National Day of Un-Plugging

Have you heard that the National Day of Un-Plugging starts tonight at sundown and lasts through tomorrow evening? Reboot who, according to their site, has a number of active programs that provide DIY tools for individuals and communities to explore Jewish identity, started the event several years ago – and I LOVE IT!

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While I am a big fan of social media (hello, I’m contributing to it right now) I also yearn for the days when our lives were less complicated, less harried and not Facebook-infused.  I have chronicled screen-free periods in my life before, so I’m not going to do that today.  But what I will do is leave you with a list of things you can do while you are abstaining from technology over the next day or so:

  • bake a cake
  • take a walk
  • read a book
  • draw a picture
  • play a board game
  • do a puzzle
  • talk to a neighbor
  • re-organize your kitchen
  • plan your summer garden
  • read a magazine
  • make a cup of tea
  • re-arrange your living room
  • talk to your kids
  • hold hands with your partner
  • do nothing at all

Most of all – enjoy engaging with those around you!


Mental Health Blog Day Update

Yesterday was APA’s Mental Health Blog Day.  They did a great job of rounding up some great bloggers to dedicate posts to mental health.  Some of the bloggers are health writers, some not – but either way there was some great information shared! Check it out:

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Some of my faves:

How clever are these blog titles? I just love discovering new, creative and entertaining bloggers.  For a full list of Mental Health Blog Day participants click here.

Oh! And you can see my contribution to the party here: Mental Health Isn’t All Sadness and Worry; Doom and Gloom

Mental Health Isn’t All Sadness and Worry; Doom and Gloom

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Today is Mental Health Blog Day over at the American Psychological Association (APA).  APA is rounding up lots of terrific blog posts and articles all about mental health.  This is a great place to learn more about diagnosis, treatment, resources, and what it is like to live with a mental illness.  All of this information is useful and necessary, but I think sometimes we forget that mental health can be fun – and funny – too.

For example, the blog Hyperbole and a Half has recently dealt with the issue of debilitating depression.  Yes, this is a serious topic.  And yes, it is tough to read the author’s description of her extremely low mood and long periods of helplessness and hopelessness.  But, the post is also pretty light-hearted and even funny in some sections.

Mental health and humor are two things that can be tough to combine, but there are places where the combination can be found: the TV show Monk, any of David Sedaris’ books, Chato Stewart’s mental health humor cartoons.

Creating mental health can be a good time – and it doesn’t always entail lying on a couch blaming your mother for your unhappy marriage, or taking a handful of pills everyday.  While therapy and psychiatric medication may be a piece of mental health care for some of us; many of us can find it on our own.  Gardening, baking, collecting gnomes, reading mysteries, brewing beer, playing chess in the park – these can all be ways to create and maintain good mental health.

How do you have fun while working on your mental health?







Mental Health and TV – Good for All of Us

Today I posted an article over at the American Psychological Association’s blog, Your Mind. Your Body.  In it I write about the importance of portraying mental health issues, struggles and solutions in TV and movies.  Check it out here.

Some of my favorite TV shows regularly integrate important topics in mental health including bullying, suicide, mental illness and family struggles.  The folks over at Glee do a pretty good job (most of the time) accurately portraying mental illness and treatment. Gossip Girl, Hoarders, Parenthood, Monk and Friday Night Lights are other shows that include characters with psychiatric disorders.

Of course there are tons of movies whose main subject is mental illness.  Check out this cool list on Wikipedia listing movies featuring mental illness organized by diagnosis.  Silver Linings Playbook is just 1 of 14 movies listed in the Bipolar Disorder category.

If you want to learn more about some of the great work being done in TV and films, check out SAMHSA’s Voice Awards.  Here’s a description:

Join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Voice Awards program in recognizing consumer/peer leaders and TV and film professionals who educate the public about the real experiences of people with behavioral health problems. Through their work and personal stories of resilience, both groups of leaders demonstrate that people can and do recover from mental health and substance use disorders and lead full and meaningful lives in their communities.

Today is the deadline to nominate producers and programs! Check out SAMHSA’s site to submit your favorite show by the end of the day!

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A Picture Perfect Marriage

We can’t all have a wedding like this, but luckily it’s not the flowers or custom made dress that makes a happy marriage
Photo: Summit

Ahhh…wedding season.  It is upon us – and I love it.  I love the flowers, the white dress, the dancing, the cake, the cake, the cake.  But as my colleague Dr. Angela Lodono-McConnell over at Your Mind. Your Body. writes, there is more to a happy marriage than a clever proposal and Pinterest-worthy reception.

After attending many weddings as a guest and a worker (I used to be a waitress at a wedding venue) I can tell you the one ingredient that makes the most picture perfect wedding: a loving, happy couple.  It’s not the food, the open bar, the flowers, or the handmade place cards that ensure your guests have a super time.  It’s the amount of love and fun coming from the couple.

The cool news is, these are also important ingredients in a successful marriage.  A sense of fun, optimistic happiness, and an outpouring of affection (physical, verbal, etc) are key elements to staying married, not just an evening of fun with family and friends.

Failure is a Good Thing

Photo via: loyal_oak

I wrote a post over at Your Mind. Your Body. earlier this week about some new research just released from the American Psychological Association.  For someone like me – an anti-perfectionist (slacker? lover of mistakes? fan of failure?) the news was great.  In a nutshell the French researchers found that children who struggled, failed, and squirmed their way through tough academic assignments performed better on subsequent academic tasks.  The authors concluded that struggle and failure in school is actually a good thing in terms of future performance. What a relief!

I am so pleased to hear this because I am a big fan of flailing and failing, and making mis-steps and mistakes.  Perhaps it’s because I have made so many of them myself over the years, or maybe it’s because perfection simultaneously intimidates and bores me.  Either way,  I’m always looking for reasons to avoid it (perfectionism) and embrace the opposite.

So what can we take from this research?

The math homework doesn’t need to be done to perfection every night to get something out of it

Having some cooking disasters shouldn’t keep us from continuing to bake

Letting our kids watch us fail, may help them learn to fail with grace and humor – which may actually benefit their school performance down the road

For more tips about how to make use of this study, check out my post: Learning is Hard and That’s OK

TV: Love to Hate it, Or Hate to Love It?

I like pop culture.  It’s silly, often funny, and almost always a great way for me to escape reality for a while.  When I think of the positives of TV, movies, and other sorts of “screen activities,” I think of stress management (laughter) and the making of fun memories (sitting on the floor of the sold out theater watching Dirty Dancing and wishing I were Baby).  But of course, there are many negatives to screen time too, especially when kids (and adults) spend a large part of their days and nights forgoing other activities (exercise, social interaction) and instead sit glued to a screen.

I was recently interviewed for this article on the website About Kids Health.  The reporter, Jonathan Link, did an outstanding job of highlighting the pitfalls when kids and families spend too much time in front of a screen.  I provided some tips about how to cut back on TV and other screen time, and talked a bit about my own experiences during Screen Free Week a couple of years ago.  Read the complete article here.

How Daycare Can Help Children with Depressed Moms

In my recent post about moms criticizing other moms, I wrote briefly about the new study finding that daycare helps kids with depressed moms.  To read more about my thoughts on why this might be the case and how else we can support moms (and all caregivers) with depression please click over to Your Mind. Your Body. This is the blog of the American Psychological Association for which I also write (though not as regularly as I write here).  Let me know your thoughts!

Depressed Moms, Daycare, and Mom-Bashing.

Have you seen the buzz about the recent study finding that childcare might help protect the kids of depressed moms from later psychological and behavioral problems?  It’s all over the internet, including on blogs like CNN’s The Chart and the American Psychological Association’s Your Mind. Your Body. (disclaimer: that one was written by me).  If you want to read more about the study and its important findings please read the original article in the journal Pediatrics, or one of those blogs.  If you want to read about where one conversation about the study took me, then read on.

A girlfriend and I started out talking about the study, and ended up discussing why moms hate each other.  Oh sure, there are some moms who feel genuine love and support for one another, but there are many out there who really dislike one another, too.  And along with the dislike comes a host of other feelings, including: jealousy, contempt, and resentment.

How could a conversation about depressed moms lead to one about mom-bashing?  Because as soon as I see the word “childcare” – I know there will be a fight coming soon.

Childcare is great!

Childcare is awful!

Childcare is dangerous!

Childcare saved my children!

The comments are endless.  Why do we presume to know how how other moms should raise their children – and worse – actually say it out loud?  If we really cared for the other moms around us, wouldn’t we support them in their decisions, rally around them when they struggled, and hold our tongues when others started to gossip?  I contend that truly supporting moms around us would be another great way to assist the kids of depressed and happy moms alike.

So what can we do to turn this culture of mom-bashing around?  How can we be more supportive of one another?  Stop talking about each other. Quit gossiping, putting down, second guessing, and under-cutting the moms around you.  If you hear others do it, walk away.  If you read a blog post with nasty comments, close the page.  Whatever you have to do to stay positive and supportive of the other moms out there – and yourself in return – it’s worth it.

Want to read more thoughts on how to assist all kinds of moms and caregivers?  Check out my post on Your Mind. Your Body.