon, a Chinese-owned glass factory in Stratford, as well as a number of other developments in the Greater Toronto Area

While Brekveld criticized the government, she fell short of answering whether farmers, who are among the Ontario PC government’s biggest supporters, may also be its biggest victims when it comes to MZOs. 

“It’s a great question, but I’m not going to go there. Instead, I’m going to say everybody benefits if we look at long-term land use planning.” 

However, the province told CBC News that it only uses MZOs when a local community asks for it. 

“MZOs issued by our government on non-provincially owned lands have been at the request of local municipalities,” Krystle Caputo, director of communications for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, wrote in an email. 

“The previous Liberal government carved up the Greenbelt 17 times, so it is no surprise they were losing 175 acres of farmland per day,” she said. 

London, Ont., home to some of best land in Canada

The problem of urban expansion is of particular concern in the fast-growing London region, where large swathes of some of the best farmland in Canada  have been paved over in the last half-century for shopping malls and suburban housing developments. 

“Look at how much London has grown,” said Crispin Colvin, a Thorndale area farmer and an executive member of the OFA board of directors. “Masonville being the cattle farm that it once was in the ’70s and ’80s and to the PetSmart and Loblaws. It’s a big problem.”

Colvin said beyond London, many of the small towns and villages that fall into the city’s orbit are also growing quickly, as more people push outwards trying to find cheaper land outside the city — turning places such as Ilderton or Lucan, Ont., into bedroom communities. 

“All of that is class one, two and three land, which is the best land in the country, let alone Ontario, and we only have about one per cent of all land in Ontario that fits into those classes of one, two and three.”  

Under the Canada Land Inventory or CLI, land is graded for its potential agricultural use from one to seven, one being the highest potential for use in mechanized agriculture with high to moderate nutrients and seven being the least, including marshland, rock and steep slopes. 

“The more we lose class one, two and three farmland, the less opportunity we have to grow locally,” Colvin said, noting that Waterloo Region is among the only urban areas in Ontario that shows a preference for building up rather than out. 

Save Ontario Farm Land

Urban growth threatens rural sustainability

The OFA argues the current practice of destroying farmland in favour of urban development at a rate of 175 acres daily is unsustainable because if it continues, it could one day affect the country’s food sovereignty, whereby a people have control of their own food and nutrition from growth to consumption. 

“We lose sight of the fact that food is the most important aspect of development that we should be looking at. We should be protecting our food source.

“If we continue down this path, ultimately Ontario and Canada could be a net importer of food rather than a net exporter of food and that could change our whole economic structure as well, not just our concern with food security.”

Colvin said one only has to look as far as the COVID-19 pandemic to understand what happens to nations who do not control the supply of vital commodities such as food, which he likens to vaccines in the current health crisis. 

“Countries that had vaccine ability were keeping it for their populations and their people. Imagine what would happen if we end up doing the same thing with food?” 


Author Credit:

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who’s worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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Ho’oponopono – What is it?

Dr. Len

Ho’oponopono is a process of atonement or reconciliation among individuals of the same family or community.

D. Hew Len

History of Ho’oponopono

Ho’oponopono is an essential element of Huma, the traditional healing and spiritual shamanism of Hawaii. Formerly a carefully guarded secret, the process is now available for all to use in creating harmony in their lives and peace in the world. 

Ho’oponopono is an ancestral Hawaiian custom that traditionally was invoked “to make right, establish harmony, correct what is wrong and restore order”. When individuals had disagreements, or relational problems appeared in a community, everyone gathered in the presence of all the protagonists and there, under the guidance of a kahuna (priest), all were granted forgiveness. 

Morrnah Simeona

This was the custom when shaman and plant healer Morrnah Simeona began to develop a new form of the practice in 1976.  Morrnah had been born into a family of healers.  Morrnah maintained that the process of Ho’oponopono could be greatly simplified by eliminating the presence of a guide or priest, and that all individuals could practice themselves.  Using her approach, individuals can personally grant themselves forgiveness, love and peace on their own. 

Peace starts with me and no one else.

Morrmah Simeona

Morrnah believed that we are weighed down by our memories.  The objective of Ho’oponopono is therefore, to free ourselves of these memories and beliefs so that, by getting rid of the veil they form, we can discover the divinity within each one of us.  In this way it will be possible to discover who we really are, which is essential. 

With this process, and guided by the divinity within, memories are freed and transmutes into pure energy.  This could be described as a kind of alchemical process in which fears and memories are transmuted into pure love.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len

Dr. Len was Morrnah best known student, for it was through his efforts and extraordinary testimony that Ho’oponopono spread across the world. 

Dr. Len is a Clinical Psychologist and was asked to head a ward for the criminally insane at the Hawaiian State Hospital.  When Dr. Len first arrived, we noted that the atmosphere was heavy and danger was such a daily threat that staff were in a constant state of fear.  Absenteeism and staff turn-over were very high. 

Dr. Len collected the client files and tucked himself away in his office each day, insisting no-one disturb him.  He never met with any clients.  He had very little interaction with staff. 

After about 3 months, it was noted that the ambiance of the facility and the relations with the patients was beginning to improve.  Staff pointed this out to the Doctor and inquired about what he had been doing in his office all this time.

Dr. Len explained that he had cleansed the memories he had in common with each patient when he was studying their files. 

Dr. Len explained that he had cleansed the memories he had in common with each patient simply by repeating: “I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”

He continued in this way for four years and at the end of this time, the ward was closed because there were no more patients.   They had either been cured, or no longer required that level of care. 

How does this work?

What exists outside of you is, in fact, only a projection of something that comes from you, something that could be called beliefs, thoughts or memories. 

Whatever happens, you are not a victim, nor have you ever been one!  You are the creator of 100% of what befalls you. 

This is something that can appear really difficult to accept at first glance.  Yet it is the entire Ho’oponopono practice.  It is absolutely essential to incorporate this idea entirely before beginning the practice in an effective manner. 

A negative thought will create a negative reality the same as a positive thought, will create a positive reality.  Therefore, we need to accept that everything is inside of us; there is nothing on the outside that we have not caused to be there. 

We have been taught to place blame on the other party and that the events of our lives come to us, from the outside.  With Ho’oponopono the perspective is reversed.  We have always subconsciously created our reality. 

What does this really mean?

The practice of Ho’oponopono requires us to accept full responsibility for the events that have transpired in our lives.  By being accountable, we are then able to forgive ourselves. 

When something is happening around you, ask yourself what is happening inside you and around you.  What are you in the midst of experiencing?  Be fully accountable for what you are feeling and in the process of creating.  Once you have accepted the situation, you can begin to cleanse all the memories or beliefs that are causing your annoyance.  Your memories cause irritation because they give you no respite.  They rule your life at the subconscious level and prevent you from expressing your free will. 

Ho’oponopono permits you to clear these memories.  Memories are not intrinsically good or bad; we make that judgement about them. For example, the memory of your marriage is good, until it ends in divorce and then you deem it a bad memory.

Inner Child

All of our memories and beliefs are stored in our subconscious mind.  It is the headquarters for our thoughts and emotions.  In this part of the self, the inner child requires reassurance and love.  Ho’oponopono invites you to ask your inner child to release all fears and be freed of memories that are the root cause of any troublesome problems or situations. 

The Mother

The conscious mind represents the intellect, and we have been raised to believe this is the epicenter of control because this is where we make choices.  The conscious mind’s role is important because this is where we choose to either accept this process or dismiss it.  It requires great humility because in making the choice to cleanse the memories, the conscious mind must let go of the reins.  It must display trust in the divine intelligence.

The Father

The superconscious mind, or the superego or soul, is in direct contact with the inner divinity.   This part of the self will request that you clean away your memories once the subconscious mind has released them.  The request is addressed to the superego which immediately relays the message to the inner divinity, whose role is to cleanse and purify the cause of the problem.  It is also possible to address the inner divinity directly, but we will talk about that later. 

Cleaning Memories

There are four very simple phrases that are used.

I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you

I’m sorry demonstrates your accountability for the memories you carry within that have created the situation around you.

Please forgive me is the requisition to the inner divinity for cleansing of the memory.

Thank you is trusting that your request will be granted.

I love you because love heals all. 

Daily Practice

Repeat these 4 phrases either as a silent prayer or out loud.  Repeat them until they replace the inner dialogue that has plagued your mind since childhood. 

Allow this process to become your go-to phrase in times of stress, discomfort, fear or anger.  Use this practice all day, every day. 

Ho’oponopono allows you to heal old wounds and forgive events of the past without having to fully bring them into your awareness. 

Past Traumas

We all have events in our past that have created deep emotional wounds.  The practice of Ho’oponopono does not require you to sit for long hours replaying those events in order to gain clarity.  You simply acknowledge that whatever situation is happening around you, is in direct relation to a memory you have stored.  Cleanse that memory by reciting the four phrases until you feel a sense of calm and peace.  Focus your mind on the phrases, not the situation.  Within a few minutes you should feel much better and have regained the ability to fully assess the situation and gain clarity on how you should respond. 

Let Go

The purpose and main objective of the Ho’oponopono process is to connect you to your inner divinity through your soul. 

To do this, you will need to let go of all expectations because once you have embraced the Ho’oponopono energy, it is no longer necessary to seek understanding or have expectations for any result. 

When you expect anything, it means your mind has gotten involved.  Once the conscious mind takes control, the soul relents, and nothing happens.  The conscious mind blocks the superconscious mind as well as our path to the inner divine. 

Letting go of expectations is difficult because it means not wanting anything.  We have been taught to pursue our dreams, achieve our goals, research data, create a plan, learn from past mistakes.  This is the conscious mind holding all the power.  Every thought, emotion and decision are based on memories held in the subconscious mind.  By remaining vigilant to this way of thinking, we are blocking our own superconscious mind and thus, the path to our own inner divinity. 

The Empty State

Dr Hew Len’s theory is to return to a “zero state” by continuously cleaning away our memories.  Once we reach a zero state, our memories have all been cleaned and we can truly live in Ho’oponopono. 

The mind only exists in the past and the future.  By living in the NOW, we are truly allowing the flow of energy from our subconscious mind to our superconscious mind and thus, to our inner divinity.  Now is the zero state. 

Now is filled with love of self and it is important to maintain this energy.  To do this, meditate on the four phrases.  Before you set about any task, ask your inner divinity to cleanse any potential issues that may arise.  When you encounter an obstacle, pause, and repeat your four phrases.  This will slow your conscious mind from reacting in the moment based on past events. 

By practicing this several times a day, you will gain a sense of self that you were previously unaware of.  You will discover you have values such as gratitude, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, humility and self-esteem. 

Ho’oponopono Prayer

The prayer above is an excellent way to start your day, your gratitude practice or meditation.  Ho’oponopono believes that memories from our ancestors are brought to us through birth, thus carrying the same beliefs our family had a hundred years ago to today. 

Summary

You must clean your subconscious mind just as you would every room of your home.  When your home is clean and free of unwanted clutter, you feel lighter, more energetic and purposeful.  The same can be said when you clean your subconscious.  You will feel unburdened, more creative, and have an unobstructed view of your truest self. 

As with any new practice, time is your friend.  The more you practice, the greater the results.  Consistency is key.

Implementing Ho’oponopono into your daily life

  1. Practice while paying your bills – say Thank you when you receive a utility bill or statement in the mail.  Be grateful for the service that you have used and exchange that energy by paying the bill. 
  2. Send Thank you cards in the mail – at least once a week, I send a thank you card to someone that pops into my conscious thinking.  I include a simple little note that says something like I was just thinking of you and wanted to thank you for bringing a smile to my face. 
  3. Unconditional Positive Feedback – just about everything we do these days requires assistance from someone or even something.  When we eat out for dinner, I always speak to the manager before we leave and offer positive feedback on our visit.  I love of leave positive reviews on business listing on-line.  I always thank the ATM for accurately completing my request. 
  4. Clean your social network – scroll through your friends list, say a name followed by one of the four phrases.
  5. Donate with love – when donating to a charity, either financially, giving your time or gentle used items, always include a Thank you note for the service they offer and for allowing you to witness their generosity.
  6. Message in a bottle – yes, this is what Sting was talking about (for those of you old enough to know Sting).  Find an old wine bottle with cork top.  Write a love letter expressing your deep admiration for the reader and release it into a river, lake or the ocean.  You may choose to do this anonymously or include your contact information. 

Please enjoy this process, give it time.  Learn to love you.

You must live as you think, otherwise you will end up thinking as you have lived.

Paul Bourget

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I’m Sorry – The 5 R’s of Apology

apology

“I’m sorry,” is a phrase that is often over-used, mis-used and under-used. Let’s take a look at the etiquette behind a proper apology.

Making Amends

“I’m sorry” is often said when we are attempting to correct a wrong. The vast majority of people are incorrigibly moral. We have a set of ethics that ring alarm bells when either we have been wronged, or feel we have wronged someone else. Psychology refers to this as our conscience mind and theology a sense of ought. These wrongs come in many forms; emotional or physical harm, a crime punishable by law, or a break in trust. These wrongs also vary between cultures, but the common thread is accountability when a wrong has been done.

We have a need to connect with others and an act of wrong can create a disconnect. There becomes an urge for reconciliation or reconnection and this is done by owning our mistakes and effectively apologizing for them.

I’m sorry, please forgive me,

What is an effective apology?

Regardless of the wrong, most people expect to receive an apology. Most people feel that a very simple “I’m sorry” is not sufficient when they are on the receiving end, however; it qualifies when they are the ones apologizing.

If a simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, what is? Follow the “5R” rule and you will succeed every time!!

Regret

An expression of regret is always the first step. “I am truly sorry for…“. It is an acknowledgement of your actions and the harm they have caused. This statement must be sincere. Your body language must agree with your verbal language; we spoke of this in a previous post Saving Your Marriage.

Regret can be verbally expressed, but the most sincere apologies are backed up by your body language.

Responsibility

Taking responsibility for your actions demonstrates an admirable level of maturity. It takes a strong person to openly admit that they were wrong.

Restitution

You are free to choose your actions, however; you are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.

~Unknown

Demonstrating a willingness to accept the consequences, whatever they may be, speaks to the sincerity of your apology and further enhances the reconciliation of the relationship.

Repentance

Anyone can say “I’m sorry”, but not everyone can demonstrate a willingness to change. The most sincere apologies are in the patterns. If the behaviour continues; the apology was insincere. Behaviour patterns speak louder than words. If you truly want your apology to be accepted and the relationship repaired, do not repeat your actions.

Request Forgiveness

Most people have an immense capacity for forgiveness. It is only when the behaviours repeat that this capacity diminishes.

Asking for forgiveness should not be done to lessen your guilt, it should be done to ease the discomfort or pain in the person you have wronged.

“Can you please forgive me?” is equivalent to “can you find a way to let this go?”. When the offended person let’s go of the harm the relationship can be repaired.

Special Notes:

  • A relationship will not be repaired when the offended person refuses to let go of the harm done. There needs to be a willingness to reconcile. Holding onto grudges will be the demise of the relationship.
  • Both parties must demonstrate a willingness to change and move forward. Other wise we are simply staying stuck in patterns of self-destruction.
  • Please pay attention to the behaviour patterns. If the apology is for a behaviour or action that has happened a few times, this needs to be a red flag for you!!
  • DO NOT apologise for something you know you have not done to end an argument & DO NOT assume the consequences of someone else’s actions. If this is something you struggle with, please let us help you. You deserve so much better!!

Forgiving Yourself

It is important to also forgive ourselves. We are all human and none of us is perfect. We are going to make mistakes. These are not points of shame, but lessons to be learned. Having self-awareness and willingness to grow is how we heal ourselves. We must heal ourselves before we can fully begin to help others heal.

Here is a little prayer I use to practice my own forgiveness. I say this prayer multiple times a day and it has eased so much of my guilt, shame and pain from the past. It is from an ancient Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness & Healing. If you’d like more information on how this practice can help you heal, comment below and I will reach out to you.

Simply saying “I’m sorry” may be sufficient in some cases, but a properly executed apology will mend the damage, allow for reconciliation and potentially improve the quality of the relationship.

Naturally Knotty Farms
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8 Gratitude Exercises to Up-level your Practice

gratitude

Gratitude is perhaps the most powerful of human emotions.

Benefits include improved physical health, greater happiness, better sleep, more self-esteem, stronger relationships, greater resilience, less anxiety, reduced symptoms of depression, and so much more.

That said, gratitude doesn’t come easy for most of us. We don’t wake up every morning feeling like a million bucks and endlessly grateful for the good things in life. The fact is we’re built for survival, not happiness, and therefore, gratitude takes considerable effort.

Considering the benefits, those efforts are well worth it. Taking five or ten minutes to practice one of the following gratitude exercises is enough to invoke a strong feeling of gratitude and reap the rewards of greater happiness, better sleep, and so on.

Below you’ll find eight science-based exercises that’ll help you feel more grateful on demand. Enjoy!

1. Classic Gratitude Journaling

The first experiments studying the effects of gratitude were done on so-called gratitude journaling—writing down things one feels grateful for.

“In our first study, we randomly assigned participants one of three tasks, each of which created a distinct condition,” writes leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons in his book Thanks!.

“We decided to encourage some participants to indirectly feel gratitude, encourage others to be indirectly negative and complaining, and create a third, neutral group to measure the others by.”

Every week for a total of ten weeks, participants kept a journal, either describing in a single sentence five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week (the gratitude condition), five hassles they were displeased about that had occurred in the past week (the hassles condition), or five random things that had occurred in the past week (the control condition).

The results of this first study blew the researchers’ minds. After the ten weeks, participants in the gratitude condition felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic than people in the other groups. According to the scale the researchers used, the gratitude condition participants were a full 25% happier than the others. They also spent more time exercising (on average, almost 1.5 hours per week!) and reported fewer health complaints than those in the other groups.

Subsequent studies have shown that gratitude journaling improves people’s health, helps them sleep better, increases their prosocial motivation, boosts their happiness, makes them more optimistic about the future, and even helps them cope with stress or setbacks they may experience in their lives.

If you want to try it for yourself, give yourself ten to fifteen minutes and simply write down people, places, objects, memories, or events you’re grateful for. The things you write down can range from the mundane (you got a lot of work done today, your husband cooked for you, or your flowers are finally in bloom) to the magnificent (your book getting published or your child’s first steps).

There’s no wrong way to do this, but there are some guidelines that’ll help you get the most bang for your gratitude buck. Here are nine tips to get the most out of your journaling:

gratitude

1) Keep it fresh. In one study, participants who wrote down things they were grateful for only once a week got more benefits from the practice than participants who did it three times a week. The researchers suggested that perhaps counting one’s blessings several times a week led to boredom and habituation.

So, when you’re contemplating things you’re grateful for, make sure to keep things fresh. Don’t count your blessings in the exact same way every time. Vary it up. Think about what you’re grateful for with respect to your work life, your friendships, past events, or your life circumstances. Maybe only do it once or twice a week. When the strategy starts feeling like a chore, stop it for a while or mix it up.

2) Be specific. You’ll experience more gratitude when you consciously and deliberately bring to mind the thousands of hours of effort your mother has put into raising you, the fact that she wants the best for you, and the little things she did for you than when you simply say that you’re grateful for your mother.

“Being specific is effective for two reasons,” writes Emmons in his book Gratitude Works! “First, it helps us avoid gratitude fatigue. The more discrete the elements, the less we will cease to recognize them or take any one of them for granted.”

“Second, specificity encourages us to appreciate the giver’s efforts and recognize more of the details. For example, if I simply say that I am grateful to the coffee barista at Peet’s, that is less likely to make me as grateful than if I consciously and deliberately think about how he remembers my name and the particular way that I like my latte (small, flat, and low fat). When it comes to gratitude, the truth is in the details.”

A study from the University of Southern California validates this. The researchers split participants into three groups. One group wrote five sentences about one thing they were grateful for in their lives. Another group wrote one sentence about five things they were grateful for, and the last group wrote about ways in which they were better off than others. Each group completed their task once a week for ten weeks.

The results? Those who wrote five sentences about one thing—the specificity group—showed they were less sad, lethargic, and tired compared to the other groups. They were also significantly more excited, elated, alert, and happy compared to the others.

Instead of making a long list of things you’re grateful for, make a shorter list, but elaborate on more details. Try writing five sentences about only one thing, instead of one sentence about five things.

3) Feast on surprises. Research shows that, all other factors being equal, unexpected events that surprise as elicit stronger emotional reactions than expected events that we anticipated. This is true for both negative and positive emotions.

When you’re contemplating things to be grateful for, look for novel, unanticipated, or surprising experiences, circumstances or events – they will elicit stronger levels of gratitude.

4) Focus on people. This tends to elicit more gratitude than focusing on things. Plus, it automatically improves your relationships.

5) Focus on intentions. When you receive a gift, consider how someone tried to bring that goodness into your life on purpose. Maybe even at a cost to themselves. “Several studies have shown that if the receiver thinks the giver is providing a favor intentionally for their benefit, the receiver is more likely to experience gratitude,” writes Emmons in Thanks!.

6) Really feel the emotion. Don’t just write a superficial list. Try to sincerely feel the emotion of gratitude. This might take considerable effort at times.

7) Remember, it could be worse. Focusing on why something could be worse leads to gratitude. Focusing on how it could be better leads to envy. One study showed that imagining how things could’ve been better made people view themselves as unlucky and elicited feelings of envy. Imagining how things could’ve been worse made people view themselves as lucky and elicited feelings of gratitude.

8) Consider subtraction. What would your life be like without certain people or things? How would you feel if a loved one died? What if you had no running water or if you had no bed? What if you had no cups to drink out of?

9) Look at things as “gifts.” Research shows that seeing the good things in your life makes you more grateful for them. Your strengths, your health, your family, your eyes… these are all gifts given to you for free.

2. The What-Went-Well Exercise

At the end of your day, write down three things that went well and explain why. The items can vary from the mundane (your co-worker made coffee for you; your husband picked up a treat for you on the way home from work) to the extraordinary (you earned a promotion; your sister gave birth to a healthy baby).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up a treat for you, write “Because he’s really thoughtful at times” or “Because I called him and reminded him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote “My sister gave birth to a healthy baby,” you might give as a cause “She did everything right during pregnancy.”

The key to making this practice as beneficial as possible is to take your time with it. Really reflect on those good things and feel the gratitude for them. Rushing through won’t help much.

This exercise may feel awkward at first or you may have trouble focusing on the positive feelings of an event. That’s normal. Just keep at it. It will get easier. It’s best to practice this every day for at least a week. After that, decide whether you want to keep it in your daily routine, or just use it occasionally to refocus on the good things in your life.

As simple as this exercise may sound, research has shown that doing it daily for a week increases people’s feelings of happiness and gratitude immediately afterward, as well as one week, one month, three months, and even six months later!

3. Write a Gratitude Letter

Close your eyes. Call to mind someone still alive who did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone you never properly thanked, and could meet face-to-face next week; the person who randomly pops into your thoughts; someone who isn’t always on your mind.

Got a face?

Now write a letter of gratitude to this individual using the following pointers:

  • Address the person directly (“Hey __________.”).
  • Be concrete. What exactly did this person do for you? How did it affect your life? Why are you grateful for them?
  • Let the person know what you’re doing now and mention how you often remember what they did.
  • Aim for approximately 300 words.

Once you’ve written the testimonial, it’s time to deliver the letter. Call the person and tell them you’d like to visit, but be vague about the reason for the meeting; this works best when it’s a surprise. When you meet the person, read the letter to them.

It may help to tell the person not to interrupt you and be open about the experience. After you’ve read the letter, receive the other person’s reaction and discuss your feelings together. In the end, give the letter to the person for them to keep it.

This exercise boosted people’s happiness immediately after the intervention—and these boosts were maintained one week after the visit and even one month after. And don’t feel bad if you don’t want to deliver the letter. A follow-up study showed that merely writing the letter is enough to create a substantial increase in gratitude and happiness.

4. Look to the Future (My #2 Favorite!)

Imagine you’re in your fourth year of college, six weeks prior to graduation. You and your fellow students are participating in a study that asks you to write about your college experience.

One half is asked to think in terms of how far off graduation is: “Write about why you are grateful for your friends here, especially considering how much time you have left in college.” The other half in terms of how close it is: “Write about why you are grateful for your friends here, especially considering how little time you have left in college.”

Those who focused on the impending ending of college participated in more college-related activities (spending time with friends and engaging in activities with them) and felt a greater sense of well-being.

When we focus on how a good thing is going to end soon, we appreciate it a lot more.

I’ve tried many gratitude exercises over the years, but this has probably been the most effective, meaning it elicited the strongest feelings of gratitude in me.

“Choose an experience, event, activity or even a relationship. Let’s call it x. It’s one that may be ending soon. Maybe x is a job, or a class you’re taking, a team you’re part of, or even a place where you live. With only a little time left to spend doing this or being with x, it’s a chapter of your life that will end soon. Think about why you’re grateful for x.”

Thinking in this way makes you more likely to appreciate the experience and make an effort to capitalize on what remains.

5. Mental Removal of Blessings

“Do not dream of possession of what you do not have: rather reflect on the greatest blessings in what you do have, and on their account remind yourself how much they would have been missed if they were not there.”

This advice comes from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who jotted it down in his diary two thousand years ago. It’s this type of thinking that lies at the core of this exercise, and it’s supposed to help us value events and people we usually take for granted.

Research shows that contemplating how fortunate one’s condition is and how it could’ve been otherwise elicits an element of surprise and feeling of gratitude. When I think about some of my friendships, I realize that many of them came into existence through mere luck. What if I never decided to go on my meditation retreat? Or what if I had gone at another time? I would’ve never met those people. In a way, these encounters were really quite lucky, surprising, and unexpected. Thinking about life in this way makes me more grateful.

In one study, half of the participants were asked to think about how a positive event might never have happened or might never have been part of their lives, and to describe ways in which it was surprising that this thing ever even happened. The other half were simply asked to think about a positive event and how it happened easily or wasn’t surprising.

The results showed that only those who thought about the absence of an event and how it was surprising and might have been absent from their lives benefitted emotionally and reported more positive feelings. In addition, those participants reported feeling more surprised that the event occurred and admitted they had very little understanding about why than the other participants who took it for granted.

This type of contemplation—imagining how things could’ve been different—is called counterfactual thinking, and it makes a big difference in how much gratitude we experience. This is all about perceiving and looking at the world in a certain way, which we talked about earlier.

When our counterfactual thinking is about regrets and lost opportunities and how everything could’ve been better, this makes us miserable. But when we remind ourselves of how much worse it could’ve been or how we may have never received a particular blessing in our lives, then we’ll experience gratitude.

Subtracting a positive event or relationship in our imagination is a way to beat habituation—our mind’s tendency to take things for granted. By shifting the frame from the presence of something good to the possible absence of said thing, we appreciate it more.

Try it for yourself now. Think about a positive event in your life, such as the birth of a child, a promotion at work, or a special trip to the Rocky Mountains you took. Mentally go back in time and contemplate the circumstances which made this event possible.

Now consider ways in which this event may never have happened—for example, if you hadn’t read about the Rocky Mountains in a newspaper at random. Write down possible events or decisions that could have happened and would have prevented this event from occurring. Imagine your life right now if you hadn’t enjoyed this positive event.

Alternatively, think about an important person in your life, such as your best friend or your spouse. Think back to when and where you met this person. Consider ways in which you might never have met this special person and never formed a relationship. Ask yourself, “What would have happened if I had never met my spouse?”

Mentally remove a good thing or person from your life, and you’ll experience a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for them.

6. Contemplate the World Through the Lens of “Gifts”

“All gifts look better when they look like gifts,” wrote British author G. K. Chesterton.

Emmons certainly agrees, saying that “perceiving a positive experience as a gift may be a form of cognitive amplification that enhances positive feelings. When we amplify, we increase or make more powerful the object of focus. Our positive feelings become amplified when we see their source as a gift we have been given to benefit us.”

To test this idea, Emmons set up an experiment in which participants were told to focus their attention on gifts they had received, using the language of gifts in the broadest sense possible. The results were similar (similarly awesome!) to the normal gratitude condition in which participants wrote down things they were grateful for.

If you want to try it yourself, here are the exact instructions from the study:

“Focus for a moment on benefits or ‘gifts’ that you have received in your life. These gifts could be simple everyday pleasures, people in your life, personal strengths or talents, moments of natural beauty, or gestures of kindness from others. We might not normally think about these things as gifts, but that is how we want you to think about them. Take a moment to really savor or relish these ‘gifts,’ think about their value, and then write them down in the spaces below.”

7. Go on a Savoring Walk

In our daily lives, we don’t always notice or acknowledge the pleasant and positive things around us. We may be in a rush, distracted by other thoughts, or busy checking our phones. As a result, we miss opportunities for positive experiences and positive emotions—the building blocks of long-term happiness.

Daily life offers countless little things to be grateful for—a morning cup of coffee, the sun shining, lilies blooming, birds tweeting, and so on. Unfortunately, we rarely take the time to notice and acknowledge these gifts, blessings, and wonders of life.

Instead, we’re lost in our thoughts, busy checking our phones, or simply rushing to get to the next task, meeting, or appointment. We miss opportunities to appreciate the beauty and life that is all around us. This exercise aims to change that.

So-called “savoring walks” have been shown to increase people’s levels of gratitude and happiness in multiple experiments. In one such study, people were asked to take daily twenty-minute walks for a week. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  • “Positive focus” or savoring group: They were asked to consciously notice and acknowledge as many pleasant things as possible—smiling strangers, a cat walking across the street, wind stroking their face, friends laughing together, and so on.
  • “Negative focus” group: They were requested to notice as many unpleasant things as possible—trash, traffic noise, bad weather, grumpy strangers, and so on.
  • “Normal focus” group: They acted as the control group and were simply told to go for a walk without any specific instructions.

As expected, the people who were asked to focus on savoring the positive experiences were significantly happier after the walk, compared to the other groups. They also felt a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for the world around them.

The researchers concluded: “Specifically, nearly two thirds of the participants in the ‘positive focus’ condition spontaneously mentioned they felt a greater sense of appreciation for the world around them (e.g., nature, flowers, architecture) as a result of participating in the study, whereas none of the participants in the ‘negative focus’ condition or ‘no instruction’ control group reported such feelings.”

If you want to try it for yourself, the instructions are simple: As you walk (preferably in a natural setting), notice as many pleasant things around you as possible—the smell of grass, the sound of dogs barking, the rays of the sun, and so on. Try to really take in and savor those pleasures. Walk for as long or short as you like.

8. Contemplate Your Death (My #1 Favorite!)

Memento mori is Latin and means “remember you are mortal.”

“Why would we want to remember that?” you may ask. Thinking about death, for most of us, is the last thing we want to do.

Oddly enough, it’s only when we keep death in mind that we can be truly grateful for life. Think about it, we could be dead any minute. We could leave life right now, or tomorrow, or a week from now, or a few months from now. Shouldn’t we enjoy life as long as we’re still here? Shouldn’t we be grateful just to be alive?

The ancient Stoics proposed keeping death in mind well over 2,000 years ago. Marcus Aurelius, for example, writes in his Meditations: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think … When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love:”

Recently, research has caught up and decided to test this idea in the laboratory. A group of researchers measured initial levels of gratitude among their participants, then placed them in one of three groups. Some people were told to visualize their typical daily routine. Others were asked to write down their thoughts and feelings about death. The last group of people were instructed to imagine themselves dying in a real-life scenario in which they found themselves trapped by a fire “on the 20th floor of an old, downtown building,” as per the researchers’ description, and made “futile attempts to escape from the room and burning building before finally giving in to the fire and eventually death.”

After these exercises, participants again reported how grateful they felt.

Those who wrote about death in an abstract way didn’t feel any more grateful afterward, while those who visualized their typical day seemed slightly less grateful.

But the gratitude levels of participants who imagined their own deaths in vivid detail went through the roof. These people seemed deeply affected by contemplating their own mortality in a specific and visceral way.

This study resonates well with the stories of people who’ve experienced near-death experiences or life-threatening diseases—they report feeling more grateful for life.

“Because our very existence is a constant benefit that we adapt to easily, this is a benefit that is easily taken for granted,” conclude the researchers. “Reflecting on one’s own death might help individuals take stock of this benefit and consequently increase their appreciation for life.”

Now, for obvious reasons—the goal is to stimulate your own death, duh!—this exercise can lead to distressing emotions (e.g., fear or panic). However, as the study has shown, it also leads to more positive emotions and growth-oriented experiences.

If you’re up for it, here are the instructions:

“Imagine that you are visiting a friend who lives on the 20th floor of an old, downtown apartment building. It’s the middle of the night when you are suddenly awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of screams and the choking smell of smoke. You reach over to the nightstand and turn on the light and you are shocked to find the room filling fast with thick clouds of smoke.

“You run to the door and reach for the handle, pull back in pain as the intense heat of the knob scalds you violently. Grabbing a blanket off the bed and using it as protection, you manage to turn the handle and open the door. Almost immediately, a huge wave of flame and smoke roars into the room, knocking you back and literally off your feet. There is no way to leave the room. It is getting very hard to breathe and the heat from the flames is almost unbearable.

“Panicked, you scramble to the only window in the room and try to open it. As you struggle, you realize the old window is virtually painted shut around all the edges. It doesn’t budge. Your eyes are barely open now, filled with tears from the smoke. You try calling out for help but the air to form the words is not there.

“You drop to the floor hoping to escape the rising smoke, but it is too late. The room is filled top to bottom with thick fumes and nearly entirely in flames. With your heart pounding, it suddenly hits you, as time seems to stand still, that you are literally moments away from dying. The inevitable unknown that was always waiting for you has finally arrived. Out of breath and weak, you shut your eyes and wait for the end.”

  • Please describe in detail the thoughts and emotions you felt while imagining the scenario.
  • If you did experience this event, how do you think you would handle the final moments?
  • Again imagining it did happen to you, describe the life you led up to that point.
  • How do you feel your family would react if it did happen to you?

What to Expect

So what should you expect to experience as you practice these exercises? Here are a few things to consider:

  • You may not feel much the first few times you practice. That’s natural. Gratitude sort of needs to be awakened for us to fully experience it. The more you practice, the stronger the feelings tend to become.
  • You may experience negative emotions (envy, resentment, sadness) during an exercise. That’s also normal, especially in the beginning. Again, we’re built for survival, not happiness. By committing to doing the exercises regularly, you’ll slowly retrain your mind to generate more positive emotions and less negative ones.
  • It may feel like a chore at times. That’s the case with most beneficial activities, isn’t it? Whether that’s meditation, exercise, or a gratitude exercise. It’s natural. Just accept it. Don’t make a problem out of it. And don’t feel bad about it.
  • No, gratitude won’t make you complacent. This is a common fear, but studies actually suggest the opposite happens. Rather than make you complacent, gratitude imbues you with a sense of purpose to do more, acting like a driving force helping you accomplish your goals faster. “My colleagues and I have found that people are actually more successful at reaching their goals when they consciously practice gratitude,” writes Robert Emmons in an article.

My Personal Experiences

I’ve been practicing gratitude exercises on and off ever since I’ve learned about the benefits of gratitude a few years ago.

The first thing I can tell you is that it gets better with time. In the beginning, I’ve found it rather hard to generate any lasting feelings of gratitude. Nowadays, even a two-minute exercise is often enough to generate a strong response and make me feel very, very good.

As soon as the emotion of gratitude takes over, everything just feels okay. I get a feeling that “I’ll be fine, no matter what.” It’s an experience of peacefulness, warmth, and connectedness. And it just feels so, so good.

Granted, it lasts for only a few minutes after the exercise. However, from all the studies I’ve read, I’m sure the benefits keep accumulating for far longer.

As for the way I practice, that’s usually pretty random. Over the last ten days, I’ve cycled through the eight exercises and practiced for approximately twenty minutes daily. Other times, I won’t practice at all for weeks, or I’ll just do classic gratitude journaling at the end of the day for five minutes.

I’m not strict or ritualistic about it. Rather, I tend to do it when I feel inspired, such as after reading about the benefits.

Naturally Knotty Farms
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How to Manage Anxiety

How to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of worry, fear and uncertainty that results from a perceived threat. This threat can be anything from an exam, a work presentation, a relationship or the thought of death.

This is a very normal experience in times of extreme stress. It is a part of the body’s fight-or-flight response. This fight-or-flight response is an integral part of a human’s functioning. It is activated whenever there is perceived danger allowing a human to escape and avoid death.

Anxiety is not normal when the symptoms become pervasive and debilitating. This can result in anxiety disorders and attacks. These disorders are characterized by extreme fear, worry and panic daily. They can be present constantly and in short-term periods of increased intensity known as panic attacks. Anxiety can be characterized as a disorder when it becomes so severe and consistent that its symptoms impact one’s daily activities.

anxiety

Anxiety disorders can affect both our physical symptoms and mental health. Physical symptoms of these disorders include:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Increased heart rate and/or Heart palpitations
  • Feelings of distress
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation
  • Dizziness& light-headedness
  • and more

Each person may experience the physical symptoms of these disorders in different ways. These physical symptoms occur with the mental distress, worry, intense fear, panic, restlessness and obsessive thoughts that characterize anxiety.

What causes anxiety

Anxiety can be caused by many different things and is often dependent on the person who is experiencing it. What each trigger has in common is that they all evoke feelings of excessive worry, intense fear, and possibly panic in the individual who is experiencing it.

Some of the causes of these common symptoms are:

  • Substance-induced – Stimulants or depressants such as caffeine or alcohol can induce anxious feelings after being consumed
  • Stress-related – Anxious feelings that are created by the presence of stressful events such as an exam or a presentation
  • Separation – Separation from a specific person, place or thing
  • Mental disorders andmental health conditions – can create marked symptoms of anxiety
  • Physical symptoms, health concerns, medical conditions – Physical sensations such as light-headedness or fears over one’s health may trigger anxious feelings and full-blown panic attacks
  • Social settings – Being in social situations can cause anxious feelings, usually due to low self-confidence or being self-conscious
  • Obsessive-compulsive thoughts – Having obsessive-compulsive thoughts can lead to anxious feelings regarding the thought or behaviour
  • Trauma – Any traumatic event such as abuse, accident, witness to trauma can cause mild to severe anxiety

What are the types of anxiety?

Anxiety can present in many ways for different reasons. Anxiety can be a normal and transient response to a stressful situation, or it can become a pathological disorder. Anxiety disorders can be found in the DSM, a book used to evaluate mental health and diagnose mental illness.

Here are some of the various disorders that exist:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Persistent and excessive worry that occurs daily
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (social anxiety) – Symptoms that result from being in social situations, can be coupled with being self-conscious and having low self-esteem
  • Phobias – A feeling of an intense fear of a specific thing that impacts daily functioning, causes marked distress and is beyond normal and rational fear. Example – phobia of spiders.
  • Panic Disorder (panic attacks) – Panic attacks are acute episodes of anxiety that are extremely intense and debilitating. They are often acute and are often brought on by a specific trigger. Panic attack symptoms include light-headedness, nausea, tingling, fear, worry, shortness of breath, increased heart rate or heart palpitations, numbness and many more. Panic attacks can be part of other disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Uncontrollable reoccurring thoughts and behaviours that the person feels need to be completed or repeated or else there will be a consequence. This can cause extreme feelings of anxiousness as well as the worry of the consequence if they are not completed.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms begin after a specific traumatic event. The event is often replayed repeatedly, continually reactivating the stressor
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms result from the physical separation or thought of separation from a specific person, place or thing
  • Stress Disorder – Characterized by extreme stress from environmental stressors such as work, school, etc., that result in periods of increased anxiety.

Anxiety disorders can also occur with other anxiety disorders, other health conditions, or health problems such as substance abuse disorder. Often anxiety disorders will affect multiple family members as their cause is genetic.

What to do when you feel anxious?

Anxiety can be extremely debilitating. There are various ways to approach anxiety and panic disorders in order to decrease the intensity of the symptoms and help manage it. It is always helpful to seek the advice of a health professional who is trained in mental health.

Some options for treating anxiety include:

Counselling

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the first-line treatments for mental health disorders and common symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the better long-term treatments.

Social Support

Surround yourself with people who support your journey through anxiety. Try to limit your exposure to people who enable or trigger you.

Mindset Shift

The brain is very flexible and can be reprogrammed. When you have anxiety, you have programmed your brain to think of doom & gloom in every situation. Shifting your thoughts to a more positive outlook can be the greatest gift you give yourself.

Reconnect with Your Authentic Self

Understanding who you are and what you believe is always a great place to start. Knowing your Core Values and living within your Personal Boundaries will help you to feel calmer and more in control of your own life.

Experienced Life Coach

Sometimes, it is too much to relive the past and you just need to find ways to move forward. A Life Coach with experience in working with Mental Health can help you to develop coping skills that suit your needs. For some people, this is all that is required.

Pharmaceutical medications

Pharmaceutical medications are usually prescribed for anxiety or other mental health issues include, Neurotransmitters including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) as well as sedatives such as a benzodiazepine.

SSRIs and SNRIs are also antidepressants. These medications are not usually available over the counter and are especially helpful in the short-term or on a day-to-day basis. Medications should always be taken under the guidance of a professional as they can have side effects. It is always a good idea for you to do you own research on any medications prescribed to you.

Calm the nervous system

Exercises to calm down the nervous system can help to combat symptoms of panic attacks, anxiety attacks and anxious feelings in general. This includes meditation and breathing exercises. These things help to bring the focus back into the body and bring the body into a relaxed state, instead of the fight-or-flight state that characterizes anxiety.

lavender lemonade

Natural Remedies

There are various herbal products and botanicals that have been known to help decrease symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. These include anti-anxiety, antidepressant and adaptogen plants such as lavender, which acts on the central nervous system, binding to the GABA receptors that relax the body.

This reminds the body to slow down and decrease stress, allowing the body and mind to relax. It is a very gentle flower that not only helps promote relaxation, but it helps to revitalize and restore the body. Also, give the body a chance to reset and heal by getting enough sleep each night.

Nourish the nervous system with whole foods

Focus on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats (avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil) and protein to nourish the body and nervous system. This can make it more resilient to triggers and anxiety attacks.

How long do the feelings last?

The length of time that the symptoms last depend on the underlying cause of the anxiety. Symptoms from conditions such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are often present at a low level most days, whereas acute symptoms from panic disorder, panic attacks and anxiety attacks can sometimes last for only a few minutes.

Other times symptoms will only last for as long as the trigger of the intense anxiety is present. For example, in social anxiety disorder, symptoms may continue until the person affected has left the social situation. Some of the treatments listed above may help to decrease the duration and recurrence of these feelings.

Naturally Knotty Farms