Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jan 27th, 2016 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

IN PURSUIT OF WELLNESS, Try Nature’s Soothing Benefits

Montana Hawaii 2010 824When I began working as a counselor, I trusted my instincts as much as my formal education. Work in the arena of trauma was emerging, but well-researched treatment programs had not been developed. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was yet to be defined. In my first job, I worked with victims of rape and spouse abuse, and men returning from combat and no longer coped well with daily life. They suffered from a similar group of symptoms. We held sessions individually and in groups.

Dealing with personal trauma is heart wrenching, it’s intensely intimate, and requires trust and the safety of person and place to bring it out into the light. The first time I suggested we ‘walk and talk’ a young twenty-three-year-old jumped out of his chair and headed to the door before I finished rationalizing my idea. He was comforted by having space to breathe in nature. He later told me how difficult it was for him to discuss emotional issues in a small, confined interview room and he didn’t like having to look directly at me.

After our first outdoor session, each follow-up turned into a walking hour. He slowly became calmer and was able to talk through both his experiences of war and his difficulty with adjustment. It didn’t take long before many of my sessions were held in the park behind the tall building which housed my office.
These courageous men and women taught me therapy can occur in multiple environments. Sitting face to face with a client and discussing intimate issues can be overwhelming. Change and adjustment are difficult. We fight against new ideas or patterns. Our minds and bodies are tied to nature. We are soothed by its familiarity and peace. Its pull is strong. We have not evolved so far away from sleeping and eating patterns synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease when surrounded by nature’s calming and soothing effects. Nature can contribute to our wellness regime, but only if we recognize our need to stay connected and fully appreciate its short and long term benefits.
As a therapist, I was learning and evolving as well. I tried not to use one template and quickly found the unique, beauty of each person. This axiom held true when in marriage counseling. This union was exponentially different from any other………and families……well you get the picture.

I also began to understand the difficulty most people had in seeking out a therapist. Make the appointment, meet a new person, find the office and afford the payments. It only took me ten years, but I started offering programs which focused on developing positive coping mechanisms to deal with everyday hardships. I appreciated the structured system of growth and human development. From personal experience and from watching and hearing clients struggle with similar issues at about the same time, I knew life held a distinct, almost predictable pattern.

We were all destined to pass through seasons of our lives with a variation of the same conflicts and scuffles. Most of which could be endured and overcome with the help of good friends, loving spouses, coaches, therapists or valid information and by acquiring new skills.

I tried out this theory by offering parenting classes during a time when I needed new techniques to best parents my three small children. As a group, we thrived, and our children benefited from our newly acquired skills. By putting women together in a classroom, we were all more open to sharing our difficulties and able to find answers in a caring, empathic atmosphere. AND no one needed to find a therapist.

Within months, I developed a Women’s Wellness Program, a unique concept in 1992. This served to educate and offered support not only from the presenters (now we all had a team of reliable practitioners) but also from each other. I was on to something. Every woman blossomed. During the relationship building segment, one woman bravely told the group, she believes the process of the three days enhanced her marriage and helped her to be a better mother. ALL this came from learning new skills and deciding how to apply them in her life. And by nurturing herself and normalizing her feelings and frustrations.

Today wellness is a concept blurred to suit multiple business functions. It is tossed around with abandon and, therefore, diminished…… my opinion. Wellness is an integration of the many sides of ourselves. Therapists now understand and accept the effects of emotional stress on the body and in the reverse how improper nutrition affect our thinking process ……and …..and ….and ……the list goes on and on. How does a lack of hope determine our daily regime impacting our emotional capacity and our physical health? How does our psychological and relational life change our work life? (notice I made this a statement of fact). Emotions are tricky hen mislabeled or misinterpreted even while they are playing havoc with our mental health and daily decisions. We grow, learn and evolve then must repeat this system in our lives as we meet new and varied challenges. All this sounds exhausting and can for some people seem and an impossible obstacle when brought into the light. Once a wellness program is developed, it can be altered and massaged to comply with your changing needs, but must be initiated and generated in a concrete, systematic manner.


Look at the essential elements of wellness in your life as you begin this new year.
See yourself as a ‘ whole’ person with multiple needs.
Develop your intellect by learning new ways to cope with old patterns.
Ask yourself what does spirituality mean to you in your life?
Determine if you need to move your body, move often, and more vigorously?
Are you feeding your body well?
Are your emotions running away with you?
What are your ‘go to’ coping mechanisms, are they serving your well or destroying personal connections?
Do your primary relationships need a bit more nourishment?
Are you being heard and understood by those who love you best?


Consider the benefits of nature.
Get our of the house or our office.
Breathe fresh air every day.
Walk and Talk with friends instead of having a coffee sitting inside.
Take control of your health, listen to your body and react.
Give each aspect of your wellness effort and energy. When one is neglected the ‘system’ suffers.
Be Kind to yourself, watch your thoughts carefully. If you would never say the things you say to yourself in your mind – Stop It!


Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jul 24th, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Self Regulating

I have pasted an article written by Dr Marilyn Wedge. In this article she comments on the execrated spiraling of the diagnosis of ADHD in the United States. This has been a cause of concern for many years among parents, teachers and providers.
When I reviewed this article I saw two salient points I would ask you to consider:
1. Behavior follows thoughts and ideas. The French have determined changes in the social structure or lifestyle have caused a change in behavioral patterns which manifest themselves in aberrant or maladaptive behaviors in children………..The changes in daily routines change……well almost daily. They see this as a root cause in the on going ADHD debate. As human beings our physical structure changes and adapt but only after a very long time (was the appendix ever useful?). Doesn’t it make sense that change in lifestyle and not a disease of the brain might be causing these maladaptive behaviors. The French are looking at social circumstances and helping children adapt as their young brains grow and learn. This systems allows the maturing brain to develop coping styles and mechanisms which they will take into adolescents and their adult life. Dragon the brain does just that – deals with symptoms and does not permit challenges to be addressed and overcome.
I have always been in this camp. Crisis begets change and if this change is guided, it serves children much better than medications. I would ask you to consider the psycho-social context of a child exhibiting symptoms of ADHD and first ask yourself if these are ‘normal’ obstacles of growth. Then look at the specific and unique needs of your child and helping them work through these normal obstacles of for example sitting still for a time to listen and be respectful to teacher………among others.
2. Parenting has the most extreme challenge of my life. I had to be available constantly even when I wanted to work or relax or attend to my own needs. I also loved my children so much, I wanted to give them everything and learned I had to watch them struggle, I had to set boundaries (cadre) and del with their wrath. I need to learn to give them freedom thing boundaries and not waver.
Please take a few minutes to read this article. Dr Wedge reinforces my belief in the need for children to slow down, have limits and not be bagged and tagged by a system which turns normal childhood angst and struggles into psychiatric pathology. .

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD
French children don’t need medications to control their behavior. Post published by Marilyn Wedge Ph.D. on Mar 08, 2012 in Suffer the Children

In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France?

Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological—psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.

French child psychiatrists don’t use the same system of classification of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists. They do not use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. According to Sociologist Manuel Vallee, the French Federation of Psychiatry developed an alternative classification system as a resistance to the influence of the DSM-3. This alternative was the CFTMEA (Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent), first released in 1983, and updated in 1988 and 2000. The focus of CFTMEA is on identifying and addressing the underlying psychosocial causes of children’s symptoms, not on finding the best pharmacological bandaids with which to mask symptoms.

To the extent that French clinicians are successful at finding and repairing what has gone awry in the child’s social context, fewer children qualify for the ADHD diagnosis. Moreover, the definition of ADHD is not as broad as in the American system, which, in my view, tends to “pathologize” much of what is normal childhood behavior. The DSM specifically does not consider underlying causes. It thus leads clinicians to give the ADHD diagnosis to a much larger number of symptomatic children, while also encouraging them to treat those children with pharmaceuticals.

The French holistic, psychosocial approach also allows for considering nutritional causes for ADHD-type symptoms—specifically the fact that the behavior of some children is worsened after eating foods with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens. Clinicians who work with troubled children in this country—not to mention parents of many ADHD kids—are well aware that dietary interventions can sometimes help a child’s problem. In the U.S., the strict focus on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, however, encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of dietary factors on children’s behavior.

And then, of course, there are the vastly different philosophies of child-rearing in the U.S. and France. These divergent philosophies could account for why French children are generally better-behaved than their American counterparts. Pamela Druckerman highlights the divergent parenting styles in her recent book, Bringing up Bébé. I believe her insights are relevant to a discussion of why French children are not diagnosed with ADHD in anything like the numbers we are seeing in the U.S.

From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means “frame” or “structure.” Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies “cry it out” (for no more than a few minutes of course) if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word “no” rescues children from the “tyranny of their own desires.” And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France. (Author’s note: I am not personally in favor of spanking children).

As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

Copyright © Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D.

Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jul 22nd, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

To Be As Real and Genuine As Possible

Genuine, honest, open people without secondary agenda are a gift. I crave these interactions and seek out this kind of friendship. I also know to attract these people I must endeavor to be and real as I am able: unburdened with fear, self interest, and insecurities. I try, please try with me!

Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jul 19th, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Intrinsic Nature and Reactive Patterns

Anne Klein (another Anne Klein – not so much into shoes) in Across the Expanse writes about understanding and valuing, “Our intrinsic nature and our reactive patterns.” Both have value but only the latter can be altered. Are you satisfied with daily patterns of behavior? Do you understand and accept your intrinsic nature?

Reactive patterns are formed through repetitive acts. I walk to receive stress every day, this has become a reactive pattern. I feel my stomach tense, my jaw tighten and I head for the closet to pull on my walking shoes.

When I am able to walk with someone I trust…….and can speak without filter……the experience is enhanced and meets a need to destress and to connect. #WHW #friendship#wellness#health#psychology


Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jun 25th, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Women By Nature are Communal, Nurturing and Tribal

Women by nature are communal, nurturing and tribal. Challenges require groups to quickly define strengths and weaknesses and allows each person the opportunity to step up into their strengths to be productive. In this way each person is valued and needed. They have a revered place in the tribe. As human beings we seek this out in groups. When we are well led, tended to, cared for, given safety and security,  loyalty is created. Loyalty becomes more embedded after each challenging event.
I am honored to have founded the Women’s Heritage Walk. My role has been to create the challenge and develop an environment which allows for each person to find their contribution.
We all have much more in common than the ways in which we differ. Struggles, adversity and pride know no boundaries. This awareness is also a benefit of training for and completing challenges.
So go for it……….whatever it is and if you are lucky enough to have a ‘tribe’ any adversity will be easier to overcome……if not find your circle of social and emotional support. It enhances your life tremendously.

Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jun 8th, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Genuine Attachments

Is it possible to feel disconnected in a family or within our “tribe?” The answer most certainly is a resounding yes. We can feel alone in a marriage, alone amidst a group of friends, alone in an office filled with co workers. Aloneness is a state of mind determined by our experience and interpretation of the feeling.

As human beings we are hard wired to connect. Are you keeping yourself separate and distant? Have you created situations where you are not approachable? Do you engage others and ask questions about their lives or wait for people to come to you? Are you worthy of friends? (THE all time deeply embedded question – THE answer YES everyone is worthy!)

We spend an enormous amount time trying to decipher genuine attachment. Billions of words, hundreds of thousands of metaphors, journals, magazines, television shows, movies, novels all focused on explaining human connection. There are thousands of scientific studies attempting to fully describe the feeling of connecting to another person at a deep, meaningful, enthralling, intoxicating level.
To attempt to understand our own experience of bonding with others, we must cease the pervasive analysis, dissection and constant comparison to others. Our experiences are as unique to us as we are exponentially unique among the masses.
I cherish friends and try to make them an important part of my life. I find it useless to meet and great dear friends with “How are you.” “Great, how are you?” I really want to say, “Really, how are you today?” and give them the space to tell me. Distance comes in the friendship or in the marriage when they ask and I don’t offer them the truth. I love taking walks with friends and dear ones. It gives us time to talk about more important things spinning around in our heads. Give time to those you love and to those you with whom you want to forge a stronger bond. We all have time for those things we deem important……….if people are important to me, I make time for them and when you don’t make time for me, well – I get the message.

Posted By: Jody Ballard On: May 15th, 2015 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Only Feel Alone When With My Computer

Okay, here it comes! Are you ready to read about what you already know? It might make you a bit uncomfortable, but I am strong and so are you…………here goes.

Loneliness is more pervasive than ever, but how can that be when we have so many “friends”. We spend enormous amounts of time watching people’s lives unfold on Facebook. We know who is pregnant, where people celebrated their birthdays and with whom they vacation, even to the detail of what they had for dinner. These, however, is NOT real meaningful connection. There I wrote it in black and white.

Take the time today to watch yourself. Take note of your daily habits and how much time you spend in front of a screen (big or little in this case really does matter!) An even more frightening exercise would be to watch your children and take note of how much time they spend gazing at a screen and not learning all the social cues required to have personal relationships.

I am not easily shocked but recently had two observations blow my socks off! The first was to watch a young couple sitting next to each other for over an hour. Both never looked in the other’s eyes but were glued to their phones. Yikes, I saw no connection or intimacy in this interaction.
The second was watching a mother and her sister instruct a 1-year-old on how to watch a video at their lunch table. The child kept trying to listen to them, watch and learn from them, and they kept coaching him to look back at the screen. Scary, this caused me to look around in the metro, at cafes, even at high-end restaurants. People on the street plugged into music don’t even acknowledge or greet each other. Everywhere I go I see a rampant human disconnect.

I want to take a quiet stroll with a caring friend and talk about my life (sounds like a scene from a Victorian movie). I need this, I crave it, I insist on it with my friends and family AND when I do I see they appreciate the quiet time as well.

I like to laugh frequently with those I love and even chuckle just watching them laugh. These are gifts of being in proximity to actual human beings. My heart lights up when I hear a friend describe the goofy activities of their beloved child, and alternately I am strong enough to sit with the sadness of friend who has lost a loved one. It connects us to share personally life’s triumphs and defeats.

I don’t feel alone when I allow myself to be open to people. I do, however, feel very alone when it is just me and my computer.


Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Mar 10th, 2014 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Time Flies When You’re to Busy to Notice

09 March 2014

I have decided not to promise I will blog every week because……..well I just can’t seem to get it done.  I do enjoy being in the NOW and this last week I allowed myself to focus only on the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai.

Writing is a solo activity when you are in the creative arena. SO when an extreme extrovert like myself is offered the possibility of speaking on a talk show (after getting make up and hair done just like rock stars!!), doing a live radio show, giving multiple interviews for local newspapers and magazines, not to mention presenting my novel at the Festival’s Women’s Forum, and lecturing at a local school…………… I’m THERE!!

This has been a whirl wind month and I have enjoyed every minute of each day. As I return to a normal routine, I appreciate even more the excitement and encouragement of my circle of support. I do believe in order to succeed AT ANYTHING we need to feel strong, capable, and confident. This ‘stance’ is made easier when you have friends and family who believe in you and continue to place those “Of course you can do this” messages in our brains so when we feel insecure, wobbly, fearful we have voices other than our own to sustain us. It’s Neuro Linguisitic Programming with a loving familiar voice to keep me positive.

Funny, I just hit three of the last sub themes without intending to.  I have been in the now…………I have been sustained by my dear and loving family and friends …………and they helped me to stay positive. It is a great formula.

Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Feb 5th, 2014 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

Reflection / Relationships / Resilience

5 February 2014

Last week I spoke about enjoying the now, the importance of relationships, health, aging and positivity.  I have been inundated with comments about the relationship piece and decided to bla bla blog today about their value and importance in our lives.

Having had the privilege of sitting across from people struggling with relationships for many years, I am without a doubt that we all seek harmony, understanding, love and CONNECTION. It derives from a primal craving located deep in our brain. Research shows men live longer and self report as happier in committed relationships. Women spend GINORMOUS amounts of energy, time and money trying to maintain connection. Relationships are about having your needs met and finding a way to meet the needs of another. They are meant to be passionate, fun, reassuring, safe and warm

However because we are all flawed and so wonderfully imperfect, we are clumsy, awkward, mute or inarticulate when it dealing with our primary relationships. We either don’t know what we want  – no Reflection  – OR are embarrassed, shy, or feel undeserving that we don’t ask for our needs to be met.

I listened to a TED talk by Dr Daniel Siegel (I love this guy!) about the state of education and how to revamp the system.  He spoke of adding an additional 3 Rs to the curriculum;  Reflection, Relationship and Resilience.  Can you imagine how learning these skills and abilities would enhance our lives!!  Sometimes the only Relationship advise we get is watching our parents navigate through their married lives. In some homes this can be a great education, but in others it can be very negative; fraught with yelling, name calling, caustic hurtful non verbal messages or looks that could kill. Worse even are hours or days of tension when everyone knows something is going very wrong, the children try to redirect or take the blame on themselves, or fake harmony. Resilience means hanging in there, finding the hutzpa not to give up and hold on while trying to figure it out.  It requires effort and courage to spring back into shape, to have and to hold through sickness and in health………shall we add through disheartened fights, shattered illusions, disappointments, disillusionment, lonely nights and multiples changes, not to mention job loss, parental challenges etc etc etc (otherwise known as life) ……….what is the divorce rate now in the US?

I was asked to offer a recipe to include in a book for newlyweds.  I decided to offer a recipe below, enjoy:

Recipe For a Long, Happy, Passionate Marriage

  1. Constant Infusions of loving kindness
  2. Heaps of forgiveness
  3. Marinate in passion, foreplay happens all day…..i.e an I miss you phone call
  4. Inject unlimited amounts of laughter often
  5. Daily compromise, but only when it comes from both sides
  6. Immerse in fairness and equality even in differences
  7. Dashes of support from those who love you almost as much as your spouse
  8. Occasional, “How are we doing as a couple discussions. Know your partners needs as intimately as your own. Update frequently as they change over the years.
  9. Permeate with Resilience
  10. Be creative in keeping your loved one’s eyes on you
Posted By: Jody Ballard On: Jan 27th, 2014 In: Uncategorized Comments: 0

My Most Enduring Truths

27 January 2014  NOW THAT WAS F-U-N!!  Sort of, well at a minimum it was educational in so many ways that it became F-U-N.

This adventure to the Wahibi Sands of Oman taught me many lessons. The first being to stay in the moment; a lesson I have learned and relearned throughout my life. The training and the anticipation had been as much fun as the walk and I skipped right over that.  I know that living in the NOW contributes to my well being and happiness, but it is difficult to stay in the now when preparing for an event in the future. So I embrace AGAIN this vital truth.

I was reminded from the team the essential PRIMAL craving within us all for CONNECTION and how families in all their imperfections meet our needs PERFECTLY. I am trying to embrace those things which bring me closer to those I love and let go and leave behind those ideas, thoughts and feelings which cause me to disengage.  Forgiveness is an essential vehicle in this process.

I was reminded that the strength of my mind can overcome the weaknesses of my body. As I age, my body had appeared to be failing me and I accepted this as a natural process.  I am happy to know I can push my body to STILL perform and hope by doing this it will remain as strong as possible and not be the reason I stagnate and forgo the pleasures of sport.  Remaining active in life is critical to maintaining the lifestyle I envision for myself.  “You can’ t be a sissy to grow old,” my grandmother would remind us.  She also told us to, “Laugh and laugh and laugh, it helps the process.” Humor was her best medicine.

I struggled to keep my mind positive and not focus on the aches and pains which come with a more extreme endeavor ——-  I recall thinking dang, “Daily life can seem like an extreme endeavor from time to time.” I hope to be able to take my mind away from the petty, inconsequential, tedious and sometimes hurtful minutia and remained focused on trying to be my better self.  All these ideas flooded my mind and I knew they were my most enduring truths.

My better self?  Well, she is kind, thoughtful, understanding, connected at the heart to those dear and even those not so dear. She is healthy, strong, joyful, forgiving, determined, persistent and never takes herself to seriously.   She is never all these things at once. When she fails, she tries to laugh at herself from her belly.

On this trek I heard the voice of a friend I was with on a long trek in the mountains around Garmisch. Dean Reed would grin and remind us all, “No whining allowed, just keep moving!”  She thought she was being funny – and she was – I thought she was just wise.