Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 17 July 2014 Contents Page 6 I 17 July, 2014
The complicated workings of the human brair
Do you know how our brain works?
No? Neither do I. In fact, neither
does anyone. Want to know
something a little bit interesting?
Our brains have something like
100 billion neurons (brain cells).
Each of these is connected to
a great many other neurons at
junctions called synapses. In total
it's estimated there are something
like 125 trillion synapses.
At each synapse there are
several hormones and different
receptors... that's to say each
one can do more than one trick
- it's not a binary on/off. Thus
multiplying that 125 trillion by
several more 'options'. Basically
our brains are fantastically
So, we're not computers. We're
living beings. In fact we're highly
social, emotional living beings
who have evolved to adapt to our
environment using a combination
of prior experience, learned
behaviours and inbuilt instinct
(bear with me here). We have an
unbelievably complicated array of
emotions, triggered, and tempered
by, any number of factors: from
what you ate for lunch and
your recent haircut, to your
grandparents' (yes, grandparents')
exposure to famine or your
parents' status in society. We are
not simple things. To this end we
are not all the same. We are not
all the same size, shape, colour.
Likewise we don't all have the
same temperament or personality,
likes and dislikes. We don't all
have the same responses to the
same triggers; one persons stylish
new haircut is another's haircut-
from-hell. One person's pleasant
solitary, quiet day is another's
endless 24 hours of deep despair
Our mood is affected by pretty
much everything that has gone
before - some things that we
might have (had we wished and
tried to) been able to control (e.g
falling off a bike), as well as things
that we absolutely couldn't (e.g
who our parents were and many,
many other factors). All of this
- and that is a lot of 'all' - meld
together to determine our mood,
our emotions, our reaction to
anything we might encounter.
So, what I'm saying is that
however you feel right now or at
any point is determined by a very
great number of previous events.
Now, that means, if you happen to
be feeling low, sad, or depressed
then that is not your, or anyone's,
Now, if depression is 'normal'
then why am I writing about it?
Two reasons: Firstly it causes a
lot of problems; from relationship
breakdown to disruption of
employment and thus income - so
impacts on families and children.
It can lead to social problems -
alcohol or drugs, addiction. Debt.
Suicide. All of which impact terribly
on health, not just of the person,
but those around them: especially
their loved ones. Secondly it's
treatable. This isn't necessarily
easy, but it's usually possible to
improve things considerably - for
the person, their family and those
The next bit is about identifying
depression: it's often not easy. We
often think depression is feeling
sorry for ourselves, not feeling like
doing x , y or z... and it can be. But
there are lots of signs that there
might be something up.
Here are just a few:
. loss of interest in normal
. feeling helpless or hopeless
. change of usual eating habits /
. unusually angry or irritable
. loss of energy
. changed sleep pattern (more or
. reduced concentration
You don't have to have all of
these, just some. Obviously we
all feel hopeless or irritable, etc
occasionally, but if it's become
regular - following a pattern - it's
worth looking further into the
possibility of depression, for the
reasons above: It's treatable and it
improves not just your life, but that
of those around you.
As it turns out, one of the best
ways to manage depression is
simply to get out and do more.
Exercise is great for this, even
starting with regular brief walks
is a help. Another way is just
understanding depression more,
to acknowledge it and learn new
ways of thinking or coping with
situations. This can be done
through reading (bibliotherapy) or
some types of counselling, often
cognitive behaviour therapy.
Staying or getting involved - with
virtually anything - is central.
Employment is great as it provides
purpose, interaction and focus.
But social groups, sports, even
coffee with a friend, etc are all
good things. So doing exercise
with others is fantastic.
There are also drugs, and these
do work and help, but in reality
it's necessary to use at least two
approaches, often more.
So next time you look at a circuit
board and think 'wow that looks
complicated', stop and think... 'but
not nearly as complicated as me'.
Further info: www.depression.org.
I highly recommend the WHO short
animation 'I had a black dog'.
. Dr James MacMillan Armstrong
is a partner at the Fiordland
Make it happen
A big bouquet to the businesses
who have lit up their premises in
any way for the July Illumination.
My family from Invercargill enjoyed
the drive around to see the lights
this week. The display put on
by those who have taken part
certainly lifts the dark winter
nights. And a big brickbat to those
who have not taken part at all,
shame on you! Hopefully next year
you will do something to add to
the sight. If all the businesses
and lots of the houses in the
town took part, maybe people
would come and stay a night
or two in the quiet months to
see the illumination. How about
building on this for next year
with buskers in the street on the
switch-on night along with some
local groups doing a fundraiser
by having a sausage sizzle and
hot chips. Since the switch-on
happens at the time we would
be eating our evening meal this
would be another reason to go
and watch the
And while I'm on
Oy S Te END OF
Oy S T SEASON
Oy UP FAST
of promoting Te Anau, are you
the reader going to support those
businesses that close for a while
over the winter, totally ignoring the
residents of the area? Or will you
follow my idea and boycott those
who do close? Some visitors
recently could not have a meal
at a hotel as they were told when
checking in that the dining room
was closed - on a Saturday night.
Not good enough! I have been
in business and know that good
employees are perfectly capable
of running your business for a
few days while you have a break.
If you are not confident that they
can cope, then why do you employ
TE ANAU PANELBEATERS
Ask for Nick Priestley
. Panel beating . Touch up a repaint
. Rust repairs . Glass splash backs
. Plastic welding . Paint bake oven
. Spraypainting . Windscreen replace
Cnr 5pey and Bond 51 Ph 2182575
Now that the dust has settled
from the tunnel and monorail
decisions, can the town pull
together, use all its resources to
attract more people outside of
the main tourist season? Is there
someone out there who is looking
for an investment, who might set
up an activity to make better use
of the lake, the mountains, the
whole area, including the Takitimu
Mountains? Sitting back waiting
for stuff to happen is useless.
There are three types of people in
the world, those who make things
happen, those who watch things
happen and those who wonder
what happened. Don't let Te Anau
become a place where people are
in the last category.
I was wondering if our prolific local
sign maker could change Te Anau
to Te Ano.
Each week I find the recipes in the
Fiordland Advocate looking tasty
but on examining the ingredients
I find that many of them would
have to be especially purchased
to make the meal. For the benefit
of some of your readers that
have to make the food money
stretch each week could we not
have recipes that are cheap and
cheerful and use staples in the
pantry and freezer - they may not
look as pretty in the photo but
they will probably be cut out and
used by many.
You could perhaps ask readers to
send in their favourites and you
could run a series - perhaps even
create a book when you have
Jan Bilton is a Marlborough-based
multi award-winning food writer
and the author of 27 cookbooks.
Her weekly food column is
syndicated to 12 New Zealand
regional newspapers and the
Fiordland Advocate is privileged
to be one of them. Part of her
brief is to encourage home cooks
to extend themselves and try
different dishes and tastes that
they might otherwise not be
exposed to and the ingreident
lists varying accordingly.
That said, we are always
interested in reader feedback so if
anyone else shares similar views
please get in touch - Ed.
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