Feel the joy of life at Afrofest, Salsa on St. Clair

By PAT WATSON

This weekend there are a number of summertime events that will add richness to your social life and should leave you feeling the joy of summer and some of the joy of being alive. At Queen’s Park, on Saturday and Sunday Afrofest makes its 21st presentation of Africa’s melodies surrounded by many other cultural delights of the Motherland. If you have been to previous presentations you know that to be there is to be surrounded by the richness of a multi-layered heritage that rejuvenates.

Then, if you like your African culture blended with Latin flavour travel northward to the fifth annual Salsa on St. Clair (between Winona Ave. and Christie St.).

There isn’t a weekend that goes by during the summer months that this city does not have some fun and exciting event taking place where people can come together and feel happy to be alive. And you know we are heading toward Caribana 42. A visitor from Mexico here to learn English made the clear observation that as the weather warms up here, so do the locals. So, yes, summertime is when people in Toronto become warmer, thanks in very large part to the weather.

It may come as a surprise to some, but perhaps a sad comfort to others, that at this time of year many people experience a malaise that they may not have anticipated.

It is commonly thought that those who are vulnerable to it will experience depression more so in the cold and less sunny winter months, especially at Christmas time when expectations are high and family tensions can trigger a downward emotional slide. In fact, we are now entering what experts who treat depression call the suicide season. Mental health professionals suggest that when people look forward to the more pleasant weather but find that it does not lift their low moods they can become more hopeless and subsequently more prone to suicidal behaviour.

We could divide the world into two kinds of people: those who always have a negative view of life and those who have a positive view. Those who live with depression fall into the former category, but this may seem a bit simplistic because, in fact, depression has a fairly wide range from mild, moody feelings that come with difficult or unpleasant situations all the way to clinical depression which cannot be pushed away by just watching a funny movie or going to a comedy club.

Being wholly negative and cynical about life doesn’t mean you are worldly wise in the way things are done. In fact, negative thinking is a sign of depression. For, to view the world only through the lens of despair and adversity is to lose sight of the broader scope of life.

Nevertheless, wherever a person experiencing depression falls along the spectrum there is hope when seeking to overcome it. For this reason, some who choose to cultivate a positive mindset often avoid plugging into television, radio and newspaper reports, distinct for their focus on disaster.

Who can blame them, when so much of it focuses on feeding our fears? We are informed every day that there is so much that is alarming in the world so it is no wonder that so many are vulnerable to the horrors that we tell each other.

It takes only a small, yet determined, step to change that outlook. There are people who are living beyond the depression that once held them captive, robbing them of experiencing the many joys that each day holds. One short step is to pull the facial muscles at the corners of the mouth up, skyward; in other words, smile…even if you don’t feel like it. Once your mouth forms the shape of a smile, your brain receives the message that you are happy and releases corresponding chemicals that carry forward a happy feeling.

Another short step to beating the summertime blues is to ‘count your blessings’ as the old cliché goes. We live in a land of relative peace and prosperity and we have much for which to be grateful. Start counting your blessings every day. Then if you have been isolating yourself, feeling alone in this world, get out to the events like Afrofest and Salsa on St. Clair. Go out and talk to people. Be a friend to yourself by making a new friend. Don’t let depression rob you of the joy that is your right in life. Do whatever you can to reclaim your happiness.

On a summertime note…

It is pure pleasure to walk along neighbourhood side streets at this time of year to experience the sights and smells of Toronto’s fabulous front gardens.

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