Five Facts about Sunlight

I love the quote by Hans Christian Anderson that states, “Just living is not enough….one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” It speaks to some core elements in feeling content. Here are five facts about how sunshine is linked to our increased emotional health:

  • Sunlight increases serotonin, a hormone responsible for helping us feel calm, centered and relaxed.
  • Exposure to the sun prompts our skin to create Vitamin D, known to help lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation and improve brain function (all great factors for our mental health too!)
  • Sunlight has been shown to increase oxygen in the blood; bringing much needed oxygen to the tissues, including our brain!
  • Sunshine may prevent us from eating too much. The part of the brain that is responsible for mood is also responsible for appetite; boosting your mood can lead to making better choices when it comes to eating.
  • Exposure to sunlight can help re-adjust our circadian rhythm, allowing us to get a good night’s sleep.

Moral of the story? Get outside and put your face to the sun. Drink up its warmth and feel the healing affects of its light 🙂

Photo credit:http://Photo by Laura Pratt on Unsplash

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The Facts About Happy

In an article my friend Gurlie sent me, they showcase some of the facts about happy. Here are some of their interesting tidbits:

  • Happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life and how good you feel on an every day basis.
  • Happy people have lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
  • Keeping happy “steady,” has more benefits in the long run than spikes of extreme happiness.
  • Happy people help others and volunteer more.
  • People who have experienced some adversity in their life are happier than those who haven’t experienced any.

The article, entitled “All the Secrets To Living a Happier Life, In One Helpful Chart’ by Lindsay Holmes and featured on Huffpost, also gives interesting information about how our happiness is determined, how to increase your happiness in the long run, the happiest countries in the world and ways to boost your happiness – and it is all displayed quite nicely in a chart with awesome graphics.

It is worth checking out: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/the-science-of-happiness_n_5a73398ae4b0146e594513e1

Photo credit: http://Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

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How TV Can Boost Your Mood

Normally I would caution clients against using TV as a method of self-care as it can lead us at times to disengage. Sitting down to a favourite show; however, certainly has its merit, and with balance as our goal, we can use TV as a good distraction or relaxation method.

In an article entitled, “Therapists Found These 15 Shows and Movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime Dramatically Boost People’s Moods” by Carolyn Steber and featured on Bustle, Steber writes about how certain shows can actually lessen some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I was happy to see some of my favourite shows on the list such as “Grace and Frankie” & “The Marvelous Miss Maisel” and one of my all time favourite movies, “Good Will Hunting.” It also made me curious to check out some of the other shows that I haven’t heard about yet, or watch the old classic series “Friends.”

My partner and I often sit down after dinner with a show series we are watching; it is a good way to relax after a full day and it gives us a chance to connect. TV, when used in a balanced way, can help to boost mood and bookend your evening 🙂

For the full list and article: https://www.bustle.com/p/therapists-found-these-15-shows-movies-on-netflix-amazon-prime-dramatically-boost-peoples-moods-16765038

Photo credit: http://Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

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Meet Your Guests at the Door

We often try and avoid unpleasant emotions; this little poem by Rumi reminds us that it is okay to welcome them as a part of our human experience:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house. Every morning

is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at

the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent 

as a guide from beyond. 

 – Rumi

 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Activating Positive Mental States

Building on our post from yesterday about negative bias, today we look at Dr. Rick Hanson’s work in terms of activating positive mental states. By explaining short term versus long term memory capacity, Dr. Hanson states: “The takeaway point is that most positive experiences wash through the brain like water through a sieve, while negative ones are caught every time.” 

We can’t escape the negative bias; it is part of our evolutionary brain. But we can work towards activating positive mental states, what Dr. Hanson refers to as “taking in the good.” This can occur in three steps:

  1. When having a positive experience, notice it. It could be in the foreground or in the background of awareness, but either way, you want to begin by simply paying attention to how it feels to be in this positive experience.
  2. Enrich the experience. In order for the good to be taken in, it needs to be extended past the short term memory buffer. Making it last longer than 20 seconds gets you over the threshold. Drink in the moment, close your eyes, take some deep breaths; simply feel the positive emotions linked to the experience.
  3. Absorb the experience. This is through a conscious intention to focus on the positive experience as sifting down into you.

“Taking in the good” is a practice that instills growth; it’s focus is to accept, yet also challenge, our negative bias with the notion that we can also consciously choose an overall better state of mind.

To visit Dr. Rick Hanson’s website: https://www.rickhanson.net/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

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What is a Negative Bias and Why Do We Have it?

I have been working away at an online course on why brain science matters in therapy. In one of the segments, we hear about ‘negative bias’ from Dr.Rick Hanson. Essentially, he talks about how the brain is very good at learning from bad experiences and pretty bad about learning from good experiences; what it really boils down to is an evolutionary bias towards avoiding danger and threat.

He goes on to explain that we have three levels of the evolutionary brain developed to focus on three fundamental needs: avoiding harms, approach and rewards and attaching to others. Bottom line? We need to make sure there is no threat or danger before we can move onto the next two stages. And so, forms the negative bias. Negative experience in short term memory gets converted immediately to long term-storage. I will never forget, for example, what it felt like to hit another car from behind; every time I am in the driver’s seat, I automatically give myself a wide berth to the car in front of me. There is my negative bias, working to keep me safe. 🙂

The reason this bit of information is important is that it gives us information about how cumulative negative experiences can contribute to increased anxiety and our overall emotional health.

Tomorrow’s post will continue the work of Dr. Hanson in exploring how we can use positive experiences to create a positive mental state, increasing our ability to cope with the stressors and challenges life presents us.

To visit Dr. Hanson’s website: https://www.rickhanson.net/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

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Maya Angelou; Guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Podcast

I recently listened to Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class Podcast which featured guest Maya Angelou. This is what she had to say about how we can be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud:

“There is an African American song which is so great and it goes like this….’When it looks like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.’ I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I have had so many rainbows. And one of the things I do when I step up on stage, when I go to teach my classes, when I go direct a movie; I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me, with me – black, white, Asian, Spanish, Native American, gay, straight – everybody. Come with me – I need you now.  I don’t ever feel I have no help. I’ve had rainbows in my clouds. And it seems to me, the thing to do is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you, who may not call God the same name you call God, they many not eat the same dishes prepared as you do, they may not dance your dances, speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”

What a wonderful sentiment; to be rainbow in someone else’s cloud. To listen to the podcast (it was awesome!): https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/own/oprahs-master-class/e/59268148

Photo credit: Me! I created it on Canva 🙂

Words Matter

When I was about 8 years old, after my sister and I had come in from outside, I was singing to myself this little song the neighbour girls had taught us. “Eenie meenie, miney mo, catch a ‘n-word’ by the toe. If he hollers, let him go, eenie, meenie, miney, mo.” WELL! I will never forget my mother’s immediate reaction; to this little kid, I had absolutely no idea what was getting her all ruffled. She went on to explain of course why the use of the ‘n-word’ was so derogatory and that I was to never use it. It was quickly replaced by the word ‘tiger.’

During grade school at some point, we started saying “That’s gay” in response to something lame, and “That’s retarded” in response to something stupid or ridiculous. It was part of the ascribed slang, no different at the time I suppose than “That’s wicked,” or “Kiss my grits.” Except now when we say those expressions, they do matter. They are hurtful, disrespectful and defamatory.

Sometimes we slip up and accidentally say them, but if those types of expressions are a part of our everyday language, we need to change them. Kindness matters. Words matter. As Albert Einstein  once stated “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

Photo credit: http://Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

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The Meaning of Success

In an all too busy world, where we have many obligations, deadlines and personal goals, the idea of success, can at times, be overwhelming. When we are just barely keeping ahead of our tasks, or the struggle to get out of bed in the morning is our hill to climb, success can seem elusive and hard to measure. It is in those times that I like to reflect on a quote that tends to put things into perspective for me:

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts.

This is the secret of success.”   – Swami Sivananda

Success comes from movement, from conscious choice. It is the stepping stones of your day that will lead you to feel accomplished when you are heading to bed; the way you made someone feel, the dinner you made, getting through some of your to-do list, spending 20 minutes in a relaxing bath. Line up your tasks with your goals; focus simply on movement forward and you have achieved success. 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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5 Facts About Music and Mental Health

When it comes to music, we have all experienced emotional moments when listening to a song triggers a memory, experience or feeling. I can hear “Dancing Queen” by Abba and be transported to my childhood living room and the record player, hear any Randy Travis song and be reminded of road trips with my girls (yes, I forced them to listen to it and they know all the words!) and when I hear “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston, I am reminded of high school dances with my friends. Music is uplifting and feeds our comfort system, making an important impact on our mental health:

  • music engages areas of the brain responsible for memory and increasing the efficiency of brain processing.
  • music elevates mood and aids in relaxation.
  • music has the ability to transform a good experience to an unforgettable one.
  • music can aid in motivation – throw on some good tunes when you have to clean the house!
  • all forms of music have been shown to have therapeutic effects.

Incorporating music in our self-care routine is one that is so simple and yet so beneficial. So turn on the tunes; it will do you good!

Photo credit: http://Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

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