health

15 Self-Care Tips for Any Time of Year
Healthy self-care lifestyle concept with diet and fitness.

Effective self-care requires a healthy balance of taking care of your mind as well as your body.

Life gets hectic sometimes, and if you’re like most people, you just keep going along with the flow. You probably forgot to take care of yourself amid the holiday parties or following after-school activities, work, and family obligations. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or end of summer. These self-care tips will help you keep a positive outlook when life gets to be too much.

Bodily Self-Care Tips

  1. Take long, deep breaths from the diaphragm to slow your heart rate.
  2. Eat healthy. There’s more than one reason to eat more vegetables, fruits and grains. It’s not just about staying healthy, it’s about having more energy and feeling better. But don’t forget to splurge on your favorites. Moderation is the name of the game.
  3. Cherish your rituals. Create special moments for the holidays, but also make daily rituals that add meaning to your life. Make the bed with your spouse every morning to remember to start the day together. Have time together with your family every night at a regular time to focus on each other. Ground your day with the ones who matter to you.
  4. Cherish your friends and make time for them. Have a night out when life gets tough and you need someone to chat with. Better yet, order in and have a night at home talking to your BFF.
  5. Make time for regular exercise. Sitting around on your couch isn’t only bad for your mental game, it’s not healthy physically. Find some kind of physical activity that you enjoy. Try out different sports until you find one that fits into your lifestyle.
  6. Watch less TV. Television robs you of your time, your goals and your motivation. Rein in the binge watching to get off the couch and do something else.

Mental Self-Care Tips

  1. Put the electronics down every day. Recharge your phone and your mind by giving yourself a break from being readily available and on call. Research shows that people sleep better when they don’t look at the backlit screens before bed.
  2. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t fight your anger or sadness. It’s said that “what you resist, persists.” Get it out of your system and move on to more positive feelings.
  3. Read more. Non-fiction expands your mind, while fiction expands your imagination. Take some time to enjoy a good book.
  4. Take time off social media. If you’re on Facebook and Twitter all day for work and then come home and spend time looking at the best aspects of your friends’ lives, you’ll probably start comparing yourself to others, which doesn’t help with self-care.
  5. Stay away from negative people. Surround yourself with people who will help you stay positive and motivated.
  6. Don’t be that negative person in others’ lives. Everyone has bad days, but don’t be the one who talks badly about everyone else.
  7. Forgive yourself. You have to give up the anger you have toward yourself for the mistakes you make. If guilt doesn’t encourage you to change, then it isn’t good guilt.
  8. Forgive others, or at the very least make a choice to stop carrying the anger around. Deal with what’s bothering you and keeping you from moving forward. It’s not easy to let those things go, but the negative feelings you hold inside are not hurting anyone but you.
  9. Learn to say no. Don’t feel as if you always have to say yes. Set boundaries and limits for yourself.

Self-care isn’t always easy, but it’s vital to your well-being. You aren’t going to have all the answers, nor do you need to. You just need to enjoy the journey of life, wherever it takes you.

Incarceration Statistics That Should Have all Canadians Concerned
The outside of a prison.

Recent incarceration statistics have shown a dramatic increase in Amerinds and Black Canadians.

In 2014, The New Observer reported concerns about the rising population rates of Amerinds and blacks in Canadian federal prisons. According to incarceration statistics, both races were highly over-represented in the prison system when you look at the overall population in the country. Two-and-a-half years later, The Torontoist reports, “There are 70 per cent [sic] more Black Canadians in federal prison than there were 10 years ago…” In addition, Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator, released his annual report of the status of the prisons. He found that from 2005 to 2015 the overall population in the correction system in Canada grew by 10 percent. The Aboriginal inmate population grew by more than 50 percent. This phenomenon was evident in both male and female populations.

Who Is Howard Sapers?

Why should you listen to Sapers? He was appointed to his position as Correctional Investigator of Canada in 2004. This is his 11th annual report. He is not tied to any political climate, as he has served under two Prime Ministers and under five different Ministers of Public Safety. During his tenure in his position, his team has responded to over 200,000 complaints and calls. Sapers has provided testimony to many different Parliamentary Committees and responded to criminal justice reforms handed down by the government. He believes in human dignity and decency even for those who are deprived of their liberty. Sapers is an advocate for a fair and rational criminal justice system.

In his message of his annual report, he breaks down the incarceration statistics even further, offering some interesting statistics:

  • Twenty-five percent of the prison population is now 50 or older.
  • Only about 40 percent of inmates have a formal education of grade eight or higher.
  • Sixty percent of inmates have not graduated high school.
  • Sixty percent of female inmates require prescription medications to manage their mental health needs.
  • Seventy percent of female inmates report histories of sexual abuse.
  • Eighty-six percent of women in the prison system report physical abuse at some point in their lives.
  • Eighty percent of the male inmates have experienced addiction and substance abuse.

Is Racism the Problem?

The Torontoist reports that the high rate of blacks in prison is due to racism and over-policing. In Canada, blacks make up about three percent of the general population but 10 percent of the prison population. Indigenous Canadians make up 24.4 percent of the federal prison population but only 4.3 percent of the general population. This is not a problem just in Canada. In the United States, the numbers aren’t quite as pronounced, but African-Americans make up 13 percent of the general population and account for 37 percent of the prison population.

One local lawyer is calling for an initiative similar to the 1991 Aboriginal Justice Strategy that was created to address the growing population of Indigenous Canadians in the prisons. It offered restorative justice and diversion programs and alternative sentencing. In 2011, a report was issued that outlined the success of the AJS. It had this to say:
“Evidence that the long-term outcome of the AJS of ‘reduced crime and incarceration rates in communities with funded programs’ is being achieved is evident through the results of the recidivism study, which found a significant difference between rates of re-offending of AJS-funded program participants and a comparison group.”

Unfortunately, these same outcomes are not being seen in the prisons.

Are There Solutions?

Some might say that criminals get what they deserve. They do have to pay for their crime, but when you look at some of Sapers’ findings, one has to wonder if the solution starts with ensuring people have an education and that their mental health needs are taken care of. Women who are abused need help to improve their self-confidence and outcomes. Things won’t change overnight, but these statistics should concern everyone.

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Men Need Mental Health Wellness Too
Sad man sitting head in hands on his bed experiencing issues with his mental health.

Depression affects people in very different ways. Some experience sadness and emptiness, while others experience recklessness and anger.

In Darryl “DMC” McDaniels’ new book, “Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide,” he discusses his history with mental health Issues, Depression, and addiction. He’s not alone in dealing with mental health issues. Jim Carrey has talked about his struggles with depression and addiction. Robin Williams ended his life in 2014, ostensibly due to mental illness. Former NHL player Theo Fluery has made no secret about his history with sexual abuse and mental health struggles. He said, “Reached out for help and my healing began.” Men are not immune from mental health diseases, but many men believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. 

We all have bouts of sadness and times when we may not feel completely normal, which are all part of life’s normal ebbs and flows. Then, there are other times when you might struggle with mental health problems that can lead to serious consequences. Men, women and children can all experience mental illness, but symptoms can manifest themselves differently. When you can’t work, sleep, eat or have fun because of thoughts that are affecting your day-to-day life, don’t try and diagnose the problems on your own. A mental health professional is the only one who can truly determine if you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or another mental health issue. There’s no shame in getting help for a medical condition.

Symptoms of Depression

Most people associate a prolonged sadness or lack of interest in normal activities with depression, but there are many other symptoms that can manifest if you are depressed. You may be fatigued or have a loss of energy. Some people experience guilt and worthlessness or have problems concentrating. There might be a change in appetite or in your weight. Unfortunately, these symptoms could be from any number of health problems, not just mental health issues. To make things even more complicated, men may exhibit other symptoms that are not typically associated with depression. Some men feel physical pain or become angry. Researchers have even found that men who are depressed exhibit reckless behavior.

Depression is different for each person. Even within one individual, symptoms can vary in intensity over the course of the illness. Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step in treating the disease. There are many treatment options available. What works for one person may not be effective for another. Talk therapy is often very effective in stopping the progression of depression, but many people may need more intensive therapies or medication to find relief from the symptoms. Unlike an infection that goes away after a round of antibiotics, depression isn’t cured so easily. But it is treatable.

Help Is Available

The Canadian Mental Health Association has many resources if you’re dealing with mental illness in your family. Whether it’s you or a loved one, there are places where you can get help. Toronto is gearing up for a mental health conference in September, to discuss mental illnesses and addiction and how it affects all of us. The conference will feature more than 150 mental health experts from across the country who are coming together to create dialogue about changes in mental health. It is open to the public, but registration is required.

Advocates believe that speaking out about mental health issues is the only way to change public perception. Men have been taught to “suck it up” and just keep going on when things get tough, but depression isn’t going to go away by ignoring it. There is a stigma surrounding mental illness in our country. The only way to change that is to speak up and step out of the shadows. Men, especially, have to speak up and seek help.

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The Connection Between Marriage, Happiness and Health
Getting married and having children can increase happiness in middle age

Getting married and having children can increase happiness in middle age

Over the years, numerous researchers have concluded that happiness often follows a U-shaped curve in people’s lives. In youth and the golden years, happiness is generally elevated while individuals tend to be unhappy in middle age. This phenomenon is often referred to as the “mid-life crisis.” Factors believed to exacerbate the situation include career and childrearing stresses typically peaking during middle age. However, according to a study published in December 2014 by Canadian economists Shawn Grover and John Helliwell, being married can help improve happiness in middle age and the benefit is often strongest during that period as well. Other studies have found improved health to be another potential side effect of a strong marriage.

Marry Your Best Friend

Individuals who have tied the knot are consistently found to be happier than single people. Yet, as reported by Helliwell and Grover, marrying anyone available is not the answer. They concluded people who realize the most benefit from marriage are those who marry their best friends. The study found this group receives the most social support from their spouses, which can assist in shielding them from the stresses of middle age, when help is often most needed. Those who named their spouses as their best friends experienced almost double the benefits of those who did not. Helliwell stated, “Marriages are forms of super friendships.”

Studies on Health and Marriage

In addition to potentially improving your chances for happiness, good marriages are also believed to bolster physical well-being. Over the years, a lot of research has been done on the connection between health and marital status. Here are examples of three studies.

  1. 19th Century Research of William Farr

William Farr was a British epidemiologist and one of the first scholars to propose a link between longevity and marriage. His ground breaking work was one of the first relationship studies of its kind and assisted in creating the field of medical statistics. Farr’s research involved French adults who he separated into three separate categories: married couples, never-married bachelors and spinsters, and individuals who have been widowed. He used birth, death and marriage records to help analyze the mortality rates of the groups at different ages. Farr found that never-married people were more likely to die of disease than married couples, and widows and widowers fared worst of all.

  1. 2013 Duke University Study

In a study on 4,802 individuals born in the 1940s, Dr. Ilene Siegler and colleagues identified some important correlations between marital status and life expectancy. They found individuals who were unmarried or did not have a permanent partner during middle age where much more likely to die during that period.

  1. 2013 Brigham Young University and Penn State Study

The results of the most extensive study ever on the correlation between physical well-being and marital happiness were published in 2013. Researchers followed 1,681 individuals for more than two decades. Authors Richard Miller, Cody Hollist, Joseph Olsen and David Law found couples involved in good marriages were much more likely to be physically healthy over the course of their lives, and marriage duration was not a factor in the equation.

Unhappy Marriages

Despite all the positive ways marriage can impact one’s life, research has shown troubled marriages can be harmful and even lethal to people’s physical and emotional well-being. A bad marriage can wreak havoc on one’s life, in which case staying single may turn out to be a healthier option. A recent study also concluded strained marriages may actually be worse for the heart than habitual smoking. Merely being married doesn’t protect your health. The quality of the relationship is what really matters.

Marriage is not for everyone and unhappy marriages can be very detrimental. However, there are some consistent positive links that connect happiness, health and marriage.

And, thanks to the Universal Life Church, getting married has never been easier. Have a friend or family member get ordained online to perform your wedding – it could just save your life!