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Archive for February, 2008

trees in the stream, originally uploaded by bobsee.

I must confess I find reflections entrancing.
They catch my eye. Stop me in my tracks.
Maybe it’s because the world looks upside down or back to front in them. Things aren’t where you’d expect them to be.
I’m glad of reflections. They make me notice the world when I’m maybe drifting, unseeing. We do that a lot I think. Float along on autopilot. Drift through a zombie life.
It’s good to stop, to notice and to reflect. Wakes you up.
The hero life is a conscious life. An aware life. A life where you slow down and take time to reflect

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Amy has nominated me for Best Health Blog – if you click on the badge top right it’ll take you to the Blogger’s Choice Awards to add your vote (if you’d like to!)

While you’re at it, Amy’s been nominated for three awards – photography, writing and parenting. Go visit her blog and see what you think.

Who’s Amy? She’s my amazing daughter of course! Am I biased ? You bet! But, seriously, don’t take my word for it, go and make up your own mind.

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Here’s another study which shows the health benefits of writing about your experience. We all use narrative to make sense of our lives, so you’ll understand that writing about our experiences can help us to do just that – to makes sense of our experience. However, more than that, narrative is a creative, expressive act. It’s a way of affirming our existence, connecting to others and of growing. It helps us to develop.

In this study 71 patients with cancer were asked to write about “How has cancer changed you, and how do you feel about those changes?”

After the writing assignment, about half of the cancer patients said the exercise had changed their thinking about their illness, while 35 percent reported that writing changed the way they felt about their illness. Three weeks after the writing exercise, the effect had been maintained. Writing had the biggest impact on patients who were younger and recently diagnosed.

Changing how you think and how you feel changes your everyday experience so it’s no surprise these respondents reported improvements in the quality of their lives.

It’s interesting  to note how important it is to write about feelings to get the good effect –

“Thoughts and feelings, or the cognitive processing and emotions related to cancer, are key writing elements associated with health benefits,’’ said Nancy P. Morgan, director of the center’s Arts and Humanities Program. “Writing about only the facts has shown no benefit.”

One final point worth noting is that whilst, as you may have expected, many wrote that the experience of cancer had been life-changing, perhaps what is more surprising is that many made statements about the gains which they had obtained from the cancer experience.

One patient wrote: “Don’t get me wrong, cancer isn’t a gift, it just showed me what the gifts in my life are.”

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twilight, originally uploaded by bobsee.

We are all different. One of the most obvious differences between us is temporal. Are you a morning person? Do you leap up out of bed on waking ready to engage with a new day? Or do you slowly emerge from a distant faraway Land of Nod, taking your time to gingerly explore the morning light?
Do you come alive in the evenings?
Are you a night owl?
Being aware of when you’re at your best and when you’re at your least effective can help you lead a better life by planning to do what you want to do as often as you can at the times which work best for you.
When is your best time of day for reading? And when is your best time for doing something creative?

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A study by Professor Kirsch and colleagues of Hull University has set a bit of a cat amongst the Pharma pigeons. It’s a pretty technical study but in summary what they did was got access to all the trial data submitted to the FDA by drug companies applying for licences for the big four new generation antidepressants – fluoxetine, venlafaxine, nefazodone, and paroxetine. This data, by the way, included trials which were not published but which they obtained access to through a Freedom of Information application.

What they found was that there was no evidence the drugs were more effective than placebo in patients with moderate or severe depression. They did show that the worse the depression at the outset of the trial, the greater the effect of the drug over placebo, but they did a fascinating analysis which showed that the explanation for this was likely to be the decreased placebo response in more severely depressed patients.

Given these are drugs with well known side effects and dangers, and that some 16.2 million prescriptions for these drugs were made in England in 2006, this study comes as something of a shock.

The responses to this study are even more interesting. Most experts and authorities quoted on the news items today have made the point that we all know that talking therapies work for depressed patients but that drugs are prescribed because there are insufficient numbers of therapists available. This is a shocking explanation. Drugs as a substitute for people. What’s the problem? Insufficient funds for the provision of enough therapists? Seems so. So why do we prefer to spend literally millions on drugs which probably don’t work instead? The answer lies partly in the way medicine is currently delivered. The priority is given to drugs. You can’t placebo control human care or loving attention. Maybe it’s time we began to change our priorities and save the drugs for when therapeutic relationships are not enough.

Does this study mean that people taking antidepressants should stop them because they are useless? NO. The problem with all this so-called “evidence” which comes from highly artificial clinical trials which seek to remove the human factors and average out the results to the point of dismissing the range of difference within the study group is that it fails to show us who might benefit most from a particular treatment. Within these studies are individuals who are substantially improved by the drug, and others for whom taking the drug was of no benefit at all. However, it is reasonable to assume that drugs alone are not enough. Depressed people need more care than mere pharmaceutical care.

Does it mean that we should invest in trying to treat depression with alternatives to drugs? YES. It’s about time we gave clinical priority to people in medicine, investing in sufficient numbers of well-trained doctors, nurses and therapists to give ill people the time and attention they need to become well – if possible, without the risks of prescribed medicines.

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The fairy house

My eldest grand-daughter showed me this the other day –
fairy house behind the pot
“It’s a fairy house”, she said
Come and look closer
fairy house entrance way

It reminded me of how rich the lives of children can be. What is it that makes such a difference?

Imagination.

What a shame that so many toys these days are manufactured right up to the finish point. Kids can get so much more fun out found objects and daily materials which with imagination become castles, boats, and, yes, fairy houses!  If you want to encourage your childrens’ growth and development then encourage their imaginative play.

In fact, I often think adults lead much poorer lives because they’ve lost both childlike wonder and the power of imagination.  When was the last time you let your imagination run loose and played?

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flight, originally uploaded by bobsee.

From my living room window today I saw this little trail of snow on top of Ben Ledi so grabbed my camera (can’t tell you how long it’s been since Ben Ledi was visible from my window – we’ve had days of wild winds and rain or thick, heavy mists hiding the mountains).
What often catches me by surprise are the really obvious things in the picture which I only see when I put it up on the mac and just didn’t notice at all as I pointed my camera and clicked. First of all look at that huge, heavy, water-laden cloud up there! How didn’t I see that?! But look also at the bird in flight – isn’t that beautiful? You couldn’t manufacture a shot like that. I love that about photography – how it can raise our awareness and deepen our perception of the world. I swear I look at the world differently when I’ve been looking at photos and/or when I’ve got one of my cameras in my hand. It’s a kind of second sight…..you see it once, then you see it better!

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