Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Create a new habit

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BY TONY WANLESS

Every new year begins with a period of dreaming that our lives will be different.

We will stop bad behaviours. We will be better people.

However, after a short time, these plans have almost completely faded away.

Why? Because changing a habit is difficult.

Habits, good or bad, are simply patterns of behaviour that have been built over time by repetition. For instance, we often eat at the same time every day.

We create habits to be short-cuts for our busy brains. When triggered, they help us perform repeated actions without our having to think about them and so save energy.

But sometimes, when patterns are very strong they become “ruts.”

Ruts once meant the deep track left by wagon wheels. Now, “being in a rut” means having a behaviour that is difficult to change.

Usually, ruts are created by bad habits. But they can also be used to build good habits.

To do so you must repeatedly perform a new behaviour in a bad behaviour’s place. This imprints the behaviour pattern in your mind.

At first this requires much attention and, and therefore, mental power. You must be constantly on guard to perform the new behaviour.

But, eventually, the new behaviour becomes the new habit.

It is a new “good” rut in place of the old one.

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Read On: Beating the winter blues

BY TONY WANLESS

Doctors have long understood that, in these months, most people begin to feel sad, less energetic, quieter and, often, sleepier.

Our moods aren’t as cheerful as they were in the summer. Life seems more difficult. Happiness has gone.

In Vancouver, this end-of-the-year sadness is stronger. The dark, cold, rainy days and constant gloom make many people feel tired and glum.

These feelings are often called the “blahs” or “The Blues” – like in the songs about trouble and heartache.

Because our bodies need light to create the chemicals in our brains that make us happy or energetic, we often feel sad and unhappy, more tired, and, sometimes, hopeless, in the darkest times of the year.

But not everyone is affected by the year-end blues. Some people live through the period with few problems while others are so sad they want to pull a blanket over their heads until springtime.

This last feeling is more formally termed seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a form of mental illness caused by a lack of light.

Doctors say that the best way to survive the year-end months is by being involved in activities like exercise and spending more time with friends and family.

These keep you energized during the dark period. Joyful activities produce chemicals in the brain that make you happy and so help beat the blues.

Also, most religions have created something to help the (mostly western) world survive the blues.

It’s called Christmas, which began as a religious ceremony in much of the Northern world as a way to cheer up people in the darkest time of year. Now, it is almost a month-long celebration that makes us happier.

So have a merry, happy Christmas, everyone. And try to remain cheerful.

Definitions

disorder: a state of confusion
affected: acted upon; influenced
formally: in accordance with the rules of convention or etiquette
western: living in or originating from the west, in particular Europe or the United States


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Read On: Can you talk with someone without speaking?

Read On Word Search August 2018

Word Search: Body language

BY TONY WANLESS

Yes, you can.

When learning a language, it helps to know that there are other ways to “talk” with people without using your voice. Sign language, often used by those who can’t hear, is an example.

But the most common method is body language, which uses gestures or facial expressions to send information.

Although we mostly use speech for talking, we also use body language – much more than we realize. Often we combine the two for emphasis.

Body language is an ancient form of communication that is used by all animals, including human beings. It is commonly used to send messages to others without speaking or to amplify a spoken message.

Sometimes body language users don’t even know they are using it.

Have you ever waved goodbye to someone who is leaving? Stood tall when you were angry? Nodded your head to agree with someone? Used your hands to explain something?

You were “speaking” body language.

Most often, “talking” in body language is done with the head or the hands (or both).

But sometimes other body parts are used. Winking (closing and opening an eye quickly) to indicate a secret is one example.

Some body language is universal: A raised open hand is understood by most people to mean “stop” (but if it is softened or moved, it could also mean “Hello!”)

At other times, bowing your head is a sign of respect, nodding your head is a sign of agreement and shaking your head back and forth means no.

It can also be a sign of recognition, or a sign of acceptance.

Sometimes we move our heads to tell someone to move in a particular direction. Sometimes we only shift our eyes to signal they should look somewhere.

Opposite to this is the body language that shows anger or disapproval.

When angry, you may open your eyes and nostrils wide, or breath in deeply to fill your chest and appear “bigger” and more threatening.

Can you think of more examples of “body talking” from your country’s culture?

Definitions

gesture: the use of motions of the limbs or body as a means of expression
facial: of or relating to the face
emphasis: special consideration of or stress or insistence on something
amplify: to make larger or greater

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Read On: Change those bad habits

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Word Search: Change Bad Habits

BY TONY WANLESS

Do you have bad habits that you want to change?

Of course you do.

Unless you’re some kind of superhuman, you probably have several.

Bad habits are those annoying actions or thoughts you repeat regularly, even though you might not want to. They could involve the way you handle finances, your thoughts, your behaviours and interactions with other people, and many more.

These habits prevent you from being what you want to be. They cause strife in your relationships with other people. They often impact your work because they are usually the opposite of what you should be doing.

It’s only human to have bad habits. But it’s also part of being human to want to change those habits because they have a large and negative affect on your personal and your financial life. We all want to be a better person, if not for ourselves, then for those around us.

But it is difficult to change habits, because they are caused by repeating behaviours. Habits are made because your brain, which always wants to make things easier, creates a separate thought channel – a type of mental shortcut – to make a behaviour require less thought. This saves energy, or brainpower.

The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger that separate channel becomes. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult to change the habit.

But psychiatrists have some suggestions.

7 tips to change bad habits

  1. Change one habit at a time. It takes some work, and if you try doing several, you’ll probably fail. On the other hand, changing one habit usually leads to changing others.
  2. Identify the habit you want to change. You may not even be aware that you have it.
  3. Think about the habit and what good (or bad) it is doing for you. If not enough good, then you have a reason to change it.
  4. Replace the habit with a different one. You probably already know what that could be.
  5. Understand that you’ll fail or forget sometimes. Don’t give in, just do it right the next time. Eventually, it will take.
  6. It’s a good idea to keep track of your efforts to change a habit in some kind of journal. You’ll notice that you are getting better at it over time.
  7. Recognize that you CAN develop a new habit. But it will take time and some effort.

Definitions

annoying: causing irritation
strife: bitter sometimes violent conflict
impact: to have a direct effect on
channel: a way, course, or direction of thought or action

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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Read On: Growing your own food

Plant basil herb

Growing your own food has many benefits. It’s easy to start fresh herbs like basil indoors in spring for transplanting outside in the summer. Photo by Julie Cheng

BY TONY WANLESS

Do you grow your own food?

Many people today have found that growing some of their own food – vegetables, herbs, perhaps eggs if they have a hen house –in a window box or garden plot has many benefits.

One benefit is that food you grow usually costs less than store-bought food. That is why during times of hardship, such as the Depression and the Second World War, when people had little money, they grew food in their backyard or in shared garden spaces.

Also, growing their own food was often the only way they could get the kind of food that kept them healthy. During the Second World War, home food gardens were often called “victory gardens” – because they helped countries at war divert their resources to the war effort to achieve victory.

Today, although we are not at war, most people still like to cut costs. While a household may not grow rich by growing their own food, they will be able to cut some part of their annual food spending.

Another benefit is that freshly picked food is usually more tasty than store-bought food (which must be sorted, stored and delivered to grocery stores) because it is often eaten within minutes of being picked.

Although commercial growers try to move their fresh food from store to supermarkets quickly, the process still takes time. This is important, because all food loses vitamins and nutrients during the time from harvest to market.

In Vancouver, you can grow your own herbs, vegetables and other food in many ways. Some people simply put some containers on a balcony or porch. Others plant full gardens in a yard or any plot of land that is available.

Some people without yards rent space from “shared plots” – pieces of land in neighbourhoods where people can grow plants for a small rental fee. Think of it as backyard farming done in a collective way.

In the Renfrew-Collingwood area there are several such growing areas, including two large community gardens: one in the Collingwood area east of the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station, and the other in the Norquay area that was formerly located on Kaslo Street across from the 29th Avenue SkyTrain station and now is being planned for Slocan Park. (The Kaslo site is being turned into a place for the homeless.)

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House also offers several food initiatives and has much advice for those wanting to grow their own food. For more information visit http://www.cnh.bc.ca/community/renfrew-collingwood-food-security-institute/ or the blog https://rcfood.wordpress.com/

Definitions

  • hardship: a condition that is difficult; suffering
  • victory: the act of defeating an enemy or opponent
  • divert: to cause something or someone to change direction
  • cut: lessen or reduce
  • collective: done by people acting as a group

Word search

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Read On: On spring

March2018WordSearchReadOn

WORD SEARCH: Save the image and print as a worksheet.

BY TONY WANLESS

We’re in that wonderful time when winter ends and spring arrives.

Soon, there will be no more looking out the window every morning to see what kind of day it will be. It could be cold and dark – as it has been for the past three months. Or it might turn sunny, tantalizing you with a hint that better, drier, warmer weather is coming. Mother nature has trouble making up her mind early in this month.

So you can be fooled. In early March, it could be just like February – cold and wet and dark when you wake up, and then later warmer and hinting at better weather to come. But on March 20, that will start to go away. Sure, old-man winter might still hang around desperately for a while hoping to beat nature and hang on.

But that’s not likely.

Every day for the next three months it will begin to get warmer and brighter in the Northern Hemisphere, in which Vancouver is situated.The sun will rise a few minutes earlier every day and and fall into night a little later. Plants will sprout, winds will soften.

That’s generally, of course. In Renfrew-Collingwood it might be a little different than in the rest of B.C. because we are in Vancouver, which is next to the Pacific Ocean. Our spring usually comes a bit earlier than the March 20 date because our coastal climate means the ocean has a strong influence over our weather.

On the coast, in early March we can be swathed in raincoat-and-boots-and-warm-hats for a few days and then suddenly it’s spring. The coats and umbrellas are thrown off, the joggers are out in only shorts and light shirts, the flowers start popping their heads out of the ground and the birds are singing.

We’re lucky that way. In much of Canada, winter still holds everyone in its grip for a few more weeks. East of Vancouver and in eastern B.C., Canadians still shudder through the worst of that season. The Prairie provinces often have to endure bitter cold, although it can be broken in Alberta by the odd warm current that wends like a train through the Rocky Mountains; the Great Lakes area is still shuddering in a deep freeze; In Quebec, the song “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” (My country is not a country, it is winter) is still true; and in Eastern Canada’s Maritime provinces, howling winds from the  Atlantic Ocean have most people still wearing winter gear.

Spring, by the way, isn’t only enjoyed by current residents of the West Coast. Its gradual delivery of delight from misery has been known for centuries by First Nations who lived here in closer harmony with nature. They learned long ago how to cope with the changing nature of early spring, venturing out of their dwellings when the light and warmth arrived and then retreating back to their warming fires when the cold and dark and rain made a return engagement.

But today, we live in cities, in artificial environments fueled by electricity, and so are often removed from the full effects of nature. As a result, we aren’t able to change our feeling so easily.

That’s why spring is so important. It is the time of renewal, of approaching freedom from darkness, from enclosure, from sameness and boredom. It’s also why, for centuries, people have celebrated spring with various festivals like the Lunar New Year, celebrated this year on February. The festival is always an anticipation of the joys of spring.

 


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Read On: How to keep your new year’s resolution

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BY TONY WANLESS

Right now, most people in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood have probably started resolutions for how they hope to behave this year. This is so common, someone once named January the “be-a-better-person” month.

A resolution is an act or a series of acts that you will try to do or not do. Common resolutions are to get in better physical shape, stop a bad habit and be nicer to someone.

The problem with new-year resolutions is that they rarely last for long. Some 80%of resolution makers have failed by the second week of February. That means that most of you R-C resolution makers are already creeping up on the brink of failure.

Of course, that doesn’t have to mean the end of a resolution. In fact, it’s natural. To make a resolution continue, you must turn it into a habit. That way it will exist much longer than a resolution that only lasts until some temptation gets your attention and kills it.

Habits are behaviours that are repeated regularly so that they become automatic. Bad habits and good habits start the same way – through repetition. To start a good habit, you decide what action is required, set a time to do it, write it down, repeat it and monitor it. Eventually, this repetition places the action in your brain or replaces some (in)action you are trying to stop.

For example, let’s say you want to do one of the most common new year’s resolutions: getting your finances in order, which means paying off debts and saving money. I used to write a personal-finance newspaper column and it was a common resolution that I heard at this time of year.

Financial problems are almost always about (bad) spending habits. There are cases of poverty where there just isn’t enough money coming in for even the basics, but for many people that isn’t the problem.

Instead, they have a habit of spending more money than they have. This is most often because they are in the habit of satisfying “wants” instead of taking care of “needs,” which aren’t nearly as interesting because they’re so familiar. Because it’s new, treating oneself to a want is more powerful than the boring practice of paying for needs like shelter, food, transportation and other basics.

We can blame these bad habits on advertising and easily available credit, but we are the people who practice them, so we are the people who have to change them.

Typically, good financial habits work like any other habit – though repetition of an act. Your bad habit is a result of repetition – to urges or advertising or whatever. In this case, you replace the foolish spending habit with a healthier saving habit.

Like any other habit formation, this is accomplished by planning and working the plan – repeating desired behaviours like first paying bills and then creating a saving system until they become automatic.