ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

advice · fitness · health · hiking · meditation · nature

Hiking with a Book

I almost always go on 2 to 3-hour hikes with friends. I enjoy the great conversation topics, the companionship, and the treats we often enjoy together afterwards.

But one recent morning, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to go on a solo hike outside. Because I also enjoy the company of books, I decided to bring one with me.

The place

three trees and water (The Thames River, London, Ontario)
Spring! Photo by Elan Paulson

Hiking with a book is not exactly like reading in your backyard or on a deck. One of the best parts about hiking with a book is that you have find a spot to read. While I was outside primarily for exercise, I was also side-questing for the best place to stop. On the hill or by the water? On a rock or a log? Behind or facing the sun?

Once I hiked as far as I had wanted to go, I doubled back and settled on the best of my mentally shortlisted spots: a great, flat tree stump that was surrounded by trees but also eye-line to the river. It was perfect!

The book

On sites like Bustle and Goodreads, and on blogs like thehikinglife there are lists and lists of books to take along hiking and backpacking. But I am mostly a short-distance hiker who is not really drawn to stories about radical feats of extreme hiking.

Cover of One Story, One Song, by Richard Wagamese

Instead, I brought a book I had just bought: One Story, One Song (2015) by Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. He is one of my favourite writers, and it was a happy coincidence to read Wagamese’s reflections on what he has learned from the land while being on the land myself.

The experience

Out in the crisp spring air, on my solo hike I savoured both the hike itself and anticipation of stopping to read.

When I sat and read, I paused between chapters under the section titled “Humility,” which put into relief some of the petty challenges that had wound me up over the past week. As I looked at the water and listened to the little birds chirping and flitting around me, I thought quietly about my own humility.

When I resumed the rest of my hike, book in pocket, I set some positive intentions for the upcoming week based on what I had read and thought about. In the middle of my busy week, I plan to find some quiet time by recalling what I had read and where I was when I read it.

So, this week I discovered how outdoor reading that is “bookended” by some alone hiking time can be replenishing for both body and mind. I definitely recommend it!

Do you hike with books? What do you read, and where?

fitness · meditation

200 straight days of meditation; now what?

I love my Ten Percent Happier meditation app. Yes, I blog about it probably too often, but I really feel moved to express my love for it publicly from time to time. What’s to love?

  • It’s on my phone, so always available for meditations from 1 to 60 minutes
  • The meditation teachers are some of the leading ones out there (which I admit I like)
  • The meditations are sorted into categories for all sorts of sphere of life and types of emotions and experiences
  • The presence of the app and the guidance provided by the meditations creates a structure within which I can settle (or not) into meditation
  • The pitch of it is just right for me– the right amount of Buddhism, the right amount of practical guidance, all with a smidge of humor

This morning, when I opened the app to do my first-thing-in-the-morning meditation, I got a notification (complete with electronic confetti– the best kind) that I had meditated for 200 days straight. Sadly, I was too slow to capture it in a photo to share. But trust me, it was festive and gratifying.

I’ve been regularly meditating since 2020, almost every day. I’ve written a lot about this most recent return to it: here here here here, for example.

What does it mean to me to have managed 200 days in a row?

  • I’m proud of myself– doing anything like this for 200 days in a row feels like an accomplishment in establishing a habit that I really want for myself
  • I’m aware of having made progress over both the past 200 days, and the past 2 years of developing a meditation practice
  • I decided that doing 3 minutes of meditation in a day was better than doing none; I do ten slow deep breaths, which takes about 3 minutes. Done.
  • Each day is different, in terms of my needs, feelings, attitude towards my practice; also other factors influence how the actual sitting goes.
  • Even though I now have laid down the tracks of a habit, each day is different; each day is a new challenge. The ever-present challenges and new lessons of meditation remind me that I’ll always be a student. And I like that.

There’s comfort in habit. But it takes attention to keep it going. However, the habit helps me with the attending to it. That, and the app. It’s called Ten Percent Happier. I didn’t want to forget to mention that… 🙂

Readers, do you keep track of milestones like 100 days, 200 days, etc. for your daily practices of movement or stillness? How do you think of it? I’d love to hear from you.

meditation · mindfulness

Does Meditation Even Work?

I considered different titles for this piece: If I Didn’t Meditate, Would I Be a Monster? Why Even Meditate If I Still Stress Out? I Give Up on Meditation.

But I don’t give up, even as I wonder, why not?  

As many of you know, I’ve been on a meditation streak for some time now. And, an exciting moment happened recently. I did NOT notice the day I passed three years straight in my streak. I meditated. Like it was any other day. Then, ten days later, I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute, did I pass my three-year anniversary of this streak??”

The reason I missed it is this: The first time I saw my mother after the start of the pandemic was in late August. I hadn’t seen her for 19 months. The last day of our visit was my 1000th day of meditation. Since then, I am reminded each day of how long it has been since I last saw my mother. I send out a wish that that day count will not get anywhere near the 500+ of our last interval.

Is it okay if I take a moment here of celebration for three years straight of meditating every-every day?

And, I had one of the worst finish-starts to a year in memory. I got news on December 21st that a yearlong training program I’m in was going to continue with an in-person weekend the first week of January. The email explained all the reasons for pushing back against strict pandemic regulations in Quebec, which only got stricter as the next couple of weeks evolved. And the email said that the majority of the email recipients had been consulted. Not me. I was not in that majority. Plus, I was special needs, given that I was crossing an international border to attend, and all the added risks that entails. I was not worthy of consultation. My opinion did not matter. I slipped into the vortex, a downward spiral of increasing stress.

Stormy sea, by Roan Lavery on Unsplash

Yes, indeed, I fueled that spiral all by myself as I contemplated all the pandemic risks. I deployed all my tools to self-arrest, including meditation. While I could alleviate some of the stress, there was a core nugget that kept moving into darker and darker corners of my psyche. My always-borderline-fragile sense of belonging had been threatened and nothing grounded me or lifted me or offered me ease.

I sat on my meditation cushion and observed my erratic heartbeat fail to settle. I sat on my meditation cushion and watched my staccato breath struggle for smooth passage. I sat on my meditation cushion and felt enraged and heavy and sad.

I kept sitting. Day after day.

No remission of stress. In fact, I managed to work myself up enough that it spilled out all over my partner and set fire to the closing-opening of the years. Then came the news on Monday morning, January 3, that the in-person weekend would be delayed a month. I should-have-could-have been relieved. Instead, I was angry at myself all over again. How could I have allowed myself to stress out about something that simply resolved itself (more or less and with zero elegance)?

More sitting.

Which brings me back to the other possible titles for this piece. If I hadn’t been meditating during these past weeks, would I have been out-of-control monstrous? Would I have lit my angry fire earlier and kept it burning on a higher setting? Is the goal of meditation to never stress out? Or is it to notice that I am stressing out, instead of spending my energy in denial and/or blaming someone else for my stress? Why don’t I give up?

Because. I value the information I glean from the particular discipline of daily observation. I can’t make all my stress go away. I can’t make myself into an angel of patience, which I’m not. I can notice more. That noticing, in and of itself, offers me relief. The sliver of ease may be barely visible to the naked eye, but my nervous system is grateful for the scintilla of extra space. This is not good marketing language for a meditation-is-the-answer-to-everything sales pitch. Meditation is not the answer to everything. It is one tool in what is ideally an ever evolving and updating kit.  

Last year Kim (of this blog) and I challenged each other to write a poem every two weeks (there’s a post coming later today about that). As I was looking through them, I came across this haiku that captures why I continue to meditate:

And if I lived true/ open curiosity / no judgment or fear?

The promise of meditation is that you will notice more. That’s it. That’s enough.     

Dancing · fitness · fun · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 31

Welcome to Day 31!

I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.

And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.

You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.

And here’s a gold star for those efforts:

A large gold 3D paper star hanging on a white door.
Image description: This is the largest gold star I own. It’s a foldable 3D paper ornament and it is covered with sparkly gold spirals. In this photo, I have hung it on a white door.

Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)

One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.

Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.

My friend Elaine Dunphy with a New Year’s message and a short movement practice for us today. I posted this on my own YouTube channel – the only other video on there is my husband doing the ice bucket challenge, so obviously I am not a prolific YouTuber. The still image shows Elaine in her dance studio. She has very short salt-and-pepper hair and she is smiling and holding her right hand up, palm towers the camera with her fingers held widely apart.

And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.

The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.

A ten minute meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person in yellow sitting in a classic meditation pose – legs crossed, backs of hands resting on knees, palms upward. The words ‘Clear Your Mind guided meditation’ are on the left side of the image.

And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.

A mini-meditation from the Headspace YouTube channel. Still image shows blue squiggles against a yellow background with the words ‘Health Mind’ written in purple on the upper left side.

I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.

As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.

See you tomorrow for my first Go Team! post.

fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 30

This is our second last day of Making Space before I switch over into Go Team posts but, just so you know, the encouragement level will stay the same. 💚

I hope that you can find space and ease today and that you have some peace in your heart and mind.

We don’t have to earn our rest.

We don’t have to finish everything first.

Rest is part of our daily cycle, no matter what the ‘push through it’ advocates would have you believe.

Sure, there are occasional times when pushing through is the answer but those times are the exception, not the rule.

It’s ok, in fact, it is advisable, to listen to the signals from your body and mind and take a break as soon as you can.

Maybe your current obligations mean that you can’t take a long break but even a few moments here and there will help.

Please don’t think that I am pressuring you to put more things on your to do list, that is definitely not my goal here. Ideally, we’ll learn to build breaks into all of our projects rather than making them a project in themselves.

And I am definitely not telling you that this is easy or that you *should* already be doing this. Our lives are full and we are often under a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone.

My hope with these posts was that they could help you recognize that your breathing room matters, that making space for yourself is valid, that small breaks are good for you, too.

It was never about chastising you (or me) for the challenges involved.

So, once again, I celebrate your efforts to make space for yourself in your life, even if dropping your shoulders away from your ears for a moment is all the extra space you can make today.

⭐️ <- for your efforts to make space today

And now, on to the totally optional videos:

Today’s movement video was really energizing and completely warmed me up on this chilly morning. There are some jumping movements in this one but you can easily modify them as needed (I did!)

A short energizing workout from the 117 Wellness YouTube Channel. Still image shows the instructor in outdoor clothes and hat standing with their knees slightly bent and their hands in ‘prayer’ position in front of their chest. They are at the edge of a body of water and a dock is visible on one side and there are mountains in the background. Text reading ‘Energize Your Body In 6 Minutes’ is superimposed on the right side of the image.

I first clicked this meditation because I liked the title , then I noticed that it was from Calgary Public Library (yay for libraries!) which was a bonus, but the icing on the cake was when the meditation leader introduce themselves as Christine. A video from a library that recommends a pause and a speaker that shares my name? I am in!

A short meditation video from the Calgary Public Library YouTube Channel. The still image shows a person with long hair and glasses in a black turtleneck sweater and jeans sitting cross-legged with their hands resting on a stack of books on their right knee. The right side of the image is a blue semi-circle with the title of the video ‘The Power of a Pause 6 Minute Meditation with Christine Francoeur’ in white text.

fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 29

As we amble along together through the in-between, let’s remind each other that December 31 is a date, not an absolute deadline for everything.

Sure, for some of us, there are some legal things that may have to be finished up over the next few days but for most of us, there is no need to push to finish AllOfTheThings.

It’s ok to find as much space as we can to reflect, to dream, to rest or to have fun.

And however and whenever you make that space for yourself is the perfect way to do it.

Only you know what you need to do to feel like yourself and I wish you the time, space, and energy to do it.

And with this gold star, I celebrate your efforts to find that time, space, and energy – ⭐️

Our videos today are a 5 minute movement break from the Recreation Department at the University of British Columbia and a relaxation meditation from Great Meditations.

Whether or not you do these videos, I wish you ease today and always.

A 5 minute Movement break from the UBC REC YouYube channel. Still image shows the instructor in a blue shirt with her arms in a C-shape with the text ‘5 minute movement break’ next to her in black.
A 5 minute relaxation meditation video from The Great Meditations YouTube channel. Still image shows a cartoon image of a smiling person with long hair who has their eyes closed. The background is overlapping muted shades of blue and grey.

fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · yoga

Making Space: Day 28

Today is a good day to make space to rest.

No matter what you were doing/celebrating/enduring/avoiding/ this month, it is almost over and so is this year.

Obviously, things don’t magically change with the end of a specific period of time but that ending can help us to shift our thinking a little bit. It gives us something for our brain to use as a pivot point.

So even though there are a lot of things we don’t have control over, we can choose to think about many things in different ways and we can choose to be kind to ourselves about the challenges we have faced (and the ones we are facing)

Making space to rest can help with that.

When we have restful moments, we can reflect, we can get ourselves out of the automatic momentum of doing and see how we might want to approach things differently.

And, of course, rest is just good in itself.

You don’t have to earn your rest.

You don’t have to have worked hard to ‘deserve’ it.

It is not selfish to rest.

Rest is part of the cycle of living and I hope you can make some space for it today and every day.

Perhaps your current life commitments don’t allow for a lot of rest, but I hope you can find or make small spaces for it here and there.

And, please, don’t fall into the trap that my pre-ADHD-meds-self used to fall into. Don’t think that you have to finish everything first so you can take a long rest because short ones won’t be ‘worth it.’ Wearing yourself out makes things worse, short rests are helpful, and pushing through tiredness over and over is disheartening.

Here’s your gold star for your efforts to make space and to find rest today, whatever that space and rest might entail – ⭐️

Wishing you ease and self-kindness today and every day.

Here’s Adriene with a short yoga break.:

A Take 5 yoga video from Yoga with Adriene. Still image shows Adriene standing on a grey yoga mat. She is wearing exercise clothes and her upper body is turned toward the camera with her left arm extended behind her and her right arm extended in front of her. Her dog Benji is sleeping next to the mat.

And here’s a short guided meditation. It says it is for intense anxiety but I wasn’t experiencing intense anxiety when I did it. I don’t know if it works for that but it was a lovely practice for someone seeking a little extra ease.

A short meditation from the Mindful Peace YouTube channel. Still image shows abstract flowing shapes, some black and some blue against a white background. Text on the image reads ‘Intense Anxiety Breathing Meditation/Mental Reset.’
fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 27

Part 1: Have you read Diane’s post from earlier today? I love how she has found her own way of making space for herself right now and her plans for making space for herself in the new year.

Diane is sharing a great example of how soemone can create space for themselves on their own terms. She assessed what she needed and what she had available and she found a way to match the two.

Making doesn’t have to be about doing videos or measuring up to anyone else’s standards, it’s about making room in your own life to do the things that soothe you, that fuel your energy, or that give you peace of mind. Diane is doing what she can, with the resources she has, to make the space that she needs in her life.

Go Diane! ⭐️

Part 2: I have been light-heartedly chatting about making space for 27 days now, I know that while making space for myself is a matter of conscious choice/breaking a mental habit for me, that is not the case for everyone.

I recognize that we all have varying capacities/privileges that would allow us to choose how we can make space for ourselves. Perhaps you can’t just decide to do a video or soak in the tub or go outside for a while, but I hope that these posts can help you seek a little breathing room.

Even if the only ‘space’ you have is while you are waiting at the bus stop or in line at the store, I hope you can take a few breaths and allow yourself to pause your planning brain.

I wish I had the power to stop time so you could have the space to find ease. I wish I could wave a wand and make everything less worrying for you.

But since I am sadly lacking in magic powers, all I can offer is the reminder that your needs are valid. The desire for a break, for breathing room, for a little space for yourself is not selfish. It is not something you have to earn by wearing yourself out first.

Offering suggestions for videos seems kind of trite after acknowledging that not everyone has the capacity or privilege to do them but these posts were never about the videos themselves, really.

The videos are there to provide easy access to two kinds of space-making but these posts are truly here to remind you that your needs matter – even when you aren’t always getting those needs met.

If you can’t make space right now, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying hard enough. It probably means that there are too many competing priorities in your life and you have to put yourself and your needs last. I don’t mean for these posts to add to your to do list or to your stress.

I hope that you will have the capacity/ability/privilege to shift things and give yourself space but if you can’t right now, I hope that changes soon. I hope that your few deep breaths here and there can sustain you until you can have the space you need.

And here are some gold stars for your efforts to make space, your efforts to keep going, and your efforts to keep the rest of your life on the rails.

A string of gold star-shaped lights sits on a white surface.
Image description: a string of gold star-shaped lights sits on a white surface.

Here are our videos for today, a cardio warm-up (I especially liked the ones where you reached back overhead) and an anxiety-reducing breathing exercise that has a fun visual. The breathing exercise video has an explanation at the beginning so if you want to jump right to the practice, fast forward to about 2 minutes in.

A five minute full body warm-up from the Fitness by Anouline YouTube channel. Still image shows the Instructor in exercise clothes standing in front of a wall, there are plants to one side.
A breathing exercise video from the Headfulness-Luke Horton YouTube channel. Still image features a cartoon drawing of a light blue whale against a darker blue background and yellow letters that read “Deep Breathing Exercise = 2x The Anxiety Relief?”

I wish you ease and rest today, even if you have to find it a few seconds at a time for right now.

Dancing · fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 26

We’re officially into that weird point of December where no one seems sure what day it is or what’s open or what they are supposed to be doing. And the range of Covid restrictions in various places is amplifying the confusion this year.

All of that adds up to even more reason to try and make some space for yourself – in whichever way works best for you today.

(That’s often the tricky part of making space for ourselves, I find. It’s hard to know what we are going to need from day to day and how much space we’ll require to give ourselves what we need.)

So, I’m just going to remind you that making space for yourself is a valid and important thing to do. You deserve gentle care. You deserve to have room in your own life. You deserve to feel good.

And if feeling good is out of reach right now, then I hope you can find a way to feel as good as possible in your current situation, even if the only space you can create is 10 extra seconds in the bathroom to squeeze your shoulders up by your ears and then let them slowly sink downward again.

Since we are in the in-between and everyone may need different things, I’ve picked out two choices for each video. Relaxing yoga/energizing cardio and meditation for hope/meditation for energy.

I hope you can find what you need today, in these videos or elsewhere.

I wish you ease.

Here’s your star for your efforts. ⭐️

Your hard work counts.

If you need to relax today, this yoga stretch video could be a good place to start.

A 5 Minute Yoga Everyday Stretch video from the Yoga with Bird YouTube channel. Still image shows a person in exercise clothes lying on a white yoga mat in a white room. She is in bridge pose.

If relaxing stretches aren’t your thing today, this fun dance video might be just the movement you need to create some space for yourself.

A wheelchair/chair dance video from the Sit Down AJ YouTube channel. the still image shows a group of people seated on chairs in a classroom/dance studio all in mid-dance.

If you are feeling a bit overdone emotionally today, this guided meditation could help you untie some mental knots.

A 5 minute guided meditation for hope and trust from the Yoga with Manon YouTube channel. Still image shows a person seated cross-legged (in lotus pose) on a purple mat with gold patterns on it), in the background bamboo plants and a small statuette can be seen.

If you are feeling a bit blah and need some mental energy, this next meditation might be the answer.

I was slightly reluctant to post this (quite lovely) meditation because it is labelled for ‘productivity’ and I hate that word. Not everything has to be ‘productive’ and our cultural push for ‘productivity’ is one big reason we need to consciously make space for ourselves instead of being able to let it happen more organically.

However, that being said, it is an enjoyable meditation and is NOT pushing productivity. I feel like that word is in the title to help the video be picked up in searches rather than being part of the channel’s philosophy per se.

So, to be clear, I am definitely not criticizing the channel for putting the word productivity in the title and I am not suggesting that YOU need to be productive. I found this meditation energizing and I hope you do, too.

I hope you find space today, with these videos or in your own way.

Remember: No one else gets to decide what space you need or how you make that space. 💚 you are the boss of you. 😉