Laughter yoga. An oxymoron, I thought, when I had first heard these two words out loud. A few years ago, as I was still re-building my self-care regime from scratch, I was willing to grasp at anything that would assist me in finding new ways to care for myself, which included maintaining a good balance in my life through emotional, physical, spiritual, and environmental ways. Laughter yoga literally fell into my lap one day as I was perusing my local Community Centre Guide. “Why not?”, I thought to myself. So I joined. I showed up expecting a traditional yoga class, so I was decked out in my “gym clothes” with my yoga mat under one arm.
Traditional, though, is not what I experienced. For the one full hour of class we laughed, joked, made funny eye contact, and allowed ourselves to genuinely embrace silliness. We moved through guided laughter yoga poses, which ended in shouting jubilantly “very good, very good, yay!” Close to the end of the hour, we joined together at the end to thank each other for sharing our laughter and vulnerability with one another. Gosh, I was amazed at how relaxed, thankful, and cared for I felt!
If you’re keen to learn more, Jeannie Magenta’s website is a great place to start as is The Laughter Yoga University website.
On Friday, December 16th the staff of the MDABC were pleased to host our annual Holiday Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Counselling and Wellness Centre in Vancouver. This was a chance for the staff of the MDABC to show how truly grateful we are for all of the time, enthusiasm and dedication shown by the volunteers throughout the year.
The MDABC wouldn’t exist without our wonderful volunteers who generously give their time to facilitate support groups, greet patients in our psychiatric clinic, do community outreach, educate the public about mental health, write newsletter articles, and much more! Just thinking about how many lives have been positively impacted by our volunteers is amazing.
Guests at the party were treated to a buffet of holiday treats and a craft room full of art supplies with which to get creative. We then did a Christmas Trivia Quiz (click here to download our quiz) and the winners picked out prizes from beneath the tree. A couple of speeches from our Executive Director Martin Addison and our Operations Manager Catherine St.Denis rounded out the afternoon.
It was great to see everyone come to together at this event, and the MDABC would like to wish all of our volunteers, clients, members, patients, and friends a lovely holiday season!
When we want someone that we care about to make changes in their life, we often gravitate to telling them what we think they should do. It can be especially frustrating when we tell someone to get help for a mental health issue or to take better care of themselves but they just refuse! However, if you think about it, does anyone actually like being told what to do? Do you? Even children don’t like it. Telling others what to do sometimes makes people want to dig their heels in and do nothing or even do the opposite of what they’ve been told.
An alternative approach to just telling someone what to do is to guide them in the direction of positive change. The idea here is to help the other person come up with their own solution to the problem. Ok, fine, you say, but how exactly do I do that?
One way is to make suggestions or share information by using “wiggle words”. For example, instead of saying “here’s what you should do”, you could say:
Maybe, you could consider…
I have found it helpful to ….
What are your thoughts about…?
Another option is…
Here’s an idea…what do you think?
These phrases don’t assume that we know exactly what the person that we care about should do, how they should do it, or when they should do it. The “wiggle” words send the message to the person that they have choices, that you respect them, and that the decision about if, when and how to change is theirs alone. This can be very empowering and can help people to start thinking about the changes that they are ready to make without feeling that they are being forced. Even if the person that you care about isn’t ready to consider making a change or getting help, you will at least know that they have been made aware of some options. If they are just saying no to all options you suggest, you could ask them if they have any ideas to improve the situation, or you could offer to explore the reasons for their resistance with them. For example, you could say something along the lines of:
I’m hearing that you aren’t interested in seeing a doctor/counsellor but can you tell me why you think this would be negative for you?
I get it that you don’t want to talk to me about what’s going on, so can you think of someone who you would be more comfortable talking to?
What if the person in question still refuses to make any change? Being a caregiver to someone who is struggling emotionally can be very draining and can lead to feeling burnt out and depleted. At this point, it is important to remember to take good care of yourself, to get support and to let the person know that you expect them to respect your boundaries.
For the past few months, the staff at the MDABC (in partnership with BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions) have been working on a new mental health awareness campaign aimed at young adults. For this very exciting new project, we began by doing research on other successful mental health campaigns and by talking to young people directly by holding a focus group. We wanted to design a campaign that young adults would pay attention to and that would ultimately get them engaged in talking about and being invested in positive mental health. Getting feedback from young adults about what they really wanted was an essential (and illuminating) part of the research process!
Based on all the information and opinions that we gathered, we got creative designing the actual campaign. We decided to go with a campaign that asked the question “Do you know what to say to a friend with low mood or depression?” and we named the campaign “What Helps, What Hurts.” We decided to go this route because our research told us that young adults were a lot more comfortable talking about a friend’s mental health than their own. We found that, unfortunately, stigma is still alive and well in our community and that many young adults are not ready to let anyone know that they are experiencing a mental health issue. That discomfort does not necessarily extend to talking about a friend’s mental health, and our research shows that most young people want to help and support their friends but often lack the know-how about what to say, how to talk about it, and what to do when a friend is really in crisis.
The What Helps, What Hurts campaign will reach out to young people in a variety of ways including posters on transit, a website, a hashtag, and a pocket guide which MDABC volunteers will distribute at events and on the streets. Our official campaign launch will be in early October 2016, more details to come!
If you are interested in getting involved in this campaign doing street outreach or writing a personal story for the website, please get in touch with Polly at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are just so many activities that we can engage in the summer time that are great for our minds and bodies, but here are three that really are at the top of the list in terms of benefits:
You probably already know that aerobic exercise is good for your mental health, but did you know that swimming seems to be one of the most beneficial options?
Not only does swimming release endorphins, it also encourages the growth of new brain cells according to an article in the Huffington Post . Additionally, an Australian study found that there’s a connection between warm water immersion and increased blood flow. More blood flow means more nutrients for the brain which means a better functioning mind.
And finally, swimming also has a lot of the same benefits as yoga. They both involve the coordination of breath and movement which can release mental, emotional and physical stress. The repetitive movement and mind-body connectivity can help put you into a state of deep relaxation just as yoga can.
Summer is a great time to take a vacation if you are able to do so. It is awesome to have the opportunity to get away from your normal surroundings and take in some new scenery. During a vacation, we have the potential to break away from the stress cycle that we may find ourselves in. We can come back from a successful vacation feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world again and face our challenges.
British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations can also provide new experiences which lead to a “broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication.” This is the experience of getting a little bit of distance from your normal day-to-day life and being able to see things in a new light and perhaps develop insight into the human condition. We can also strength bonds with the people in our life when we vacation together.
The sun is finally shining and somehow it seems to put a smile on our faces in the way that a rainy dark day just doesn’t. We all know that too much sun can be harmful to our skin but the right balance can do a lot to boost our mood.
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a feel-good hormone called serotonin. This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Sounds pretty good, right?
Of course, prolonged direct exposure to sunlight is not advisable. So make sure that you wear a good sunscreen or stay in the shade when you’re out in the sun.
The MDABC is currently working on phase one of a three-phase project to create and implement a mental health awareness campaign which specifically targets young adults ages 18 to 30. Phase one of the project is the research phase and so far, what we have found out is very enlightening. Evidence shows that the typical onset of a first episode of a mental health issue takes place in the late teens or early adulthood and yet many young people do not reach out for help. If they do reach out for help, it is most often to a peer or friend. While friends can certainly offer support and an attentive ear, more education is needed so that friends can help steer the person in distress to get the kind of help that they need.
On Thursday, June 16th, 2016 , lead project researcher Anisa Mottahed held a focus group, which involved individuals within the 18-30 age range who were not connected to any mental health services. Through the focus group, MDABC gathered information to help inform the campaign. We wanted to know what the young people liked, what they didn’t like, what kind of mental health campaigns stood out to them, and how much time (if any), they would be willing to put in to show their support for this kind of campaign.
A few preliminary observations from the focus group were:
the young people preferred mostly visual information as opposed to mostly text
Most of the participants were willing to share campaign materials on facebook, instagram, and twitter but they weren’t interested in sharing anything of a personal nature
they weren’t impressed by having a celebrity or sports-figure included in the campaign unless that person was sharing an authentic personal story
they noted that they are bombarded by promotional materials from so many different companies and agencies, so a campaign has to be simple, direct, and original to stand out. The majority also appreciated the campaign we showed them that used humour to engage people.
they said that they would be interested in watching a short video associated with the campaign as long as it was under two minutes
a couple of the participants mentioned that they had friends with mental health concerns who had leaned on them and that they had tried to help. They noted that they didn’t really know how to help and that caring for their friend took an emotional toll on them as well…
Once we have concluded the first phase of the project, we will begin to actually develop our own original campaign. Stay tuned for updates!
Some people are reluctant to try art therapy because they feel that they are not “artsy” or “creative” enough. Some of us may have bad memories of high school art teachers telling us we aren’t talented or that we are doing it all wrong (this was my experience) . It can be difficult to get past these negative associations with the art-making process and jump into it again. But giving yourself the freedom to express yourself visually and to tap into your creative self can really help you to get your thoughts and emotions flowing in positive directions.
We’ve been offering art therapy at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC for the past year of so, and we have heard some great feedback from the people who have participated. In doing a little bit of research about the benefits of art therapy, I came across a top ten list which I thought summed up the research very nicely:
Art Therapy can provide a forum to express strengths and genuineness.
Through viewing one’s own creation – one can improve the skill of self-observation.
What cannot be said with words – may be more easily expressed through the art.
Metaphors and stories emerge through the art – which can provide a ‘voice’ for material which may be difficult to express.
Art Therapy is active & physical, fun, and stimulating.
Emotions and art are closely connected; making art can aid in uplifting one’s mood.
Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes.
Emerging and recurrent symbols expressed in the art can help to make unconscious material conscious.
Art can make the hidden – visible in an external & tangible way.
Art making provides an experience which is stress & anxiety reducing, relaxing, and decreases worry.
So, are you thinking about giving art therapy a try? Join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 30th for a 3-hour workshop on Values-Based-Living Art therapy. Click on the poster below to go to the registration page.
The MDABC recognizes that many people who are caring for loved ones with mental health concerns are struggling themselves. Confusion about where to go for help and support, exhaustion from dealing with the loved one, and feelings of powerlessness in the face of the illness can compound to leave people feeling unable to cope. Sometimes, when it all becomes too much, caregiver burnout can develop.
Some signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout include:
If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s important that you try to get the help and support that you need to cope and feel better. It is also essential that you take steps to make self-care a priority in your life in order to prevent burnout.
We invite you to join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 24th for a free lecture on caregiver burnout. You can click on the image below to go directly to the Eventbrite Registration page.
On Tuesday, May 10th the MDABC hosted a training event for our volunteers and staff in which we explored the ways in which we would like to grow as an organization and how we can all contribute to our organization’s mission. We had a lot of spirited discussion as we attempted to reach a better understanding of how to work together towards our common goals. We ended our session with a gratitude meditation which we’d like to share with all of you.
Get into a relaxed seated posture. Bring your hands together to form a bowl and close your eyes. Take a few deep, calming breaths to relax and centre. Slowly, take three deep breaths and repeat the words “For this day, I am grateful.”
Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, neighbors, family, coworkers…. Repeat the words, “For the people that I share my life with, I am grateful.”
Next, turn your attention to yourself: you are a unique individual, and you possess imagination, the ability to communicate, the ability to learn from the past and plan for the future, and the ability to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Repeat the words, “For all of my abilities, I am grateful.”
Finally, think about something that you saw or felt today that made you smile. It could be as small a thing as seeing a child laugh or the feeling of a soft breeze on your skin. Repeat the words, “For being able to see the ordinary as beautiful, I am grateful.”
Continue to focus on your breath as you take 3 more deep breaths. Open your eyes and look into the bowl that you have made with your hands. Realize that your bowl is full of all the things that you have expressed your gratitude for. When you are ready, release your hands and prepare to meet the rest of your day with a renewed sense of wellbeing.
It’s been one week since we launched our contest at gogophotocontest.com/mdabc, and we are off to a great start. We’ve had a phenomenal response and a lot of amazing photos have been submitted. We still have a long way to go if we want to meet our fundraising goal by June 10th when the contest closes so make sure that you submit your photos, donate to vote, and tell everyone you know about this contest! Our top three fundraising photos will win brand new i-pads and have their photos included on an MDABC annual wall calendar. Here are the three photos that are currently in the lead for the top spot: