Laughter

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Laughter…the bible says its good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Is this just a metaphor, or is there scientific evidence to support this idea? Think about the last time you laughed – maybe a friend told a good joke, or your child did something that hit your funny bone. Recent research has demonstrated that when we laugh our immune system is strengthened, our mood is boosted, pain levels diminish, and stress levels decrease1Sounds like good medicine to me!

Here are just a few more of the positive benefits of having a good belly laugh:

Laughter relaxes the whole body: a good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes 2.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart: it improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories: It’s not a replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter may even help you to live longer: one study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer3.

Each week, we put science to the test at our counselling office. On “Funny Fridays”, our team members meet for prayer and start this time by sharing a good joke, funny story, or humorous event from our personal lives. Laughter is important, especially when we deal with such serious issues the majority of the time.

Why don’t you join us in putting science to the test and come to our upcoming Spring Fundraiser with comedian and humorist, Phil Callaway?! Phil has this to say about laughter: “In the darkest of times, laughter helps revolutionize our perspective.”

Join us for some good medicine as Phil speaks on the topic: “Learning to Laugh Again!” For event details and ticket information, click here.

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Heather Tomes, M. Ed., R. Psych.
Executive Director and Registered Psychologist

1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200011/the-science-laughter

2 https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-benefits-laughter

3 https://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

Put Love into Action & Join Us in Changing Lives Today!

While marketers and advertising companies entice us to focus on chocolates and roses in this “month of love”, people right here in our own communities across Saskatchewan are struggling with heart-breaking loneliness, despair, and depression.

This silent epidemic found a voice last fall when news rang out across our province and nation about  a string of teen suicides in northern Saskatchewan. One news article had this to say: “Aboriginal leaders and the prime minister say a crisis is unfolding in northern Saskatchewan after three young girls took their own lives and there are fears more young people are at risk. Two girls from Stanley Mission committed suicide last week, and a third girl from La Ronge, who had been in hospital after an attempt to kill herself, died in recent days. All were between the ages of 12 and 14. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the issue of youth suicides on reserves has gone on for far too long.We are working together with the government of Saskatchewan and others to ensure we can put an end to the tragedy of young people taking their lives. It’s something that has to stop’, Trudeau said. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/10/14/lac-la-ronge-sask-suicide_n_12495674.html)

Young lives….created for a purpose, part of the Master’s Plan….taken far too soon. While response plans are being formulated and resources are being re-directed to help, I began to wonder what resources would be made available to better equip pastors and ministry leaders in these isolated northern communities to be a voice of hope among those they live with, work alongside, and minister to every day.

After several heart-to-heart conversations with pastors and ministry workers in La Ronge, my thoughts were confirmed – there is a significant gap in resources being offered to them in response to this crisis. God stirred my heart to be part of the solution and fill this gap.

Would you like to join me? Here’s how you can put LOVE into ACTION:
Christian Counselling Services will be hosting a two day ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Training – https://www.livingworks.net/programs/asist/) on May 25 & 26 in Saskatoon. We plan to offer SIX seats free-of-charge to pastors and ministry leaders from La Ronge and area.

We believe this is our opportunity to demonstrate love and solidarity with our friends in the North, letting them know we are WITH them, not only in spirit, but in action. Join us in praying for this event, the trainers who will be providing this workshop, the spiritual leaders who will attend, and the many young lives that are being affected by loneliness, depression, and suicide in our communities.

If you are compelled to put love into action, you can also make a difference by giving a financial gift. The total funds needed to cover the registration costs for these pastors will be $1,200. For more information on giving, click here (please specify that your gift is towards: “Training for Pastors”). 

 

“Let us not love merely in theory with word or with tongue (giving lip service to compassion), but in action and truth (in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words)” – I John 3:18 (AMP)

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Heather Tomes, M. Ed., R. Psych.
Executive Director and Registered Psychologist

Lighting up the Darkness

lightttttLight. It makes the world a better place, doesn’t it? A few weeks ago, a mini blizzard hit our city in the middle of what should have been…autumn. Even though I am a Saskatchewan girl – born and raised – it still came as a shock to see so much snow falling on the leafy trees outside. As I watched this snowy scene unfold through my window, the lights flickered on and off briefly before going out all along our city block. And there I was…in the darkness…searching through cabinets for a candle…and making a mental note to be better prepared in the future by putting a flashlight in an easy-to-find-spot.

Light. It makes a difference to our daily existence, doesn’t it? Numerous research findings substantiate that our brains were designed to function best with regular, healthy exposure to light ¹. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately 18% of Canadians each year ². For many people affected by SAD, their mood begins to drop in autumn when the days get shorter. It isn’t really clear what causes SAD, but it’s thought that lack of sunlight may be a key contributor. Symptoms can include changes in sleep patterns, fatigue, irritability, weight gain, and sadness. Good self-care, effective counselling, and light therapy can all benefit a person who struggles with SAD.

Light. It makes the world a beautiful place, doesn’t it?! I recently received a meaningful gift – a decorative prism that hangs in my window. As I sat inside, warm and cozy, the day after that recent snowstorm blanketed the city streets, I watched as the rising sun hit the prism and cascaded the most glorious bursts of dancing colors around the room. I said a thankful prayer for the gift of light after an evening of darkness. I recalled a quote I had recently read ³:

Life will have its dark and cloudy days. I think God knew it was the best way  for our hearts to truly appreciate the sunshine.”

As the winter months approach, remember that help and support are available if you think you may be affected by the results of the changing seasons. Find ways to light up the darkness  – light therapy, a hot holiday, putting up Christmas lights, a fun trip to a local greenhouse, outdoor sports like cross-country skiing or snowboarding, and asking God for extra bursts of His Son-shine during the winter months can all be helpful ways of shining a bit more light in our lives during the winter season ahead.

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  1. Duffy, JF and Czeisler, CA. 2009. Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology, Sleep Med Clinicals, 4 (2), 165 – 177).
  2. https://www.cmha.bc.ca/documents/seasonal-affective-disorder-2/
  3. Source Unknown

The Art and the Science of Practicing Gratitude

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Gratitude…it’s a word that we hear often during this month of thanksgiving. Yet, the word itself has just recently started to make a resurgence into our vocabulary after nearly three centuries of falling into dis-use. Why? I have a theory…but more on that later.

First, I want to take a moment to express our gratitude for you. Because of your prayers, your financial support, and your volunteerism we are able to do the important work we do at Christian Counselling Services. Without your prayers, many hurting hearts wouldn’t find their way here. Without your financial support, we couldn’t welcome everyone who comes through our doors searching for help in a time of crisis. Without your volunteerism, we couldn’t reach out into the community and create awareness of who we are and what we are here to do.

Each Thursday at Christian Counselling Services, we practice the habit of gratitude – and you might be surprised to find your name mentioned during this time!

Our staff team meets for prayer every day. On Thursday, we have a special prayer focus…gratitude. We have coined the phrase “Thankful Thursday” to describe these times where we expressly thank God for His many blessings, including our faithful donors and supporters. We pray for each one of you by name, and thank God for your partnership with us in this ministry. Without God’s work through you, there would be no Christian Counselling Services in Saskatoon. May you know the goodness of God in your lives as a result of your partnership with us.

Now… back to my theory on gratitude. This year a book was published entitled: The Art of Gratitude (Meredith Gaston, 2016, Penguin Books). The title caught my eye. I admit I did not read the book…the title alone was enough to get me thinking. Art or science…what contributes to the formation of gratitude in our lives?

Let’s take Thankful Thursday here at Christian Counselling Services as an example. Gratitude was something our staff team agreed was an important value to us. Yet, like any concept, it began to take on deeper meaning when we actually began to practice it in the form of a repeated behavior. Behavior solidifies belief – this is a basic psychological principle and also a basic spiritual principle (“If you love Me, keep My commands” – Jesus, John 14:15).

As we practiced the habit of gratitude each week on Thankful Thursday, I found my thoughts throughout the rest of the week more naturally turning to gratitude. Why? A growing body of research demonstrates that the regular practice of gratitude has a very real impact on our brains. In a recent study, researchers scanned neural activity in the brain and discovered that even several months after a simple gratitude task, people reported feeling more thankful about life in general than before they had engaged in the gratitude task (Kini, Wong, and Mcinnis, 2016, NeuroImage, Vol. 128, pp. 1-10).

Isn’t that astounding?!

The implication is that the more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy the psychological benefits of being grateful.

This brings added meaning to the Apostle Paul’s words: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). God really does want our best – He knows the way He designed our brains to function: the more we practice being thankful, regardless of our circumstances, the better we will feel – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

During this month of October, give it a try: at the beginning or end of each day, take a moment to express your gratitude to God for three things, and see how your perspective on life begins to change!