Start Living Your Bucket List Today!

Bucket lists – somewhat sad depending on how you look at them.

You see, in our culture right now, many people only begin to work their lists when it’s too late. A doctor announces that you have a few months to live and, all of a sudden, things that were at the back of your mind suddenly become important.

Frankly, that’s the sad part.

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Most people are not living. They are deferring their lives to some future unknown date when they expect to be miraculously free to live…finally! Apparently, they will be free from work, free from their responsibilities to their spouses, free from their responsibilities to their children, and free from everything that has been (allegedly) standing in their way all this time.

“I want to travel the world.”

“I want to learn how to play a musical instrument.”

“I want to spend more time with my kids.”

“I want to start my side business.”

“I want to go sailing.”

“I want to see the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

Oh, the lists are endless…

Most people will never get even half of them done.

British Playwright James M. Barrie once said, “The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.”

Just look at the yearly resolutions. Many people end the year with the same list they had at the beginning. Things will never change unless you make that decision.

A New Approach to Living

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When YOLO (You Only Live Once) started trending, it carried a negative connotation of people who don’t realise the extent of responsibility in life. Was it just something young people say? For example, can the head of an organisation with employees who depend on him/her go out to live his/her life or do they have to conform to a scripted life so that everybody under their leadership gets something for their families to eat?

Perhaps, there is another way to look at this. A better way. Why can’t the boss live and still create a great business that meets the needs of employees and customers? Why does it have to be an either-or proposition?

The above predicament is why there have been numerous discussions about life-work balance in the last few years. People know they are missing many things because they have to work to get the pay cheque. For example, some parents barely see their kids. They either leave for work early or get home late when the kids are already asleep. Their children’s entire childhood is passing right before their eyes and they can do nothing about it.

Our cultures create the expectation that you have to work very hard and save up some money so that you can do everything you ever wanted once you retire from your job. That’s sad.

There is a lot of living that people are missing. The time to live is NOW. The time to hold your loved ones is NOW. The time to be quit that dead-end job is NOW. The time to start doing something you’ve always wanted to do is NOW. The time to take risks is NOW. Do everything NOW. You don’t know what awaits you tomorrow.

Someone who postponed going jogging every day is now in a wheelchair. Someone who always wanted to sing has been diagnosed with throat cancer. The person who never took the time to enjoy their surroundings is now blind. Several people in different parts of the world have just suffered a stroke and their lives are changed forever. How long do you plan to wait before you start living?

Effects of Living

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This is what living will do for you:

  1. Make you Happy

You will be smiling from ear to ear and you will have a great positive energy about you. You will create great memories with your friends and family. You will be healthier than many other people in the world will. For years, researchers have shown there is a link between negative emotions and poor health. Having a positive outlook on life (e.g. being happy, optimistic, enthusiastic etc) makes a great difference to your health.

According to a Harvard Magazine article written by Sara Rimer in 2011, Associate Professor Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) said, “It looks like there is a benefit of positive mental health that goes beyond the fact that you’re not depressed.” She also added, “Everyone needs to find a way to be in the moment to find a restorative state that allows them to put down their burdens.”

  1. Help you Grow

The more you do, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you grow. The more you grow, the better you will be at making decisions that will affect your life. Some people are stuck in jobs they don’t like but a trip away from the office gives them a new perspective of what they would want to do in their lives.

  1. Give you Perspective

When you are not living, you tend to have a narrow view of the world. When you push your boundaries, your skills, or your experiences, you get a sense of what’s important to you and how you should react to things that are out of your control.

There is an African saying that says, “If you think you have problems, go visit a hospital and you’ll see people with bigger problems.” (Paraphrase). The idea behind this saying is to give you a perspective of what you are going through.

  1. It will Inspire you

Living is inspiring. You find yourself wanting to do more things; trying new things. Every day you wake up energised because you look forward to what the day might bring. That’s usually not the case with depressed people. They can barely get out of bed. They have nothing to look forward to. They don’t have hope for the future. They are so miserable that they push everyone they love away.

You will find that when you are inspired to live your life to the fullest, other people gravitate toward you. Many opportunities will also start presenting themselves in your life. You might even end up changing careers if that’s something you were thinking about.

  1. Fill you with Love

The most important thing in life is love. When you start living fully, you will draw love into your life and spread love to others. It will be a perfect cycle. Many people in the world are desperate for love, but you will be overflowing with it. That’s what you get when you start living.

So what are you waiting for? Make your bucket list today. Do not wait until you are about to die before doing something about it. Start living your bucket list TODAY.

 

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7 Easy Steps for Better Sleep and a Healthier Mind

O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness? – William Shakespeare

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In case you are not active on social media (or at least paying attention to the calendar), you might have missed the fact that Monday, March 13, was the National Napping Day. If you are like me and tend to notice strange things happening, you probably asked yourself, “Who comes up with these ‘Days’?”

According to the National Day Calendar website, the date marks the return of daylight saving time, which means you get the extra hour of sleep lost when the time was moved forward. The website goes on to add that Boston University Professor William Anthony, and his wife, Camille Anthony, created this Napping Day to highlight the health benefits of sleep.

Finally, something we can agree on!

A key part of having a healthy mind and warding off problems like depression is through giving your body the amount of sleep time it needs.

There have been numerous studies on sleep and its role in the human experience. You have heard from various sources that you need to get 6-8 hours of sleep in order to be fully rested and be able to function optimally during the day.

Some leaders have been rumoured to sleep for less than the recommended hours. For instance, in a BBC article, former U.K Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, said she only “slept four hours a night on weekdays”. In the U.S., it has been said that President Donald Trump doesn’t sleep much either, with that reputation coming about because he was tweeting at 3 O’clock in the morning during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But why is sleep so important for mental health?

The Science of Sleep

Circadian Neuroscientist Russell Foster gave a speech at a TED Global Conference in 2013, citing three scientific reasons for why we sleep. In a transcript of his speech on the TED website, he noted that sleep is used for body restoration, energy conservation, and brain processing and memory consolidation.

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Professor Foster also linked a lack of sufficient sleep with poor mental health. He said, “We’ve known for 130 years that in severe mental illness, there is always, always sleep disruption, but it’s been largely ignored. He added, “…mental illness and sleep are not simply associated, but they are physically linked within the brain. The neural networks that predispose you to normal sleep, give you normal sleep, and those that give you normal mental health, are overlapping.”

In 2009, Harvard University released a newsletter on Sleep and Mental Health, which showed that a 1989 study had found that those who had sleeping problems were more likely to develop major depression a few years later. Other studies also showed that those who were depressed were less likely to respond to treatment. If you can’t treat the problem, then how are you supposed to get better? It’s no wonder then, that the depressed patients with sleeping problems started contemplating suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) highlights the negative effects that depression can have on one’s life. They include insomnia, drastic weight changes, hopelessness, low self-esteem, lack of energy or interest, and physical aches.

With such life-changing effects, there is a great need for everyone to start getting quality sleep.

How to Sleep Better

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According to the American Psychological Association, leading sleep researchers came up with several techniques to help you get some sleep:

  • Have a sleep schedule – You have to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This will condition your body to know when to shut down for sleep and when to wake up.
  • Avoid caffeine a few hours to sleep time – Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep your body active when you are supposed to be sleeping.
  • Exercise regularly – Working out every day will make your body tired and thus you will crave sleep at night.
  • Minimise sleep distracters – Excessive noise, temperature, and light can affect your ability to sleep. You need to find a quiet, dark room with a comfortable sleeping surface in order to sleep well.
  • Try to wake up without an alarm clock – This might be difficult for some, but doing this will let your body decide when you have had enough sleep. With this method, you no longer have to worry about sleep debt caused by cutting your sleep short using an alarm clock.
  • Avoid taking alcohol or smoking – These substances contain chemicals or effects that can affect your ability to sleep.
  • Go to bed earlier than usual – Sleeping early will ensure that you are getting sufficient sleep.

I would also add that since some people have medical conditions that might affect their ability to sleep, it would be a great idea to talk to a doctor, who will decide whether you need medication or sleeping aids to help you sleep.

As you can see, sleep is an important component of our lives. Not only does it affect our productivity, but also our mental and physical health. When depression arises from sleep deprivation, it can lead to other health complications and, eventually, to suicide. So take your sleep seriously, it could save your life.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. – Thomas Dekker

Take Stock of your Life In order to Move Forward and Succeed

All successful men and women are big dreamers. They imagine what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and then they work every day toward their distant vision, that goal or purpose. – Brian Tracy

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On January 1, 2017, I made the resolution that I would read two books every month. March is already with us now and I’ve only read a book and a quarter out of four. While it’s good I’ve at least done something, I know I could have done better than that. Unsurprisingly, this ‘resolution thing’ is a problem that a many people are experiencing.

How many resolutions have you accomplished so far? Are you even on the path toward achieving the goals you set for this year?

According to a survey carried out by the Statistic Brain Research Institute on new year’s day this year, only 9.2% of 1,562 respondents reported feeling successful in achieving their resolutions. Forty-eight point four percent reported having infrequent success, while 42.4% said they failed each year in accomplishing their goals.

Feeling Stuck in Life

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Sometimes you can start feeling stuck and it seems unlikely that you will accomplish your goals. Everybody goes through this at times. However, successful people experience this feeling very rarely due to one reason: Purpose.

Thousands of books have been dedicated to this word yet many fail to find this key part of their lives. People with a purpose have a vision and a plan for their future that is so motivating that you can just see them walking with a spring in their step. It’s (supposed to be) that simple.

Unfortunately, many people live uninspired lives full of either failure or moderate success.

Failing to succeed affects people mentally. It breeds insecurities and fear of taking action in other areas of life. It creates a great sense of shame, which can rob an individual of their self-esteem and confidence. Once an individual begins retreating into the recesses of their mind, they discover where a broken mind resides, pulling in its victim further into pain, regret, shame, and depression.

The social structure of society pushes individuals to try to be better than others; either to show the outcomes of self-actualization or to create the perception that their lives are better than others are. Case in point, when people are on social media, all the pictures point to an amazing life the individual is experiencing that is supposed to be better than of their followers.

If a person feels that they are a failure and begin to drown themselves in their sorrows, it is only a matter of time before depression takes root. The classic early signs of depression according to the NHS Choices UK are:

  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Lacking motivation and interest
  • Continuous moodiness and sadness

Others can be:

  • Avoiding public interaction because of the belief they are looking down on you
  • Failing to apply personal hygiene because you no longer see the point
  • Living in a space that is untidy and unclean
  • Having suicidal thoughts because you think the world will be better off without you or that no one will miss you when you are gone.

Without a support system, it is easy to spiral into a life of drug and substance abuse because it has become too painful to face the reality of your life. Some people label themselves as being “depressed” thereby getting access to anti-depressant drugs, which can have a negative effect on their mental health if misdiagnosed.

How to Move Forward in Life

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  1. Spot the problem

Whether it is in your job, exercising, eating healthy, or being more kind, whatever it is that you are frustrated about not accomplishing requires that you first spot the problem. The solution you come up with will take you to the next level of growth and accomplishment. It will also prevent you from feeling sorry for yourself.

  1. Find your purpose or vision

Recently I was reading about a successful musician and discovered that he dropped out of school in order to sing full-time. While it’s not advisable to copy him, his actions let us know the criteria for our purpose or vision.

Here are the criteria: If you have something you love doing, you are good at doing it, would give everything up to do it and it provides a solution to a problem the public has (and it is not illegal/immoral/unethical) then that can become your purpose in life.

You then need to have a vision of how you want to be in the future. In the case of the musician, his vision could be to become a legend in the music industry with multiple classic songs. With that in mind, he can then work toward achieving that goal, which brings us to the next point.

  1. Chart a new course for your life

The only thing one can do is look at the mistakes and achievements of the past, and chart a new course in order to achieve their overall vision. This sense of purpose will have a positive effect on mental health because every day you wake up inspired to reach a goal you have envisioned for yourself.

  1. Don’t wallow in self-pity for too long

Sometimes life pushes us too hard and we want to curl up in the corner listening to depressing music that matches our mood. However, as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “To live is to suffer; to survive, is to find some form of meaning in the suffering.”

It’s okay to allow yourself to feel all the range of emotions, both negative and positive. Nevertheless, you should not dwell in this doom and gloom mentality. Inspire positive moods through action and seek out that which makes you happy. You don’t live forever so you have to try at least to be happy while you are here.

  1. Forgive Yourself

I’ve often heard this statement made and it never seems to register because I don’t think people (including myself) truly realise that they have been judging themselves harshly for past mistakes. Realise that life has no script; therefore, it is inevitable that you will make the wrong decision. Sometimes that decision can be very costly as well.

As you will eventually come to realise, holding on to these mistakes, failures, and the guilt that comes with it, is of no use to you. You have to move on. The only way to do that is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and let it go. Once you forgive yourself, you will be able to move forward, make new mistakes, and grow.

Doing all these things will help you get in the right mindset to achieve your goals and to change your present life for the better. Understand why your resolutions are important to you and plan out exactly how you can accomplish every one of them. As for me, I’m heading off to read my first book for the new month. I’m confident I will also read the second book because I know why I’m reading and I have a plan of how to go about it.

What about you?

Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values. – Ayn Rand

New Study Shows Link between Hormonal Contraceptives and Depression

According to a Danish study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, there is a link between depression and the use of hormonal contraceptives.

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Even though a lot of research has been done on the use of contraceptives, the study authors highlighted that there was insufficient data on the connection between contraceptives and depression.

Details of the Study

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied over a million women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 34. The study took place over a period of 13 years using data from the National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark.

According to an abstract from the JAMA Psychiatry, the women were selected according to the following criteria:

  • If they had no prior depression diagnosis,
  • Having not redeemed prescription for antidepressants,
  • Not having any other major psychiatric diagnosis,
  • Not using cancer, venous thrombosis, or infertility treatment

The researchers tested for depression by checking either for a depression diagnosis at a psychiatric hospital or the use of antidepressants.

Results

NPR reports that only 2 percent of the women in the study group received a depression diagnosis, whereas 13 percent filled prescriptions for antidepressants.

The contraceptive pills that had both estrogen and progestin made the women who used them 23 percent more likely to turn to antidepressants. Those who took pills with only progestin were 34 percent more likely to get antidepressants.

For teen girls taking pills with estrogen and progestin, there was an 80 percent relative risk of depression. The risk went up to 120 percent for progestin-only pills.

In a press release, the researchers said, “Millions of women worldwide use hormonal contraception. Despite the clinical evidence of an influence of hormonal contraception on some women’s mood, associations between the use of hormonal contraception and mood disturbances remain inadequately addressed.”

When it came to other forms of hormonal birth control such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and vaginal rings, prescriptions for antidepressants went up by 40 percent for the former and 60 percent for the latter. For those using hormonal patches, the rate of antidepressant prescriptions went up by up to 100 percent.

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With so many prevailing risks of depression, it is important to ensure that steps are taken to protect the society. Since teenage girls are most vulnerable to this threat, women should take a proactive role in educating not only themselves, but also pay special attention to the women of the future.

Studies such as this one from the Danish researchers help to shed a light on subject matter that is rarely discussed. While their conclusions might be up for debate from some of their peers, this study still presents data that will inform women and help them to protect themselves.

Happy New Year!!!

Sometimes it feels like a whole year has just flown by. But in truth, a lot happened last year; you experienced more, learned more, and became more.

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With the start of 2016,  I am wishing you a great year filled with blessings, lessons, growth, peace and joy.

If you have a blog, may this be the year that you work out new ways of engaging with your audience and meeting their needs. If you are a reader, may you discover endless ‘mind riches’ through all the blogs you follow and those that you will discover.

To all those focused on mental health, may you learn more about the subject and about yourself. May you gain valuable insights that may help you help those who are experiencing mental health problems. I hope to play a role in that journey.

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Life is going to throw a lot of surprises at you this year; some good, others bad. But all in all, the most important thing will be the state of your mind and how well you take care of it. Please do not forget to also look out for the well-being of others.

All the best to you in your lifelong pursuit of happiness.

World Mental Health Day: Key Points From Social Media

Today is World Mental Health Day!

It is a day to raise awareness on mental health illnesses. For others, it is celebration of triumph over diseases and conditions that strike at the heart of our being.

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Many people probably didn’t notice this day or even know much about it. That sounds eerily similar to the indifference observed when it comes to issues of mental health.

But you know what, that’s okay. Sometimes, unless you have been touched by a situation, a person, a condition, or a disease, it is unlikely that you will care a lot (or at all) about a certain issue. That’s why it is important to speak up and let others know what’s going on. Here is where social media comes in.

Key Points from Social Media about Mental Health

The interesting lesson from today is that a lot of people DO CARE about mental health issues. Just browsing around social media, you realize that you are just one voice among many; hoping that other people will awaken to the reality that mental illnesses are among us and there are those struggling everyday with such issues.

Here is a list of some of the key points that people shared:

  1. Mental Health is just as important as Physical Health

One of the greatest frustrations for those who know about mental health issues is that people don’t think it matters as much as physical health. Check your blood pressure; check your heart beat. But no one is wondering about the mind.

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The brain can get sick just like any other part of the body.

Just look around the internet and you will see more “work out your body” pieces and few “mental workout programs”. It’s just not as important.

We are here to say “Mental Health is Very Important”.

  1. Mental Illness does not discriminate

It does not matter who you are, what you do, where you are from, who you know or how much you workout, mental illness can affect anyone.

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Knowing this should make people stop all the name calling, shaming and stigmatizing because mental illness can affect you as well as your friends and loved ones.

  1. People should stop trivializing Mental Health

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Have you ever heard a statement that sounds something like this: “I didn’t have anything to do today; I’m sooo [sic] depressed”? This is just one of the things people do. They don’t understand that there is a world of difference between simply being sad (or bored) and being depressed.

There were other comments on social media such as “Bipolar disorder is not being moody”. These are just a few examples of how people trivialize issues that affect many lives. If people had any idea what others go through – how much pain and sadness others feel as they are struggling with mental illnesses – then they would show more compassion.

  1. You are NOT Alone

I’ve said it before but when you are going through a mental health issue, it is easy to feel that you are the only one suffering; That life chose to punish you.

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The reality is that there are many other people from all over the world going through their own version of pain. Like you, they have had to suffer in silence. When they tried to raise their voices, they were shamed. People just don’t understand until they have walked a mile in your shoes.

But fear not; you are not alone. There are many people who have a sense of what you are going through. There are many organizations and groups geared toward raising awareness and helping to find solutions for mental problems.

  1. Take care of your health

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Another point was that people need to take responsibility for their health. Go for check ups, analyze your family’s mental health history, take the medicine prescribed to you for your mental illness and educate yourself on mental health.

  1. There is a lot of support out there

Who do you turn to when your life is in turmoil? As I have said before, it is good to have a support system around you.

The beauty of our interconnected world means that you can join support groups online and you can meet people going through similar mental illnesses and exchange ideas.

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It was also great to see comments from people who have had mental health problems encouraging others and saying things like “You are not alone” and “Things get better eventually”.

Take heart and believe that you will find a way to manage your condition or cope with a loved one’s struggle with illness. It will not be easy, but you can find a way.

Takeaway

It is great to see a lot of people united in spreading the message of love for those with mental health problems. No matter what problem you have, do not be ashamed; it was not your choice to become mentally ill.

We love you and wish you well.

Depression Treatment: Can Seaweeds Really Cure Depression?

How much do you know about seaweeds? You’ve probably had the experience of some of them clinging to you as you were jumping around in the ocean. You have also probably encountered them when eating sushi. But have you ever stopped to wonder about them?

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For many of us, the answers to those questions are “Not much” and “Not really” respectively. The topic of seaweeds is not one that will arise in any of our conversations. Yet, they are touted as one of the most beneficial plant matter in our world today.

Seaweeds are marine algae that are found in our oceans and seabeds. There are several types: kelp, wakame, arame, hijiki, dulse, agar, nori and kombu.

Benefits of Seaweeds

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Before today, you probably didn’t know seaweeds are good for you. The following are some of their benefits:

  • They are rich in nutrients as a food source e.g. iodine, potassium, magnesium and even protein.
  • Can be used as a toothpaste
  • Helps in weight loss
  • Promotes health by providing essential vitamins and minerals
  • Seaweed baths are said to cure diseases such as arthritis. They cleanse the body of toxins and they are also known to deal with fatigue and tension. Seaweed baths also re-hydrate your skin.
  • Source of alternative energy
  • Increases libido
  • Increases metabolism
What about the link to Depression?

Issues relating to depression are not only about emotional health and well-being but also about nutritional well-being. Some authors from the past understood the relationship between what we ate and how it affected us.

Ludwig Feurebach wrote in his 1860s essay, Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism, that “You are what you eat.” [translation]. Even the famous writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

You see, the quality of our health is intrinsically linked with the quality (and availability) of vitamins and minerals in our system. What is scurvy other than a vitamin C deficiency? What is hypothyroidism and goitre if not problems caused by iodine deficiencies?

The same concept is true of depression. While there are other factors that might lead to depression, there are nutritional causes as well. Here are some of the nutritional deficiencies that lead to depression:

  • Iodine
  • Vitamins B, C and D
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Calcium

With these deficiencies in mind, this is where seaweed comes in.

As already mentioned, seaweeds have great nutritional value. They provide all the minerals mentioned above as the deficiencies that lead to depression. Plus, they are high in fiber, which is useful for digestive health.

Therefore, it is expected that incorporating seaweeds into your dietary plans – as well as fixing other issues in your life – will help ward off depression.

I was tempted to write in my introduction that this is the “strangest news you have heard recently”. I realize now, that everything that deals with mental health issues is outside what many consider the ‘norm’. Despite having the term ‘weed’ in its name, seaweeds offer more favourable outcomes to our health and to our lives if used in the proper manner.

If you’ve been looking for an alternative way to treat your depression, then perhaps seaweeds are the solution for you.