Monday, August 23, 2010

Prosperity without Growth and the Simplicity Movement

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

During the past year I've witnessed a number of families, couples, and individuals struggling to survive and or recover from the continuing economic storm. In all too many instances I've found myself comforting and supporting people who have lost their jobs, have had their standard of living substantially reduced, and who have lost their homes in some cases. A national survey conducted in 2009 found that "Individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness. Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time..."

The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and "the unknown 'next chapter' seems the scariest of all" laments a middle aged professional who has been unemployed now for well over a year.

While it's all too true that the begining of these 'next' life chapters have all been highly distressing and anxiety provoking, I've been touched and encouraged as I've observed the unfolding of some very special'next chapters' - chapters that have led to loss in terms of reduced material wealth and yet have yielded significant personal growth and greater overall mental health.

Until recently our global economy produced more wealth than at any time in history and yet overall levels of happiness failed to rise, while the use of antidepressants increased substantially. Tragically, it appears that our material prosperity came at all too high a cost to the planet, her inhabitants, and to future generations.

Author of "Prosperity Without Growth," Tim Jackson, connects the economic crash to a world view that led to far too many of us “Spending money we don’t have, on things that we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about,” and encourages us to use this current economic crisis to dramatically shift our value systems and engage in life styles that promote far greater well-being and true prosperity. In a review of his book, EarthScan: Publishing for a Sustainable Future
affirmed, "The book opens up dialogue on the most urgent task of our times—the challenge of a new prosperity encompassing our ability to flourish as human beings—within the ecological limits of a finite planet."

As a therapist and grandmother, I am grateful to those who are offering us healthy alternatives to a currently toxic economic system.

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

I've been tremendously impressed by a social movement that has been identified as "voluntary simplicity" and have altered my own life as I've continued to learn from it. Author of "Voluntary Simplicity" and one of the most respected leaders of the movement, Duane Elgin, describes voluntary simplicity as "living in a way what is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. This way of life embraces frugality of consumption, a strong sense of environmental urgency, a desire to return to living and working environments which are of a more human scale, and an intention to realize our higher human potential — both psychological and spiritual — in community with others..."

Following are some links to a few voluntary simplicity resources.

Simple Living Net
Choosing Voluntary Simplicity
Mother Earth News
Take Back Your Time

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Helpful Mindfulness Resources

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

"Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." Paul Bowles

Being mindful is about being fully present to the moment and to the miracles that surround us. There's been a tremendous amount of research recently affirming the effectiveness of engaging in mindfulness practices, particularly mindfulness meditation. There are also some excellent resources available online. I thought I would include a few of them here:

The Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA offers a very nice introduction to mindfulness meditation as well as online guided meditations that you can listen to and practice.

The Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy website provides information regarding a promising form of therapy particularly in the treatment of depression called mindfulness based cognitive therapy. offers helpful information, instructions, and techniques.

While the practice of mindfulness is no panecea, nor is it for everybody, if you haven't explored it at all, it might be a good time to do so.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Things People Do that Can Intensify Depression

In an article published on the CBS website, Dr. Stephen Ilardi, the author of The Depression Cure, discused common behaviors that people engage in (or fail to engage in) that can make depression worse. They include:

Lack of exercise
Not enough omega 3 fats as well as too much sugar and simple carbs in your diet.
Insufficient sunlight exposure and not enough vitamin D
Poor sleep habits
Not spending enough time with friends and family
Spending too much time ruminating about what's wrong in your life
Not spending enough time with optimistic happy people and or too much time with negative people.
Failing to reach out for help and support

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smile More and Be Healthier, Happier, and Live Longer

There's been a great deal of research demonstrating that smiling offers significant benefits to our mental and physical health.

Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a smiling meditation that I've found to be extremely useful. It goes like this:

"Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment."

It's important of course that you smile and hold that smile for a few moments as you recite the above. You may also want to try the inner smile meditation

Following is a link to an article that addresses the benefits of smiling as well as a three minute youtube video that deals with smiling.

Stay Healthy. Live Longer. Stay Married. Smile.