Monthly Archives: February 2017

Natural Remedies for tip-top Mental Health

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The Path~ LH

This is an informative post with info from Howard Rosenthal, blogger for Psychotherapy.Net:

“This is the first generation of psychotherapy clients who are often better informed about natural mental health remedies than their their therapists.” Go ahead, read on, and be one of those clients. In an age when self-advocacy as a patient is so crucial, here is some key ingredients to maintaining your own mental health:

St. John’s Wort (SJW), an herbal remedy, has become the darling of the alternative mental health treatment movement. Incidentally, that’s wort, not wart, so you need not see a dermatologist. Wort is Old English for plant. Your more educated clients may refer to it as “hypericum” the scientific name, but thanks to this blog, you’ll know they are referring to good old St. John’s Wort. In some statistical studies St. John’s Wort ran neck and neck with prescription counterparts for depression and anxiety. Detractors often point out that St. John’s Wort can cause sun sensitivity, but so can antibiotics and pain relief medications.

SAMe (Typically enunciated SAMMY) was discovered in Italy many years ago. This nutraceutical has been used for depression, fibromyalgia and arthritis in other countries with a high degree of success. The key selling point is that SAMe often works faster than prescription medicines and negative side effects are extremely rare.

5 HTP or 5-Hydroxytryptophan. This super star is reputed to be superior to psychiatric medicinals in terms of raising serotonin levels in the brain. Some folks also insist it can help you shed a few pounds and swear it works wonders as a sleep aid. Rumors abound that athletes involved in extreme endurance sports have used it for years to counteract the depression brought on by very high levels of aerobic exercise.

Increase your exposure to sunlight or full spectrum lighting. Psychiatrist Dr. Norman Rosenthal (no relation to this author) first described Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which afflicts 7 million women and a rather large number of men. SAD is a type of depression which manifests itself when the days get darker and shorter limiting one’s sun exposure. Alternative mental health practitioners worry that the recommendation to wear sunscreen at all times and to avoid the sun has made individuals more prone to SAD. For those who cannot spend time in the sun, full spectrum lights and phototherapy devices are available. Word of warning: Your friendly neighborhood dermatologist who is determined to prevent cancer and related skin damage is not a fan of this theory!

Vitamin D, or should I say hormone D. Cutting edge theory asserts that vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a hormone. Appropriate levels of this nutrient, um I mean hormone, help fight mood disorders and seemingly drastically boost the immune system. The problem: It is possible that traditional government recommendations were way too low. Some clients now ingest 10 to 125 times the amount of vitamin D suggested by Uncle Sam just a few years ago. Interestingly enough, even mainstream physicians who initially scuffed at this idea are now routinely insisting that patients get their vitamin D levels checked. Skeptics warn that we don’t know the long term effects of taking such high doses. Zealots, insist that a day on the beach is the equivalent of taking a handful of vitamin D pills. Stay tuned, this one should get interesting.

Fish Oil to raise Omega 3 EPA/DHA levels. In at least one research study, the experiment was stopped because bi-polar subjects receiving fish oil were progressing much better than those who did not, and quite frankly it didn’t seem fair to the group who was not ingesting the supplement.
Many therapists have heard the rumor that kids living in fishing towns have lower levels of ADHD and adults residing in these areas suffer from fewer bouts of depression and anxiety. Fish oil, in addition to its ability to stabilize one’s mood, also theoretically promotes cardiovascular health and is often championed as beneficial for eyes, skin and joints. As of late, a couple of anecdotal reports indicate massive dosages might even help in cases of seemingly incurable brain trauma (e.g., after an auto or mining accident). The prescription to “eat more fish” is likely not the ideal since our waters are polluted. Moreover, studies in this area use fish oil capsules (not a generous helping of salmon) to enhance scientific rigor and the ability to regulate the dosage.

If you, or your clients, do purchase fish oil, it is best to stick to brands packaged in dark glass or plastic bottles and keep the supplement refrigerated to avoid rancidity. Finally, be acutely aware that the number of milligrams on the front of the bottle — generally a huge selling point (say 1200 mg) — has nothing to do with the actual milligrams of the beneficial omega-3 content (which might be 324 mg or some such number). Always scope out the label that graces the back of the bottle to determine the actual omega 3EPA/DHA content.

Niacin vitamin B3 therapy. All-right, here’s a question that I’m betting not a single reader can answer correctly: How did Bill Wilson (aka Bill W) co-founder of AA cure his longstanding anxiety? If you said, “duh, he used AA,” then you are absolutely, positively wrong! (Nice try though.) Question number 2: What did Bill Wilson say he wanted to be remembered for on his death bed? If you said, “AA” congratulations, you are zero for two!

Bill Wilson loved AA and believed in it with all his heart and soul. He used it to help his own drinking problem. Nonetheless, AA did nothing to help his debilitating anxiety and depression. What did help? Seriously large dosages of vitamin B3, also known as niacin. Bill Wilson spent nearly the last third of his life trying to get AA groups to promote niacin as a treatment for alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. It never happened and worse yet the saga has been virtually absent from all the major sources on addiction treatment.

Probiotics. These are supplements that promote healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. Many practitioners are convinced probiotics can be helpful in an array of mental health and digestion disorders; especially autism spectrum disorder. Probiotics have virtually no negative side effects, but some brands require refrigeration or freezing temperatures to survive. Like automobiles, television sets, and vacuum cleaners, every brand claims to be the best, so it’s difficult to make a purchase decision.

Eliminate wheat. Wheat gluten and mental illness(most notably schizophrenia) have a longstanding relationship. Although mainstream medicine insists wheat is healthy (if not a required food group), newer research posits that ingesting wheat based products has a detrimental effect on one’s blood sugar, emotional state, and might even be implicated in Alzheimer’s. The problem may not be so much the wheat itself, but the fact that today’s wheat has been hopelessly genetically altered. Or to put it a different way, this isn’t your father’s whole wheat bagel! The bun that graced a 1970s fast food burger bears no resemblance to the bun you wolfed down for lunch. Proponents of the new don’t eat wheat theory, feel strongly that whole grain, 7 grain, gluten free whatever (!!!) products may be just as bad if not worse for you than the run of the mill white bread type foodstuffs.

(Take a look at David Perlmutter, M.D.’s book Grain Brain if you think I am exaggerating.)

Strategies to boost cholesterol. Say what? Al-right, I’ll admit it. I save the most controversial alternative strategy for last. Although most doctors are prescribing statin drugs to lower your so-called bad LDL cholesterol, a number of avant garde thinkers point out that higher may be better. If your cholesterol is below the 160 mark, your physician will give you a big hug and a smooch. But some research shows that if you have low cholesterol your chances of suffering from a major depression or committing suicide goes through the roof. So eat your grass-fed butter, your coconut & olive oils. Everyday. The brain, as they point out, is basically cholesterol. Proponents of the cutting edge, increase your cholesterol theory if you want better mental health, have gone as far as suggesting that a minimum requirement for cholesterol should be added to the food charts in the near future. There is also the issue of longevity. Older adults in good health seem to have elevated cholesterol.

It would be an understatement to say that the aforementioned information seems totally the opposite of what we have been told for years.”

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Why are Relationships so Hard?!

Stan Tatkin’s neurobiological approach to couples work is utterly useful, fascinating, and personally gratifying to use in the office –and at home 😊. Here’s an article by Jeff Pincus that describes why attaching to someone is complex.

“Emotional development doesn’t happen in isolation. The entire field of psychotherapy rests upon the premise that one human being can help another to move beyond vestigial strategies developed in the context of the distant past and to live life in a way that is less encumbered by personal history. We consider this to be emotional or psychological growth. Part of the blessing of being human is that this process can be ongoing as we learn, grow, and continue to develop across our entire lifespan.

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As a PACT therapist, PACT trainer, and husband who continues to put PACT principles to the test in my own marriage, I have been awed by the acceleration of development and maturation that occurs within a committed partnership when both parties co-create a foundation of secure functioning. This is the bedrock that PACT helps couples stand upon, and that supports a resurgence of development where there has been regression, idleness, and apathy….

…When our safety and security are perceived to be at risk, our attention and behaviors are dominated by the tasks of mobilizing away from threat (fleeing), subduing danger (fighting), or shutting down (collapse). When processes organized around the drive for survival consume a relationship, couples stay in an immature state where there is no room for practicing….

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….Secure functioning both requires and facilitates each partner to develop emotionally, take pro-relationship risks with each other, and be collaborative….

…During a session, (Pact therapists) may direct them to reach out even when their instinctual impulse is to withdraw, to maintain eye contact when the habitual tendency is to gaze avert, or to say something loving when the reflex is to attack or defend.

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Through such practicing, each member of the dyad risks shedding old, primitive defenses to become a more resilient and robust adult. Each takes greater responsibility for the current state of the relationship, and for moving it forward toward deeper satisfaction. This is true differentiation. PACT therapy helps couples become their best adult selves in a relationship where growth and personal development are a natural outcome of love and commitment.” ~Jeff Pincus, PACT Therapist.

If you like this, go read building a secure couple bubble

Building a healthy Couple Bubble

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A couple bubble is a power tool.

Everyday, I continue to be blown away at the effects of teaching others–and practicing at home–what a secure couple bubble feels like, and how to care for it. It’s a very basic concept of behaving reassuringly toward your partner (I apply it as a parent and friend too). When 2 people commit to providing this for each other…things change fast.

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Here is Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., from the PACT group to describe elements of a secure couple bubble: “Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy…people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.

Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.

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Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity. In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner. “….we each have to know our sensitivities and how we move through the world, and also to understand who are partner is, and how they operate. To be clear, that is not how we wish our partner operated, but how our partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world.

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This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.” “…The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first –tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and it comes back to you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilitied in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.”

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Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner stay connected at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.

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If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating…” Go ahead, have a discussion with your partner tonight about securing the couple bubble through these reassuring behaviors. If questions or complaints come up, leave a comment. 😉

You’re the Average of the 5 People You Hang Around

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Blue Bird Girl

Hi! Here are some intriguing tidbits from the illuminating James Altucher:

Your Awareness is the average of

*the 5 things that inspire you the most

*the 5 things you eat

*the 5 things you think about most often

*the 5 things you read

….Sometimes my thoughts need an upgrade. My food, friends, sources of inspiration, reading materials are all great. I’m lucky. And focused. But when it comes to thoughts….ugh- often my brain goes over the most boring things again and again. “That needs cleaning” “I need to finish that” “I’m late” “Where is my son now?” “More dishes” “I have to get something done” “How much time do I have left?” “I’m going to write that down” ~an endless chattering.

What would I rather be thinking? In order to upgrade my average OVERALL thinking platitude? “That would be awesome to paint” “I’m going to go paint right now” “I love him” “I’m so lucky” “I feel great” “Everyone is so special” “I am a being of light”

I’m trying to bring in more mindfulness these days. A walking meditation of sorts. Here’s a great definition:

“Mindfulness is being present to whatever is happening. Without judgement”

Enjoy!

Painting & Personal Coaching

Eager for some coaching on daily habits that can help you feel better about yourself?

Change your habits, change your life.

I’ve just listened to a thrilling Podcast with James Altucher interviewing Jim Kwik, and he’s got some awesome life pointers. If you’re like me you’ve read and heard dozens of self help schemes. I love it when they speak to me and feel fresh. Feeling blue? Or directionless? Like you’re treading water? Here’s some stuff to bone up on. Read through the list, then go back and read each one, taking a moment to close your eyes and imagine the next step toward adding or deepening that practice.

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W~ writing. Carry a small notebook and journal and jot down ideas, creative insights, observations, goals, gratitudes. 120 geniuses were studied for commonalities, and journaling was top of the list.

I~Imagining/creating. See if you can make a habit of intentionally creating helpful images in your mind. Create and rehearse those images. What is an important problem to solve in school, work, home or creative life? Get in the habit of creating helpful mental imagines to solve it. Powerful. (Read Shakti Gawain for more training on this).

S~ Self Talk. Your brain is your software program…be sure you’re rehearsing “can do” “I love myself” and “its all going to work out” thoughts. Super key on this list, watch your inner voice ALL the time, get kinder.

D~ Diet. By now we all know we are what we eat. Eat organic. Get off gluten. Reduce dairy. Eat a lot of vegetables and grass fed beef. But be a flexitarian, okay? Don’t go rigid about food. Trader Joe’s and Vitacost can supply you with tons of good, organic foods for cheap. No excuses.

O~ Order/Organization. Clear your house of clutter. Get rid of stuff you don’t use or need immediately. Your space is like your brain, we need order and space and free room for creating good moods, and being our best creative self.

M~ Meditate. People who meditate for 15 minutes each day are more resilient facing stressful situations. If you want to lead a big, bold, creative life, you need to meditate. Meditation thickens the tissue in the frontal cortex that protects you against stressing out. Try Tara Brach’s app for guided meditations.

S~ Stress Reduction. Most people have some anxiety. Get some cognitive skills from a therapist. Research says cognitive behavioral skills are as effective, and at times more effective than anti-anxiety medication. Here’s a basic CBT skill: The Three C’s: calm the body (breathing and relaxing the jaw, muscles, and eyelids); correct the goal (check your thinking, is it causing your own stress? Change the goal. Example: at a party, go from trying to get everyone to like you (not achievable), to taking a deep interest in others. Create a list of questions to ask before a party and seek to make other people feel interesting. (Thats an achievable goal); confront the situation in a new way.

Remember that socializing, with people who love and understand you, is hugely stress reducing. Who do you need to hang out with more often?

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E~ Exercise. Get oxygen to your brain before a project, or creating, or writing. 25 minutes 5 days a week. Join a walking group if you hate exercise. Mountains of research points to exercise for mood stabilizing, health, and enhancing mental capabilities. But marathons are unnecessary.

L~ Learn. Keep those neurotransmitters forming new brain pathway! Learning new information, new music, new art techniques, reading books on new topics, learning to play an instrument and learning a new language will ward-off dementia~ and boredom. The internet and YouTube are great for that.

B~Brain health. Basic brain hygiene: take fish oils and B vitamins, go to bed and get up at the same time every day, get 8 hours of sleep a night, always wear a helmet in adventurous sports, play multi-tasking games, avoid Nyquil, and keep learning new things.

Lots to unpack here. I’ll do that one article at a time, expanding on the good stuff soon.

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Visualizing the dream~LH

Creating A Secure Relationship

Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Life revolves around them. In intimate relationships, how do we get really good at them? Lots of new studies and science on attachment have some useful insights.

Here are a couple of articles that I’ve blended for brevity and usefulness by Lon Rankin and Stan Tatkin. (First there’s an overview, and then there’s 10 helpful commandments. Italics are mine). “Every species of mammal uses the limbic system—the social, emotional, relational part of the brain—to create strong bonds that provide safety and a felt sense of security.

Adult-child bonding is especially crucial for the development of the complex human brain and nervous system, and the development of an internal felt sense of security in the world—both real and perceived. When parents are too often inattentive of their child’s emotional needs, this bonding does not happen optimally, and the injury of insecurity can prevail.

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Memories, especially negative ones, are extremely powerful in influencing our perception of the world and our behaviors. Our subjective experience is colored by our past. All experiences, at any age, involving fear and threat are “velcroed” into the memory system in the interest of self-protection, but memories from childhood have particular potency. Children do not survive very long without parental attention and protection, and times of parental inattention, misattunement, and neglect are perceived as profoundly threatening. These memories become deeply wired into the brain and imprinted in the mind. (This is the basis for the value of inner child work in modern psychotherapy.) Many people in relationships are reacting from these often implicit and unconscious, velcroed threat memories, and their activation in everyday.

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…understanding the workings of this internal safety and security system, and the importance of this area…couples can move from projected, negative, internalized relational blueprints toward secure functioning within the primary partnership. In moving couples in this direction, partners “hold each other in mind,” especially in these places of old injury. They can take on the mantle of the attending parent in these areas of distress by holding their partner and their partner’s history in mind.

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…secure functioning is characterized by a balance of valuing both self and the relationship. Therefore, we encourage couples to tend their own historical and present-time hurts (through regular, quality attachment therapy), as well as be there for their partner’s hurts. Two strong, secure, internalized partners regulate these past injuries and their repetitive projected activations together. Old hurts are securely attended to in a mutual manner, rather than being allowed to take over and threaten the partnership.” -Lon Rankin

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Here are Stan Tatkin’s fabulously securing tips for smooth functioning relationships:

10 Commandments of a Secure Relationship

1. Thou shalt protect the safety and security of thy relationship at all costs.
2. Thou shalt base thy relationship on true mutuality, remembering that all decisions and actions must be good for thee AND for thine partner.
3. Thou shalt not threaten the existence of the relationship, for so doing would benefit no one.
4. Thou shalt appoint thy partner as go-to person for all matters, making certain thy partner is first to know—not second, third, or fourth—in all matters of importance.
5. Thou shalt provide a tether to thy partner all the days and nights of thy life, and never fail to greet thy partner with good cheer.
6. Thou shalt protect thy partner in public and in private from harmful elements, including thyself.
7. Thou shall put thy partner to bed each night and awaken with thy partner each morning.
8. Thou shalt correct all errors, including injustices and injuries, at once or as soon as possible, and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.
9. Thou shalt gaze lovingly upon thy partner daily and make frequent and meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration, and gratitude.
10. Thou shalt learn thy partner well and master the ways of seduction, influence, and persuasion, without the use of fear or threat.

The Power of the Yawn

Yawning: every creature that has a spine yawns. It’s a built in repair circuit which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms everything down in your body.

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Yawning is particularly useful when your body is stressed, injured, or ill. If you’ve got a head ache, try yawn “surfing”– where you literally try to yawn over and over–in most situations, your headache will ease up.

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Yawning is very good when you’re scared or upset. Try for at least three minutes of non-stop yawns, including gentle stretching, making little noises, gently rubbing your face or eyes. If you’re doing it well, your eyes should be watering.

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If you’re able to yawn for 10-15 minutes, your stomach may growl. By now, you’ve probably already yawned once?

images-4Twenty to forty minutes of non-stop yawning can also decommission stagefright. Do it until just before you walk out on stage, or in front of the camera.

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Humans have been yawning since the beginning of time, often as a stress response, sort of like dogs. Have you ever noticed when your dog is stressed they stretch, yawn and shake it off? We’re the same. My mom used to work at a community mental health clinic and would no sooner get in the car to drive home….and her body would begin yawning….all the way home. She never understood it– until she learned about yawning as discharging stress from the body.

Babies and kids are masterful yawners.

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Yawning is contagious. Try yawning at a meeting with others. Many others around you will involuntarily yawn. Like laughter and even tears, humans discharge built up tensions through these emotional releases. Discharging is a powerful. natural way back to feeling good again.

Even the Dali Llama yawns.

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(I was yawn surfing the whole time I was trying to write this! So funny!)