Share Your World 2014 – Week 30

share your world

This is the Share Your World Challenge. If you missed the last couple of weeks, more information can be found at Cee’s Photography. Essentially, four questions are asked every week and you have to answer them. Simple and fun! (Thanks Cee!)

 

List 2 things you have to be happy about.

1. I’m on vacation!! It is a much needed vacation and a big relief. I’m not as happy as I should be though…I have so much work to do, I feel guilty to be taking vacation. I might end up doing some work while I am off.

2. I just finished a sketchbook for the first time ever! Usually they get lost, destroyed or I lose interest in drawing for a few years and feel the need to start over. I think having the blog has really helped me keep up with it.

finished sketchbook

List at least 2 things in nature you find most beautiful.

Just two?! That’s hard!!

1. The Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen the Atlantic many times, but this past winter was the first time I saw the Pacific. I was hiking along a trail on the California coast outside San Fransisco. Wow! It was impressive. The waves were huge! It was the perfect display of how powerful  Mother Nature can be. The colour of the water was gorgeous too, such a unique shade of turquoise. I’m sure this doesn’t have much of a wow-factor if you live near the Pacific, but to someone who is used to the dark waters of the Atlantic, it is definitely a wow! Even this photo (from Google Images) doesn’t do it justice.

pacific ocean

2. Sharks. Some of you are probably thinking “What?!”. Yes, they can be scary and I wouldn’t want to meet one face to face, but it depends on your definition of “beautiful”. I define it as anything that pleases you senses or mind. Sharks please my mind. The idea of a species surviving from a time before the dinosaurs and with evolving so little is truly amazing. Check out the photo (Google images) below. You can’t tell me it’s not kind of cute. The Shark is even smiling!

shark smile

Note: later found out photo was taken by Andrew Fox and Google had cropped off the watermark.

Most of you would still probably prefer this though….

shark costume

Show us a 2 of your favorite photographs. Explain why they are your favorite. If you are not a photographer (serious or otherwise), think of a two favorite scenes in your life and tell us about them.

This is a tough one. Not only am I not a photographer, but most of my favourite pictures have me in them. My absolute favourite photo is one of my close family (minus one person, my aunt) on Christmas Eve about ten years ago. I have the photo in my scrapbook. I’m not sure if I want to post it. I’m kind of nervous about posting pictures that I am in. I guess it’s kind of blurry, so you can’t really see me, whatever, here it is.

Xmas family photo

Anyway, we are at my cousin’s place for Christmas Eve and we are all seated around the sofa smiling and laughing. I’m wearing a Santa Claus hat. My mom and sister are looking at each other and laughing about something. My Dad and I are doing the same and my Gran is on the end of the couch kissing my cousin’s golden retriever, Teddy. The photo just exudes happiness. It is one of the last photos I have of all of us together. It reminds me of happier, simpler times…before we lost Gran and before I was diagnosed.

The second photograph is a scene I have A LOT of pictures of. It’s a sunset over the lake at a resort my family used to go to every summer. The best sunsets I’ve ever seen were at that resort. Seeing this photo reminds me of childhood, old friends and happy family memories. It’s the kind of photo that gives you that prickly feeling behind your eyes and nose whenever you see it.

Balsam sunset

List 2 of your best personality traits.

1. Generosity. I think it’s important to be considerate of others, to help others and pay it forward. It’s also a lot of fun to give/make presents!

2. Hard worker. I think (I hope) this makes me valuable to other people. No matter what it is, work, hobbies, relationships…I give it my all. I may get tired, but I keep trying.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last Week: I lost weight. I haven’t been weighing myself or measuring, but I’ve noticed my clothes are looser and I feel better. Yay Insanity Workouts!!

This week: Vacation.

G is for Giving

And so continues the A to Z blogging challenge. I had trouble coming up with something for “G”. There are so many good G words that have to do with mental health; gratification, growth, grief, guilt, goals, generalized anxiety, global labeling. I am currently feeling gloomy (another G!), so I thought I’d go with something positive today, Giving.

Do good. Feel good.

give seedlingConsidering that society equates happiness with getting something, it seems strange that I’m telling you giving is going to bring you happiness. Research has shown that people who give time, money or support to others or their community are happier, more satisfied with life and less depressed. This is nothing new. It’s been shown since the 1930s that those who volunteered as teenagers were less likely to become depressed as adults. What is new, is the biochemical findings!

Participant’s brains were monitored by MRI while they were asked to make a decision about donating to charity. Those who chose to donate showed more activity in the mesolimbic system of the brain. This is the reward center for the brain. It is activated in response to rewards, sex and other positive stimuli. In response, oxytocin, aka the love or cuddle hormone is released. This promotes social bonding. Dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for cognition and enjoyment is also released.

In addition to the feel-good chemicals, there are cognitive benefits to giving. In depression and anxiety we tend to be focused on the self. Focusing on the needs of someone else helps to shift our thinking. When helping someone else, you experience compassion and kindness, these feelings push aside the negative thoughts going on in your head. It sounds like fluff, but I have experienced it. I used to look after my cousin’s kids every Friday afternoon to give her a break. She had three little boys at the time, all under 5 years old. Most of the time I felt too tired and miserable to go. The guilt of taking away my cousin’s afternoon off was stronger though, so I went. Once I started to focus on the needs of those little boys, I forgot how much I hated myself. I forgot I was miserable and exhausted. I was focused on their needs and making sure they were having fun. I left at the end of the day feeling better.

There is a time when giving isn’t good. That is when you are already overwhelmed by your duties. One of the social workers I was talking to for a while said that we all have a box inside us. We give from that box, but it can become empty, leaving nothing more to give. You have to refill the box before it gets empty. You do this by having you-time. You need to make time to take care of yourself and have a little fun. It’s hard to “have fun” when you are depressed. Usually you have lost interest in the things you once enjoyed. This was me last year. I was trying to be too many things to too many people and my box was empty. I had no way to refill it because I had lost interest in everything. I wasn’t doing well. Then I decided I was going to draw again. I had stopped drawing for several years at that point and I didn’t really feel like drawing, but I thought it was something I used to like, so it’s a place to start. I began with scribbles which usually resulted in crumpled up balls of paper. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the drawing, but I was having me-time. The me-time helped. Slowly, I started to feel less overwhelmed. I started to draw how I was feeling which resulted in drawings like the ones from yesterday’s post. So I’ve found a way to refill my box. It wasn’t something I wanted to do at first, but making myself do it, gave me time to recharge. Now I am able to give again.give a smile

When I talk about giving, I don’t mean you have to build house in Haiti or donate an afternoon to babysitting your cousin’s kids. If you have time to do those things, by all means, do them! Little things count too though. Plant a tree. Give a stranger a smile. Volunteer for a research study. It’s a one-time thing and Psychology is always looking for people to participate in questionnaires and such. You can offer to help family members. I look after my parents’ cats when they are away and sometimes I bake my dad biscotti because I know he loves them. If you aren’t close to your family you can donate. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Give a dollar next time they ask at the grocery store. Find your own little way to spread kindness. At the very least it will give your thoughts somewhere else to go.

Sources: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science

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