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Women and men, both, are forever trying to achieve what emerged in the 1880s as the work-leisure balance. Each of us are constantly juggling commitments: friends, family, career, ambition, hobbies, inner-drive, chores, household tasks, running errands and answering emails.

Technology has made these processes more seamless and more demanding. As other peoples’ availability and accessibility increases, the same is thought of and applied to us.

For students, a further dimension is added into the equation when school/tertiary/further study becomes another immersion and pleasure with deadlines, readings and out-of-hours time required to complete and pass each course. You’ll of course then have to earn a living and manage the other aspects of life simultaneously. And while there are the old 9 to 5, or 8-8-8 expressions, the reality of the world today is that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success, achievement and sanity.

I’m pretty terrible with flexibility, I like routine. But I’m slowly and steadily trying to stretch and thoughtfully strain those tired muscles and help them to regain some youthful flexibility.

While we’re on the topic of flexibility, have you ever wondered how those amazing women you see on stage manage their dual roles as mother-actress/dancer/musician/performer?

On top of the complexities other workers, commuters and you and I have to face, those drawn to the stage and screen must also integrate rehearsals, shows, touring and long days and nights into their ‘routine’.

I recently spoke to a few notable women who find themselves in this position (no pun intended) and wrote about it for artsHub. Check it out for some insight into living the days and loving the nights, and how to be constantly ‘on’ and present.

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Facebook is celebrating its 10th birthday today amidst speculation of an impending decline. But the behemoth of social networks is showing no signs of flailing just yet.

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Facebook is one of the first things we check in the mornings and the last, before we go to sleep.

Whether its FOMO, addition or just habit, Facebook has become a stalwart pal for about one sixth of the world’s population, a staggering ‘citizenship’ which could surpass the number of people living in China, the world’s most populous nation, within the next year.

It seems the way people use Facebook is dependent on whether (or not) they grew up with the network. As Seth Fiegerman writes, ‘Facebook’s users seem to be divided into two groups: younger users who are forever connected to people from the past, and older users who are given a powerful tool to reconnect with those they’ve long since lost touch with’.

Having signed up to Facebook at the beginning of 2008, I wasn’t one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. But I did have an account before many of my friends, albeit one I saw as the inferior little sister to my, at the time, beloved Myspace. I actually got a Facebook account to keep in touch with new friends from interstate. Either myself or members of the Sydney clan had to make a move to the dark side (Facebook and Myspace, respectively), and I ended up caving to what I thought was the short straw. About a year later, Myspace became effectively defunct and I found myself pretty proud of my already established Facebook backlog and network.

Nevertheless, I still latched onto Facebook as a way of remaining connected, rather than reigniting long lost friendships from my single digit days. Simultaneously, my peers began to use Facebook as their primary social network, to the point where I’m now connected to hundreds and hundreds of ‘friends’ some of which I’ve either met only once, or haven’t spoken to directly in years. However, every now and then someone I might classify as ‘random’ (a word my mum thinks is ‘soooo Gen Y’) pops up on my newsfeed and I’m kindly reminded of their existence in the world, if not in my life as such.

At the moment, I’m still pretty dependent on Facebook to do what it does best and give me updates and a realtime tracker of what my friends and ‘friends’ are doing with their lives. Ironically, Facebook really shows just how much we’re not doing because we’re too busy updating our online presence through status’, photos and ‘checking in’ to places where we want to be (virtually) seen.

I am not out to diss Facebook. As I said, I’m still thoroughly engaged with, and through, the network to people I’d otherwise have lost contact with. Despite only being a few years out of school, there are so many people I’d have called close friends that I now, rarely see or even speak to. Facebook provides me with that virtual and emotional link to classmates with whom I spent weeks and years, side by side. Someone’s got a new boyfriend, someone else is on exchange, one girl is living abroad and another just qualified as a professional nurse and has already landed the job of her dreams.

When people announce exciting (or even terribly tragic) events on Facebook, there is an almost resurgence and instantaneous spill of camaraderie for those involved. It’s pretty amazing how quickly people come together for someone in need, or to celebrate and congratulate a new couple, job or marriage.

But Facebook also perpetuates a continuous disease of comparison between both strangers and friends. If the aforementioned friend got ‘the’ job while you lucked out, you might feel down. You see a group of old friends catching up without you and checking in somewhere for drinks, and now not only you know you’ve been sidelined, but everybody else in their network does, too.

And social networking is, ironically, incredibly self-centred. While each network proclaims to be about connecting people, they’re all centred around individual users creating a ‘profile’ through which they will portray themselves to the world. Yet whether by intuition, self-protection or devious scheming, what and how we choose to display ourselves online is overwhelmingly self-selected – and if it’s not, you can untag yourself or remove yourself from the group with the click of a button.

So people are choosing profile pictures where they’re pleased with their appearance. They’re checking in only at the places/with people with whom they want to be seen. They’re selectively creating a virtual profile of themselves filled with all the good bits, and only minimal (if any at all) aspects of their vulnerabilities. And as Brené Brown teaches us, there is so much power in vulnerability.

But with over 1.23 billion users worldwide, Facebook is clearly doing something right. The network also hosts thousands of support groups, allows for easy sharing of digital content, and makes inviting friends to your birthday soiree so much easier. Of course, sometimes you’re drowning in events from promoters or can’t see anything on your newsfeed other than bloody memes or videos of friends nek nominating each other, but being so privy at least means you’re kept in the loop… at all times… whether you like it or not.

I suppose what it all comes down to is the power of social networking in creating, building and maintaining relationships between individuals and groups across the globe. In the words of TheFacebook’s multibillionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ‘It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways’.

Only time will tell if the network survives its terrible teens. Always reinventing itself, Facebook continues to keep up with if not, lead, the Joneses so if it continues to dominate global connectivity into the 2020s, here’s hoping we’re all still interested in those self-appointed popular girls from high school because, who knows? Maybe we’ll even see them settle down some day.

Kids are so often questioned by endearing adults about what they want to be when they grow up. I’d say it’s one of the three most common questions grandparents ask their grandchildren, teachers ask their students, and family-friends ask their younger acquaintances.

There are your stereotypical answers: firefighter, sports star, pop singer. I know I had dreams of becoming a famous entertainer; traveling the world with my entourage, performing to thousands of screaming fans at the world’s biggest arenas. I knew every word to Sk8r Boi, Born To Try, and Bring It All Back. With friends and cousins, I created shows and made tired adults sit through our endless cycles of songs and dances, accompanied by summersaults, and a hairbrush held upright, just below my chin – for authenticity, of course (see below).

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I’m an avid TED fan, and spend my spare moments listening and watching TEDTalks from all over the world. TEDTalks give me insight into the possibilities and opportunities available to me, knowledge about the brain, our emotions, global institutions, personal triumphs, life challenges and revolutions of all sizes and nature, and the chance to gain an understanding and new perspectives about issues so central to our world, past, present and future.

I’ve listened and watched American model Cameron Russell’s TEDTalk time, and time again, (and if you enjoyed my post Like This, I suggest you watch it, too). I love Andrew Solomon’s soliloquy on depression, and Brené Brown on The power of vulnerability.

As the slogan says, the speakers at TED really do have ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Today, I came across a recent TEDxTalk by Logan LaPlante. LaPlante shares his thoughts on this reoccurring concept of asking children what they want to be when they ‘grow up’.

LaPlante explains his philosophy that maybe what we should focus on is making a life, rather than making a living, and suggests that being happy, healthy and engaging in creative practice will help us achieve our life goals in more meaningful and rewarding ways.

Maybe you’ve come across similar ideas somewhere, someplace, sometime. Maybe you think there’s nothing so exceptional about an individual such as LaPlante having developed this point of view.

Except, Logan LaPlante is 13 years old. In Lake Tahoe, California, he lives with his parents and his younger brother, Cody. And, another thing that makes LaPlante’s philosophy so poignant is how he found these principles by which he lives. 

Logan LaPlante

Logan LaPlante

Ask LaPlante what he wants to be when he grows up? Happy. He believes innovation, exploration and experimentation are key aspects of developing a life worth living, and actively pursues his interests through his education.

LaPlante was taken out of the traditional school system at age nine. Now, he is homeschooled, and has coined the method through which he learns, as Hackschooling.

He explains, ‘hackers are people who challenge and change… systems, to make them work differently, to make them work better.’ He says hacking and hackschooling involve adopting an open ‘mindset’ where you’re not afraid to try new things, to get messy.

LaPlante stands by Sir Ken Robinson’s argument that creativity should be just as valued as literacy, and suggests hackschooling as a ‘remix’ or a ‘mash up’ of traditional education, one that  encourages students to develop their passions, take on opportunities, and think outside the square.

He now loves writing, because he was given the opportunity to write about subjects that actually interest him. His favourite ‘class’ is an internship he has one day a week with Big Truck Brand, a global lifestyle and accessories company. He is motivated, stimulated and aware.

LaPlante talks about Dr Roger Walsh’s idea of Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs), and has made these principles of learning how to be happy and healthy an integral part his hackschooling philosophy.

hackschooling

And, as LaPlante says, because it’s a mindset, not a system, ‘the cool part [is] hackschooling can be used by anyone, even traditional schools’.

At its heart, hackschooling is about encouraging kids to follow their passions. It’s about involving young people in the community, drawing on local resources, making learning fun, and trusting that given these opportunities, young people will find their way to make a living as a byproduct of their journey towards creating a meaningful life.

Learning should be hands on, involved, inspiring. We should focus on developing skills and fostering relationships, rather than memorising charts and tables and facts.

Logan LaPlante recognises we’re living in a world in great need of more young people with this hacker mindset, and the benefits it offers individuals, their communities, and the world at large.

If only our Education Minister and (sadly appointed) senior teaching staff such as Christopher Bantick were open to adopting the hacker mindset. I’m sure the world would have a much brighter future.

This week I’ve been introduced to the concept and fascinating new worlds offered by the pursuit of design fiction. Science-fiction writer, Bruce Sterling, explains design fiction as:

an approach to design that speculates about new ideas through prototyping and storytelling

He says design fiction involves ‘the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change’, where diegetic is defined as ‘thinking seriously about potential objects and services’. In practice, design fiction sits comfortably in the ‘design’ world, rather than the ‘literary’ sphere, but is infused with key aspects of storytelling and imagination central to the development of a novel or short story. However, Sterling notes that the products of design fiction are worlds, rather than stories.

Fundamentally, design fiction revolves around the creation of prototypes for future worlds. Matthew Ward notes designers are inherently involved in a practice that never exists in the here and now, producing propositions for a world that is yet to exist. All proposals are to some degree, fictional, and many remain so, with tangible or realised results coming to exist along a spectrum of manifestations.

Ward reiterates the future-orientated nature of design stating that ‘by focusing on the speculative and fictional, design is no longer constrained by the practical reality of today’s material and economic restrictions’. Instead, fiction becomes a ‘teasing ground for reality’, allowing for the benefits of foresight to eventuate so that one can pretend ‘before they mess up the world’, so to speak.

Importantly, Sterling says, design fiction does not try to convince of anything. It is not a fraud, nor a lie, but rather a potential reality that could perceivably come into existence. He suggests we think of it as a second wind of the 1960s Futurism, perhaps with ‘a new consciousness’ for the present era.

Design fiction makes space for experimentation, allowing for what Ward calls ‘meandering play and unfettered exploration’ emerging from an ‘iterative experimental process’. Designers ask themselves how they (and others) may want to engage and locate themselves within the world.

However, Ward and researchers Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen recognise that things operating smoothly and ‘seamless[ly]’ produce some fairly bland fiction, and thus, there is a tendency towards worlds set in dystopia.

Yet, Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen also share examples that lie in a utopian reality, albeit one more ‘practical’ than one to emerge from or through, science fiction.

These researchers say design fiction raises the question of how what-if scenarios set up conditions for experimenting with – and the prototyping of – possible futures in design practice and research. They highlight the role of experimentation across creative disciplines, as is evidenced in works and approaches of Newton, Einstein, or Leonardo da Vinci. They say in design, art and architecture, experimentation can:

  • try out ideas about how to shape the future into a preferred state
  • criticise how capitalist interests, technology or design ideology constrain our everyday life
  • act as a central tactic in urban interventions for promotion social change

In their 2013 research paper titled, ‘The Role of Fiction in Experiments Within Design, Art & Architecture’, Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen approach real-life resolutions of projects that emerged from design fiction. They have also developed a typology through which design researchers can explain design fiction according to five criteria:

  1. ‘what-if’ scenarios as the basic construal principle of design fiction
  2. the manifestation of critique
  3. design aims
  4. materialisations and forms
  5. the aesthetic of design fictions

They demonstrate the relevance of this typological framework in regards to the development of Brasilia – The Perfect City.

The Brazilian capital was inaugurated in April 1960. The country’s former president, Juscelino Kubitschek decided the area that – like recent developments in Dubai – had previously been a desert should become an urban centre and invited the best Brazilian architects to present their designs for this new capital.

When seen from above, Brasilia resembles an airplane or a butterfly with a combination of straight and rounded shapes. The city is divided into areas where people live, with sporting and leisure area’s – as well as strokes of commercial areas; a highly organised, functionalist city with no likeness to the surrounding regions, which is characterized by poverty, disorganization and unstructured urban areas. Brasilia manifests the design rationale inherited from Le Corbusier and perhaps stated most explicitly in the Athen Chartre. According to this rational the city should be divided into work-zones, living-zones and leisure-zones, combined with highways, public  buildings and commercial areas. Everything is planned – nothing is left to coincidence. It demonstrates at that time a complete new architectural form, and calls into question the medieval city. (p. 3)

Knutz, Markussen, and Christensen then apply their typology to this case.

In the project Brasilia  (case 1) fiction integrates with reality in a completely different way: Brasilia has as its basic rule: What if we turn a desert into a hypermodern, functionalistic city, divided into work and living zones? It is critical by ignoring the existing local structures (of architecture in Brazil at that time) by molding new modern mega structures into the landscape. It propagates Modernism as the universal answer to urban planning. As a design aim, it wants to demonstrate a rigid totalitarian design program, materialized as an entire city, using an aesthetic that can be referred to as high ‘modernism’. (p. 7)

Before reading the Danish academics’ real-life examples of design fiction, I was still fairly muddled. But, these tangible realities gave me greater understanding of the wonderful opportunities design fiction has to offer both our real world and our imaginations, further our ideas of what is possible, if only we dare to ask, ‘what if?’. I hope I’ve been able to transfer some understanding of this innovative field to you, too, but if not, why not check out my classmate Mardy’s ponderings on the subject?

Last night I uploaded a new profile picture to Facebook.

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The Likes I received were incredible/ridiculous/many. Every time I checked my phone, the Likes had increased. I went out to yoga, put my phone on silent, and by the time I came home an hour and a half later, the number had skyrocketed further, still. As I write, I’m on 209 Likes and 23 extremely generous and complimentary comments. That’s a Like Record for me, the most I’ve had on anything I’ve posted over my five plus years on the social media platform.

So, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this is great! People think I’m attractive, people like what I’m wearing, my smile, the composition of the photo, or a combination of all of the above’. It made me feel good, I felt (no pun intended), Liked. I felt more worthy than I had a few hours before, I felt more accepted and somehow, more legitimate, as a valuable, equal member of my peer group, of society, if I can to take it to that extent.

Here’s the problem: I recently had a professional photo shoot at a professional photography studio. I had my hair and make-up done by an ‘artist’, was shot by a professional photographer, and the team used ‘props’ like a fan to blow my hair around, made lighting and furniture adjustments, and positioned me in ways they thought complementary to my figure/features/whatever. Essentially, they directed me into looking ‘good’. The photographer said she had all the knowledge and experience needed to produce the most flattering shots and I was (and still am) grateful for her keeping to her promise.

But, how do I know she succeeded?

Because one of those photographs is the one I made my profile picture less than 24 hours ago. That same one with the most Likes, kind comments and good feelings that have come as a result of the finished product.

Oh, there’s another Like. 210, now.

So, here’s the thing. What does it say about me that this course of events and tiny clicks, minute actions by others, granted, by you, that have led me to feel a significantly increased my self-esteem over a short period of time? How else could I have achieved this sense of okay-ness on my own? Am I so dependent on others that I am unable to pick myself up?

And, perhaps, what does it say about you? Is this a situation you’ve too, been in?

What lesson does it teach me, or us, about our society? About praise, about dependence, about the relationship between looking good and feeling good?

Instant gratification. Social media provides me – and I suspect most of my generation if not everyone active across the various platforms – with comments, Likes, Followers, that give me a sense of achievement. For that second that I’ve got someone else’s attention, I’ve been thought of, considered, mentioned.

Truth is, my presence in your mind probably is only momentary, fleeting if anything was. You’ve no doubt now scrolled down your newsfeed and Liked three other Friends photos, status’ or Shares. But in our fast-moving world, that moment I was present with you is as significant as I can ask for.

But, here’s the thing. Is that person in that picture you Liked actually me? I mean sure, it’s me – the image captures my hair, my face, my favourite clothes, my ring, my posture. But, I’ve been manipulated. Edited. Touched up.

Granted, it wasn’t actually touched up a whole lot. If I had a copy of the original, organic, un-Photoshoped photo, I’d post it here for you to make that judgement yourself. I saw it before editing though, and I’d say they only smoothed out a few blemishes or whatever they deemed to be imperfections on my face or something.

But, what about all these pre-production adjustments? I spent a good 20 minutes getting my hair and make-up perfected before they even considered taking me into the proper studio (for lack of a better word) part of the ‘studio’. Yes, they opted for a fairly natural look (upon request), and they let me bring my own clothes. So, I suppose the final photograph could be considered a fairly realistic representation of who I am. But, what is troubling is knowing that had I uploaded this picture (see below) instead, I’d probably be sitting on a solid, oh, five Likes, if I’m lucky. And they’d most likely be from my nearest and dearest who fit the ‘take me as I am’ brief.

Photo on 18-12-2013 at 3.24 pm

We’re constantly being bombarded by Photoshopped images of celebrities, by messages of the ‘ideal’ body type, skin colour, hairstyle. We’re told, heck, dictated to, what’s ‘hot’, what’s ‘in’, asked ‘who wore it better’, shown so-and-so’s ‘biggest blunder’.

To be honest, it’s all fucked.

And I can only say this because I play into this culture of externally-identified ideals of perfection and sources of assurance. I’m a victim and an offender but it’s perpetual, it’s enthralling, it’s insane.

We, as a society, have an addiction to judgement. We draw conclusions from un-evidenced or unsubstantiated data. We take thing at face value and buy into advertising, media reporting and gossip without stopping to consider our deeper values or attitudes.

Even when just taking that photo above on my computer’s Photo Booth, I took a couple. I wanted to look my best ‘in a bad situation’ (read; day at home, no make-up, dirty hair). Side note: omfg the temptation to edit that picture was enormous.

But, why is this? I’m not saying we don’t have the right to want to feel beautiful, to feel accepted and to want to be happy. Naturally, that’s an inherent aspect of building one’s self-esteem, something no one should be denied. It’s something principally deeper than that.

It’s more about how we source that emotion, and questioning why we value certain ‘sources’ over others.

And, it’s also about how much we rely on social media for quantified assurance and positive reinforcement.

211 Likes.

I don’t want to play the blame game anymore than I have, nor do I believe this culture has come about as a consequence of a single event/person/aspiration. It’s a process, it’s constantly evolving. And no one is immune (J-Law, case in point).

212 Likes.

I’m not anti-make-up, anti-media, or even anti-Photoshop.

But, if I – or you – can’t upload any picture of ourselves in equal self-confidence, and are dependent on external input to confirm or trash our mood and opinion of ourselves, I think there’s at least something to think about.

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The word ‘buffet’ can only mean one thing…

You know you’re from Melbourne when:

  • You’ve spent Christmas day in the scorching heat, summer rain, and winter wind without having to leave your humble abode (and possibly all on the one Christmas)
  • You have no idea there is another ‘football’ final this weekend
  • You’ve experienced the fascination with Degraves St before realising there are equally as good if not much better cafes in other haunts around the city
  • You struggle to find a bookshop other than Dymocks and Readings
  • Your school excursions included at least one if not multiple trips to Sovereign Hill, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum and the IMAX
  • You hate mykis
  • You hate the train but you hate the bus more
  • You think St Kilda has a beach
  • You’ve spent family holidays somewhere along the Great Ocean Road
  • You holiday regularly in Queensland
  • You’re pretentious about Melbourne’s food and coffee scene
  • You endorse the city’s rivalry with Sydney
  • You connect with people by asking what school they went to
  • You understand the North/South of the river divide
  • You’ve never even considered having a dip in the Yarra
  • You’ve experienced water restrictions but have taken the longest showers anyway
  • There is always a new restaurant, cafe or bar to explore
  • Your childhood included trips to Smorgy’s (RIP)
  • And The Royal Melbourne Show
  • And the Drive-In
  • You refer to ‘our’ Cate, Rove, Kath & Kim, Hamish & Andy, Gotye, Kylie, Danni (to a lesser degree), Missy, ONJ, Bert and Geoffrey, regardless of whether they were born here, lived here once (for a day), or live here now
  • You know the difference between a good market and a tourist market
  • You’ve taken guests to parts of the city you’d never venture to alone such as the Aquarium and Luna Park
  • CHADSTONE
  • You appreciate multiculturalism (well, at least  you SHOULD)
  • You enjoyed and sent around the ‘How many (insert your school here) students does it take to change a lightbulb…’ chain email
  • You have no knowledge of rugby, soccer, or any kicking sport that doesn’t involve a silly shaped ball that bounces funny
  • You’ve been to the Australian Open during your summer holidays come rain, hail or shine
  • You know Ramsay St rules over Summer Bay any day
  • You live, love and will die in black
  • You don’t understand the novelty of trams
  • You consider your city to be European, and therefore more classy than any other Australian city
  • Knew who Steve Bracks was before a few weeks ago (and that he has a ‘model’ son, pun intended)
  • Wore a uniform to school
  • Have taken ‘fitspo’ pics at the bottom of the 1000 steps
  • Have been to Moomba/The Comedy Festival/any other of the million festivities our city hosts each year
  • Acknowledge that while 40 degrees is uncomfortable, it is not the worst it can get
  • You went to Buller, Lake Mountain or Falls for winter sports
  • Get confused as to the proper name of that station after Flinders St on the Loop (is it Spencer St or Southern Cross?)
  • You hate Docklands
  • You relish 10 minutes of sunshine
  • You have been to The Rooftop Bar/Cinema/The Toff/Cookie and can empathise with anyone needing a good drink and a lie down once getting to the top
  • Eat Yum Cha
  • Eat Frozen Yoghurt
  • Love Able and Game’s gifts and cards
  • There are only two acceptable pastimes for December the 27th – shopping or shouting (at the MCG)
  • You have been to the Races or at least appreciated the long weekend they bring
  • You turn off the news before the weather report
  • You worship Collingwood
  • Or Father Bob
  • Or WOULD if it meant Collingwood would lose their next game
  • You know Woolworths is actually just Safeway in disguise with some sheep
  • You can’t get a job, buy a house or afford rent
  • But will always be able to find new and exciting ways to spend your dwindling supply on money on the weekend
  • You use the underground tunnel that goes from the Belgian waffle place to the centre of Flinders St station
  • You have had Italian on Lygon, Chinese in Chinatown and something Middle Eastern on Sydney Rd
  • You went on school camp to the Murray
  • You know what and where The Edge is
  • You can say you live in the world’s Most Liveable City 

Despite its prevalence in our community, the stigma associated with having a mental illness is evident and challenging for those with mental health struggles. Similarly, I am aware that many people are self-conscious about seeing a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist/counsellor/social worker or other type of mental health professional, despite their services being available for a multitude of issues, conversations and conditions. It’s a shame that this stigma is so prominent as I believe the benefits of seeing some kind of mental health professional are numerous and do not just pertain to those with a serious mental health condition. Therapists are available for individuals, families and couples who just want someone to talk to, to listen to their stories, provide them with a sounding board and commonly, some feedback as to how to proceed, what to tackle next, or how to work with a troubling situation, person or circumstance.

It is with this sentiment that I wonder whether the language we use is a significant contributing factor preventing more people accessing and seeking out these kinds of health services. When we have a sore back, we have no trouble going to the doctor and asking for a referral to a chiropractor, or seeing a teacher of the Alexander Technique for some help with postural realignment and lifestyle changes. When we have a sports injury, we see a physiotherapist, or perhaps, someone even more specialised. Generally, we seem to have no (internal) trouble with seeing a podiatrist, dermatologist or occupational therapist. So then why have we, collectively, created an invisible barrier barring us from seeking and receving guidance and help for what is intrinsically associated with what is arguably our most vital bodily organ, our brain?

Each week, I attend a range of appointments. This is not unusual for any of us lucky enough to live in a developed society with relatively easy and cost-friendly access to a range of health services. However, I’ve noticed that, at least until recently, I felt some sort of shame saying to others that I had a session booked with my psychiatrist, and instead of just saying so, I would omit the ‘location of difficulty’ or ‘source of stress’ if you like, and just say I had ‘an appointment’. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with that, and privacy to such an extent should be our right. Except the problem arises with the emotional guilt or side-effect associated with that omission, and I believe is comes from the stigma we as a society have attached to mental health.

Unfortunately, those receiving care for their mental health are often referred to, and immediately though of, as having a mental illness or mental disorder. For some, this is appropriate and true and I am not saying these terms should not be used, per say. Rather, I question; is it possible that due do these terms so often being used interchangeably, we are in fact, unintentionally, reinforcing that stigma and subsequently preventing ordinary people from seeking out mental health services? That people won’t see a therapist because they don’t want to be thought to have a ‘mental disorder’?

So, I guess I am kind of addressing two separate, yet interrelated, stigmas: one with diagnosed mental illness, and another with mental health care in general. I believe that neither are justified and both should be dispelled, but maybe starting with the latter will help to lift the stigma from the former. And to do so, I suggest the following:

Let’s change our language. Let’s start referring to ‘mental wellbeing’, adding a positive connotation to the world of mental health care. We know that to achieve optimal health we must strive for a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 1946), and as such, are entitled to and worthy of receiving assistance and professional care for all elements of our wellbeing.

If you’re going through a series of life changes, you’re in an interim phase between jobs/houses/relationships, you’re needing some guidance, or would just like an impartial, in-judgemental face to talk to, seek out a professional to provide you with that support. You may not need ‘help’, you mightn’t be in a crisis, you might even be at the height of your career. But, by taking care of your mental wellness, you’re actively maintaing or working towards achieving your optimal health. And what better way to live your life than that?