Wednesday, February 1, 2017

“No matter what I do, I will never get out of this world alive”!

These lines from a popular music album pretty much reflects our collective dilemma. We are born, grow up (some), and die. In the meantime, each of us has our own issues or baggage to deal with and if you think you have it bad, just look at the world poverty situation where 3 billion people live on just $2.50 a day. If poverty is not enough, then think about the mentally ill, disabled, homeless, etc.

However, we have been given a life and since no one yet has decoded why we are here and what we are supposed to do with it, there is tremendous anxiety and depression among our ranks. Over one-half of the US population are prescribed psychiatric medication one or more times a year and 74% of Doctor visits involve drug therapy discussions/prescriptions.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the top selling psychiatric drugs are for anxiety or depression with Xanax the number one drug with 48 million (mm) prescriptions followed by Zoloft with 41mm, Celexa with 39 mm, and Prozac with 29mm. It seems that more people are seeking treatment due to Drug Company advertising and acceptance or lack of stigma.

In addition to prescription medicine, the self-improvement market exceeded over $10 billion in 2013 and climbing. It is estimated that over one half of the US have read a “self-help” book in the past year and this involves mostly women, since men still seem to hang onto their “macho” mentality where they will not admit to their problems and self-medicate rather than see a doctor, much less a shrink.

All this adds up to a world with universal personal issues and more are using medication to help calm down their demons. The lesson here is that it has been proven we can rewire our neural circuits or synapses with our thinking, which controls our feelings (neuroplasticity). This can be done using a combination of psychotherapy, self-help programs, and/or medications. If you take the initiative and begin in earnest to meditate, pray, exercise, and expand your word view, you can do it yourself. It will take some time, but the results are stunning. You will experience your world in a brand new “light” and awe at the beautiful majesty of living beings and nature and how it all works together. You will experience unbelievable connections you did not know you have and become a new person. It will help lead to a drug free life with total mind clarity.

Why not start now? After all, we don’t know how long we have to enjoy this incredible world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions hard to achieve!

Just about as many US citizens (45%) attempt to make New Year’s Resolutions as those that don’t (38%).

The overwhelming odds of achieving a major behavior change (Losing weight is #1 and getting organized is #2, etc.) is reduced to down to just 8% that consider themselves successful. That’s 8% of 45% that try.

It all seems so futile, but human beings have the innate desire to improve themselves mainly via self-help programs which most promise the moon and deliver about the same if you just set your mind to your goals. Also, the overwhelming majority who try are women, probably because men are so macho and prideful that they avoid self-help or even professional improvement programs and substitute with drugs, alcohol, or any mind numbing substance that may help the demons go away if only for a short time.

Well, you might think that if 8% succeed, which is really 4% or less for the total population, then in 20-30 years everyone would be solving all their problems-not! Don’t forget that we all experience “life” in unexpected ways of bad health, work and money issues, family problems, and on and on. This is constant and we all have to deal with our own issues the best way we can and they can happen so unexpectantly.

There is no question that psychotherapy is the best investment anyone can make for themselves. To have a trained and competent therapist to discuss your issues and concerns will help you work through your problems and give you a better chance of securing the ever elusive “peace of mind” we all seek.

Give it a try. You will be rewarded in time, but it will be well worth the investment of time and money.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Brain training sounds good, but it does not work!

According to the Georgia Tech Attention and Working Memory Lab, brain training tested in a well-controlled study provides no benefit to improving brain function and/or memory retention. Although disappointing, it helps to understand the two types of memory function and how we can cope with declining memory.

One is what is called “crystallized intelligence”, which is all the knowledge you have learned in school, job, or languages you speak.

The other is “fluid intelligence”, which is the biological side of intelligence. This will be your actions when you have not learned what to do and your ability to solve complex problems you have never faced using complex reasoning.

Unfortunately, “fluid intelligence” is heritable and biological and grows until around age 22 and then evens out until around age 40 and then drops like a rock. The theory is the myelin sheaths surrounding our neurons in the pre-frontal cortex start to deteriorate releasing chemicals to affect the surrounding neurons, which is also an underlying theory for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Crystallized intelligence” continues for the rest of your life and even at age 75 your vocabulary will be as high as it ever was, maybe higher.

But the real problem is as we age we lose our ability to focus or attempt attention control. This multitasking world is a myth. Not only have you lost most of your “Fluid intelligence”, but your ability to focus is diminished. Since “Fluid intelligence” is most correlated with short term memory control and has diminished so much, no one can multi-task or divide your attention effectively or efficiently. You can only handle one task at a time. No one has enough “fluid intelligence” that they can text and drive at the same time.

What do we do? Simple, aerobic exercise. Not weight lifting or calisthenics, but aerobic exercise. A 30-minute brisk walk daily will do the trick. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and there is also a gene called a “brain derived neurotropic factor” that leads to the formation of new blood cells.

So don’t think you are smarter and getting more accomplished by multi-tasking, you are just shifting your brief attention span around and more than likely screwing something up vs. concentrating on one task at a time and getting it right!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Season of giving “time” to the lonely

Studies have shown that nearly 25% of the US population consider themselves “lonely”. Contrary to what we would normally expect, loneliness covers all age groups where no age bracket is immune from feeling lonely.

Loneliness produces unpleasant and distressing feelings where severe and prolonged exposure can affect one’s mental state leading to depression or suicide. It normally occurs when your social network is deficient in either quality or quantity. It is a very subjective experience where you can be “alone without feeling lonely” or can be “alone in a crowd”

Your feelings can range from being anxious, unhappy, hostile, bored, empty, and restless. There are basically three main clusters of lonely people:

1-You feel isolated, different, unloved, inadequate, or friendless.

2-You have negative feelings of depression, sadness, anger, and paranoia.

3-You avoid social contacts and work long hours.

It is strange that the elevated loneliness levels were among the youngest and oldest adults. Late life can be explained by lower income levels, functional limitations and lower level of singles available. Universally, the quantity of relationships (social engagement, # friends, and contact frequency) was a major factor in all age groups.

So if the US has roughly 321 million people, then 25% would be 80 million “lonely” people. Maybe we should make adjustments for the under 10 years old group, but believe it or not, they can experience loneliness and isolation. Just look at the world refugee crisis now.

This Holiday Season would be a great time for all of us who have the means to give ourselves to helping the lonely with our time and concern. It would be a most welcome gift and one day we would appreciate the efforts when we are feeling lonely.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Happiness = Giving

During this holiday season make yourself happy by giving to the less fortunate which is a researched and proven fact.

In the journal Science, social psychologist Liz Dunn demonstrates that people's sense of happiness is greater when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves. In one survey of over 600 U.S. citizens, the research found that spending money on others predicted greater happiness whereas spending money on oneself did not, no matter what the income levels. In other words, even those with little money reported greater happiness when their spending on others, relative to the self, was greater.

Dunn conducted another study which gave College students an envelope containing money and told them that they either (1) had to spend the money on themselves before 5 p.m. that day or (2) had to spend the money on someone else before 5 p.m. Those who gifted for others were happier than those who gifted for themselves.

"Happiness does not come from material things, but rather from a deep, genuine concern for others' happiness" -Dalai Lama

The economy is getting better, unemployment is down, and people are increasing their financial resources, so there should be more wealth and opportunity to give. Find a great cause that you like and start the process of giving. It will be a great feeling and put a smile on other’s faces.

Who ever said money can’t buy happiness?
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Relaxation Programs should be a part of your daily exercise!

Whether you have a severe case of stress or anxiety or you just feel fine, relaxation programs should be a part of your daily exercise routine. They are very inexpensive and have no risks or side effects. Relaxation can reduce or eliminate some of the medications you may be using and helps you to keep a positive mind/body connection.

There are many techniques to consider including:
-Progressive Muscle Relaxation
-Autogenic Training
-Self Hypnosis
-Yoga/Tai Chi
-Guided Imagery

These relaxation techniques benefit you by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and stress hormones. They will raise your blood flow in the major muscles and help relieve muscle pain/tension. The end benefit is improved mood, concentration and confidence.

What are you waiting for?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stress Less® this Thanksgiving

Our annual holiday is upon us and millions of people are traveling by air, train, bus, and car to celebrate this festive occasion that can be wrought with the normal stress and conflict among families. This year’s election is an added time bomb for dissension.

Unfortunately, there are an estimated 26-45% of the US population who do not have family to celebrate with and suffer the indignities of loneliness and isolation which can lead to mental and physical issues. It is a sad state of affairs and needs our attention since our population is growing older and couples, friends, and family will be dying leaving the living sometimes in isolation.

Life can be unfair and one of the best ways to face the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday seasons are to count your blessings for the family and social network you do have and to continue to seek out more people connections. Be nice and polite even if you have to grit your teeth, because we are all social animals that need to belong and connect with other humans to live a positive life.

Live well, eat well, and be well with your network of family and friends. It is just plain good for your mental and physical health.

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