Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some alternative ideas that can be worth a try

1) Learn to meditate. Mindfulness-based meditation has a growing evidence-base, showing benefits for psychiatric problems as well as other physical problems such as chronic pain. You may need to attend a course, or several courses, to find the best setting for you to learn (there might be variations in the quality of teaching offered, so you may need to try several different times). Some of my patients did not benefit immediately from meditation techniques, but after many months of practice are now finding the skills very useful in managing ongoing symptoms.
2) Have a pet. It can help to care for, and bond with, another living creature. But, of course, you do need to be well enough to handle the responsibility. If you can't have a pet, consider finding a place to be around animals -- e.g. volunteer to do some dog-walking; or take some horseback riding lessons. Or visit your friend's pet once in a while.
3) Exercise. Try different types. Weightlifting can be great for some, endurance training (running or cycling) could be best for another. Swimming is often uniquely therapeutic. It can help to try a different exercise activity than what you're used to. Consider hiring a personal trainer to get you going, if you can afford one.
4) Activity clubs. There are groups out there dedicated to various activities, such as hiking, cycling, chess, reading books, gourmet cooking, etc. This could be a good way to make new friends and get going with a healthy activity. Local community centres often have classes, groups, or programs of all sorts to attend. Some groups of this type now advertise on internet community discussion boards, etc. Remember that you may have to try several times to find a group that "clicks" with you; it can be disappointing if you work up the nerve to join a group, only to find that it doesn't feel right.
5) Toastmaster's. A place to practice public speaking. This is excellent "behavioural therapy" for the great many of us who have some social anxiety. Attending can build confidence, speaking skill, and other social skills.
6) Consider taking an acting or theatre class. The theory of theatre & acting technique reminds me of psychotherapeutic theory. And the practice is excellent behavioural therapy, in that you are communicating clearly in a group, conveying emotion deliberately, and opening yourself to a bit of vulnerability. Sometimes it can also be quite liberating for a shy person to discover that they can perform theatre with relative ease. You can find these at community centres, continuing education groups, as well as acting schools & colleges.

7) Art therapy: another wonderful resource, if you have the chance to try it out. I think art therapy is underutilized in the therapeutic community these days. At the very least it can be a helpful and enjoyable adjunct to other therapy.
8) Music therapy: music can be powerfully soothing and therapeutic. Consider music therapy, or take a music lesson, or join a choir (you don't have to have strong musical skills to benefit). Also there is a phenomenon called "drum circles" in which a percussionist/therapist leads a group in pounding African drums, creating rhythms. A wonderful experience, and there are good therapeutic results in a variety of different populations. Once again, no prior musical experience is necessary.

Here's a link to Vancouver community centres; you can find the various courses they offer:

Here's a link to other classes & programs through the Vancouver school board:

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