Saturday, November 19, 2016

We Are Human Beings, Not Human Doings

The quote above reminded me of a saying I heard once, "we are human beings, not human doings!"  It is a simple statement that we can keep at hand to remind us to slow down once in a while.  That means to slow down everything, including our TV watching, phone and computer use, and anything else that steals our peace on a regular basis.

Existence simply gives us the ability to 'be'.  When is the last time you can remember taking a moment to experience the present moment, or to simply 'be'?  In our fast paced world there seems to be little time to try this out, yet it is exactly what we need.  We spend all our time, when we are not sleeping, doing things.  Even when we think we have stopped doing anything and are taking a break, we are usually still doing something.

Our bodies and minds need time to live in the present moment and simply 'be' sometimes.  If we are experiencing overwhelming thoughts and feelings, often they are telling us to take a real break, and to truly relax.  How often do we listen to this part of ourselves?

It is the 'weekend' right now and it is a time for many to take a couple days off and relax from the busy week that just passed.  Imagine having an invisible illness and trying to look forward to the weekend.  There is no break from the suffering, so often the weekend can be even more difficult than the work week.  With any invisible illness, whether it is our brains or bodies, we never get to stop 'doing'.

With mental health issues, overthinking and clogged minds are a big part of the suffering.  Because this never goes away, it keeps human beings from simply being.  The mind must be still in order to feel the peace and quiet we need, yet it never finds stillness.  It is similar for physical invisible illnesses; the body never feels truly still or at peace and therefore it is always 'doing' something in an attempt to counteract the pain.

Mindfulness and meditation training are quite helpful in trying to achieve some stillness of the mind. There is a lot of information to be found on these with simple internet searches.  YouTube has guided meditations and Tibetan healing bowls if you need something to help you relax and be still.  Even if you find five minutes each day to try this out, you will begin to notices changes over a few days.

You are a human being, and if you want to start healing, you need to find time to 'be' once in while.  Use the simple phrase to remind you that we are not supposed to be 'doing' something at all times.  This is part of the journey to 'finding ourselves' as well.  The more still we are, the better we understand ourselves, and the better we begin to feel.

Have a nice weekend everyone and be well!

Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try!

Wisdom can be found just about anywhere if we look for it.  Yoda was one of the wiser figures we have had in the movies over the years, and the statement above is quite profound.  Anyone can try things, but until we commit ourselves to action, trying is all we are doing.  Trying is the beginning of doing, yet there is something in the middle that we should focus on, our intent.

Intent is a choice of free will that all humans share.  Our intent could feel natural or it could be a choice in how we perceive any situation.  When we look at any task or problem, we can choose to make an attempt at repairs or action, or we choose to plan and work the task through to completion. Trying is more like considering the issues, whereas doing includes the steps to getting something done.  Trying is intent, but doing is intent with action.

I have talked about working on our mental health issues one symptom at a time.  I share this method because of its simplicity, but also because it works.  We can have a good attitude with good intent, but if all we can see is our problems as a whole, our intent to 'try' lessens.  When we view one symptom at a time it is much easier to commit to action because we are taking a realistic approach.  Our intent can move us forward and 'do' something about the symptom or problem.

You will continue to spiral downwards if you can't commit your good intent to action.  If you continue to self reflect and look at your own issues as a whole, your intent will weaken and trying won't even seem possible.  Simply take symptoms as they arise, and do something about it.  Don't try, just do something, anything!

The more often you challenge your symptoms and take action, the easier it will become, and the stronger and more confident you will be.  Don't 'try' to take on to much at once.  'Do' one thing at a time and I guarantee you will start finding successes.  They may seem small at first but baby steps lead to giant leaps.

No matter which invisible illness you are suffering from, taking small steps will lead you in the right direction.  Work on yourself by taking action and 'doing' anything it takes to improve your situation. "Do or do not, there is no try!"

Friday, November 18, 2016

Self-Reflection and Self-Monitoring: Step 6

If you have been following the 10 steps to better mental health then you should be working on beginning and completing personal goals right now.  If you have missed the previous posts please look to the right of the page for 'Subject Matter' and you will find a link to all of the steps so far.

Once you have started working on your goals you will want to manage your progress so you can identify successes and areas for improvement.  It is best to monitor yourself on a regular basis throughout the day, so take a few minutes when you can to observe and jot down any changes in your condition.  At the end of each day, or when you have time, begin reflecting on as much as you can.

Self-reflection gives you the ability to take a solid look at any issues you may have plaguing your mind, and the time to process and resolve things as they come up, as opposed to letting things pile up in there. This is called introspection, and you are basically pulling out unresolved thought processes that you want to deal with, so you can store the processed information in your memory, and forget about it.

It is a good thing to continue to work on the goals we set for ourselves, but if we don't monitor our progress, we will not get to see the results.  You want to see your results, especially your successes.  Successes give us strengths to build upon and continue to progress forward.  If we don't monitor our goals on a regular basis, we could be missing out on some larger aspects of the underlying issues.

This is the step where you are truly working on your mental health issues one symptom at a time. Identify a symptom. set a goal to improve it, then monitor its progress.  As you begin to resolve symptoms you will begin to notice more relief from your affliction, but you will also gain a sense of pride and fulfillment knowing that you have made a good effort towards self-care.

Our 'self' is thankful when we pay attention to it.  Our 'self' wants to be well and appreciates any and all steps we take to improve our quality of life.  Work hard and make time for Step 6 because self-reflections skills are helpful at all times in our life.  Find a quiet space and ask yourself as many questions as you like.  You won't find answers until you begin to do this.

I hope the steps are working out for you so far, and if you require any extra helpful tips along the way please don't hesitate to ask.  I tend to simplify many things in my articles in the interest of keeping them short and easy to read.  There is a lot more information to share if you need it.

If you have made it through all of the steps so far, good for you, I hope you have been able to understand yourself better, and have found some relief from your symptoms.  It is never too late to start improving ourselves, so if you are looking for a way to get started a little at a time in improving your own mental health, check out the 10 Step Program link on the right, or read a few other posts to get your mind motivated.

Good Mental Health To All

Thursday, November 17, 2016

One Symptom At A Time

No matter which invisible illness you are suffering from, they all have symptoms.  Identifying our symptoms is the first step to recovery.  You may even be dealing with multiple physical and mental health issues, with a an abundance of symptoms, but you can only really deal with one symptom at a time.  I know that experiencing all of the symptoms on a regular basis is absolutely exhausting at times and can be quite overwhelming, so I am suggesting you take one symptom and understand it better.

We can't take action on something until we understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it.  Identify the symptom and understand what is causing it by asking questions about it.  For example, when I experience a feeling of anxiety, that is the symptom.  I identify it what it is and do a little self research.  At this point none of my other issues are a priority until I understand the current one better.

What thoughts or experiences did I have that led up to the symptom?  You may be able to identify it quickly or you may have to continue asking questions until you get an answer.  Don't give up on it until you are satisfied that you have progressed in your thinking about the problem.  You already know that you are experiencing several symptoms each day so start working on them one at a time. Don't try to solve all of them at once.

I gave a quick synopsis in my last article about how I conquered my anxiety.  I did it by conquering one symptom at a time until I could take control of the anxious feelings and overcome them.  The overall war of suffering was not won at this point, but I won that battle.  It gave me the ability to begin working on my other invisible illnesses.  One down with more to go yet.

Whether you are suffering from multiple health issues, or just one, you have several symptoms to heal.  Work on things one symptom at a time and relief will follow.  Each time you let go of another symptom you will feel your strength start to build.  It is hard to take action when we are overwhelmed, but we can all focus on ourselves for a few minutes each to promote self-care.

Care about yourself and your symptoms.  Fix them one at time and begin to find some inner peace for yourselves.

Can Addictions and Mental Illness Be Prevented?

I spent the afternoon at an Addiction Prevention seminar.  Several speakers shared the ways they are changing their thinking in regards to spearheading prevention, instead of putting all of their efforts at the treatment stage.  I believe with the mass sharing of knowledge and research we have to work with these days, we can identify certain precursors and early symptoms that can be dealt with in the early developmental stages of life.

Addiction is heavily a psychological issue that stems from either a genetic predisposition, a negative event or series of events we have experience, or it could be a nurtured behaviour.  Often addictions are things that are learned from family and friends early in our lives; other times they are in response to traumas or abuses suffered.   I am certainly not an expert in the field of addictions, but I do have a solid understanding of how they affect us, and where the roots of the problem come from.

Addiction was referred to as a 'brain disease' and it makes a lot of sense.  During addictions we train the brain to think of the problem as a natural occurrence, and the pathways in the brain solidify and change accordingly.  One statement I agreed with was 'all addiction is rooted in pain'.  This is so very true.  Whether it begins with mental or physical pain, the drug use begins with a response to some sort of negative stimuli.  Often the pain that causes it is hidden even to ourselves.

Addictions can mold a family in a very negative way.  If the problem is a natural way of life, it teaches the younger generation that it is 'normal', and often the behaviour is passed on.  Knowing the similarities and statistics creates a model for change.  Can addictions be prevented?  Much of it can be if the learning begins early in life.

By teaching children at a young age to make better choices, while also teaching why they are making the choices in the first place, we can input better life skills into our youth.  Don't just tell them that they have to do something or you will be met rebellious nature, explain to them why they should do something.  Prevention comes with a knowledgeable culture in our younger generation.

Two other statements that resonated with me were 'immaturity teaches immaturity', which is pretty much self explanatory, and 'if you didn't have a mental illness before the addiction, you will afterwards', which spoke to me on several levels of thought.  Statistics show that most addicts already had a mental illness before they began taking the substance.  Addictions lead to all kinds of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and psychosis, to name a few.

It is also proven that high percentage of all addictions begin between the ages of 12 and 25 years of age.  This makes complete sense because this is when young people begin using their critical thinking skills.  The problem is, if nobody is guiding those critical thinking skills, they can get out of control quite quickly.  By changing our thinking we can change the choices we make.

I have a bunch more information to share but I will do so later, in an effort to keep the articles short and readable.  I think the idea of preventing addictions before they happen is a wonderful concept.  It is my hope that counselors and mental health workers will be very cognitive of each human being's distress, and understand that in order to prevent the problem, they need to find the root of it.

We can't continue to put bandages on problems anymore.  Trying to prevent something before it happens is a huge undertaking, but I for one pray for their success.  Imagine if we could find ways to prevent all mental health issues before they take control of us.  That would be an amazing discovery.

Many of us may not be able to prevent our current issues, but we can use the knowledge we gain each day to understand them better.  We can certainly take steps to keep them from getting worse than they already are!  If you can't prevent you mental illness then work at it one symptom and one illness at a time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How I Conquered Anxiety

Someone asked me today, "how did you overcome your anxiety?".  This is tough one for me to answer.  There were several steps that I took over a period of many months that got me to the other side.  After suffering from uncontrollable anxiety for decades, it simply disappeared one day, but not until I had put in several progressive months for it to happen.

It was hard work I will admit, yet what I found on the other side was a sense of peace that was quite overwhelming at first.  I quite literally felt like something was missing inside of me and it was creepy.  Something I had lived with for so many years had become a part of me, for the good or the bad.  Once it was gone, I spent a few weeks readjusting my existence.  I became calmer and more in touch with the world, as well as became a nicer person to be around.  Peace does good things to us.

I still feel anxiety once in a while, but it no longer has any power over me.  I can take a few deep breaths or meditate briefly and it disappears again.  Some of the methods I used have been used by others I have shared them with, and their anxiety has lessened or disappeared as well.  They were ready to overcome it at the time, and willing to put the work into taking control of their anxious feelings.

So how did I overcome it?  First of all, remind yourself that these were methods which worked for me and helped me back onto my more positive path, and may not mesh with yours.  It is simply my hope that I have discovered some good ideas in an effort to cure anxiety, and I would like to share them with others to ease their suffering as well.

I began my journey with discovering the present moment, and I will thank Eckhart Tolle for giving me a lot of help along the way with the wonderful, enlightened books he has written.  Once I discovered mindfulness and grounding myself in the present moment, I no longer worried about the past or the future, only for a few moments at first, but with practice it got better and better.

I had been given prescription pills for over 2 decades to deal with my anxiety, and I was completely dependent on them, and did not even know it.  When I discovered the present moment I realized that the pills were never going to fix my problems, and that they were merely a band-aid.  I had never looked at the underlying issues that were causing the anxiety in the first place, so I never actually solved the issues, I was just masking them with prescribed drugs.

I won't lie to you, going off of the pills after all those years was a horrible stretch.  I certainly understand what withdrawal feels like, and I will never put myself through that again.  I am not advocating that you stop taking pills, I am simply stating that was the choice I made at the time, and it worked for me.

Once the withdrawal symptoms passed, I began to notice something odd, I was thinking more clearly than I had every before in my life.  It was like a fog lifted from my brain that had been hanging there for many years.  With more clarity of thought, I became much more mindful of my environment, and saw things with much more objective eyes.  When my anxiety sprang up at this point, I began looking at it for the first time I could remember.

I began to face the feelings of fear all of a sudden,  There were some nasty feelings experienced through this stretch of time, but I began to conquer the fears that the anxiety was bringing to me.  This went on for a few weeks and each day I could feel my 'conditioning' working.  By processing the anxiety bringing thoughts, I was becoming mentally stronger each day.  All of a sudden, one day I took control.

It felt quite uncomfortable at first, but I had become mentally strong enough to let go and take control at the same time.  It took some long periods of meditation to get this point, and I found the ultimate fear of opposites waiting there.  I had resolved all of the anxiety-causing inner conflicts except for this one; how do we as a singular being let go and hold on to something at the same time?

If you want to experience the present moment, you can't dwell in the past or ponder the future.  Depression comes from the past and anxiety comes from our perceived thoughts of the future, so if you are suffering from either, you are missing out on the present moment.  The present moment is the only place that peace can truly exist.  By discovering this, I was able to overcome my anxiety naturally through a dissociation with the past or future.

If I let go of my attachment to the past, and face my thoughts of impending doom in the future, I can find my way back to the present.  The more that I live in the present, the less I suffer from depression or anxiety.  I was able to let go of my fears of the future and my anxiety simply went away.  When I get feelings of anxiety now, I use it as fuel to do something productive.  I can channel it into something positive, and right now I choose to share my story with others here, and hopefully find a way to 'play my part' in a very large worldwide problem.

Since then I have been able to dig deeper and work on the issues I have left in my past, which I was not able to do before.  Now that I am resolving the bulk of them once again, my feelings of empathy return and drive me forward once again in a positive way.  I am here to advocate and bring understanding to others about the horrible effects that anxiety and depression can have on a person.

There is a cure for anxiety and depression, so there is always hope.  Take a small step each day right now and get started on your own progressive journey to the present moment.  Put in the effort and reap the rewards!

Does Blogging/Journaling Help Our Mental Health

I came across this image during a search this morning and it created a new thought.  I am a strong believer in blogging or journaling for better mental health, but it does not mean that it is right for everyone, especially if you are simply someone who does not enjoy writing.  There are many ways to express our thoughts and different types work for different people.  As long as we have an outlet for unprocessed thoughts, we at least have a way to get them out of our clogged minds.

The other thing I pondered was, is writing good for everyone?  I believe it has the ability to be if done properly.  Simply expressing thoughts without insight first can get us into a lot of trouble.  If you are writing things down to keep for your own private viewing, this is wonderful.  You remove thoughts from your head, process them, and put them away.  Relief comes along with that even if you don't feel it immediately.  It can take a long time to clear out a very clogged mind, but with each processed thought comes relief.

The only issue I can think of is a fear of others reading what has been written.  This is the one negative I can view when considering introverted individuals.  Our thoughts are private, and they are ours alone!  If you are being plagued by your thoughts without any outlet, you continue to amass suffering.  If you are writing and want your thoughts kept private, then by all means do so.  Just make sure you are at least using some sort of positive outlet for processing inner conflict.

I am somewhat introverted yet I believe that sharing our thoughts can be a very beneficial thing.  I have used it many times in the past and each time it provided mental relief over time.  I challenged myself to start writing again when I felt I could not anymore, due to exhaustion from physical issues. I challenged myself to write everyday for a month, and force myself to start processing thoughts properly again.  I have succeed in processing over 60 new thought processes and I will tell you that I am much more mentally strong than I was a month ago.

I decided to share my daily thoughts with two intentions.  One was to help others who are struggling similarly gain some understanding of their own their own mental processes, and aid you on your journey in resolving your own inner conflicts.  The other was in an effort of self-care.  This one was more important because you can't help others if you don't help yourself first.  I knew that resolving a bunch of inner conflicts and writing them down would ease my suffering as well, because it has worked before.

I am thinking much more clearly than I was a month ago.  I hope that others have tried it and are feeling some relief as well.  If you want to join our blogging team, all are welcome.  I will be happy to provide you with some tips and tricks to get set up easily.  Comment or email me with any questions and I will do my best to provide quick answers.

Blogging does help our mental health, just be cognitive of the possible drawbacks or privacy issues.  Writing will help you to process thoughts in a meaningful way.  Give it a try!

Be Well and Mindful today!

Sympathy Versus Empathy: Which One Should You Use?

Empathy is good for the soul, sympathy is not.  Empathy is often explained as 'walking a mile in someone else's shoe' and it is a good analogy.  Empathy is a skill we use to better understand the inner workings of other people.  It provides us with insight into how the other person must be feeling, and we can therefore treat each other accordingly.  With empathy and understanding we become much less judgmental.

Sympathy on the other hand is our attempt to 'feel' what the other person is feeling.  It is an easier emotion to use because it is much easier to feel another's suffering as opposed to taking the time and insight to understand the feeling.  For years we have been offering sympathy to others, especially in the loss of a family member or friend.  People don't need our sympathy, but they sure could use our empathy.

The more we understand others and empathize with their afflictions and emotions, the better we will treat each other.  When we take time to realize the personal suffering the other person is dealing with, the more we will attempt to ease it rather than add to it.  When we give our sympathy to another, we are simply choosing to feel bad for them, and feeling sorry for people can be severely enabling of their negative thoughts and feelings.

Showing others understanding gives them a feeling of support, and that is exactly what any sufferer of an invisible illness needs.  We may not be able to see the illness but the symptoms are surely there.  Even if you can't see the illness, you can certainly see the effects it is having on the person who is suffering.  It is very real to them, and for the most part, they will benefit from your empathy and understanding, not your sympathy.

I see sympathy in a similar way as worry, it has no real positive purpose.  Taking on the feelings of another does little or nothing to help them in any way, except to make the sufferer feel that they not alone in their feelings.  Empathy will provide more understanding and support, and both people will feel better.

Empathy grows much more rapidly in people who are suffering or who have suffered.  The more we suffer though mental and physical health issues, the stronger we will become if we promote our own personal empathy skills.  Don't feel sorry for people, understand them.  It is much easier to judge others when we offer sympathy and 'feel' like they do.  With empathy and understanding, judgment disappears.

If you are looking for a little help finding your own inner peace, and a way to set you on a positive path for your own soul or spirit, then learn about empathy and what it can do for you.  When we stop judging others, we stop judging ourselves as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Blogs To Read!!

The blogging team has begun.  Two people have taken the step to help you understand mental health better.  They share experience and feelings in regards to depression and anxiety in an effort to relieve discomfort from others.  These are good people struggling with invisible illnesses, and their symptoms are very real.

By sharing their stories and successes, they will show you things that you have worked for them, and things that have not.  You are not alone in your suffering and a little support from others can really help through the tougher times.  I hope you will give them a read and comment if you like.

Click the links below and get some intelligent insight into another sufferers thoughts and feelings

Ash's Blog
Marley's Blog

Be Well

Conformity and Groupthink: Don't Be Afraid To Stand Up and Speak Out

I love quotes like these because they get us thinking critically and help us to strengthen our mental health.  This quote brings two psychological terms to mind, conformity and groupthink.  It is natural and easy for a person to follow the crowd in the search for social acceptance.   Nobody enjoys being an outcast or the person who goes against the grain of the group.  It may be easier to follow the crowd, but what does that say of us if we do so?

There is an old saying, "If everyone was jumping of a cliff, would you do the same?", and this refers to conformity.  Humans are stronger in groups and naturally feel less discomfort and fear when surrounded by others, especially if they are all of one mind.  If everybody else is doing it, it must be right; Right?  So if everyone is judging and poking fun at someone in a crowd because their behaviour is outside the norm, should we just go along with it?  Most people will say no, but studies and research show that is exactly what the majority will do!

This way of thinking can only be changed when we step out of the group and do what is right, not just what is popular.  Yes, it is an uncomfortable place to be in, but your inner self will benefit most from doing what is right.  Be an advocate and not just a bystander.  Doing nothing at all makes us part of the problem.  If you are already mentally strong then I ask you to stand up for those who are not.

If you are suffering with your own mental health issues, then build on your empathy and compassion simply because you understand how the person in the middle of the scrutiny feels.  Be an advocate for your fellow human beings.  Don't be afraid to help someone  else who is suffering through a tough situation, especially if they are being bullied or persecuted by others in a group.  If we do nothing, this adds to our inner conflicts and saying nothing will bring shame and guilt later.

It is hard to stand up against a group, but if it is right and you know that it is, then give it shot.  It may be a tough bridge to cross at first, but I think you will be surprised how many others are waiting for some else to take that first step.  Be that person who takes that first step.  It will feed your inner strength and you will walk away without guilt or shame.  If you feel you are too mentally weak at the moment, take a chance and show your compassion.  It will build on your strength and fill you with pride.

You can continue to follow the group and find that you will cause much inner conflict, especially when what the group is doing, is something you know goes against your own ethics and values.  Don't do what is easy, do what is right!  If you feel that the group is going in the right direction, join that group and do right as a team.  Don't just follow the group because it is the simple thing to do.

We all need to be more empathetic and understanding of each other if we truly want the best for humanity.  Build on these positive attributes and strengthen your inner self!

Be Well and have a great day!

Do Regular Anxiety and Depression Level Checks

How are you anxiety levels today?  Is your depression better or worse than yesterday?  If you suffer from any invisible illness such as these, you should be doing regular self-checks if you are trying to ease your affliction.  When was the last time you gave yourself a mental health check-up?  Hopefully you read the second step of my 10 step program to better mental health and have done a thorough assessment of your inner self.

If you haven't done a mental health check-up lately, stop for a moment and do a quick one now.  Feel how the present moment is affecting you and how reactive your anxiety is to negative thoughts.  Force yourself to think about an unprocessed thought that usually causes your fear or anxiety, just for a moment.  Monitor how the thought makes you feel and what level of reaction you have.  Are you feeling in control today, or did the thought cause feelings of panic and the beginnings of an overwhelming surge of anxiety?

This will give you an idea of where your current natural levels are at.  Personally, I can feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach this morning, but when I subject it to negative thoughts, it does not surge upwards at the moment.  It is there and I am aware of it, but it does not have control of me today.  I monitor this throughout each day and I suggest you think about doing the same.  Otherwise, how will you know if you are improving or declining from day to day?

Self-monitoring is essential if you are trying to overcome and mental affliction.  The more you monitor your invisible issues, the more you will recognize changes in your discomfort levels and be able to identify what is causing them.  If you are not doing check-ups throughout each day, how will you be able to diagnose changes in your own symptoms?  If your depression is pulling you further down into the pit today, what caused the change from yesterday?

I am asking a lot of questions in this article so that you will ask them of yourselves.  By monitoring and identifying symptom changes on a regular basis, we can begin to take action to resolve inner conflicts.  Practicing this each day is step 6 of my program.

When we have a physical illness we are able to monitor the symptoms much more easily, and based on positive or negative changes in the illness, we can take steps to alter its course.  If something gets infected, we can clean it or use an antibiotic to improve the infection.  Invisible illnesses are quite similar.  When we have a negative reaction to a situation or thought, we can identify it and ask ourselves questions about it.

Why am I feeling this way?  Why is that thought causing me discomfort?  Find answers and find relief each time.  Find relief on a regular basis and things will improve.  Although I am still feeling some discomfort from my illness, I have noticed improvements each day because I am paying attention.  This keeps the positive attitude.  Self-monitoring basically means to pay attention to yourself.

If you do nothing and hope that your issues will repair themselves, they likely won't.  If you start to take steps each day to monitor your own progress, you will better understand what brings you down and what brings you relief.  Pay attention to both and learn all you can about them when they happen.  The more you know about your anxiety, depression, or any other invisible illness, the better chance you have of winning the battle within.

I have used these methods and can tell you that they work.  Your path in life is yours and if you want peace and happiness, you must take control of your course.  Take control of your mental health problems by learning about them.  Take on the challenge because you are worth it.  Depression and anxiety hide in the darkness, and the more you pay attention and recognize them, the more they will have to enter the light.  Negative thoughts and feelings don't exist very well in the light!

Free Will and Mental Health

It is my belief that the concept of Free Will is at the very center of mental health issues.  Anytime we are presented with a problem that takes away from our free will, conflict begins at the core of our being.  I wrote a few pages on this concept a while back and I am posting them below.  I was unfortunate to pick up a flu bug and simply do not have the ability to write new stuff today.  The next two concepts I will tackle this week are Depression and Empathy.  Let us know if there are other issues that you would like to read some matter-of-fact information about.  I hope you all have a great week!  Be Well

Free Will
What is the greatest and most abused gift given to humans?  Free Will.  We also must ask ourselves what the words free will actually mean.  Free will is simply the ability to make choices for ourselves.  What an awesome thing, to be able to make any choice we desire!  According to the Bible, this is the gift given to us from God.  I must agree though, it is an awesome gift to be given.  So why do we abuse it so?

If all humans are given the ability to make their own choices, what causes so many of them to constantly make bad ones, especially ones which harm others.  This is a point of understanding in which there are many beings in the world who simply do not understand this behaviour.  It is my opinion that these people are born or infused with innate goodness, and I can tell you definitively that these beings are terribly confused right now with the current state of ‘humanity’.

Humans who make bad or unethical choices seem to be functioning at their best these days.  They have found ways to use others in society for their own benefit and have learned how to thrive within the society which has been created for them.  These humans would fall under the blank slate or original sin theories of conscience.  I will add more to this as I go and provide you with a better understanding of these theories, but I will mostly use these as comparatives to the theory of innate goodness.

It is difficult to look at the world and have any hope for humanity these days, especially when you truly observe how they treat each other.  I suppose that if one is not an innately good being then they would likely not even recognize those actions for what they are.  I can tell you though, innately good beings see all of it and it horrible to watch.  Most of us watch with pure disbelief as it is happening and if you are not one of them, you cannot understand the anxiety and disgust that we feel each and every day as we attempt to navigate the social systems.

Back to free will now.  Free will, as I state above, is simply the ability to make choices for ourselves.  We can choose to go left or right, up or down, West or East, and we can choose the path for each and every situation we find ourselves in.  I understand that we can be forced or coerced into other choices than we would make for ourselves, but I am referring to the ability to make ‘possible’ choices we are faced with.

I began with the concept of free will and followed up with a brief thought on the theories of conscience for two reasons: 1. We all have the ability to make the choices we are faced with, and 2. We are not all following the same set of rules when it comes to making conscious and rational choices.  The alternate purpose of this writing is to create an understanding for those confused individuals out there who truly cannot grasp the concept of negative human behaviour.

I will separate the innately good beings from the others from calling them beings, or human beings, as opposed to the single word humans.  Humans, as I see them, are the animal being from which we were created, who is out for their own survival and selfish purposes, and also see the value in groups as well.  Human beings see the higher purpose of humanity above all else and strive for a better world.  We would like to see the value in society and groups but many of us remain on the outside looking in most of the time.

Here is the first bit of help I can offer to those that are confused.  If you are having a hard time understanding why humans treat each other the way that they do and you are constantly trying to offer more to the world than you take from it, then there is a good chance that you are an innately good being.  The best advice I can offer at this point is to continue to make good choices each day because that is all we really have.  I understand the temptation of making bad choices just as anyone else does, but don’t make them just so you can fit in or feel accepted. 

If you are reading this and you don’t believe yourself to be an innately good being, there is hope for you as well.  All of us have the ability to make good or bad choices, but we all follow a different set of rules at the base of our value system.  Although innately good beings follow these ethical rules naturally, you can create these rules as well.  Each religion has a set of these type of value systems and can be a great place to start.  You don’t need to follow the religion, just use their rules as a guideline and place to start becoming innately good within.

Being innately good does not make you awesome or perfect, it simply gives you the natural ability to make what we would consider to be solid ethical choices based on humanity as whole, as compared to making decisions based on your own selfish desires.  Being innately good takes a lot of work since we are surrounded by so much suffering and pain in the world.  I am asking you at this point to not give up.  There are many others out there looking for each other so that we can all better the world together.

It is simple to be tempted into destroying these value systems that we have because the glitz and glamour of the world can truly be exciting, and there are times when we all want to be part of it.  We sometimes need to look past all of that stuff to truly see what is hiding behind there.  The whole system is based on pure selfish desires, and if you are not at the top of the pyramid, you will never have all you want, but you will always strive for it.  This is not where happiness lies people, and you certainly will not find inner peace there either.

If you are looking for happiness and inner peace but do not want to accept this statement above, then this is not the right read for you.  The innately good beings in the world only want happiness and inner peace, and not just for themselves, for everyone.  Here is where things get a little tricky in the understanding.  Without experiencing happiness and inner peace, we cannot truly share it with others, but to experience happiness and inner peace we will appear to be selfish of our own desires.  Therefore we spend too much time trying to help others be happy and forget about our own happiness in order to appease our ethical rules.

Just as we need to breathe, consume water and food, and socialize with others, innately good being ‘need’ to be happy and to have inner peace in order to live well.  Would you say that it is selfish to drink water when you are dehydrated?  Of course not!  It is not selfish to have happiness and inner peace when you need it.  The more of these things that an innately good being has the more effort and good energy they will be able to give to others.  The more strength we have, the more things we can do.

So where does happiness and inner peace lie?  Inside us of course!  We spend so much time looking for it with our eyes and other senses that we miss this one completely.  Happiness is a feeling or experience, not something we will find outside of us.  Inner peace comes with happiness as well because there is less fear.  Fear and worry steal our inner peace, but when we are happier these things fade away.

I plan to ramble on about inner peace and places to find happiness for a while so please bear with me.  There are many ways to find these things and I am sure that we have all spent time searching and researching ways to achieve them.  I can tell you that this will be the most difficult battle you will ever go through, but also the most rewarding by far.  It is hard to understand how awesome it feels to achieve inner peace unless you have stopped looking outside yourselves and begun to look within for the true answers.

Yes, they are all in there!  This is not something you can research but it is something you can look for.  Inner peace is simply the quiet spot within ourselves where nothing matters and no fear exists.  Imagine that, a place where no fear exists.   I can tell you that I know of this place and I hope to visit it again soon.  It is in one word ‘awesome’!  Are you getting excited yet?  Well you should be if you aren’t already.  This is the answer to the question that we have all been asking.  I wish I could say that finding the answer will solve everything, but it is truly just a starting point in which we can work backwards from. 

I won’t deal with happiness yet because we cannot experience true happiness unless we find inner peace first.   I will do my best to provide ways to find that inner peace by working backwards from fear, worry and anxiety, to a place where destroy all of these and emerge more content.  Have you ever sat quietly and tried to understand what fear and anxiety are?  Not only what they are but how they are affecting you?  I will take a guess and say that if you have tried this, while you were searching for an answer you found that fears and worries kept coming up and getting in the way.

I can tell you that inner peace is hidden beneath all of those fears and worries.  Yes, that is exactly where it is.  Now all you have to do is lift them off and the inner peace and happiness will appear.  This is where I am supposed to put a ‘lol’ in I believe.  I will begin to lay out ideas and steps you can take to strengthen your inner peace by slowly removing fears and worries.  This is not for the weak of mind as some of these things will be quite difficult and may require a lot of concentration.  We will use our free will now to make choices to remove fears.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stigma Leads To Shame

Is it not hard enough to be plagued with a mental health disorder without having to also feeling ashamed of it?  Many people suffering from invisible illnesses and mental health issues are often made to feel shame in regards to their disorder or affliction.  I find this disgusting.  Being made to feel ashamed of something that you would not wish on anyone else in the first place.

We did not ask or invite these illnesses, just like nobody would freely invite a cold or flu virus to attack their bodies.  Anyone with a mental health disorder would truly rid themselves of it if they could.  Are you suffering from Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia?  Did you ask for your affliction?  Of course you didnt', so why should you ever feel ashamed of it?

I was speaking with someone today who used the word shame in regards to their mental health issues. Society needs a complete overhaul if we are going to use stigma and shame to push people with mental illnesses further down into the pit that they already feel like they are in.   We did not ask to be in the pit in the first place, so maybe it is time for society to give us all a break.  What a horrible job we have done in the world if we make people feel ashamed of illnesses.

You should be ashamed of yourself for contracting the flu!  What a ridiculous statement I just made.  So why is it any less ridiculous to say you should feel shame for suffering depression or anxiety?  It isn't!  First of all, I will state that you should never feel ashamed of your illness.  You don't even want it, but unfortunately you have it.  It is part of who you are right now whether you like it or not, so own it and feel no shame about it.

So if someone wants you to 'get over it', hold your head high and tell them there is nothing you like more.  Let them attempt to understand you, and if they do, great!  If they don't understand, don't take it personally and certainly don't let them shame you in any way.  Sure, sometimes we need a push in the right direction when we are feeling low, and if it comes to us in a caring and compassionate way, take the help, or at least consider it.

We don't need to be pushed by feelings of guilt, anger, shame, or any other negative emotion that can be thrown at us.  I have anxiety issues but I control them well with natural approaches.  It used to cause observable issues when panic set in and I would often feel the shameful stares from those who just did not understand.  I got over the shame of it once I learned to own it and take control of it.  As for those who gave the shameful stares, your actions were certainly counterproductive to my well-being at the time.

People with mental health issues certainly don't need negativity from ignorant individuals, we have enough of our own problems already without judgmental and shameful looks.  This one made me a little angry today and I am channeling it into this article to advocate for all others who have felt this way.

For those of your trying to gain a better understanding of mental health, I truly hope you learn to empathize with people who are suffering around you, don't judge them.  For those of you who are already suffering, you already know how to put yourselves in the shoes of others, and your empathy grows each day.  Let it grow and it will help you to find your purpose again.  Understanding others gives us the ability to understand ourselves better.

The more empathy that grows in the world, the more people will care and better understand each other.  The more understanding and empathy in the world, the less stigma we will have attached to mental health issues.  Work on your own empathy skills and find a much happier existence, without shame or stigma.

Begging to Be Relevant:What Is Your Life's Purpose?

Everyone wants to feel relevant in the world.  Even people who isolate themselves from the world around them are begging to be relevant in some way or another.  I spent some time over the weekend researching and reading about how men in their fifties have the highest suicide rate in the western world right now.  Many will think it is youth, and although there are way too many tragedies there, many of us have completely missed this new negative trend.

As someone in his mid forties I tried to wrap my head around why this is such a growing trend.  We all need a purpose in this world, it is what drives us forward each day.  In our new technological world, so many young people are coming out of college and university with not only degrees and diplomas, but with an understanding of how this new world works.  The world is simply not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago, and if you did not grow up with technology, you are likely far behind.

With so much of our world focused on technology and the new way of life it has created, the older generation often feels 'out of the loop' in everyday life.  We muddle around with social media and try to better understand the new wave of thinking in an effort to feel relevant in the world again.  The purposes a man would have had in the past are no longer as relevant in our present day society.

Once men in their late forties and fifties have raised their children and worked at jobs for many years to support them finally complete this purpose. what is left?  Often what is left is an emptier life and an emptier existence.  Without purpose, what do we do next?  This has left many men in a place of desolation and often desperation.  A desperation to be relevant.  We can still see many years ahead of us, but without purpose there is little to look forward to.

We can look back at our lives and also see how our children are doing now that they are grown with a sense of satisfaction, and hopefully see a job well done.  But now what do I do?  That is the big question that is plaguing many people in their second half of life.  Our skills may no longer be relevant and could be outdated.  We can gain more education or re-train for differing careers, but if we are not doing it to raise our families anymore, why are we doing anything?

This is the stage of life where we get to be a little selfish if we can call it that, and find things that give us new purpose.  Try not to look at everything and see it as being alone or deserted, try to view things as accomplishments and find new challenges to move you forward.  The world is full of opportunities and there is an abundance of things we can do to find new purpose.  My purpose right now is to provide some of my own learning to others and help them find their new purpose and path.

As someone who is quickly becoming an 'empty-nester', I feel for you.  I did everything I could to help my children become independent well-natured people and I feel successful in that.  Don't focus on the things you didn't do or the things you wished you had done, only focus on the good things that you have accomplished.  Your life is relevant and that is what matters.

There is so much good needed to be brought into this chaotic world, and the world needs you right now.  If you are searching for relevance then use your existing skills and experience to go out and help others, or simply use your new found time to get to know yourself better.  Become the individual you want to be now that you have the chance.  If you are depressed or filled with panic because you feel lost, think about how you can use your own feelings to help the younger generation understand the very same feelings.

Our experience and knowledge will always be relevant, and there are many people out there who would benefit from what you know.  Don't give us and waste it.  Use your knowledge and wisdom to make the world a better place.  Writing each day offers me a sense of relevance and I truly appreciate all of you who are reading.  I am simply playing my part by sharing my experience and wisdom with others who need a little pep talk.

I suffer like you do and often feel the past pulling me backwards.  I see it as a challenge and continue to put my past back where it belongs.  I feel that I have been given an opportunity now to use what I have learned to help others feel better about themselves and their mental well-being.  I see it as a challenge and will continue to write my column each day until I sort everything out.  I hope you will begin to face your challenges with voracity and courage.

You are relevant.  The world needs your knowledge.  Be the person that you always wanted to be. Start small but take chances.  Be the person your children look up to and find your purpose.  It is not about money or power, it is about being the best you that you can be.  The more challenges you face the stronger you become.  Strive for those things you wanted when you were younger and do them now because you can.

Find ways to be happy and at peace, and you will always have purpose!

Mental Health or Mental Illness:Which One is Correct?

Two people can live very similar lives yet have completely different perceptions of the world around them.  How we perceive our environment is based on our frame of mind.  One person can see a sunny day that makes them feel alive, while another may only see the clouds in the sky and complain about the chilly breeze; same day but two differing views.  How we see the world tells us so much about ourselves.

Do you look for the good in things, or the bad?  Test it out.  Be mindful of the thoughts you are having throughout the day and find out where they are leading you.  If you are feeling pessimistic about your life, then you will likely have a negative outlook on things.  If you are feeling optimistic then you will find the good in things.  By observing our own thinking we have the ability to assess and change it.  If you are constantly seeing the negative in things, it is time to change the way you think!

I will use mental health and mental illness as an example to show you differences in perception.  Mental healthcare workers have been altering the way we look at mental health over the past few years by changing how we refer to it.  We all know terms for mental health disorders from the past, like crazy or insane plus a multitude of other negative connotations, and these are seen as illnesses.  The term 'mental illness' was used for a while but it seemed that there was still too much stigma attached to the word illness, so changes were made again.

The term 'Mental Health' is widely used in regards to mental health disorders around the world.  There is less stigma attached to the word 'health' and I for one certainly appreciate anything that reduces stigma.  We need to look at the differences though so we know exactly what we are referring to, and this is where opposing views come in to play.  An illness is something wrong with us and that requires repairs in order to be healthier, whereas health is something we strive for and build upon.

If my health is poor, then I likely have an illness.  An illness is something that can be diagnosed for the most part, symptoms identified, and steps can be taken to reduce and repair symptoms.  Attacking our mental health from an illness perspective can give us answers to our woes, and provide us with tools to fix the illness, whether it be pills or therapy of some sort.

Mental Health on the other hand is something we can build upon.  We can strengthen our resolve and take steps towards better thinking.  If we work on things like meditation and mindfulness, we can find positive ways to improve our state of mind, and therefore better our mental health.  With an illness we are fixing something that is wrong instead of building on what is right.  Mental health and mental illness are two very different terms, but they are used for the same thing.

Know the difference.  Are you repairing problems or building new strengths?  Both ways will help us to improve our health, but how you view them can control the way you think about them.  I like the term Mental Health because it is solution based, and it gives us the view of something positive that can be improved upon.  Mental illness is a good term as well because it lets us know that there is something wrong and it gives us the opportunity repair it and make it better.

Whether you want to see the issues as health or illness does not matter, all that matters is that you take a positive solution based view of the issue.  How can you make it better?  Look for the sun between the clouds and be happy, rather than lettings the clouds make you consume you and create a negative view.  How we choose to perceive the world around us is so very important.

We take steps to improve our physical health, now it is time to take the same steps with our mental health.  Build on your positive thinking today and grow your health.  Whatever is causing you to feel ill will be lessened the more often you take a positive view of it.  Be positive but be realistic as well. Build a little each day by searching for the good in things, and in a week or two, you will start to see a difference.  The sun will shine brighter and the darkness won't be so scary anymore.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

From Anxiety To Enlightenment

As someone who has spent a majority of my life with bursts of uncontrolled anxiety and panic, I feel a need to share parts of my own journey in the hopes that others will find some helpful information that may ease theirs.  I have covered many topics over the past few weeks in an attempt to focus my own mind on the greatest issues.  I will continue to write about 'invisible illnesses' because this signifies so many different mental and physical health issues, and there are many symptoms that they all share.

Because invisible illnesses share so many real symptoms, we can use these to gain a greater understanding of how to create coping mechanisms and better deal with them.  The mass sharing of information on the internet gives us the ability to share in the successes of others, and to use their success to create some for ourselves.  I will be focusing much of my writing on anxiety and depression because I have an abundance of experience with both the symptoms and the research that goes along with them.

Sufferers of mental and physical health issues are the greatest advocates on the planet.  They understand what they 'feel' like, as opposed to just the theories and information surrounding the issues.  It is one thing to have a 'professional' help with these issues, but if they have never been through the experience themselves, then they know very little about how to help.  Information and knowledge alone mean very little without experience and action. 

Depression keeps us rooted in the past.  We all go through depressive states at times in our lives, especially when there is a build-up of negativity following us, but some are affected much more than others.  Uncontrolled depression and negative thinking causes so much more than just physical distress; it has huge ramifications on our mental health because we can't move forward no matter how we try during the 'low' times.  

Depression also causes anxiety and the vicious loop begins.  Because we still want to live our lives to the fullest, but have little energy to do so, this cause constant feelings of anxiety due to the negative outlook being cause to our future perceptions.  A negative view of the future causes more anxiety which leads us further into our depressed state of mind.  How do we stop it?

There are two good choices if you want to get started.  One is to spend time reflecting, either with those you trust, a mental health counselor, or with yourself.  Start resolving some of the negative issues that are dragging you down, one at a time.  The more issues you resolve, the more positive your outlook will begin to be.  The second way is to better understand your anxiety.  

Anxiety is caused by our impending doom of our perceived future.  Our depression causes fear and inner conflict, and when we view any possibilities of future outcomes, we inject fear into them. Reduce your fears and the future will become brighter.  When you are thinking about a possible future event ask yourself why you are feeling anxiety and fear, instead of having a sense of wonder and excitement.

I would have to assume that prophets from the past went through stages of anxiety and depression while learning to better understand themselves.  We mostly only hear their stories after they became enlightened.  To become enlightened, one must suffer first.  If you have been suffering for a long time, it is very difficult to see something better in the future, but all of that suffering you have been through means something.  You have great will and mental strength which will give you the resiliency to survive anything.

Look at the world right now, it is a pretty scary place.  It is no wonder that so many people are suffering from anxiety, especially when the outlook seems to bleak.  The world is changing and more people are searching for enlightenment every day.  Each person will have to go through suffering to get there though.  If you are suffering and have been for years, I believe this will come to an end soon.  

We are evolving and adapting to a new technological world and it feels forced for so many people.  It is happening out of necessity for humanity and it certainly would have been nice to have more time to adapt.  As the world changes, our perceptions and priorities will change as well.  Things may have to break down completely to start over again. 

 "The meek will inherit the Earth".  The meek to me are the sufferers.  The ones who are suffering right now are the ones with the mental strength to persevere and bring empathy back to the world, although I know it does not feel that way right now.  It is time to build strength and use it to help others who are struggling.

Change your anxiety into fuel rather than fear.  When you feel that overwhelming fear and panic, use the energy to face your fears and conquer depression.  I know it is easy to say in words, but I live it every day and know there is something better for all of us.  I have felt true peace and it is awesome. I will find it again soon as I reason it out here on the blog.. It is my hope that my journey will inspire and urge others to seek peace as well.  Enlightenment and peace are synonymous to me and it is a state of pure bliss.  Spread your story and help to bring peace back to a planet that truly needs it. 

Anxiety and depression can not exist in a true state of peace!

Anxiety Versus Depression

I tend to write about things that come to me at some point during the day that requires some reflective thought.  I have no agenda other than doing what I can to help those who are suffering with things that I have gone through myself. I will not provide advice, only information that I believe may help others to better understand themselves.  I spend time thinking through the questions that I ask myself, have logical arguments in my mind and draw conclusions.

 An intelligent friend of mine said something to me a while back that resonated with me, and during some deep thought on anxiety and depression, I put some concepts together that I would like to share.  He said to me, "There are two parts to life, the first half and the second half, but we don't realize this until we are well into the second half."  It may not sound like a profound statement if you are not in the second half of life, but it made complete sense to me.

The first half of life we spend much of our time looking into the future and trying to determine what it could look like.  We then spend the second half of our lives remembering and reflecting on our past. What this simple realization did for me was put anxiety and depression into a different light.  Anxiety comes from fear of future events whereas depression comes from unresolved issues in our past.  I see many articles where anxiety and depression are talked about together, yet they are polar opposites.  

In my opinion, they are linked together not because the symptoms are the same, but because the treatments can be quite similar for both.  I am huge fan of Eckhart Tolle who is a very enlightened man who has written books explained how to live in the "now".  The treatments needed for anxiety and depression try to bring us back to the present moment, or the 'now' so that we can deal with our past or future here in this moment.

A profound statement is 'we only have the present moment, the rest only exists in our mind'.  We live a lifetime of present moments in this reality but spend most of our time letting our minds take us to the past and future.  The past is gone and we can not change it.  The future can not be predicted so any image we create in our mind is simply our brain trying to base possibilities of future events on how we are feeling at the present moment.  I hope this doesn't sound confusing but I do understand that it can be a confusing concept.

I am sharing this thought process to give you a slightly better understanding of why we are so affected by anxiety and depression.  They are very real afflictions, and they can be absolutely crippling at times.  Anxiety comes from our most primal of instincts in relation to our mind.  We think about something that 'could' happen, and we have a fight or flight response in our body in reaction to that thought.  

We create fears within ourselves that can bring up a response of anxiety or panic, yet these are not problems in reality, only created inside our brain.  Removing these fears within ourselves will reduce the anxiety and panic.  This is not an easy process but anxiety can be overcome by learning to control our fears.  For now I suggest to start with one smaller fear at a time, and as your confidence grows, start to tackle the larger ones.  Quiet reflection and meditation are the best and safest places to get started.

As for depression, this comes from our minds being constantly dragged into the past because we have unresolved issues that our brain has still not made sense of, so we are left in negative or depressed state until we resolve it.  The more unresolved issues we have, the more depressed we become.  I realize that dealing with depression is a very difficult process and I do not mean to make it sound simplistic in any way because it is a horrible thing to have to live with.  

Understanding these statements will help you to realize that you do have unresolved issues, and if you don't begin to resolve them, your state of mind will never truly improve.  When we are focused on negative thinking our lives become negative as well.  It is the same for depression as it is for anxiety; you need to begin dealing with these issues one at a time.  Don't be afraid to ask for help from those that you trust if you are too far down to start on your own.  There are highly educated and experienced mental health workers out there that can help you get started in a safe environment.

If you are stubborn like I am and have difficult asking for help, then I suggest working on these unresolved issues only when you are in a good state of mind.  Take one issue at a time and slowly try to focus on it, and ask yourself why it is still bothering.  Continue to ask why and other questions until you get some answers.  If it begins to put you in a more negative state of mind, put it aside until you are having a better moment.  We need inner strength to resolve these issues and your strength will increase the more you try.  

Become the master of your own mind and learn how to bring yourself back to the present moment.  Become mindful of everything around you so you feel more grounded throughout the day.  Find some quiet time each day to work on yourself without distraction,  You deserve the self care required to solve your issues, so take it when you can.  Baby steps lead to giant leaps eventually.  You won't fix your issues over night and it could be long process, but you are worth the effort.  You matter, your life matters and peace is your right.  If you want inner peace, start taking steps to find it.  

Your journey to happiness has to start somewhere.  

Take care and be well