Posted in Weekly Blog

Autumn Arts

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An art session in this group is normally very relaxing.  This session we went for traditional drawing and sketching, leaving aside the glitter and glue on this occasion (fun though they are!)

Group members spoke about really being able to switch off through art and just be in a different space for a while really focusing on something, hopefully people were also able to enjoy the process without worrying too about the end result and just get absorbed in the creating rather than stress about perfection which can sometimes be a barrier to just getting stuck in. It was nice to see people being able to relax while doing this.

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Exploring what gender means to us

A big topic to discuss today; as more people are speaking about how they feel about gender we thought we would explore what our gender means to us-is it important? Do we think it is a spectrum? How much is it really connected to physiological factors?

We began by looking at fashion in the West throughout the last century to see how assigned roles for men and women informed clothing and how this changes as the years go on…and those who defied the cultural fashion norms of their day.  Please click here to have a look: Fashion and Gender

What we noticed from the pictures was that the predominant fashion for men was a suit, and this didn’t really change for many decades, although a cardigan became a casual substitute for a jacket, the tie was still worn.  In the 70’s though with the arrival of Glam Rock, suits began to take on a much more colourful, glittery, lacy and all in one form.  Meanwhile Punk was doing something very different and introduced gender neutralised styles as men and women wore the same clothes and hairstyles.

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In previous generations, apart from those who deliberately went against cultural norms it seemed to be men in suits and women in dresses.

The group discussion touched on the debate of how much is nurture or nature and observed how from a very young age a child learns what is for boys e.g blue and trucks and what is for girls e.g pink and dolls.  Though it was noted that what this looks like for us today was not the same stereotypes of three or four centuries ago; think of the flamboyance in the royal courts of men’s fashion.

People talked about how it is helpful to organically be able to find your way through your gender as a child to enjoy your gender or to have the choice to maybe not feel so connected to it.  Some people shared experiences either received or observed of sometimes ‘progressive'(?) parenting of forcing children to play with non-stereotypical toys for their gender, and the removal of a chosen and enjoyed toy because it was ‘gendered’.   We also spoke again, as we have previously in this group about how certain qualities are attributed to being masculine to feminine-when maybe it’s actually just human! The group acknowledged that maybe gender can be a bit more fluid and doesn’t have to be placed rigidly in categories of jobs, qualities, colours and fashion for men and women…this applies to moisturiser…the group were joking that for women it is marketed for separate and individual moisturisers for hands, nails and cuticles, feet, legs, elbows, face, neck, eyes, etc, and 300 different choices of shampoo depending on hair type, while for men, one big bottle will clean the lot including the oil on the garage floor! Though we do know this is changing as men’s grooming has become a big emerging market which clearly shows the change in the public’s perceptions and expectations of gender.

 

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Relaxation and Meditation

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This session was really all about self-care.  We recognise as a group that we can carry a lot of stress at times, and acknowledging that the seasonal change can have an impact on us.  So there was no big agenda to discuss or work on.  The group began with ice-cream, ok (!) so not everyone warmed to this idea at 10.15 in the morning, but to those of us who did it was a lovely treat.  Next we used some lovely, nourishing shea butter hand cream, as the coming colder months can dry out our skin.  It was quite buttery and did take a while to absorb so we did all need to sit there for a while rubbing it in, moisturising our skin! After this we did some gentle stretching to get in tune with our bodies, and were then ready for some relaxation.  We began with a body scan to see where we were holding tension, before moving onto an autumn visualisation.  People experienced this as a very relaxing session, so its good to do this once in a while.

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Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

We began last week’s group by watching the black dog video about depression which people found quite a helpful analogy and contained hope.  People also liked that in the video, depression was described as being devoid of feeling which felt a more accurate description for some than low feelings.

This group session’s focus was on ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD), something that we have looked at before on occasion, and with the seasons changing it was worth looking at again as people get ready for the new autumn season and potentially changing mood and emotional state.  SAD is typically defined by symptoms of depression triggered by the season, typically winter (although some people are affected by the change into spring).  A change in body clock and reduced access to sunlight as the days grow shorter are some of the main components causing changes in the brains hormones e.g reduced serotonin and melatonin. (More information here)

So as a group we looked at what helped at this time of year.  With less and less sunlight and therefore less vitamin D it is good to maximise natural light where possible and this is best done in the morning, when blue light is available from the sun (this light isn’t so helpful to us at night from our screens), so time in the morning sun is helpful.  Light boxes are also recommended and there is some evidence that using them can reduce depression.  Additional intake of vitamin D may also help, some group members have a spray, but opinion as to whether it helps is so far inconclusive…maybe we will get a better idea tracking this as we go into winter.

For some people at this time of year stress could come crashing in with a overwhelm of ‘the to-do list!’ so the group talked about the importance of being able to relax which would probably ultimately increase productivity if we go at it from a rested place rather than a stressed out place.

Some people found that making a physical or symbolic change in the home helped, like moving the furniture to reflect a change in season, having more curtains drawn and different soft furnishings around.cosy

We also had a chat around what people’s preferred climate would be to live in.  This varied from places with very distinct seasons and with a bright winter rather than a grey one, to tropical, to a comfortable 24 degrees to liking Scotland!

People also spoke about how miserable, grey, dreich weather does contribute to feelings of being lonely, so it is important to keep up connections with others at these times.

Click here to see previous group blogs and tips about this topic.

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“Thank-you for the Music!”

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This weeks group was focused around what music means to us, from childhood, through teens and adult life.  As children it seemed to be that for most people, what we listened to was very much influenced by what we heard in our homes, the music our parents, grandparents and siblings were playing.  In the group this ranged from Country and Western to Scottish Country music to The Doors, from songs played on Children’s favourites to Queen.

In teenage years people in the group talked about forming their identity through the music they listened to, following a genre, the music, attitudes, protest in some cases and the theatre of the clothing styles.  For example, punk, goth, heavy metal, and bands and artists such as Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols and ACDC.  Music, it seemed was very important at this age in forming political and cultural ideas and individual stylising showing who and what we identified with though fashion.  This led to a bit of a discussion as to whether teenagers currently find this sense of identification and expression through music or whether this has now transferred to other platforms such as social media.

We touched on the music of the 1980’s, people related to music in a different way during this era, although they enjoyed listening, it didn’t seem to have quite the same power of expression as the previous decade; think Bananarama, New Kids on the Block!!

The music of the 1990’s seemed to resonate with quite a few group members, with bands such as Oasis, Radiohead and the Verve, bringing a particular mood to the decade before the millenium.

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People spoke about how the music they listened to sometimes spoke to loss, or pain so they would listen to feel, or music related to anger and it could be a helpful way to express and shut out the world; with heavy metal for example.  People also shared about the music they listened to at exciting times in life and partying.  We also spoke about times when it felt too raw, too emotional to listen to any music, because music can be so evocative, and so associated with memory that it can feel too much, at these times people may listen to chat radio instead which distracts from sad thoughts rather than engaging with all the emotions through music.

People talked about enjoying jazz and the pure talent of it, and of going to classical music as a source for something soothing, and choral music as often being uplifting such as gospel.

So we will leave you with this from Beethoven.

 

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Food – friend or foe?

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Today we looked at what food meant to us. To assist us in this we used the questions below as a guide;

  • What is your favourite food and how does it make you feel?.
  • Do you cope with your emotions by using foods? If yes, what kind of foods do you
    consume at such a time?
  •  Do you know what you are trying to fill? (FILLING A VOID E.g Feeling lonely/
    disappointed or empty. SELF-MEDICATING)
  • How do you feel after consuming food to cope with emotions?
  • E.g. Guilty, know it is not good for my health….)
  • Do you cope with emotions by not eating and by depriving yourself of food?
    Is food your friend or foe?
  • Do you know when you have had enough to eat and stop?
  • How else might we listen to and cope with our emotional hunger?

Some people talked about pleasant associations with food in a nostalgic way, like family gatherings with sunday roast or mince and tatties. For others food has become a coping mechanism providing some comfort whether it be eating too much or too little. Of course, both over a period of time can be equally damaging to our health. If people feel they have no control in their lives this may be the one place they feel they do.  Unlike others dependencies we cannot avoid food- so we need to be informed, relearn
our physical hunger because then we can trust ourselves to make good choices
and to attend to emotional hunger in other ways.

INTERESTING FOOD FACTS
Foodie Fact 1-
Do you know that some foods (like Pringles) are engineered to keep us eating and wanting
more and to ignore signals our brain is sending that we are full. Sugar, Salt, fat, additives,
combined in a snack/nibble or a sweet treat. Such foods actually light up the pleasure
centres in our brains as much as taking cocaine would! So neurologically we
become addicted to them and we ignore that we have had enough.

Foodie Fact 2-
If we consume lots of calorie dense foods which lack good nutrients such as; a
McDonalds, pizza or fish and chips our body might well be signalling it is starving and
needs more grub, because it is needing some vitamins and minerals not in fast foods. So
we want to eat more and often we will deride ourselves for being greedy or lacking will
power.

Foodie Fact 3-
Food information is so confusing and conflicting it is hard to work out what we should be eating. So here’s what ‘experts’ agree on-
• Reduce or stop eating processed foods (white bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes & fast food.
• Eat your greens! Fruit and vegetables.
• Be loving and compassionate to yourself as you make some alterations. Start small
with little changes, over time they all add up.