Why Organizing Your Desk can Help Organize Your Life

A universal cliché: the eternal battle between the child’s messy room and the parent’s demand for order. I know that many of you fought this fight too. Perhaps if you’re like me, you begrudgingly accepted your chore, knowing you couldn’t win (or risk the withdrawal of other privileges), while promising yourself that one day, when you were on your own, you would leave your clothes in whichever pile you felt like leaving them in.

Look around you – did you keep that promise to yourself? Are your things neat and tidy, the dishes put away? If so, what sparked your cleanliness conversion?   If not, do you feel happy in your clutter or a sense of nagging guilt?

Clutter and mess can have a profound effect on our emotional state. It can cause stress, bombard us with excessive stimuli, disrupt productivity, make us feel inadequate and be an external indicator of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It can also impact your physical health too and worsening what could be an already vulnerable state.

An old saying: “cleanliness is next to godliness”. As a turn of phrase, it was recorded in a 1778 sermon but the idea itself harkens back to Babylonian and Hebrew religious literature and might prove that our parents, and their parents and so on, were right all along.

Today, the spiritual quest for cleanliness has been given renewed vitality with its latest prophet: Marie Kondo. A Japanese author whose best selling work, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, has been translated into dozens of languages, and the star of the Netflix series, “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”, Kondo’s goal has been to help others find the “joy” in tidying up; that is, keeping the things that spark joy and disposing of those things that do not. Since her show aired, thousands have taken up the challenge and have credited Kondo’s method with changing their lives.

This isn’t just pop science: there have been numerous studies that have made the link between cleaning and improved mental health and wellness. One study found that cluttered homes were linked to a higher expressed level of the stress hormone cortisol. In a previous blogpost, we covered the importance of a good night’s rest for your mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of people say they get a better night’s rest when their sheets are clean. This extends beyond physical clutter: pursuing organization and discipline in your daily goals and life pursuits can result in “fewer negative emotions”, according to another study.

Back to Marie Kondo. If you’ve got some mess and want to destress, consider her six basic tips for cleaning and spark some joy back in your life:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
  3. Finish discarding first
  4. Tidy by category, not by location
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’

Ultimately, life is messy. Some people are more privileged with time, help and circumstance and can easily live a clean, clutter-free existence. It’s not so easy for everyone else, like single parents juggling multiple, messy children. Even if your space won’t grace the cover of “Cleaning Hygiene Magazine”, try to find some time to bring some order to your environment – it could help you achieve a happier you.

How to Enjoy your Commute

Commuting to and from work is one of the most unifying rituals on earth. No matter where we are from, what we do, or where we do it, we all have to get ourselves from our living quarters to our workplace. There are, of course, countless ways to do this: cars, buses, trains, trams, scooters, bikes, rollerblades, and feet are all well-used modes of transportation for these morning and evening trips.

But commuting can also be a sticking point, especially if it eats up much of our day. Last year, CNBC reported that full-time workers spend over four hours a week commuting; spread over a year, this means we spend the equivalent of almost nine days in transit to and from work. This is the average, though; some folks spend less time, while others spend much, much more. Workers in Hamilton, a small city on Lake Ontario, transit to and from the city of Toronto for work, which can add up to over three hours of commuting each day. Gruelling suburban transit stories like this are common.

But the primary gripe with long commutes is the loss of time. This is fair, as it is our most precious and important commodity. But commuting doesn’t have to be lost time; it can, in fact, be well-used. If we want to transform our commute into a time and space that is productive, we have to consider the limitations of our situations, and work within them. Here are three commuting scenarios, and ideas for each that can maximize your experience and leave you feeling not frustrated, but fulfilled.

In the car…

The solo automobile drive into work is still one of the most predominant modes of workday commute for North Americans. It’s become synonymous with bumper-to-bumper traffic, furious horn-honking, and general discontent (an experience perhaps no better parodied than in this Office Space scene). Since we are occupied with the task at hand—driving—we have few options for recreation or engagement.

Gone are the days of I-Spy; cue the rise of podcasts! These longform audio reports have rocketed to the top of the North American consciousness with content that is tailored to each listener: some are humorous, some are hard-hitting investigative features, and some are simply educational pop culture commentary. There are dozens of podcasts for each niche and interest, so simply Google search an interest keyword and ‘podcast’ for an array of results. These will keep you stimulated and perhaps even laughing while you’re inching to work.

On public transit…

Podcasts are a fan-favourite for public transit commutes, too, which is why you’ll probably hear the occasional laughing outburst on the subway, or see someone nodding their head in agreement on the bus. But if you want to be more engaged in your surroundings while taking public transit (a safety measure for some), take out the earbuds and consider keeping tabs on your commute times.

There are a number of apps that allow users to track their daily commutes, like Commute Diary, Commute Tracker, and more. Tracking your commute provides you with useful data: you can average out commute times and see which routes wind up being the quickest, or which parts of the day are the slowest (which means you can schedule your transiting accordingly).

On a bike…

Podcasts and commute tracking apps are fair game on the bike, depending on your comfort level (we personally recommend keeping your ears bud-free, and staying attuned to your surroundings). But similar to the tracker apps we use on transit, we can access cycle-specific ones to keep tabs on our physical activity—something that often comes at a premium now, given long workdays and sedentary work routines.

Strava lets cyclists share their routes and progress with other cyclists on a social media-style feed, while monitoring essential info like HRM, speed, elevation, and other stats. Apps like these also encourage personal strength-building: once you have a time locked in, you can start working on personal-bests. This turns an average commute into a productive and healthy personal endeavour that benefits you outside of the workplace.

Introducing our New CTO

This month we are featuring our new CTO Ed Blaha who started with EAP Expert on May 1st. Ed is joining our company to replace outgoing CTO, Peter Whelan.

Peter’s job was to get EAP Expert on track with all our IT and software development processes with all the growth we have been experiencing. Now that things have been properly organized and we have a short and long term vision, Peter will be leaving to conquer other projects.

Ed Comes on board with an extensive background in IT management and will be key for EAP Expert in continuing to develop and maintain industry-leading Compliance, Security, and Software Development practices.

We have decided to do a simple interview to allow you to get to know Ed a little better – check it out below;

What is your passion relating to your career and current role?

Passionate about helping businesses implement technology in a meaningful way, seeking to use creative transformational solutions.

What credentials and skills do you have related to your career?

Accomplished IT Professional with over 25 years’ experience and several certifications including Blockchain Technologies, Microsoft Certified Professional, and Novell Certified Network Engineer.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my family, research, exercise and meditation.

Where did you go to school?

MIT Sloan School of Management as a Student of Blockchain Technologies

Seneca College as an IT Instructor

York University as a Student of Business & Computer Science

What do you like most about your job?

Working with creative and innovative individuals that share common values which help our customers.

What is your favourite – Food? Country visited?

Hungarian Goulash, traveling throughout the USA.

Anything you want to share about your personal life?

Proud father of two boys and happily married for over 20 years!

Walking the Talk During Mental Health Month

Spring’s popular portrayal as a season of change is cliche for good reason: like all good cliches, it’s come from truth. Winter eases off its chokehold on flowers and trees, creatures emerge from their wintery cocoons, and the sun hangs around a little earlier and a little later, much to the delight of most normal humans. Spring is a busy shoulder season for the human population, too. We shake off wintery routines and shift into new ones; more time is spent outside; and our lived experience changes just as much as the world around us.

That’s why May is the perfect time for Mental Health Month, an occasion observed around the United States since 1949. (That makes this year the 70th observance!) Mental Health America has led the campaign, offering toolkits and information packages for interested parties to access. This includes workplaces: corporate participation accounts for a significant portion of Mental Health Month activity, and activating these discussions in the office is important given ties between depression and the workplace in America.

Mental Health Month has traditionally centred around the tenet of awareness-raising, which is a critical tool in the struggle to address mental health. Destigmatizing is the first step towards healing and action. But it is striking that, 70 years later, we are having the same conversations centering on destigmatization and awareness.

This Mental Health Month, it is vital that we begin to shift the conversation toward more material means and supports. As important as programs like healthy eating and exercise regimens are to encouraging a stronger and more stable lifestyle, when these are the only topics of discussion or remedies available, they effectively silo and isolate the issue as one that can be fixed through physical activity or maintaining a better diet. The reality of the matter is that most mental illnesses require clinical treatment, which costs money—a lot of it.

When preparing discussions around Mental Health Month, consider shifting conversations from the abstract to the real: focus on access to resources, and how people are or are not able to receive the treatment they need. (This, of course, depends on group comfortability with these conversations. Each workplace is different.) Recent MHA data shows that over 56% of American adults did not receive treatment for their mental illness. Workers cannot function well if they are grappling with not just mental illness, but the additional stress caused by either an inability to address it or the financial burden of addressing it.

In America, where random health crises can still bankrupt and financially devastate a family, it is especially important to consider your responsibility to your workers. While many companies will offer health coverage, mental health services are often only available on more expensive plans, which means individuals will be less likely to access them. Democratizing those resources via more affordable insurance plans is one step you can take to ensuring workplace mental wellness.

While awareness-raising campaigns are still important, focusing solely on these can hinder our abilities to truly address mental illness. This Mental Health Month, stimulate open, supportive dialogue with your employees about what they need to ensure their mental health. This information-gathering can then be turned into action and policy at your company, when possible. But if you’re going to talk the talk on mental health, make sure that you can walk it, too.

The Importance of Saving our Sleep from Hustle Culture

The current overculture is filled with hair-tousling aphorisms about less sleep, more work. ‘Sleep is for the weak!’ ‘You can sleep when you’re dead!’ These aren’t just lighthearted ribs, though. Over the span of just 70 years, we’ve cut our average sleep time by almost 20%. This isn’t random—professionals attribute this loss in sleep to a variety of factors, including increased blue-light absorption, distractions from personal devices, and even being out of tune with nature’s ebb and flow thanks to central air and heat. March 15 is National Sleep Day, but you probably didn’t see an ad for it on your Instagram.

It’s difficult to pin this on just one factor, but what’s certain is that our sleep patterns are shifting, and that might not be a good thing.

Scientists have long drawn a link between sleep and mental health, such that their relationship is codependent. More than 50% of individuals seeking help for mental health-related issues also deal with sleep loss. Some have gone a step further, assessing lack of sleep as a cause, rather than a symptom, of mental illness. Regardless of the diagnosis, it’s clear that sleep and mental health are correlated—both in positive and negative ways.

But another factor is the way that modern work culture has both exacerbated and commodified our lack of sleep. This messaging is related to something called ‘hustle culture,’ which some describe as “the complete abandonment of finding healthy work-life integration.” This culture is defined by words like grind, and phrases like ‘striving and thriving’—and of course, hustle. It describes a particular type of work that never ends; it glorifies working ‘round the clock (on the subway, when you get home, from your bed) and abandoning sleep (‘We run on coffee and sleep deprivation!’ as cutesy, team-building mantra) in the name of constant progress.

But in this equation, it is worth asking who is progressing and ‘thriving,’ and who isn’t. The New York Times recently posed, “Why Are Young People Pretending To Love Work?” The crux of the critique, like most assessments of ‘hustle culture,’ looks at how employers use this language—coupled with appealing ‘perks’ like free coffee, a beer fridge, and a foozeball table!—to keep their workers motivated to work harder, faster, and later.

But this culture has disastrous effects on workers’ mental health. The term ‘Millennial Burnout’ was coined to describe this phenomenon, in which young workers are pushed to their physical, emotional, and mental limits by hustle culture’s demands, which are often disguised as cultivating personal excellence. Many are identifying the dangers in this lifestyle: lack of sleep leading to other mental health disorders, and compensating with accelerants that keep us ‘grinding.’

Poking holes in hustle culture means recognizing that sleep is necessary if we’re going to ‘rise and thrive.’ We can’t truly ‘win all the time’ when we’re working off of one meal a day, four hours sleep, and six coffees; the winner in this equation is the person profiting from our nonstop labouring. So by all means, work hard; do the best work you can do. But don’t give up your sleep. It’s more important than the hustle.

Widen Your Understanding During National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Each March brings with it an annual offer to reevaluate and recalibrate what it means to be ‘intelligent.’ Intelligence is a concept and a word that’s loaded with imagery: of a sharp, even-keeled, well-read, post-secondary-educated person, or a brainy, bespectacled, lab-coat-wearing tech prodigy. Intelligence is either attainable or unattainable based on how closely your brain’s function matches constructed ideals like these.

While there are class-based concerns with who is or isn’t considered ‘intelligent’—not everyone can afford a post-secondary education—perhaps the more pressing concern can be revealed through a lens of ableism. Ableism is the term that describes discrimination based on ability or disability. For example, folks who use wheelchairs experience ableism when they can’t attend an event because the venue isn’t wheelchair-accessible. This is a broad example of a deep-reaching issue that stems from the fact that modern society has been constructed entirely around the experiences of ‘intelligent’ and able-bodied individuals.

Disability-identified folks who do not align with this vision often face both latent and explicit institutional barriers to access. This includes people who live with developmental disabilities. Since 1987, the month of March has been designated as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in the United States, a campaign for disability rights and consciousness-raising across the country.

Most see the campaign as an imperative of sorts: to adjust our communities to meet the needs of disability-identified individuals. But it isn’t designed solely to affect the physical world—the campaign reminds us that these individuals have full, rich, nuanced, and diverse lived experiences. Ableist society is often structured such that these folks are viewed as inferior or in need of assistance, and while inclusive programming in our physical world is absolutely necessary, so too are inclusive understandings of what it means to live with disability.

A key part of understanding ableism is understanding that it is this very discriminatory mechanism that prevents disability-identified folks from accessing the aforementioned full, rich, nuanced, and diverse lived experiences. If ableism (and, as a result, a world developed around ableism) didn’t exist—if all spaces were perfectly inclusive and accommodating for all disabilities—these individuals would be able to navigate the world without concern, and their experiences wouldn’t be defined by deficit or inaccessibility.

While this paradigm-shift takes time, inclusive programming is an immediate and simple change to make that can benefit disability-identified folks in your community. This month, consider taking steps to ensure that spaces where events are held have accommodations for individuals who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids. For events with spoken components, look into hiring a sign language interpreter deaf folks, or for visual presentations, incorporate braille or tactile pieces that make the work accessible. These signal that all are welcome and considered.

National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month isn’t just about awareness-raising; it’s about combating institutional discrimination against disability-identified individuals, and that’s a fight that we should continue all year long.

It’s National Eating Disorder Week: Here’s Some Facts to Bring You Up to Speed

From February 25th to March 3rd, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) will be highlighting its fight through National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This year’s theme: Come As You Are, a theme dedicated toward inspiring body acceptance and positivity, which can help prevent eating disorders from manifesting. NEDA has also articulated that this year’s theme was chosen to highlight that eating disorders don’t discriminate and affect people across lines of gender, colour and sexuality.

About Eating Disorders

More than 30 million Americans struggle with some form of eating disorder. Despite their trivialization as a minor issue or a choice, someone dies approximately every hour, directly from an eating disorder.

While eating disorders conjure up thoughts of the calorically-deficient Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. and can increase the risks of other health issues ranging from diabetes to obesity. Another one that many people don’t know about but some shows have ‘popularized’ as a form of entertainment, Picais the compulsive eating of substances that are largely non-nutritive, including hair, soil, metal and more. Apparently, the disorder is on the rise – between 1999 and 2009, Pica hospitalizations increased 93 per cent, more than any other eating disorder. More forms of eating disorders exist, including those that don’t are more individual in nature,  previously categorized as “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS), which because of their lack of precedence, can be harder to treat.

How are They Treated?

Given the variety of eating disorders, symptoms and difference in psychological factors in each individual, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating eating disorders. Other health issues and complications that arise from eating disorders, like kidney issues for those suffering from Anorexia or heart disease in those with Binge-Eating Disorder, can further change a medical professional’s approach. The Mayo Clinic cites a multi-pronged approach that includes the development of a treatment plan, psychological therapy, nutrition education and medication and hospitalization, if required. There are many similarities in treatment to those with substance abuse issues – in fact, “50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population.” NEDA cites that as with substance abuse, early intervention in the fight against an eating disorder is essential.

Come As You Are and Get Involved

Ahead of National Eating Disorder Week, NEDA has launched the Body Acceptance Challenge; encouraging people to “reject diet culture” by accepting their bodies, respecting others and fighting weight stigma. They’ve also partnered with the Mall of America to provide training and support for its guests, tenants and employees.

There will be several Eating Disorder Awareness Walks held over the coming week across America:

Mental Health and Media: How TV and Film Can Influence Attitudes on Mental Health

If you head to Netflix right now and type “mental health” into the search bar, nearly two dozen television shows and films will be listed. Try “mental illness”, “crazy” or “insane”, and you’ll return several dozen more. There’s no denying that mental health is a heavily-used trope on the silver screen – whether it’s a character’s quirk or a plot device, its depiction can ultimately become a key influencer on an audience’s perceptions of various mental illnesses or behavioural issues.

The dramatization of illness for entertainment is somewhat of a moral dilemma – is it ethically defensible or something that the onward march of progress and sensibility will inevitably show that our shows lacked grace? In today’s blogpost, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that today’s media is impacting our understanding and approach to mental illness. On a brighter note, we’ll take a look at some recent programs that have done a better job than most.

Romanticizing Self-Harm and Suicide:

There was a swirl of controversy in 2017 after Netflix dramatized the book series 13 Reasons Why into a televised series. The show, narrated in part by a girl who has committed suicide and the boy who loved her, follows her complex plan to achieve justice and understanding for herself from beyond the grave. With its high school setting and cast, critics argued that the show made suicide look cool or justifiable and could be a dangerous influencer on impressionable minds.

It’s hardly the first media to do so (remember Romeo & Juliet? From English class) but hopefully, with more voices speaking out, it’ll be one of the last. “Suicide Contagion” is a real phenomenon: exposure to someone else’s suicide in real life or media depicting it can increase your likelihood of considering or committing suicide. It’s important to do what we can to reduce its glorification, especially among younger audiences – it’s among the top five causes of death for adolescents and young adults.

Mentally Ill? Must be Violent/Unhinged:

More than 20 years ago, a study found that depictions of mentally ill individuals in prime-time television were nearly 10 times more violent than the general population of television characters, and 10 to 20 times more violent when compared to those suffering mental illness in the US population.

Since then, the number of TV shows has exploded: in 2017, 487 original shows aired – compared to 182, fifteen years prior. Following that logic, audiences are being exposed to more-and-more instances that depict those suffering from mental illness as violent, unstable and a threat. This creates stigma and it can cost lives: those suffering from mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during police encounters and some suggest that stigma might influence the decision to use lethal force.

In fact, those suffering from mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than others. These skewed depictions can be irresponsible and can create real life risk for those suffering from mental illness.

Marginalizing Medication and Inventing Superpowers: The show’s main character must solve the big dilemma but the medication they take to keep their behaviour in check muddies their gifts. They stop taking their medication, allowing their mind to “clear up” and save the day. While the “disability superpower” trope can be affirming and positive in some cases, depictions that promote medication as a barrier to brilliance are dangerous, particularly to those suffering from mental illness. One of the worst recent offenders: Split, a movie which depicts a man who stops taking his medication, allowing his 23 distinct separate personalities to manifest – one of which literally turns him into an unstoppable, superhuman creature.

This is another example of the impact of romanticizing mental illness: depression won’t make your seem smart and brooding but it could make you irritable with digestive issues to boot. Not only are mental health issues not a superpower but medication can sometimes be the only way to live a happy and healthy life.

Check These Shows/Films Out:

Are any programs out there doing a good job of creating a better narrative about mental illness? While there are certainly plenty of offenders, some recent television shows and films have been educational rather than sensational. Here’s a few:

  1. Bojack Horseman: Praised for its “brave depiction” of depression, animated series Bojack Horseman is self-aware and unromantic in its depiction of mental health issues, while still delivering as an enjoyable dark comedy.
  • Crazy-Ex Girlfriend: While “crazy” might not be the most woke adjective to use, the comedy does a good job at depicting mental health issues, beginning with a fatigue-driven crisis that ultimately delivers the show’s main character to the hometown of her ex-boyfriend. Like Bojack, Crazy-Ex Girlfriend delivers without being preachy or using kid’s gloves – it depicts the effects of mental illness as they are, without rose tinted glasses.
  • Homeland: The series, now heading into its 8th season follows Carrie, a CIA operative  battling terrorists – and bipolar disorder. Why I’ve included it on the list: early on in the show, we see the split between medicated and unmedicated Carrie – how quickly she loses control of things, including her family and career when she choosing to go cold turkey on her medication. The show also depicts a strong and intelligent person who suffers from mental illness – showing that it doesn’t have to make one less capable of living a successful life.

Life After Graduation: Managing Stress while Planning Your Next Steps

It’s early – you’ve still got a few months to go before the semester is over, at least one before exams and end-of-term essays become a reality. If you haven’t knocked this year out of the park like you might have meant to – relax, regroup and focus on achieving success in your next academic year.

If you’re graduating – congratulations! You’ve made it through what most students report is a stressful period in their lives. Now you’ve got some form of accreditation and you’re ready to conquer whatever comes next.

Wait – what comes next?

Call it post-graduation stress, quarter-life crisis, PCSD or whatever you’d like but the transition period for students exiting academia to begin their entry into the workforce is a significant event in a graduate’s life that can tax your wellbeing and mental health. Some of the common stressors include:

  • Finding a job in your field of study
  • Determining the best career path to achieving your goals
  • Losing connection with your friends and support networks from school
  • Figuring out your living logistics (moving back in with your parents, relocating, etc.)

Not to mention other social and financial concerns as well. There’s no denying it’s a big change that requires courage, preparedness and a can-do attitude. In today’s blogpost, we’re going to outline some things to keep in mind that can help ensure you feel just as good about finishing school as you did when you were younger and done for the summer.

  1. Don’t Leave Your Planning to the Last Minute:  This one is probably the most important tip for managing the actual workload of your transition. If you’re behind, don’t panic – see #3. At many schools, campus recruiting season starts in the Fall semester and extends into the Spring semester, with offers beginning in March. If you haven’t already investigated your school’s campus recruiting initiatives, make sure you resume is ready and hit the ground running!  Otherwise, there is no better time than the present to begin exploring and applying for job opportunities that commence after graduation.
  • Routine will make you Resilient: We can never be completely certain about what opportunities lay ahead, whether it’s a job offer or a grad school acceptance. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise and other times, a bitter disappointment. You can better prepare yourself for success, whatever the outcome by adopting healthy habits now. By creating and enforcing a routine that promotes productivity, health and wellbeing, you’ll be better equipped when you start the next phase of your life, whether it’s your career or starting the new job hunt in earnest. Make sure your routine emphasizes positive financial, organizational physical and mental health habits.
  • Give Yourself a Break: You’re young – most likely in your early 20s. No one expects you to have it all-squared away just yet. More importantly, there’s no age limit on achieving success. In the grand scheme of things, whether you’ve secured a job right out of school or months later will not have any real impact on your career or personal development. Additionally, there’s nothing to be gained from comparing yourself to others – why measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick?
  • You’re not Bound by the ‘Now’: Are you feeling like what you decide to do next will ultimately determine your fate? Relax –  a UK study highlights that 19 out of 20 graduates have changed jobs at least once within three years of graduating. In fact, the average worker holds ten different jobs before the age of 40 and the next generation of workers are expected to move around even more. While it’s important that you choose the opportunities that are right for you and don’t accept the next step begrudgingly, just because you feel like you have to, remember that you can use this next stage as the launchpad for great things to come, whether or not it’s your first choice.

February is Canada’s National Psychology Month: Here’s How Far We’ve Come

One of the great drivers of human progress is our incessant need for reason.  Not content that lightning flashed across the heavens just because it did, our early ancestors crafted great myths of angry gods.

We looked inward too, developing philosophy that explained why we were here and how we should be. When our bodies exhibited symptoms of sickness or abnormality, early physicians pointed to imbalances in the medical humors as the culprit.

We’ve come a long way – we know that electrical charges, not deities cause lightning. Our fascination in what the night sky held eventually carried us over the divide and onto the moon.  In other quests, like medicine, we’ve also progressed nobly, including on our conceptions of mental health and disorder.

Thankfully, we’re no longer using magic spells to ward off ailments of the mind, caused by evil spirits – for the most part at least. Today, we count on the twin scientific fields of psychiatry and psychology for leading the way on studying and solving mental illness and behavioural issues.

In Canada, February is National Psychology Month. It’s a time to celebrate the contributions of psychologists and how the profession is helping make the world a better place, through research and practice. In this blog, we’ll outline a brief history of psychology and what a modern-day psychologist is and what they do.

Brief History of Early Psychology

As we touched on above, mental illness was blamed on supernatural elements for much of human history; however, some early Greek physicians like Hippocrates, considered the “Father of Medicine”, pointed to physical origins and worked to categorize mental illnesses. Similarly, the association of physical and social factors impacting mental health was being reasoned in other ancient civilizations.

Fast forward to the Enlightenment in Europe, the “Age of Reason”. A note: while there were advancements in understanding in the period between across many civilizations, in the European context, the theologically-oriented “Middle Ages” put greater value on religious justification than scientific rationalization. German philosophers like Christian Wolff and Immanuel Kant popularized the discussion of psychology, with the former identifying it as its own field of science.

As the scientific method and the need to explain phenomena surged across the continent, the field of experimental psychology – the branch concerned with the investigation behind basic processes like learning, memory and cognition –  was being born. While there were some missteps, like the inaccurate and racially-stained phrenology, the realization of experimental psychology can be attributed to Wilhem Wundt, considered the “Father of Psychology”, who founded the Institute for Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig in Germany in 1879. Wundt would define psychology as “the investigation of conscious processes in the modes of connection peculiar to them”.

From there and from many of Wundt’s students, institutes and laboratories dedicated to the study of psychology would spring up across the world, like G Stanley Hall, the first American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, who would open up the first U.S. lab at John Hopkins University.

Other branches, like psychoanalysis, which counted the well-known Sigmund Freud among its ranks, also furthered the broader field. Psychology began to become a core part of medical and academic curriculums and be adapted into many other disciplines, including military, political and sociological thought.

That’s all for our brief overview – thousands more words could be said on the subject. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this list of famous theorists that advanced the field of psychology.

Psychology Today

Psychology has come a long away in more than a century of formal scientific research and practice. You might be surprised to learn that today, there are a multitude of subspecialty practices, from everything from developmental psychology focused on children to forensic psychologists, focused on criminality. Ultimately, a psychologist furthers their profession by either expanding what is known through research and/or by providing service to those in need.

In many countries, including Canada, psychology is a licensed profession through a regulatory body. Given the academically-intensive nature of the career, a significant amount of schooling is required – most psychologists require a master’s and/or doctoral degree in psychology to be accredited.

There’s often a little confusion between psychologists and psychiatrists. The key difference is that psychiatrists are medical doctors and are therefore licensed to prescribe medication. However, there are many synergies between the programmes and methods of psychologists and psychiatrists. If you’re trying to decide whether you should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, you might want to speak to your primary care physician first to get guidance on what may be the best approach for your needs.