Retired St. Albert psychologist Jeff Kuryk has written an ebook that summarizes much of what he learned during his 30-year career and aims to help users focus on the present instead of worrying about the past or future.
Kuryk has lauched iAwoke, a self-help ebook application available for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. The project took him about a year to put together, with the help of Oregon-based Code-Monkeys, a software company that specializes in web applications.
He said users can expect to set aside half a day to go through the chapters.
"To practice it, takes a little bit of effort but not that much," he said.
Each chapter includes information and exercises to help users become more aware of themselves and the world around them. Specifically, it aims to help people identify what is most important to them, and to become more aware of their feelings and goals.
"They'll begin to see how they are thinking and feeling and acting so they can be a bit more aware of what's going on automatically," said Kuryk.
"It's the automatic stuff that often gets them into trouble."
One exercise encourages users to think about their goals and to imagine themselves in situations where their goals have been met.
Kuryk said this helps get the conscious mind in gear.
"When a person has a fairly solid set of goals, "it's almost as if your self-conscience goes along for the ride, it helps out," he said.
People who are depressed often think about the past, while those suffering from anxiety often fret about the future, Kuryk said.
"And that's a curse."
In one chapter, The Observer, users learn how to become more aware of what's going on within themselves.
A number of photographs of natural landscapes, flowers and trees are intended to help focus on the physical environment, an exercise that can help bring users into the present.
"If you were thinking about something you don't want to think about … you bring yourself back to the present, you don't think about memories as much and you don't think about the future as much," Kuryk said.
"You train yourself constantly to come back to the present."
The program is designed to help people gain control of their destiny more effectively.
The importance of art
Kuryk, an avid art collector and photographer, believes art can play an important role in helping people to live in the moment, something he touches on in iAwoke. The program also includes a collection of music by local artists.
"What the research shows is when you're creating art, you're fully in the moment, you're right now," he said.
While working as a psychologist, Kuryk said he would often encourage his patients to take up an art form. "Art, I think, breaks you out of the patterns that govern you."
Specifically, Kuryk said art can act as a distraction to those who have lost control over the direction of their lives.
"They mull over what's going to happen, they try to make plans and they sort of lose their footing. What they need is a distraction from their suffering so art will give them that distraction," he said.
While Kuryk said iAwoke can benefit those suffering from depression and anxiety, he said people with biological mental health problems such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and major anxiety should go to a mental health clinic, or talk to their doctor.
"These are biological things to a great degree that simply need medication," said Kuryk.
"However, the majority of mental health problems, once you eliminate those, I think this would appeal to anyone for you to plan your life, to know your desires, to regulate your criticism, to be optimistic, to know how valuable a soul mate is," he said.
"And to realize the happiest people aren't necessarily the famous, the rich, the powerful."