Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Virtual Ability at SL14B

The 14th Birthday of Second Life® is celebrated by everyone on the grid, and everyone is welcome to join the party which runs from the 18th through the 25th of June. It's a "Carnivalesque" themed week filled with music, art, presentations, meeting Lindens, dancing, gifts and all sorts of hilarity!

If you have a Second Life account, you can go to the links provided in the text below; if you have never been to Second Life, you can sign up through Virtual Ability's website. Follow the steps to get your avatar, go through the orientation to get the basics of navigating in Second Life, then follow the links below and at the SL14B website to experience the party.

Virtual Ability has an exhibit there! It is enjoyable to visit, various things to interact with - getting popcorn, popping balloons by throwing darts, other fun things. It also shares information about why some people are not able to fully participate in celebrations, raising awareness and reminding folks to be mindful of that. Stop by there if you get a chance!
The SL14B website is filled with information and links to the various spots of interest. Pssst...some Virtual Ability members built exhibits there, are performing, giving presentations... you can look through the full list of exhibitors and performers to find them. Don't forget to grab the gifts at the exhibits while you're there - there will be presents galore, and many exhibitors are participating in the SL14Big Hunt as well. Don't miss seeing these, enjoy the creativity and this special event!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Humpday Hint: "Never Say Never Again" A Healthy Internal Dialogue

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Three words can put too much pressure on you: “never,” “always,” and “must.”

When you set your life change goals, using these words does not allow flexibility.

While you may think “I will never eat a candy bar again” is a reasonable diet goal, it will make you feel too guilty about an occasional lapse. Leave room for a treat once in a while.

“I will always have only a small salad for lunch” can be set aside when your best friend from college visits for a day.

“I must not eat dessert with dinner” is too restrictive if your family is having a reunion picnic.

Try to avoid using those three dangerous words in your internal dialogue.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Where Do I Go to Complain?

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

The answer is, “It depends on what you are complaining about.”

If a roofing contractor is going door to door in your neighborhood after a storm, or if someone is walking around knocking on doors and soliciting, you should call your local police to report the incident. You can also report it to your state attorney general.

Various federal agencies deal with specific types of scams and frauds. The FBI, for instance, runs the Internet Crime Complaint Center. While it does not itself conduct investigations of claims, it refers them to the appropriate agencies. If you receive a phishing email or your computer is hacked or you are approached over the internet with a fraudulent scheme, this is where you would report it.

If the scam is conducted by postal mail, such as chain letters or fake sweepstakes “winner” announcements, report it to the Postal Inspection Service. This is also where you would report mail theft.

You will want to list your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. After your number has been on the list for 31 days, if you continue receiving unsolicited phone sales calls, you can report them. However, calls from survey firms, debt collectors, and registered charities are exempt from Do Not Call restrictions.

Report identity theft, romance scams, unwanted telemarketing, malware concerns, work-at-home schemes, abusive debt collectors and other types of fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. Your information will be pooled with other complaints to build a case against con artists. You should also report fraud to your state attorney general and local police.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intercedes on your behalf with companies that provide financial services, credit reports and payment cards.

Your credit card company or bank is where you would report lost or stolen cards (credit, debit, or ATM) as well as fraudulent use of the cards. Make a copy of the fronts and backs of all such cards, and keep it in a safe place. Contact information is usually on the card itself.

Graphic by iSkye Silverweb

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mental Health Symposium Opens

The Virtual Ability community in Second Life invites you to join us for our sixth annual Mental Health Symposium. It will be held on Saturday, May 27, beginning at 6am Pacific (9am Eastern), and continuing through 5:30pm Pacific (8:30pm Eastern). This year's conference theme is "I can relate to that." It is free and open to the public. The Symposium takes place in Virtual Ability’s The Sojourner Auditorium, on Virtual Ability island. The SLURL for the auditorium is: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Ability/54/170/23.

Our international group of presenters offers a wide interpretation of the theme, based on their interests and academic backgrounds. Attendees will learn ways to promote mental health for themselves and their families, how diet affects mental health, and how first responders and medical clinicians can improve their own mental health.

Below is the full schedule for the conference. Please note that SLT is US Pacific Daylight Time.
6:00am SLT
Tracy Burrows “Diet, Nutrition and Food Addiction”
7:30am SLT
Sarah Henderson and Kristin Klimley “First Responder Mental Health: The Importance of Training and Intervention”
9:00am SLT
Joel Edman “Nutritional and Holistic Approaches to Stomach and Intestinal Disorders: Practical guidelines that can also be helpful for chronic and/or complex health issues”
10:30am SLT
Join us on selection of tours of SL sites related to mental health in Second Life
Noon SLT
Ian Colman “Mental health promotion - What can you do for you and your loved ones?”
1:30pm SLT
Karen Davison “Bridging the Divide: Exploring research in nutrition, mental health and food security”
3pm SLT
Diana Anderson “Virtual Windows: Design solutions to improve the mental health of clinical staff”
4:30pm SLT
Namaara MacMoragh "Mental Health Following Brain Injury"

If you are unable to attend the conference inworld you can view the live stream here: https://www.youtube.com/c/Draxtor/live.

Friday, May 26, 2017

MHS Spotlight: Namaara McMoragh

The final speaker for the sixth annual Mental Health Symposium hosted by Virtual Ability, Inc.® on Saturday the 27th of May, with the theme, "I can relate to that" will be Namaara McMoragh. Be sure and attend as many sessions as you can; the conference is free and open to the public.

Namaara MacMoragh is the avatar of Gloria Kraegel. Ms. Kraegel has been a nonprofit consultant for 30 years and is currently the Executive Director of the Brain Energy Support Team, an organization created by, and for, those with brain injury and their families. She is also the owner of Etopia EcoCommunity Sims in Second Life and blends the virtual and physical worlds to provide education and social opportunities that build community and showcase the potential of cooperative and interdependent living.


Ms. Kraegel’s presentation, titled “Mental Health After Brain Injury,” will begin at 4:30pm US Pacific (7:30pm US Eastern). Brain injury is not a mental illness even when behavioral issues and mood changes are manifest. All too often the medications used to treat chemical imbalances in the brain do not work to treat physical changes due to an injury. This presentation will share information about brain injury and how to create good mental health for yourself and with your health care team.

You can see the full schedule in this previous post or inworld just outside The Sojourner Auditorium.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The month of May has traditionally been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. In addition to hosting the annual Mental Health Symposium, a free professional conference open to the general public (full schedule here), the Virtual Ability community posts exhibits and displays related to mental health on its Healthinfo Island.

A major display for Mental Health Awareness Month may be found here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/196/156/23.

Another display about Brain Injury and Mental Health can be viewed here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/172/154/22

An exhibit on Bipolar Disorder is seen here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/25/24/30

Click the title poster of the exhibit or display to get a full text notecard. Click each poster for live links and text chat.

Other exhibits and displays on Healthinfo Island during May include:


Thanks to Mook Wheeler and Namaara MacMoragh for creating these exhibit and display materials for Healthinfo Island.

An additional resource available on Healthinfo Island is the Path of Support. The Path is bordered by posters representing over 120 peer support groups available in Second Life for individuals with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Numerous groups are available to support individuals with mental health issues. Click a poster and you will receive information about the group and how to join it.

Virtual Ability maintains Healthinfo Island as a health and wellness resource for the entire Second Life population. Please visit there soon to see what is available.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

MHS Special Spotlights: First Responder Mental Health and Mini-Tours

Today We feature two more speakers we have invited to present at the sixth annual Mental Health Symposium on Saturday the 27th of May, with the theme, "I can relate to that." We hope you will find these topics of great interest and mark your calendar to attend the symposium. We also have something new this year, mini-tours of three SL locations of interest in the topic of mental health.



First Responder Mental Health: The Importance of Training and Intervention
Sarah Henderson, MS, and Kristin Klimley, BS, present “First Responder Mental Health: The Importance of Training and Intervention” at 7:30am US Pacific time. This presentation will explore a variety of topics related to first responders and mental health. These include: background of the culture, research findings, and interventions. Additionally, this presentation will discuss police officer crisis intervention team (CIT) training and its benefits to the community.

Sarah N. Henderson is a fourth year clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Nova Southeastern University. Her research has focused on behavioral health issues in first responders, particularly the effects of post-traumatic stress on physical health conditions. Ms. Henderson has published several articles related to stress and suicide within the fire service and co-created a number of behavioral health programs within Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services. Ms. Henderson is also a co-coordinator of the Family Violence Program, under Dr. Van Hasselt.

Kristin Klimley is a second year clinical psychology doctoral student at Nova Southeastern University, hoping to specialize in trauma and police psychology. Ms. Klimley is the Research Coordinator for Dr. Van Hasselt’s Police Psychology Research and Training Team, as well as a Nova Players Coordinator working with various hostage negotiation teams in South Florida. Ms. Klimley is engaged in research with various first responder populations including law enforcement, emergency dispatchers, firefighters, and correctional staff.



Mini Tours of SL Mental Health Sites
Something new for the Mental Health Symposium this year is a trio of mini-tours of virtual world sites devoted to information in different formats about mental health issues. You can attend one, two, or all three of the tours, as your schedule permits.

Each tour lasts 20 minutes, and will leave every half hour (10:30, 11 and 11:30am US Pacific time (1:30, 2 and 2:30pm US Eastern time) from the Symposium site in The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability island. You will return to the Auditorium between tours to join a different tour group. All tours will be conducted simultaneously in voice+text for full accessibility.

1) Virtual Hallucinations is an activity set in a mental health clinic. It’s an opportunity to experience life as a person with schizophrenia. After a group introduction outside the clinic, tour participants will enter and go through one at a time.

WARNING: This is an immersive tour, with known “triggers.” Some people may find it disturbing and overwhelming.

This tour will be led by Em Warrior. Em lives in Canada in real life, but is everywhere in SL. She came to SL over 11 years ago. As she is deaf, SL is a great social media format for her. She has also learned many things - to build and hostess events including live musical events. She’s met a lot of great people from all over the world in SL, which has helped her understanding of geography. If you're curious about anything else, feel free to ask.

Em’s “voice” for the tour will be Eme Capalini, Vice President of Development for Virtual Ability, Inc. A native of Texas, she has worked on numerous VAI development projects with researchers from different universities and government agencies. One of the projects Eme worked on with the US military was AVESS, the Amputee Virtual Environment Support Space. She also just completed a project involving the use of avatars to teach new amputees to use their prostheses.

2) Ethnographia is part of a research project, "Virtual Worlds, Disability, and New Cultures of the Embodied Self." This project has two Principal Investigators, Professor Tom Boellstorff (University of California, Irvine) and Professor Donna Z. Davis (University of Oregon). It is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Persons with disabilities create studio spaces on the dedicated islands, and use art to explain how they have used Second Life to change their experiences living with a disability.

Jadyn Firehawk is a medically retired professor from the University of Texas at Austin, who used to conduct research in Yosemite National Park. An award-winning builder, she is owner of Maganda Arts and Yosemite in Second Life. She is the founder and director of the Pixel To Pixel Foundation, which assists people in Second Life who are on disability.

Jadyn has created an Ethnographia exhibit telling the story of how she become disabled, struggled with mental illness, and how her experiences in a virtual world have helped her rebuild a sense of identity in the years ever since. The title of her exhibit is “Reconstructing Identity After Disability: A 'Build Biography'.” This is another immersive experience.

3) Whole Brain Health is an effort in Second Life supported by the nonprofit Ageless Mind Project (http://agelessmindproject/org). On Inspiration Island in Second Life, you’ll find information and activities to promote mental health and self-care. The community has a special focus on wellness of persons over the age of 50.

The tour group will stay within the Multiple Intelligences Experience (MIE) area of Inspiration Island. After a brief explanation of the focus of Whole Brain Health and its relation to promoting mental health in seniors, visitors can explore the MIE. The tour will end with a brief Q and A.

The 10:30am SLT tour will be led by Lissena (aka Wisdomseeker). She is the co-founder of the Ageless Mind Project, based on New York State, and the Director of Whole Brain Health in Second Life. She has been a clinical social worker for 35 years, with special training in an evidence-based multi-dimensional approach to brain wellness. She is the owner of Inspiration Island, where over 30 Collective members offer programs and activities that promote brain health and total well-being

The 11am and 11:30am tours will be led by Ewan Bonham (Scott Anstadt in the physical world), a retired faculty in Social Work. One area of research and publication while he was teaching was the use of virtual reality to enhance exposure to diverse world cultures and spiritual orientations. Since the conception of Whole Brain Health team, he has provided opportunities for resident explorations throughout Second Life to explore its vast resources. To assist in this endeavor, he developed the Community Cultural Teleportation Hub, and facilitated a variety of interactive groups including the current Transcendent Activation mindful meditation practices.


The full schedule for the symposium hosted by Virtual Ability, Inc.®, can be seen in this previous post. It is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MHS Speaker Spotlights

We feature two more speakers we have invited to present at the sixth annual Mental Health Symposium on Saturday the 27th of May, with the theme, "I can relate to that." We hope you will find these topics of great interest and mark your calendar to attend the symposium.

Diana Anderson, MD, M.Arch, is a board-certified healthcare architect with the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA) and a board-certified physician through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). As a “dochitect”, Dr. Anderson combines educational and professional experience in both medicine and architecture, in order to fully understand the medical planning of healthcare environments. She has worked on hospital design projects within the United States, Canada and Australia. A frequent speaker about the impacts of healthcare design on patient outcomes, clinician wellness, and care delivery, Dr. Anderson is currently a Human Experience Lab Fellow at Perkins+Will Architects, and co-founder of the Clinicians for Design group.

Virtual Windows: Design solutions to improve the mental health of clinical staff" is the title of Dr. Anderson’s presentation, beginning at 3:00pm US Pacific time. Although recent versions of design guidelines for healthcare facility construction provide minimum standards for patient rooms to have windows, no guidelines currently exist to ensure clinical staff areas have access to light or views, whether real or virtual. Recent studies have shown that physicians-in-training experience high rates of burnout and depression. Can design of the environment soften the metaphor of the hospital as a battleground for trainees?

Views and images, either real or virtual, should be considered just as important for the clinical staff as they are for patients. Although newer buildings may emphasize a narrower floor-plate to maximize this window access, many older facilities maintain deeper floor plans required for diagnostic and procedural programs where light may be difficult to capture. In these cases the provision for virtual windows or views would be beneficial.

The importance of the virtual window for healthcare staff considers mental health in addition to physical health. Some association has been shown between rotating night shift nursing work and the risk of coronary heart disease, although further research is needed to explore whether the association is related to specific work hours and individual characteristics. Through case studies and evidence-based research examples, design implications of using virtual windows and their potential impact on the wellbeing of healthcare staff will be explored during this session.

Dr. Joel S. Edman, DSc, FACN, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist, Health Coach, Educator and Integrative Health Consultant, will speak at 9:00am US Pacific. His topic is “Nutritional and Holistic Approaches to Stomach and Intestinal Disorders: Practical guidelines that can also be helpful for chronic and/or complex health issues.” He states, “We all may have stomach and intestinal symptoms such as bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms from time to time. I will provide some background information on these GI symptoms, as well as some specific approaches to help reduce or eliminate them.” He puts his recommendations into a holistic framework of nutrition, exercise and stress management that can be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle for general health and well-being.

Dr. Edman was the Director of Integrative Nutrition and Associate Research Director for the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital (Pennsylvania, US). A Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, he specializes in teaching and coaching about the most effective use of nutritional and integrative health therapies for everything from chronic and complex symptoms and disorders to wellness and disease prevention. He has developed nutrition, lifestyle and integrative health programs for individuals with heart disease risk factors, neuropsychological disorders, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders and other diagnoses. His consultations and coaching programs focus on approaches that are individually tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of each person or group.

The full schedule for the symposium hosted by Virtual Ability, Inc.®, can be seen in this previous post. It is free and open to the public.

Monday, May 22, 2017

MHS Speaker Spotlights

Today we feature two speakers we have invited to present at the sixth annual Mental Health Symposium on Saturday the 27th of May, with the theme, "I can relate to that." We hope you will find these topics of great interest and mark your calendar to attend the symposium.


Mental health promotion - what can you do for you and your loved ones?
Ian Colman, PhD, is the Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Epidemiology and is an Associate Professor in the School of Epidemiology, Public Health, & Preventive Medicine at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Colman's research lab investigates factors associated with depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior, with a particular focus on public health approaches toward prevention and intervention.

His presentation at noon US Pacific time is titled "Mental health promotion - what can you do for you and your loved ones?” This talk will focus on things that people can do that might help their own mental health, and in doing so may also improve the mental health of those around them. Research will be discussed supporting the importance of a healthy diet, social activity, and speaking to a health professional when you are concerned about your mental health.


Bridging the Divide: Exploring research in nutrition, mental health and food security
Karen Davison, PhD, RD, is a registered dietitian and certified health education specialist who consults on nutrition and psychiatry. She is also a faculty member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and research affiliate with the Social Justice Centre. She was the project lead for the Dietitians of Canada role paper on nutrition and mental health (www.dietitians.ca/mentalhealth). Currently, she is the principal investigator of the Bridging the Divide project.

Dr. Davison advocates for integrated approaches to nutrition and mental health care and participatory approaches to research. Her presentation, “Bridging the Divide: Exploring research in nutrition, mental health and food security,” will begin at 1:30pm US Pacific time (4:30pm US Eastern time). A growing body of evidence indicates that food insecurity, diet quality, and mental health are interrelated. In this presentation, we will explore this research and where future efforts may be directed that foster nutritional and mental health. As part of this discussion, Canada's Bridging the Divide project (http://nutritionandmentalhealth.ca) will be highlighted.


The full schedule for the symposium hosted by Virtual Ability, Inc.®, can be seen in this previous post. It is free and open to the public.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

MHS Speaker Spotlight: Tracy Burrows, PhD.

With the sixth annual Mental Health Symposium coming up on the 27th of this month, we will feature a series of "speaker spotlights" in the coming days to introduce the presenters and share a bit about their topics. We are pleased to bring you this one-day conference with this year's theme being, "I can relate to that."

Tracy Burrows, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle in Australia. She is an Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietitian. She is highly passionate about all things food, food behaviours, and communicating high quality, evidence-based information about diet and nutrition. Tracy has expertise in the areas of the assessment and validation of dietary intake, obesity management across the lifespan and food addiction. She has delivered a range of community interventions and is involved in all aspects of teaching, from undergraduate through postgraduate.

Dr. Burrow’s presentation will open the conference at 6:00am US Pacific time (9:00am US Eastern). Her talk is titled “Diet, Nutrition and Food Addiction.” The talk will provide an overview of what is currently known about food and nutrition and recent research investigating food addiction. These studies have shown overlaps between food addiction and other mental health issues, particularly depression.

View the full symposium schedule, given in our previous announcement. The symposium is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Announcing: 6th Annual Mental Health Symposium

The Virtual Ability community in Second Life invites you to join us for our sixth annual Mental Health Symposium. It will be held on Saturday, May 27, beginning at 6am Pacific (9am Eastern), and continuing through 5:30pm Pacific (8:30pm Eastern). There is no charge to attend.

The theme of this year’s Symposium is “I can relate to that.” Our international group of presenters offers a wide interpretation of the theme, based on their interests and academic backgrounds. Attendees will learn ways to promote mental health for themselves and their families, how diet affects mental health, and how first responders and medical clinicians can improve their own mental health.

The Symposium takes place in Virtual Ability’s The Sojourner Auditorium, on Virtual Ability island. The SLURL for the auditorium is: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Ability/54/170/23.

The Virtual Ability community hosts this annual Symposium to share information about mental health and mental disabilities with the general population. Within our cross-disability community we have members who deal with a variety of mental health issues. Not only is this an opportunity for our community members to learn more about topics related to mental health from experts they probably would not have a chance to meet otherwise, it is allows the general public to attend a professional conference for free.

The 2017 Mental Health Symposium schedule is as follows (SLT is US Pacific Daylight Time):
6:00am SLT
Tracy Burrows “Diet, Nutrition and Food Addiction”
7:30am SLT
Sarah Henderson and Kristin Klimley “First Responder Mental Health: The Importance of Training and Intervention”
9:00am SLT
Joel Edman “Nutritional and Holistic Approaches to Stomach and Intestinal Disorders: Practical guidelines that can also be helpful for chronic and/or complex health issues”
10:30am SLT
Join us on selection of tours of SL sites related to mental health in Second Life
Noon SLT
Ian Colman “Mental health promotion - What can you do for you and your loved ones?”
1:30pm SLT
Karen Davison “Bridging the Divide: Exploring research in nutrition, mental health and food security”
3pm SLT
Diana Anderson “Virtual Windows: Design solutions to improve the mental health of clinical staff”
4:30pm SLT
Namaara MacMoragh "Mental Health Following Brain Injury"

Please contact info@virtualability.org for additional information.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 29: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Maybe your doctor decided to change your prescription before you’d finished the previous bottleof pills. Or perhaps it turned out you were allergic to the medications, and had to stop them after taking just a few. Sometimes it’s because your Great Aunt Agatha died and in cleaning out her home you came across a cache of half-filled bottles of random capsules and tablets, many without labels.

That’s when we need to find safe and convenient ways to get rid of prescription drugs. It’s not safe for the environment to just flush them down the toilet or toss them in a landfill. If they are controlled substances, they might even fall into the hands of illegal users or pushers.

What can you do about outdated or unused medications?

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the US Department of Justice has established Saturday, April 29, as National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Participating agencies will dispose of your unwanted medications safely and free of charge between 10am and 2pm.

To locate a Take Back site near you, please consult this page. By entering your county and city, or ZIP code, you may find a nearby participating site.

For additional information, there are several fact sheets here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Another Life in Second Life

Contributing Author: Slatan Dryke

Introduction by Slatan Dryke

Corriere della Sera (Evening Courier) is an historic Italian newspaper, founded in Milan in 1876. It is the first Italian newspaper for circulation (more than 460,000 daily printed/digital copies).

The first edition was announced by newsboys in Piazza della Scala at 9pm on Sunday, March 5, 1876. The launch took place on the first Sunday of Lent (traditionally the day the Milanese newspapers did not come out). Corriere then exploited the absence of competition; however, in order to not alienate the competitors, they donated the proceeds of the first issue to charity.

Corriere has a supplement called La Lettura (The Reading). La Lettura is the weekly insert of Corriere della Sera dedicated to the world of culture, art, books and music. Originally, La Lettura was an illustrated magazine published from 1901 to 1946. The magazine returned in 2011, as a supplement attached to the edition of the Sunday newspaper.

Virtual Ability was contacted by a journalist who was interested to know more about the group’s activities in Second Life. I am Italian, so for an easier and quicker collaboration I was placed in charge of giving all the information requested.

The following is a translation of the article which was published on March 5, 2017. The date is just a coincidence!


Another life in Second Life

by Pietro Minto * Illustration by Mirco Tangherli

"The virtual reality site appeared to have lost its relevance, but over time it has seen a new energy, thanks to disabled and chronically ill avatars."

Second Life® - it has been said for a time - is just a memory, one of the many web phenomena that had disappeared after some seasons of glory. For those who do not remember, Second Life is an online virtual world launched in 2003 and created by Linden Research Inc.®, a corporation based in San Francisco. Inside the platform anyone can create a character (avatar) and wander through, meeting other users. Anything can happen: users can get married, exchange goods and have sex. For a couple of years Second Life really seemed the medium of the future: the media were convinced, Businessweek has dedicated a cover to the phenomenon, which incidentally was proposed as the perfect synthesis between the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game - video games where thousands of people play simultaneously the same game) and the idea of virtual reality that we all had in mind, from the eighties.

Things did not go well, though. Over time the real world forgot Second Life and moved on to the social networks and video games like World of Warcraft, virtual worlds populated by millions of users who interact online. Yet the product still exists and it is used by about 800 thousand users per month - a trifle by comparison with Facebook and Twitter, but a large enough community to contain multitudes. What few know is that in recent years Second Life has become a useful tool for many people in need.

In this virtual world, for example, there is an archipelago of five islands called Virtual Ability Island, home of a community dedicated to people who have physical or mental disabilities. A little further on we find Brigadoon Island, populated by people with Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder of the autistic realm that concerns social relations. Or again, a disco called Wheelies, which is the main spot for wheelchair users. Second Life has become a reference point for many people, who can live in an alternative world, whose social interactions are based on entirely different rules and procedures. Just like in World of Warcraft, where many people are playing the same game at the same time, but Second Life is not a fantasy environment: it is a 3D version of the real world.

According to research by Karen Stendal University of Molde, Norway, the virtual reality solves two of the main problems faced by people with chronic diseases and disabilities: accessibility and mobility. “Some adults with permanent disabilities,” wrote Stendal, “demonstrate communicative problems. This has an impact on the ability of these individuals to interact with others, start friendships and do their part as members of a community.”

Second Life, along with other online resources like forums and specialized blogs, proved to be a “viable inclusive force” for people normally isolated. The mobility potential of the virtual world it is clear: the movements are unlimited and without dangers, there are no barriers and there is no need for caregivers. To increase the inclusiveness, there is the possibility to change the avatar appearance and the surroundings; in Second Life, anyone can be what he wants and change the world how he wants. Virtual Ability is the largest community on the platform, operated by an American nonprofit organization that organizes activities and events both in the real and the digital worlds. Its inworld headquarters is a unique place with different structures and a walkway with billboards and information that users can click and read. The community boasts about a thousand from around the world.

La Lettura has been in contact with one of the Italian members, Slatan Dryke - one of the platform's strengths is the anonymity - he has been in Second Life since 2007; he joined the VAI group in 2011.

“I knew its excellent reputation,” he said, referring to VAI, “since I am a member of other support groups with the role of Mentor,” a guide figure for other members.

“Second Life in general, but Virtual Ability in my particular case,” adds Slatan, “helped me to reconnect with reality and my life, as a further support to the therapy that I followed to manage a form of PTSD.”

The inhabitants of this archipelago are a diverse group: “about one quarter of our members are not disabled, but they have a relative or friends with disabilities, or are female and male nurses, researchers and medical professionals.”

The other people of Virtual Ability may live with conditions of disability or discomfort that include paralysis, spasticity, depression or anxiety, Down's syndrome, autism and other sensory problems such as blindness and deafness.

Virtual Ability works closely with researchers and scientists to analyze the role that virtual reality can have in people with certain disorders.

Virtual Ability's world in between the real and the virtual: the corporation organizes two annual events open to the public, the Mental Health Symposium and the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference, in addition to many daily events in the virtual platform.

“Some events,” explains Slatan, “are educational, while others are oriented toward entertainment, such as themed parties, trivia competitions or tours to explore other locations in the virtual world.”

VAI is also populated by parents and guardians who tell their experiences, as in the case of Shiloh's mother, a child with Down syndrome whose avatar is a grown man, photographed while watering the garden.

Into this virtual reality, the woman says, “My son has pumpkins. He learned to count to four, sometimes goes skating, he loves to flip.” Here, Shiloh can move freely, garden (something that excites him) and learn new words.

Then there is Zip's dad, a child with cerebral palsy, he joined in Second Life after watching a video on YouTube, in which a person with the same problem found a bit of serenity in the virtual world.

(Editor’s note: The journalist mistyped in the original article. The paragraph should read as follows: “Then there is Zip’s daughter, a child with cerebral palsy, who joined Second Life after watching a video on YouTube, in which she saw that a person with the same problem had found a bit of serenity in the virtual world.”)

Now, this utopian island between bits and real pain might remind one of San Junipero, an episode of the fourth season of Black Mirror, a television series on the relationship between humans and technology. There was set up a simulated world where terminally ill individuals could move to full-time, going back to their youth and experiencing a digital endless peace.

The television reference is easy considering the case of Fran Serenade, told recently by the BackChannel site, an 89-year-old lady who in Second Life has chosen to create an avatar to dance as she once loved to do in her youth.

Between fun and therapy, this platform seems to be an important resource that will improve quality of life for many people. Another study conducted by Karen Stendal has demonstrated the potential of these worlds, focusing on the relationship between the users and their avatars, which can become a strong relationship, even if it takes time to grow.

The same also happens with other avatars, representing a part of that society (the others) with which some of these people have trouble relating.

Virtual Ability is not the only group. There are over 120 support groups in Second Life, dedicated to different types of chronic diseases or disabilities, from cancer survivors to depression, from multiple sclerosis to various forms of addiction.

Now, if someone tries to tell you that Second Life no longer exists, you can allow yourself to disagree.


For additional reading:

Part of the original article in Italian, on PressReader: https://www.pressreader.com/italy/la-lettura/20170305/282162176004718

Corriere della Sera - La Lettura on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaLetturaCorriere/photos/pcb.1329468063780176/1329460567114259/?type=3&theater


Photo Credits:Corriere della Sera

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Humpday Hint: HUD Housing Wait List Tip

Contributing Author: Roxie Marten

Most income-based apartments managed or owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development also known as "HUD", have a waiting list. It is not based solely on "first come first served," but there are also other requirements that set your place on the list.

One additional factor is health issues. If you have a legitimate reason to be in that particular location due to its proximity to your health care providers or to mass transit to get you to your doctor, let HUD know. You will need to have your doctor write a letter stating why he/she feels you need to be living in the place you are seeking. This may have a positive effect with your standing on the list.

This is not a golden ticket to a new place to live, but it may help you get moved in sooner.

Image Source: Pixabay

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March is Developmental Disabilities Month

Contributing Author: Alice Krueger


March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Here are some answers to common questions about Developmental Disabilities.

What are Developmental Disabilities?

The term “Developmental Disabilities” is a generic grouping that includes a range of chronic conditions detected before adulthood and which persist throughout life. These conditions cause a variety of cognitive and/or physical symptoms. They limit three or more of the following major life activities:
  • understanding and using language
  • self-care
  • self-direction
  • learning
  • movement
  • economic self-sufficiency
  • capacity for independent living
Such impairments often mean the individual with a Developmental Disability will need some level of sustained support or assistance.

Are Developmental Disabilities the same as Intellectual Disabilities?

Intellectual Disabilities are the most common type of Developmental Disability. Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities have an IQ below 70. They have difficulty with independent living and socialization because they have poor intellectual functioning and limited adaptive behavior. Intellectual functioning includes learning, solving problems and reasoning. Adaptive behavior includes everyday practical life and social skills.

What problems do persons with Intellectual Disabilities face?

Persons with Intellectual Disabilities have trouble learning, processing and remembering new information. This leads to academic difficulties. They have trouble with abstract thought and planning, and function better at the concrete directed level. They also have problems with social interactions; they have difficulty making friends, communicating, and making sound interpersonal judgments. Many have trouble with practical functions, affecting self-care or employment.

Intellectual Disabilities may be mild, moderate or severe, depending on the impact on the person’s daily life. A person with a mild level of Intellectual Disability may be able to learn to read at an elementary level, and may be able to function in social settings. About 85% of persons with Intellectual Disabilities have a mild level of impact.

What are some other types of Developmental Disabilities?

Cerebral palsy impacts a person’s muscular control, affecting movement, balance and posture. It is the most common motor disability identified in children. Cerebral palsy is not an Intellectual Disability.

Individuals with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in the nuclei of their cells. They have a range of limitations that may be physical or cognitive, and may cause from mild to severe impact on independent living.

Fragile X syndrome is a rare genetic condition usually found in males. It is thought to be a cause of autistic-like behaviors, ADD and other forms of Intellectual Disabilities. Physically, individuals with Fragile X syndrome are distinguished by long faces, prominent foreheads and large ears.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are caused by the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. In addition to significant learning and behavior problems, persons with FASD have characteristic facial features and low height or weight for their age.

Persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have significant communication, behavior and social difficulties; their cognitive abilities may range from severely disabled to gifted. Some people with autism spectrum disorder need support in all aspects of their daily lives; others do not.

Spina bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the spinal column fails to develop normally during pregnancy. The impact of spina bifida depends on both the position of the defect and its severity.

What are IDDs?

IDD is the abbreviation of “Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.” Since many Developmental Disabilities involve multiple body parts and intellectual functioning, the use of the combined term IDD can be appropriate.

However it is important to note that definitions of what constitutes an IDD vary anong different service providers and authorizing legislation.

How common are Developmental Disabilities?

The prevalence of Developmental Disabilities worldwide is unknown. The National Association of Councils of Developmental Disabilities estimates that over five million people have Developmental Disabilities in the US.

The United Nations Development Program estimates that the incidence of Intellectual Disabilities worldwide is between 1-3%. They also indicate that Intellectual Disability is more common in persons living in low-income countries.

What causes Developmental Disabilities?

The different types of Developmental Disabilities have distinct causes, all related to disruptions of normal brain development. For some forms, for example Fragile X Syndrome and Down Syndrome, the cause is known to be genetic. With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the problem occurred during pregnancy. For other types, such as cerebral palsy, the brain damage occurred near or during birth.

Other causes of Developmental Disabilities are diseases of the pregnant mother (such as infection with Zika virus), exposure of the pregnant mother to environmental toxins (such as PCBs), early childhood illness or injury (including abuse), and poverty and cultural deprivation.

In many cases, the cause of a Developmental Disability is unknown. This is true for two-thirds of children with Intellectual Disabilities.

How are Developmental Disabilities diagnosed?

Some Developmental Disabilities can be diagnosed in utero or by physical examination at birth. The existence of a Developmental Disability in other children is suspected when childhood developmental stages, such as sitting up, walking and talking, are missed. This is followed by physical examinations and genetic tests seeking causes for the developmental delays.

What are dual diagnoses?

Many individuals with a Developmental Disability also have other physical and/or mental health issues. Due to these associated health issues, life expectancy for a person with a Developmental Disability is generally about 20 years below the national average.

People with communication difficulties might have problems explaining their health needs. Some persons with Intellectual Disabilities may need assistance recognizing the need for and obtaining health care. This can result in obesity, poor dental health, and impaired vision or hearing. Similarly, mental health issues are more common in people with Developmental Disabilities than in the general population, and are more difficult to treat.

Some specific developmental conditions result in physical health issues; for example, persons with Down syndrome often have poor cardiac function. Some persons with Developmental Disabilities display challenging behaviors such as aggression, self-injury, or stereotyped behaviors that can result in additional diagnoses.

Where can I find out more about Developmental Disabilities?

A display on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island in Second Life provides additional detailed information about Developmental Disabilities. You can visit the display here:http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/187/181/24


Many support organizations exist at national and local levels. Consult the ones closest to you. Here are a few links to national organizations that may prove helpful:

US
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: https://aaidd.org/
The ARC: http://www.thearc.org/
Easter Seals: http://www.easterseals.com/
Goodwill Industries: http://www.goodwill.org/
National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities: http://nacdd.org/
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/index.html
National Association for the Dually Diagnosed: http://thenadd.org/
University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities: http://www.aucd.org/

UK
Contact a Family: http://www.cafamily.org.uk/
Together Trust: https://www.togethertrust.org.uk/
Clear Helper (list of organizations in England): http://www.clearhelper.org/resources/cwa/sites/orgs/id/England/

Australia
Inclusion Australia: http://ncid.org.au/
Australia Federation of SPELD Associations: http://auspeld.org.au/
Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders: http://www.autismadvisoryboard.org.au/

Canada
Canadian Association for Community Living: http://www.cacl.ca/about-us/definitions-terminology

International
Special Olympics: http://www.specialolympics.org/

Image Credits:
Boy with Down Syndrome: Boy with Down Syndrom, Wikimedia Commons
Healthinfo Island Display: iSkye Silverweb

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Healthinfo Island: Virtual Health Awareness Displays

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Not only does Virtual Ability have a vibrant, active community in Second Life® (SL), there is a sim that Virtual Ability, Inc.® owns, called Healthinfo Island. The displays are frequently updated, thanks to the efforts of community member Mook Wheeler, with themed interesting facts and information on different awareness topics.

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/196/156/23


Other exhibits and displays on Healthinfo Island during March:


Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/187/181/24

Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/172/154/22

Poison Prevention Week
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/111/81/24

Brain Injury Awareness Month
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/99/37/26

World TB Day
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/51/27/28

Burn Awareness (remaining from February)
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/25/24/30

What do you call people with disabilities? (remaining from February)
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/21/62/32

In order to visit these displays, if you don't already have a Second Life account, you will need to download and install software on your computer. To get started, sign up for Second Life. If you have questions or need more information, you can contact Virtual Ability, Inc.

Images Credit: iSkye Silverweb



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron


March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and March 5-11 this year is MS Awareness Week. Here are some answers to common questions about Multiple Sclerosis.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system is the brain and spinal cord, but does not include the nerves that run throughout the body. Nerve cells in the CNS have fibers called axons that are coated with a fatty insulation known as myelin. The myelin insulation allows nerve messages to travel properly along the axons.

What is an Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immunity defense system mistakes the body’s own tissues for “enemies” and destroys them. In Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system randomly attacks the myelin coating of nerve cells in the CNS. Damage to myelin leads to scars in the tissue of the brain and spinal cord. These scars or lesions disrupt transmission of nerve messages. Distorted nerve messages lead to a variety of symptoms in the body and mind.

It is these scars in nervous tissue that the disease is named for. There are numerous (multiple) scars (scleroses) seen on MRI scans when the disease has been active.

Is Multiple Sclerosis contagious or fatal?
It is important to note that MS is not fatal. It is also not contagious. Symptoms of MS can be managed medically. However, MS is a chronic progressive neurological disease for which there is no known cause or cure. It is a highly individualized disabling condition, due to the randomness of the scarring on nerves in the CNS.

What does it mean that MS is chronic and progressive?
Chronic progressive diseases persist throughout the person’s lifetime, and tend to cause more problems over time. MS follows different courses of progression in different people. Most people who are first diagnosed with MS have the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. For them, the progression is uneven. After an initial set of symptoms appear, leading to the diagnosis, the symptoms may go away entirely or may continue to be present at some level. The disappearance of the symptoms is the remission phase of MS. People with MS who are in remission may not appear to be disabled.

When the same or different symptoms reappear at a later date, that is the relapse phase of the disease. The reappearance of symptoms is also called a flare or exacerbation. It is impossible to predict when exacerbations will occur.

Over time, almost all persons with MS experience an increase in the number and/or severity of symptoms. This means the disease is progressing. In some people the progression begins or becomes steady, without the acute relapses and remission phases.

You can view an llustration at http://mymsaa.org/ms-information/overview/types/ showing the different types of Multiple Sclerosis.

How common is Multiple Sclerosis? Who gets it?
It is estimated that about 2.5 million people have MS around the globe. The prevalence of MS is approximately 90 in every 100,000 people in a population. In the US, about 400,000 people have been diagnosed with MS. Most are between the ages of 10 and 80.

Multiple Sclerosis can affect people of any age, gender or ethnicity. However, some people are at a higher risk of getting MS. Women are three times as likely to get MS as are men. Caucasians are more likely to get MS than Hispanics or blacks, and MS is rare in Asians. Persons who have a close relative with MS have an increased risk of also having MS.

The incidence of MS increases the farther north you go from the equator. In the United States, northern states (above the 37th parallel) have twice as many cases of MS as southern states. Nobody really knows why this occurs, but it may be related to lower amounts of sunlight at higher latitudes.

What causes MS?
The cause of Multiple Sclerosis remains unknown, although scientists who study the disease believe it may result from a combination of several factors. In addition to an abnormal immunological reaction, viruses or other infectious agents, inadequate vitamin D, environmental factors or genetic defects may lead to the development of MS in a susceptible person.

Is there a cure for MS? Are there treatments?
Unfortunately, since it is not known exactly what causes MS at the present time, there is no cure. However, there are two kinds of treatments.

Disease-modifying drugs, mainly available as injections, slow the progression of MS by altering the functioning of the immune system. They typically control the inflammation characteristic of the early stages of relapsing-remitting MS, and are not thought to be as effective when the disease becomes more neurodegenerative. Side effects of disease-modifying medications can be significant. While they can not cure MS, disease-modifying drugs do lower the frequency and severity of relapses and slow the development of new brain lesions in many patients.

Symptomatic treatment is available for individual problems such as spasticity, tremors, urinary incontinence, and gait abnormalities. During a relapse, steroids or other treatments are used to deal with the symptoms. Each symptomatic treatment brings additional side effects that must be taken into account in creating a treatment plan.

What is it like to have MS?
Multiple Sclerosis destroys nerve cells randomly in the brain and spinal cord. This results in highly individualized and unpredictable symptoms in the body, senses and mental capacity.

What kind of symptoms can MS cause? One of the most common physical symptoms is fatigue. A person with MS may have spasticity, tremors, muscle weakness, or impaired coordination and balance. Other physical symptoms are bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunctions.

Sensory input is often altered with MS. A person with MS may feel numbness in various body parts, or have burning, itching, or painful sensations. Cognitive symptoms can include memory loss, inability to make decisions, depression, confusion, or difficulty finding a desired word in speech or writing.

Symptoms also can appear and disappear randomly. A person with MS may not know from day to day what capabilities he or she will have, and what difficulties he or she will need to face. The unpredictability of the disease is one of its most troubling symptoms.

How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is not straightforward. In fact, in addition to showing that there are scars (lesions) in the central nervous system that occurred at different times, a variety of other diseases and disorders that can mimic the symptoms of MS must be ruled out before the diagnosis is confirmed. Neurologists use the detailed patient history and the results of tests such as MRIs, spinal taps and evoked potential exams in providing evidence for the diagnosis.

With no single test or combination of tests that always results in a clear diagnosis, patients are often left in limbo. It is important for persons with symptoms that might indicate MS to consult neurologists who are very familiar with MS, and to persist in seeking a correct diagnosis.

Is MS the same as MD?
No. MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis; MD is an abbreviation for Muscular Dystrophy. Although the symptoms of MS can be similar to those of MD, the diseases are completely different.

Muscular Dystrophy is a set of genetic diseases that affect muscles, not nerves. It is a rare disease, affecting mostly males. Although the causes of the various types of MD are known, there is still not a cure, although there are symptomatic treatments.

Where can I find out more about Multiple Sclerosis?
A display on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island in Second Life provides additional detailed information about Multiple Sclerosis. You can visit the display here:
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/196/156/23


Many support organizations exist at national and local levels. Consult the ones closest to you. Here are a few links to national organizations that may prove helpful:

US
National MS Society: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America: http://mymsaa.org/
Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: https://msfocus.org/

UK
MS Trust: https://www.mstrust.org.uk/
MS Society: https://www.mssociety.org.uk/

Australia
MS Australia: https://www.msaustralia.org.au/

Canada
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada: https://mssociety.ca/

International
MS International Federation: https://www.msif.org/

For a listing of other national organizations supporting persons with MS: http://multiple-sclerosis-research.blogspot.com/2012/12/ms-socieities.html

Monday, March 6, 2017

The "Why Not?" Attitude

Contributing Author: Slatan Dryke

During our lives, we must deal with some challenges. They may be physical or mental disabilities. In others, they are simply a lack of trust in our energy and perspective. To take up challenges can be good for personal improvement. You can do it to break down some barriers created by wrong rules and ignorance.

So why do we accept a challenge? Doing this is a means to generate the energy and the impulse to create a custom-made life. Everyone should discover or invent an "extraordinary obsession” that motivates us to create better lives for ourselves. It does not matter how complex it can be; for many people, it can be just to make some physical progress or have a positive thought.

We must find a challenge for the following reasons:

  1. Never wait for happiness, build it!
  2. Never wait for the right opportunity, cause it!
  3. Learn to do something for yourself to beautify your life, then it will be easier to do the same with others’ lives.

For many the fear of failure is stronger than the wish for success. Self-confidence becomes an attitude to develop: a small victory leads to a bigger one. Confidence is an essential outlook for good health and better quality of life.

Optimism comes from a Latin word, "optimum", that means the greater good, and in some people, it is not just an inclination but also a philosophy focused to find the better aspects, the promising opportunities in their lives.

We should learn how to develop a positive self-talk, even if it is only to think, "I cannot change my situation." Every one of us holds a continuous inner dialogue. With time, what we say to ourselves creates a strong foundation for our subconscious and it feeds into our deepest thoughts and feelings. "I am capable, I like myself, I am valiant." The subconscious reacts positively and we become better able to face the daily challenges and the future goals we want to reach.

An optimistic statement is a declaration full of emotional intensity, able to inspire the changes we want and seek. There are so many examples of people who have flipped things from a personal benefit to a global radical change: "Why not, I can do it" or "I did a lot, I cannot stop now."

So, whatever it is that you wish, whatever the challenge you set yourself to accomplish, once you have achieved it, this will be a renaissance. Every person has the desire for some renewal, small or big, while being able to have the right perception on what we are and which are our best qualities, yet also ready to accept our limitations.

You CAN change the circumstances. You CAN deal with a challenge, when you have a "why not?" attitude.

View this YouTube clip for an inspiring story about Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOGXvBAmTsY.

Images from the public domain: Alan Turing, Amelia Earhart, Artemisia Gentileschi, Edward Jenner, Emmeline Pankhurst.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Battling Fatigue

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Fatigue feels like a lower than normal amount of energy, as if your personal batteries are almost run down. There are many ways to combat this feeling of lethargy. Three changes to your daily routine will help you avoid fatigue.

  1. Avoid fast-digesting carbohydrates.
    Carbohydrates in food enter your cells as sugar, but some are faster to digest than others. Candy’s pure sugar almost immediately enters the bloodstream. This gives you a quick energy boost, but once your cells have stored away the blast of sugar, your energy level crashes. This often leaves you feeling tired or sleepy.

    Other foods, such as fibrous vegetables, take longer to break down into sugar in your digestive tract. The slow release of energy doesn’t cause the up-and-down feeling of energy from a fast-digesting carbohydrate.

    In addition to fatigue, high levels of blood sugar can lead to significant health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

    So find low-carb versions of your favorite high-carb dishes (try mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, for instance) and add more fiber to your meals (eat more legumes).
  2. Get enough sleep.
    Inadequate sleep, whether caused by insomnia, a disorder like sleep apnea, or simply not allowing adequate time in bed, not only makes you feel tired, but can lead to other health problems. Lack of sleep has been linked with high blood pressure, immune disorders, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke.

    If the cause of your sleep deficit is a medical disorder, such as restless legs or snoring, check with your physician. If you just aren’t getting to bed soon enough, write your earlier planned bedtime in your planner. Establish a pre-sleep routine to wind down. Learn the new habit of getting enough shut eye. If you are thinking of using prescription or non-prescription sleep aids, carefully study the potential side effects.
  3. Exercise regularly.
    Exercise, even brisk walking, will help improve your health overall. You don’t need to hit the gym to use a treadmill or weight machines to reduce your risk of heart disease, increase your lifespan and strengthen your bones. Daily exercise also improves your mood, improves sleep quality, and fights fatigue.

Make these three changes in your lifestyle — better diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise — and you will soon feel peppier and less fatigued.

Images Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Humpday Hint: Tipzzzzz for Better Sleep

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Most adults do not get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of high quality sleep each night. If you are sleeping more or less than the recommended amount, you are probably not functioning at full capacity. Here are some tips to help you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.

  • Be physically active for 30 minutes most days. Try to schedule your exercise sessions at least 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Limit caffeine in the morning and avoid it after noon. There are similar stimulants in nicotine and decongestants, so try to cut down.
  • Don’t nap within 6-8 hours of bedtime, and limit your nap to 30 minutes.
  • Eat dinner at the same time each day, and at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Don’t sleep in or stay up late on weekends.

Sleep problems are treatable. If these tips do not improve your sleep, please talk with your healthcare provider.

Image Source: Pixabay

Monday, February 20, 2017

30 Useful Life Hacks: Volume 1

Compiled by: The Tortoise

1 Bounce batteries to see if they are good or bad. Drop them on a table from about 4 inches -- if they give one low flat bounce and fall right over, they're good. If they bounce around more than that, or bounce high, they're dead or on their way out.

2 If you want to render something you wrote effectively illegible, don't cross it out with lines. Instead, write random letters and words over your original writing.

3 To make a simple and effective cookbook holder, hook a trousers hanger over the kitchen cupboard door knob above your work surface, slip your open recipe book into its two hanger clips and voilĂ  -- a vertical recipe book display in front of your nose!

4 To chill a warm beer or bottled drink very quickly, wrap a wet paper towel around the bottle and put it in the freezer for 3 minutes.

5 Serving condiments at a BBQ? Use a muffin tin to serve 6 or more condiments at a go (depending on the size of your muffin tin), and save on the dishes. More ideas here!

6 Keep wrapping paper neat by cutting a toilet paper cardboard roll lengthwise on one side, then slipping it over the wrapping paper roll like a cuff.

7 Make ice cubes out of the same liquid they are going to be used in, such as tea, coffee, wine, etc. This will prevent your drinks from being watered down.

8 If you use your phone for a bedside alarm, you can increase its volume by putting the phone inside a cup or glass to amplify the sound.

9 To stop a pot from boiling over, place a wooden spoon across the pot's top.

10 To find small items such as earrings, cover the end of a vacuum cleaner with an old stocking and secure with a rubber band. Now the vacuum can't swallow the items.

11 Try adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water when boiling an egg. It helps to get the shell off without fuss.

12 To cover dings on wooden furniture, rub a (shelled!) walnut on the scuff marks.

13 Another scratched furniture remedy: rub scratches with an equal amount of olive oil to vinegar, leave on for a minute and wipe off.

14 Have your car headlights gone hazy? Use toothpaste to scrub the plastic covers -- its mild abrasiveness will help make the covers clear again.

15 Use plastic bread tabs to hold your spot on a roll of tape.

16 When heating leftover food in the microwave, leave a space in the middle of the plate of food if possible. It will reheat more evenly.

17 If your car starts to overheat, turn on the heater. Cars get heat from their engines, so this helps pull the heat away. Turning on the heater will also open up a larger reservoir of water, allowing heat to dissipate into the car interior.

18 If you have a migraine, putting your hands in ice water and flexing them several times can often get rid of the migraine.

19 If you have to re-use cooking oil, cook a small piece of ginger in it first. This will remove previously instilled flavours and odours from the oil.

20 Eat an orange before working out. It will help prevent your muscles from getting sore.

21 You can use old tube-shaped containers that held stacked potato crisps to store dry spaghetti safely. Want more ideas? Look here!

22 When looking for something you've lost, it helps to scan right to left with your eyes. You'll pick up more because your brain isn't used to reading that way. Reverse this if you normally read text that goes from right to left.

23 If you need to remember something, speak it out loud. You're more likely to remember it than if you just read it silently.

24 If you use hot glue guns, daub a bit of hot glue onto the end of the glue stick and attach another glue stick to it. That way you'll have a long glue stick that won't run out at awkward moments.

25 When backing up a trailer, steer with the bottom of the steering wheel. The direction you turn the wheel is the direction the trailer will move.

26 Avoid clutter with this rule: If you bring one thing in, throw two things out.

27 Hard to open pistachio nut shells can be popped open easily by sticking a used shell in the crack and turning it like a key.

28 Get rid of motion sickness by massaging your wrist at the base of your thumb.

29 Chalk will remove grease stains on clothes. Rub the stain with chalk, then toss the item into the wash as usual.

30 Stuffing a few glow sticks into balloons before blowing them up will give you fabulous glowing coloured balloon lanterns for an evening party.

Images Source: Pixabay