Mind, Body and Spirit

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Lady backpacks and manly beer — the folly of gendered products

Products like backpacks, beer and Q-tips are marketed in a gender-specific way. (Jason Blackeye/Unsplash)

Samantha Brennan, University of Guelph

As women started counting steps and walking to work wearing running shoes and fitness trackers, there was one work-related item that had to change: the briefcase. It’s not suited to walking fast and gets in the way of drinking coffee en route to the office. Enter the working women’s backpack. It’s a trend.

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What, exactly, is mindfulness? As a family physician with a busy urban practice, I am lucky to meet people of all ages and from all walks of life. Yet, when confronted with the same question, many will provide different and often conflicting answers. Some may take a philosophical approach to finding an inner peace, some may focus on yoga and relaxation therapies to connect their body and mind. Some may refer to books or teachings from various religions and sects as guides to navigating their mindfulness goals. But, in truth, mindfulness is not a concept to conquer nor is it a single idea, feeling or experience. Rather, it’s a journey through which one can achieve control over their thoughts and outcomes.

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As Benjamin Franklin famously observed, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. However, we often deny the inevitability of our own deaths until the last possible moment. This denial colours the way in which we, as a society, approach death and dying, with predictable effects on medical practice and research.

In medical practice, the primary focus is typically on disease management. Researchers aim to understand the mechanisms leading to disease, or to identify potential cures. Much of our current thinking is implicitly driven by a purely biomedical model of aging, disease, and death; less focus (and funding) is directed towards the many psychological, social, and spiritual issues faced by people who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. This is understandable in a system where both doctors’ time with patients and research dollars are limited. However, a holistic model that incorporates aspects beyond the purely biomedical paves the way for a better understanding of the dying process, and better quality of life for those diagnosed with a serious illness.

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