Friday, October 27, 2017

Guest Post - Light Up Your Life with a Hobby and Improve Your Mental Health

We can all relate to the sinking feeling that comes from being broke. If you disagree, then you're either a millionaire with too much money or a mystic who has no need of it. Either way, you're out of the norm.

Other benefits are less tangible than money but just as worthwhile. Take the advantages of having a hobby. Believe it or not, a simple pastime can improve your physical dexterity, give you a sense of accomplishment, and enhance your ability to focus. That's a lot of payback for having fun, don't you think?

The key to getting the most rewards from a hobby is choosing one that matches your interests, skills, and, of course, your budget. Otherwise you may find yourself losing interest soon after getting started. So let's look at how to upgrade your down time with something you love doing.

Start by Finding Out Who You Are

One of the best ways to choose a hobby (or a career or college major, for that matter) is to take a personality test first. Knowing a little about what makes your mind tick can help you narrow down your options and pick the pastime you'll enjoy most. Here are some examples:

    Are you a creative person? If so, then consider painting, drawing, or sculpting.
    Are you an analytical person? If so, then you may find chess, sudoku, or jigsaw puzzles are right up your alley.
    Are you a hands-on person? If so, then look into woodworking or model building.
    Are you an active person? If so, then hiking, camping, or sports are all strong possibilities.
    Are you an outgoing person? If so, then look into acting or podcasting.

Work Out a Budget

Finding the right hobby is easy for those who are wealthy. They can always sail around the world or raise thoroughbred horses. Options are a bit more limited when it comes to the rest of us, however. We must balance our interests against our financial resources unless we want to end up in bankruptcy. Here's how to find an activity that will soothe your senses, not blow your budget:

    Consider what you already have. Many people already possess the tools needed to pursue their interests. Photography is a great example of what we mean, according to Expert Photography. Some shutterbugs own thousands of dollars worth of equipment and are always on the lookout for more. Others, however, make do with an entry-level DSLR or even the camera that comes with their smart phone. Both types of photographers can take great pictures, despite what certain salespeople may tell you. So take stock of your existing inventory before dropping a bundle on fancy equipment.
    Look for pre-owned or sale items. Going back to the example of photography, it's possible to find great cameras on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon for bargain prices, according to Photography Life. Choosing a model that's a few years old may give you great results  while saving you big bucks.
    Ask established hobbyists for advice. Those who have spent a few years pursuing your interest will know their way around the necessary equipment and can help you to get the most bang for your buck. They may even have used items they're willing to sell for unbelievable prices. You never know until you ask.

Always Make Safety First

Some hobbies, such as woodworking, require access to power tools or other items that demand caution when in use. Here's how to stay safe when operating specialized equipment:

    Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry. If your hair is long, then pin it back.
    Stay alert. It's important to never use power-driven machinery when you're tired or taking medications that can make you drowsy.
    Take classes at your local community college or ask a seasoned hobbyist for help.

Hobbies are a great way to spend your leisure time. A hobby can even turn into a rewarding full-time career or profitable sideline. Use the tips in this post to choose the right pastime, then pursue it with all your passion and ability. Stay safe and happy lobbying.

By Henry Moore

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Mr. Moore starts every day by looking at photographs of past travel, making plans for future travel, and committing to one new healthy goal. He enjoys travel, running, swimming and baking. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. The next place on his list to visit is: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.

Image by Pixabay

Friday, October 20, 2017

Guest Post - Improve Mental and Physical Health by Taking Up a Hobby

Working long hours at the office, rushing the kids to soccer practice, doing the dishes, folding the laundry. No wonder so many people are overwhelmed by stress! Our lives are hectic -- both at work and home. So when do you find time for yourself? If your answer is “never,” then it’s time to take steps to change that and take up a hobby. Carving out free time to pursue a hobby leads to happiness and fulfillment, and it improves your quality of life in several ways. Read on for information on how hobbies can improve your mental and physical health.

Hobbies for Mental Health

When you pursue a hobby, it provides a wealth of mental health benefits. Hobbies temporarily take you away from work-related stress, allowing you to briefly forget about your responsibilities. Most people even feel happier as they pursue a hobby. In fact, studies have shown that people who pursue hobbies have a lower risk of depression. They also experience lower risks of dementia.

If you pursue a hobby that requires you to play sports or engage in other physical movement, it can be a great outlet for daily frustrations or anger. As a result, this more positive attitude carries over into other aspects of your life. You may experience improved relationships with family members and co-workers. It also prevents you from getting burned out from your job if you have an outlet for relaxation.

Learning a new hobby can also boost your self-esteem. When you learn a new instrument or take a cooking class, you feel better because you’re improving yourself. Pursuing hobbies even boosts mental fitness. Writing a novel, reading books, learning how to design a website, completing crossword puzzles, or taking a sewing class improves memory and problem-solving skills.

Hobbies Improve Physical Health

One study showed that people who engage in hobbies that require physical activity for at least 20 minutes experienced less fatigue, and their waist circumference and body mass index were lower. They also enjoyed decreased amounts of cortisol as well as lower blood pressure. Additional health benefits of hobbies include better sleep, increased flexibility and a boosted immune system.

Hobbies Boost Social Interaction

Some hobbies require you to join a team or class. Sharing your love of a hobby with like-minded people provides you with social benefits too. You get to meet new people, collaborate with them and accomplish something together. Whether you join a sports team, take a dance class, play in a community orchestra, or join a chess club, you encounter other people who are enjoying the same interests as you.

Staying Safe While Pursuing Your Hobby

Hobbies provide countless benefits, but some downtime pursuits can be dangerous. For example, if you enjoy woodworking or building, follow basic safety procedures to prevent a trip to the emergency room, as power tools and saws can cause injury if not used in the right way. Playing sports without wearing the proper equipment can also result in injury. Going for a hike in the woods? Take a friend with you so you can look out for each other.

Deciding on a Hobby

People come in all shapes and sizes. And their interests are just as diverse. So how do you decide which hobby to pursue? It all depends on what you enjoy. Maybe you’ve always wanted to pick up a tennis racket but never had the opportunity. Have you always wanted to make your own scarves or winter hats? Why not try knitting? Maybe you have dreams of being a famous actor. Well, you may not end up winning the Academy Award anytime soon, but you can join a community theater and immerse yourself in drama -- onstage or behind the scenes.

It doesn’t matter whether you like basketball, ballet, painting, piano, building birdhouses or anything in between. If it helps you relax and decompress from life’s stresses, it just may be the perfect hobby for you.

When you feel like you never have time for yourself and life has become dull and routine, pick up a hobby that will put some sparkle into your everyday existence. Hobbies enhance your mental health and physical health, and they influence other areas of your life, helping you cultivate positive relationships with people at home and the workplace. So don’t let your life go by without finding something that brings you joy. Make time for a hobby!l

By Constance Ray
Constance Ray started with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it.

Photo via Pixabay

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MST PTSD - My Story

I am diagnosed with MST PTSD with Major Depressive Disorder.

For those not familiar with the acronyms it is this:

Military Sexual Trauma Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It's the diagnosis given by the VA (Veterans Administration) to consider me permanently 100% disabled and unemployable.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines MST as:

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during his or her military service
The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D) and is "psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training."
Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character."
Am I talking about the good natured volley of remarks tossed back and forth between women and men Marines? No, definitely not. I knew joining a male-oriented branch of the service I would definitely be in the minority. I didn't mind that.

What crossed the line was unacceptable sexual advances, unacceptable touching, sexual advances without consent, and the occurrence that haunts me every single day and night of my life since it occurred:

Being drugged and repeatedly raped by a number of Marines in their barracks. I have no recollection of the time I left the base with friends in their car, stopping and picking up some male Marines, who offered me a beer and that's it. I regained consciousness - naked, in a bunk with a naked male Marine in the act of sex, with other male Marines looking on. Fear for my life raced through my mind. I vomited, then vomited more. Naked, in need of the facilities, they made me walk naked through the barracks hall to the community bathroom facilities. I raced back, begged for my clothes and left as quickly as I could without inciting more violence.

Because, that's exactly what it was. A violent act of betrayal and abuse and violation of me and my body.

  • Where was I?

  • Was I even on my base?

  • In what direction was the Women's BEQ?

  • What time was it?

  • What day was it?

  • Who were those Marines?

  • What did they look like?

  • How am I supposed to report this?

  • Where were my keys?

  • Where was my ID?

  • What if I got pregnant?

Eventually, I found a guard on duty, asked in what direction were the Women's BEQ's, was able to get in my room by knocking and crossing my fingers my roommates were there, and then taking a shower. A LONG SHOWER!!

I tried to not think about what happened. I forced it to the back of my mind, stomped it down, and covered it up.

I didn't report the incident. How could I? Who were the Marines? What barracks was it? I couldn't even re-trace my steps. I had no recollection! No memory. Whatever drugged they used took care of that.

Instead, as with all the other sexually traumatic events in my life, I pushed it to the back of my mind where I force things I don't want to think about or re-live and went on with my life.

I did have a pregnancy test - Negative, Thank God!!

As for me, I continued with my jobs on base, continued to date, continued to enjoy the e-Club, but with a lot more caution, never accepting a drink from anyone unless it was unopened or I saw it being mixed.

However, the traumatic event ate through my restraints, surfaced at inopportune times, and began to manifest in more physical issues:

  • Migraines
  • GI Issues
  • Sleep Issues
  • Eating Disorder
  • Weight Problems
  • Memory Issues


  • Relationship Issues
  • Psychiatric Issues


When did this violent violation of my body occur? 1980
When did I report it to the military? 2012

32 Years Later

My lawyers (several law firms) worked for nearly 5 years to get a positive response from the VA. 

2017, I finally received the 100% Permanently Disabled and Unemployable rating.

That's 37 years later, nearly 40 years. 

Treatments I Endured During that Time:

CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy)
EMDR - 3 TIMES! Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing
Talk Therapy - Group Therapy
Relaxation Therapy
Written Narrative Exposure
Narrative Exposure Therapy
Personal 1 on 1 Therapy

I have not tried TMS - Trans Magnetic Stimulation; as it's still considered experimental by my insurance company.
Does that change how I feel? No

Does that make the pain go away? No

Did it automatically stop all of the physical issues I had? No

I still have:
  • Migraines
  • GI Issues
  • Sleep Issues
  • Eating Disorder
  • Weight Problems
  • Memory Issues
  • Relationship Issues
  • Psychiatric Issues
But, with the help of a new psychiatrist, we have discovered the missing pieces that make up my complicated puzzle.... I must explain the MST PTSD to my other Physician Specialists, so that they aren't chasing ghosts to explain my issues. 

There is hope. There is positive momentum forward.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, I believe I can find peace. I'll keep you posted.

If you are a victim or know someone who is a victim of MST - please follow the instructions below:

How can Veterans get help?

For more information, Veterans can:
  • Speak with their existing VA health care provider.
  • Contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.
  • Call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to get confidential one-on-one help. Safe Helpline provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week sexual assault support for the Department of Defense community.
  • Contact their local Vet Center.
  • Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a provider of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable.
  • Veterans can also learn more about VA's MST-related services.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest Post: Traveling as a Coping Strategy for Addiction Recovery

When a person suffering from addiction decides to enter recovery, they are said to be beginning a journey - one that lasts a lifetime. This journey is a long one, filled with triumphs and potentially some setbacks. The path to recovery never really ends for those with addiction issues - it’s one they must stay on their whole life. But while they are making this metaphorical journey, they can take some time to make some other, more tangible journeys as well. Travel has an immense healing effect and is a wonderful tool for those in recovery. Here’s why.

Travel as healthy escapism

When you have an addiction, you are practicing unhealthy escapism. You drink or do drugs in order to escape from your daily life - your pain, depression, anxiety, work stresses, or family problems. The fact that we all need to find ways to take breaks from the daily stresses of life isn’t unhealthy in and of itself - it’s the method that’s unhealthy.

Travel can be that bridge toward a healthier form of escape. Day-to-day life is hard for anyone - but especially for those on a recovery path. We all need a break, and travel can provide this “escape” in a healthy, productive way. You’re not running from your problems, you’re simply taking a break to gain some perspective.

Get some perspective

Addiction is suffocating. When battling dependency on a substance, it can seem like all that you know is your addiction - everything else in the world is blurry or faded. Part of recovery is understanding that there is so much more to the world than you, your addiction, and your problems. One of the best ways to gain some perspective on your own life is to travel. When you visit other places, it’s nearly impossible not to see yourself as a small part in a large human play. With addiction, the world is small. With travel, the world is large and full of possibilities. Expanding one’s worldview is a crucial element of recovery.

Mental rejuvenation

If you’re in recovery, the chances are you’ve seen some very hard times in recent memory. Addiction takes the fun out of life. Recovery is discovering that there is fun and beauty in a sober lifestyle. Travel gives us the perfect opportunity for this mental rejuvenation.

When you travel, it’s a constant source of inspiration. You meet new people, see amazing sights, try delicious food, and learn about culture and history. You have experiences that you didn’t even know existed. At its core, travel is simply a lot of fun. Having sober fun is vital when it comes to lifting your spirits and giving you an emotional boost to continue down your recovery path. Feelings of depression are one of the most common issues people have in recovery (as addiction and depression are a vicious cycle), and travel may not “cure” this but it certainly helps you to understand that there are things in this world to be excited about. In this, way, travel has quite the healing power.

In the end, traveling not only expands your horizons, lets you discover new, exciting things, and gives you some time to mentally rejuvenate - it also grounds you. Spending time away from your friends, family, and job often illuminates why these things are so important to you. Sober travel is tough, as we associate traveling with wild times (and a lot of drinking). It may be smart to make sure you’re firmly on your recovery path before you venture out on an adventure, but once you are there’s no reason you shouldn’t experience new things. You can get away for some perspective but still stay connected to home (literally).

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Mr. Moore starts every day by looking at photographs of past travel, making plans for future travel, and committing to one new healthy goal. He enjoys travel, running, swimming and baking. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. The next place on his list to visit is: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.

Photo Credit