Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TO READ: Joyous Holidays!
To those of you kind readers and writers who celebrate Christmas, I send greetings for a merry one.

To all, I wish a new year filled with ever-better health and new satisfactions.

Writing will be an important part of maintaining my mental health in the new year; I hope it will assist you as well.

Here's to 2008!
TO WRITE: Caring, creating, believing, living. . .
I recently came across the following quote from author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel:

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

Play with this. . .
What can I add to this stunning statement? I suggest you use it as your writing prompt in one of three ways: Write in response to the quote; write a letter to the author of the quote; write from one word/phrase/sentence that you choose from the quote.

Personally, I think I'll write on the subject of indifference itself, and where I notice it in my life and particularly in my depression. Writing about this quote in any way should help break down the indifference that may stifle us at times.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

TO WRITE: The Rewards of Using Your Brain
An article in today's New York Times describes how people who use their minds frequently in intellectual and social ways have much lower rates of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The idea is that by challenging our brains we build up "cognitive reserve" -- extra nerve cells and the connections between them. Then as we age and the likelihood of brain pathology increases, these extra neurons can compensate, leaving us more able to recall names and dates and think well in general. (Remember, those of us with mood disorders already have some structural changes going on in our brains, so this might be extra important for us.)

There are many activities believed to be useful in building cognitive reserve. Doing crosswords and Sudoku puzzles, learning a new language, working with computers, attending plays and concerts, working and traveling have all been identified as activities of older people who have clear thinking. Even knitting can be helpful, it's thought -- as long as you continue to challenge yourself with new techniques and patterns rather than repeating the same old things all the time. You need to introduce new mental challenges in order to reap the benefits.

Play with this. . .
What is the most rewarding thing you do with your brain? If you're taking a class or going to the museum with friends or playing challenging board games, terrific. If you're not, well. . . maybe you should increase the amount of writing you do each week?

For now, describe in writing the most rewarding things you've done with your brain in the past, and what you're doing now. Then consider any activities you might want to explore, including what writing projects you might want to work on. Is now the time to write the first scenes of that screenplay you've been mulling over? What about pulling out that notebook of poems and adding to it? As they say, this is another case of "use it or lose it."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

TO WRITE: Your Memory
The New York Times ran a story this morning about chimpanzees who have better short-term memories than humans. Wow. We arrogant humans like to think we're better than all the rest in the thinking department. But when chimps and humans played a computer game in which numbers in randomly placed squares were flashed at them, and they were asked to indicate the squares in numeric sequence, the chimps bested us when the numbers were flashed very quickly. Their short-term memories were stronger.

Memory is being studied a lot lately, perhaps because so many baby-boomers are reaching an age when they begin noticing problems finding words and names. But we with mood disorders know a lot about memory problems already. If the depression doesn't cause difficulties in recall, it seems to be the medicines we take or, in some cases, the ECT we've had.

Play with this. . .
Describe your own memory function. Do you have any problems? Have they changed since you were younger, or perhaps since you've been ill or had certain treatments? Do you have any stories or examples? And how is the memory of those you know -- has this affected your relationship with aging parents, for example? Try to write continuously for 20 minutes; if you feel you've "finished" before that time is up, go ahead and descibe one of your own very vivid memories.