Category: Mental Health

Top 10 Suggestions for Good Mental Health

Top 10 Suggestions for Mental Health
Top 10 Suggestions for Mental Health

Top 10 Suggestions for Good Mental Health

Good mental health must be cultivated. There is a direct correlation between the time, effort and discipline one uses to cultivate good mental health and one’s actual mental health.

My top 10 list for cultivating good mental health falls into three basic categories : Behavior Modification, Skills Mastery, Self Mastery

Behavior Modification  –  Positive changes in the realm of physical health may also improve mental health.

10.  Exercise – Releases hormones and neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions.   

9  Healthy Diet  – Not only does a healthy body need good nutrition, so does a healthy mind. Our relationship with food is also significant and includes body-image, issues of control and emotional eating.  

8  Hobby  – Spending time engaged in activities which bring us joy fosters well-being.  

Skills Mastery  – A few basic skills can be of a tremendous help in relationships and self growth

7  Relationships Skills – Many skills such as assertive communication, active listening and attending to relationships cultivate the loving relationships where we find support, validation and a sense of belonging  

6  Take in the Good – According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson we have a biological and evolutionary propensity to be negative. Our ancestors had to remember the location of the hostile tribes, not necessarily the location of the gorgeous waterfalls in order to stay alive.  To stay positive, notice the positive. Stay with them and try to enhance the experience.

5  Learn to Set Boundaries- Most of us have  a tendency of either passive or negative energy when we set boundaries.  Learning assertive behaviors and communication is empowering and fosters confidence and a sense of control.

Self Mastery – These skills allow us to master our thoughts, emotions and responses to our environment

4. Energy Hygiene – We are energetic beings. The intensity of negative emotions can be  diminished, and positive emotions can be easily instilled by learning and using simple energy hygiene exercises such as Emotional Freedom Tapping. 

3   Know thyself  – What have you packed away in your ego? We all have something. Is it an inflated (egotistical) or deflated (low self esteem) sense of self ? Discovering how you define self is a fascinating journey. Yet, the ego remains unconscious to many of us, even though it defines how we see and respond to the world.

2  Mindfulness – When we stay in the present moment, we touch life.  We become aware of the miracles around us. We begin to think more clearly and can subsequently respond to our environment in a more adaptive manner.

1  Meditation –   Is the deepest of mindfulness practices. As we focus on the breathe we observe our  thoughts as they arise. This is different from attaching to our thoughts. Meditation also generates  a sense of peace, improves concentration, and slows down racing thought patterns.  

with blessings – diane

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The Energy Of Anger

flameThe High Price of Anger

We all know what it feels like to be angry. We may even have a general idea of the high price we pay when we act on our anger. I say general because if we would stop and think before expressing anger and remember the high cost we are going to pay, perhaps we could remember to act in non-anger. The opposite of acting in anger would be to act in Understanding. The right action of Understanding has many different forms and is dependent on the situation. Very often an Understanding response would be to remain silent. For some people who passively accumulate anger as they allow others to exploit them, an Understanding response would be to set a boundary using the appropriate level of firmness.

The Energy of Anger

The energy of anger is hot and strong and often can be felt in our head in the form of pressure, pain and tightness. It is thought that nearly 85% of the blood in the pre-frontal cortex area of our brain is drained to support the automatic “fight or flight” response that is activated by anger. The pre-frontal cortex area of the brain is needed during higher levels of cognitive processes such as judgment and creativity. That is why when we are angry we become “blind with anger”. The brain cannot support clear thinking and anger at the same time.
Damage to our health is a another price we pay when we are angry. We should be grateful that our bodies accommodate our needs and the fight or flight response is triggered when we truly need it. However, a traffic light that inconveniently turns red, a waitress who is slow to bring your meal, or a rude response from a colleague does not really necessitate the barrage of neuro-chemical, muscular, and hormonal changes that are instigated when the fight or flight response is triggered. It is good when we need it, but damages our bodies when over used.

We can all probably identify with the consequences that anger can have on relationships. Angry words and angry deeds can destroy relationships. We may shatter spirits, joy, creativity, and peace with anger. This is a very high cost. That is why it is important to address our anger and know how to respond to it.
The possibility of feeling and acting in anger is in all of us. Please share with me. Have you found a skill that reduces your anger? Have you found a skill that changes the energy of anger into the energy of Understanding?

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Energy Healing Therapy… Much Ado About Something

Energy Healing Therapy…Much Ado About Something

Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.
Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.

There is currently a great deal of buzz and excitement in mental health regarding the multi-faceted modality known as Energy Healing. While specific techniques used in energy healing may vary, the various protocols rely on manipulating the subtle energy within our body in order to promote healing. Because we are made up of energy, we can influence our health by attending to the subtle energies which are thought to be aspects of thoughts, emotional reactions and neurological responses.  Like our heart, our temperature, and the protons and electrons that make up every atom of our body, thoughts and emotions are assumed to also have an expression of energy. We can therefore diagnose and heal through the expression of energy contained in our emotions and thoughts.

How Does It Work?

In energy healing, we begin  by honoring the notion of mind-body connection. Certain thoughts, memories, images stimulate a reaction in the brain which is followed by a reaction in body. These reactions can be classified as energetic reactions. Let us take a specific example. Let us assume a person suffers from anxiety. An anxiety provoking thought activates a certain part of the brain, neurons fire, neurotransmitters are released. These signals tell the body to react in a specific manner. In this example perhaps we begin to sweat or our heart rate increases.  In Energy Healing, energy points are activated through touching, tapping or holding as we attune to the anxiety producing thought.   Stimulating the energy point  adjust the energetic reaction that was occurring in the brain and our feelings of anxiety are reduced.  Researches postulate that activating the energy point desensitizes the memory. The result is a change in neurological reactions with lower levels of stress related neurotransmitters and rewiring new neural pathways.

Does It Work?

I know this might seem a little to “out there” for many. Keep in mind, we still cannot prove, measure or explain several expressions of “healing” that are relatable to each of us such as positive thinking, intention, intuition or visualization.  However, several clinical trials support the use of Energy Healing to treat many mental health problems such as anxiety, PTSD, and phobias. These studies are being conducted by esteemed institutions such as Kaiser Permanente, Harvard Medical School and other institutions around the world. Not only are the results demonstrating Energy Healing as effective, in many cases the number of treatments used is much less than traditional psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Much ado about something … indeed

with blessings – diane

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This Moment Points At Me

This Moment Points at Me

Mindfulness practice and a craving for pancakes points to some truths about me
Mindfulness practice and a craving for pancakes points to some truths about me

This moment, the essence of now, points to the truth. The grips of grasping, attachment and delusions which control our behaviors and thinking are revealed in the now.  The essence of now points to the essence of me. Who am I? Who am I in this moment?

As I sit at my desk, visual, auditory, kinesthetic stimulation influence “me”.  I am slightly aware of the soreness in my back. I see my dog.  The house is currently quiet. Pleasant sensory stimulation.  I feel calm, happy and grateful. But the pleasant sensory stimulation will change. It always does. Just give it some time. Will I be able to remain mindful, calm, happy and grateful when the neighborhood dog starts barking? If my back pain gets worse? If my dog becomes insistent that I take her for a walk?  If the stimulation provided to my five senses changes from pleasant to unpleasant, how will I change in that moment? And what does that say about me? Which sensory change will have the most impact? The barking dog, back pain, or interruption?

The Sense of Mind

We have another sensory faculty which has a strong influence on the present moment and points to “Me”. This is the Sense of Mind. Our Mind Sense includes beliefs, intentions, cravings, perceptions, will, concentration, general tone (good or bad mood), and desire.

I become aware of my mind sense, it’s influence on the present moment, and what that reveals about “me”. I am aware of my intentions. At this moment they are clear. Intentionally write a blog about mindfulness. Through mindfulness practice I know that my intentions are not always clear. I have gained some insight as to how/why they become muddled through mindful attention.

Cravings are starting to hijack me the longer I sit. I can’t stop thinking about pancakes.  I want pancakes for breakfast. Mindfully, I have observed my cravings. I look inward to them. My cravings often have specific themes of food and general themes of comfort. There is  knowledge about me when I look at what I  crave.

Mindfully I recognize a vague belief about making pancakes. I believe that making and eating pancakes for breakfast brings peace to Sunday mornings. This is a delusion. I wish it were so easy. Pancakes cannot guarantee peace.

I am hopeful that this will be a peaceful and happy Sunday morning. If I stay mindful, I believe it will.

with blessings – diane

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Righteous Anger

Righteous Anger

Is Anger ever the right response? Is it possible that the “right” expression of anger, used in the “right” circumstances serves a purpose? Is it possible for anger to be expressed consciously? Jesus was certainly enlightened and conscious, and he became angry. Flipping over tables in the temple, rebuking Peter, and calling the Pharisees hypocrites are a few examples. Are we enlightened and conscious enough to use righteous anger in a productive manner?

Anger Begets Anger

A husband becomes angry with his wife after she is caught lying about her impulsive and out-of- control shopping and spending which is threatening their financial future. The husband has been patient, understanding and supportive up until now. After the husband reviews the facts about the spending, and the financial implications to their family, he begins to outline the consequences of her behavior. In a raised voice he states her actions have changed their relationship. He can no longer trust her, particularly with money. He then sets boundaries and outlines the steps he will take to separate their credit and finances. The wife in-turn becomes angry and defiant and accuses the husband of being controlling, stingy and harsh.

Anger : The Slippery Slope of Emotions

Anger can be a slippery slope because Anger often begets Anger. That does not mean it is wrong, it just means that you should be prepared to accept these consequences. The expression of Righteous Anger can result in a person finally hearing and recognizing the consequences of their actions. However, shame, resentment, defense are common reactions. So, if you must use anger to be heard, be prepared for the emotions that anger may illicit. Jesus probably did not make new friends at the temple after turning over the tables. Also be sure of the motivation for your anger. If you are angry because your ego has been threatened or challenged, then pull back. Acting with anger is probably not the right response. Instead, take a deep breath and a step back. If your anger is about you, it is not righteous. If you act in anger because something bigger than you is under attack, exploited, cheated etc. perhaps using anger productively might be the emotional response that gets through, that is heard, and helps a person to realize the consequences of their actions.

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Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

Many people have become increasingly apprehensive of traditional healing methods which often rely on prescription medicine as the “go-to” treatment plan. The side effects and risk associated with prescriptions, and the desire for more treatment options has resulted in many patients actively seeking and using a variety of “alternative” modalities. For mental illness, several alternative healing modalities exists such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Reiki, hypnotherapy, Energy Psychology, Meditation, and Visualization. While generally considered “alternative” many of these modalities are the desired treatment for those who suffer with a mental illness.

Placebo, Prescription or Hypnosis

As a clinician, I have always been interested in alternative remedies. That is not to say that I am anti-prescriptions. I am for what works. I am for a reasonable balance between results and risk. If that means placebos, prescriptions, or hypnosis, if a person’s suffering is reduced or diminished then give the modality the benefit of consideration. I have seen many clients who genuinely seem to improve through the right blend of psychotropic medication and counseling.  However, I have also seen alternative treatments used with astounding results.

An Arm and a Leg

Sadly, many alternative methods are disregarded. Although often clinically effective, alternative treatments are often portrayed as “quackery”.  It is important, if not imperative that physicians, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies acknowledge and respect the healing capacities of alternative healing modalities. In fact, we can no longer afford to dismiss clinically sound healing modalities be it traditional or alternative. Estimated cost for mental health care is reaching the proverbial arm and leg threshold. From a purely financial perspective, politicians and tax payers need to stand up and take notice. According to a recent New York Times report, there are approximately 11.5 million Americans who receive mental-health services with an estimated value of $150 billion annually.  I suggest that alternative treatments are no longer just experimental hobbies for the tie-dye wearing hippie living in a commune. I am suggesting that viable, and clinically sound alternative therapies are for the millions of people struggling to find effective treatment.

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Jesus and Buddha on Awakening

Awakening

Zen Master Hyon Gak Sunim discusses the spiritual teachings of awakening as presented by Jesus and the Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha both made references to awakening according to Hyon Gak Sunim.  Born in New Jersey, educated at  Yale and raised in a devout Catholic family, Hyon Gak Sunim provides an opportunity with which to understand Buddha teachings through a lens of American culture. Perhaps because of his background Hyon Gak often draws attention to the similarities found in the spiritual teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha

The definition of Buddha is a person who has become enlightened or awake. Becoming awake is one of the central themes of Buddhism. If you accept this definition then Jesus and Buddha were both enlightened spiritual teachers. Hyon Gak Sunim references Jesus discussing enlightenment with his disciples. In the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of “having eyes yet not seeing” and “having ears and not hearing” and is speaking of a non-awakened state.

Right Response

If we wake up what do we wake up to? I believe we wake up to TRUTH. We see things (ourselves, situations, others) as they truly are. If we see things as they truly are we foster understanding. Following understanding we are able to respond with the right response, not a response formed from delusions and ignorance. Given the complexity and problems of our world, the right response is needed and needed now. Environmental stewardship, conscious consumption, care of the elderly, caring for the ill and weak, responding to crime all need a right response, or at least a “right-er” response. The right response is needed not only for global and social concerns but also individual concerns. If we open our eyes to see, and use are ears to  hear, how would we care for our own suffering?  With more compassion, gentleness, letting go perhaps. May we all be following a path which fosters individual and global awakening.

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Virtue and Vice

Virtue

A practice that is common to all major religions is to act with virtue. In many situations it is easy to recognize the path which develops our virtue. If you are not charged for a product or service that you have received, and do not reveal the omission you are stealing. If you lie to manipulate a situation or person, you have not acted with virtue. Sometimes the path to virtue is quite clear, and most of us could probably agree on what would or would not be a virtuous response.

Moral Dilemmas

Some situations are more complicated and present moral dilemmas. An example may include manipulating a powerful person who you know steals from the poor. Would telling a lie to stop a financial predator be more or less virtuous than attempting to protect the financially vulnerable? I don’t know. I suppose I would have to know the extent of the good or bad consequences which may arise from each of these options. I would have to try and remove any part of ego which may be impacting my decision such as strong emotions, impulses, or memories. In these situations, perhaps if you respond in a manner which brings your closer to your values, you are acting with virtue.

Virtue Is Good For Mental Health

Not only is virtue and integrity a common denominator to most spiritual paths, it is also necessary for our mental health. It is not possible to kill, lie, steal, hurt or harm others and be happy. Buddhist teachings say that “Living a virtuous life makes the heart peaceful”. Non virtuous behaviors and thoughts grow the unhealthy conditions of guilt, shame, anxiety, and hate. Living a life that propagates inner-hell and turmoil has a price. It robs us from living as a human. Protecting our virtue allows us to feel proud, at ease, effective, and joyful. Not only is having reverence for all human life the right thing to do, it provides a payback. Your virtue and happiness.

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Pursuit of Happiness

Foster a pattern of thinking that takes in the sacred, astonishing and miraculous.

Happiness

In my last blog I discussed depression, and the magnitude of this modern day epidemic.  It seems only natural to follow up with thoughts on happiness. I wish the diagnosis of happiness would reach epidemic proportions. What can we do to foster joy and happiness? Despite the complicated world we live in, I do believe that happiness is a state of being that can be fostered. We can help our happiness to grow.

What is Your Persuasion?

Some of the happiest people I know are of the “glass half-full” persuasion. They are consciously aware of the good. They do not focus on the weeds in the garden. Their focus is on the flower. Maybe “glass half-full” comes naturally. If not, fostering positive-ness can increase a sense of happiness and well-being. Instead of focusing on the negative, spend some time with the positive. It may difficult. Perhaps a lifetime of “glass half-empty” thinking has been in the making for quite awhile.

Take in the Positive

Our patterns of thinking and our habits become stronger with each reinforcement. But, you can foster a perspective that begins to notice the positive. Instead of what is wrong, what is right? Name it. List it. Be with gratitude and appreciation. Notice the things in your world that are sacred, astonishing and miraculous. Spend some time with the positive. Spend even more time with it. Foster the pattern of thinking that takes in the positive, and foster your own happiness.

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Depression – A Modern Day Epidemic

Depression by the numbers

During the 1950s if you wanted to track the number of people who were disabled from a mental health disorder  you counted the population that resided in state mental hospitals. Today you  count the number of social security disability checks that are received due to a mental illness. Robert Whitaker tracks the shocking rise of mental illness in his fascinating book Anatomy Of An Epidemic.   According to Whitaker, in 1955 there were just over 38,000 people hospitalized in state mental hospitals due to depression. Today, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability for people ages fifteen to forty-five in the United States.  According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) depression affects 15 million adults. Of those diagnosed, 58% or nine million people, are “severely impaired”, and considered disabled by depression.

Subjective criteria

The increased  number of people (including children) diagnosed with depression in the past few decades, makes me think that depression has reached epidemic proportions. Some people believe that depression is diagnosed more frequently today because health care professionals have become better at recognizing the symptoms. I agree that health care professionals continue to make improvements in diagnosing mental health problems. However, the clinical threshold for diagnosing depression, as well as other mental health conditions, is arguably subjective at best.  For example, why is the clinical threshold for depression defined by two weeks? What if you are sad for five weeks, or only ten days?  Is the person who is sad, officially mentally ill on day 14 ? More importantly, what if “sadness” follows a job loss, home foreclosure, or the loss of a pet? Is the sad person who just lost their job, and feeling depressed, experiencing a normal reaction following a difficult time in their lives? Have you been sad for two weeks following a hardship? I have. Are we all depressed? I think it is important that we view ourselves and one another from a strengths perspective and not an illness perspective. The implications of mis-diagnosing or over diagnosing starts us down a path with serious health implications including wrong treatment for the times in our lives that we are perhaps most vulnerable.

The intention of this blog is to share general personal ideas or comments that relate to everyday personal and interpersonal challenges. It is not intended as a substitute for mental-health counseling, including individual, couples, family, or group counseling. Readers should not rely on any part of the content of this blog as a substitute for professional counseling. If the reader needs professional counseling advice they should seek the services of a licensed professional, and only rely upon the advice of a licensed professional with whom the reader has a professional relationship. Further, any comments or postings made by others do not constitute my opinion, and such opinions may vary from my own.

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