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The mind is like a puppy; it likes to wander. And when it’s allowed to wander, it gets into lots of trouble. If you don’t train a puppy to follow your command, he’ll do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants. Your mind will too. If you aren’t in control of your mind, you’re mind is in control of you…and this is a very. bad. thing. 


When the mind is left to it’s own devices, without our true selves being in charge, it will automatically gravitate toward the negative, ruminate on the past, obsess over the future, and tell irrational stories disguised as the truth. The mind is a brilliant tool and can do incredible things when we use it as such. We can use the mind to problem solve, analyze complex situations, make important decisions, and create cutting edge innovations. But we must know when to calm our minds down and put them to rest. Here’s an example of what I mean:


Say you want to hang a picture on the wall. You grab a hammer from your tool box and use it to drive the nails into the wall. Then you put the hammer away. The mind should be used in this way too; it should be used as a tool and then set down when the job is completed. However, we often don’t use our minds like this. We allow our minds to be engaged ALL THE TIME! It’s like carrying around that hammer and randomly hitting walls with it, even after we’ve hung the picture.  It’s completely useless and sometimes destructive. If we don’t “put our minds back in the tool box”, we can experience that same type of destruction in our own lives. The mind can work against us if we let it. And if our mind isn’t “trained”, it will get into just as much trouble as that untrained puppy. 




These are all emotions we commonly feel and none of them are all that pleasant. Our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings influence our behavior. If you want to change the way you FEEL and BEHAVE, you absolutely have to change the way you THINK. You have to take control of your mind so it doesn’t take control of you….and make you feel like crap. But before you can change the way you think, you have to figure out HOW you’re thinking NOW. 


What thoughts enter your mind on a regularly basis? Are they mostly positive or negative? Are they mostly about the past, present, or future? What’s the tone and feel of your self talk? Are you typically kind, supportive, and encouraging with yourself or are you skeptical, harsh, and judgmental? We can’t control the thoughts that enter our minds-those are automatic. But we can CHOOSE WHICH THOUGHTS TO PAY ATTENTION TO. (This is part of “training your brain”.)


A thought is just a thought unless you feed it with your ATTENTION and ACTION. If you don’t feed the thought, it will die. It will cease to exist and simply fade away. If you feed the thought, it comes alive, it takes form, it grows. Therefore, you want to be very careful about which thoughts you choose to feed. Once you master the ability to choose which thoughts you pay attention to, you free yourself of needless suffering because you refuse to feed the negative thoughts that enter your mind. As a result, all negativity dies and your life is one of positivity, hope, and joy. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE YOUR THOUGHTS….claim that power and put your mind in it’s place. 


The best way to “train your brain” is through MINDFULNESS PRACTICE. Mindfulness is “informal meditation” and is simply the act of noticing and observing without attaching judgement. Take a few moments to practice tapping into your senses. In this very moment, what are you hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, or smelling? Bring your focus of attention to the present moment and observe your surroundings without labeling them as good, bad, happy, or sad. Just notice. As you do this, your mind might try to wander (after all, it’s like a puppy and that’s just what it’s inclined to do). That’s ok. Expect that to happen. When it does, lovingly and gently guide your mind back to what you were focusing on. We don’t whip and punish the puppy when it wanders off….we kindly guide it back. Do the same with your mind. 


By practicing mindfulness in this way (there’s about a million different ways to be mindful and this is just one example) you’re actively training your mind to work for you as a tool. You’re actively taking control over your mind so it doesn’t have power over you anymore. You’re developing the ability to choose your thoughts, and thus choose your feelings and your behaviors. You’re gaining a deep sense of control over yourself, and with practice and time, you’ll eventually be able to feel and behave however you want at any given moment. Once you achieve this ability, you will reach your full potential and you’ll experience ultimate freedom from suffering. (Kinda sounds worth the effort, doesn’t it?)


PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS (notice I didn’t say “practice makes perfect”). When it comes to training your mind with mindfulness, consistency is key. You have to practice…everyday. Mindfulness practice is convenient though because you can do it anytime, anywhere, and no one even has to know you’re doing it. You can practice mindfulness for just a couple minutes, a few times throughout during a day. The results are worth it. Practicing mindfulness will bring you into the present moment, which is the best place to live. Here’s a saying I’m in love with because of it’s supreme truth:


“If you’re living in the past, you’re depressed. If you’re living in the future, you’re anxious. If you’re living in the present, you’re content.”


Put you’re mind in it’s place by not “feeding the thoughts” that focus on the past or the future. Exercise your power and only feed the thoughts of the present, the here and now. If you do choose to think about the past or future, choose your thoughts carefully and use you’re mind as a tool. Once you’re done, put the mind “back it it’s toolbox” by quieting it down with some mindfulness practice that will reposition you in the present. 


Much of my clinical practice centers around training the mind and using meditation and mindfulness practice to help you reach your full potential and live a happy life. If you’d like to know more about these areas of my work, I’d love to talk with you more. Send me a message on our contact page or write a comment beside our blog. 




Nicole C. Iacovoni earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Denver. Through her vast experience working in the mental health field and her own personal self growth work, Nicole has developed valuable skills and tools for enhanced self awareness, self care, and improved relationships. Her passion and life’s work is to help women overcome life’s many challenges, become the best version of themselves, and live the lives they envision. She currently serves as the Founder and Executive Clinician at Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling in Bloomsburg, PA.


Confessions 101:  I don’t eat perfectly.  I often use microwavable vegetables.  I don’t make every meal from scratch and sometimes I even pass up the organic lettuce because it’s too expensive.  I am, however, confident in my ability to let my body lead me towards optimal health as I grow and change.  I have also learned that perfection is not necessary and, in fact, can be a road-block when trying to change your diet.  


Heart disease is the deadliest disease in America, but there are ways to prevent and reserve it. If you think of bland, boring, and restrictive when you hear “heart healthy,” you are not alone.  I know that a heart healthy diet doesn’t have to be these things, but my brain goes to the same place when I see this health claim.  I want to challenge you to think outside the box, follow a few simple guidelines, and allow your body to lead you to the diet that is best for you.  Don’t expect your food to be perfect.  It’s just like our lives:  messy, complicated, but also beautiful and amazing.  


The most important components to a heart healthy diet are as follows: reduce dietary fat (especially animal fat) and avoid the engineered “low-fat” or “nonfat” foods, eat a plant based diet, and reduce stress.  Not everyone tolerates a meat-free diet, but you can still be healthy if you make better meat selections and reduce your intake.  Stress reduction...we all seem to need it, most of us seek it, yet we seem to be failing miserably at achieving it. 


Let’s start simple.  If you follow these three guidelines to get started, you will create a great foundation in developing a diet good for you and your heart.  




Translation...bad fats are the trans-fats most commonly found in hydrogenated oils and are found in baked goods, snack crackers, cookies, pie crusts, cakes, and margarine.  These raise your bad cholesterol (LDL’s) and lower your good cholesterol (HDL’s) increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.  Animal fat should also be reduced as it can also be harmful.  Good fats include both saturated and unsaturated fats, but are plant-based so they act differently in your body.  These include avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, chia seeds, fish, and walnuts. 


We need fat for many chemical reactions in our body.  Dietary fat does not necessarily translate to fat on the body.  It’s all about what kind of fat you choose.  Avoid low-fat and nonfat dairy and other processed food.  It is highly processed and often higher in sugar as a result of taking the fat out.  If you bake, the best choice is regular organic butter, used sparingly.  Most vegetable oils become rancid if left out and typically contain these trans-fats because they are easy and inexpensive to manufacture.  If you simply cannot eliminate animal fats, try to limit your intake to one serving per day (about the size of your fist), and spring for the grass-fed pasture raised variety.  It’s worth the investment.




Scour the grocery stores today and you will find predominantly “food product.”  These engineered creations contain ingredients that typically include chemical additives, added sugar, added salt, preservatives, artificial coloring, and artificial sweeteners.  We are intended and designed to eat natural whole foods.  If you are unfamiliar with what a whole food is, they contain only one ingredient.  They are ingredients that come directly from the source with no processing.  Aristotle put it brilliantly when he said, “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.”  We are a country obsessed with supplements and we love to concentrate every nutrient we come across, promise people it will solve all their problems, and pack it up in a bottle.  There are some instances where this may be beneficial, but we absorb nutrients from actual food much better, not to mention you can have serious adverse reactions to taking nutrients in excess.  Follow the “5 or less rule”:  if there are more than five ingredients (not counting vegetables or fruit ingredients that you can recognize) it’s probably better to pass it up, especially if you cannot pronounce the ingredients.  




Like I said before, we all need it, most of us seek it, but few of us achieve it in a beneficial way.  However, the cost is great.  Chronic stress can lead to a slew of health problems including heart disease.  When you initiate the relaxation response appropriately, you shift from your sympathetic nervous system to your parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest.”  A few examples of activities that can initiate this response are cardiovascular exercise, deep breathing, yoga and massage therapy, and meditation, but it can be anything that allows you to take a break from the mind and squeeze out some of those feel good endorphins.  This will help you sleep better, have more patience with your family, improve immunity, and improve overall life satisfaction and joy.  Who doesn’t want more joy?


In summary, the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to adapt a primarily vegetarian plant-based diet, incorporate healthy fats and get rid of the unhealthy fats, and practice a healthy dose of relaxation.  The Dean Ornish study proved this by placing patients with heart disease on this type of diet while incorporating exercise and relaxation therapies.  These patients got off their medications and most were able to completely reverse their disease.  Proof: it’s not too late!  Our bodies will heal themselves if we give them a chance.  Start with these guidelines and take care in knowing your heart will thank you for it.  You are worth it, you deserve it, and you CAN do it!  






Shawn Clavelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of Vermont. She earned her certification in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Shawn’s vast clinical experience and knowledge of the healthcare system makes her proficient at helping others design their own treatment plan through structured goal setting and continuous evaluation of progress. Using a holistic approach with a focus on nutrition, she helps uncover the obstacles to good health and provides simple options for making better lifestyle choices.  


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