Category Archives: Social Medicine

Laughter & Light

Let’s face it, life is full of stuff for our nervous systems to chew on. Not always fun.

Today, lets take a break from all of the things our heads are subject to figuring out—I need a good laugh and some light hearted thinking. You too? Let’s start with looking at pictures of people laughing. This will get our dopamine and serotonin chambers ignited. Sound good?

Then we’ll read something short and warming to complete the cognitive good vibe. Sound good? Take a savoring look at each photo for the full effect:

images-16

images-13

images-17

images-6

Unknown-1

TV3803-1__18405.1430338269.1280.1280

From a lovely insight by Tom Robbins:

“The message I wish to import to the children goes something like this:

The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyrant of the dull mind forever threatens– but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end its love and love alone that really matters.”

Why Meditate?

images-10

I’ve just returned from Dr. John Preston’s Brain Conference on Positive Emotions. He shared research on brain health–linking it to foods, medicinals, and what else? meditation. He suggests 10-15 minutes a day.

Why meditate?

Stimulating the front lobes suppresses activity in the amygdala. The amygdala is impulsive, reactive, prone to false alarms, and loves to ruminate. Worry, impulsive behavior, bad moods, and anxiety are your amydala running the show.

Whenever you calm yourself down, interrupt negativity, or stop yourself from impulsive behavior, you’re frontal lobes are activated and excreting BNFD (a protective hormone). A feeling of calm and well-being can replace negative states of mind. Whats the best way to get lots and lots of this feeling? Meditate.

images-11

Practicing detaching from your thoughts,  can be protective to your brain’s health. Protective. Strange, huh?

Our amygdalas get coated with early experiences in our families, creating high sensitivity and pattern recognition to stimulus. Small things can make us freak out with emotional reactivity. Its responsible for a lot of negative self talk and relationship drama.

Our frontal cortexes need training to exert “top down control.” Meditation is the most effective, powerful tool for increasing your capacity to regain~and maintain equanimity.

images-9

There are several ways to meditate, if you think about it. Walking meditation, eating meditation, laying in bed meditation, riding the bus meditation, sitting on the lawn meditation.

Don’t get stuck thinking you have to sit a special way or wear yoga pants. Phooey. As long as you follow these two ideas, you’re meditating and receiving the benefit:
1. breath slowly and deeply
2. detach from your thoughts, watch them, but don’t follow them, just for 10 minutes, let them go by. Repeat #1.

Anywhere you go, you can fit in a little meditation. Next time your up in the hills on a hike and see a beautiful view, sit down and empty your mind. Now you’ve exercised your body and protected your brain.

At the brain health conference, 200 of us closed our eyes, practiced detaching and breathing several times during the day. It was kinda powerful. Try adding little meditations through your day?  Getting present this way activates your frontal lobes ~and your well-being.

Animals do it all the time!

Accept Yourself Now

Take a look at these faces. Mirror neurons allow you to feel what they are feeling: Mirror neurons live inside the brain, allowing humans to read each other in split seconds. What are they feeling? Depressed, worried, sad, frustrated?

This is an article on performance, anxiety and depression. Its about growing up in a family where love was conditional.

Jennifer Santos Madriaga, writes:

Prove yourself. “For years my life was defined by deep feelings of inadequacy as well as concurrent actions of striving to keep those feelings at bay. Even as a young child, I felt nothing I did was good enough, and I can still recall feelings of intense anxiety, sometimes terror, at simply waking up and knowing I had to go to school.  While my parents meant well, I was inculcated with the belief that to be loved meant having to prove your worth each and every day, which meant doing things in a certain way—staying quiet, doing what you were told, getting good grades, taking certain subjects.  In other words, I was given a supposed checklist of success, which would supposedly lead to this elusive state called “happiness.”

I must not fail. I was taught to be competitive, to believe that my self-worth was directly tied to accomplishment. I could not be of value unless I achieved something. This is a belief system embraced by many, and for me, it only served to deepen the feelings of emptiness and downright devastation that I experienced, especially if I failed at something. When one lives in a constant state of competition, there is no such thing as ever being good enough. One lives in a constant fear that you have to PROVE yourself at every turn.

Is this all there is? Even as I continually achieved and collected accolades, I suffered from constant panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression. Therapy and anti-depressants would provide short-lived respite. However, even as I spent most of waking time dedicated to “doing,” part of me was suspicious of what the point exactly was to all this “doing.” A secret voice was always asking, “Is this all there is?” Part of me was deeply ashamed that this voice even existed. After all, society was reinforcing that I was doing things the “right way.” I dutifully checked off the items on my checklist of success, completely believing that once I completed each task, I would be closer and closer to that state called “happiness.” However, with each accomplishment, I only felt empty.

Living externally A part of me resigned myself to believing that perhaps what I really wanted could never be attained, that it was elusive and outside myself. But even as I tried to give into resignation, that voice and its question “Is this all there is?” continued to plague me. I had become an adult and done everything that was expected of me. And I was completely miserable. “Is this all there is?” became an accusation. But I busied myself with tasks to which I attached great importance. I cooked gourmet meals. I traveled to faraway places. I did yoga. I went through the motions of what a good life was supposed to be, never realizing in all those years that what I had longed for resided within myself. My self-worth still resided in the external— from accomplishments and material possessions, in the need for validation from others. It never occurred to me that I could give myself validation because I had never been taught that.

Self acceptance. I remember back in 2001 discovering a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he spoke about suffering. It struck a chord with me, but I could not understand it. For he said to lessen suffering in the world, you had to reduce suffering within yourself. That concept seemed completely foreign to me. I did not understand how lessening MY suffering could possibly lessen the suffering of others. So even when we are well-meaning in focusing on the suffering of others, it only serves to distract from addressing what needs to change within ourselves.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Fast forward to the present, I now realize that we cannot possibly give or receive love without knowing love within ourselves first. And how did I finally understand this? It was when I heard the words, “Who you are… is enough.”  I don’t know from whom or exactly when I heard this, but the concept was so revolutionary to me that I shed tears. And for the first time, I felt free. I have heard this mantra echoed numerous times from many spiritual teachings and teachers since hearing it the first time, but I finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh meant.

I have dedicated the past few years to releasing my old belief systems related to worthiness. When the inner voice asked the question “Is there all there is?” it was really asking, “Are you good enough?” And the answer has been and always will be, “I am enough.”

Fresh Start?

You know you need a fresh start.

Here’s some excerpts from Dana Claudet on Fresh Starts. If you’ve been feeling stuck, blue, or bored – a fresh start may be exactly what you need.

A fresh start can fill us with optimism and excitement.
It’s not always convenient to make a fresh start. After all, there’s already so much going on and so many things we’re committed to.
Here are a few signs that a fresh start may be overdue:
1. You’re always late.
Lateness is often a big sign of chaos or disconnection from the day. It’s a sign you’re not as committed as you could be.
2. You feel perpetually uninspired.
When you can’t find pleasure in simple things– or even big and splashy things, this reflects that your deepest self may be deprived.
3. You’re waiting for a breakthrough because you’re tired of the way things are.
Monotony doesn’t end through magical acts of intervention by the universe, like a big lottery win or meeting your twin flame soul mate. Most of the time, you have to actively choose to break out of the rut you’re in!
4. Clutter overwhelms you.
All around your spaces, your car, your room, is peripheral mess. Try organizing it, getting rid of it, paying attention to it: it moves energy.
5. You feel drained by your days rather than energized by them.
If your routine takes the life out of you rather than bringing you fulfillment, you may need a fresh start.
6. You’re tempted to make excuses and blame people for how you feel.
When the boredom, drained energy and chaos carries on for too long, I notice that’s typically when responsibility flies out the window and its everyone else’s fault. But, can you be clear how you are responsible for creating something that feels really exhausting, repetitive or dull? It will help.
7. You have a lot of mood swings.
This is when the roller coaster ride of chaos seems to really be setting in and it’s become a habit to feel cluttered, overwhelmed and drained. The misperception is “I never have time to do what I really want”- which isn’t true.
8. You perpetually talk about making a big change, but don’t do it.
The breaking point usually comes when it feels far better to take a risk and dare to break old habits/make a fresh start– than to stay miserable.

IMG_6854

joshua tree, CA

You probably want to know how to start making that fresh start?

There’s no instruction manual for the fresh start you specifically need, but lots of life coaches focus on getting to a deeper part of yourself. Grab a journal or notebook and begin by jotting down responses to these questions:

1. Analyze your happiness:
What have been the 10 peak experiences in your life so far? (Include times in childhood). Who were you with? What were your thoughts? What were your emotions? Analyze your happiness.
2. Analyze yourself in relationship to others:
Who are your favorite people? How do they make you feel? What do you value about them? Who are you when you’re with them?
3. Analyze your days:
What the part of your day where you feel most focused, alert, engaged? How would you enhance your awareness and deepen your experience in that part of your day?
4. Analyze and deepen your creativity: When do you feel most creative, imaginative, full of ideas, or like your brain is energized? What are your I textual or artistic creative outlets? How can you enhance their place in your daily life?

IMG_5298

Here are a few Basics to generate energies for a fresh start:
-Clean your house/office/studio
You’d be surprised how much a detailed, clean space can do for your mind! Read up on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
-Water is the element of fresh starts. You might want to take more baths or swim if you can. Ice baths have been proven to create euphoria for up to 5 hours after soaking in water with 2 bags of ice!
-Go Adventure
It’s one of the best ways to get rid of bad habits and habitual thought patterns. Hike in the woods. Take a long, long walk. Vacation.
-Create
Create art, write songs or poetry, take photos, paint, garden, write your biography, design food, sculpture, or sing. There are tons of guides and tutorials online to support you. Your creative energy is the best–and endless–source of living a great life.
What ways do you create a fresh start for yourself? Share…we all need to hear the encouragement.

Unknown-1

 

 

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.

img_3212-1

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….

img_3211-0

….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.

img_3209

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

unknown-7

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.

images-7

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.

images-5

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.

images-8

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.”

unknown-8

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.

unknown-10

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

img_3913

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!