Rainbow Walking – A Mindful Activity for the Young and the Young at Heart

walking with dad

As the start of the school year approaches, some kids are getting excited and impatient while others may be experiencing nervousness and anxiety. Whether the kids that you care for are dealing with restlessness or anxiety or both, learning how to calm down and ground themselves is a great coping skill   to learn early on in life.  This simple mindfulness activity can be learned in just a few minutes and practiced just about anywhere. It is great for kids because it is easy to remember and involves being active. Adults who practice rainbow walking will reap the benefits of mindfulness too!

How to do a Rainbow Walk:

rainbow hands
Rainbow light crossing hands of a child on ground

The first thing to do when preparing for a rainbow walk is to review the colors of the rainbow with the child. If you have a prism, it’s great to show off how you can create rainbows right in your home (honestly, I spent hours and hours doing this as a child).

Now, head outside and simply start walking and looking for something in each color of the rainbow. You and your young companion will begin to tune into your surroundings and start noticing things that you would usually have just walked right by. You may see the raspberry pink reflection of a flower in a puddle or a bold cobalt blue streak of the sky. You may begin to wonder how you’ve missed all of these things for so long and why your mind has been so preoccupied with thoughts that you haven’t paid attention to all the beauty around you! Once you have found something in each color, you can just start over again.

As you finish your rainbow walk, you can remind your walking companion that they can practice mindfulness any time and that it is always available to them if they feel nervous, worried or overwhelmed.  If they are at school and they can’t go out walking, they can do a rainbow sitting activity and just look around the space that they are in finding something in each color of the rainbow.

Mindfulness activities and practice serve to quiet the constant chatter in our minds that prevents us from being truly present. When those thoughts of the past and the future are racing through our minds, anxiety and worry can take over. Mindfulness can help us to connect with the present moment and put our fears and worries aside.

For more information on how to help a child who is experiencing back-to-school anxiety, check out this very helpful page at at AnxietyBC.

 

Polly Guetta

 

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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 Caring becomes too much…

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:mom and daughter

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
  • Irritability

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. caregiver burnout (1) 

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!

 

 

 

 

Meet Jake Palmour – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

jake p

How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

A dear friend of mine had been volunteering at the MDABC. Her positive experiences there inspired me to connect with the staff and management at the MDABC.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I volunteer once a week as a Greeter in the Robson Psychiatric Clinic. 

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

I really cherish the opportunity to welcome new clients to the practice in a warm and empathic manner. It is also really rewarding to witness the positive transformation that clients undergo as a result of the various therapies that are offered by the MDABC.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I am really excited about the MDABC’s proactive and inclusive approach to Youth who experience various mood disorders. More robust Youth programming would be beneficial.  I also appreciate some Psychiatrists’ use of therapies that do not involve pharmaceutical intervention.

What are three things that you need to feel happy and well?

Self-care is integral to my continued well-being. I am an avid cyclist and skateboarder; I also LOVE coffee.

 

Why Mindfulness?

Why are more and more people drawn to the practice of mindfulness? We see thatstones mindfulness centres, groups, and classes are popping up everywhere…is this just a trend that will soon fizzle out?

In fact, mindfulness has been practiced for centuries and although it may have recently seen a  surging in popularity in the West, it is certainly not a flash-in-the-pan Wellness trend. People who practice mindfulness find that they feel happier, more content, and more relaxed. Studies have shown that this practice can also help you to increase your self-compassion and your compassion for your fellow beings. This compassion can often lead to more altruistic behavior which creates a better society for everyone.

Very simply, mindfulness can be defined in this way:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,
in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”   Jon Kabat-Zinn

Kabat-Zinn is a famous Buddhist monk and teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and many of the strategies and exercises that counsellors use when they teach mindfulness are based on his teachings.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can help you to recover from anxiety and depression, we invite you to consider registering for MDABC’s Spring 2016 Mindfulness Course. Click here to start the application process.

mindfulness group april

MDABC Board Member Jon McComb Receives GG Award

In a ceremony that took place at the Chan Centre in Vancouver on March 4,2016, MDABC Board of Directors member Jon McComb was presented with the Governor-General’s Caring Canadian Award.

Created in 1995, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.

Jon was nominated for the award for his volunteer efforts over many years to increase mental illness awareness and help reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems. Jon McComb has been a talk-show host on CKNW  Radio for more than 30 years  and consistently offers his listeners respectful, smart and passionate opinions.

The MDABC would like to congratulate Jon McComb on his award and wish him continued success in all of  his endeavors.

Visit to Vancouver

 

The Value of Connection : A Mental Health Perspective 

 fingers

By Catherine St. Denis

Building a social network helps aid in the improvement of the lives of people with mental illnesses. After years of working with people with mood disorders, we at the Mood Disorders Association of BC believe that not only do social networks improve the lives of people with mood disorders, sometimes social networks can save lives.

Staff at the MDABC frequently hear, “The support group saved my life” and, “I don’t know what I’d do without the support of this program”. We take these little nuggets and store them away knowing that opportunities for social networking and support are crucial to an improvement, or lack of decline in mental health; this is what we hear and see around us all the time. These messages come from people in our peer support groups, our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes and in our workshops.

There are many reasons that connecting with others in meaningful ways is helpful. Connection with others reduces the isolation people with mood disorders often feel. Connection with others helps us learn about our illness through the informal or formal learning one gets from talking to others. When we connect with others with similar concerns we know we are not alone in our feelings and behaviours; others have also struggled with our issues. When we connect with supportive loved ones we can feel their caring and compassion and can realize that no matter how we feel on the inside, no matter how great our symptoms are, there are people who really care for and love us. When we are in the throes of active symptoms of our illness it is very challenging at times to feel and believe that we are loved and cared about so this connection can be a perfect reminder.

There are other ways of connecting even if one does not have a circle of family and friends. The MDABC offers peer support groups, classes and workshops so that people can make these important connections. There are members of some groups who have become friends and who have formed close, mutually beneficial relationships that have enhanced their lives. Connection does not have to mean personal relationships either. When we volunteer or enter or re-enter the workforce we have opportunities to connect with others and there are hundreds of organizations that look for volunteers throughout the year, for either short or long term positions.

When we attend lectures, discussion groups, or entertainment events we can connect with others for brief periods, this can make the difference between a bad day and a good one. Of course just being around others is not enough if we keep to ourselves and don’t make efforts to talk, make eye contact or add to a discussion, this is the part of connection that takes some effort. If we want to have friends, colleagues, supportive family members and other relationships, no matter how brief, we must take our fears and discomfort in hand and experiment. We won’t connect with everyone all the time but the more one makes efforts to connect the more chance of it happening.

For more information about the programs and services the MDABC has to help you connect please visit our website at www.mdabc.net.

For more information about opportunities to volunteer with other organizations please visit Go Volunteer at http://govolunteer.ca/.

Can food really affect my mental health?

coffee

By Susan Furtado, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Many people are seeking to improve their mental health by using self-help strategies, and by finding approaches that they can use alongside, or even instead of, prescribed medication. One self-help strategy is to make changes to what we eat, and there is a growing interest in how food and nutrition can affect emotional and mental health. There have been positive responses from individuals who have made changes to their diet which confirm the importance of food and nutrition for maintaining or improving emotional and mental health.

In addition to self-help, experienced healthcare professionals may support individuals in making dietary changes, and recommend appropriate nutritional supplementation. The real effects of food on mood demonstrate how it can form part of a more holistic approach to the treatment of mental health concerns.

How does food affect mood?

There are many explanations for the cause-and-effect relationship between food and mood. The following are some examples:

  • Fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, and are affected by what we eat.
  • What we eat can affect brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) which influence the way we think, feel and behave
  • There can be abnormal reactions to artificial chemicals in foods, such as artificial colourings and flavourings.
  • There are reactions that can be due to the deficiency of an enzyme needed to digest a food. Lactase, for instance, is needed to digest lactose (milk sugar); without it, a milk intolerance can build up.
  • People can become hypersensitive to foods. This can cause what are known as delayed or hidden food allergies or
  • Low levels of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can affect mental health, with some symptoms associated with particular nutritional deficiencies. For example, links have been demonstrated between low levels of certain B- vitamins and symptoms of schizophrenia, low levels of the mineral zinc and eating disorders, and low levels of omega-3 oils and depression.

Continue reading “Can food really affect my mental health?”