Meet Nicole Chumsky, your Mindfulness Hike Leader

Mindfulness Hike-3This week I registered to take part in Nicole’s Mindfulness Hike Retreat in July. As an associate at Explore What’s Next, Nicole has deepened her knowledge and clinical practice in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, meditation, and is working on her trauma-informed yoga teacher certification. She came up with this creative concept of taking the classroom outdoors and into the woods. Join me in a chat with Nicole to learn more about her Mindfulness Hike Retreats. ~Dr. Aletta

Dr. A.: How did you come up with this great idea?

Nicole: Honestly, I just want everyone to experience the joy and contentment you can cultivate once you learn how to be mindful! To boot, nature has such a positive impact on my mindfulness and my life. I love to go backpacking because it’s my time to unplug from the busy-ness of life. I get to just be in the moment, clear my head, notice and appreciate everything around me.

Mindfulness is a simple concept but it can be difficult to get started. It might take a while to feel its effects. Knowing this has been a barrier for some people I work with, I thought it would be beneficial to be fully immersed in the practice for longer than one 50 minute session. As I began my research on the effects of nature on mental health, I found evidence that it takes at least 3 hours in nature to start to feel the positive impact it has on anxiety and depression. So I thought, “What better place is there than nature to practice mindfulness for a few hours!” And I was off to the races, building this hike retreat. I have hosted this event for two summers now and participants’ testimonials attest to the positive impact this retreat has on their anxiety and self-awareness.

Dr. A.: I’m really looking forward to Mindfulness Retreat. Tell me more.

Nicole: Taking a half day to put the phone down, stop pouring over to-do lists and getting back in touch with your mind, body and life is what it’s about. This retreat guides us through a series of exercises that will get us more aware of and focused on the present moment. This hike helps retrain our brain to pay attention to things that would otherwise go unnoticed, opening us up to deeper feelings of appreciation, joy and contentment.

Dr. A.: What can participants expect that morning?

Nicole: This is a small group event so you can expect no more than 8-10 people on the trail. You will engage in a variety of activities ranging from learning mindfulness concepts, testing out exercises to build your awareness, mindful eating, meditation, journaling and yoga. The foundations of all of these activities are covered so no experience is required!

Dr. A.: How is this different from other retreats?

Nicole: This retreat provides an extra opportunity to build self-awareness with the journaling activities and teaches you mindfulness basics in nature rather than a classroom. It includes not just meditation all day, it includes lots of other forms of mindfulness activities. The best part is, it’s local to Buffalo area residents! Most times you have to travel to a meditation or yoga retreat and this one is practically in your backyard.

Dr. A.: Who would benefit from attending this event?

Nicole: Everyone! Mindfulness is a way of living that everyone can take advantage of. Advantages like improved memory, reduction of work burnout, reduced stress, improves sleep, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration and increases your energy, just to name a few.

This hike is great for anyone who wants to start a practice, learn about mindfulness, get to know themselves a bit better or just looking for a day to relax! The exercises not only help you while hiking but they translate over to everyday life. They help you to slow down, make more grounded decisions, include rest in your schedule and be more content with what you have on your plate at any given moment.

Dr. A.: How do people register?

Nicole: Visit our events page or contact me directly! I would love to talk to you about how you can get involved and answer any questions you may have.


New Workshop! Journey Into Mindfulness


Nicole Chumsky, LMHC, is forming a new educational workshop series for anyone who wishes to learn how to step back and tap into the innate wisdom everyone has if they just pause long enough to listen.

The first workshop is a six week introductory course in mindfulness and meditation.

You will learn:

      • What mindfulness is really about,
      • How to practice formal and informal meditation,
      • How to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life and
      • Learn new attitudes to look at life with serenity!

Tuesdays from 5:30-7PM at the EWN Amherst offices.

Starts second week in October.

Space is limited!!! Call Nicole to register today!


Click here to learn more.

Soothe Your Brain With A Mindful Walk

With the recent shootings in Florida, bombings in Turkey, the Brexit vote and the consistent daily stream of stressful news it is important to find ways to quiet the mind, handle the stress and find peacefulness. But how do you do this when there is so much negativity surrounding us?

Here’s an idea! It can be as simple as going for a walk in nature. Find a bit of greenery! Simply strolling through a quiet tree-lined path in a city park or heading out to a nearby hiking trail can help you let go of dwelling on the dark side of everyday life and find some inner light. In a world that needs each and everyone one of us to be more positive and compassionate, you can impact global change by starting with yourself!

Nicole Chumksy LMHC, CASAC is an associate at Explore What’s Next and is currently welcoming people to join her on a mindful walk in nature. Click here to find out more information!

You’re Invited to a Mindful Walk In The Woods


Nature tells us, “It’s going to be OK.”

Do you feel you could use some unplugged time from your busy life? Would you like to enjoy the calming connection nature provides? I’ve got just the thing for you! You are invited to a mindfulness hike in the woods this summer!

“When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor.” –Florence Williams, This Is Your Brain On Nature

The idea for the Mindfulness Hike Retreat grew out of an experience I had a few years ago. At that time I was still suffering with the pain of being forced to change my job. In my first job after earning my degree, I loved going to work everyday. I finally felt like I had arrived. This was the job I worked so hard for the last few years. To top it off I was in a clinic where my colleagues felt like family. It lasted a year, a year that I am still grateful for.

Then one day my supervisor told me I was being transferred. The news came out of the blue. My heart sank and my eyes started to smart with tears. Immediately I felt a heavy sense of loss, betrayal and lack of control. I was devastated.

During the transition I struggled going to and being at work. I was so angry! My thoughts were constantly racing – “Should I look for a different job?” “This is not fair!” “This is going to be a disaster” “You are going to hate your new job.” Not very helpful, right?!


Don’t *Should* On Yourself!

downward ddog

A master at work. Courtesy Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

Yoga class. Downward dog. As my hands push into the floor and my legs quiver in response to a deep stretch, I begin to wonder… Am I doing this right? Are my legs and arms where they’re supposed to be? In an instant my attention is off my mat. My eyes and mind wander to the others around me in the room. I begin comparing their postures to mine and wiggle around my mat to make what I think are the adjustments I SHOULD make.

Before I know it I am no longer gently working on myself but rather beating myself up! Becoming aware of this, oddly enough, I start to judge my judging! “Wow what a cycle!” I thought as my confidence began to dwindle.

Then I remembered the intention I set for my practice that day: “Listen to your body.”

Gathering my thoughts, I gently escorted them back to my mat. Refocused, I coached myself through letting go of all of my high expectations, the things I thought I should be doing. The object of my attention became just sensing my body, awareness of my pose. My thoughts shifted to “I can do this. I will do my best.”

Soon my self-doubt and uncertainty faded. A sense of calm and stable confidence replaced it. As I leaned into the stretch of the pose with my breath and attention focused, my downward dog not only felt more comfortable but it was in a deeper position than before!

Only a few minutes worth of thoughts on my mat but, oh, how they represented my daily life struggle. Always striving to be better, to meet high expectations and to do what I “should” be doing, it took a long time to see how these thought patterns keep me anxious and feeling guilty. Now with the power of my “I can only do my best” mantra, I can feel confident and therefore more at ease.  Who would have thought!

Here’s your gentle challenge: Turn a curious eye to how often you put a “should” or “must” on yourself today. Instead, be kind. Remember that who you are and what you’re doing is your best in this moment. And that is good-enough!

Nicole Newcomb-Chumsky practices mindfullness and cognitive behavioral therapy at Explore What’s Next. Contact her today to learn more.

7 Ways To Enjoy Your New Years Weight Loss Resolution Rather Than Resent It


Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, Explore What’s Next psychotherapist.

Did you give up your favorite food for the New Year?

Weight loss experts say, “Don’t throw out that chocolate!” Eat in slow motion instead!

Slowing down our pace of eating, increasing the number of chews and noticing everything we can about our food is called eating mindfully. Believe it or not, it can help you with weight loss.

Studies have shown that the slower you eat, the less you eat and the more mindfully you eat the more satisfied you are. So you don’t give up your favorite food totally! Eat it mindfully and satisfy your sweet tooth with just a few bites! Imagine this….

You open the candy so slowly and notice the blue, shiny wrapper and the ridges of each wrinkle between your fingers. You notice the crinkling sound it makes as you start to peel back the corners. The aroma of sweet chocolate begins to fill your nostrils and your mouth starts to water ever so slightly. You begin thinking that tomorrow you start your crazy New Years Resolution diet so you better make this count! Refocusing you thoughts to the chocolate, you notice each corner of the creamy, smooth chocolate in your hand as it starts to melt. You become excited! As you bring it to your mouth, the aroma grows stronger and you begin anticipating its sweet taste. You put the chocolate in your mouth and smile as you begin to chew ever so slowly, noticing how your teeth sink into the smooth chunks of chocolate. You never want this sensation to leave your mouth so you sit with it until every last morsel has vanished. The reward is phenomenal and you think to yourself “this is the best piece of chocolate I have ever had.” At this point you do not want another because you are more than satisfied. And it’s a good thing because it was the last one!

So the next time you sit down to eat anything, especially something you think is sinful, like the fine chocolate your well-meaning boyfriend gave you for Christmas, try out these tips below and notice the difference it makes in your appetite and satisfaction.The slower you make this process and the more detailed in your awareness, the better the exercise!

How to Eat Mindfully:

1) Do not touch whatever it is you are about to eat! Just notice what it looks like and what it smells like from a far.

2) Pick up the item without bringing it to your mouth. Notice what it feels like in your hands or looks like on your fork. Describe it to yourself in great detail. All the way down to the sponginess of the bread and the sesame seeds on top. Notice the different shades of red on the tomato.

3) Now bring the item closer to your mouth and notice the smells. It may have more than one aroma so find every smell!

4) Now take a bite and begin chewing as slowly as you can. Pretend it is a contest of who can chew the longest! Now taste each flavor from the acidity in the tomato to the grease in the burger.

5) In the same bite, (yes I am asking you to still be chewing the same bite!) notice how it feels against your tongue and teeth.

6) Ask yourself what do you hear? You may hear the crunching of the lettuce. Don’t let this bite go until you know everything about it!

7) Repeat with every bite and every sip of your drink until you notice your stomach is full.

It is not always easy to find the time to sit down and eat mindfully. I know I find it hard sometimes. But when I do take the time, it is always worth it!

Photo courtesy of cupprof

Knocked Down Hard: How Mindfulness Got Me Through

f6203d41-e62a-46d3-a3a3-12f3fcebdc2dEditor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P

Recently I lived through a major life upheaval that was not my doing. It felt like the ground under my feet shattered.

We all struggle with life transitions, some are viewed as a blessing and others as a punishment. It could be the most important aspect of whether it’s a blessing or punishment is how you endure the new transition. Do you cope? Avoid it?  Or run full speed ahead?

During my recent perceived punishment from the Universe, my first instinct was to run. I fought this urge and instead decided to cope. Already being a mindful practitioner, I decided to lean hard on my mindfulness practices to get me through.

In less emotionally charged situations I could deep breathe or go for a run to cope, but this transition was different. I felt as though for all the good that I tried to do and all the hard work that I had put in, it was for those qualities that I was forced into this new situation. This transition was going to take all the coping skills I had and I knew it was going to be a long journey back to my normal, positive, content state of being.

I allowed myself to grieve for the first day that I received the news, (basically I cried all day) but I knew I could not let myself wallow for too long. The next day I got up early and started planning out how I was going to take care of myself. I fought long and hard that day to try and save what I had and not be forced into my new position. After my war ended and I knew for sure that I had lost, it was time to accept, cope and move on.

Thereafter I started every morning with a mindful run with my dogs, followed by a mindful walk and a 10-15 minute meditation. Then I ate my breakfast mindfully and practiced positive self-talk while I got ready for work. I practiced this ritual daily for two weeks straight. Then one morning after my run I was mindfully walking (Believe me, this took a lot of concentration because my mind so badly wanted to drift back to negative sad, self-defeating thoughts) and my practice paid off!

If it was not for my mindful walk I would never have seen the photo you see above. I love Mother Nature and she showed me that day that she loved me too. I did not see the heart at first glance, I just thought the trees looked beautiful against the bright blue sky. When I looked down at this picture in my hand I smiled and finally felt a sense of contentment.

It was the first time since my news that I felt like I was going to be okay. I told myself I would be, but it wasn’t until that moment that I knew I would. I was so grateful for the love I received that I had to share it with all those that I loved and now I am sharing it with you so that you know you will be okay, too!

Are you interested in how you can learn about the benefits of Mindfulness practice, what that is and how to incorporate mindfulness skills into your daily life (it’s not as hard as you think) I offer a group at Explore What’s Next on Mindfulness. Click here to see the Mindful Group poster for more information!

The Reward of Just Sitting Still

DSC00661My friend Amy Jo Lauber has the most gentle way of inspiring a person.

My summer morning ritual includes taking a walk around the neighborhood. I love moving through the cool early morning air, greeting other early birds out with their dogs or just stretching their legs. After reading her post, Sharing Our Gifts, Passing the Baton and the Link to Abundance, Amy Jo’s ritual sounded so sweet I decided to try it this morning. After my usual walk I took the time to sit down on my patio with my coffee. And was rewarded.

I was sitting very still, breathing, waiting for the Universe to whisper her wisdom to me when a hummingbird flew up. He stared at me for a milli-second and then flew over to my hummingbird feeder, hovered there, sipped up nectar and flew off from where it came.

Doesn’t sound like much but let me explain. I’ve been waiting all summer for the hummingbirds to find my feeder. I’ve researched how to attract them, tried different formula’s of nectar, different feeders and locations for the feeder. The hummingbirds alluded me.

So this little guy appearing like that out of the stillness of the morning made my heart leap with joy! That is reward enough. Perhaps there’s another message from the Universe in this gift. Something about patience, the wisdom of sitting still in a busy, busy world, if you build it they will come… I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that.

For now I thank Amy Jo for sharing her abundance!

To learn about what a hummingbird symbolizes click here. 

Stressed? Give Yourself the Present!


Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, EWN psychotherapist.


Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.

Do you find yourself living in the past possibly asking “How could I have handled that better?”

Or maybe you find yourself in the future: “I need to… call the cable company, pick the kids up from daycare, make sure I drop off dinner to grandma, go to the gym…

Often times we get caught up in life and stressed out about what has been and what is coming our way.

If your wondering where the time went and what needs to be done, are you paying attention to what’s happening now? Are you noticing the cinnamon flavor in your coffee or the smile on your partner’s face when you walk in the door? If you are anything like me, then probably not.

If this is the case, then it’s time to become Present! Mindfulness is the key to being present, enjoying the moment, reducing stress and regaining your balance. I personally live by the concept of being fully present and have reaped the benefits! This means that you are spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing at the present moment as you move about your daily life.

For me, I ask myself, “What do I see, hear, smell, taste and feel?” as I experience different situations. More importantly to me is the concept of peace and equanimity. This means not ebbing and flowing with life’s highs and lows. When I feel myself getting caught in the tide, I ground myself. This can be done as easily as grounding my feet to the floor and deep breathing.

If you like the sound of a peaceful mind, body and soul, read on about the key concepts in this great article I found “Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness: Learn how to say ‘Yes’ to the present moment” by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D.

You could also come in for a visit to learn how you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere! Contact me anytime. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of tobym via Flickr


How My Anxiety Dream Made My Vacation Better

The other night I had an anxiety dream. You know the kind of dream I’m talking about, where you are in the wings of a big Broadway production clearly expected to go on and you don’t know the part or the lines or the cue or anything!!! Worse, you’re naked and haven’t shaved your legs since October!

That wasn’t my dream exactly although the feeling was the same. Pure fight or flight! My anxiety dream went like this:

I was applying to college! The same college my daughter got into a few months ago for real. I was trying to get into this same college putting in my application, touring the campus etc. I had this interview scheduled only I forgot it! I was going to miss this crucial interview and nothing I tried to do to fix it was working! I tried calling the admissions office but my phone fell apart in my hands! I tried running there but the building kept getting further away instead of closer!

The good news was I was fully clothed, but still it was a nightmare! When I woke up with a start and found myself a middle-aged woman with no college interviews scheduled for the day the relief was incredible!

Occasionally I have a client bring in a dream they want to talk about and it’s almost always a good discussion. I do not believe dreams hold any big mysterious power, like crystal balls or oracles. What’s important is what they mean to us; how the dreamer interprets the dream, not the therapist. Being open to what may be bubbling up from our subconscious is good. So what did my dream mean to me?

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