Apr 24, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful: April 24

Ten Things of Thankful

My father has picked these daffodils on the riverbanks for me.

The 雪椿 (yuki-tsubaki), camellia rusticana, in front of our house is now in blossom.

I took a walk on the riverbanks lined with cherry trees last Sunday.

I took part in #1000 Speak for Compassion last Monday.

The sesame biscotti I baked last Tuesday turned out OK.

On Wednesday, April 22, my father and I went for a walk on the hill in the eastern part of our city. It was sunny and warm.

We also walked around the ponds in the park on the hill.

Cherry blossoms on the hill have started falling, but some trees are still at their best.

We went to the small restaurant in the park and had some rice cakes there before coming home.

The rice cakes are covered with sesame, soy bean flour, and adzuki bean jam.

Apr 20, 2015

#1000 Speak for Compassion: Nurturing

Today, I'm going to write about one of the topics found at #1000 Speak for Compassion:
How do you nurture your mental health in stressful times?
I've chosen this topic because I've learned a few things from my own bad example. I'm a survivor of several prolonged bouts of depression, and I've learned the following things from my own painful experiences.

Have well-balanced meals regularly.

One of my earliest signs of depression is loss of interest in cooking and eating. The more depressed I felt, the less attention I paid to what I ate, which naturally made me feel more exhausted and miserable. When I was going through a bout of depression,  I only ate what was very easy to eat, such as bread, cookies, chocolate, cheese, bananas, oranges, and the like. I took in a lot of carbohydrate, but lacked in protein, vitamins and minerals. Soon, I became so depressed that I couldn't even try to break this vicious cycle.

I've read somewhere that the deficiencies in certain minerals and vitamins can lead to mental illnesses. Looking back, I suspect that this was the main cause of my condition. --I had been trying to find the causes of my problems elsewhere for a long time, in vain.

About three years ago, I made it a rule to have at least one serving of fish or meat every day. I gave up eating between meals. I got less and less chocolate and cookies. A few weeks after I started a healthier diet, I found myself feeling hopeful again. Since then, I've been having balanced meals every day, and I've been free from debilitating depression for more than two years now.

Though it may sound too simple, paying attention to what we eat is essential to nurturing our physical and mental health. It is embarrassing for me to admit this, but I once neglected this evident truth.

Incidentally, nurture can be translated as 育てる (sodateru) or 養う (yashinau) in Japanese. The kanji, , includes another kanji, , which means 'eat'. Nurturing is closely related to eating and feeding.

Live in the present.

During my struggle with depression, I read a lot of self-help books in the hope of finding a way to be set free from that living hell. The book I've found the most helpful is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse by Zindel V. Segal et.al, which I read about three years ago. The authors accurately understand what people tend to feel and think when going through bouts of depression. For example, people who are severely depressed tend to ruminate on negative thoughts endlessly, and try to avoid unpleasantness at any cost, often in vain. In fact, these ways of thinking are exactly what make one feel more depressed, fueling the vicious circle of hopelessness, helplessness, and inactivity. Conventional cognitive therapy aims to stop this downward spiral by helping the clients fight against their automatic, negative thoughts by way of healthier, more realistic ways of reasoning. On the other hand, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) described in this book places more emphasis on "mindfulness," that is, being aware of what one experiences from moment to moment. In short, MBCT teaches us to live in the present all the time, paying full attention to "here and now." Instead of trying to avoid unpleasant feelings and thoughts, it encourages the participants to accept every thought that comes and goes as just a passing thought, without mistaking them for facts, and without judging them.

I think the ways of being mindful that are suggested in this book are helpful not only for preventing relapse of depression but also for reducing stress in our daily lives.

Meditate on "Serenity Prayer."

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
And the wisdom to know the difference.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Be thankful.

Be thankful, especially for the things that tend to be taken for granted. Writing down what I'm thankful for every week has changed my life for the better.

Take a walk.

Listen to music. 

Get enough sleep.

Be kind to myself.

... Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive.

How about you? How do you nurture your mental health in stressful times?

* * * * *

Read more posts on nurturing here.

I'm taking part in

Apr 19, 2015

A Bible Memory Challenge

   This is my third time to take part in the Bible Memory Challenge hosted by Do Not Depart. I worked on John 15 and Psalm 27. I'm learning James 1 this time. -- It doesn't mean that I can recite these chapters accurately and fluently, but it means that I have repeated saying these verses and thought about their meanings, paying attention to each word, and trying to memorize them.

   We are working on James 1:5-6 now.

If any of you lacks wisdom, 
let him ask of God, 
who gives to all
liberally and without reproach, 
and it will be given to him.  

But let him ask in faith, 
with no doubting, 
for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea 
driven and tossed by the wind.

  Some of the things I often thought while reading these verses include the following:
  • I lack wisdom.
  • I will ask God to give me wisdom.
  • God gives wisdom to all.
  • God gives liberally and without reproach. 
  • -- He doesn't blame me for lacking wisdom.
  • When I ask of God, He will give me wisdom.
  • -- Wisdom is given through His Words. Reading the Bible is a key to getting wisdom.
  • I am to 'ask in faith.' 
  • -- Do I always ask in faith?
  • -- Do I always ask with no doubting?
  • -- I must confess I've doubted from time to time. What makes me doubt?

   I'm also reminded of a few other verses such as Mark 11:23-24 and 1 John 5:14-15.

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."
(Mark 11:23-24)

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 
And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

 (1 John 5:14-15)

These words resonate with each other, telling me to ask of God with no doubting, according to His will.


   In this way, I've been chewing and feasting on the Word through this Bible Memory Challenge.

Apr 17, 2015

Ten Things of Thankful: April 17

Ten Things of Thankful

    I worked at the City International Affairs Center last Friday. First, Ms. H* and I helped a lady from Vietnam learn several Japanese verbs. 

   During the recess, I came across a friend of mine, Mrs. S*. We hadn't met for nearly two years, and neither of us expected to see each other there. Believe it or not, Mrs. S* came to the building by mistake. She needed to go to another municipal office across the street, instead. --Our city government often builds new buildings and moves their offices to new places, so it is quite confusing. --Mrs. S* was surprised to see me there. I was surprised, too. We chatted for a few minutes to catch up. We both wished we could talk longer. It seems almost miraculous that we met there on that day, for I work there only once a month now. It was on the very day I was working there, during the recess, that Mrs. S* came into the wrong building and noticed me as she was going out.

   After the recess, I was introduced to a new student from the USA (let's call him David). David has lived in Japan for a few years, and he speaks some Japanese. We talked about the local election which was to be held on Sunday, April 12, and about the countries David had visited. It was a lot of fun to talk with him both in Japanese and English. 

  On Tuesday, I got the Vietnamese salad rolls at the shop that another friend of mine had told me about. They tasted very good. One had ham, cheese and vegetables in it, and the other, the greenish one, contained cucumber, lettuce, daikon, and so on.

Finally, I finished writing a letter to Ms. M*, which I had procrastinated for weeks.

The rye bread I baked was good.

Cherry trees are in blossom!

My father was pleased with the broad beans I boiled.

Thanks to writing prompts, I have something to write about for 1000 Voices for Compassion on April 20. I'm writing about nurturing my mental health in stressful times.

Apr 12, 2015

Cherry Blossoms

We have been to the park near the city waterworks bureau to see cherry blossoms beginning to come out.

Unknown Mami

Apr 11, 2015


Practicing a Bach, holding my breath.

I've been practicing playing BWV 869 (Well Tempered Clavier 1, #24) on the electronic keyboard, and I find myself holding my breath playing it. I seem to concentrate so hard that I forget to breathe while practicing especially difficult phrases. I think I need to repeat at least 1000 more times to learn to play it very slowly without making serious mistakes. -- I hope to play the prelude and the fugue beautifully some day.