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.

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.

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.

Being Your Own Person: The True Path to Self-Empowerment

Being your own person enables you to have your own independent thoughts, feelings, and values. It is an important part of self-development. When there is not a good sense of self, one struggles with being self-reliant. And there’s a tendency to live vicariously through others, co-opting ones own belief system for that of others.

The accomplishments of someone else are often substituted as though they were their own. While it is positive to admire and be happy for another ones endeavors, it’s impossible to derive your sense of self through another person. Living through others is no substitute for living for oneself. One cannot promote and sustain happiness in this way.

Being your own person means knowing what you believe in and standing by your beliefs, even if everyone else in the room is urging you to do otherwise. It means being authentic. If you’re not living authentically, it becomes second nature to adopt certain roles that you act out, pretending that this is how you really think and feel. Carl Jung referred to this part of self as the persona (or mask) and argued that shedding it was the first step on the road to individuation.

When you value your true self you become confident, generous, positive, and more energetically alive. Your sense of well-being becomes a prominent force in your life. You feel empowered to make your way through life with direction, self-confidence, and from a place of thriving, not surviving.

Start by seeing what qualities and emotions you honestly want in your life. See what’s working well and also find what’s missing and start to add it in, one small change at a time. If you generously honor and nourish your genuine nature, gradually it will be renewed, grow and bloom.

Like most things, being your true self takes practice and commitment. It also takes courage. Many people fear that they will only be accepted if they try to be what others want them to be. But human beings are not so easily fooled and can quickly sense when someone is acting. The truth is, no matter what you are really like, people will respect you for having the courage and strength to be your own person. And if they don’t, then they weren’t the kind of people you’d want in your life anyway.

-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.