Putting Pen to Paper with Gratitude Letters

When was the last time you thanked a friend, classmate, colleague, or relative for something nice they did for you? This month at The Mindful Collective we’re all about gratitude and thankfulness – there’s nothing that makes us happier!


Today I’d love to chat with you in more detail about writing letters of gratitude, and the further evidence of benefits they can provide. While there has been a great deal of research conducted over the years on the positives of writing-oriented gratitude activities (think daily gratitude lists, journaling, and the like), there wasn’t much in the way of data regarding sustained gratitude letter-writing. Until, that is, a recent study out of Kent State University (Toepfer, Cichy & Peters 2011). The investigation examined the effects of gratitude letter writing over time, relating to several components of subjective wellbeing.


The study looked at:
1. Gratitude;
2. Happiness;
3. Life-satisfaction; and
4. Depression.


Participants in the study were asked to write three letters of gratitude to three different people to express their appreciation. The letter writers were instructed to be reflective, expressive, and to write from a positive point of view, and to avoid falling into the trap of trivial “thank you” notes often associated with gift giving (did anybody else’s parents force them to do this after every birthday and Christmas?!). The results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increases happiness and life-satisfaction. Significant findings supported much of the previous research in the field, and showed new evidence that gratitude letter writing decreases depressive symptoms. In fact, happiness was shown to have a cumulative effect after each letter was written – now that’s a snowball effect we can get behind!


Now it’s your turn

We know that gratitude is an incredibly important virtue, emotion and practice; however, the most exciting research finding on gratitude so far is that we can build it – like our muscles! We want to help you do this and that is why we created Your Letters of Gratitude. A gorgeous pack of 13 postcards designed especially for you to put pen to paper and write your very own gratitude letters. You might choose to write to your mum, your neighbour, a teacher or mentor. You might choose to write them all at once, once a week, or spread out over the year. Whatever you decide, this is YOUR gratitude journey and we are so happy that you have chosen to take the first step!


Get Your Letters of Gratitude HERE!


Toepfer, SM, Cichy, K & Peters, P 2011, ‘Letters of gratitude: further evidence for author benefits’, J Happiness Study, iss. 13, pp. 187-201.

Introducing Entrepreneur Taleah, from T-Leaf Collections

Hi, I’m Taleah! I run my own small business, T-Leaf Collections, which specialises in prints, luxe timber hangers and memory drops. I also work full-time in Human Resources in the mining sector.


We all need some crazy powerful stress-busting tools and techniques – we would love to hear works for you!

So true! Sometimes it can all just get on top of you can’t it? For me, I take a bit of time out and step back from the task that I’m doing. It’s easy to get overwhelmed so I find just having some quiet time, a nice cup of tea (or whatever you fancy!) and burning a candle, really helps me breathe again!


Have you had a delicious experience of mindful eating? If so, give us all the juicy details!

Oh mindful eating, how I love you. My favourite form of food is just eating out in general, no matter what the cuisine! But I would have to say the most ‘mindful’ eating experience I have had was the night my husband proposed to me. We had an incredible degustation where I asked the waiter to take away the menu so I couldn’t see what was coming next. I really had to focus on her description of each meal as it came out and ‘discover’ the delicious flavours that came to my plate. I savoured every bite of that meal and the memory has remained of not just my new shiny diamond ring but of the food and the entire experience!


How do you express your creative self?

I’m happy to say my little business, T-Leaf Collections, is the way I get to express my creativity. I work full time in the Human Resources sector within the Mining Industry, so to be able to have a creative outlet such as running my own print design business really helps me achieve a great work-life balance and one that definitely helps me stay sane after a long day at the office!


What’s your favourite way to treat yourself?

Wining and dining with friends and family or buying myself something that I’ve had my eye on for a while…


How do you embrace yourself, flaws and all – even in self-critical times?

This can be tough at times but I really find, just like the question says, you have to embrace those qualities, that is what makes you you! I love the saying ‘be yourself, everyone else is taken’. When I started out my business on Instagram, I was really quite insecure about ‘being myself’ but I soon realised that it is those that stand out from the crowd and speak openly and honestly (flaws and all!) about themselves were having the most success. I just decided to go for it and I haven’t looked back!


How do you manage to stay motivated both in your personal life and work life, even on those mediocre, flat days?

I think goal-setting is really important if you want to stay motivated. I continually have a list of ideas that I want to achieve in my business and I’ll just slowly plug away at them when I get the spare time. It can be really hard sometimes when you see the success of others but I always remind myself that what is shown can sometimes be glorified. I try and stick to my goals and not let the success of other prohibit my own.


Who inspires you and why?

I am continually inspired when I scroll through my Instagram feed. There are so many amazing women out there creating and making their dreams come true! They inspire me because it shows me that it is possible, they’re business which started out small just like mine has become a full-time gig and that continues to inspire me to work hard at my business. I’ve also connected with many of these women and it’s those connections that make you feel part of something really special.


What is your life vision for the next 5 years?

Tough question! 5 years goes so quickly! My husband and I have just bought our first home and I can see us being in there for around the 5-year mark, making it our home, having children and being happy and healthy. I would also love to see my business, T-Leaf Collections, move into a full-time gig!


I would love for you to pop over and follow my feed on Instagram @tleafcollections or check out our webpage  www.tleafcollections.com.au

Mindfulness with Nicole Joy + #TheCollaborativeEffect

Nicole Joy is an inspirational foodie who passionately shares her story of rediscovering her love of food. Nicole believes in nourishing the body and soul with delicious, wholesome ingredients, and advocates that healthy eating does not mean compromising on flavour. Having grown up in an Italian family, she is also very adamant that there will always be a place for mum’s lasagne and good red wine! It’s about creating healthy habits not restrictions.


What form of meditation do you prefer and why?

Definitely guided meditations for me, and if it’s candle-lit – even better!


What are some changes you’ve noticed in your life since beginning your mindfulness journey and how have these helped you achieve your goals?

When faced with stressful situations (which is often when you run your own business!) I find I can return to a normal, relaxed state a lot quicker. I don’t stay stressed out for very long and can return to a productive and efficient workmode within minutes.


We all need some crazy powerful stress-busting tools and techniques – we would love to hear works for you!

Breathing! All it takes is exhalations that are longer than your inhalations. Dr Libby taught me that one and I have never forgotten it!


We would love to hear of a powerful experience you’ve had of people coming together for a cause -as a collective.

Just recently, I have started the group #TheCollaborateEffect – a place for like minded entrepreneurial women to connect and have the support that can often be missing when working alone. Just seeing the connections women are making through this small group, and the support they give each other give me the warm and fuzzies!


Have you always been into wellness or was there a light-bulb moment that sparked your health journey?

For the longest time, I just wanted to me a ‘skinny’ model and would try the latest fad diet or exercise regime to accomplish that. Of course, results are short-lived when what you are following is not sustainable for the long term and I quite literally crashed and burned. I was introduced to the concept of intuitive eating and mindfulness by a dear friend of mine and it was with her help that my relationship with myself and my body started to take a positive turn.


What is your secret nutrition weapon?



What’s your favourite daily health ritual, and why?

Meditation and walk with my dog Nobby


How do you express your creative self?

I sing! I think one day I might audition for The Voice or something


What’s your favourite way to treat yourself?

Nothing beats beautiful food in a gorgeous setting. My husband and I are foodies and wine-lovers so if there is a new restaurant to see – we are there!


How do you embrace yourself, flaws and all – even in self-critical times?

I picture myself as a little girl, about 5 or 6 years old and think how I might speak to her. That normally makes me re-think those harsh thoughts and negative thought patterns.


How do you manage to stay motivated both in your personal life and work life, even on those mediocre, flat days?

I let myself feel what I need to feel. Sometimes you need to feel a little blah and instead of pushing yourself, it can be better to give yourself more time and a little nurturing. Ignoring your true feelings is the fastest way to burn out!


What is your life vision for the next 5 years?

Continue speaking to teenage girls across the country, have my own cooking show on TV and a big fat published book deal! Would love to be living beachside with my husband and fur baby.


What advice would you love to give beautiful women just beginning their wellness journey?

The journey is YOUR journey and no one else’s. Don’t compare your start to someone else’s finish line. Find what works for you and what makes you feel the best. Note – this may not be the latest fad, or what all the ‘it’ people are following and you need to be ok with that. Not everything works for everyone.


Nicole, thank you so much for taking the time out to share your goodness. You’re a real life mindfulness champion! Checking out #TheCollaborativeEffect is an absolute must (Amy Kate is a very frequent flyer here) if you’re an entrepreneurial-minded soul. We actually have a #TheCollaborativeEffect event coming up shortly, hosted at the Better Life Centre.  Nicole has passed on her Snapchat detes: nicolejoy01. Oh and her two books, ‘Why it’s perfectly acceptable to eat dessert for breakfast’ and ‘Life’s too short for diets’ are available on her website – www.nicolejoyinspire.com – get on it!

Book Review: Capturing mindfulness: A guide to becoming present through photography

The desire to be more present in our lives and feel more sure of oneself is something everyone wants to achieve these days, but how do you go about achieving complete mindfulness?


If you buy into the fads of popular society these days, it would seem that the solution comes at the tip of a colouring in pencil, as many adults unleash the child within them to return to those well-worn colouring in books. “Just five minutes a day is all it takes,” declare many an advertisement in various book retailers around the country.


And it would seem that the technique is working, with illustrators such as Johanna Basford (Magical Jungle, Lost Ocean, Enchanted Forest) and Millie Marcotta (Curious Creatures, Animal Kingdom, Tropical Wonderland) continually topping the best-seller list with their “mindful” creations. Even some of our favourite fiction series are getting in on the act, with numerous Harry Potter-inspired colouring books for adults on the market, along with George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones and Sarah J. Mass’ Throne of Glass series.


While the concept itself may seem new, the idea of taking one’s creative passions and adapting them to mindfulness and meditative practice is not. Matthew Johnstone has been using his artistic talents to discuss mental illness since the publication of his first book, I Have a Black Dog in 2005, which was followed up by other books such as The Alphabet of the Human Heart and Quiet the Mind. Published a few years ago, Capturing Mindfulness: A Guide to Becoming Present Through Photography takes that concept one step further, as Johnstone works to combine both his passion for photography and positive thinking into one, neat little package. While, there is a certain “coffee table” feel to this book (in that in can be read in one sitting), Johnstone goes beyond that, accompanying the positive affirmations that feature throughout with instructions for how readers too can become what he describes as “photo-present”.


To be honest, I was a little dubious when I read that. While the author describes himself as more of a hobbyist photographer, he does have that background in creative arts, as evidenced by his previous published works. How will asking readers to take on a potentially new hobby and strive for the perfect photo allow them to achieve the calm that the mindfulness concept seems to embody? Surely that’s just going to enhance feelings of negativity, stress and anxiety, all things that go against becoming mindful, isn’t it?


Apparently, I was wrong. “Being photo-present is something that you set out to do with absolute intention,” he says. “It’s a time to consciously slow down both mentally and physically and look at your world with a keen curiosity.” “Develop a child’s eye,” declares one page,” (this advice being something that Johnstone takes literally, as he engages school students in the practice regularly) and abandon the rules of taking a good photograph, “It’s not about the outcome; it’s more about the process and practice. Pretend you don’t care, and you won’t,” are just some of the suggestions he makes.


“It’s important to remember that being photo-present is about creating some time for yourself while heightening your awareness… With or without a camera, it’s a wonderful thing to be aware of where you are, what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.” At its heart, that is what the concept of mindfulness is about, and one of the reasons why this book (and the techniques discussed within its pages) works so well. It’s about discovering the little things in life, the things no one else sees, and taking time to appreciate them, and your place within the world in the same way that family and friends have a way of keeping one grounded when life gets chaotic.


While it is ultimately one of the objects of the book, for those who honestly have no desire to pick up a camera, you don’t even have to take the “photo-present” side of Capturing Mindfulness seriously, if that is your choice. I found the idea behind the technique enough, and that just flipping through the book before bed centred me enough to wash away the anxieties and worries of the day. Each page is a work of art designed to capture the mind and allow the reader (for a short period of time, at least) to let go of the weight stopping us from going about our daily lives. With artistic mindfulness becoming ever more popular, Johnstone offers another technique in this book that will not only appeal to those with creative leanings, but also to those just wanting to be reminded to not take life’s little treasures for granted. Take a few minutes to read it and you won’t be disappointed.


Capturing Mindfulness: A Guide to Becoming Present Through Photography is published via Pan MacMillan Australia and is available via their website, the author’s website or in local bookstores. For more information about Matthew Johnstone, follow him on Facebook.


Written By: Jackie Smith is a freelance journalist/editor and proofreader from Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Currently studying a Cert IV in Marketing and Communications, her work has been published with various media outlets (print and online). To keep updated with all of Jackie’s current articles, visit her blog, Facebook page or Twitter.

Spirituality with Mindful Yogi & New Mama, Alanna

We are incredibly excited to introduce Alanna! Alanna is a certified Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher, experienced in the areas of asana, pranayama, meditation and relaxation. She completed her yoga teacher training in India in January, 2014.
Alanna’s yoga journey began more than eight years ago and has been an enlightening journey of self-exploration, expression and discovery. For Alanna, yoga has become a way of life, offering a deeper connection to herself, to others and to the world around her. Alanna offers yoga retreats in Byron Bay, Brisbane and Bali as well as open classes, groups, privates and corporate classes in Brisbane Australia. As a teacher, she is interested in the cultivation of inner peace, truth and love. Her classes are grounded in the awareness of breath, foundation and the Yamas and Niyamas. Alanna’s classes and retreats are open to all levels as she believes yoga is for everyone.

Alanna took some time to chat with us about her spiritual practice and perspectives!


What form of meditation do you prefer?

I practice different types of meditation, but daily I practice Transcendental Meditation.


What are some changes you’ve noticed in your life since beginning your mindfulness journey and how have these helped you achieve your goals?

Almost everything! I am more connected and aware of how my past and my future reflect in my present moment + that love is always the answer. Goals…I do my best to let life unfold as naturally as possible…something I haven’t always done! We all need some crazy powerful stress-busting tools and techniques – we would love to hear works for you!


Breathing! But also a daily ritual of something that makes you feel good. Whether that be yoga, meditation, kissing your partner, a walk, singing to your children or a quiet cup of tea…it’s commitment to daily practice that dissolves stress and grows love.


Have you had a delicious experience of mindful eating? If so, give us all the juicy details!

I don’t do diets. I am more interested in connecting with your food, as you do your body. Eating blindfold is a wonderful way to do this. You eat slower, are more aware of flavour and more connected with how the food makes you feel. I think mindful eating is simple…eat foods that make you feel good. We would love to hear of a powerful experience you’ve had of people coming together for a cause -as a collective. My partner and I attended Kumbh Mela in India in 2013. The festival runs for 55 days, attracts over 120 million pilgrims and only happens every 12 years. The faith, devotion and worship I experienced at Kumbh Mela is something I will hold with me always. However, giving birth was the most spiritual experience I have had. It was beautiful.


Have you always been into wellness or was there a light-bulb moment that sparked your health journey?

I have practiced yoga since 2003, however I did have a defining moment when I decided to leave my job in New York as a producer for New York Fashion Week and travel to India to study yoga. I have never looked back.

Run us through the typical day in the life of your wonderful self…

  • I wake early
  • Family cuddles in bed with my beautiful man Nigel, son Rumi and dog Blackie
  • Meditate while breastfeeding
  • Do some journaling/creative writing
  • Have breakfast
  • Sun bath in the backyard
  • Practice yoga
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon emails
  • Family walk… we try to walk barefoot on the grass (for grounding) and do a few inversions (for mindbody balance and perspective) everyday
  • Bath + massage and dress Rumi for bed
  • Meditate while breastfeeding Rumi
  • Put Rumi to bed
  • Dinner with Nigel
  • Read or watch a film
  • Bed as early as possible


What is your secret nutrition weapon?

Balance, sleep and greens.


What’s your favourite daily health ritual, and why?

My yoga and meditation practice – its gives me the energy to give more to others.


Do you have a quote you live your life by?

Look within.


How do you express your creative self?

I have a personal artist practice – I sing, I dance, I write. Art plays a huge role in my life.


What’s your favourite way to treat yourself?

A yoga class (on my own…a rare moment now that I am a mama!)


How do you embrace yourself, flaws and all – even in self-critical times?

I remember that it all begins with me – if I don’t love myself, how will I love others.


How do you manage to stay motivated both in your personal life and work life, even on those mediocre, flat days?

My son gives me good reason to get on my mat and practice every day.


Who inspires you and why?

My family, because I learn and grow with them everyday.


What is your life vision for the next 5 years?

To learn, to grow and to love.


What advice would you love to give beautiful women just beginning their wellness journey?

I think every journey starts with self worth. Saying to yourself, I am worthy of… Start there and the rest will flow.


Alanna, thank you so much for taking some time to chat with us about your life, your perspective and your beautiful family. For more gentle and kind inspiration, check out www.yogawithalanna.com (and if you’re heading to an upcoming retreat – Rochelle and I will probably see you there!) Alanna has kindly offered her email address: hello@yogawithalanna.com So if you would like to touch base with Alanna, you can slip through an email.

Unleash Fit Living with Alisha!

My name is Alisha, and my business is Unleash Clean Eating Fit Living! I’m a personal trainer and holistic health coach who loves empowering women to experience health from the inside out and live abundantly!


Let’s cut straight to the chase, have you always been into wellness or was there a light-bulb moment that sparked your health journey?

My love of fitness began in Year 12 when my PDHPE teacher arranged for our class to attend weekly Les Mills classes during one of our modules. Ever since then I’ve had a gym membership wherever I’ve lived, and fell in love with lifting weights. Over the years I’ve learnt A LOT from personal experience, various trainers and experts as to the different approaches to fitness. I will forever be a student, however I’ve come to believe that fitness is not the be-all and end-all of being healthy. It’s gotta start with how you think about yourself, and what you feed your body.


When it comes to healthy eating, I remember once upon a time I had a cat. And I named it Green Butter. I’m sure I’m probably the only person in the world to call their cat Green Butter. Why the weird name? Well, my parents brought us up pretty healthy, and we rarely used butter. Instead avocado was the favourite spread in the house – thus acquiring the name. And oh how I loved my green butter! So much that I named my first ginger cat – Green Butter


I was so blessed to be brought up in a family where health was a priority. As a child, my parents owned a local health food store, and we also had a huge veggie garden where we lived. Although those health principles stayed with me from an early age, I wasn’t always what you call ‘healthy.’


As a teenager I absolutely LOVED food! Especially bread, potato and pasta! Whenever I could eat, I ate! Luckily I was fairly active, as I played basketball all through high school, so the food didn’t pile on too excessively.


However looking back I remember I always had issues with bloating, pain and gassiness. It wasn’t until my early twenties when this continued to worsen that I had a sneaking suspicion I could be allergic to wheat, gluten or yeast. I got a blood test done and low and behold, I had a moderate intolerance to gluten, wheat, and yeast. Although this confirmed my suspicion, I didn’t eliminate these things straight away or completely from my diet. And I reaped the consequences. I started to not only have the previous symptoms mentioned, but began to get an eczema-type red rash around my eyes. Finally, I saw a naturopath who tested me for a candida (gut yeast infection) and put me on a strict protocol for one month. This was the BEST thing I ever did, because it forced me to eliminate the things that were hurting my body, and allowed me to break the cycle and develop new habits in my eating. I also began to avoid foods with refined sugars as well, because this was also not allowed during my month-long anti-candida diet.


I learnt a lot about different ways to sweeten foods naturally. I found a love for making raw vegan desserts! And I started to incorporate more organic produce, and less processed foods into my eating. I started to really believe and embrace the idea that my body is a temple. I’ve only got one body for this life, and so i better treat it with the best care possible!


These days, I rarely have anything that contains refined sugar, I try to avoid all gluten and wheat, and I am really picky about the animal products I eat (which is usually only eggs, and occasionally yogurt, halloumi cheese, and the odd fish). I eat heaps of fresh organic produce, make as much food from scratch as I can, and experiment all the time with new recipes and ways to create healthy and tasty food.


I also work out regularly, but I’ve learnt to trainer smarter not necessarily harder. I’ve realised weight gain and weight loss has more to do with the stress in my life, and the foods in my stomach than how much I’m doing cardio. I’ve finally found a career that I love, and have eliminated unnecessary stress from my life by doing what I love, and loving what I do – and that is helping change women’s lives through training, support and education on all things health & fitness!


Is there a form of meditation do you prefer and could you share why?

For me, my time of meditation involves connecting with my source of Life and Love (God), re-centering my mind on the intrinsic value placed on me as a daughter of God, reading scripture verses that speak into my heart as person of infinite worth and value, and focusing on what I believe is the reason I am on this planet (my purpose). I spend this time journalling, praying, reading, and reciting phrases out loud (wacky, I know)!

I endeavour to do these practices every day, morning and night. I also have begun to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing practices into this morning & evening ritual time, as I have learnt that the only way we can communicate to our bodies (specifically our Parasympathic Nervous System or our ‘rest and digest’ system) that we are not in danger is through our breathing.

I have found these practices keep my head above the waves that come in life, and help me to step back and remember the bigger picture of life, as I’m the kind of person that easily gets caught up in the nitty gritty details of life, business, relationships etc.


What are some changes you’ve noticed in your life since beginning your mindfulness journey and how have these helped you achieve your goals?

I have found that prioritising my devotional time every day has had a number of positive impacts:

  • I am less needy of my husband and friends for compliments and value.
  • I am more productive during my day after focusing on what my bigger picture/overall purpose is.
  • I am more patient and loving towards others.
  • I am generally less stressed throughout my day
  • I find I sleep better when I’ve spend time, particularly before bed, reflecting, re-centring and spending quiet time before going to sleep.

We all need some crazy powerful stress-busting tools and techniques – we would love to hear works for you!

A few stress-busting techniques that work for me:

  • Having someone “in my corner” (aka a coach, who luckily for me is my amazing husband) who I can download to, vent to, get stuff off my chest. I ALWAYS feel better after a good verbal download to him!
  • Definitely spending time breathing deeply, communicating to my body that I AM OK. The less stress hormones racing around my body: the better for my health!
  • Going and doing a killer workout always helps! I love high intensity training, or a good weights session to relieve stress!

Run us through the typical day in the life of your wonderful self…

My day actually starts the night before, with:

  • Making breakfast & a protein smoothie to take to work
  • Laying out my clothes for the next day
  • Ensuring I know what appointments I have the next day, and my to do list done
  • Doing my BEST to get to bed by 9:30pm (often a fail, but working on it)


  • Wake up at 4:45am
  • Drink of filtered water with squeeze of lemon. On cooler days, some grated ginger too, and warmer water. (Then keep on drinking water throughout the day, I am for minimum 2L)
  • Have a shower (to wake up some more)
  • Spend time in meditation/devotion and prayer
  • Maybe do my first Insta post for the day
  • Get to the gym with 5 minutes to spare before my first lovely lady client
  • Have fun training the awesome women I get to work with
  • When that’s done, I usually train myself. I like to lift weights, come up with new little workouts, and do some HIT training
  • Come home, spend time with my hubby, and make lunch (one of my favourite parts of the day – making food!!)
  • Spend the afternoon working on my business
  • Go back to the gym or park and train my ladies again or run a pump class at my gym – love pushing them, and seeing them achieve things they didn’t think they could week by week!
  • Come home and wind-down with my hubby (usually surf youtube)
  • Have some quiet reflection time before repeating the cycle and hitting the sack!


Who inspires you and why?

Dr Libby Weaver – oh my goodness! If you have not come across her books or speaking events, you are missing out! She has hugely impacted my approach to and outlook on women’s health, particularly the essential importance of the need to VALUE ourselves and LOVE ourselves in order to look after ourselves from the RIGHT place.

Chris & Heidi Powell – if you want to be inspired by amazing empowerment and people’s transformations: watch their USA series Extreme Weightloss or Extreme Makeover: Weightloss Edition! From a personal training/coaching point of view, for me they are up there! They completely engage in people’s lives, and help them make holistic changes, which are not short-term. I simply love their work.


What advice would you love to give beautiful women just beginning their wellness journey?

If you are just beginning your wellness journey here’s what I want you to do: Start thinking of yourself and your body as an amazing vessel. It really is! Once you start to love and value yourself and your body, you will find it easier to treat it with love and respect through the things you put into it and do with it. Once we get our mindset right, the rest will follow.


Alisha, thank you for being so open with us. We really appreciate the time you took to pass on your lessons, tips and tricks! And a cat named Green Butter – definitely original and so cute (haha)!


If you’re keen for more Unleash Fit Living information, check out Alisha’s website: www.unleashfitliving.com and send through any questions to her email: alisha@unleashfitliving.com. If you’re keen for some daily inspiration, follow her Facebook and Instagram pages! We have!

Helping Your Friend Who is Depressed

– Sarah Fader

I have lived with clinical depression for most of my life. I can remember as early as eight feeling a sick sad feeling. It usually started in my stomach and continued to permeate my entire body all the way into my brain. Having clinical depression is a mental illness; It is a disease. It’s in the DSM-V. It’s a medical condition. It’s also something that I would not wish on anyone, even my worst nemesis. You see, clinical depression is a horrible disgusting monster that has tried to murder me. It has terrified me to the point where I was scared to get out of bed. I didn’t want to shower, get dressed, eat, or live. At times, the monster told me to sleep all day. Other occasions it tortured me by not allowing me to sleep at all.


I’m proud to report that I am still here. I didn’t let this even monster take my life away from me. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to challenge me and make me feel extraordinarily small. Clinical depression has a way of minimizing you. It points this lazar gun at your heart and attempts to shrink you to the smallest size possible. It is reminiscent of the part in Alice in Wonderland where she takes a pill and shrinks so small that she is able to crawl into places that a mouse could fit in.


Alice is taken on a wild ride, much like the terrifying rollercoaster that clinical depression takes its victims on.


I used to see myself as a victim of depression. Now I see myself as a warrior.  I have a shield and a sword and I’m ready to take that bitch down.


I go to war for my life each and every single day. I see a therapist weekly. I take antidepressants. I meditate and engage in breathing exercises. I religiously see my therapist and my psychiatrist. I am fierce about my regimen of self-care and I have to be. I don’t have the luxury of not going to the mental gym.


There are many people in this world who do not comprehend how awful depression is. They truly believe that they you can cheer up. They are sure that by reminding you of the great things in your life that you will somehow miraculously be cured. It all be a distant memory and you’ll be happy again because that’s how life works right?




These are the same individuals who will discourage you from complaining. Complaining is not what you’re doing – you are fighting a disease. They don’t know that though. They will insist that other human beings have it worse than you do. There are people in other countries who are starving.


What makes you so sad? You have it easy.


Here’s the truth.


When someone has ALS, do you ask them to stop complaining about their terminal disease? No. You don’t do that.


When you tell a person who has depression to be silent you are contributing to their illness. So stop doing that. Let your depressed friend speak.


She needs to open up

She wants to tell you her story

She is hurting

She needs you.


Depression is a disease and one of the cures is talk therapy. When you allow your friend to sound off to you, then you are helping her get well. You don’t need to fix it. You are not required to do anything but listen. And that is something you can do. So do it. Be there, and don’t try to do anything. Depression isn’t something that has a toolbox or instruction manual it comes with. In fact, quite the opposite. Depression wants to annihilate anyone who wants to stop it or get it gone.


It’s a sneaky bastard and doesn’t have any consideration for the people it afflicts.


When your friend tells you she is hurting, she wants some help fighting this monster. You can pick up that sword and pitch in. Listen to her, help her strategize, or just be there. Whatever she needs, she will tell you.


Understand that your friend who lives with depression is suffering. She may not know how to stop the pain. But she does love you. She wants you in her life, but she is sick right now. The wound is open and she is showing it to you. Be considerate and kind. She lacks hope at the moment, but that doesn’t mean she is hopeless.


What can you do?






Your friend is a human being and she needs you. So be there.


Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good day New York.


Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

The Story of Stigma Fighters

– Sarah Fader

If you’ve never had a panic attack, you don’t know what they feel like emotionally or physically. I have had several panic attacks in my life, due to living with panic disorder. My first panic attack was at 15, though I can remember experiencing symptoms of anxiety as early as eight. I have some prevalent memories of panic from Junior High School when I was bullied as well.


When you think of panic, you might think of a racing heart, a fast pulse, nervousness or shaking. These are all symptoms of panic disorder, but there are other lesser known or talked about symptoms that people experience that can be terrifying. As a teenager, I experienced the traditional feelings associated with anxiety that I just referenced – rapid beating heart, sweating, shaking and feelings of dread.


When I entered my 30s, I began experiencing somatic symptoms associated with anxiety. It was so disarming that I thought that I had a terminal disease. I was convinced that I was dying and no medical professional could convince me otherwise. Here’s what was happening to my body: numbness and tingling in my neck, back, and one hand, tingling throughout my entire body, sometimes in the genitals even, shortness of breath and the sensation of bugs crawling on my head. It was so terrifying that I thought my demise was imminent. I went to see a neurologist. A team of doctors did a number of tests on me including a brain MRI, cervical spine MRI as well as tests to rule out autoimmune diseases. I passed all the tests with flying colors.


I was left thinking – what was wrong with me? It was concluded (since there was nothing medically wrong with me) that the somatic symptoms that were plaguing me were due to chronic and persistent anxiety. It was difficult for me to believe that anxiety could make me feel like I was dying, but it was clear that this was the case. I had chronic insomnia for two weeks straight because my neck was in so much pain from the radiating neuropathy I experienced. Granted, there were other factors at work as well. I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. However, the reality of the situation was that the pervasive demon I was facing was my own brain.


I was angry. I was frustrated. I didn’t believe the doctors when they told me there was nothing wrong with me and it was “just anxiety.” They were mistaken. I just knew it. There was no way that anxiety could cause symptoms this severe. I pleaded them to test me for more diseases and disorders because I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that anxiety was doing this to me. I was my own worst enemy and I couldn’t control what my brain up to. I felt sick, sad, lost and confused.


I remember the this condescending female neurologist speaking to me on the phone during my crisis mode. She said “Sarah, you have got to calm down. This is just anxiety.”  Those words stuck with me – just anxiety. Well, “just anxiety” was making me feel like I was going to die. Her reply was insensitive and made me feel like there was a lack of understanding with regard to my mental illness. This doctor expected me to buckle up, get it together, stop being so anxious. Lady, if that were possible don’t you think I’d have done that already.


It made me think about the other patients out there who are victims of the medical community’s insensitivity with regard to anxiety. Anxious patients are treated like a burden. If we call for support of medical guidance, we’re told to stop being so nervous. Once again, if this were so “easy” we would get right on that. Medical professionals need to recognize that somatic symptoms of anxiety are serious. They make us anxious people feel awful.


There’s a misconception that somatic symptoms of anxiety are not “real.” They are not a symptom of another medical disease (for the most part) however they are quite real.  When I felt the burning in my neck and was unable to speak, I certainly wasn’t imagining it. It’s a profoundly ignorant on behalf of the medical community to discount a patient’s physical symptoms as irrelevant because they have to do with mental illness as opposed to physical illness.


I want people living with anxiety to know that they are not alone. If you are experiencing your anxiety in a physical form, it’s real. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.


Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She is an author and blogger, having been featured on Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good day New York.


Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

Dear Body

Nicole Yarham

We live in a world where comparison is the norm.  We compare our jobs, our hobbies, our weekend events, our holidays, our friends, our incomes and more shockingly our bodies.  Most of us struggle with, or have previously struggled with, body dissatisfaction, poor body image or body comparison in some way, robbing us from leading a life full of joy. This needs to stop.


Australia’s National Eating Disorders Collaboration defines body image as the perception that a person has of their physical self, but more importantly the thoughts and feelings the person experiences as a result of that perception.  They believe that there are four aspects of body image:


1. The way you see yourself (Perceptual)
The way you see your body is not always a correct representation of what you actually look like. For example, a person may perceive themselves to be fat when in reality they are underweight.  How a person sees themselves is their perceptual body image.


2. The way you feel about the way you look (Affective)
There are things a person may like or dislike about the way they look. Your feelings about your body, especially the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you experience in relation to your appearance, weight, shape and body parts is your affective body image.


3. The thoughts and beliefs you feel about your body (Cognitive)
Some people believe that they will feel better about themselves if they are thinner. Others believe they will look better if they develop more muscle.  The way you think about your body is your cognitive body image.


4. The things you do in relation to the way you look (Behavioural)
When a person is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may employ destructive behaviours such as excessive exercising or disordered eating as a means to change appearance. Some people may isolate themselves because they feel bad about the way they look.  Behaviour in which you renege as a result of your body image encompasses your behaviour body image.1


With this in mind we can clearly see that as we begin to compare ourselves to others we risk affecting our thoughts, emotions and behaviour. We can easily become fixated on trying to change our body shape and get caught up in feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.  This can lead to a heightened risk of developing an eating disorder or poor body image and body dissatisfaction as we engage with unhealthy practices with food and exercise in hope of alleviating these negative feelings.


However we need to remember that there is no right or wrong when it comes to body shape or appearance.  Yes that can be hard to accept, however challenging the acceptance of our body shapes and limiting the comparison of ourselves is a crucial step towards feeling positive about our weight, shape, size and appearance.1


Having previously suffered from an eating disorder, body acceptance has been a real challenge.  I find it hard at times to love myself, limit comparisons and accept my body – imperfections and all.  Therefore I decided that something had to change.  I needed to change the way I viewed and thought about myself as well as my negative self-talk in order to have a positive effect on my thoughts, emotions and behaviour.  For that reason I decided to write a pledge not only for myself, but for all women struggling with poor body image and body dissatisfaction in hope that it would remind us to accept our true selves.


Dear Body,


I’m sorry I’ve treated you unkindly and poorly in the past.


You were never a problem.


I’m sorry for letting what other people think colour my judgment of you.

There is nothing wrong with your size, your curves, your scars, your flaws, your stretch marks or you.


I know you are subjected to comparisons, daily put downs and even put through pain in hopes of looking like the people on my Instagram account or Facebook newsfeed. However, it’s not your job to look “pretty” because you’re good enough already!


So this year instead of working against you, I will work with you.


Instead of going on crash diets, skipping meals, binging on junk food and sacrificing on exercise and sleep, I will try to keep you healthy and happy.


I know our relationship in the past has been very unstable, abusive and at times irrational and crazy but I promise to love you and be more thankful for all that you do for me and allow me to do.


I promise to take responsibility for why you might be feeling unwell, sluggish, lethargic and rundown and not lay the blame unfairly on you.  I promise to invest in self-care and treat you to the occasional massage or pedicure.


This year I promise to remind you daily that you are good enough and full of worth.  And when I look at you in the mirror I promise to silence your haters and look at you with loving eyes.


I will stop taking out my stress on you by abusing you through my lifestyle choices.  I will cherish you, stick up for you, encourage you, motivate you, celebrate you and embrace you because whether we like it or not, we are in this together – daily – every day – for the rest of our life.


With love and gracious kindness,




Take some time today to appreciate and celebrate all the amazing things that your body does for you and let these mindful words empower you to accept yourself just as you are.  Then take some time to practice self-care and say some loving words to yourself as you learn to work with your body rather than against it.


References (check them out for more information):


1. National Eating Disorders Collaboration. 2011. Body Image Fact Sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nedc.com.au/files/logos/Fact%20sheet_Body%20Image_2013.pdf. [Accessed 22 February 16].

Social & Relational Wellness (social media and beyond)

– Amy Kate

It surprises some people to know that wellness isn’t just about physical and mental health. Social and relational wellbeing is also an aspect of ourselves that contributes to our overall health and wellness! 


It also surprises some that social wellness isn’t measured by the amount of friends you have on facebook, or followers on instagram…


Taking time to consider our relationships (and perhaps notice some patterns that exist) is a great place to start when considering your social and relational wellness. It can be easier said than done so here are some ideas, derived from the findings of Umberson, Chen, House, Hopkins & Slaten in 1996 (the study may be older but the ideas are still relevant now)! 


Get active, socially active!

Despite the age-old myth that men and women differ in this regard, social relationships are important for everyone’s wellbeing. Here are some ideas to help you stay socially active:


Mindfully build your friendships. Think about your friendships. Are you happy with them? Would you like more meaningful connections with others or are you happy with the level of connection you currently have? Are there some people you shouldn’t be friends with anymore, friends who have passed their expiry date in your life? Hopefully you have a few people in your life that after you hang out with them, you feel better. Who are they? Spend some more time with them!


Get on your hobby horse! Not literally, unless that’s your thing. I’m talking about joining a club that centres on a hobby you have (or a hobby you want to develop). Perhaps it is a fun dancing troupe, maybe a sports team, a scrapbooking group, a colouring in club, a parenting group, or even a gardening team!


Text someone. We all have these days. It could be once per year for some, and for others it is their daily life. On these days, we aren’t going out to socialise and see friends. We just aren’t feeling up to it. But the need for connection is still there – niggling away in the background. So text someone! It could be your partner, your mum, your brother or your bestie. Call them, email them, Facebook message them, snapchat them, whatever means of communication you have – get on it.


Help someone else

Helping others and being kind-hearted is a wellbeing immune booster. So dose up! These are some kindness ideas you might love:


Volunteering for an organisation that excites you is also a great way to build your social connections with like-minded people. Finding something you’re so crazy passionate about that you will volunteer your time is a powerful thing. Finding others who are in the same boat – well, that’s your tribe! Volunteering doesn’t have to be an ongoing thing, it can be for a once-off project so if you’re a commitment-phobe, this can still work for you!


Give someone a genuine compliment. Sprinkle a bit of love everywhere you go, like a trail of smiles behind you.

Help the old lady cross the street. Okay there isn’t always an old lady or a street involved but you know what I mean. If you see someone who needs a hand, help them out. It may be a co-worker needing a stapler, or someone struggling with a trolley with particularly misaligned wheels in the supermarket. Being polite and smiling is helping others and being super nice – after all, smiles are contagious!


Know what to do when someone bowls over your boundaries.

Where would you fit between doormat and always-angry-lady. Perhaps you’re closer to the doormat side, or closer to the angry-lady, or maybe you’re smack bang in the middle and loving it? As great as being a nice persona is, feeling like a doormat where people use you and then leave is not good for your mental health. Being the angry-lady someone knows is also not good for your mental health (your cortisol levels will be sky high which is not sustainable). Here are some tips to develop conflict resolution skills and assertiveness skills (not aggressiveness skills) to help you build your own wellbeing.


Think first, and then use your words. What is it that you would like the other person to do (or stop doing)? Okay, now think about how you can say that with authentic love. Instead of “Can you not talk to me right now”, perhaps try “I feel like I’m not taking in what you’re saying right now. I had a super stressful day, could I come back to you in 10 minutes because I really want to hear what you’re saying.”


Be willing to compromise. Listen to the other person’s perspective. Sometimes this can be very enlightening. We tend to assume we know why people do certain things, forgetting that they are their own person with their own history and way of thinking. Giving someone time to share their piece is powerful and can be very refreshing for a relationship.


Be assertive (not aggressive). Standing up for your own rights and beliefs, while valuing others’ opinions without letting them rule you is an incredible skill. Being assertive is all about listening, compromising and being respectful. The other trick is to know what you want and what you will/won’t compromise on (which is why you really need to think about it first). You may need to explain ‘why’ to the other person so they are able to also see from your perspective.


Let us know if these tips help you get through stressful times! Tune in to what works for you.

Comment below to let us know which ideas you will be trying and share on social media to help other women learn about their bare minimums!



Umberson, Chen, House, Hopkins and Slaten, (1996). The Effect of Social Relationships on Psychological Well-Being: Are Men and Women Really So Different? American Sociological Review, 61(5), pp. 837-857.