Try this Wellness Journalling Writing Prompt and Discover the Power of Now

Writing workshop exercise: “Write about what you really want right now. Prose. You have two minutes. Go.”

Below is the beautifully written response to this prompt from  Toronto-based writer Wendy Sinclair.

wendy's poem

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Three Fun Summer Activities That Are Great For Your Mind and Body!

road trip
Take it on the road!

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:

  1. Swimming

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.

  1. Vacations

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.

If you need some inspiration, check out the Huffington Post’s article on top road trips in BC.

  1. Soaking Up (a little) Sun

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.

By Polly Guetta

 

You Won’t Believe How Good Reading Is For Your Mental Health

reading

Reading for pleasure could be just about the most relaxing activity around! According to research studies , reading for just six minutes has been shown to reduce stress by 68 percent. It works better to calm down your stressed nervous system than listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea.

This is great news for people who love to read, and it may encourage those who haven’t picked up a book in a while to hit the bookstore or the library to find something that piques their interest.  Dr. Lewis, who conducted the research studies explained how reading relaxes the mind and body,

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination. This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

And besides the amazing calming power of reading, there are a ton of other benefits to being a reader such as improved brain health, vocabulary, and communication skills, just to name a few. Reading can also help us to develop empathy because when we learn about other people’s viewpoints and experiences, it is easier for us to understand how people are more alike than different.

The next time you are feeling stressed, try settling down with a good book and notice how your heart beat slows down, your shoulders relax, and your breathing deepens. And then just let go and let your mind travel to wherever the story takes you.

By Polly Guetta

 

5 amazing illustrators who are changing the conversation about mental health (in no particular order)

gemma correll

  1. Gemma Correll

British cartoonist, writer and illustrator Gemma Correll, who now lives in California created a series of comics as a way to explain and cope with her own struggles with mental health concerns. She states,

‘I suffer from clinical anxiety and depression and I find that the best way to deal with it is to find humour in it.’

She hopes by injecting a little humour into her illustrations, she’ll break down some of the stigma and encourage others to be more open about what they’re going through.

 

  1. Toby Allen

toby allen

Toby Allen is a UK-based illustrator who created a series of drawings of mental health disorders and conditions depicted as monsters.  The Real Monsters series is a collection of 16 illustrations that deal with everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

 

  1. Sylvie Reuter

Sylvie Reuter, a German cartoonist used her artistic skills to create a visualsylvie reuter representation of depression. She was able to effectively communicate what depression can feel like without using any words. In an interview about her work, Sophie stated,

“Mental health is still something that is stigmatized and rarely talked about in public. But online it’s different, you can share your thoughts and you can do it anonymously and that way it’s easier for people.”

 

4. Marissa Betley

After seeing firsthand how mental illness can take a toll, Marissa Betley decided to use art to express how it truly feels to struggle with a mental health disorder.

The artist posted one illustration a day about the impact of mental health issues for 100 days on Instagram.  Melissa called this series Project 1 in 4 because that is how many people will experience a serious mental health concern in their lifetime. Check out her work at  project1in4.com

i was stuck

 

  1. Robot Hugs

Robot Hugs is a Toronto-based illustrator whose art is concerned with mental health, feminism, and gender politics.  RH sees the accessibility of online comics and art as integral to it’s popularity. RH states,

“There’s a lot of writing out there about mental illness and how to support someone but it can be hard to ask someone to go to the labour of reading a lot of text. Everyone’s got 10 seconds to look at a comic.

robot hugs

 

 

 

 

When was the last time you really cried?

zach cries

It may start with a sharp lump in your throat, followed by a little wobble of your chin. Next your eyes are feeling moist and you’re blinking hard in an effort to hold back the tears. But your effort to not cry makes your chin wobble even more, and the next thing you know the tears are flowing, the lump in your throat is melting, and your nose is running. You are now in full sob mode. You grab the box of Kleenex and succumb to the weeping.

When was the last time you had a good cry? If you are not in a chronically depressed mood, crying once in a while can be very cathartic and healing so it’s actually better for your health to allow yourself to cry.

Are you sometimes in the mood to watch a sad movie or listen to some sad music? Do you wonder why you are seeking out opportunities to feel sad?  Movies and music can help us get in touch with the sadness within ourselves, allow ourselves to feel it, and then let some of that sadness go. The calm after the storm can then set in, and we often feel that the sadness is diminished and that there is now room in our minds and bodies for happier emotions.

Neuroscientist and tear researcher Dr. William H. Frey IIhas spent over 15 years studying crying and tears. Some interesting facts about crying that his research uncovered are:

  • 85% of women and 73% of men felt less sad and angry after crying.
  • On average, women cry 47 times a year, men cry 7 times a year. (WOW!)
  • Crying bouts last 6 minutes on average.
  • Crying has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate immediately following therapy sessions during which patients cried and raged.

To make the most of a good cry and really reap the benefits, it is important to remember that you have to be kind and compassionate with yourself after the crying jag. If you beat yourself up about crying, feel guilty, or use negative self-talk and tell yourself things like “I’m such a loser for crying” or “Guys shouldn’t cry”, you will undo all the healing that your sobfest can bring you.

So, go ahead and cry it out. And then you can proudly say to yourself “Well done! That was a good cry and I feel a lot better now!”

By Polly Guetta

 

What are the benefits of Art Therapy?

art therapyby Polly Guetta

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 – Top 10 Benefits’ list:

  1. Art Therapy can provide a forum to express strengths and genuineness.
  2. Through viewing one’s own creation – one can improve the skill of self-observation.
  3. What cannot be said with words – may be more easily expressed through the art.
  4. Metaphors and stories emerge through the art – which can provide a ‘voice’ for material which may be difficult to express.
  5. Art Therapy is active & physical, fun, and stimulating.
  6. Emotions and art are closely connected; making art can aid in uplifting one’s mood.
  7. Making art activates the whole brain and can foster integration of emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes.
  8. Emerging and recurrent symbols expressed in the art can help to make unconscious material conscious.
  9. Art can make the hidden – visible in an external & tangible way.
  10. 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.june30workshop

 

What on earth is “forest bathing”?

By Polly Guetta

While looking at all of the beautiful photos that have been submitted for our photo contest “the Healing Power of Nature” (www.gogophotocontest.com/mdabc),  I have found myself wishing that I was spending more time in the great outdoors. And I mean really outdoors, as in far, far away from concrete, cars, and, skyscrapers. To really feel the healing power of winter magicnature, I think we need to have a fully immersive experience.

While researching the evidence that direct contact with nature really can help people to heal, I kept coming across the term “forest bathing”. What on earth is forest bathing? Is it nude people running through waterfalls? Rolling around in fields of flowers and “bathing” in the dirt?

I HAD TO KNOW!

After a little bit of digging, I found out that forest bathing is also known as Shinrin-Yoku and the term was originally coined in 1982 by the Forest Agency of the Japanese government. In Japanese, shinrin means forest, and yoku, although it has several meanings, refers here to “bathing, showering or basking in”. And so, forest bathing is simply the art of being truly present in nature, specifically forests, and using all of your senses to fully absorb all of its awesomeness.

Intuitively, we feel that when we connect with nature, we often feel more grounded, healthier and calmer. Personally, I find that when I am surrounded by nature, my breathing becomes deeper, and I have more energy. Now, there is a ton of research that backs up what most of us have known all along. Forest bathing has a positive impact on many markers of stress; it has been shown to decrease blood pressure, anxiety symptoms, and stress hormones. When we feel relaxed, the parts of our brains that are sometimes in overdrive can slow down, and the parts of our brains associated with pleasure and empathy can have a chance to flourish. Our bodies and minds can then start to heal and transform.

So, who’s up for a little forest bathing this weekend? Let us know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Meditation

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.

Gratitude Meditation

hands

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.”

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.

 

How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Rid of Your Clutter (Once and for all!)

simplicity

By Polly Guetta

The benefits of feeling that your home is your own personal sanctuary are plentiful; a sanctuary is a place where you can retreat to when you need to soothe your senses and your mind. A sanctuary is vital to good mental health because it offers a space where peace and calm prevail and where you can just relax and breathe.  If your home, however, is full of clutter and piles of stuff that you don’t need, it can be difficult to find any kind of serenity amidst all the chaos. Although tackling the clutter may seem like an exceedingly daunting task, it is the first step towards creating an inspiring, beautiful space that you can retreat to when you need to restore your sense of wellbeing.

By breaking down the decluttering process into small, manageable tasks, the project becomes a lot less overwhelming, and you will be much more likely to follow through on the goals that you have set for yourself.  Try the following tips and strategies to stop procrastinating and get rid of your clutter once and for all. Your body and mind will thank you for it!

  1. Begin with a goal in mind.
  • Carefully consider how much storage space you have and make a commitment to yourself to only keep what you have the space for.
  • There should be a place designated for everything in your home. If an object has no “home”, it will end up being unsightly clutter.

2.   Determine how you will decide to keep something or get rid of it.

If you haven’t used an item in the last year, it is highly unlikely you really need it or that you are going to ever get enough use out of it to justify it cluttering up your home. Take the plunge and get rid of it! Ask yourself these questions as you encounter each piece of clutter:

Do I use this?

How long has it been since I’ve used it?

Will I use it again?

Is it worth the space it takes up in my house?

Would I really miss this item?

 3. Start with just one area.

  •  Start with an area that is a relatively easy one to declutter like a bathroom or a bedroom.
  • Once you have had success in one area, it will easier to move on to a more challenging part of your home

4. Break it down into small/manageable tasks

  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is such a big job that you will never be able to do it. Try using an affirmation such as “I have tackled big projects before and had success. I can do this by breaking it down into small pieces”.
  • Set a timer and declutter for 30 minutes every day or set a small goal for each decluttering session such as one closet, one bookshelf, one dresser, etc.
  • Congratulate yourself each time you complete a session and think about how much closer you are to your goal.

5. Use boxes or garbage bags for sortingclear clutter

  • Don’t just sort piles of stuff into more piles of stuff -physically separate your stuff in bags or boxes.
  • Use a three bag sorting system – donate, keep, throw away.
  • Once your bags are full, don’t wait to get rid of the throw away and donate. Take them to the trash or your local thrift shop right away.
  • Look through your keep bag and be ruthless. If you can’t find a home for the item, then you will have to donate it or throw it out.

6. Issue an official household spending-freeze.

  • Make it a goal to not buy any new items for yourself or your home until your decluttering project is finished unless it is something that will help you get organized (like binders for papers, baskets, or containers) to manage the stuff you already have.
  • A good rule to keep in mind when you are trying to maintain your decluttered home is that for every new item brought in an older one will go out.

7.  If you are really stuck, enlist a friend or a loved one to help you.

  • Many people have trouble when it comes to clutter so be honest and tell someone that you are stuck and need a little push.
  • If you want to motivate yourself to get started, put a photo of a space that you find to be serene and beautiful up beside your bed. Look at the photo every night and morning and remind yourself that this sanctuary is available to you.

clutter quote

 

Remember: The objective is to get stuff out of your home, not to move it into another room. You will be amazed by the sheer volume of unused and unneeded items in your home. Don’t spend time inventing reasons to keep these things.

Top 5 Mental Wellness Digital Apps

By Rachel B.

1. Moodnotes

moodnotes-3 moodnotes2

Description: MoodNotes by Thriveport, LLC offers the user a new innovative approach to journalling. Designed in conjunction with two American psychologists, it employs cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. It works by asking the user to capture his or her mood in the “face” icon, and then allows the user to add detail with a note-function. By translating your emotions into data, it empowers you to chart your moods, recognize patterns, target negative thinking traps, and develop better self-awareness. This app will be a useful companion to counseling with a professional therapist. Read more at Wired.Co.UK.

Cost: $4.59

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Requires iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here

2. Headspace

headspace 1headspace2

Description: Headspace is a wildly popular app – co-founded by Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson – that teaches the user meditation through authentic and accessible voice guided sessions. Over the summer of 2015, version 2.0 was released to much fanfare. Each user’s journey is now mapped into a timeline (much like Facebook) and shows the user’s development and achievements over time. In the beginning, you work through the “foundation” sessions. From there, content is divided into four categories called “Health,” “Performance,” “Relationships,” and “Headspace Pro” (which allows the more experienced user to experience meditation sessions unguided by Puddicombe’s voice). Users have reported that the app has allowed them to develop the skills to meditate for extended sessions, which has improved their mood, sleep and daytime energy levels.

Cost: FREE for first 10 meditation sessions

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices.

You can download the app here.

3. DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

dbtscreen1DBTscreen2

Description: Based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan, this app is a rich resource of self-help skills, reminders of the therapy principles, and coaching tools for coping. This app could be useful to explore and learn about DBT as a therapeutic practice, or be used in conjunction with therapy with a professional.

Cost: $4.99

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS software, iOS 7.0 or later required.

You can purchase and download the app here.

4. Optimism

optimism2

Description: Optimism by Optimism APPS is a mood-charting app specifically designed for people coping with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Based on your input of core data for each day, the app generates graphs and charts to give you a portrait of trends in your well-being, sleep quality, and exercise frequency, etc. One of the strengths of Optimism is that it highlights medication and the importance of adherence in treatment approach, which other mental wellness apps tend to overlook.

Cost: FREE

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here.

5. Freudie

freudie1

Description: A silly, fun app called Freudie by The Psych Files that lets you select and insert an image of the iconic father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, into any photograph or selfie.

Cost: $1.19

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS, requires iOS 6.0 or later.

You can purchase the app here. 

If you know of any other apps that help you to prioritize and manage your mental health, please leave the names in the comments.