Tag Archive Mental health

ByAnxious Minds

Mind Vs. Brain

Let’s try a little experiment. Using your right index finger, point to your brain. Now using the same finger, point to your mind. Not so easy. We don’t necessarily think of our brain and mind as being exactly the same thing. One is not as easy to pinpoint, and this has led to two distinct ways we have of talking about mental activity: mind talk and brain talk.

To those of us without a degree in neurobiology, it seems completely natural to refer to the mind. We talk about feeling this way and thinking of that, of remembering one thing and dreaming of another. Those verbs are examples of mind talk. Using mind talk, we would say, “I recognised my first-grade teacher in the crowd because she was wearing the necklace with the beetle scarab, which was so unusual I still remembered it after all these years.”

We would not say, “A barrage of photons landed on my retina, exciting the optic nerve so that it carried an electrical signal to my lateral geniculate body and thence to my primary visual cortex, from which signals raced to my striate cortex to determine the image’s colour and orientation, and to my prefrontal cortex and inferotemporal cortex for object recognition and memory retrieval—causing me to recognise Mrs. McKelvey.”

That’s brain talk. That there is an interplay between mind and brain may seem unremarkable. The mind, after all, is generally regarded as synonymous with our thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs, and as the source of our behaviours. It’s not made of material, but we think of it as quite powerful, or even as who we are.

The mind, after all, is generally regarded as synonymous with our thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs, and as the source of our behaviors. It’s not made of material, but we think of it as quite powerful, or even as who we are.

The brain, the three-pound slab of tofu-textured tissue inside our skull, is recognised (by scientists, at least) as the physical source of all that we call mind. If you are having a thought or experiencing an emotion, it’s because your brain has done something—specifically, electrical signals crackled along a whole bunch of neurons and those neurons handed off droplets of neurochemicals, like runners handing off a baton in a relay race.

Neuroscientists don’t object to mind talk for casual conversation. But most insist that we not invoke the mind as if it is real, or distinct from the brain. They reject the notion that the mind has an existence independent of the brain (often called Cartesian dualism, after René Descartes of “I think, therefore I am” fame). Obviously, avoiding mind talk would be a problem for a column about the science of the mind in a magazine called Mindful.

I fell afoul of the no-mind rule last year during a talk I gave in Salt Lake City on neuroplasticity—the ability of the adult brain to change its structure and function in response to outside stimuli as well as internal activity. I was talking about mind changing brain, a possibility that intrigues scientists who have investigated the power and effects of mental training, including mindfulness. I used examples such as people with obsessive-compulsive disorder practicing mindfulness to approach their thoughts differently, with the result that the brain region whose overactivity caused their disorder quieted down. Ta da: mind changing brain.

Not so fast, said one audience member. Why talk about something so imprecise, even spooky, as mind? Why can’t the explanation for the OCD patients be that one form of brain activity (that taking place during mindfulness) affected another (the OCD-causing activity)? Why do we need mind talk?

Well, we need mind talk because although most neuroscientists reject the idea of a mind different from brain, most civilians embrace the distinction. This competing view of things gets expressed in the real world in stark and startling ways. Take, for example, how the mind-brain dichotomy can play out in the criminal justice system. Neuroscience holds that the brain is the organ of the mind. If something goes wrong with behaviour, then it’s because something has gone wrong with the brain (in the same way that if something has gone wrong with, say, insulin secretion, it’s because something has gone wrong with the pancreas). We can probably all agree that criminal assault and downloading child pornography both count as something “going wrong” with behaviour. Yet in these and other cases, judges presented with evidence that the behaviour had a biological basis have meted out more lenient sentences than in cases where no such evidence was presented.

To which neuroscientists reply, are you out of your mind? Why are you relying on such a distinction? What else is behaviour but the result of brain biology? Yet the fact that criminals are treated more harshly if their mind (motives, anger, antisocial feelings…) made them do it than if their brain (aberrant activity patterns, pathological circuitry…) did shows just how deeply average folks believe that mind and brain are distinct.

This dualism gets at a profound philosophical issue that has divided scholars for decades: what is the most productive and helpful level of explanation for mental activity? When do we go too far in reducing mental matters to physically observable activity? Is it more illuminating, for instance, to explain why Teresa loves Dave by invoking their personalities and histories and tastes, or their brain neurons? Consider trying to explain confirmation bias, in which people remember examples that support their point of view—“You never take out the garbage!”—and forget counterexamples. Is it more illuminating to explain it as the result of the human need to shore up our beliefs or by invoking synapses and neurochemicals?

One case for mind talk is that we have access to our mind. We can recognise and describe what we know, remember, and think. We do not have access to our brain: we cannot tell which regions (my hippocampus? my anterior cingulate?) are active during particular activities.

One case for mind talk is that we have access to our mind. We can recognise and describe what we know, remember, and think.

But many neuroscientists say mind talk is just hand waving. As a result, you can hardly call yourself a psychologist or neuroscientist (cognitive, affective, social, or otherwise) unless your research uses brain imaging. In a 2012 study, researchers performed fMRI scans on volunteers playing a made-up game in which they had to decide how much money (given to them by the scientists) they wanted to share with others—a test of their altruism. (fMRI pinpoints areas of the brain that are more active, or less, than the baseline during a particular mental function.) The researchers found that a region involved in perspective taking—allowing us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes—is more active in the most altruistic individuals.

I don’t know about you, but learning that people who are good at understanding things from someone else’s perspective tend to be more altruistic doesn’t tell me much about altruism that I didn’t already suspect. I mean, did anyone think altruistic people would turn out to be bad at perspective taking?

The mind–brain debate is not about to go away anytime soon, so in this column I will be keeping an eye on the dialogue between brain talkers and mind talkers and to keep exploring what the latest science has to teach us about our minds and our brains. For example, can brain biology alone “define, predict, or explain the emergence of mental phenomena,” as Alan Wallace, a pioneer in the scientific study of the effects of meditation on cognition, behaviour, and physiology, has asked? What kind of scientists are willing to talk about mind, and to what extent? What qualifies as “proof” that a practice like mindfulness is improving our lives? Are scientists finding ways to make mind talk like “thought” and “emotion” more rigorous, so we don’t have to be embarrassed around them when we talk that way? And above all, how can what scientists are learning about both mind and brain help us make our way a little better in a challenging world with the tools we have available, whatever names we choose to call them?

This article appeared in the April 2013  issue of Mindful magazine.
ByAnxious Minds

Beginners Guide To Healthy Nutritional Eating

In today’s fast paced world where we have no time to the little things, often they get put aside so as to get seemingly the more important things done.

Eating for example! We miss meals eat wrong food groups grab meals on the run, all for the sake of saving time.

Along with the failure to exercise, many forget the problems this life style can have on our health and wellness.

We get run down a little over weight and sometimes worse.

This is just a reminder for the need for many to return too and learn the necessity of better eating Habits.

If you’re currently not eating a healthy diet, it can be difficult to start such a plan. However, healthy eating along with some exercise is very important for maintaining a good bodily function and goes a long way towards living a disease-free life. If you struggle with healthy eating, then you know that breaking unhealthy habits can be the most difficult part of the process. Therefore, if you truly want to live the best lifestyle possible, it is important to follow tips in order to start eating a more healthy diet.

A great first step when you want to start eating your way to a healthy life style is to rid your home of all temptations that will distract you from following better eating habits. Ideally it would be a wise course to keep junk foods and beverages out of your house so as not be tempted to snack during the day. If you’re worried about getting hungry, keep healthy snacks like carrot sticks, yogurt, fresh fruit, or whole-wheat crackers on hand. If you find that you just cannot bear to toss out the sweets, try keeping something tiny on hand, peppermints or barley sugar. Eating a few, (emphasis on few) of these won’t ruin your diet but also will give you that little sugary fix you rave.

Another great step to healthy eating, when you’re first starting the process, is to take a few moments to learn what foods are the healthiest for you and how they work within the body. To start eating healthily we must begin by thinking healthily. Most people understand that fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meats and dairy products are good for you, but few people understand why. The key is learning about nutrients. When you understand how specific nutrients work and why you need them, it becomes more reasonable for you to make healthier choices for your body. Knowledge really is power!

Preparation is a major key in commencing a new healthy diet. You must take into consideration your schedule for meals. If you often eat in a rushed hurry at odd times of day, you probably more inclined to grab a rushed meal which will probably do more harm than good. So plan ahead! Instead of grabbing a fast food lunch on the go, take a bagged lunch to work, complete with a healthy wrap and some fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember not to forget your evening meal, a simple plan to have a meal ready before you get home would be perfect, but in our fast paced life style, sometimes this just can’t be done. One way to solve this problem is to plan out your evening meals for the week, on your days off. Perhaps just before you do your weekly shopping. Another warning: when going to the shops, do not venture their hungry because if you’re anything like me, one or two chocolate bars won’t hurt! That becomes the first break in your healthy eating.

Initially many will find it very difficult to make those necessary changes to healthier eating. Along with the difficulty of change, you may not feel well for a short period of time. Usually this is normal as your body is adjusting to your new and improved life style and is cleansing itself from the unhealthy toxins built up from poor eating habits. However if this feeling continues or you are worried a visit to your doctor would be the correct thing to do.

Start with baby steps. Even if you only replace one soda a day with a glass of water, you are really improving your calorie intake. If you eat fast food every day for lunch, try replacing that half of the time with better quality foods. When you start by taking small steps you aren’t cutting out all of the foods you love all at once. By taking your time to learn about your eating habits and slowly replacing them with better meals, by taking the time to learn and understand why you should be doing that and making the necessary changes in an orderly fashion, you will feel much better within yourself physically, mentally and emotionally and well on the road to becoming as healthy as you can be

ByAnxious Minds

Are the Foods you eat putting your Health at Risk?

Food (and water) is the absolute first thing you need in order to ensure life. Without it you would wither away and die. You need food for its nutrition and for its sustenance. But are the foods you consume today supplying you with good solid nutrition, or are many of them slowly robbing you of your health and taking years from your life?

Here are some things to consider:

THE HAZARDS OF EATING MEAT

Eating meat (particularly pork and red meat such as beef) in of itself is unhealthy especially when eaten in too large of quantities. Certain meats, such as beef, can take up to 72 hours to digest completely. Therefore, if you eat meat two or three times a day, you could still be digesting the food you had for breakfast the other day while you are again consuming another round of it.

This explains why many autopsies reveal from 5 to as much as 40 pounds of undigested meat still in the systems of many people!  Now, imagine how unhealthy it becomes if the animal where the meat came from was treated with antibiotics and other artificial health sustainers? These chemicals stay in the meat fibers; and no amount of washing, cooking, or boiling will get rid of them. Do you really want that in your food?

Hence, many people today are immune to antibiotics for humans. They ingest the antibiotics from animals, and the extra strong antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria in the human body. The more you eat chemically treated meat, the more you weaken your body’s defence mechanisms. This hazard is aggravated further when the meats are processed with artificial flavours and preservatives.

PRECAUTIONS WHEN CONSUMING FISH

Many “fresh” fish in the market today are loaded with preservatives to lock in their “freshness.” Some use formalin, a chemical used in embalming human corpses, to preserve newly caught fish. A few wicked sellers may wash marketed fish with food colouring or textile colour to give these fish a “fresh” look. To ensure your safety and enjoy the nutritious benefits of fish, buy them from trusted sources only.

PRECAUTIONS WHEN CONSUMING BREAD

Many white breads are hard to digest. Their hard residues stay long and may form blockades in the intestines. Moreover, eating white bread actually rapidly elevates blood sugar levels in your body. Whole wheat bread is a healthier food alternative to white bread as it supplies better nutrition, but many of the whole wheat breads today still have preservatives because they are commercially produced. Make sure it is made with “whole wheat flour” and not “enriched whole wheat flour”. Always check the ingredients just to be sure.

CHEMICALS IN FOOD

Aside from having their nutrition values greatly reduced, a lot of food today is treated with harmful chemicals. Washing, cooking, and boiling for long hours may lessen the chemicals in your food, but these harmful substances may not be fully eliminated. Peeling the skin off some fruits will not ensure safety either.

Imagine swallowing and accumulating all those fertilisers and pesticides in your body. Do you still wonder why we have so many deadly diseases today that were unheard of in the days of our ancestors?

Insects know better. They will not touch crops with pesticides. That is why you will find these crops sold in the market without any sign of insect bites. People buy them because they look clean and delicious. They don’t know that these outward appearances conceal inner hazards of the food they are buying. Some people think it is a good option to eat fruits and vegetables that show a few nibbles from insects.

PROCESSED FOOD

After having your veggies and fruits treated with fertilisers and pesticides (and these are given to farm animals as part of feeds), they also undergo artificial processing to prolong their “freshness.” They are treated with preservatives, which mean more chemicals. Some instant noodles are treated with chemical wax, which may be cancer causing. Do you know that these noodles are banned in some countries?

Because processed food terribly lacks real nutrition, their sellers sometimes put synthetic vitamins in them and pass them off as “plus factors” for good health when actually; these synthetic vitamins often do little to nothing for you or in some cases can even harm your health.

If you want to live a long, happy, and healthy life, always be on the lookout for the presence of preservatives in your food. Look at the labels and find out if some of the ingredients can be harmful to your health.

ByAnxious Minds

Break it Down

Most folks know a small amount about metabolism. Some know all about it, some know only that it happens in our bodies, and others have only heard the word. For those of you out there who are interested in learning a bit more, here it is! Metabolism works in our bodies to synthesise and break down food, or “purines”.

Before we go any further on metabolism, we should learn what Purines are. They come from the food that we ingest. Who thought food could have such a fancy name? Purines, by definition are “A double-ringed, crystalline organic base, C5H4N4, not known to occur naturally, from which is derived the nitrogen bases adenine and guanine, as well as uric acid as a metabolic end product.”

Now, back to metabolism. Metabolism occurs in living organisms, to sustain life, and/or to synthesise. In humans, it does both. We require such things as nutrients to sustain our being, and metabolism takes these vitamins out of purines. without a metabolism, we would eat and fill up once, never have a bowel movement, and slowly decay from vitamin deficiency.

And there you have it! For you out there who you they know it all, I threw in some big words, and for you out there who don’t know the first thing about metabolism, there you go! You can aquire more information on metabolism or purines from books, internet sources, or you doctor.

ByAnxious Minds

The Noonday Demon

“The Noonday Demon” is a book by Andrew Solomon that explores the topic of major depression, incorporating both medical research and the accounts of people whose lives have been touched by this debilitating, yet eminently treatable, disorder.

Below is a quote from the book that describes what it is like to be in the throes of a major depressive episode:

“My depression had grown on me as that vine had conquered the oak; it had been a sucking thing that had wrapped itself around me, ugly and more alive than I. It had had a life of its own that bit by bit asphyxiated all of my life out of me. At the worst stage of major depression, I had moods that I knew were not my moods: they belonged to the depression, as surely as the leaves on that tree’s high branches belonged to the vine. When I tried to think clearly about this, I felt that my mind was immured, that it couldn’t expand in any direction. I knew that the sun was rising and setting, but little of its light reached me. I felt myself sagging under what was much stronger than I; first I could not use my ankles, and then I could not control my knees, and then my waist began to break under the strain, and then my shoulders turned in, and in the end I was compacted and fetal, depleted by this thing that was crushing me without holding me.”

Image Credit
Feature: pixabay

ByAnxious Minds

Assisted Dying:  We need a Larger Conversation

We know that death is inevitable, yet most imagine it in the distant future. But those with a terminal illness face the harsh reality of death’s imminence. Cancer is the most common terminal illness, and in 2016, an estimated 1.5 million new cases will be diagnosed in the US, and almost 600,000 people will die from the disease.

Over the past decade, European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized assisted dying. More recently, Canada passed Bill C-14 in June 2016, allowing assisted dying to be an option for those with a terminal illness. According to Health Canada, since the bill passed, there have been a total of 2,149 assisted deaths, and 63 per cent of them were cancer-related.

I lost my grandparents to terminal diseases, and saw what they endured. I wonder what choice they would have made had assisted dying been legal at the time. Both my parents believe that if someone is suffering, they have a right to end their life. As both of them had to care for their own ailing parents, they shared similar sentiments. In my mother’s words:

 “You feel frustrated, because you’re helpless. There is no cure and there is literally nothing you can do. You get very depressed, angry, and sad yourself. It’s also so hard to watch someone who was once so strong not be able to tie their own shoe anymore.” 

My father recalled a moment with my grandmother, when she could no longer bear her suffering. “I remember being in the kitchen with her and she put her head down on the table and said, ‘I just want it over with.’”

Since my paternal grandparents did not suffer long, my father does not think assisted dying would have been an option for them. My mother, however, feels differently and would have suggested it to her mother if the law would have been in place.

The right to assisted death provides some with relief. Barb Gibson Clifford, from Alberta, has stage 4 uterine cancer and in a short film by Dying With Dignity Canada, explains how this legislation impacts her:

“It’s terrifying to think that, if I don’t have choice, it could be very nasty, both for myself and for my family members. I’m so grateful to those nine judges of the supreme court for choosing to be in consensus about what they were doing. I cheered. I cheered in my kitchen.”

There are others who do not agree with their family members’ choice of assisted death. Former journalist, Deborah Binner from the United Kingdom, watched with inner turmoil and despair as her husband, Simon, made the choice to travel to Switzerland to end his life. This came after he received a motor neuron disease (MND) diagnosis. In her story, she explains how her husband’s choice made her feel:

“I didn’t want Simon to suffer but I didn’t want him to die, either. Watching him plan his own death, while I still wanted more time, was overwhelmingly traumatic. He had rights, but how much of his life was mine? I won’t join any campaign or celebrate his ‘choice’; nor would I condemn any other human being for making the same one.”

In a study of terminally ill patients in the United States, approximately 60 per cent supported assisted dying, but roughly 10 per cent considered it for themselves. Those who were more likely to consider it had depressive symptoms, essential caregiving needs (washing, eating, etc.), and pain. There are still some patients who do not make this choice for themselves. 

Michael Wenham from the United Kingdom, who also has MND, writes on his blog, “Investment in universal best palliative care is the true expression of compassion, not the offer of a cocktail of barbiturates, which is a perversion of therapy.”

With assisted dying laws being introduced in a number of countries, there is still a divide. It is a choice that affects many people and their communities. The conversations around Bill C-14 and other assisted dying laws tend to focus on ethics and morality. Yet, it is important that we recognise the human life behind these legislations. 

– Amanda Piccirilli, Contributing Writer 

Image Credits
Feature: Alberto Biscalchin at flickr, Creative Commons
First: Alex Proimos at flickr, Creative Commons
Second: Michael Chen at flickr, Creative Commons

ByAnxious Minds

The Importance of a Breakdown

Human beings are experts at showing up for the demands of the world. We keep driving forward—for our boss, our parents, our partners, or even ourselves—trying to live up to what’s expected of us, as defined by those around us.

Until suddenly, one day, we break.

Experiencing a breakdown can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even frightening, but it comes with an important message. In this video from School of Life, philosopher Alain de Botton explains how breakdowns provide you with an opportunity to learn what you really need from life.

What is a breakdown?

Breakdowns can take many forms, ranging from the inability to get out of bed, to becoming depressed, developing social anxiety, or feeling compelled to do something completely scandalous, or even dangerous.

Whatever it may look like, breakdowns cause you to deviate from your regular routine. Often, people rush to fix the problems they face so that they can return to their daily responsibilities—but doing so can lead you right back into the routines that caused you to break down in the first place.

Often, people rush to fix the problems they face so that they can return to their daily responsibilities—but doing so can lead you right back into the routines that caused you to break down in the first place.

“A breakdown is not merely a random piece of madness or malfunction, it is a very real, albeit very inarticulate, bid for health,” de Botton says. “It is an attempt by one part of our minds to force the other into a process of growth, self-understanding, and self-development, which it has hitherto refused to undertake.”

While medication is sometimes necessary to overcome mental health concerns that arise from a breakdown, such as anxiety and depression, it is also important for you to take a moment to reflect on what your body and mind are trying to say.

“What the breakdown is telling us, above everything else, is that it must no longer be business as usual; that things have to change,” de Botton explains.

Why do breakdowns happen?

Change is good for us—so why does it take a breakdown for you to realise you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle? Likely for the same reason you avoid going to the dentist: the conscious mind is reluctant to experience discomfort, De Botton explains.

“The reason we break down is that we have not, over years, flexed very much. There were things we needed to hear inside our minds that we deftly put to one side, there were messages we needed to heed, bits of emotional learning and communicating we didn’t do – and now, after being patient for so long, far too long, the emotional self is attempting to make itself heard in the only way it now knows how.”

De Botton compares a breakdown to a civil revolution: small things build until one day, it is simply too much to handle anymore. Often, your body’s legitimate needs cannot be addressed or discovered until it is too late, and you are already in crisis mode.

How do we recover?

A breakdown can be inspired by many things: perhaps a need to slow down at work, to end a relationship, to make more time for your family, or to truly accept an aspect of yourself you’ve kept hidden, such as your sexuality.

“A crisis represents an appetite for growth that hasn’t found another way of expressing itself,” says de Bottom. Whatever the reason, the best way to become well and prevent it from happening again is to learn from it, and start to listen to what your body and mind is telling you.

“Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo. And it represents an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis,” de Botton concludes.

ByAnxious Minds

Asthma brings Surprising Challenges, Mental Health Difficulties

During the summer of 2017, Adrian and his partner, Kayla, ventured out to explore the dense forest in a remote area of south-eastern Canada where they were vacationing. Hiking on a trail that took them deep into the woods, Kayla shouted back at Adrian, urging him to catch up. Turning to him, Kayla could instantly tell something was wrong. After a wave of panic, he collapsed to the ground, gasping for air.  

As Adrian began to fade in and out of consciousness Kayla frantically dialed 911, despite knowing there was no cellphone service within miles of their location. They were completely isolated. Trying to provide comfort, all Kayla could say was, “This is not the end.” 

Approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. This inflammatory lung disease, which causes swelling of the airways and constricted breathing, can be life-threatening. Globally, 250,000 people die each year from the condition, and researchers have yet to find a cure.  

Asthma is a common health concern, and the traumatic experience of an asthma attack can affect the emotional well-being of the sufferer and loved ones.

A Canadian study by Renee Goodwin and colleagues published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that asthma is related to numerous mental health conditions, with the greatest links between asthma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mania, and panic disorder. Using data from the World Health Organisation, Kai On Wong and a team of researchers found that, globally, asthma is associated with depression and anxiety. 

Alex Watford is not surprised by these findings. In an interview with the Trauma and Mental Health Report, he discusses the toll his asthma has had on his mental health, and provides insight into what it is like to experience an asthma attack: 

“It feels like you’re drowning. All of a sudden, you’re not getting enough oxygen despite how much you try to breathe. While attempting to breathe, you can hear phlegm rapidly filling your lungs, slowly suffocating you. You then become light-headed and begin to lose vision while your body becomes weak and lifeless.” 

With diagnoses that include PTSD, anxiety, and depression, Watford believes his psychological distress is largely due to his terrifying flashbacks that cause him to live in constant fear of the next attack; fear which in turn provokes a level of anxiety that makes breathing difficult.

Clinical health psychologist Laura Flower, and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, Ben Ainsworth, describe Watford’s experience as the ‘cycle of breathlessness,’ a factor that contributes to the “complex and bi-directional” association between asthma and mental health challenges: 

The experience of breathlessness is distressing; and it’s a normal reaction to be anxious about it. This anxiety then leads to an increased chance of breathlessness – which causes more anxiety.

According to Flower and Ainsworth, the association between asthma and mental illness is further complicated by the complex relationships asthma sufferers have with their symptoms: 

Some people are deconditioned to them (e.g. “it’s just my lungs, it’s just me”) and therefore aren’t motivated to manage them. Other people find them really uncomfortable, and are unable to work or enjoy a satisfactory quality of life. Both of these can lead to social isolation, poor lifestyle factors, such as fitness, which in turn worsen asthma symptoms.

Watford describes how his daily life has been impacted by the disease:

“Having asthma affects my everyday life, as it makes having to walk long distances, such as across campus, really tough. This often deters me from going to class because I will feel so exhausted afterwards that attending feels useless. I often find myself avoiding many other activities for this same reason.” 

In a UK-based asthma community forum, members offer further insight into asthma’s invasive nature and speak to the unpredictability and uncertainty of life with asthma. 

You don’t know what to expect tomorrow. Will you be able to breathe? Will there be someone there wearing strong perfumes or aftershave? Is there dust in the air? Oh, and just the sheer tiredness of it all, the worrying, not being in control of your surroundings…”

Some members say they are unable to perform simple tasks, such as walking up staircases or showering. Asthma sufferers describe the impact of the disorder as “genuinely life destroying and heart breaking”. 

Complicating matters further is the stigma associated with asthma, resulting from a lack of awareness and understanding. The stigma can lead to improper management of the disease, as well as social isolation that creates further mental health challenges in asthma sufferers. 

This is a theme that comes up in the asthma community forum:

“…sometimes we trivialise asthma as a society. It makes us think our illness isn’t that bad and so all the problems associated with it aren’t genuine.”

Clinical health psychologist Stacy Thomas, shares some of the ways psychologists, like herself, help asthma sufferers cope with the mental health aspects of chronic disorders, including asthma: 

“Using therapeutic interventions, health psychologists help to eliminate the psychological barriers that moderate the experience of asthma. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy, considered the ‘gold standard’ in terms of therapeutic approach, examines the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to problems with mood or anxiety, the tools one can use to find more balance in their thinking, and the behaviours that might need to be changed.”

Adrian survived his close call that summer hiking in the woods.  But like many others, he continues to re-live the attack with great intensity and struggles with the anxiety that such an experience leaves. Sometimes Adrian forgets that he suffers from asthma. For now, Adrian tries to remain positive, while patiently hoping for a cure. 

-Julia Martini, Contributing Writer 

Image Credit
Feature: Free-Photos at Pixabay, Creative Commons

ByAnxious Minds

The Surprising Science of Happiness

In this TED Talk featuring psychologist Dan Gilbert, he discusses humans’ ability to synthesise happiness. Gilbert introduces a cognitive system referred to as “the psychological immune system”, and discusses how it is able to change our reality, ultimately allowing us to feel better about the world in which we live. He points out that we often forget that we have the ability within our minds to address our overblown longings and worries: “We synthesise happiness, but we think happiness is a thing to be found.”

ByAnxious Minds

Where Joy Hides and How to Find It

An ice cream cone covered in small, round sprinkles, brightly-coloured hot air balloons floating through the air, a pristine blue swimming pool sparkling under the sunlight — if these images sparked a sense of delight in you, you’re not alone.

In this TED talk, Ingrid Fetell Lee, designer and author of Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, describes her 10-year journey to understand how an intangible concept like joy could manifest in the tangible, physical world.

The short answer? Joy can be found in the simple things you’ve most likely written off as being too old for.

Here are four takeaways from her talk:

Joy is hard to explain

Even scientists don’t always agree on what joy is, and often use the words joy, happiness, and positivity interchangeably.

“Broadly speaking, when psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion — one that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down,” Lee explains.

Joy differs from happiness. Where happiness is a measure of how good we feel over time, joy is about what makes us feel good in the present moment.

Joy differs from happiness. Where happiness is a measure of how good we feel over time, joy is about what makes us feel good in the present moment.

“As a culture, we are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, and yet in the process, we kind of overlook joy,” Lee says.

Joy is universal

Once Lee began studying what brought people joy, she realised that the sources of this feeling cut across the lines of age, gender and ethnicity.

“I mean, if you think about it, we all stop and turn our heads to the sky when the multicoloured arc of a rainbow streaks across it. And fireworks — we don’t even need to know what they’re for, and we feel like we’re celebrating, too.”

She explains how having things that are joyful for nearly everyone speaks to the universal experience of human nature.

“Though we’re often told that these are just passing pleasures, in fact, they’re really important, because they remind us of the shared humanity we find in our common experience of the physical world,” she says.

Joy can be found everywhere

Joy may be elusive, but it can be accessed through physical attributes like bright colours or fun patterns.

“I began spotting little moments of joy everywhere I went — a vintage yellow car or a clever piece of street art. It was like I had a pair of rose-colored glasses, and now that I knew what to look for, I was seeing it everywhere,” Lee says.

But if these fun patterns bring us joy, why does so much of our world — offices, schools, nursing homes, grocery stores — look so bland?

Lee argues that while we all appreciate whimsical designs when we’re young, we stop seeking them out in adulthood.

“Adults who exhibit genuine joy are often dismissed as childish or too feminine or unserious or self-indulgent, and so we hold ourselves back from joy,” Lee says.

Joy can benefit us

While images that elicit joy may seem inconsequential, Lee explains that they add up to something greater.

She points to schools painted by Publicolor, whose administrators report that when their schools get a dose of bright colour they see attendance improve, graffiti disappear, and kids report feeling safer.

What’s more, research has found that people who work in more colourful offices are more alert, more confident, and friendlier than those working in drab spaces.

“Joy isn’t some superfluous extra,” Lee says. “It’s directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy is the drive toward life.”