Saturday, April 21, 2018

Mental Health Symposium 2018 on Saturday!

Saturday April 21, 2018 is the day that a focus on mental health takes the stage at The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability in Second Life®. The SLURL to the venue is

A strong and varied lineup awaits attendees this year, with the theme being "I Am Not My Illness: Identity and Mental Health." The entire conference will be livestreamed at this link: for those who cannot attend the event in world. If you are coming into Second Life for the first time to attend, you can visit this page for steps to enter Second Life and come to The Sojourner Auditorium. Below is a quick listing of the conference schedule. All times are Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

  • 6am Divya Padmanabhan
    "Dancing Crazy? Unpacking the category of possession-form dissociative identity disorder"
  • 7am Panel
    "Mental Illness in Poetry"
  • 8:15am Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi
    "People with depression use language differently"
  • 9:30am Philip Yanos
    "How do people diagnosed with mental illness become written off? How can they overcome it?"
  • 10:45am Meg Peters
    "Challenging the Conception that Social Media Causes Bad Mental Health"
  • Noon Performance by ~DRUM~
  • 1:15pm Alita Nandi
    "Ethnic and racial harassment and mental health: Identifying sources of resilience"
  • 2:30pm Joe DeLuca
    "Forensic Psychiatric Experiences, Stigma, and Self-Concept"
  • 3:45pm Isabelle Martin
    "Visions of Infinity: Singularity, Proliferation, and Transcendence in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms"
  • 5pm Carolyn Weisz
    "Stigmatized Identities, Psychological Distress, and Physical Health among Individuals Experiencing Homelessness"

You can read more about the presenters on Virtual Ability's website.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, we met with the presenters to orient them to giving their talks in this virtual setting. In doing this, we coach them through navigating with their avatars, dressing them according to their preferences, and using the screen and teleprompter presentation tools. They discover it is not exactly the same as giving a presentation in the physical world, but the outcome is the same. Their message is shared and the audiences actively engage in discussions during the Q&A periods.

To the right, you see an image of the avatar of a presenter for the conferece, Joe DeLuca. He created this avatar for his appearance at this conference. You will see that all the presenters have unique appearances that suit them.

Here at right is a snapshot of a pair of avatars who look quite similar. One of them is presenter Alita Nandi; the other is Gentle Heron. Who is which? (Hint: The avatar on the left wanted to make her appearance more unique.) In the process of orientation, we help the presenters to customise their avatars - it helps them to reflect themselves the way they wish to appear at the conference.

As a special mid-conference feature we are excited to feature a performance by ~DRUM~, a drumming troupe well known for its wonderfully creative, original rhythms.

The name DRUM is an acronym: Divine Rhythms of Universal Music. DRUM's goal is to bring the world to you via the power of drumming, with the aim to have fun and to create incredibly beautiful rhythms - live. All of their works are their own, drawing inspiration from 10 different drum cultures.

The group consists of these performers, who drum and/or dance:
Almost (almostthere.inventor)
Beach (artebor.zenovka)
Dream (dream.wrexan)
Fil (yark)
Maia Antarra (psiberangel)
Vian Magic
Peni (skydiverpeni.fall)
Starlite (stargazersatelite)
Sandar Gausman

Monday, March 19, 2018

March 20 is International Day of Happiness - Eat Your Fruits and Veggies!

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Tomorrow, the International Day of Happiness (March 20), is a great time to begin adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. What’s the connection?

A study by researchers from Australia and the UK, published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, found that eating more fruits and vegetables may make you happier.

You can read about the specifics of that study, “Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables,” and decide for yourself.

The researchers looked at longitudinal food diaries (lists of everything a person eats) for three years from more than 12,000 Australians of all ages.

They found that life satisfaction and happiness increased with each additional daily serving of produce people ate. The greatest positive change in life satisfaction occurred for those individuals who changed from eating less than one portion of produce a day to more than eight. The change in their life satisfaction was equivalent to the gain in psychological well-being that they would have obtained from changing from unemployment to employed status.
Another great thing about the benefits of including more fruits and veggies in your meals is that these results happen quite a bit more quickly than do most physical health benefits from improving your diet.

Images Source: Pixabay

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Humpday Hint: Have a Heart for Healthy Cereals

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

March 7th is National Cereal Day. But that doesn’t mean we should indulge in sugar-sweetened refined-flour breakfast treat. With all the brightly colored boxes staring at you from the cereal aisle in the supermarket, how can you make a healthy choice for the morning meal?

You should be looking for a cereal with low calories per serving, high in fiber and protein, and full of vitamins and minerals to give you the best nutritional benefits.

For the healthiest cereals, check that each serving contains 5 grams or more of fiber. Fiber in your diet not only helps material move through your digestive system, but it can also help lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose.

The American Diabetes Association recommends bran cereals for diabetics. For more on the role of fiber in the diet, read this article from the Mayo Clinic: Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.

Also, be sure your cereal choice contains 10 grams or less of sugar per serving. Eating sugar can give you a quick energy boost, but often this is followed by a “sugar crash.” Cavity-causing bacteria thrive on the sugar on your teeth after you eat sweetened cereals. Excess sugar in the bloodstream can lead to depression, weight gain, inflammation, higher blood pressure, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes. Find out more about the effects of a high sugar diet by reading this article at WebMD: How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body?

Still think your cereal needs a little sweetening? Consider topping it with fresh or dried fruit. A sprinkle of cinnamon is also refreshing.

For more information on National Cereal Day, visit

Images Source: Pixabay

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tips for Making Lifestyle Changes “Stick”

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

"Just when the caterpillar thought
the world was over,
she became a butterfly."

From "Ladies of the Borobudur" by Barbara Haines Howett

Initially, any change you make will feel uncomfortable, perhaps even unnatural. You can overcome this discomfort by focusing on small steps, keeping a positive attitude, and reaffirming your commitment to change.

Divide long term goals into small, doable actions. You don’t need to make an entire life change all at once. Remind yourself that changing even small behaviors can help you reach your goals, if you stick to them long enough for them to become new, healthier habits.

Added note: It is said if you stay with a new habit for 30 days, it's an established habit. Resolve to stick to that new, positive lifestyle change and it will simply become part of your life.

Image Credit: Pixabay