Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Year of Healthy Living

As this may be my last post for a while, I thought I would make it a big one. What follows is a list of ways to change thoughts, behaviours, and attitudes. It also nicely coincides with the new year.

Suggestions and explanations:

• The idea behind this list is to provide a variety of ways of changing your state of being in simple ways. Some things are specific, while some are more general and open to interpretation and contemplation. Even though you may already do many of this things, it is also beneficial to do them on purpose and with awareness.
• Print out the list and choose an activity at random each day, being fully committed to completing it. If the activity is weather or seasonally dependent, complete it at the earliest opportunity.
• There are two big things on this list. The first is yoga, which I included because of it’s many benefits. A good yoga instructor can be a great therapist providing positive comments as while as guiding you through relaxation, meditation, and exercise. If you aren’t comfortable going to a gym, get yourself a dvd or find tutorials online. If you don’t have a lot of money, many studios offer karma classes where you can pay by donation and Lululemon offers free classes at their stores. Don’t be concerned about your fitness level; I’ve gone to yoga classes where all I’ve been able to do is sit through half of it. The other big thing is to create a new, healthy habit which takes a bit of time.
• Whenever your senses are involved in an activity, be especially mindful about what you are feeling.
• Whenever repetitions or time suggestions are given, feel free to do more.
• You may want to keep a journal to record how you responded to each activity. Notice the things you find helpful and try to do them more often.
• Some things on this list may seem silly and trite, but not only does doing something outside your comfort zone and regular behaviour help change emotions, it can also give you an excuse to have fun. It’s ok, nobody’s watching.
• If you like, print the list onto pretty paper and put the items in a decorated jar.

1. Say something nice about someone you don’t like (bonus if you say it to them).
2. Give up your seat on the bus or let someone in if you drive.
3. Pay attention to objects in your favourite colour.
4. Do one thing that you’ve been putting off.
5. Call someone just to say ‘hi.’
6. Say something nice about yourself (even if you don’t think you believe it).
7. Give change/food to a homeless person (and say ‘hello’ to them).
8. Back up your important data.
9. Make a playlist of music that makes you happy.
10. Eat something delicious.
11. Watch a funny video on you-tube.
12. Tell someone who is important to you that they are important.
13. Create something (art, craft, food…).
14. Wear your favourite outfit (even if the weather is bad and even if you’re not going out).
15. Pet an animal.
16. Find or make a card and mail it to yourself.
17. Find or make a card and mail it to someone else.
18. Look at the stars.
19. Look at the moon.
20. Eat something green.
21. Eat a vegetable.
22. Start reading a book (bonus if you finish it).

23. Don’t assume the worst.
24. Smile often. Remember to create a half-smile as often as possible.
25. For 1min, examine an object nearby in detail.
26. Smell a flower.
27. Feed some birds.
28. Put up a new picture on your fridge or wall.
29. Eat some nuts.
30. Look at art (online is ok).
31. Wear nice underwear.
32. Read a comic.
33. Watch something funny.
34. Throw a rock.
35. Wear something in your favourite colour.
36. Light a candle.
37. Tell someone a joke.
38. Give a stranger a compliment.
39. Eat blueberries.
40. Sit in your favourite spot for 5 min.
41. Walk barefoot over 3 different surfaces (and compare how they feel).
42. Learn a new word.
43. Wash the dishes.
44. Play with bubbles (the bubbles in your dishes sink count).
45. Water or plant a plant.
46. Warm a towel before bathing so it is warm when you dry yourself.
47. Go for a 10min walk (take notice of your surroundings).
48. See how many different leaves you can find.
49. Take photos of at least 5 things that catch your eye.
50. Make a list of all the species (try to get to 100) in your backyard.
51. Write a positive message on a piece of paper and leave it somewhere public for someone else to find.
52. Sing.
53. Laugh often.
54. Notice people’s umbrellas (or bags, jewellery…).
55. Notice the different types of dogs/cats you see.
56. Be grateful.
57. Plan a meal (and make it).
58. Plan an activity for this week (and do it).
59. Stretch often.
60. For 1min, pay attention to your breath without changing it. Notice how deep the breath is, whether you breathe into your stomach or chest, the rate of your breaths…
61. Eat something red.
62. Buy a flower for your house.
63. Give yourself a foot massage.
64. Dance.
65. Do as many sit-ups as you can.
66. Do as many push-ups as you can.
67. Do as many jumping-jacks as you can.
68. Do your hair differently.
69. Give someone on the internet a positive comment on their blog/video.
70. Watch a cute animal video.

71. Next time you buy groceries, buy something you wouldn’t normally get.
72. Draw a picture (and maybe give it to someone).
73. Look at old photographs.
74. For 1min, work on slowing down the rate of your breath.
75. Take a deep breath and sigh out loud.
76. Rub your palms together quickly until they are warm and then gently massage your eye sockets (with your eyes closed) with the heels of your hands.
77. Clear your plans for 1 day and then fill the day with improvised activities.
78. Every time you have a negative thought, also think of something positive (even something as simple as ‘kittens are cute’).
79. Every time you think something negative about another person, also find something positive to say about them.
80. Dedicate all of your positive experiences to a person who might need some extra help/energy.
81. Say something nice about your body.
82. Practice simplicity. Cut out superfluous activities doing only what is necessary.
83. Choose an activity from an art therapy website (and do it).
84. Write down all the positive events/feelings that occurred during the day (find at least three).
85. Notice moments of quiet.
86. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, stop what you are doing and take 3 deep breaths.
87. Order free samples of stuff from the internet (
88. Find 3 scents you enjoy.
89. Write (anything you want).
90. Change your physical state (posture, facial expression…)
91. Don’t panic.
92. Spend 1 day away from the internet.
93. Look at pictures of space.
94. Learn something new.
95. Think of 5 people you have enjoyed spending time with.
96. Make plans to spend time with someone (and do it).
97. Get up to watch the sunrise (you can go back to bed afterwards).
98. Keep the beat to a song (snap your fingers, tap your foot…).
99. Jump up and down a few times.
100. Stick your tongue out.
101. Do yoga.
102. Throughout the day, check your body for areas of tension and then relax them.
103. Trust in something.
104. Eat something yellow.
105. Touch a tree.
106. Notice how your body temperature changes throughout the day and how the temperature varies in different areas of your body.
107. Eat a healthy breakfast.
108. Eat a healthy dinner.
109. Draw/write something with your opposite hand.
110. When bathing, notice what it feels like to be wet.
111. Take a chance.
112. Hug something, someone, or yourself.
113. Touch 5 different things.
114. Look up volunteer opportunities (bonus if you start volunteering).
115. Avoid drama.
116. De-clutter your home or office.
117. Forgive (yourself and others).
118. Drink a hot beverage.
119. Smile at strangers.
120. Skip.
121. Make a paper airplane or origami.
122. Be brave.
123. Participate (in conversations, the work you are doing, in your community…).
124. Whistle.
125. Learn to say ‘hello’ in 5 languages.
126. Watch the sunset.
127. See something good in every person you encounter.
128. Be patient.
129. Have 1 day without any tv.
130. Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator.
131. Make your bed.
132. Read a children’s book.
133. Be curious.
134. Google your name to see who else is out there.
135. Look at the clouds.
136. Take vitamins (vitamin B and omega-3 are especially good for depression).
137. Listen to the birds.
138. Do something difficult.
139. Floss.
140. Daydream.
141. Take a different route to work.
142. Take a bath with low or no lights.
143. Go through your closet and donate what you don’t need anymore.
144. Set a nice table for dinner (even if you’re only eating KD).
145. Say ‘I love you’ to someone (or yourself).
146. Remember a moment of joy and bring that feeling into whatever you do.
147. Look out the window.
148. Clean out your junk drawer.
149. Do 10min of exercise.
150. Clean your fridge.
151. Change the desktop background on your computer/phone.
152. Do a puzzle or solve a riddle.
153. Play a game.
154. Pretend your coffee/water is a magic potion and choose a superpower and pretend you have it for the rest of the day.
155. See how long you can hold your breath.
156. Make a list of the bigger goals you want to accomplish (a set an intention to complete them).
157. Write a poem/haiku.
158. Start a piggy-bank or savings account.
159. Clean out your inbox.
160. Pick a person and make a list of all the things you like about them (and give it to them).
161. Search for an interesting rock to keep.
162. Write a note by cutting words out of a magazine.
163. Memorise a poem.
164. Try not to think about dancing unicorns.
165. Send a thank-you note to someone.
166. Try to catch food in your mouth by tossing it in the air.
167. Follow a bug for 5min to see what it does.
168. Paint with your fingers/toes.
169. Find free activities to do in your city.
170. Grow an herb.

171. Explore lolcats.
172. Make yourself a survival kit. Include things that make you feel better: a soft, scented scarf, an old letter from a friend, a picture that always makes you smile...Bring out your kit when you're feeling down.
173. Pick a letter of the alphabet and notice things that begin with that letter.
174. Build a fort.
175. Be the person you want to be.
176. Give advice to yourself in the past.
177. Notice people who are holding hands.
178. Take an old book and leave it somewhere for someone to find (maybe leave your email in it to see if anyone contacts you).
179. Send a postcard to a stranger and get one back (
180. Go to bed on time.
181. Indulge in a guilty pleasure (as long as it doesn’t harm anyone).
182. Share a one sentence story at
183. Drop a dollar on the ground and see if it’s returned or just leave it for someone to find.
184. Make an animal sound.
185. Sit in 5 different positions.
186. Hold an ice cube in your hand.
187. Balance something on your nose/head.
188. Sit in a different chair/area than you usually do.
189. List as many words beginning with D as you can in 3 min.
190. Listen to music while lying on the floor in the dark.
191. Plan a holiday (even if you can’t go).
192. Think about the best sex you’ve had.
193. Look up your name at
194. Drink everything through a straw.
195. Bring cookies (or something) to work.
196. Lie in the sun.
197. Change your ring tone.
198. Believe that everything is always getting better.
199. Be accepting.
200. Really taste your food.
201. Drink your coffee or tea without sugar if you normally have sugar, or with sugar if you normally drink it without.
202. Notice 5 things you can see.
203. Notice 5 things you can hear.
204. Notice 5 things you can smell.
205. Notice 5 things you can feel.
206. Count to 10 without being interrupted by other thoughts. When you are interrupted, start the count over.
207. Measure your breath by counting how many footsteps you take per breath.
208. Notice how your arms swing when you’re walking.
209. Make a list of your favourite movies.
210. Try not to say the word ‘is.’
211. Ask someone to recommend a book (and read it).
212. Ask someone to recommend a movie (and watch it).
213. Wear nice jewellery.
214. Don’t complain.
215. Appreciate what you have.
216. Choose happiness.
217. Try to feel your heart beating in your chest.
218. Don’t procrastinate.
219. Avoid alcohol/drugs.
220. Walk backwards.
221. Blink your eyes rapidly and the close them and watch the lights.
222. Jump on the bed/couch.
223. See how many times you can use the word ‘definitely.’
224. Think about your favourite building (and visit it).
225. Do a cartwheel, headstand, or handstand.
226. Create a Venn diagram.
227. Go for a bike ride.
228. Spin in circles and then try to walk straight.
229. Let go.
230. Ask why.
231. Shake your head back and forth quickly.
232. Blubber your lips like a horse.

233. Find beauty in ordinary things.
234. Clean out your purse/wallet.
235. Eat something crunchy.
236. Eat something soft.
237. Take something out of storage.
238. Leave work at work.
239. Keep your favourite xmas ornament out all year.
240. Notice people’s xmas trees through their living room windows.
241. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand.
242. Give up a bad habit.
243. Think about all the compliments you’ve been given and believe them.
244. Put your feelings into words and recognise them as something separate from your identity.
245. Do the opposite of what you want to do when you’re feeling unwell.
246. Leave a cheerful message on someone’s voicemail (or your own).
247. Clean your floors.
248. Clean your toilet.
249. Decide, right now, to be happy.
250. Make birthday cards and plan to mail them.
251. Clean unused files and programs from your computer.
252. Hold the door open for someone.
253. Dust.
254. Sign up to get free stuff on your birthday (register Starbuck’s card, Vera’s Burger Shack, PaJo’s Fish & Chips, Marble Slab, Sephora, Orange Julius…).
255. Eat something yellow.
256. Let someone go in front of you in a line.
257. Put change in an expired meter.
258. Tip generously.
259. Make a donation to a charity (even just $1).
260. Make a kind wish for someone.
261. Give money to a street musician.
262. Pick up trash in your neighbourhood.
263. Fix something that is broken or needs mending.
264. Leave change in a vending machine.
265. Ask someone to recommend a recipe.
266. Offer to make or buy someone coffee (this can be the stranger behind you in line).
267. Look people in the eye.
268. Listen sincerely to people (maybe ask someone to tell you a story).
269. Share your umbrella with a stranger.
270. Have flowers delivered to a friend (or yourself).
271. Buy yourself a treat.
272. Put up a funny `lost` poster and see who responds.
273. Offer to do a someone a favour.
274. Embrace your mistakes.
275. Clean your bedroom.
276. Eat a healthy snack.
277. Measure your carbon footprint (and make plans to reduce it).
278. Be especially good to your body.
279. Choose to be an affirming person.
280. Give the benefit of the doubt.
281. Make kindness a priority.
282. Ask someone to recommend some music you`ve never heard.
283. Try to create no waste.
284. Give yourself a hand massage.
285. Eat (a small piece) of dark chocolate.
286. Stand and sit tall.
287. Bounce a ball.
288. Feel the rain on your face/skin.
289. Look up a famous philosopher and get a quote.
290. Do some math (long division or whatever your level is).
291. View problems as challenges to be overcome.
292. Listen to a podcast.
293. Masturbate or have sex.
294. Take a nap.
295. Learn binary.
296. Learn a card trick (and show it to someone).
297. Write a letter to your future children/grandchildren.
298. Read the newspaper (the whole thing).
299. Play on a swing.
300. Remember a time when you felt accomplished.
301. Contemplate which era you would visit if you had a time machine.
302. At the end of your work day, write down 3 positive work related things.
303. Write a letter to your future self.
304. Give yourself a head massage.
305. Know you’re loved.
306. Lie down and relax for 5min.
307. Clean your bathroom.
308. Think before you speak.
309. Eat a fruit.
310. Eat a vegetable.
311. Put clean sheets on your bed.
312. Go on an adventure (visit a new neighbourhood, shop at a different grocery store…).
313. Feel the wind.
314. Laugh at something that isn’t funny.
315. Look at nature photos.
316. Clean behind the fridge/stove.
317. Touch your toes (you can bend your knees if needed).
318. Do as many squats/lunges as you can.
319. Scrunch up your face.
320. Stand without moving for 1min.
321. Do alternate nostril breathing (close your left nostril with your forefinger and breathe in through your right. Then, close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through your left. Inhale through your left, close the left nostril and release the right, and breathe out through the right. Repeat a few times.).
322. Inhale in 1 breath and exhale in 3 separate breaths.
323. Hum.
324. Breathe in and out rapidly through your nose (aim for 3 breaths/sec).
325. Breathe in as much as you can and fully exhale to get all the air out (it helps if you pull in your stomach at the end of your exhale).
326. Give yourself a shoulder massage.
327. Find reasons to agree.
328. Find reasons to love yourself and your life.
329. Spend an extra second with every thing you do.
330. Allow yourself to not like something that isn’t healthy for you.
331. Get rid of 1 thing.
332. Create a new habit by doing something everyday (this can take 15 -60 days).
333. Be disciplined.
334. Recall the most severe weather you have experienced.
335. Don’t worry.
336. Make a list of new things you learned this week.
337. Set 3 goals for the day and do them.
338. Think of something you have to look forward to.
339. Tell yourself, ‘I’m awesome,’ frequently (even if/especially you make a mistake).
340. Learn to stop. Set a time limit for a task (choose a time that is shorter than the task would require to be completed) and let yourself stop. You can finish your task at a later time.
341. Scream.
342. Instead of thinking ‘what if’ think ‘next time.’
343. Let go of negative relationships.
344. Read out loud.
345. Shake someone’s hand.
346. Balance on one leg and then the other (if you want to make this more difficult, you can try lifting one leg into the air and closing your eyes).
347. Do something silly.
348. Recognise the work you’ve done, the progress you’ve made and celebrate your successes.
349. Don’t make excuses.
350. Be courteous.
351. Focus your imagination and efforts on becoming a positive person.
352. Don’t curse.
353. Create a visualisation of a happy place (if you already have one, go there).
354. Choose 11 activities to add to this list.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts for Someone Who is Depressed

Another re-post from last year.

This could be for the holidays or a special occasion or just because. The best gift is your support, but presents are nice too. The following list is compiled from ideas I found on the interweb and my own ideas. There are of course many wonderful gifts you could give to any person, but I tried to make this more specific for depressed people by choosing gifts that are not only presents, but will enhance their life in a healthy and positive way.

* Ask them to do something healthy for you -bake a cake, make a cd, play a song if they play an instrument. Some people might be more willing to engage in activity if they’re not concerned about the cost/benefit to themselves. Eventually, an individual has to choose to things by and for themselves, but a little help getting started can go a long way.

* Make them some homemade food. Self-care can be difficult when depressed and appetite particularly can fluctuate. Having nutritious, wholesome, and comforting food at hand can make the difference between a person eating or not.

* Pretty paper or a nice journal. There can be a lot of CBT homework and scheduling; having some brightly coloured paper might encourage someone to fill out their 3 positive events for that day, for example.

* A day out. Ask them to go for a walk with you. Take them to a movie or concert. Bear in mind, they might not be in their best mood. So don’t necessarily expect the outing to be overly joyous, but do know that even if it seems you are only helping a small amount, that amount can be greater to your guest. In short, don’t put expectations on them to respond in a particular way.

* A plant or pet. Things like pets you need to be careful with; they might not have the energy to train a puppy. Something like a Siamese fighting fish might be more appropriate. Sometimes when a person is depressed they can be resistant to caring for another person/thing. If the gift dies, don’t be angry. Offer whatever emotional support they need to take care of this new thing; it might seem a simple skill, but even the easy stuff gets difficult in difficult times.

* Something comforting such as a blanket, stuffed animal, new socks, or hot chocolate packages.

* A picture (or pictures) of them by themselves or with someone else doing something memorable. It’s easy to forget that you were ever happy when you’re depressed.

* Money, gift cards, or offer to pay bills. That alone can alleviate a lot of stress.

* Adopt a child or endangered animal in their name. Encourage them to write letters to the child or stay updated with conservation through the newsletters that are mailed to sponsors.

* Enroll them in a class. Exercise is extremely good and an activity like yoga could help with mindfulness while they exercise. But any class (cooking, academic) that encourages social activity and skill building is good.

* A book. But a positive book, not one with a sad story and a sad ending. Self-help books are also an option, but these can be personal. Give them the opportunity to tell you it’s not quite the right book, but they would like something similar.
Garth Kroeker has a good reading list.

* Music. This can be given either as a cd/mp3 or an instrument. I recommend Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations.

* A light box. Very helpful for seasonal as well as chronic depression.

* A comedic dvd or cd.

It might sound cynical, but when giving a gift that involves the receiver and another person, be sure they like that other person. The thought always counts, and they will most likely appreciate the gesture, but it’s also nice to have something tangible. I don’t mean this to sound materialistic, most of the above suggestions can be done at little cost, only that concrete reminders of healthy times/relationships can last longer than thoughts which can become easily distorted or forgotten by the depression. The other option is to let them choose their companion (for example, give them two movie tickets, but don’t suggest they have to take you. Do encourage them however, to take someone. Adding a social activity to a pleasurable one can make it that much better.).

*** Avoid things like alcohol

* This site has some humourous gifts, but exercise caution when practicing irony.

Holiday Survival Guide

This is a re-post from last year.

The holidays can be a particularly lonely time for people. Even for those who look forward to the holidays, they can still be overwhelming. The following is a list of some things that may be helpful.

* Create/buy an especially thoughtful gift for someone who has supported or helped you.

* Do the above for someone random- a person on the street, pick an address from the phone book, or a needy family.

* Donate to charity. Clean out your closet and give what you don’t need to a local shelter.

* Volunteer. Help out in soup kitchens or with the red cross. Spend time with the elderly who might not have family visiting.

* Breathe. Holidays are chaotic and you may be forced to spend time in the company of people you dislike. Take time for yourself. Leave the party to go for a quiet walk. Find an empty room where you can read a book for a while. Sit in your car and listen to music for a few minutes.

* Be nice to people you don’t like.

* Host a dinner for a few people you are close to. Cooking for other people can be very therapeutic (in my case, this oftentimes leads to food poisoning, but the activity of cooking and sharing is still a positive event).

* Take a trip. I don’t encourage people to avoid difficulties, but sometimes you need a break so why not take that trip to Paris during the holidays?

* Exercise. This is something I always recommend, but the holidays can be especially lethargic times so it is important to maintain your exercise regime. Going for a run can also get you of a crowded, or empty, house.

* Make sure you have enough medication if your doctor will be taking time off.

* Remember, you don’t have to listen to Christmas music. At times this may be unavoidable, but in your home you can listen to whatever you like, even on Christmas morning. Some people may weary of the holiday music that is played in stores as early as November 1, so listen to your ipod while shopping.

* Do not feel obligated to anyone to do anything.

* Avoid alcohol.

* Eat nutritious foods as well as the delicious ones. And eat in moderation.

* If people start bickering, say something nice about them or someone they are talking about.

* Accept gifts graciously.

* Keep an emergency plan in place. Know where the hospital is if you’re out of town. Keep a list of friend’s numbers or call lines.

* Don’t abandon your regular activities. Keep doing all the things you normally do to stay healthy.