Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Tag: creativity

Creativity involves exploring new ideas from three different perceptual positions: the Dreamer, the Critic, and the Realist, and by integrating these three different perspectives into one practical, successful plan, it creates magic out of chaos!

Breathe Your Way to Wellness With the Yoga Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique

Yoga alternate nostril breathing techniqueDo you find that you don’t appreciate the little experiences of each day as much as you should, whether it’s a pleasant conversation, a delightful meal or a spectacular sunset? Don’t you owe it to yourself to savour these gifts? We can all create greater appreciation and connection with our world by slowing down and becoming more aware. Connecting our appreciation with our breathing is an excellent way to do this.

In my last post I shared some breathing exercises for you to try. Do you find that you forget to deeply breathe for days on end? It’s not unusual that your mind gets busy with day-to-day concerns and that it has trouble quieting down. One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is to leave visual reminders throughout your home, car and office. It could be as simple as coloured dots strategically placed to catch your eye and remind you to slow down and breathe. Or you could use fashionable wall art, signs, or shelf decoration that remind you to breathe.

Rather than worrying about the past or the future, learn to be present in the moment.

Use breathing to achieve awareness. Practice cueing your breathing process throughout the day in a variety of good and bad circumstances (cooking a meal, travelling to work, talking with a co-worker). Breathing in reminds you to open yourself fully to the experience, to how you feel, what you’re thinking, and how you’re reacting. Breathing out lets the tension, worry, and anxiety flow away. The next inhalation opens you again.

You can counteract emotional distress, fear, grief and anxiety by simply learning to breathe through the experience. It doesn’t matter if the strong emotion is caused by something real or imagined. What you perceive or believe in your mind manifests in your body in a physical way. You become tense, and tension affects your ability to think clearly, act rationally, breathe deeply and relax. Tension also causes pain, anxiety and panic. Shallow breathing serves in a self-protective function – that of cutting off a feeling you don’t want to handle. On the other hand, if you can learn to release your strong emotions through breathing awareness, you can break the negative, destructive power of these strong emotions. The conscious use of breath is a valuable tool in learning to express emotions appropriately.

Today I’d like to teach you how to do the yoga alternate nostril breathing, which will significantly enhance your emotional wellbeing. Involving both nostrils allows your body to become balanced. But first you must increase your awareness of imbalanced breathing so you can bring it back into balance. I encourage you to do this exercise in short practice sessions daily.

  • Exhale completely, using both nostrils.
  • Press your finger against your right nostril, closing it completely.
  • Inhale slowly and smoothly through the left nostril only.
  • Hold that inhaled breath for a few comfortable seconds.
  • Then close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Hold while comfortable.
  • Inhale through the right nostril only.
  • Release your left nostril and close off the right.
  • Exhale through the left nostril. Hold.
  • Keep switching between left and right nostrils as you inhale and exhale rhythmically for a total of 10 to 15 sets.
  • Go back to breathing through both nostrils.

Your body really does know how to heal itself if you provide it with the balance and harmony it needs. Breathing is a primary method for correcting any disharmony. Learn to listen to what your body is telling you as it attempts to regain balance. Responding to those messages and you’ll feel more centered and at peace as you learn to accept your limitations and be forgiving of yourself and others.

More than creating greater satisfaction in life, proper breathing can increase your concentration, assist you to tune into your deeper, creative self, AND make you physically, emotionally and mentally healthier. Are you ready to feel a greater connectedness with your family, friends, community, and the Earth? Contact me and I’ll support, coach and hold you accountable as you create the deeply meaningful life you crave.

Tap into the Powerful Anatomy of Breathing to Promote Better Health

Anatomy of BreathingAir is the first food of the newborn. ~ Edward Rosenfeld

Does it seem strange that we need to learn how to breathe properly? Don’t we breathe naturally from the moment we’re born? And we couldn’t quit, even if we wanted. If we hold our breath, our bodies force us to gasp for air. If we’re deprived of it for only a matter of minutes, we suffer.

So can there really be a right or wrong way to breath? Is there a way to harness your breathing to create a greater connection with your world as you release stress and tension? Could stress relief simply be a breath away? Why is it vital that we stop taking our ability to breathe for granted?

To answer these questions, let’s consider how breathing promotes better health…

With each breath of clean air, the diaphragm and other muscles pulls the chest cavity down while elevating and widening the rib cage, thereby creating a larger area for the lungs to expand fully as they pull in oxygen. Your red blood cells absorb this oxygen and transport it via your blood stream to every cell in your body. As these oxygen-rich cells travel through your system, there are countless chemical interactions that result in giving you greater energy and mental clarity.

The problem is that aspects of a modern lifestyle restrict our daily breathing process. What are some of these?

  1. Pollution

Our environment may be polluted by toxic elements from car exhaust, industrial pollution, off gassing of chemicals like formaldehyde in the rugs and furnishings in our homes. Another problem is the self-imposed pollution of smoking tobacco.

  1. Lack of Oxygen

Our homes are so tightly sealed up for the winter that there’s little air exchange, so we’re not getting an adequate supply of fresh oxygen. We wear restrictive clothing or have poor posture that doesn’t allow us to breathe deeply.

  1. Restrictive Emotions

We carry harmful emotions that restrict our airflow such as anger, fear, anxiety and grief. Breathlessness can be caused by anxiety.

What do these restrictions to our anatomy of breathing do to your health?

  • Your metabolism slows down.
  • Your brain can’t function optimally, producing brain fog.
  • Your organs are starved of oxygen reducing their function and the quality of your life.
  • The elasticity of the lungs diminishes causing shallow breathing.
  • Relationships suffer because you become short tempered, irritated, and on edge.

How can enhancing the anatomy of breathing promote better health?

Just ask any pregnant woman in labor or athlete who wants to excel at their sport if they benefited from learning how to breathe in a more focused way. They will resoundingly answer “Yes!” Breathing isn’t just for critical times like these. It’s important for everyone to create an awareness of how we are breathing every day. How do we do that?

There are two main ways to incorporate healthier breathing techniques…

Practice proper posture. Throughout the day we do many things that restrict our breathing, such as slouching. The solution is to strengthen the core muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, and genital region. Also concentrate on keeping your shoulders rotated up and back, opening up the chest and bringing the spine into alignment.

Periodically expand your lungs to their fullest capacity.  Do this exercise while still in bed every morning. Then again numerous times throughout the day as you’re either sitting or standing. Remember to breathe through your nose.

  • Exhale slowly, as you pull in your belly muscles.
  • Inhale slowly as you expand the abdomen.
  • Continue inhaling as you expand your rib cage.
  • Continue inhaling as you feel your collarbone lift.
  • Pause briefly, without holding.
  • Exhale in reverse order slowly. Release the shoulders, relax the chest, tighten the belly.
  • Do as many times as is comfortable.

Practice breathing so the inhalation and exhalation are of equal duration. Next, push the exhalation to become a little longer. The more you practice, the greater your awareness will become. Do you wish there was someone guiding you toward greater mindfulness in your life? Contact me and we’ll discuss your heath goals and how you can achieve them.

Healthy breathing is just one indicator of your wellness. There are seven to keep in mind if you want to perform at your peak. If you haven’t taken the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, click here to download your free copy.

Choosing Gratitude – The Recipe for a Happier, More Meaningful Life

choosing gratitude for a happier and more meaningful life “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu

Your feelings are your choice. You can choose to feel down or you can choose gratitude, which opens your world to peace, happiness and health. Gratitude means being continually mindful of how much you’ve been given. To say you’re grateful doesn’t mean everything in your life is great all the time. It just means you can see the goodness. Yet, because our brains are hardwired to track danger and potential challenges, we aren’t primed to notice the beautiful things around us. Instead we take things, ourselves and others for granted.

It’s easier to be grateful when things are going well. But it’s harder to stay open to gratitude during depressing times, tragedies and challenges. (When the attack on Paris happened I felt so sad and powerless against the enormous tragedy. At the same time, I felt deep gratitude and blessing for how the world came together to show solidarity toward France).

What happens when you withhold gratitude?

  • You’re more subject to depression and affliction.
  • You experience greater wear and tear when life brings challenges.
  • You naturally focus on what’s bad and hard.

On the other hand, what are the benefits of choosing gratitude?

  • Gratitude shifts your focus from what you think your life lacks to the abundance you already have. 
  • Gratitude makes you happier and more resilient.
  • Gratitude strengthens relationships.
  • Gratitude improves your immune system and your health.
  • Gratitude reduces stress and depression.
  • Gratitude increases determination, optimism and energy.
  • Gratitude makes reaching your personal goals more attainable.
  • Gratitude puts situations into perspective so you don’t complain or stay stuck.
  • Gratitude lessens panic and opens up your thinking of new solutions as you see what’s still working for you.
  • Gratitude helps you learn to love and accept yourself as you are.


Feeling gratitude is good. Expressing gratitude is better. Dr. Emmons, author of the book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happierfound that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness levels by 25%. This means your natural happiness set-point becomes, and is sustained at, a higher level regardless of outside influences.

What’s the first step in becoming more grateful? First you must learn to recognize what you’re grateful for. Try this gratitude exercise: 1) Imagine losing the things you take for granted – your home, a relationship, your senses such as hearing and seeing, your ability to walk. How does that feel? 2) Now, imagine getting each one back again. Fully experience the gratefulness wash over you.

Next, learn to acknowledge and appreciate the goodness in your life by daily journaling a gratitude list. Here are 12 suggestions for how to do that…

  1. Open your mind by attaching appreciation for everyone you contact daily.
  2. Get a beautiful journal and pen to record your special gratitude list.
  3. Commit to a regular time each day to write in your gratitude journal.
  4. Write 10 different things you’re grateful for and describe how they make you feel.
  5. Close your journal and breathe deeply as you center yourself in your feelings.
  6. Be amazed at all the goodness you’ve been taking for granted.
  7. Reframe every negative into a positive.
  8. When something bad happens, think, “What can I learn? When I look back on this moment, what will I be grateful for?”
  9. Give one genuine compliment daily by specifically saying what you appreciate about someone or about what they’ve done.
  10. Ask someone to share your appreciation. For example, “I think this sunset is gorgeous, don’t you?”
  11. Cultivate humility to let gratitude in…accept that you need others to make your life complete.
  12. Allow yourself to be human. If you miss a journaling day, do it the next.


Gratitude is a powerful emotion for both the giver and the receiver. Yes, you must receive gratitude from others, as well as, give it. In doing so, you gift the giver with feeling capable, needed and valued.

It doesn’t happen over night but you can learn to become aware of and acknowledge everything you receive, whether good or bad, with gratitude. Contact me if you’d like to work with me in person or over skype to learn to live a more grateful and embodied life.

Tips on How to Squeeze a Summer Vacation into Your Busy Schedule

Tips on how you can squeeze a summer vacation in even if you have a tight scheduleAre you going to take some time off this summer to refresh yourself and recharge? Or are you going to be like the majority of workaholic Americans who won’t get away from work? Nearly three-quarters of Americans feel they’re too busy to use their paid vacation days and 15 percent don’t use any of their vacation days at all! That’s more than 150 million unused vacation days every year. Is this making us a healthier and happier nation of people? Absolutely not!

Did you know that much of Western Europe takes from four to six weeks off? In Italy, where I grew up, workers get 31 days of guaranteed paid vacation. And they take those days and enjoy them with their families. Every year I make a point of recharging by attending retreats that are both educational and promote personal development and emotional growth. My hope for you is that you can enjoy a similar experience.

But what if you can’t be away for an entire week because of unusual circumstances? Does that mean you should give up on the idea of having a vacation? Not at all.

Here are some suggestions so you can squeeze in some time away:

If you can’t block out a large chunk of time, why not split your time up into short, two or three day vacations throughout the year?

Strategically plan ahead for your vacation days. Of course, you won’t want to leave in the middle of a project, therefore make sure you wrap things up before you go so you’re not worrying about it.

Be willing to delegate. It’s worth it to train someone well in advance who can step into your shoes while you’re gone. And if you’re worried about your home, hire a reputable house sitter or have a friend stop by to check on things.

Put your vacation time on your calendar as non-negotiable.

Inform and periodically remind your clients, co-workers, and boss that you’ll be gone so it doesn’t catch them by surprise.

Leave your office and home organized. This relieves your mind of nagging, unfinished business, as well as, gives you a clean place to come back to. Nothing destroys the vacation bliss faster than coming home to a chaotic mess.

Unplug. Even if you have to force yourself, disconnect from technology, including the television. Use the time to reconnect with your loved ones and feed your mind on books, art or another creative outlet.

Don’t expect to hit the ground running on your first day back. It’s so much better to give yourself a day to ease back into your routine and catch up.

The truth is if you want to achieve business excellence, you must take time to recharge your battery. You’re health and your relationships will improve, too, because you’re finally getting relief from the constant stress. Plus you’ll discover some great opportunity to fuel and tap into your greater creativity.

Want to get into the vacation mood quicker? Why not schedule a session of somatic coaching to calm your mind and reconnect with your body? Contact me and I’ll help you get started on that summer vacation you deserve.

Seven Ways to Break Free from Being Too Busy

break free from being too busyWhen all is said and done: “I wish I had spent more time…”

When was the last time you sat in silence and thought deeply? Chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed as you juggle everything in your life. So you write lists and schedule calendars to get everything done. You try to keep the important things front and center, yet as the days and weeks pass, you get sidetracked by the busywork that seems to accomplish a lot, but in reality doesn’t get you closer to your goals. You’ve been sucked back into the vicious cycle of being too busy.

Being “too busy” is a symptom of the much larger condition – that of reacting to situations instead of making good choices. What can get you back on track? More lists? No! You need a solid foundation for change, and practicing mindfulness is a great way to do that. Mindfulness is the antidote to “too busy”.

Let’s examine seven ways you can replace busyness with mindfulness:

  1. Slow down, concentrate on one task, and be fully present and engaged. For example: How many tabs do you have open in your browser right now? Shut them all down except for one and fully concentrate on the information before you. Or when you converse with someone, give your entire focus to the person and listen closely to what’s said rather than looking around the room or thinking about something else.
  1. Stimulate creativity by being open to the possibilities. Your brain needs to relax to switch into its creative mode. When you’re “too busy” you’ll dismiss a new idea or opportunity as a distraction. Instead, carefully contemplate if it’s a way for you to grow and advance. If it’s not, dismiss it, or write it down for later consideration, and move on. If it is, spend time with it.
  1. Set priorities so you can engage in life more efficiently and effectively. Start each day with a review of what you want to accomplish and end each day with what you have accomplished. This will allow you to do the things you really want to do, giving you a sense of satisfaction.
  1. Build a routine that supports your health and minimizes stress. To live an incredible life, you’ll need to be committed to the wellness of mind, body, and spirit. Some people choose to stay “too busy” so they don’t have to confront or resolve issues in their lives. When you’re mindful, you enhance your ability to perceive what is experienced through your senses rather than building fear and stress over something that isn’t real, only a mistaken notion in your mind. So add one supportive activity to your routine until it becomes your habit.
  1. Renew motivation by sharpening your vision, the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’ll be able to replace “I can’t” or “Why try?” with “Yes, I know I deserve to make a success of this and I have the resources to do so”. As events unfold, observe the experience instead of always engaging in it. This will increase your emotional stability and vibrancy, as well as, open up to you a full range of options.
  1. Establish good self-relations so you can think, plan, and dream. Depression and anxiety are signs that something is trying to wake up within a person. By acknowledging the purpose of a symptom, you are in a much better position to seriously reexamine your life and begin the process of living with renewed purpose. Taking time off is essential for recharging your spirit, mind and body. Even when you’re working, be sure to set boundaries and don’t be available all the time. This will help you keep your passion alive and discover your extraordinary purpose for being.
  1. Become centered through connections. Everyone needs cherished family and friends. Instead of being so focused on doing and accomplishing, mindfulness keeps you centered on being the person you want to be. Your family and friends can help keep events in perspective. At the end of life, no one ever says, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

Mindfulness provides access to powerful inner resources so you can change the way you see and ultimately experience each situation. It puts you in a better position to do something different. It empowers you to participate in the world at large, as you work with what arises instead of trying to escape. Is that what you desire? Are you ready to develop a more mindfulness and meaningful life? Please contact me and we can discuss the best way for you to do that.

Let's get started with 30 free minutes

I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.


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