Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

Never regret something that once made you smile.

- Amber Deckers

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

― Audrey Hepburn

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Self Help Apps

These reviews include only free apps. The selection was chosen based on screenshots that looked promishing and a few that were recommended from other sites.

Moody Me: This app is essentially useless. You can choose a mood label from a list of about a dozen different moods and that’s about it.

Best Self-Help Quotes: Has a bunch of quotes you may or may not find inspirational.

Transform Your Life – An Awareness Package: Has daily quotes along with contemplative assignments (which I think gives this app a slight advantage over the quote only ones). It looks interesting enough that I might keep it around for a while.

TracknShare: This is a good mood diary that allows you to track mood, sleep, diet (by food group and includes a category for ‘sweets’), weather, and stress (and quite a few other things). It also lets you record notes and track acts of kindness and gratitude and puts it all into a graph. Unfortunately, the free version becomes limited after about a week, but the app does provide good ideas of what to include should you want to make your own mood tracker.

MoodTracker: Has medication reminders/trackers as well as mood, drugs, menstruation, sleep, and functionality. Graphs results. I prefer TracknShare.

My Instant Coach: This app gives general advice to life’s most common questions. I expected to really dislike this app, but it does a fair job of giving you some ideas and strategies of how to begin tackling your problems. It’s not complete by any means, but it is just an app and might give you some ideas or new perspectives you hadn’t thought of. It has me intrigued enough that I will keep it around for a while.

iZen Lite 2: This is a digital version of a zen sand garden which you can rake and decorate with a few different rocks. You can also share/save your garden. It’s nothing fancy, but I think I will enjoy it more than playing Angry Birds. And maybe it will make being on a crowded bus a little more relaxing.

My Thoughts: This is a collection of affirmations (e.g. “Today is the beginning of my new life”). I think it’s better to generate your own affirmations, but that can be very difficult some days. At the very least, it’s something positive to look at and think about during your day.

ZaZen Lite: I had high hopes for this one, but it’s really just a timer. Though it does have a nice bell sound.

MindfulnessAttitude: Again, a disappointment. It is intended to give descriptions of the different aspects of mindfulness, but the descriptions were very brief a far from explanatory.

There are also a lot of free meditation apps, but I think finding the right guided meditation is a personal thing, so I won’t review any of them here.

Remember, these apps aren’t intended to replace therapy. I wouldn’t even really call them an adjunct to therapy, but they can be useful reminder tools.

If you don’t have an apple product, but like the idea of tracking your moods check out some of my mood diaries (under the label Mood diary). Or create your own personalised version in excel.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

However, as human beings we are gifted with this wonderful human intelligence. Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to direct that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they like. So long as we remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to develop determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our underlying mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental strength. This recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any difficulty, no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope or sinking into feelings of low self-esteem.

- Dalai Lama

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Caprica Metaphor

For those of you who don’t know, Caprica is a spin-off of the Battlestar Galactica series which takes place before the Cylon war and concerns, among other things, the development of Cylons. In the series, Cylons are a combination of robotics and avatars based on real people. One of the central characters, Zoe, who developed the avatar program ( with the original version being a copy of herself) dies leaving her avatar to live on in a virtual world (and sometimes in a robot). There is also one other ‘dead’ girl who lives in the virtual world.

The world these girls live in is a violent, immoral game world. They hate it, but of course they can’t leave. So they decide to change it, fighting against the attitudes that prevail there and even building a beautiful sanctuary with playful pink trees.

Those living with depression often feel like they are trapped in a dark, chaotic world with no one to turn to. But this isn’t true. We all have the ability to transform our world, and ourselves. It’s difficult work that requires help, but all we have to do is have a clear intention of what we want and head in that direction. This is not to imply that a person can completely manipulate the outside world or alter their past, but that how we perceive and interact with that world (by choosing optimism, healthy relationships…) is something within our control and we can shape our future.. One can even create an ideal, ‘happy place’ that can be used with meditations and relaxation techniques.

For those of you familiar with the show, this is only meant to be a limited metaphor…

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

Since patience or tolerance comes from an ability to remain steadfast, to avoid being overwhelmed by adverse situations or conditions, we should not see patience as a sign of weakness or giving in, but rather as a sign of strength. Responding to a trying situation with patience and tolerance rather than reacting with anger and hatred involves active restraint, which arises from a strong, self-disciplined mind.

- Dalai Lama

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Forest Bathing

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a Japanese term for spending time in the forest with the purpose of decreasing stress and other negative feelings. While there are quite a few studies showing walking in the woods is beneficial, it is difficult to find evidence as to what specifically, or holistically, is the acting agent(s). It is hypothesised that phytoncides, volatile substances given off by plants , may be the primary agent working as a sort of aromatherapy. Another hypothesis is that our technological and social evolution has developed faster than our biological evolution and that humans still feel more at home, and therefore more at ease, in the forest.

While I wouldn’t label these studies as particularly rigorous, anyone who has walked in the woods can certainly attest to its positive effects on well-being. Whether forests are good for us or cities are detrimental, taking a walk in nature is an easy way to decrease stress levels. The exercise alone will bring positive results. Additionally, taking time for some mindfulness exercises will also increase well-being. And the thrill of a new adventure is always stimulating.

That being said, there are certain precautions to be taken when embarking on any outdoor trip:
• Let someone know where you will be and when you expect to return
• Know the layout of the trails or have a map
• Check weather conditions
• Pack adequate food, clothing, water…
• Carry a first aid kit
• Travel with a companion or group
• Carry bear spray

Furthermore, those suffering from specific fears of the woods should consider working through an exposure hierarchy and ensure they have an exit strategy if the situation becomes too stressful.

A 2011 study demonstrating decreased cortisol levels and increased parasympathetic activity.

A 2007 study showing similar results.

A 2008 study/review that admirably tried to control for forest-like settings. Not surprisingly, the results were inconclusive, but one wouldn’t really expect to get the same physiological response from sitting in a wood room as from walking in a forest. This paper also reviews some other forest bathing studies.

A 2010 review of 24 studies.

A 2010 study concluding that time in the forest increases expression of anti-cancer proteins.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

"...perhaps the most pure and exalted kind of love, is an utter, absolute, and unqualified wish for the happiness of another individual."

- Dalai Lama

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Disadvantages and Advantages of being on Disability

This paper (Disability and the Duty to Accommodate in the Canadian Workplace) takes a very thorough look at the legalities of Canadian employees with disabilities and the responsibilities of employers in such circumstances with many real-life case examples. It’s quite long, but worth looking through, especially if you have specific concerns. Mental health disabilities are discussed beginning on page 54 and contains some interesting cases. (I didn’t see a publication date, but I expect it is quite a few years out of date).

This site offers a more brief description of legalities.

Advantages (you don't neccesarily have to be on disability to access these resources):
-social programs to help with returning to work which may include some financing of education
-cost of living slightly offset by bus pass ($45/yr) or driving program as well as subsidised medication costs (also talk to your psychiatrist about Plan G which covers some psychiatric drugs)
-check with your city to see if they offer a free pass to community cenres (Vancouver does. It is called the LAC - Leisure Access Card and gives you access to pools, gyms, ice rinks and sometimes discounts on classes).
-time to heal
-fewer daily stresses
-may allow for a career change
-time to get to know and discover new and interesting things about yourself and develop new skills
-develop new social circles
-time to give back to the community by volunteering
-understand and have greater empathy for people in similar situations
-programs such as free cooking classes offered by Community Mental Health Teams

-increases social isolation
-loss of purpose/incentive (I’m using the term generally here. Even if you don’t particularly like your job, having an established routine can be beneficial. It’s important to find new, healthy ways to fill your time).
-decreased income which may affect other areas of health such as nutrition and environmental living conditions if you must move somewhere with cheaper rent
-may be some stigma or gossip upon returning to work
-may be negative judgments from others regarding your disability
-stressful dealings with the government regarding the validity of your illness
-difficulty transitioning back into a working lifestyle which may cause symptoms to recur (it’s important to have support for this transition)

It is important to have a good working relationship with your psychiatrist. Without their support, and filling out pages of forms, you will not be eligible for disability benefits. And, of course, a discourse on your current health status and abilities, especially if you think it has affected your ability to work, is very important.

Remember, the application process takes time. If you are concerned about your condition and think you might require disability assistance, start talking to your doctor sooner rather than later so you don’t end up worsening your condition in a job you can’t do or in a financially stressful situation if you have to leave work before the paperwork goes through.

This site has information on eligibility and application requirements. Remember, you can (and should) appeal if your application is denied the first time around.