Struggling with SAD-ness: Blue Monday and Maintaining Mental Health

(Today’s featured image/header is a self-portrait painting I did in highschool when I was 16, acrylics on canvas)

As “Blue Monday” has come and gone this week, I think about the significance of maintaining one’s mental health.

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Blue Monday formula above.

The term Blue Monday was actually coined in 2005 by Sky Travel, a company looking to boost sales for destinations with warmer temperatures. It is believed that Sky Travel hired a university lecturer to come up with “a pseudo-mathematical formula to pinpoint the most depressing day of the year: he combined weather, debt, time since Christmas, motivation levels, the need to take action, and time since New Year’s resolutions were made.” There is no actual scientific evidence that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year, but maybe that’s okay.

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Self-portrait I painted as a teenager when I was feeling down.

Although Blue Monday is somewhat of a recent notion, it doesn’t make it any less of an annual tradition – people still celebrate Valentines Day, Labour Day, and in Canada we now have Family Day in February! As time passes, people will likely start to care less about the history and more about the positive associations and memories that come with Blue Monday. The label encourages people to put effort into their happiness and check in on one’s mood. Sometimes being reminded that other people are also experiencing hard times can make someone feel better – feel less alone. Mental health is a difficult thing to measure in quantifiable terms, so finding scientific evidence of the most depressing day of the year would prove to be difficult as well.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder
“Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.” – Canadian Mental Health Association

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) acknowledges what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which could realistically be connected to the origins of Blue Monday. Approximately 10% of Canada’s population is affected by the reduction of sunlight in our winter months. This means that Sky Travel’s creation of Blue Monday was capturea brilliant PR move – a quick solution to combat SAD is to hop on a flight to an all-inclusive beach resort and soak up some rays. However, taking a last-minute vacation isn’t in the cards for everyone, especially after an expensive December.

Like the capitalist society that we are, other corporations have jumped on board the Blue Monday bandwagon. Discounts, sales, or one day deals actually help us afford to treat ourselves, even if it’s something small. For example, I got an email from Cineplex last week informing me that my Scene points would be worth double (get a movie ticket for half the amount of scene points) for one day only, for Blue Monday.


collage1.jpgI asked my mom if she wanted to come see
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with me (second time for myself, first time for her) and she was an obvious yes. We ate dinner at home, picked up some grapefruit coolers for after the movie, and went to check out of reality for a couple hours at the theatre.

We did girls-night right:

I think that it’s important to live a balanced lifestyle, or try to at least because I don’t know anyone who has actually mastered this art. We all have a lot going on and you need to remember that as amazing as other people’s lives may look on social media, they’re not perfect either. That’s why this particular capitalist-created day of the year isn’t all that bad. Embrace the concept of taking care of yourself, there are many affordable (or even free) ways to actively work at keeping happy. Start a pinterest board that you can go to when feeling down, one of things that make you happy as well as ideas of free ways to cheer yourself up!

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Sacchan the mysterious and overweight japanese dog from my favourite video.

What are some small things that you do to make yourself smile and maintain your happiness? For me, I look at an excessive amount of dog photos and videos. I’ll finish this week off with my current favourite dog video, enjoy!

 

 

Travelling Together: My Top 3 Dream Destinations

Occasionally my husband and I buy a lottery ticket, then we talk about living out our dreams stress-free and smile about all the what ifs.

Some of those aspirations are to:

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    Screenshot of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary’s Facebook page.

    build our ideal home on a waterfront property somewhere in Canada

  • open a senior dog sanctuary similar to Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Tennessee
  • have all the time in the world to work on our hobbies
  • travel together

Seeing new parts of the world seems to be a common thing on people’s bucket lists, but maybe an explorative nature comes with the personality of someone who creates things like bucket lists.

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Photo of Chris and I in Barcelona.

Chris and I come from very different vacation backgrounds, but we generally have similar interests in destinations. Chris travels for work, but it isn’t the same as vacationing. He often visits places that aren’t exactly being raved about on a top ten guide, he’s currently in Guwahati, India. He also grew up travelling to parts of Europe to visit family whereas we drove 17-19 hours to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to see grandparents and cousins. Chris’ total countries visited adds up to a number over 50 vs. my total of 3 (Canada, the United States, and our honeymoon destination in Spain). Although our travel experiences are very different, our destination dreams line up: explore together, have fun, and create lasting memories.

So where do I want to travel to?

Here are my current top 3 dream destinations:


New Zealand

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Photo from Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF

Things to do: LOTR fan fun; visit the toothbrush fence; Zorbing
Things to consider: Flights are expensive; it takes a long time to get there; don’t rush

I have wanted to travel to New Zealand since The Lord of The Rings (LOTR): The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001. Amazingly, I had just started reading the series (my dad’s copies from the 1970s) article-1302835-0ac849a2000005dc-845_634x338when Peter Jackson announced the plans to the film the trilogy. I was over the moon excited to see the hobbits, wizards, dwarves, elves, and orcs come to life on screen (I definitely fell in love with Legolas immediately since he was basically a real-life Link from Zelda). Even at the young age of eleven I recognized the beauty of Middle Earth – the beauty of New Zealand. I can’t wait to see the rolling hills, snowy mountains, and the sheep that inhabit former hobbit homes in person someday.17211534

When I met Chris, he introduced me to his favourite television program Flight of the Conchords. This comedy show only heightened my interest in all things New Zealand as the main characters hailed from the country and the show poked fun of New Zealand’s innocence with parodic posters. Chris has yet to travel there and we’d both love to take a looksee at the famous toothbrush fence in between LOTR/nature walks and other Wellywood adventures.


 

Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR)

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Photo from Nomadic Expeditions

Things to do: Enjoy the views; stop to smell the metaphorical Russian roses; make friends
Things to consider: Plan A LOT; get the right visas; do your homework; lack of privacy

This one is on the list largely for my husband, he has absolutely convinced me that this would be an amazing trip, but it is one that is a huge commitment. The Man in Seat 61 recently wrote a very detailed post about transsib-train-dirk-_0.jpgeverything you need to know if you want to plan you TSR adventure – you should definitely check it out! You need to be prepared to sit a lot, to enjoy the view, and to pack light. Getting off the train is an important part to enjoying and actually experiencing the different places that you are passing, but there are periods of time where you may be on the train for up to 24 hours or more.

It’s not known for its romantic atmosphere, but more so for its accomplishment in going the distance – the Trans-Siberian Railway spans across ten time zones and continues through Russia, Mongolia, and China. This is an adventure for a low maintenance traveler looking to complete an impressive goal in life.

Suggested articles:
Trans-Siberian Railway: Best Cities to Visit
Everything you need to know about booking a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Surviving the Trans-Siberian Railway


 

Iceland

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Things to do: Soak in the Blue Lagoon; walk in black sand; camp under the Northern Lights
Things to consider: Cheap flights, but expensive once there; cute hostels; time of the year

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Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa with a bar to swim up to and everything!

It is only within these last several years that Iceland has become a dream destination for me, Chris and I have been talking about going there for almost four years now. Chris has technically been to Iceland on a few separate occasions for work stopovers, but he really wants to take me there. He told me about the Blue Lagoon/natural hot springs that are said to be good for aches and pains, then Google did the rest of the convincing: Northern Lights, if you go at the right time of the year); black volcanic sand; Icelandic ponies; puffins; and towns that are fit to be picturesque jigsaw puzzles. The country’s natural beauty is of the same level as New Zealand, but it’s much closer to Canada which is a bonus in terms of flight costs and travel time.

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Atlas of Wonders goes over where Star Wars: Rogue One was filmed, noting that the fictional planet Eadu is actually a southern Icelandic landscape.

If you’re a pop culture buff like me, then you’ll also love that many popular film and television productions have used the land for filming locations. The long list includes personal favourites of mine such as Star Wars: Rogue One and Game of Thrones. Attracting fantasy and science fiction genre productions is another of Iceland’s similarities to New Zealand, I believe that this is because their beauty is surreal and fanciful. I look forward to the day where we can live it up in Reykjavik before renting a vehicle and camping across the country (our almost honeymoon choice before we decided on Barcelona).

PS. Watch one of my favourite documentaries, The Final Member, and maybe you’ll also want to visit The Icelandic Phallological Museum!


Where are some of the best places that you’ve travelled to? Where are some places that you want to go? Let me know some of your thoughts and maybe you’ll convince me to add it to my own travel-to-do list.

Carrie Fisher: On & Off-Screen Rebel

mv5bmje0odewnjm2nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwmju2mzg3na-_v1_sx640_sy720_On Tuesday’s ‘blog break update’ I mentioned that I would be posting a New Year’s Eve Movie list today. Coincidentally, the movie that I watch every New Year’s Eve features the actress whom I will be writing about instead.When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favourite films and Carrie Fisher played the supporting character Marie, best friend of Meg Ryan’s Sally.

My blog-writing plans changed after I left the movie theatre Tuesday afternoon, I had just seen Rogue One with my dad. I turned my phone on and checked the text messages that I had missed. About half way through the movie, one of my best friends had sent a message telling me that Carrie Fisher had died. The excitement that I felt over just seeing a great film passed all too quickly as the surreal news set in.

I had never really felt affected by another celebrity’s death before and it’s a weird experience to describe. I didn’t cry, nor was I as sad or heartbroken as I had been when carrie-new-hi-resfriends and family have passed away, but somehow, I felt disconnected.

Carrie Fisher was linked to so many projects, films, and followers. Her telling memoirs as well as her real-life advocacy for mental health awareness and feminism contributed to the deeper connection that her fans, like myself, may have felt toward her. As a child, I saw Carrie Fisher only one way – as Princess Leia – but as an adult, she was Carrie Fisher first, fictional characters second.


f09ce66474a8d7c2823647268b900f31.jpgLeia
I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my family’s boxset VHSes. Leia Organa was the coolest female character that I had ever seen: she was a brunette; she was a princess who didn’t always wear dresses; she used the blaster like a boss; she was hilarious and sarcastic; she was strongminded and stood up for what she believed in; and rather than being a damsel in distress each film, she did a ton of the rescuing herself. Almost every Disney movie I had watched told me to admire princesses, but they had never been so complex.


Marie
I discovered Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally as a teenager, I was obsessed with This is Spinal Tap and was fanatically consuming all other media that he’d created. I was so excited to see Carrie Fisher in our galaxy! carrie-fisherShe was still hilarious and sarcastic, but this time she was wearing a bra (George Lucas believed they’d be dangerous in space). Although Fisher’s character Marie was fictional, it felt like I was getting to know the woman behind the buns. It was from here that I searched for more answers as to who Carrie Fisher really was.


wishful_drinking_bookThe Faults within our Star
In the memoir based off of her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher let fans into her personal life – or what she remembers of it. She had openly discussed her battle with addiction to both drugs and alcohol, and being under the influence can make some memories foggier than others. As it is with many autobiographies, you need to take Fisher’s words with a grain of salt; however, her ‘take-no-crap’ attitude on and offline has always led me to believe that she wasn’t someone who often held back. I really respect a sense of transparency.


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Carrie with her therapy dog Gary – he calms her anxiety and is almost always with her.

Real-Life Rebel Alliance
Fisher’s candid nature as well as her movie-royalty status allowed her to challenge societal norms – this is what she should be most celebrated for. Fisher was Bipolar, which made her advocacy against mental health stigmas all the more powerful. She emphasized that mental health issues are simply that – health issues. Fisher stressed the significance of treating mental health conditions medically, something that society frequently struggles with acknowledging even when many issues are the result of imbalanced chemicals. Talking about the stigma that surrounds mental health can inspire courage in those who also experience the fear and shame of hiding their diagnoses. Celebrities like Fisher have an enormous reach that amplifies their opinions, one tweet can become topical content for thousands of articles, which is why it is amazing that she used her virtual megaphone to say something actually worth listening to.


It is through Fisher’s real-life story and opinions that I found an adult role model. We may look to television and film characters for style and grace, but I believe that it’s healthy to know what our idols represent when they are 32204cf0ba60c94c972533014b3e47dc.jpgoff-screen. I will never really know who Carrie Fisher was just by reading her books, watching her interviews, and mouthing every line to her movies, but the deeper research into her real-life actions will help remind me of what she once did and always will represent.

Fisher was like a Facebook friend; I only knew what she and the media wanted me to know. This managed representation made me feel like she was a virtual acquaintance, it’s similar to how you ‘know’ 600 people on your social media account – her close friends and family will be the only ones who really knew her. I realize now that I didn’t cry when I heard that she had passed because I don’t need to mourn that way. Her loved ones are mourning Carrie Fisher the person – I am celebrating Carrie Fisher the role model.