True Freedom


Freedom involves letting go. The Buddha said, "In the end, these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?" 

But how does one do this? Here are some ideas:

Detach from outcome and focus on the process. Trust in the greater plan for your life and trust that things unfold over time as they should. Skip the urge to jump to the end of the story by enjoying the present moment.

Understand that the life you thought you would have may not be the life you will actually have. Many of us have a concept of who we are and how we think our life is going to go. The more we live, the more we learn that things don't always go as planned. Practice gratitude and trust in the process.

Don't hang your hat on expectations because this often leads to disappointment. Expectations have a way of keeping us in relationships or situations far too long. When our expectations or needs are not met, we need to take note, respond assertively and appropriately, and be flexible enough to change course if need be.

Break the limitations you've created for yourself. We all have self-limiting beliefs, i.e., "I could never do that!" If you believe it, you won't. Open your mind and allow more flow into your life.

Relinquish control over others. We only truly have control over our own thoughts, behaviors, choices, actions and decisions. Don't expend time and energy spinning your wheels on trying to change others.

Separate yourself from attachment the external world (possessions, beauty, titles, money, status, situation, etc.) Bring your attention to the internal, deeper, psycho-spiritual-relational process within. This will bring you peace, calm and serenity. When we focus on externals, enough is never enough.

Stop worrying about what other people think and commit to it as a way of life. While hanging onto your morale compass, free yourself from being consumed or controlled by the opinions of others. Choose to care more about how you feel about yourself than whether or not your neighbor approves. We are our happiest when we live our lives in a way that is aligned with our authentic selves.

Free yourself from toxic relationships. Assess your support network and have the courage to shift boundaries or even terminate relationships that are not good for you. Create space in your life for new and healthy relationships.

Exercise self-compassion. Did something you’re not happy with? Made a mistake? Join the club. We are human. Stop the self-flagellation and cut yourself some slack. Use the experience to learn and then move on.

Practice acceptance. Stop second-guessing the past. Cease wishing things were now the way they were once. Remove "shoulda, coulda, woulda" from your vocabulary. All things happen for a reason. Bring your attention to the present moment, for that is where life occurs.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504

The Wisdom Of the Seasons Help Us Transform


Think of the Seasons as a metaphor for the phases of any life transition journey. If we see change as a naturally occurring event - much like the change of seasons - then we can embrace change as a gift and an invitation to improve and enhance our lives. Butterflies also remind us to never be afraid of spreading our wings (having dreams) and flying as high as we can (achieving those dreams and not limiting ourselves.) They aren’t just pretty creatures, they’re also a great reminder of what matters most in life and what true beauty means.

Currently we are between Winter Solstice (Catching Sparks of Hope in the Darkness) and Late Winter (Exploring and Experimenting to Firm Up Your Vision for the Future).

During your Winter Solstice time and beyond, focus your attention on:

• Turning things upside down to look at your life from new perspectives
• Drawing a line in the sand and saying "enough is enough"
• Telling a new story about your past to find new doors to the future

At the same time, do what you can to avoid these detours:
• Avoiding your quiet time
• Being in a toxic environment
• Being wedded to one solution

While you are in Late Winter moving towards Spring, focus your attention on:

• Following your insights wherever they take you
• Clearing out the old in your space, your to-do list, your relationships, and your mind
• Experimenting and exploring to firm up your vision for the future

At the same time, do what you can to avoid these detours:
• Ignoring your insights
• Doing what you've always done because it's more comfortable than stretching
• Charging ahead without a sense of where you are going

 Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504

Letting Go Of the Reigns in Relationship


We all have our own particular way of doing things, but there's a fine line between being particular and being controlling. If you’re a controlling person, it's likely you're sabotaging your own relationships. What's even worse is that being a controlling person can take a toll on your partner's self-esteem. It can weaken your trust and interfere with communication. All these elements are essential for a healthy relationship.

If you're doing any of the behaviors in your relationship, it's likely that if you don't loosen up the reigns, your love story could be over sooner than you’d imagine.

 ·      Telling your partner who they can or can’t be friends with

·      Telling/suggesting to your partner what to wear on a regular basis

·      Having consistently high expectations of your partner

·      Controlling/not trusting interactions with others, i.e. looking at partners phone texts/calls

·      Controlling your partner’s time to be with you and only you

·      Making all or most of the decisions within the relationship and not consulting with partner

·      Expecting that your wants and needs consistently come first in the relationship

·      Asking partner to constantly change, adjust, and sacrifice in order to please you.

·      Dictating your partner’s future, i.e. career choices

·      Believing that you have the right to have sex and your desires are the default

·      Using anger and negativity to manipulate by getting your way

Remember, relationships are about enhancing your life, not about taking away identity, or freedom. As a loving, supportive partner, your relationship will be everlasting when your love's sense of self and their sense of control over their own lives is fostered and nurtured within the confines of the relationship. And ultimately, your ability to “let go” is real freedom for you too.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504

In Rough Times, Spiritual Practice Is A Grounding Force


When times are tough, we need healing, rejuvenation, nourishment, and sustenance on every level or else the despair and anxiety that arises will grow instead of being neutralized. We need periods of silence to counter the incessant noise. We need some inner peace as a barrier to the dark energies that loom around us. We need a comfort zone at the center of our being to anchor us against the winds of rancor and rage. Spiritual practice can be a salve during turbulent times. Whatever that means to you - prayer, meditation, a walk in the woods, let the solace within guide you on a steady path.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504



There's a lot of talk about love and light in the spiritual world, but to feel that love and light, we need to heal the deepest parts of ourselves, the parts we may consider undesirable. By doing shadow work, we move into our authentic, loving true Selves, the part of us that truly knows and is of the light.

The shadow is a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung, and it refers to our deepest wounds. The wounds that have us believing we're flawed, unlovable, and undeserving.

These wounds are often created during childhood and can sometimes develop later in life. Perhaps you were bullied or experienced traumatic life events that created wounds. Other times, these wounds are cultural/familial. They develop from prevailing societal beliefs, such as the way money is tied to self-worth. And lastly, they can be from the deepest of places – ancestral. These are beliefs that are passed down through one’s ancestral line through DNA, epigenetically.

When left unnoticed and unattended, these wounds continue to fester, leading us to live from this place of unhealth and deficiency. Doing shadow work allows us live from a place of wholeness and expansion. We stop interpreting interactions from the lens of the wounded self. We understand that most things in life are not about us, but about the people who are acting unconsciously from their own unhealed wounds.

The shadow, by nature, is subconscious, and identifying it can be tricky. It's such an integral part of our psyche that it can be difficult to notice. We actually believe that our unhealthy thoughts are true!

Because these beliefs are so ingrained within our minds, this also makes healing them a bit challenging. The first step is to become aware of ongoing patterns in your life. Do you consistently encounter the same problems or experience recurring thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are negative? These patterns help to highlight the shadow.

Common shadow beliefs include:

  • I am not good enough.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I am flawed.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My feelings are not valid.
  • I must take care of everyone around me (because I was never nurtured as a child).
  • I am not normal.

Once aware that you’re falling into the same negative pattern, then you can find ways to let it go, by first asking yourself:

What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this? Then stop, breathe and wait for answers. They may not come right away, and that's okay. Sometimes answers need time and space to arise. Don't force answers because they might be the wrong ones, ones from your ego and not the soul. Soul work happens on its own timeline, not a human timeline. So be patient and know that in time, the answers will come.

Once you become aware of shadow beliefs that are keeping you from living in your highest good, you can consciously change your behavior and, in doing so, change your life. Each discomfort becomes an opportunity to investigate more fully, to learn more about yourself, and heal on an increasingly deep level.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Water Element Has a Message For You


The ancients had a profound understanding of emotions and characteristics. They noticed human nature reflected in the four principle forces of nature; earth, air, fire, and water. In their wisdom, they attributed personality traits and emotions to each of the elements to help students of life to understand the conscious mind.

With the element of water, it is fluid and adaptable and dictates one’s ability to manage any given situation. This is often referred to as going with the flow. In ancient China and India, the element of water was said to be the "Chi" energy that flows throughout the body. This energy is able to be directed through exercises such as Tai Chi and yoga, as well as healing modalities like acupuncture.

The element of water tests our ability to be fluid. When we are in right alignment with water, then we are able to adapt more readily to any given situation, small or large, slightly frustrating or largely challenging.

To work with water, learn to understand how water flows as it takes on many different mutations. It can flow gently down a stream, or tumble in a rage along a river. The sea rolls gently against the shore, or violently crashes against the rocks. Here we are able to see the metaphorical wisdom, the yin-yang expression of duality in the nature of water – everything that exists has a polar opposite. Sometimes we must be more forceful, other times quiet and gentle; and then everything in between. All serve us depending on the circumstance.

Water is also adaptable. Water put it in a vessel such as a jug or a bottle, changes shape and fits perfectly to the form of the vessel. Again, we can identify with water’s properties when we are moving through our life journey, seeing the symbolism of how we can adapt to any given situation – just like water.

Water has been traditionally used in ceremony for cleansing and clearing. Ancient and present- day shamans and priests pray for and utilize water to wash away sins, concerns and difficult situations. The next time you take a bath or shower, make an intention. As the water washes over you, honor the water by asking for it to cleanse and clear you, and to bring you the ability to flow more easily throughout your day. The more that we can be in harmony with Nature’s elements, the more that we will see life working with us in our favor.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

The Power is Always Within Us


Last year, when the film Wonder Woman came out, it was a hit for many reasons. But mostly, perhaps, because we are at a place in time that we know that we have to make big changes in our human consciousness in order to survive. The film’s message reminded us that we have the power to move out of a patriarchal paradigm, that no longer serves us, into the more feminine principle that encourages spiritual empowerment, nurturance and love.

According to ancient spiritual texts, we are in the midst of a major change on planet earth. It's a natural cycle in the universe that enables all of us human beings to potentially reach a higher state of consciousness. Our beautiful earth and cosmos is always here to assist us on this path of evolution so that we can become a more consciously connected species – connected to all things.  This is our true nature.

We have been witnessing globally great disturbances and tragedies, our personal boundaries have been pushed, personal freedom and rights have been stripped, and there has been a rise in fear and anxiety-based thought and action. While this can feel quite overwhelming and scary, it is a natural process as we are shifting and the forces of light and dark are working it out.

We have to remember that we are all spiritually connected and that each of us individually can help the collective consciousness. Every one of us is able to reinforce inner love and strength and by doing so has a positive influence on all humanity. It is now or never to be like Wonder Woman and choose love. If we were created in the image of God/Spirit/Creator/Universe then we too have amazing abilities dormant inside of us. We have the ability to choose to become a co-creator with Universal love, free ourselves from fear and manifest for the betterment of all beings.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Shallow Living: An Occasional Visit on the Way to a Deeper Purpose


Here in the States, we’ve become a culture that looks more and more outside of ourselves to “know” who we are. Social media hasn’t really helped us work through this skewed value system. In fact, in 2017 research by First Choice revealed that more than three-quarters of today’s youth would like a career in online videos as YouTubers/bloggers/vloggers, according to a survey of 1,000 children aged 6 to 17. The top reasons being: creativity, fame, self-expression, money, connecting cool people, recognition, travel. While it’s good to access one’s own creative nature and self-expression, it seems to be at the expense of altruism, service to others and a greater, deeper purpose.

The problem with such superficial goals is that they don’t really hold up over time. No matter how hard we may work to seem successful, to show how “perfect” everything seems from the outside, something will still be missing. That’s because approaching life from the “outside-in”, one can never really fill-up. You will constantly be chasing that next new thing, thinking it’s going to be the thing that makes you more happy, more successful, more wealthy, etc.

Approaching life from the position of “inside-out”, though, is quite different. This is the place where you slow down and take a moment to reflect about yourself and the world. It’s the time when you look outside of the box to see the truth of what is, not some prescribed script of a societal norm. But how do you get to that higher place within Self? How do you begin to transform from being focused on the external world to your authentic inner Self?

Transformational practices will bring you closer in to a deeper existence. They can take many forms. These include consistent contemplative practices like meditation and yoga, somatic therapies, time in nature, creative arts, healing ceremonies and ritual, devotional prayer, and non-violent martial arts, like tai chi and aikido. These practices embody the virtues of compassion, loving-kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, altruism, honesty, and joy, seeing the bigger picture and being connected to a higher divine force.

As we begin to take on these practices, we begin to challenge the long-held belief systems. This new way of seeing outside of the status-quo and stagnation, can bring up some challenging feelings. It may feel like a big risk, but then anything that is worth moving us out of the safe zone and transforming our lives in the highest good, always is.

Mostly, whenever we step outside the familiar, and the comfortable, we take a healthy step forward. Letting go of the old self as the new one emerges, is truly part of the cycle of life. We weren’t meant to play it safe and constantly be distracted in an artificial world. That’s not why we are here. We are meant to grow bigger and grander within the divine Light through the deeper exploration of and healing of Self. This is a risk worth taking, don’t you think?

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Leave It To Beaver Medicine


Beavers are ingenious builders, constructing huge dams that can change the course of entire rivers and creating new tributaries that bring water to nature areas that are in need of nourishment. Beaver is a primary aspect of keeping our ecosystems in checks and balances. Her association with water makes Beaver an analogy for our ability to build our own dreams to come true. Beaver tells us to build on them as if the dream is already real. Change the course of how things flow in our lives by bringing organization and structure in meeting goals, and thus coaxing our dreams into physical reality.

Beaver represents hard work. The dams that Beaver builds are sometimes eight feet tall and span across entire bodies of water. This kind of accomplishment doesn't happen overnight, nor does it happen by just wishing it to completion. Beaver’s message is, “you must commit to and work diligently towards your goal, otherwise it will not come to fruition.” But within the hard work, Beaver still finds balance in her life and is flexible with how the course runs. Beaver does not ignore spending time with family and commits to building friendships as well. Despite Beaver’s high motivation toward goal-keeping, she knows when to have fun and when to rest.

When we pay attention to Beaver's behavior and characteristics, we can compare or associate those features to our own behavior. By doing so, we can match up, mimic, or employ beaver qualities in our own lives with a goal to stimulate natural and lasting solutions for ourselves. For example, if we are "stuck" in our lives, a little meditation on Beaver Medicine may show us how to "chew" through the barrier on our path. Working with animal meanings and animal totems also helps us move into a natural cycle of life, which is always an excellent guide to finding solutions.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Letting Go of Ego by Cultivating Beginner's Mind


Years ago, when I was in med school, I was a companion to an elderly woman named Flo. She lived with her daughter, due to her having dementia and not able to fully take care of herself. I would come to their house a few days a week and make lunch or dinner for her as well as keep her company when her daughter was at work. One of things I enjoyed about my visits with Flo was that she had wonderful stories to tell me about her life living in the West from the early-mid 20th Century and beyond.

Flo’s short-term memory was quite compromised, but her long-term memory was excellent and she loved to talk about her early days. I heard about her adventures with her sisters driving their Packard car to national parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, to go camping in the 1920s. She talked about the early days of skiing on Mt. Hood before there were lifts - having to hike up the mountain to ski down and then do it all over again. Flo introduced me the world of archeology when she was part of an archeological team led by a professor of archeology in the 30s and 40s, digging for prehistoric fossils and bones in eastern Oregon. I heard about her beloved Forest Ranger husband, who “never knew a stranger” and tales of their time living in a cabin on Mt. Hood. And yet, she could never remember my name in all the months that I was visiting her.

While I loved to hear her stories, I began to hear them over and over again as she thought she was telling them to me for the first time. Flo seemed to gain so much pleasure from talking about her adventuresome past, that I didn’t want to inhibit that process by stopping her from telling me or reacting indifferently towards her. I decided that I would be a little more creative in the way that I listened and asked her questions, as if I was hearing the stories for the very first time.

I decided that I would approach her with a kind of curiosity and wonder that a child has when they are learning something new. Patiently, I would ask her new and different questions that might allow her to remember and add new information to her accounts. In staying open to this process of hearing her stories as if they were fresh and new, I learned a good deal about myself. I learned what it was like to be in Beginner’s Mind and I was happy to be there.

Beginner’s Mind or Shoshin is a concept derived from Zen Buddhism, where everything is seen from a spirit of newness, openness with no preconceptions even when one knows the information well. It is a way to develop being present in each moment.

In this state of mind, we are:

  • Free of preconceptions of how anything works
  • Free of expectations about what will happen
  • Filled with curiosity to understand things more deeply
  • Open to a world of possibilities, since you don’t yet know what is or isn’t possible

Experience is indeed a wonderful thing. It often helps us do things at a higher level. But knowledge and understanding of how things work can prevent us from seeing clearly what’s in front of us. And most importantly, we may miss something new and important about ourselves and others, because we think we’ve got it all figured out.

The benefits of Beginner’s Mind cuts across many factors of life, and contributes to a deeper appreciation for everything, as we let go of outcomes and live in the moment. This way of being allows us to connect with our deeper creative selves – being in the flow and seeing with new eyes. Everything becomes more intentional; there is greater clarity, curiosity and wonderment which leads us to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been considered before.

When we are in a place of knowing and predicting everything, we are in Egoic Mind or Lower Self. The Ego is many things, but mainly, it is the thing that holds us back. It is both the part of us that says “I’m not good enough” and the part of us that says, “I’m better than.” It represents imbalance, insecurity and fear.

The True or Higher Self is the counter force to Ego. It is everything about you that is grounded, balanced, peaceful and loving. When you’re in Beginner’s Mind there is more opportunity to stay out of Ego. It helps us to notice when Egoic Mind sneaks in and then allows us the ability to overcome it more readily.

How does one cultivate Beginner’s Mind?

Take time to question your expectations or assumptions about things. Staying out of critical and judgmental attitudes keeps you in a lower mind state. Thinking that you are an expert and that there is nothing left to learn keeps you in Ego. These are ways that Ego likes to sabotage and protect itself by knowing things and being right. Noticing and then pausing before going down the rabbit hole of old patterns and biases is quite helpful. It’s important to keep in mind: Can you absolutely know that it is true? Can you absolutely know that you have all the answers? What would happen if you stayed open to all possibilities and to a fresh way of seeing things?

Being curious like a child, not assuming anything helps bring your perspective back to Beginner’s Mind. Allowing yourself to be fully present in each moment and with each experience at hand keeps you authentically in your Higher Self. Open your senses to what you’re experiencing, as if you’d never experienced it before.

Finally, Meditation is a very effective tool to practice seeing with clarity and non-judgement. When you practice the observation of your thoughts, emotions and sensations, moment to moment without judgement, then you are more aware of your expectations, biases, and assumptions. It is in this awareness that you can let go, return to your breath over and over. Here you are reminded that each new breath is a new beginning and that there are limitless breaths and possibilities. This is what cultivates Beginner’s Mind.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Live In The Now and Life Will Support You


Do your thoughts often dwell on the past?

If you find that you are clinging to a specific period from your past because you don’t feel there is much in the present that feels good to you, and if thinking about the past brings up feelings of sadness, regret or disappointment, you may be stuck in the past.

Living in the past is problematic because it robs you of the opportunity to enjoy the present. If you aren’t accepting of where you are, living in the past won’t help! Living in the past allows you to avoid dealing with issues in the present.

While some people live in the past because they don’t want to deal with the present, others live in the past for fear of what may come in the future. Just like watching that favorite old sitcom you’ve seen 100 times, looking back on your life doesn’t bring any surprises. Even if some of the past isn’t good, it is, at least, predictable.

Ultimately, the best thing you can ever do for your life is to be here right now. Take this moment to realize that you have already arrived. You are not dwelling in the past or running ahead to the future! Your reality is now.

Don’t hide from it; embrace it, live it, love it! It doesn’t matter if you are afraid or worried by what is currently in your present; stop running from it now, acknowledge it and work through it, and it will never become a part of your future.

Ask yourself, what have you been running from this entire time? Open your eyes to it today and allow yourself to feel the sadness, fear and anxiety that you have long been avoiding. It is only when we finally face up to our demons that their hold over us lessens.

Feel the life and the fullness of right now. Remember how the old saying goes ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery. Today is a gift.’ It is futile trying to discover what tomorrow can hold for us, after all, tomorrow may never come at all. All that we have is today and we can celebrate this by making it the very best that it can be.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

You’re Unique. It’s Time to Own It!


How many of us were told that we couldn’t or shouldn’t dance to our own music? It’s important to ask yourself: Are you making life choices based on your own wants, beliefs, and values? Or are you living a life based on the expectations of others and/or societal values?

Finding your own unique rhythm can take time and involve a lot of trial and error. Being in touch with what you want and what matters to you helps you plan the path forward, make goals and ultimately get where you want to go. Discover what is true for you by asking yourself the following questions: What really lights me up? What are my passions? What matters most to me? From here you can find real purpose and personal power – your own brand of music that will fulfill you from the inside out.

Find it, claim it, express it, and live it. Never give up on yourself. You are who you are. Make the commitment, honor it and use it in it’s highest good. From here, there is movement toward self-realization and transcendent goals in life. You will be divinely supported for your efforts.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Lighting Our Own Path


Yes, we are in unsettling times.

It is in these times that we most need to understand that the Light we so desperately seek is always within us, even when we can’t seem to find it. More importantly, we will never find it by looking outside of ourselves, because it is not there. What we seek on the outside is always a reflection of what we are focused on within ourselves.

The key to getting to this “en-lightened” state lies in changing our internal belief patterns and how we view ourselves and everything else. When we believe we are ill, broken, not worthy, not lovable, we are creating that reality. We unknowingly disallow the Light that is inherent in each and every one of us. And because of that, we negate our true power and well-being.

It is most important not to push away the negative thoughts, feelings and experiences, not to run away from them, but to realize that within them, within what appears to be darkness, there is great Light. We find the Light within whatever difficult situation we are in; asking ourselves - where is the seed in this seemingly negative situation that can be brought to a greater revelation of Light? It is from this place, that we have a vast opportunity to learn and grow.

While life-challenging experiences may change us, deep inside there is always that shining seed of self, the blueprint of who we truly are, guaranteeing the possibility of renewal.

Experiencing dark times allows the space for something else, something of more value to take root within. Wisdom can then reign over bitterness. When everything else has been taken away, there is an opportunity to mend the pieces that are left or to stay in the darkness. Moving towards a place of wholeness and sense of empowerment that can ignite a personal transformation.

An open mind and an open heart is the illuminating key. Working towards generating gratitude and serenity, even while suffering, directs us in our highest place of goodness. Then it is inevitable that peace and contentment will find us.

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Change Your Brain To Live a More Contented Life

If you are presently unhappy in many aspects of your life, it can feel like a dark place. A mindset that is clouded by daily thoughts of dread and negativity can really wear on a person’s self-esteem, self-worth and physical health.

When there is discontentment, there’s a tendency to get trapped in the never-ending cycle of waiting for the day when “it” will all change – “When I have a new job…a new relationship…a bigger home…”

Contentedness does not come out of an external place, like the striving for more possessions or making more money or living a more exciting life, for instance. If that has been your focus in life, then it will not hold up over time. Your thoughts will always be running a tape that ultimately say, “You are not enough.” This is because once you get the bigger house, the job promotion and the new relationship, you immediately start planning your next bigger, better this and that.

Being authentically content starts with the realization that you are the creator of your reality.

Our thoughts dictate how we view the world and ultimately, how we feel. If you tend to see life through these kinds of ideas and messages…

·      You’re looking for that next better thing

·      You must work hard to get everything you need

·      You look toward others and society for approval

·      You’re worried about what others think of you

·      You’re jealous and envious of other people’s successes

·      You’re focused on your image and the way you look

·      You blame others from keeping you from having the life you want

·      You feel that you never have enough money, sex, time, stuff, friends, etc.

…then you have become lost along the way and this is why you feel so empty.

As William Shakespeare wrote, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Thoughts are powerful. They are the precursor to our feeling states.

Even when it looks as though your emotional state is being dictated by your circumstances, that is never true. Just get quiet and curious for a moment, and ask yourself, “If I weren’t thinking this way, how might I feel differently?”

The happiness you have been seeking outside of yourself can be yours when you learn to stop chasing the illusion, and instead, begin to have more kindness, compassion and love toward yourself.

The more we are willing to genuinely love from within, even when it feels hard, the less we go searching for contentedness in the wrong places. When we are comforted by our own self-love, we no longer need to find comfort through external fixes.

Contentedness is a state of being fulfilled with what you already have within you. And at the same time, striving to improve, to become a better human being, regardless of how happy and content you are.

So you’re wondering, “How do I break the cycle of discontent and emptiness and learn to really love myself?”

We can harness the brain’s plasticity by training our brain to make positive thought patterns more automatic.

Neural pathways are like superhighways of nerve calls that transmit messages. After many years and decades of negative belief patterns traveling over the superhighway, the pathway becomes more and more solidified. And because the brain is always changing, with practice you can forge newer, healthier and more positive pathways, by creating new thought/feeling habits. That’s called neuroplasticity.

Mindfulness skills integrated into ones daily life can interrupt the negative and habitual feedback loops that can rewire the brain to think more positively. The regular practice of mindfulness meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for learning, memory, and emotion, and reducing gray matter in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

Spending 5 to 10 minutes daily sitting still while focusing on your in-breath and out-breath, trains the brain to quiet down, disengage the stress response, and move into a relaxation response that is more open to letting go of the more habitual neural pathways. Mindfully tracking your thoughts consistently throughout your day by redirecting habitual negative thoughts to new positive thoughts will carve out new and more accessible neural pathways.

Visualization is almost as powerful as the real thing given your brain cannot tell the difference between something real or imagined. Research shows that anytime you are thinking you are engaging and thus conditioning neural pathways, so why not create positive, calming images to change the brain? The most important part of using visualization to strengthen healthy habits is to engage your emotion. Positive emotion provides the fuel to enlist more neural power for creating new healthier neural networks. Find time throughout your day imagining yourself feeling and being more content in your life.

Gratitude is one of the best ways to move more readily towards positive thoughts and feelings of contentment. Whenever you are not content with something, take a moment and count all the blessings in your life. If you honestly do that, then you are creating the opportunity for more blessed moments in your life! Let your focus be on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. Think about all the pleasant moments in your life regularly. Be grateful for every little thing, for every person in your life, and thank him or her silently.

And finally, enjoy the simple things in life whether it’s conversations with strangers, taking slow gentle walks, or spending quality time with friends. Whatever you do, no matter how small, how inexpensive, and how trivial or simple, enjoy it and recognize that each moment of these positive thoughts lead more and more to authentic happy and contented living.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

April’s Pink Moon – Creating Meaning With the Help of Nature

April's Pink Moon

April's Pink Moon

After the long winter it’s time to throw your head back and howl at the Full Pink Moon April 11, 2017.  This is a wonderful time of year because it expresses rebirth and growth.

From the beginning of humankind, ancient peoples named full moons throughout the year as a way to keep time and give significance and meaning to each season. Derived from Native American mythology and old European folk tales, the April full moon is known as the Pink Moon after the early spring appearance of the bright pink ground wildflower, phlox (pink moss). It’s most likely a Native American tradition because phlox is common in North America and Siberia, as opposed to Europe. And while it’s named the Pink Moon, disappointingly, its hue is not pink.

The importance of April full moons is honored with spiritual festivals and ceremony in many parts of the world. In India, Hindus celebrate the birth of Hanuman in a festival called Hanuman Jayanti. The April full moon also marks the beginning of Passover for the Jewish people. For early Christians in England, April was known by the Old English name ēastre-monaþ, or "Easter month”, after the pagan goddess Eostre. And was then adopted as Easter, in celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

The Pink Moon is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, so its appearance in our sky is an invitation to celebrate the rebirth and renewal of the changing season. In the pagan tradition, Eostre or Ostara, maiden goddess of fertility and new beginnings is celebrated.

Eostre (meaning Eastern Star) and is often referred to as the Goddess of Dawn, since she brings the dawn from the East. Eostre’s responsibility is to banish winter by bringing spring to the earth each year.  Easter has borrowed her symbols of the egg and the hare for its traditions.

Pagans celebrate Eostre by leaving something sweet, like honey or candy, on their altars, to symbolize the sweetness of the nectar offered by the spring flowers she brings. Undoubtedly, the modern tradition of the sweets-filled Easter basket comes from this ritual.

She embodies fertility, potential, and new life. Her arrival invites us to plant seeds in all areas of our lives, preparing for the promise of growth and opportunity after the hibernation of winter.

Full moon evenings are energetic peaks, therefore, they are the perfect time to perform rituals by focusing our energy on whatever we would like to cleanse or adopt in our lives.

We can change our perception at any moment, however, a full moon ritual affirms our inner transformation and significantly marks the moment of our dedication to a life of balance, peace, and harmony.

Fill a bowl with water, if possible from an ocean, river or lake, otherwise water with pink Himalayan salt or natural sea salt is a suitable option.

Place the bowl on the ground in front of you and light a floating candle in the bowl. Then drop in rose essential oil, and/or pink petal leaves. If you have pink crystals, like rose quartz, these can also be placed in the water to enhance the effects of the ritual.

Write on a piece of paper anything you wish to release. It can be a word, a sentence, or entire paragraphs full of detail—whatever feels necessary to release at the time.

Read out loud what has been written and then immerse the piece of paper in the water so that the painful energy radiating from the memories can be cleansed and transformed.

The flame from the floating candle is a purifier and will neutralize any negativity emanating from the note and will also symbolize your firm intention to let go of any difficult feelings attached to it.

Burning sage or cedar or diffusing lemon essential oil at the end of this ritual will assist with cleansing any negative energy lingering and will charge the atmosphere with a positive vibration.

In Pink Moon’s bright presence, we can then ground and center ourselves by drinking a glass of water with a few sprinkles of pink Himalayan salt in it. And with that, voicing a clear and intentional declaration of what you wish to bring forth in your life here on out.

May Pink Moon be the beginning of bringing you renewed energy and fertile blessings this spring!

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Seeing With New Eyes and Raising Consciousness


A big part of being a more conscious citizen of the world is being able to challenge our preconceived biases and expectations of how we think things “should” be. This can be quite difficult for most people, because our brains are wired towards knowing what we know; being more comfortable with familiarity, consistency, and a sense of control.

Being in the flow and having flexibility to try new things, be around different cultures, challenge how we think and act to move outside of our comfort zone, is often met with resistance and fear.

We can blame part of this on our brain’s propensity towards habitual firing. Once a neural pathway is set up, it’s more challenging to change the firing pattern, or our way of thinking towards new concepts. In fact, we must try even harder to change the old patterning through consistent awareness and a commitment towards seeing things in a new way.

Even negative thinking will always trump positive thoughts! This is a remnant of our caveman days, a pure mechanism of survival, looking for that which is unfamiliar, incongruous and ultimately threatening.

Luckily, we have the higher brain that is able to more logically question and be more curious about our old and perhaps antiquated views. This is where things get juicy!

When we choose to see parts of ourselves, others and the world with new eyes, we have an opportunity to grow and transform to be the best humans we can be. Otherwise, we are living in a box where there is no room for possibility or potential. True wisdom is stifled. And we are not truly living.

It begins with just a little shift in our perceptions. When we make the effort to be more of an observer rather than a criticizer; curious rather than stilted; open rather than blocked. Then our worlds expand and there’s room for so much more. And mostly, we are evolving as a species in a world that needs that more than ever now.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.