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Metamorphosis: My Path to Transformation – An Interview with Yves Réal Côté (1/7)

In this seven-part interview, previously posted as a whole in August 2020, I talk to one of my favourite people, Yves Réal Côté, about his experiences in prison and about his remarkable path to change. We discuss solitary confinement, overincarceration, the need for prison reform and better access to education, mental health, early adverse childhood experiences, trauma, violence, inequality, family, empathy, hope, and transformation, and we also talk about Yves’ recently published book, co-authored with Professor Alana Abramson (Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University), Metamorphosis: My Path to Transformation (the title changed since we did the interview last summer), which you can now purchase via the link below! Wooo!

Thank you for listening – Yves has so much knowledge to share, and he is such a beautiful human being.

Thank you as always to the incredibly talented Johanna Hauterville for editing these videos and for being the best video editor EVER! I am so grateful!

You can purchase Yves’ book via this link:

https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000169581492?fbclid=IwAR0QImSJTsjt-rkE1n8NFkxfA0HZZPkFajV1i3OQFwh1k40XBjKklaIZNdw

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“Hyper-Empathy, Psychopathy, and Society” – Co-Hosted by Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square and Naaz Sidhu!

Thank you also to the uber talented Kristen Frier for creating this AWESOME POSTER!! WE LOVE YOU!

This is a KPU-only event, but if people would like to join us for something similar, we will be hosting a TED Circles event that everyone can join on April 30, 2021! More information to follow in the coming weeks!

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Coping with Chronic Pain: Friendship, Poetry, Compassion, and Healing – An Interview with Alisha Chauhan (6/9)

Alisha Chauhan is a Public Speaker and Chronic Illness/Mental Health Advocate, an Educator, and an overall amazing human being! In this 9-part interview, we discuss her experience coping with Multiple Sclerosis and talk about mental health, chronic pain, art (particularly poetry) as therapy, the power of community and friendship, baking, and more!

Alisha: “I have 8 years of a demonstrated background in higher education, psychology, counselling and mental health, and I have been able to combine this with my life experiences in order to inspire others through my journey. I have been giving lectures specifically about my illness since I got diagnosed in 2016.”

Thank you to the wildly talented Johanna Hauterville, one of the best video editors out there! I would be lost without you!

Please free to contact Alisha for more information at lemmiehelpyou@gmail.com. Love you, Alisha!!

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Addressing the Climate Emergency: The Anthropocene and Our Shared Responsibility (Part 4)

In this video, part 4 of 4 (it turns out there was one more that I had forgotten about!), Dr. Todd Dufresne, Dr. Carol-Ann Farkas, and Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square discuss the role of scholarship in addressing the climate emergency and COVID-19 and about the importance of youth activism.

Todd is a Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University (CA) and, most recently, author of The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (2019).

Carol-Ann is a Professor of English and the Director of Writing Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). She is the the editor of Reading the Psychosomatic in Medical and Popular Culture: Something, Nothing, Everything (Routledge 2017), and her current research focuses on the ways in which we turn to popular media to learn about, and cope with, eco-anxiety. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Health and Media (2021)—“Climate Health is Human Health: Working Through Eco-Anxiety With the Written Word in Print and Digital Media”—with Bryn.

I am an interdisciplinary instructor and activist and am currently co-authoring a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Health and Media, as you know from above, and co-editing a collected volume, Intersex and the Health and Medical Humanities (2021), with Dr. Katelyn Dykstra.

Thank you so much to the very talented Johanna Hauterville for editing this video (which would have taken me my entire life)!!

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How COVID Has Altered Higher Ed, An Interview with Jasmeen Deol and Ravneet Sahota (2/6)

In this six-part interview, I speak with my former Kwantlen Polytechnic University students Jasmeen Deol (Psychology, KPU) and Ravneet Sahota (Criminology, KPU) about their experiences attending university during a pandemic. They have so much knowledge to share, and they are absolutely amazing!!

In Part Two, we discuss synchronous and asynchronous learning, Zoom fatigue, and the possibility of instituting a Pass/Fail system at university and of making higher education free! Yes, please!

Jasmeen and Ravneet are the Co-Directors of an initiative tracking media coverage of COVID-19 in BC prisons and jails and are also co-organizers for an international forum, “Redesigning Our World,” which will be held virtually in 2022 (this video was recorded before we decided to change the date from September 2021 to Spring 2022). Annamie Paul, lawyer, activist, and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, will be our opening keynote!

Thank you so much to the ridiculously talented Johanna Hauterville for your always amazing work editing these videos—I would be lost without you!

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Pursuing Higher Education During a Pandemic – An Interview with Jasmeen Deol and Ravneet Sahota (1/6)

In this six-part interview, I speak with my former students Kwantlen Polytechnic University students Jasmeen Deol (Psychology, KPU) and Ravneet Sahota (Criminology, KPU) about their experiences attending university during COVID-19. They have so much knowledge to share, and they are absolutely amazing!!

Jasmeen and Ravneet are the Co-Directors of an initiative tracking media coverage of COVID-19 in BC prisons and jails and are also co-organizers for an international forum, “Redesigning Our World,” which will be held virtually in 2022 (this video was recorded before we decided to change the date from September 2021 to Spring 2022). Annamie Paul, lawyer, activist, and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, will be our opening keynote!

Please do check out the following links if you’re interested:

Tracking Media Coverage of COVID-19 in BC Prisons and Jails, Website and Instagram Links:

https://trackingcovid19bcprisons.wordpress.com/

https://www.instagram.com/covid19inbcprisons/

Thank you so much to the ridiculously talented Johanna Hauterville for your always amazing work editing these videos—I would be lost without you!

“Living with Multiple Sclerosis – Self-Advocacy & Empathy,” An Interview with Alisha Chauhan (5/9)

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*Alisha wrote the poem pictured in the photo.

Alisha Chauhan is a Public Speaker and Chronic Illness/Mental Health Advocate, an Educator, and an overall amazing human being! In this 9-part interview, we discuss her experience coping with Multiple Sclerosis as well as mental health, chronic pain, the power of community, baking, and more!

Alisha: “I have 8 years of a demonstrated background in higher education, psychology, counselling and mental health, and I have been able to combine this with my life experiences in order to inspire others through my journey. I have been giving lectures specifically about my illness since I got diagnosed in 2016.”

*If you’re interested in Michelle Lobchuk’s research – she is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Manitoba – you can find out more here:

Thank you to the wildly talented Johanna Hauterville, one of the best video editors out there! I would be lost without you!

Please free to contact Alisha for more information at lemmiehelpyou@gmail.com.

“Poetry, Creativity, and Agency – Coping with Chronic Pain,” An Interview with Alisha Chauhan, 3/9

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Alisha Chauhan is a Public Speaker and Chronic Illness/Mental Health Advocate, an Educator, and an overall amazing human being! In this 9-part interview, we discuss her experience coping with Multiple Sclerosis as well as mental health, chronic pain, the power of community, baking, and more!

Alisha: “I have 8 years of a demonstrated background in higher education, psychology, counselling and mental health, and I have been able to combine this with my life experiences in order to inspire others through my journey. I have been giving lectures specifically about my illness since I got diagnosed in 2016.” Thank you to the wildly talented Johanna Hauterville, one of the best video editors out there! I would be lost without you!

Feel free to contact Alisha for more information at lemmiehelpyou@gmail.com.

An anonymous response to Alisha’s presentation during one of my classes: “The first thing [I learned] is that life is so fragile: no one knows what will happen the next moment. Live . . . life to the fullest and be thankful every day for being alive. Life has ups and downs, but Alisha insists that you should not give up easily. Alisha is a warrior.” SO TRUE!

The photo is of Alisha and our amazing friend Calvin “Kalvonix” Tiu! Please check out the links to his music in the description under the YouTube video!

Ripples of Consciousness in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Part One

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Hi, everyone! This is Part One of a five-part series of videos from my presentation at the Science of Consciousness conference in September 2020. I had released this originally, but I realized that it was the wrong version! Oops! Thanks as always! Sending love!

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“Poetry, Creativity, and Coping with Chronic Pain – An Interview with Alisha Chauhan,” Part 1/9

Alisha Chauhan is a Public Speaker and Chronic Illness/Mental Health Advocate, an Educator, and an overall amazing human being! In this 9-part interview, we discuss her experience coping with Multiple Sclerosis as well as mental health, chronic pain, the power of community, baking, and more! Alisha: “I have 8 years of a demonstrated background in higher education, psychology, counselling and mental health, and I have been able to combine this with my life experiences in order to inspire others through my journey. I have been giving lectures specifically about my illness since I got diagnosed in 2016.”

Thank you to the wildly talented Johanna Hauterville, one of the best video editors out there! I would be lost without you!

A Wonderful Conversation with the Wonderful Ethan Herschenfeld!

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The S Rank Podcast – The Persona Series and Literature

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Hi, everyone!! I am beyond excited to be a guest on William Westerberg‘s and Aaron Moy‘s weekly gaming podcast, The S Rank! We will be discussing the Persona Series, which makes reference to Mary Shelley, Poe, and Lovecraft (cool, right??!!)!

As Aaron explains, “it is a classical Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) in which you use monsters (Personas) to fight a variety of antagonists in pursuit of truth/justice/etc. Gameplay usually alternates between participating in normal, everyday life and investigating a distorted fantasy world. There is one exception, however, and this is the topic we will dive into: The Velvet Room.

As described by the franchise, it is a place between dream and reality, mind and matter. It is a staple of the series, manifesting differently in each game. Its purpose is to help the player towards their path of enlightenment.” If you want to hear more, please check out the podcast!! 🥳😎🤩

Here’s where you can check them out:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesrankpodcast/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thesrankpodcast

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6g3u3iOGpzDFfEImD0Ir2l

Radical Humanism in Times of Crisis, Part 3 – Is Russell Brand the Socrates of Our Time?

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In this video, the final of a three-part series, Dr. Todd Dufresne, Dr. Carol-Ann Farkas, and Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square discuss tricksters, comedians, Indigenous knowledge, and the role of scholarship in addressing the climate emergency and COVID-19.

*****The book shown in the video is actually Trickster Drift. I am referring to Son of a Trickster.****

Todd is a Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University (CA) and, most recently, author of The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (2019). Carol-Ann is a Professor of English and the Director of Writing Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). She is the the editor of Reading the Psychosomatic in Medical and Popular Culture: Something, Nothing, Everything (Routledge 2017), and her current research focuses on the ways in which we turn to popular media to learn about, and cope with, eco-anxiety. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Health and Media (2021)—“Climate Health is Human Health: Working Through Eco-Anxiety With the Written Word in Print and Digital Media”—with Bryn. Bryn is an Interdisciplinary Instructor in the Faculty of Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and an editor for Epilogue magazine. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Health and Media, as you know from above, and she is also co-editing a collected volume, Intersex and the Health and Medical Humanities (2021), with Dr. Katelyn Dykstra. Thank you so much to the very talented Johanna Hauterville for editing this video (which would have taken me my entire life)!!

Empathy, Eco-Anxiety, and Activism: Radical Humanism in the Face of Climate Change and Social Upheaval (2/4)

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In this video, part two of four, Dr. Todd Dufresne, Dr. Carol-Ann Farkas, and Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square discuss the role of scholarship in addressing the climate emergency and COVID-19.

Todd is a Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University (CA) and, most recently, author of The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (2019).

Carol-Ann is a Professor of English and the Director of Writing Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). She is the the editor of Reading the Psychosomatic in Medical and Popular Culture: Something, Nothing, Everything (Routledge 2017), and her current research focuses on the ways in which we turn to popular media to learn about, and cope with, eco-anxiety. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Health and Media (2021)—“Climate Health is Human Health: Working Through Eco-Anxiety With the Written Word in Print and Digital Media”—with Bryn.

Bryn is an Interdisciplinary Instructor in the Faculty of Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and an editor for Epilogue magazine. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Health and Media, as you know from above, and she is also co-editing a collected volume, Intersex and the Health and Medical Humanities (2021), with Dr. Katelyn Dykstra.

Thank you so much to the very talented Johanna Hauterville for editing this video (which would have taken me my entire life)!

A Conversation with Dr. Todd Dufresne, Dr. Carol-Ann Farkas, and Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square, Part One: Empathy, Eco-Anxiety, and Activism: Radical Humanism in the Face of Climate Change and Social Upheaval, Part One

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In this video, part one of four, Dr. Todd Dufresne, Dr. Carol-Ann Farkas, and Dr. Shoshannah Bryn Jones Square discuss the role of scholarship in addressing the climate emergency and COVID-19.

Todd is a Professor of Philosophy at Lakehead University (CA) and, most recently, author of The Democracy of Suffering: Life on the Edge of Catastrophe, Philosophy in the Anthropocene (2019).

Carol-Ann is a Professor of English and the Director of Writing Programs in the School of Arts and Sciences at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). She is the the editor of Reading the Psychosomatic in Medical and Popular Culture: Something, Nothing, Everything (Routledge 2017), and her current research focuses on the ways in which we turn to popular media to learn about, and cope with, eco-anxiety. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for The Routledge Handbook of Health and Media (2021)—“Climate Health is Human Health: Working Through Eco-Anxiety With the Written Word in Print and Digital Media”—with Bryn.

Bryn is an Interdisciplinary Instructor in the Faculty of Arts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and an editor for Epilogue magazine. She is currently co-authoring a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Health and Media, as you know from above, and she is also co-editing a collected volume, Intersex and the Health and Medical Humanities (2021), with Dr. Katelyn Dykstra.

Thank you so much to the very talented Johanna Hauterville for editing this video!

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Incarceration, Prison Reform, Empathy, and Hope: An Interview with Yves Réal Côté

Many thanks to Alana Abramson for editing Metamorphosis and for introducing me to Yves. As Alana writes, “this book is for social science students, researchers, and faculty and anyone interested in trauma, transformation, and criminal justice.”

Thank you also to Wade Deisman, and for everyone on the team, for introducing me to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s vital Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.

Robyn Maynard, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present (2017):

Incarceration is a form of captivity. Besides murder by police—the destruction of the body and the ending of life—it is the ultimate deprivation of liberty that can be inflicted by the state. Prisons are not only places of profound suffering, but they also make any participation in society’s social, economic and political life impossible. The populations that make up prisons make clear the fault lines of societal devaluation: there are no federal prisons composed mostly of wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender men. As incarcerated populations grow, jails and prisons are increasingly populated with those who have been deemed disposable: Black and Indigenous communities, people with cognitive disabilities and mental health problems and people with drug addictions. Incarceration does not impact all communities equally. For Black and Indigenous communities, incarceration is merely an extension of practices of captivity that date back centuries. (109)

In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), explains in “We Must Put an End to the Use of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons” (2017) that the CHRC “has long held that placing vulnerable individuals in solitary confinement denies them their human rights, and for those with mental health issues, it can lead to irreparable harm”; however, Correctional Services Canada nevertheless “continues to deny that their actions can cause profound damage.” We need “[t]o be better, and to do better” when it comes to the rights of prisoners, Landry insists, “we absolutely need to acknowledge, understand and address the vicious cycle of neglect and abuse that exists both outside our prisons, and within them.” “Every person on Canadian soil,” Landry continues, “whether they are in our prison system or in our immigration system, deserves to be treated with human dignity, and to have full access to Canada’s human rights protections.”

In her TEDx Talk, “Why US Prisons Need to Abolish Solitary Confinement” (2015), civil rights lawyer Laura Rovner refers to solitary confinement as a “prolonged social death” that “undermines core values of the justice system.” Prisoners are locked in a “cement closet,” “a cell the size of a bathroom”; there is no scenery, no human interaction, no communication with others or the outside world, and the damage to mental and physical health is severe (some self-harm, others commit suicide, many experience irreparable damage to their eyesight and vocal chords, and many lose their grasp on who they are and no longer feel connected to the larger world, so much so that some doubt that they even exist (Rovner).

In her powerful TED Talk, “What a World Without Prisons Could Look Like” (2018), activist architect (and my hero) Deanna Van Buren rightly argues that “[i]nstead of prisons, we should be building spaces to amplify restorative justice.”

A few corrections (oops!):

  1. Deanna Van Buren‘s name is written incorrectly in the video (my apologies – I need to learn how to edit videos) and should be written as I have it here.
  2. Around 35:50, I mention that incarceration can affect individuals on a physiological level (and had some difficulty pronouncing the word) and then go on to discuss the psychological effects. My brain stopped working temporarily, which is not uncommon.
  3. In the final quotation from Robyn Maynard ‘s Policing Black Lives, there should be a space between “social” and “economic.” Obsessive compulsive? Yes.

Yves Réal Côté

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Watch out for my forthcoming video interview with the very inspiring Yves Réal Côté! Yves will speak about his experiences in the prison system and about his important book Metamorphosis: The Road to Change

About

My name is Yves Réal Côté. Since the age of 11, I have spent most of my life in institutions. I am what is known as a “lifer” serving the most severe sentence available in Canada, life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. That means I will be under supervision by the government of Canada until my death.  In fact, I am serving two life sentences. My crimes consist of the use of violence in the community and in prison. In 1989, I took a life in Ottawa and was convicted of first-degree murder. In 1995, I received another life sentence for a murder I committed in a maximum-security institution. Two days after having been found guilty of the first murder and sentenced to life in prison, I received another sentence of 14 years for two bank robberies and one year for attempting to escape prison. In December 2013, after serving nearly 32 years in prison, I was released to reside in a halfway house on day parole. I am re-integrating into society as a responsible and contributing citizen. Writing my book, Metamorphosis: The Road to Change, is part of the transformative process I have been going through for many years.

I have been in 18 different federal institutions at every level of security: minimum security, medium security, maximum-security and super maximum known as the Special Handling Unit (SHU). I am covered with tattoos, and some say that I have a threatening image, an evil look. While I served my time in prison, I adapted well. I adapted myself to a point where I would go unnoticed. In the “outside” world it would be impossible for me to pass as “normal” with my physical appearance.  Today, however, the majority of people who take the time to sit down and have a conversation with me see me as a very intelligent man with potential to do good and to help others. It would be such a waste if my life experiences could not be used to reduce the suffering of others.

I strongly believe that sharing my story can make a difference for others. I have spoken in university and community settings and received heartfelt feedback. I would have never thought that it would be possible for me to make such a positive impact on people. Some people have told me that hearing my story reduced their prejudice towards offenders and prison. Others said they were scared to death when they learned that a murderer would be addressing their class. After hearing my story, their fear had completely gone away.

I have written hundreds of pages over the years I have spent in prison, many of them during my time in solitary confinement. I have also been writing since I have been released. This book contains a snapshot of my life and my thoughts on many topics. Some of what I have written may shock certain people and, if you feel offended, I apologize in advance. My purpose is not to please or to displease anybody nor trash anyone or the criminal justice system. Although some of my reflections may seem negative, my goals are to share my truth, take responsibility for my actions and, perhaps, help and inspire others in their change.

I am a simple man writing about making change, friendship, love, racism, religion, crime and punishment, and, naturally, incarceration. Many parts of this book have been very difficult to write. However, in a society where it seems we have lost common sense to fear and everything seems artificial, I am convinced that this book will be able to help some of you better understand the world in which prisoners live and what needs to change. 

I have participated in countless programs while incarcerated. I achieved the equivalent of a high school diploma and have completed eight college courses in psychology, philosophy, and sociology.  Despite years of correctional programs and some education, I am not an expert in any of the subjects that I am going to write about. However, I have enough lived experiences to give an informed opinion on things that touch us all. My friend and colleague, Alana Abramson, has agreed to contribute related academic insights and help edit this work. 

Rethinking Our Approach to Higher Education – An Interview with Jasmeen Deol and Ravneet Sahota (3/6)

In this six-part interview, I speak with my former Kwantlen Polytechnic University students Jasmeen Deol (Psychology, KPU) and Ravneet Sahota (Criminology, KPU) about their experiences attending university during a pandemic. They have so much knowledge to share, and they are absolutely amazing!!

Jasmeen and Ravneet are the Co-Directors of an initiative tracking media coverage of COVID-19 in BC prisons and jails and are also co-organizers for an international forum, “Redesigning Our World,” which will be held virtually in 2022 (this video was recorded before we decided to change the date from September 2021 to Spring 2022). Annamie Paul, lawyer, activist, and Leader of the Green Party of Canada, will be our opening keynote!

“I Live in Uncertainty Every Day” – Coping with Chronic Pain: An Interview with Alisha Chauhan (4/9)

Alisha Chauhan is a Public Speaker and Chronic Illness/Mental Health Advocate, an Educator, and an overall amazing human being! In this 9-part interview, we discuss her experience coping with Multiple Sclerosis as well as mental health, chronic pain, the power of community, baking, and more!

Alisha: “I have 8 years of a demonstrated background in higher education, psychology, counselling and mental health, and I have been able to combine this with my life experiences in order to inspire others through my journey. I have been giving lectures specifically about my illness since I got diagnosed in 2016.” Thank you to the wildly talented Johanna Hauterville, one of the best video editors out there! I would be lost without you! Feel free to contact Alisha for more information at lemmiehelpyou@gmail.com.

Cool, related articles about the benefits of walking and being outdoors:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/28/its-a-superpower-how-walking-makes-us-healthier-happier-and-brainier

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/nature-health-1.5128482