Cleaning House — beyond Spring cleaning

Springtime for most of us implies flowers, planting and gardening, May wreaths, a spectacular blossoming time of year.  Others keep it as a traditional time for doing the annual Spring cleaning and overall “cleaning house.” A recent psycho-educational session about organizing our living space and ultimately better organizing our life, 738BE095-1BF3-458B-8D44-3970DA58D32Ewas based on more effective methods. This includes suggestions that were made in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (first published in Japanese in 2011). As this month is also Mental Health Awareness Month we can find ways to tidy up our own lives, change our way of thinking,  positive overall mental health which is part of being more health literate about what mental illness is and what it isn’t.

Kondo’s method is largely based on “mindful” tidying and extends to a similar philosophy that rings true throughout time — healthy mind and healthy body. And I say why not extend this to a tidier and cleaner society with happier and more health literate people!? One editor nicely shared her “lessons learned” for her own home (and likely her office) after reading Kondo’s book.

Many of us for one always feel better in a clean and tidy environment as it helps us clear and settle our mind. We can start to prioritize and reduce procrastinating hopefully!

  • “Prune your stuff often” is an easy phrase to remember from what I consider to be a classic book, The Rules of Life (Richard Templar). Think of pruning a bush, the same way you then will sort and throw out paperwork to recycling, don’t just pile up clothes and dishes, store and wash your dishes daily, life will be so much ‘easier’ to get a handle on!
  • exercise your dusting, broom and mopping ‘skills’, and how about learning better tips like “How to Clean Your Room” video
  • use biodegradable cleaning products like those by Amway Home, so much better for the environment
  • use a small vacuum for daily messes, and leave heavier vacuuming for once a month.

Key messages she emphasizes are to respect yourself and your property (starting with clothes, books/papers, all closets, collectibles,  etc.), donate or sell as needed — most countries have Salvation Army which works on helping people in poverty and collecting and either re-selling or distributing products like clothes, furniture, collectibles.  There are also many common on-line selling sections like FB’s Marketplace.

Speaking  of clothes, for those of us who love clothes, accessories and shoes among other stuff we can also learn to better organize them (fold and store — for some of us space is a limitation so we have to move out winter stuff bring our spring and summer stuff, what a chore but good to see what we have and what doesn’t fit anymore!). The concept of Natalie’s blog of “wear you are now” fits nicely here!

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White color  is associated with “purity” and cleanliness, best shown with this lily of the valley, hand picked!

We all at some point may experience serious serious mental health issues with friends or family it is important to keep calm, get informed, get support.  Help can come in many forms, and it is not our job to “rescue” people, but you/we can:

  • intervene legally with human services or police if situations get out of hand and people are a danger to themselves (or to others)
  • educate ourselves and others on mental health issues (online, offline in seminars, by trained counselors, etc.)
  • get therapy ourselves if things get out of hand (including feelings of guilt if someone you care for hurts themselves you are never to blame for another’s extreme choice and live with a clear conscience if you’ve tried to help!). I recently came across a great video by handsome Father Mike Schmitz who talks about suicide (this video is part of others a series) — not only talks about the religious side of the matter but clearly differentiated the importance of having a team of professionals! As he says, are all doctors the same? are all religious advisors the same? so why not try different therapists as he puts a heavy importance on maintaining hope and never giving up. I think this song by the group Hurts “Never Give Up It’s Such a Wonderful Life” says it all friends….

A good friend who has years of experience in emergency medicine and writes a fab blog Heal Thyself Heal Thy World  always says “you can only do what you can do…”  There are many sites with great “tips” out there. I particularly liked one by Parent’s Magazine article about 7 Pink Flags to look out for in children with possibly serious mental health issues, and loved the importance of mental health video by the wife of Canadian Prime Minister, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau for May Mental Health Month — key emphasis on self-care and self-compassion.

Enjoy your new spring outlook, be strong and get support as needed, and carry on!

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Reflecting on yesteryear

 

Ring in the new year in joy, sail to new destinations and deal with the “rough seas” of life.

This past year was quite difficult for many with losses (financial, personal), past months we captured some of the tragic news happening in the US, in Greece, Spain see Keeping Afloat Seemingly Chaos even some “bad luck” like 20+ people dead in a flash flood, a ceiling caving in on the main entertainment DJ and another case of a snow avalanche killing one snowboarding tourist  — granted the news never emphasizing that homes were allowed to be built illegally in the valley, or that the snowboarder went to a closed ski resort, where were the safety precautions? Others dying in shootings or intentional terror type acts in the name of their “identity”, or losing their homes in hurricanes throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

You might say “life happens”, indeed. Some things could be preventable. As some are building beachside sandcastles in Southern Hemispheres others are awakened in early morning hours with our beds shaking — no it wasn’t Santa’s sleigh landing on our rooftop — indeed experiencing a small earthquake enough to get our hearts active again. When it comes to man versus nature, the latter will always win.

The morning of the last day of December, a favorite uncle beloved by all family, colleagues, friends for his kind and creative nature, lost a painful fight with liver cancer, just short of his 70th birthday. For me he was one of the great life philosophers and taught us about overseeing negativity and being humane. Coincidentally my recent writing about aging and the end of life and how being or building health literacy can help us all adjust to life’s ups and downs, helps to reflect on the sweet memories of yesteryear. Last year’s New Years post was plenty full with thinking of resolutions, and today’s CNN article really summed up what many of us health educators, counselors, teachers have been saying for years including mindfulness, balanced eating with plenty fruits and vegetables, and the vitality of drinking plenty of water!  Some other intentional resolutions to make it simple and real:

1) clean up your home and your environment, keeping in mind the 3 “R”s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ♻️

2) be light of heart and kind in spirit …forgive and move on, remember doing good goes a long way!

3) daydream, dream small and big, this is what gives us hope. Yes the reason we had a tinker bell in Peter Pan or find “hope” in Pandora’s box is really the gift of “light”. This is necessary for our taking steps forward and believing in ourselves. So where is your dream catcher?304f034f-bf59-43bc-ad30-2b19a27e0f0c.jpeg

4) Accept both sides of joy and sadness — the movie “Inside Out” made this simple, plausible, that even children can understand the necessity of melancholy; it is OK to talk about the darker sides of human nature (even stubbornness, stupidity, and narcissism) but learn to work on yourself and either accept small faults in others or realize life is short no one is perfect. Do not dwell in inner darkness very long and if it gets too bleak seek support!

There is more reflecting to do, Leider and Shapiro’s book “Repacking Your Bags” will   help you do just that so consider it for one of this year’s “must reads” and we’ll get into that later in another posting….so much to say!

Enjoy each moment, and have a wonderfully brilliant new year!

The “Gift” of Health Literacy & Happy Holidays!

This holiday season take a moment to think of the most important gift for yourself, your family, your community. The gift of health literacy … to better health! Why? We know that those with more health literacy (HL) have better personal health habits, overall healthcare costs are reduced by way of less emergency room use; healthier people don’t use expensive services as much as those with more serious diseases or who are more prone to accidents largely due to lack of self-awareness and self-care. High HL people are likely to be more involved in their community as volunteers, join activities related to  healthier habits, advocate for themselves and others on health issues. Some countries do better than others when HL was measured nationally in eight EU countries, check out the HLS-EU video. In truth, we have a lot to learn from each other. How? Here are some general HL thoughts for the holidays:

  • Recycle more to reduce waste and landfill overuse. Good news for Greece — Greeks are recycling at over 50% daily!
  • Reduce vandalism and encourage waste clean-up — be responsible! You can throw away your own trash when in a public space (not for the street-cleaners, your mom, or waitstaff person), clean-up beaches, be mindful of the excessive vandalistic and narcissistic graffiti like “tagging.” Only tasteful and culturally mindful graffiti art makes for positive change like the “Owl of Athens.”  Vandalistic graffiti particularly on historical buildings and monuments doesn’t beautify, neither does trash dumped on sidewalks, coffee cups left everywhere by careless passers by or visitors. This all creates problems for countries who are already tight for funding, and tourists don’t particularly like to visit “ugly cities” and if you don’t believe it, check out the post on Athens vandalistic graffiti
  • Follow the speed limit & be the designated driver to prevent road accidents leading to injuries or even death (WHO documents how reducing speed can decrease injury). Companies like Coca-Cola have taken this on as a corporate reminder calling these drivers who will not drink and take you home safely as “the heroes of the Christmas party” suggesting free soft-drinks as rewards to the designated driver.
  • Share stories and good health habits with children and teens while learning from the community elders (see elder life stories impact on next generation health professionals as another benefit of this inter-generation communication)
  • Write and advocate for companies to take on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as these efforts are even more important in times of crisis.
  • Reduce those holiday blues (see Mayo Clinic’s tips) as the holidays can be a “mixed bag” for many of us, as social and family gatherings that can trigger our over-eating, drinking and generally the not-so-good for us behaviors. Some people even savor spending time alone on Christmas (possible cultural differences?)
  • Hug and spend time with others and pets/animals today… social support and the comfort of touch does wonders for your heart and health
  • Building better health for you and others can be easy and fun!

Five health-building tips for you to start today:

1) Build mindfulness skills to help you “read” your body better as part of your self-awareness learning among other things to better manage your emotions-thoughts, eating, breathing, stress levels, and generally more aware of “others” around us. There are many sites and research related to mindfulness, including these eight mindfulness exercises one can easily do on a daily basis. Who doesn’t want to better monitor their “bad” eating habits, slow down, keep chronic stress at bay, and relate better to others?

2) Consider partaking in health “days” or themed months! For example September 29th is World Heart Day to increase awareness of heart disease and stroke, November was Diabetes Awareness month, December 1st was HIV/AIDS Awareness World AIDS day, Anti-Bullying awareness days or weeks are celebrated throughout the year in many western countries as European nations work to establish the Europe-wide Campaign for Anti-Bullying upcoming on March 6th (the European Anti-Bullying Network)  (the International Day of Non-Violence is celebrated in October), or World Oral Health Day (March 20th) since many people don’t visit the dentist due to financial difficulties.  Look around and see what you can do to showcase and educate!

3) Be a model for young children and teens!  There are so many agencies and non-profits to work with throughout the year… not just the holidays.

  • Giving in-kind donations such as non-perishable food, clothes, toys in good condition for children, school supplies, not just around the more traditional holidays of Christmas but cultural holidays like  Easter 🐣 where people can donate baskets of goodies and candles (in Eastern Orthodox traditions these beautiful “lambades” λαμπάδες are offered by godparents to their godchildren).
  • Being part of a child’s “wish” through organizations like Make-a-Wish foundation, as even helping with the seemingly tedious administrative stuff is critical since low-staffed organizations may not have time or resources to do all of this!
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Hellenic American College students (Athens) taking part in volunteerism activities 2016

Organized groups like Boys and Girl Scouts model helping and leading behaviors from a young age and this activity can lead to well-adjusted teens and adults (the Greek Boy Scouts are one of the oldest existing scout groups) — one article lists the top 10 health benefits of joining the Boy or Girl Scouts. Personally, love those girl scout cookies!  Schools and institutions where children, teens, young and older people organize to donate goods, or partake in food-pantries and soup kitchens through organizations like Caritas, teach language skills to poor and refugees, in turn offer important life lessons of empathy as well as develop organizational skills. Many schools, NGOs and for-profit organizations turn entire communities on to better habits like “walking for health” or “cleaning up the environment” throughout the year (e.g. clean up waste in April & May, check out Greece – Let’s Do It — close to 3 million in several countries were mobilized!).

4) More active time, consider this:

  • walk around to “window shop”
  • park further away when you’re at the mall
  • go to farmers markets (λαϊκή) for your holiday fruit & veggies
  • donate time in community soup kitchens
  • gather food items and pharmaceuticals for social clinics
  • make goodies to sell for holiday bazaars, the homeless, etc.
  • spend less time on-line and finally catch up with those friends in person; spending less time on-line and more for other important life tasks (think about decreasing gaming and excessive need for social media like Facebook)
  • pick up better skills like public speaking and leadership, join Toastmasters! Learning through practice and sharing can be beneficial and fun. The very skills you need for gaining self-esteem, being more confident when speaking and leading, can improve and even help you change your career!doxie_xmastree2016

5) Review your own “health chart” — annual health check-ups that need to be made?  December is a good time to reflect on the past year and what we may want to add to those New Years resolutions!

Enjoy the holiday cheer, focus on positive change and be more mindful of your health and community wellness for the new year!