Pots, Pans, and Puppies!
/ Author: Quentin Steen
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Pots, Pans, and Puppies!

It would serve our collective mental health to keep our eyes and ears open to beauty all around us—not just the beast in front of us

By Quentin Steen, Representative

The other day, I was on an evening walk in our neighbourhood with my wife, Tracy, and Lily, our new puppy. Lily is a three-month-old, white-haired, two-pound teacup Chihuahua with tan and black markings around her head. What she lacks in size, she more than makes up for in the cuteness factor.

Our conversation centred on the new reality that we are all facing and the effects this reality is having on individuals and families in almost every realm of life. Things are not the same, and they will never be, even when life returns to normal. Whatever the new normal will look like is anyone's guess for now.

As we were brainstorming about what our new "normal" might look like as a family, our conversation was interrupted by a commotion that I wasn't expecting and usually only hear once a year—the banging of pots and pans to bring in the new year. With every clang of our pots and pans, bang on our ting-tinglers and bash of our jing-jinglers (my nod to Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), we bid the past year farewell and usher in a new year with its own set of hopes and dreams.

In similar fashion, every evening at 7 p.m., our neighbourhood comes alive in support of those on our front lines whose tireless efforts are filled with our hopes of better days to come. This is the other side of COVID-19, a demonstration of the strength and resilience of the human spirit and sense of community.

So while we wait, taking the necessary precautions to flatten the curve, it’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of negative news that infiltrates our minds and homes through the media and numerous social networking platforms. The metaphorical vaccine for this is the intentionality we place on naming all that is positive amid and—dare I say—because of the pandemic.

It would serve our collective mental health to keep our eyes and ears open to beauty all around us—not just the beast in front of us. As Dr. Daniel G. Amen, New York Times bestselling author and clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist, says in his recently published book, The end of Mental Illness,

It is critical to program your mind to look for what is right, rather than just thinking about what is wrong. Where you bring your attention determines how you feel. I start every day with the phrase, “Today is going to be a great day.” It’s a simple way to begin training your brain to look for what’s right rather then what’s wrong, and its sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. Ending each day by journaling or meditating on what went well that day sets up your dreams to be much more positive. This simple technique will take about three minutes and can decrease depression in just 30 days. Do this as a household or family. Start every day by saying to each other, “Today is going to be a great day.” End each day by asking, “What went well today?” It will completely change the relational dynamics in just a few days.

Practising gratitude is also incredibly powerful. It increases happiness, self-esteem, self-control, you live longer, and your relationships are better. Gratitude should be written at the top of every prescription your doctor gives you, and journaling gratitude doesn’t have to take more than three minutes a day.

So what are those things around you, and in you, that you can draw attention and focus to that demonstrate what is noble, right, true, and redemptive? If you need some help, I can get you started by finishing where I started: pots, pans, puppies, and a good dose of Dr. Seuss.

Quentin Steen is a certified mental health first aid instructor for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!

4 Mental Health Resources to Help You During the Pandemic

  • Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
  • WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.
  • CLAC is also continuing to make available to all members and their families our employment and family assistance program. If you or your loved ones are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out for free, confidential help today.
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