make a list, check it twice

Every Brilliant Thing is an HBO presentation that focuses on coping with the devastating effects of depression. This one-man show chronicles the story of a boy that begins to create a list of every wonderful thing in the world in an attempt to combat his mother’s depression.

Since periods of sadness or depression are part of being human, I feel everyone should create a list of their own, as a reminder of all they love in this world. You never know; it could help you someday.

Here is mine, so far:

  1. Doggie snuggles
  2. Songs that give you goosebumps
  3. Holding hands
  4. Hugging
  5. Cheesecake
  6. Sticky rice
  7. Naps
  8. Morning coffee
  9. The smell of coffee
  10. Bed time
  11. Listening to music while working
  12. Laughing

apps for mental health support

I feel fortunate to live in a time when there are so many resources for mental health support. There are lots of mobile apps that provide a simple, private means to monitor how you’re doing mentally. Although the sheer number of them can be overwhelming, I recommend seeking some out to see if they help you.

Here are a list of apps I’ve tried, with my thoughts:

  • Moodnotes ($4.99) – Definitely my favorite! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy app I use a few times a week to log how I’m feeling (journaling), select my emotions (positive and/or negative), and see what thinking traps I’m falling into.
  • Pacifica (free) – In addition to features like journaling, this app allows you to set & track goals, build a “Hope Board” of positive things, and follow guided meditations. Definitely worth a try.
  • Virtual Hope Box (free) – An app that provides a variety of support when you need it: distractions, inspirations, relaxation & coping tools. It received the 2014 Department of Defense Innovation Award for its unique application of technology in supporting behavioral health in service members and military families.
  • Headspace (free, to start) – “Brilliant things happen in calm minds.” Meditation is the focus of this app.  I didn’t get into this one, I believe because the free options were limited.
  • talkspace (subscription) – An online therapy tool, endorsed by 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps!

Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brene Brown

This quote by Theodore Roosevelt forms the basis for most of Brown’s book:


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly” -Theodore Roosevelt


She states that “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”


Brene Brown focuses on the concept of “scarcity.” This section from Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money describes how this affects a lot of us:


“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worry about what we don’t have enough of…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack…”


Make the journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.”


However there are often “shame tapes” — those tapes of self-doubt and self-criticism that play in our heads, inhibiting us from greatness, from everything.


Here are some moves she recommends to be more resilient to shame:


  1. “Practice courage and reach out! Yes, I want to hide, but the way to fight shame and to honor who we are is by sharing our experience with someone who has earned the right to hear it – someone who loves us, not despite our vulnerabilities, but because of them.”
  2. “Talk to myself the way I would talk to someone I really love and whom I’m trying to comfort in the midst of a meltdown: You’re okay. You’re human – we all make mistakes. I’ve got your back. Normally during a shame attack we talk to ourselves in ways we would NEVER talk to people we love and respect.”
  3. “Own the story! Don’t bury it and let it fester or define me. I often say this aloud: ‘If you own this story you get to write the ending.’ When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, ‘I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.'”


She mentions research shows we tend to judge people in the same areas where we’re most vulnerable. For example, if she feels good about her parenting, she has no interest in judging other people’s choices.  Or, if she feels good about her body, she doesn’t make fun of other people’s weight.  This can be considered a survival mechanism, making ourselves feel better about our sensitive areas.


She talks about how damaging shame can be when perpetrated in an organization. “Shame can only rise so far in any system before people disengage to protect themselves. When we’re disengaged, we don’t show up, we don’t contribute, and we stop caring.”


In parenting, or any sort of leadership role, she explains how we shouldn’t expect to have it all “figured out”, that we are learning and exploring together as we go.


“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”