Tag Archives: Mental Health

On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

A desk lamp shining down on a houseplantMy name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant.

Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring.

If winter in Ontario included as many bright, sunny days as spring and summer did, this post might be quite different.

But our winters include months of long, dark nights that make me half-forget what it’s like to feel warm sunlight on my face.

And having access to enough bright light is important for my mental health. It boggles my mind that some people on this planet live in places that don’t see the sun for months on end. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that well at all unless someone invents a way for humans to go dormant for the winter like real plants do.

Luckily, there are light therapy lamps for wilted houseplants like myself. I’ve been basking in the glow of that artificial sunshine this winter.

Sometimes I sat there and surfed the Internet on my cell phone. It was an especially good way to pass the time when I first accepted the fact that I needed to use one of these lamps but was skeptical about if it would do any good.

If actual plants had opposable thumbs, they might look at cute animal pictures while soaking up light, too, so they didn’t have to count down how many weeks left until spring or how many weeks after that it will take the weather systems in Ontario to shift from cold, wet, and slushy to anything that bears the faintest resemblance to true spring weather.

Then it started to work.The sadness began to lessen. I could concentrate better, I felt less sluggish, my energy levels slowly began rising, and my quality of sleep improved.

Am I back to my old self yet? No, but I’m doing better. That’s something to celebrate, especially as we inch into the time of the year that is the most challenging for me to get through.

For now I sit next to my lamp and chuckle at the fact that I react so much to the lack or the presence of sufficiently strong light. I am entirely human-shaped, and yet somehow I still need to bask in light like a plant to function properly.

When that thought passes, others don’t take its place. In this moment, I am surrounded by light. I breathe in and out as it shines onto me, the desk, the chair, and the floor.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that simple.

5 Things Spock Would Say About Anxiety

Every year I take a break from blogging for the last two weeks of December. I will be sharing some of my old favourites in the meantime and will be back in January with new material.  This post was originally published on December 4, 2014.

Sometimes when I’m running low on ideas I play around with the various websites out there that help you brainstorm if you provide them with a keyword or two.

Most of the ideas aren’t that spectacular, although I’ve occasionally stumbled across something worth blogging about. I’m not a fan of the original Star Trek series for a long list of reasons that I won’t get into here, but I’ve always liked Spock because he said things like this:

May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.

and this:

Is there anyone on this ship, who even remotely, looks like Satan? (Kirk)

I am not aware of anyone who fits that description, Captain (Spock)

No, Mr. Spock, I didn’t think you would be (Kirk)

He seemed like the kind of man who had little to no interest in small talk. That alone was enough to endear me to him.

I thought it would be fun to come up with some quotes of things he might have – but didn’t actually – say. My original search had Spock discussing anxiety, so I will stick with that topic in my responses as well. Let’s see if I can capture his voice!

  1. Worrying about it won’t make it more or less likely to occur.
  2. That outcome is highly unlikely.
  3. Have you ever considered the fact that they’re just as apprehensive about meeting you as you are of meeting them?
  4. There is no evidence to support that hypothesis.
  5. Why does your mind immediately jump to the worst possible scenario?

What do you think Spock would say?


The Cycle of What If

Photo by Songbird developers.
Photo by Songbird developers.

What if I’d gotten bad pills…

What if they didn’t work correctly…

What if. What if. What if.

“Stop reading and go to bed,” Drew said late last night. I’d just found out that a medication I’m on was recalled and all of my googling was spiralling in circles. The nice thing about being with someone for as many years as we’ve been together is that we know one another better than anyone on earth.  I listened to him and went to bed. This morning I had the pharmacy double check my medication.  There was no reason to worry after all.

“So if we bomb Syria, does that mean it’s WWIII and we’re all gonna die? Or am I jumping the gun?”- @tmamone

Yesterday afternoon this tweet jumped out at me. In the short time I’ve known Travis I’ve come to truly appreciate his serious, contemplative approach to life. He always has something interesting to say about current events.

I don’t know what will happen in the future. No one does. But I do know that What Ifs can easily inflate worrisome thoughts rather than deflate them. And worrying doesn’t change what will or has already happened.


Can People Change?

INFPBarring a serious brain injury could you wake up tomorrow, decide to change your personality and successfully go through with it?

There was a time when I thought this was possible but with every passing year I believe more and more strongly that we might be able to change our minds about specific issues – religion, politics, the most delicious combination of pizza toppings –  but no one can change his or her personality.

I have always been deeply introverted, compassionate, creative and a little shy. It would be about as easy for me to stop being an INFP as it would be to command our planet to switch to a 25-hour day.

Assuming this is true for everyone why bother to set boundaries with anyone? Because behaviours can change. Not easily, of course, and not always but if the consequences are serious enough it’s surprising to see how quickly change can occur.

Last year I very assertively set boundaries with someone who was violating my personal space. I’m generally quite laid back – sometimes to excess –  so the personality switch from, “please stop,” to “back off now!” was dramatic. Did it change who this person is as an individual? No, but our relationship has shifted as they know pushing those boundaries again will get them the opposite of what they actually want.


What do you think? Can people change? Has your personality changed over the years?

How Does the Winter Solstice Affect You?

Photo by Emmanuel Boutet

This is my groggy time of year.

Yesterday was particularly sleepy as it was dark and rainy for much of the day in Toronto. I stumbled through the afternoon desperately wanting a nap and wondering why it had to be so gloomy outside.

Sometimes I wonder if this profound lack of sunlight is one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of Christmas. After six months of watching the days grow progressively shorter maybe a small part of my mind worries that they’ll never wax again.

Contrary to many people I prefer January and February to December. Yes, those months are typically colder but they also fill the world with a slowly increasing amount of light. Even the chilliest wind and the deepest blanket of snow cannot hide the fact that spring is on her way.

I’m not worried about the (supposed) Mayan prediction that this year’s winter solstice will bring about the end of the world. My concern with the 21st is purely vitamin D related – I need more sunshine! 🙂


How are you affected by the shorter days this time of year?

Don’t Get Mad, Laugh

One of the potential drawbacks of having an online presence is how easy it is to project an image that isn’t actually you. This happens in real life as well but it’s a little easier to do online. Pretending to be someone you’re not takes more effort in face-to-face communication. Body language, tone of voice… Read More

Sometimes Fate is Like a Small Sandstorm

 Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something… Read More

Behind Closed Doors

While I was growing up my father often said, “you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life.” It was eye-opening as a preacher’s kid to glimpse what was really happening in other people’s homes. Some of the happiest families at church assumed those roles by stuffing their darkest secrets so deeply into… Read More

A Time to Trim

Food poisoning knocked me off my feet this past weekend. Once the worst of it had passed I decided to cull my RSS feed. When I wrote this post on Saturday I was feeling shaky and really wasn’t up to going out anywhere. It was sad to see how many blogs have quieted in the last… Read More

A One Hour Trip? That’s Too Far Away!

Seven years ago when I moved from Ohio to Ontario travelling wasn’t a burden. I’d spent the previous eleven years living in a small town. Going almost anwhere – church, the grocery store, school, the gas station – required a vehicle. Sidewalks existed mostly in the older sections of town and not all of them… Read More