WWB INSIGHT: The Many Faces of Suicide and the Elephant in the Room We Don’t Want to Miss…

Jun 11, 2018 by

WWBINSIGHT2018LC

 

                  “The universe offers you three things that money cannot buy:  
                                                              joy, love, and life.” 

                                                          ~Matshona Dhiliway

 

This was a very tough week for our culture. Two high-profile celebrated people committed suicide within days of each other. If you somehow missed the news this past week, both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain hung themselves to death. This sad news once again shocked so many of us, because from the outside looking in we perceived these individuals to be successful, wealthy and having it all. No matter how many times we are told money and success can’t buy you happiness, we still think “Why would they want to kill themselves, they had everything”. We also can’t imagine how they could leave their loved ones behind. The obvious triggers connected with suicide, are drugs, alcoholism and untreated clinical depression.  Having worked in the mental health field earlier in my career, I had a very close up look at people who somehow survived their own suicide attempts. Contrary to the popular idea we hear about mentally ill people being a danger to society, they are far more likely to harm themselves and in fact do.

My first experience with suicide was my father who was not living with me at the time. I was very young when he jumped off a commuter ferry-boat while it was cruising at full speed. Fortunately he survived but he never escaped his mental anguish. I only found out about it because a very insensitive school teacher said to me at 6 years old “I read in the newspaper the unfortunate story about your father, and so sorry for his accident.” I ran home confused and frightened to ask my mother what my teacher meant. My poor Mom had to find a way to explain suicide and the complexity of mental illness to a six-year-old child.”

What I successfully took away was that he was sick and very sad. I later came to understand from my father himself that he was not committing suicide but rather running from his demons in his head. They were terrorizing his mind and he just wanted them to stop. This is the horrible effects of mental illness. Before actual suicide attempts, many people suffering will self medicate with alcohol and drugs to drown out the disruptive symptoms of their mental illness. My father never attempted suicide again but he suffered most of his life in terrible agony from his untreated mental illness. Most of his family would not or could not recognize he was sick because mental illness was seen as weakness rather than a health condition that could be treated and managed. Escaping terror is just one face of suicide…

The next encounter I had with suicide was much later in my college years. Now a psychology major for the obvious reasons, I was doing my internship at a psychiatric center on the adolescent unit of a state hospital. I was working the night shift and a young 13-year-old girl was admitted to the unit after an attempted suicide. She had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the fire escape of her apartment. After being hospitalized and healing from her physical injuries the doctors established she was in a deep depression. She was hospitalized to protect her from herself. Of course you ask, how can a 13-year-old be in a deep depression? My simple answer is life can be cruel and when experienced alone and isolated it can be very scary. Why do you think gangs are so appealing to young teens?  It’s an alternative to feeling alone and scared. Many young teens on this psychiatric unit had serious diagnosis’  like Schizophrenia, Borderline Disorder, Manic Depression ( now called Bi-Polar Depression) and even Autism. There were also violent teens with behavioral problems on the same unit.

The young white girl I was assigned to was different. She didn’t have a typical clinical diagnosis but rather a real case of depression brought on by life’s cruel unbearable experiences. Why was she depressed so much that she chose to kill herself at 13? I read her chart before meeting with her in a padded room where I found her sitting on the floor, head hung down in her lap distraught and silent. Her psychiatric medical chart told me the following. Her mother was an addict and had a baby. The mother left and abandoned the baby infant at the apartment for hours and days at a time with this 13-year-old girl. The baby had to be fed, so the 13-year-old decided to breast feed her younger sister when she could. She had been keeping this whole experience a secret to the outside world while also trying to protect her new baby sister from her mother. The girl’s mother would come home strung out and angry and physically abused the 13-year-old girl.

The case notes were just unfathomable and yet  many social workers will tell you they see worse than this on a daily basis. The young girl suddenly thrust into motherhood and who had never been really mothered herself was living like this for the first two years of her baby sister’s life. The stress, the pressure and lack of any support system began to take its toll.  She was becoming depressed, despondent and hopeless. She could not see a way out of this life she was living with her addict Mom. She had become a Mom to her baby sister and when her mother came home drunk and hurt the baby, the young girl felt responsible for her baby sister and felt she had failed. And remember, not only was the baby neglected but this barely teen girl had been neglected herself for many years prior to the baby sister being born. Suicide did not suddenly just happen. She was living in a pressure cooker.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

~ Kahil Gibran

This 13-year-old child was protecting the baby from her Mother and she wasn’t always successful. She felt tremendous guilt for not being there for her baby sister when she had to show up for school. I don’t have to go on with the dark details for you to understand. This girl had every reason to be depressed. What she didn’t have was a way out of the personal hell she was living in. She wanted to escape and ending her life seemed like the only way. Hopelessness and exhaustion is another face of suicide.

After reading her chart, I walked into that padded room with this 13-year-old who at the time was just 6 years younger than myself. I decided there were no words I could offer. I told shared my name and I sat quietly next to her. She asked if she could leave and I told her I wasn’t able to do that for her right now. I said gently ” I understand why you want to leave but what if we just sat together for a while.” I wasn’t trained to say this, I just understood she was in pain and intuitively knew she needed to feel her pain safely. So I put my hand on her shoulder, and when I did, she broke down and began to sob uncontrollably  in my arms. She cried a river for quite a long time. She felt my presence free of judgement, free of needing her to say anything. I just let her cry and hold on to me while she did. I will never forget this experience for my entire life. What’s haunting is I understood this wounded soul on so many levels. While I didn’t have that same horrific experiences as her, I understood what it was like to hold on to too much at a young age and to feel very alone. I too wanted a safe place to lay down my pain, and I knew exactly what she needed. We give what we need and sometimes heal a little ourselves in the process.

As I went on to work in the mental health field, I later was a Supervisor for a mental health agency. I was assigned to ‘homes’ where mentally ill people lived while they were transitioning from the hospital to the real world. The agency provided apartments and professional support systems while these individuals worked at putting their life back together. We called them clients not patients. I felt empowered in this job because I was helping people get well. Something I was never able to do for my Dad.

Our clients were on medications for their conditions and they had to learn to be responsible for taking their meds, and to generally learn to take care of themselves again. One of the adults I monitored had her Master’s Degree in Fine Arts. She was intelligent and an amazingly talented artist but had attempted to kill herself with a razor on more than one occasion. When I made visits, it was so hard to see this bright women with all this potential in such a dark state. She was diagnosed with Major Depression which is a very serious illness that can end in suicide more often than not. Many authors have written memoirs about their suffering of clinical major depression and describe how it completely debilitated their every day functioning. They talked about feeling the depression physically, emotionally and mentally. They literally can’t get out of bed. It’s dark, very dark. Many of us have experienced depression on some level usually related to a life event like divorce or losing a loved one to death. Depression isn’t totally bad. We are human beings and we need to grieve. But a clinical depression can overtake you in a gripping way and paralyze your life.

When you think about this heavy dark existence it is not hard to understand why a person would want to get out and escape this sentence called life. Keep in mind my client got herself through Grad school and yet she tried to kill herself many times. She had the scars to show it and here she was bravely trying to give life one more chance and learn to live with her illness. She may never be completely symptom free but she could survive this condition with medication and a very good support system. She attempted suicide once again while I was working there. Somehow I was spared from finding her, she had waited until she was approved to visit her family. I don’t know if she is alive today, I can only hope she kept up the good fight. Despair is another face of suicide.

        ” I want to be seen, to be understood deeply
         and to be not so very lonely ~Jodie Foster

Today we are learning a little more about Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. They are another face of suicide that seems to be fueled by our ‘driven to success’ culture. The last couple of years has been riddled with many talented people who have chosen to end their lives. I can list them all but you remember. Robin Williams was the most shocking because this was the man who made us laugh and who seemed to possess great empathy for people suffering. Robin gave to us what he so desperately needed himself. Even his choice of acting roles seemed to tell us what he was needing and struggling with.

I can’t speak authoritatively to why Kate or Anthony took their lives. I am learning what you are learning about them. Kate has been reported to be struggling with depression for over five years. In one article I read her sister said she had bipolar disorder which includes terrible plunges into deep depression much like a person who suffers from Major Depression. The difference is the depression is accompanied by episodes of mania as well. She was also very career driven. Both were having difficulty with the loneliness that came with their seemingly overnight success. Futility is another face of suicide.

Anthony Bourdain had a complicated history with drugs and seemed at least on television to be drinking fairly regularly. He was also very driven once he made up his mind to be successful. Success and money are often substitutes for love. It is possible their parents didn’t give them the love they needed but it is also equally possible they just never learned how to love themselves and forgive themselves for not being perfect. If our sense of self is constructed of very narrow possibilities, how are we to live in this world whole and together?  When we don’t love ourselves, we are either good or bad, weak or strong, successful or failed, loving or selfish. The truth is we are all those things at any given moment in our lives and sometimes all at once. We are human, multi-dimensional and not perfect. We can be a mix of all these things and still be loved. We don’t hold ourselves to some impossible standard of perfection because we know once we are off that pedestal it is a very long way down. Many people with deep self-esteem issues lack self-love and compassion and are very hard on themselves. To compound this affliction, they are often very alone. Their work or passion keeps them from having a real loving relationship with others. They don’t have someone who might tell them on a bad day “You are loved, and even if you have failed or fall off the wagon you are still loved.” This unconditional love is what we all need to survive in this world.

Our culture today is addicted to perfect image and appearances. We crave and value the superficial trappings of Hollywood fame even though we see countless human beings suffer in their ‘roles’ as celebrities or millionaires. It’s not that success and money are bad, it’s what we give up to get them and what we believe we will receive if we acquire them. “No matter where you go, there you are”, is very deep wisdom because having this understanding will determine your happiness. Your sense of self needs to be solidly intact before you have success, money and celebrity. Marilyn Monroe is your classic tragic story of someone who desperately needed to be loved and was superficially loved for all the wrong reasons. Our culture loved her for her image which she constructed for us, but this image was not truly her. How terribly lonely and tragic she was. Today’s selfie world on social media has millions of more people trying to do the same thing. How sad is that?

 

“Intimacy is being seen and known
for the person you really are.” ~ Amy Bloom

 

The elephant in the room is unconditional love. It’s what we all need to survive in this world. Love is right up there with water and oxygen. We especially need to be able to recognize how important love is for a healthy civilized society. Sociologist are already talking about the break downs in our society. Family systems and village communities are eroding and we are becoming more isolated. Technology has ultimately created a less intimate world for we humans to live in, and emotional intimacy is where love lives and thrives.

Love is not a lofty romantic state of being that comes and goes but rather a tenderness and vital life source we all need to live healthy. The danger of not recognizing this life-sustaining need is we can die of self-loathing. Self loathing can either drive you to hurt yourself or drive you to project your pain on to others. It is unforgiving and destructive. ‘Love is the answer’ is not just a platitude or a quote from very wise prophets, it is the elephant in the room we keep ignoring. We should teach love and compassion, give it, share it and experience it through the intimate connection we have with ourselves and each other. As the author Richard Bach once wisely said “The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness. It is intimacy.” We first have to have intimacy with ourselves so we can begin to let others in to love us. The alternative is an empty place inside that can never be filled, and where enough will never be enough.

 

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World Wise Beauty Presents the Winter 2017 ‘Book Wise’ Pick and it Promises to Keep You Warm From the Inside…Out

Feb 18, 2017 by

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BOOK WISE Winter Pick: The Little Book of Hygge –The Danish Way to Live Well

 

CATEGORY: Wellness/Non-Fiction

 

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Denmark

 

AUTHOR: Meik Wiking

 

OF NOTE: Book was a best-seller in the UK and just released in America in January,

 

 

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It is with great pleasure to select the ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ as the WWB ‘Book Wise’ Winter Pick! The timing couldn’t be better, as we all can use more ‘hygge’ in the winter. I came across the word Hygge back in June 2016 when interviewing Dr. Tim Lomas, who launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words that describe positive traits, feelings, experiences, and states of being that had no direct counterparts in English.

Check out his project via the link above and the WWB Q&A with Dr. Lomas here. The author of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ also spends time on special words and their meaning and even shares a Hygge dictionary in the book.

So for those who are wondering what the heck is Hygge? I will share a few lines from the the author’s introduction of the book….

“Hooga? Hhyoogah? Heurgh? It is not important how you choose to pronounce or even spell ‘hygge’. To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time ‘Winnie the Pooh’–when asked how to spell a certain emotion “You don’t spell it–you feel it.” ~Meik Wiking

 

 

Let’s indulge you anyway with a quick definition and you’ll be all caught up with our new favorite word.

 

 

DANISH: Hygge (n) : a deep sense of of place, warmth, friendship and contentment

 

On a personal note, a very dear friend from the UK sent me this book for Christmas and I was tickled. It was the best Christmas gift ever, especially because I know she is also a lover of all things Hygge, and we share simpatico (another great word!) in this area. I should be careful about using the word ‘things’, as the author will tell you, Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience rather than things. Yet a beautiful little teapot sure does contribute to the hygge in a room!

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am a lover of wellness wisdom and books. Anytime I can glean wisdom or ideas from other cultures particularly in the wellness arena, I am eager to share them with you.  The Little Book of Hygge was written by none other than the CEO of Happiness! Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark and has the best job in the world, wouldn’t you say? How cool is it, that there is an actual institute studying happiness! It all sounds fun, but this is a serious institute studying the causes and effects of happiness, and how to improve quality of life for its citizens. If you aren’t aware, the Danes rank number one as the happiest culture in the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t catch up to them though! As the author reminds us in his book…Hygge is for everyone. If you aren’t inspired yet to read this book, then I suggest you go on your curmudgeon way, because I am about to share the 10 important values from the HYGGE MANIFESTO included in the book…

HYGGE MANIFESTO

1- Atomosphere–Turn down the lights

2- Presence–Be here now and turn off the phones

3- Pleasure —Coffee, chocolate, cookies and cakes ( oh my!)

4- ‘We’ over me--share the tasks and the ‘airtime’!

5- Gratitude–take it in, this might be as good as it gets

6- Harmony–it’s not a competition, we already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements!

7- Comfort– Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation

8-Truce–No drama, let’s discuss politics another day

9- Togetherness–Build relationships and narratives ” Do you remember when we…”

10- Shelter–This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and securityes here

What a wonderful manifesto and all this gets baked into a very happy Danish culture. Not hard to understand why they are so happy with social values like these. I did really respect the author for including a section in the book on the dark side of Hygge. He points out the downside of the close, tribal, and social landscape found in Denmark, is they don’t welcome newcomers very well. This syncs with N0. 10 of the manifesto  ( the sense of peace and security one feels within your own tribe). We all want to belong, but I happen to believe there is nothing more cozy than making someone feel welcome and included.  Of course, as long as they practice number two, four and eight of the manifesto!

Enjoy the book my wise friends, and may your winter days be full of Hygge!

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WWB’s Weekly Wisdom Wrap: Celebrating ‘Global Wellness Day’ with Seven Simple Steps…

Jun 13, 2015 by

 

 

 

 

At World Wise Beauty we celebrate ideals for wellness culture everyday but how exciting and hopeful is it, that a non-profit organization created a special GLOBAL WELLNESS DAY to celebrate wellness world-wide. I encourage you to visit their website and learn more about this special day. To get us thinking about the importance of wellness, I thought I would share this important finding from the World Health Organization (WHO). The number one health problem in the world is surprisingly not a virus or a disease. It is actually depression, which is linked to sleeplessness, stress and obesity. WHO also reports that there are 1.6 billion overweight adults globally and that most of the leading diseases are lifestyle induced.

 

 

While we spend a lot of time focused on dis-ease here in the west, I am encouraged that integrated medicine and functional medicine disciplines are now gaining traction in our healthcare systems. Because health and wellness is so much more than treating symptoms. Wellness is a state of being. I like to think of it as a ‘harmonized state of mind, body and spirit’. The quote from WHO below, captures the meaning succinctly by using the word ‘complete’. But let’s not focus on ‘perfect’, let’s instead look to ideals as we do at World Wise Beauty. There are so many wellness ideals in the world we can model and learn from. For each of us wellness is a personal and sometimes spiritual practice. We all have an inner-guru that knows what’s best for us. This is why being ‘Comfortable in Your Own Skin’ is so important, because when we are, we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, and love ourselves inside and out.

I particularly love the GEN-W section of the Global Wellness website because it focuses on children. They state, “Childhood obesity levels are running at more than 10% in all countries except Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Ireland and the United States are the only countries in which more than 25% of children report exercising for at least an hour a day.” ( The ‘one hour a day’ criterion used here follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization.) It all starts with childhood and if we want a healthy and productive society, our children’s education and health should be our top commitment.

Below is the 7 Step Manifesto from the Global Wellness initiative. As you can see, the steps to wellness are fairly easy and almost simple. Wellness wisdom has always been available to us, it’s just about making it a ‘culture’ in our lives. If we all adopt wellness lifestyle habits at home, the ‘culture of wellness’ will spread. Here’s hoping that ‘Global Wellness Day’ inspires you, and you in turn inspire others to live a  healthy lifestyle. ‘One day’ full of ideas and inspiration can change the whole world!

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Global Wellness Day…

In order to make Wellness a lifestyle, Global Wellness Day aims to adopt the following seven simple steps. What is important is not to implement all of the steps all at once, but to incorporate at least just a few of them into your daily life on a regular basis.

The 7 Steps of the Global Wellness Day Manifesto

  • Walk for an hour
  • Drink more water
  • Do not use plastic bottles
  • Eat organic foods
  • Do a good deed
  • Have a family dinner
  • Sleep at 10:00 pm
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WWB’s CULTURE WISE: Tuning In or Tuning Out? The Wisdom to Know the Difference…

Feb 22, 2013 by

 

World Wise Beauty Trendscapes

 

I found the article below at a fun and smart site called “Foodie Underground”.  Bravo to the writer Anna Brones for saying what we all need to hear sometimes. “Good food doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be conscious”.

Technology can be “used” to make life easier allowing us more time to enjoy our real lives.  Right? GPS navigation helps me get from point A to point B without spending hours getting lost.   I can arrive on time and enjoy a wonderful meal and good conversation with real friends.  Definitely a good “tool” to use.  But when I saw the photo below I found it a little creepy.  I showed the same photo to a few friends and they said ” it’s no different than reading a paper while eating your cereal”.  I admitted it was a good point! It made me think the cultural question isn’t really about technology being good or bad but rather how do we want to use it and manage it in our lives? Are we “tuning in” by using technology or are we “tuning out”?  Maybe the answer is having the wisdom to know the difference.  What do you think ?

Truly Herself
Lauroly

IS TECHNOLOGY KILLING OUR RELATIONSHIP TO REAL FOOD?

by  on February 11, 2013 in FOOD
 

iphone noodle bowl

COLUMNIn our modern, technology filled world, we’re busy, and so we cut corners, but food shouldn’t be one of them.

Checking your iPhone during dinner is rude (well, unless you’re food porning it up… and even then, there are limits). But what’s worse? Making your iPhone your dinner partner.

That’s right food lovers, you can now buy a bowl for ramen that magically connects your iPhone so that you can surf and text and check your updates while you’re slurping down a bowl of hot noodle broth. Great! Why enjoy your meal when you could be reading your email?

In the midst of articles about farmers markets, CSAs and urban gardens, it’s discoveries like this that give me cause for concern, particularly about our future as a society. Not because hip food cities may soon be filled with ramen/iPhone bars (isn’t there an app that turns your phone into a set of chopsticks??), but because it’s an indicator of a larger cultural dilemma.

We live in a fast-paced world, where work is longer and meals are shorter. We trade the conference room for the dinner table, and soon eating is just another task in the day; something to be checked off of a to-do list.

We’re busy and so we cut corners, but food shouldn’t be one of them. Seeking out devices to replace the fact that we aren’t sitting around a table with family or friends is not only depressing, it’s a sign of the times: we live in a world where eating is an afterthought–something that we know we must do, just like we must wash the dishes and we must go to work.

But if we take the pleasure and ceremony out of eating, what are we left with? A world where good food isn’t honored and fast food is the norm. There’s a causal relationship between our high octane modern world and our path towards a public health epidemic: we don’t take time to eat, much less honor the process, gather with friends, celebrate the food in front of us and the company around us. Put an emphasis back on living life, and maybe food politics falls in place right behind.

We complain that dinner takes time and energy to prepare; but aren’t we lucky enough to be taking a moment to work with our hands and produce something that sustains us? Somewhere our relationship to food went askew – instead of flavor and sustenance we chose efficiency and in turn have created a system where taste is in fact the last criteria that is used in most food that is grown. Genetically modified tomatoes that grow into squares so that they pack better? Why not?

Food is one of the few moments in the day where we can disconnect. Remove ourselves from our digital lives and appreciate something physical and tangible. An all-senses affair. If we want to change the world of food, maybe we need to start thinking about our own interactions with it first. Are we present? Are making something or merely hitting the “warm up” button? Do we make time for food or is it an afterthought?

A good friend emailed me in reference to last week’s column where I said that cooking is our thirty minutes a day to disconnect from everything else and merely commit to the creation of a single thing:

“My face fell at the idea of spending a mere 30 minutes cooking each day. Try as I might I spend far more than 30 minutes preparing food each day. I’d better start working towards more efficiency in the kitchen. All those hours add up in a hurry. And what did you do with your life, Mrs. Bryan?”

I responded simply by saying  “If all you did in your life, Mrs. Bryan, was spend time in the kitchen making amazing things and being aware of your surroundings, I would say that that is a life well lived.”

Good food doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be conscious. If not, we risk a world in which real food disappears, and that is a world that is certainly not conducive to living well.

This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.

Photo Credit: MisoSoupDesign

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You Glow Girl! 4 Fun Ways…

Sep 21, 2012 by

 

One of my favorite wellness experts is Dr. Maoshing Ni, known to many as Dr. Mao.  One Christmas  I gave my Mom, extended family and a couple of friends a copy of his book ” Secrets of Longevity”.  On the back cover of the book it says “No Diets, No Drugs, No Fuss!”  and I just knew I had to share this book with loved ones.  It’s one of those books you can pick up anytime and peruse. I keep it in the bathroom!  As someone very distinguished once said…”a room without books is a room without soul”.

What I love about Dr. Mao’s approach is his blending of ancient wellness practices from the east with modern medicine advances from the west.  You know he had me at hello when I discovered a “words of wisdom” tab on his site http://www.askdrmao.com/.  Below is a quick tip on how to boost energy from Dr. Mao and one I really do believe boosts your energy when you practice it. Visit his full list of tips here 4 Fun Ways to Boost Energy | Yahoo! Health.

Trulyherself, Lauroly

GLOW TIP

Follow Your Bliss Energy-Boosting Habit: Take a 15-minute daily bliss break.Part of what has always made summer so fun, especially when we were children, is waking up with the feeling that the whole day is wide open to be enjoyed in any way at your leisure. The foremost cause of low energy is the stress of living in our fast-paced modern world. Coping with stress on a daily basis requires a lot of energy, which leave the average person completely drained. Guard your energy level from stress with a daily bliss break! Research tells us that joy boosts immune functions, and also increases the release of endorphins, the compounds that give you a sense of well-being in your brain and energize your spirit. While taking a whole day off from duties is not usually possible, give yourself just fifteen minutes or a half hour during the day to do something fun. Surprise yourself! Take a picnic lunch at break, walk somewhere new to you, sing your favorite song, watch a funny video, play with a furry friend, doodle a picture, or read a poem—whatever grabs you in the moment!

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