The eve of Friends With Benefits IV!

8 May

Dear Friends of Friends with Benefits:

The time is almost here!

I hope you’re all ready for an amazing night of friends, drinks, tasty treats, bidding, dancing and raising money for one amJen_web_photoazing cause!

On the eve of our 4th installment of FWB, we give out a special cheers to Jennie James who  fuels the fire within our humble hearts each year to go bigger and bigger in creating awareness of mental illness and the stigma around suicide. Thanks to our generous community and your support tomorrow, we will be able to ensure that mental health research is never put on the back-burner.

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow night. There are still a few tickets left so spread the word, invite friends and come out for one unique evening of fundraising! 


Friends With Benefits Hits Toronto – Babes Who Brunch for The Royal Raises $1000

3 May

On April 19th a group of women (and a wee little baby boy named Holden) got together to share brunch, amazing home made granola (thanks Farmer!) and a small silent auction to raise funds for The Jennie James Depression Research Fund.  In a single morning the Babes raised over $1000 for The Royal’s Jennie James Depression Research Fund.

When I thought about creating a fundraiser in honour of my friend Jennie James in 2012, I had no idea it would come to span 4 years and now two different cities.  11178248_10100949676887605_430306846341127076_n 11207305_10100949676198985_8985400305086632346_n 11133835_10100949676049285_729538547638865890_n 11150836_10100949675719945_6552783435451295496_n 11170359_10100949675714955_4329959129976917144_n

The Royal’s Young Researcher Award recipient to speak at FWB 2015!

20 Apr

How lucky are we? We just got word that the inspiring Dr. Kim Corace will be speaking at this year’s Friends With Benefits event on May 8th! For those not aware of her amazingness, Dr. Kim Corace is the The Royal’s 2015 Inspiration Award Recipient in the Young Researcher category.


Through her every day work, Dr. Corace shows how research and science inform clinical practice and lead to improved quality of care. Since earning her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from York University in 2008, she has demonstrated an outstanding track record in building regional, provincial, and national research and clinical collaborations and partnerships.

She was recruited as The Royal’s Director of Research and Program Development in the Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders Program and as a Clinician Scientist at The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Corace’s research, clinical, teaching, and advocacy efforts have led to sustainable improvements in mental health and addiction care, better client outcomes, and reduced stigma. She inspires hope in clients and families, gives impetus to the research community, and is a catalyst to improve the mental health and addictions system.

Learn more about the amazing Dr. Kim Corace and her inspiring research!

We’re inspired. Are you?

Don’t forget to grab your ticket to FWB – May 8th at Lago Bar-Grill-View! Tickets are selling fast!


20 Mar

Today is International Happy Day.  In 2012 the UN recognized March 20th as the “International Day of Happiness” realizing that happiness is a fundamental goal and that people who have rich connections are more likely to succeed in life and are better able to respond to life’s challenges.

Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/281 states in pertinent part:

The General Assembly,[…] Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,[…] Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness, Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…]

United Nations General AssemblyResolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012

To celebrate International Happy Day, the UN has launched the #happysoundslike campaign – a free playlist curated by world leaders, celebrities and you and me!  The idea is that music can create joy and can be an important part in creating happiness.

I have talked before on this blog about strategies to boost your mood.  Years ago my mother gave me a paper clipping that talks about 5 things that you can do to boost your mood.  Some of these are connecting with friends, eating a banana (yes!) and of course, listening to music and singing along.

I have recently started driving to work and have a new tradition of singing (loudly, and poorly) to at least one song before I park and head into the office.  On mornings where I’m feeling stressed about the day, singing along most definitely helps me feel more relaxed and brings a little smile to my face.  You don’t have to take it from me: scientists are saying it too.  The American Psychological Association has conducted a number of studies about music’s role in treating illness: including depression.  They have indicated that the vibrations in music and the excitement of seeing music live can be healing and that, in general, music can improve our quality of life.

Need a little boost?  Think about music and book International Happiness day, book mark the #happysoundslike play list or curate your own and keep it in your back pocket for when you’re feeling blue.  It’s science afterall!

Some selections from Friends With Benefits #happysoundslike playlist.  What do your happy sound like?

Kiss – Prince

Need You Tonight – INXS

People Everyday – Arrested Development

You & Me – Disclosure

Waiting Game – Hannah Georgas

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

September – Earth Wind and Fire

You can do it – Ice Cube

Shake It Off– Taylor Swift

Want a little more happy in your life?  Buy tickets to Friends With Benefits for The Royal on May 8th and improve your mood by dancing the night away while supporting a worthy cause.

Friends With Benefits 2015 – the journey to $100K

15 Feb

Today is the coldest day on record this winter in Toronto. As a write this, curled up under a blanket in my apartment in Toronto, the warmer May weather seems so far away. The reality is that when planning a charity event every day after Christmas seems to count in the collection of sponsors, organization of the venue, and in the promotion of the cause.

The team that has put together Friends With Benefits over the past three years has learned much about event planning and management. The biggest thing we have learned is that pulling off a great event takes an enormous about of patience, energy and organization. As we go into planning for year four we are reflecting on what has worked and what hasn’t over the years to give our guests an outstanding event in year four, and more importantly, raise even more money for the Royal. The goal? By year 5 in 2016 we want to have raised over $100,000 for mental health research at The Royal.

When we started in 2012 we were new and our goals were small – to raise a little over $5,000 for the Royal. Here is a snapshot of how the event has grown in the last three years:

In 2012 – $10,887.00 raised
In 2013 –  $15,624.00 raised
and in 2014 we raised $19, 974.00

Today we have raised over $46,000 for The Royal. We can see how this “little event that could” continues to grow. To accommodate the increased interest and guests we see with each event I am excited to announce that this year we are moving to a larger venue. We will still be at Lago, but in a larger space: the downstairs floor that has capacity for over 400 guests.

To get to $100K in 5 years, we will need to raise $25,000 this year.  Mark your calendar for Friday May 8th and join us at Lago, or share information about our sponsorship program , or volunteer the night of the event.  It takes many hands to make this event a success.

To get us excited for this year’s event check out these wonderful photos by Lisa Provencal Photography of our 2014 boys mom and andy friends Fun honoress ferrets girls 3 speeches alia and heather draws faces

You Know Who I Am

28 Apr

Reblog – This post sums up the importance of Friends With Benefits. 1 in 5 of us will be affected by a mental health issues in our life time. Friends With Benefits is all about sharing the fact that there are many who are living and thriving with a mental illness and eliminating the stigma attached to mental health issues.

This year we want to raise $20,000 in a single evening for mental health research at The Royal. Help us find living saving treatment for those living with mental illness. Help us find ways to help people recover more quickly. Help us elminate the stigma surrounding suicide. You know who I am… are you with me?

Friends... With benefits

You know who I am.

I’m the girl you see in the cafeteria over lunch or gasping for air as I finish the last five minutes on the treadmill at the gym. I’m your friend.  I’m your colleague.  I’m your neighbor. I’m just your average 30 something trying to balance work and life.

I’m also someone who suffers from a mental illness.

To look at me you might not guess I had been a client at the Royal.  I’m pretty together now, more so than the struggling 20 year old who was crying all the time and couldn’t make a simple decision.  I guess I’m a different me now, but I wouldn’t be this me without the support of The Royal.

When I was 20 years old in my second year of University in Toronto my nearly perfect life began to unravel.  I cried all the time.  No amount of…

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The Mind-Body Connection: Phil Green of Bounce Personal Training weighs in on why good physical health equals improved mental health

30 Mar

One of the many things that makes Friends With Benefits for The Royal so special is the support we get from the Ottawa community. Each year we put out the call to local businesses for unique silent auction items.  It is because of the generosity of these businesses that we are able to raise so much money for The Jennie James Depression Research Fund.  

Leading up to this year’s Friends With Benefits Event we will profile one of our sponsors on the blog.  Here you will get a sneak peak at some of the great items up for grabs at this year’s auction.  You’ll also learn why they have chosen to donate their product or service to support mental health research.

Phil Green of Bounce Personal Training is a sponsor of this year’s silent auction.  Phil has been a trainer for several years and I had the opportunity to train with him for just under a year when I was living in Ottawa.  Not only is he one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, he is truly excited about helping his clients to achieve their health and fitness goals.  I have never felt as fit or as confident in my body as I did when I was working out with Phil.  Phil has donated one month of bootcamp classes ($180 value).  Through bootcamp training you will get a chance to train with Phil in a fun and dynamic group setting.  This is a great way to get the benefits of working with a trainer in an affordable way.  

We often hear about the mind-body connection and the positive benefits of exercise on our mental health.  Here is what Phil has to say about his work and the physical connection to good mental health:


FWB:  The Canadian Mental Health Association has identified the following linkages between physical health and mental health:

1. People with serious mental health conditions are at high risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions.
2. People with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health.
Do you see this correlation in your day to day work as a fitness professional? In your experience as a personal trainer, can you share some of the positive mental health benefits your clients have experienced as a result of regular exercise?

PG:  I’m a true believer that the mental and physical health of our bodies are incredibly intertwined. One can’t be optimally healthy without the other, and they both complement each other very well.

Although people generally see personal training as a way to improve physical health, the mental health aspect of my job is evident with almost all of my clients as well. For example, with one-on-one training, clients begin to develop a trusting relationship with me and often open up and talk about their insecurities, fears and frustrations whether they have to do with exercise or other aspects of their lives. I’ve had people talk to me about relationship problems, work problems, family problems – you name it. Exercise can be a great way to let out your concerns and at the same time, improve your mental well-being. If a client is having a particularly bad day, I’m there to listen but I’ll also use that energy to their benefit and get them to perform some high intensity exercises that really allow them to “let it out” instead of holding onto negative emotions. I find after something like that, people often say “thank you, I needed that” or “I’m glad I was able to let that out”. Speaking from my own personal experience, physical exertion can help to relieve mental stressors.

FWB:  Can you share a goal related to physical health that one of your clients worked for and achieved? How do you think that this impacted their confidence, outlook, etc.?

PG:  One of my clients has been really successful in her weight loss goals. She is a cancer survivor, is divorced and has dealt with weight issues her entire adult life, so she’s had some pretty rough mental and physical battles in her lifetime. At this point, she hasn’t weighed as little as she does now in 13 years. If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who has been through a lot and has achieved something for themselves by working really hard, it’s truly an amazing thing to see and be a part of. She gets excited about having to buy new clothes because her old ones don’t fit, she looks forward to to dressing up and looking good, she looks forward to her workouts, and she is more confident in her day to day life. With each pound she loses, she is more and more motivated to keep going.

FWB:  Some of the issues that many people struggling with their mental health face are a lack of energy, desire to connect with others and motivation to complete daily tasks. How can you help individuals overcome these obstacles as a trainer?

PG:  Even something as simple as the endorphins that are released when you exercise can make you feel good. As a trainer I can help individuals establish and meet exercise goals and challenges (things you thought you probably couldn’t do) which ultimately has a positive impact on self confidence. This is often enhanced further by the physical changes that my clients see in their appearance. A big part of what I do with group training is getting people socializing. Many of my bootcamp clients end up being friends outside of class. Basically exercise can give you that extra bit of “feel good” and drive to push past the lack of energy, motivation and disconnect from daily life. Studies have demonstrated that regular exercise actually increases energy. When your body is strong and working efficiently you have more energy, drive, and motivation to get out and enjoy life!

There have been lots of studies done that have measured the effectiveness of regular exercise as a treatment for depression in comparison to anti-depressant drugs and they find that exercise is as effective, if not more effective than taking costly medications.

FWB:  Do you have any tips for getting yourself to the gym if you are lacking the energy/motivation to do so?

PG:  There are tons of things you can do to motivate yourself to get to the gym. Here’s a few:

  • Have a workout buddy. You are WAY more likely to make it to the gym if you have a friend who is also counting on you for motivation.
  • Reward yourself. Tell yourself that you can’t have a certain treat or reward until you’ve gone to the gym. After your workout, you can have your favourite latte or whatever.
  • Schedule it. If you’re someone who schedules everything, why not schedule your workouts? Set out an hour or two in your day and treat it like any other appointment that can’t be missed.
  • Track it. Many people are motivated by seeing their results improve. Compete against yourself and try to surpass your most recent achievements.
  • Get some good tunes. Make yourself a playlist specific to your workout. Find music that is motivating, fun and is something to look forward to.
  • Group training. Working out in a group can be incredibly motivating. Being around others with a positive attitude towards exercise can impact your outlook. You might also find solace in knowing your aren’t the only once suffering from exertion too!
  • Be realistic. If you’re just getting back into exercise, don’t try to be a hero and go to the gym 7 days a week. Start slow with once or twice and work up slowly from there.
  • Find an exercise that you enjoy. The gym isn’t everyone favourite place to be, maybe cycling, walking, swimming or team sports are better suited to you. You have to like what you’re doing in order to keep doing it.

FWB:  You do a lot of group training. Do you feel that bootcamp style classes have a positive impact on the motivation and well-being of the participants? How so?

PG:  I love teaching groups. There is always a great energy in my bootcamp classes because while everyone is working really hard and sweating, we are also making jokes and laughing a lot. The light atmosphere seems to make it more comfortable for those who might not be as outgoing as others. Many people who do my bootcamp love coming because of the motivation they gain from the rest of the group. Everyone is incredibly supportive of one another. Some people like to compete with their neighbour while others just like that they can get a good workout without all the attention on them 100% of the time. Whatever the reason people are coming, the social aspect of exercise can be incredibly powerful in helping people with their mental well-being.

FWB:  You are a sponsor of Friends With Benefits 2014 silent auction. Why did you get involved? Why is supporting mental health services in the Ottawa Community important to you?

PG:  As I said earlier, I very strongly believe that mental and physical health are incredibly interrelated. I’ve personally experienced bouts of depression and anxiety and getting involved in fitness has helped me become happier and more confident. If there are people out there who are suffering with depression or other mental health issues, I want them to know that physical fitness is a potentially life changing option for them. Image

To learn more about Bounce Personal Training and Phil’s work, follow Phil here: