Category Archives: Counseling

Exercise is a Key Factor to Improving Depression and Anxiety

When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.

Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.

Exercise is known to stimulate the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable. 

Exercise affects our hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in memory, emotion regulation, and learning. Studies in other animals show convincingly that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons (neurogenesis), with preliminary evidence suggesting this is also true in humans.

The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk. Further, depending on the activity many people may benefit from getting outside, interacting with others, exchanging a friendly smile as you walk around your neighborhood or calming our minds all of which are known to improve mood and general health.

Put simply: Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions – in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections. Other theories suggests exercise helps us normalize our sleep which is known to have protective effects on the brain.

Oliver says join him in exercising and see what happens….

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” ― Pema Chödrön

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön
We are bigger than our past, our circumstances and our experiences. Like the sky, we are vast and our future spans out before us. Difficult times pass and so does happiness. Our culture teaches us to seek happiness as a goal or a destination. Many come to counseling because the are “not happy.” Happiness is merely one of many emotions. It would be unrealistic to expect to stay depressed, curious, annoyed or thankful daily for an entire lifetime. Our focus on happiness makes it even harder to hold onto. Happiness can be the giddiness of new love but it can also be the contentment of an imperfect life. Happiness floats away like a butterfly if you begin to focus anywhere but right now.
Mindfulness is the practice of right now. Accepting wherever and whomever you are in this moment. Recognizing that most of the things that make us anxious or depressed are not right now but behind us or in the future. Right now you are breathing and it is good. Right now you need for nothing and it is good. Right now you are experiencing one of many emotions but like the weather, it will change.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

‘I-Rish’ you a happy St. Patrick’s day!

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

You don’t even have to be Irish to be Lucky.

Tenneseee Williams said “Luck is believing you’re lucky.”

This St. Patrick’s day we invite you to know a bit more about the power of positive thinking.

The Power Of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and takes a Christian perspective and real-world approach to positive psychology.

3 Lessons regarding positive thinking:

Lesson 1: Believe in yourself and visualize your goals to see how small your problems are.

Lesson 2: Your attitude determines your entire life.

Lesson 3: Imagine your life free of worry to become less concerned about the future.

May you be very LUCKY!

One of the most important parts of love: forgiveness

In the midst of commercials for expensive jewelry, flowers and candy, let’s talk about real love. Love is a much more complex animal than gifts and dates. Love requires forgiveness to survive; forgiveness of self and transgressions big and small. Let’s look at forgiveness – who it is for and what it really means.

Forgiveness is part of the healing process and a letting go of resentment, hatred or self-pity that grips us. Forgiveness is accepting that punishment and resentment will not heal us. It will not erase a wrong. Resentment and a desire to punish only chains us to the event.

What Forgiveness is not:

  • It is not forgetting.
  • It is not condoning.
  • Forgiveness is not absolution.
  • It is not a one-time decision.
  • Forgiveness is not really even for the offender. It is for you.

Large or small, offenses wear away at our ability to trust and to love. We will be hurt again even if we forgive. Our life was not going to be “perfect” even if this particular event had never happened. Forgiveness is a choice. It can be a new and scary process to even think about embarking on, but the opportunity for more joy and love make it worth it.

Keep Calm and Listen to Music

Keep calm and carry on? How about keep calm and listen to music?

Research reported in HEART, a British medical publication, shows that calming music causes the heart rate and breathing to slow down. This often leads to a relaxation response.  Slower breathing also relates to lower blood pressure.

The next time you need to relax, consider listening to some slow music and see if you notice your breathing and heart rate decrease.

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Source: HEART Journal

Mini “Me” Time

Any day is a good day to take a few minutes to ease away stress. In as little as five minutes, you might be surprised how refreshed you can feel. Try different five-minutes activities throughout the week such as stretching, deep breathing, reading a few pages of a novel, listening to your favorite song or going for a quick walk. These mini “me” times provide a quick break and give you a chance to regain emotional and mental control.

Source: HealthFitness

 

Today’s Tip: KNOW SUICIDE RISK FACTORS

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression, other mental disorders, and substance-abuse disorders are risk factors for suicide. Studies show the best way to prevent suicide may be through early recognition and treatment of depression and substance abuse. If you or someone you know feels depressed and hopeless, seek help through your employee assistance program, physician or mental health professional.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Sleep Hygiene

Insomnia is a common issue so I wanted to give you a tip sheet on good sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene is a combination of your behaviors and environment surrounding sleep.

Lack of quality sleep affects your mood. It also lowers your pain threshold, increases your blood pressure, and interferes with your memory. It harms your immune system, elevating your chances of getting sick. It diminishes your ability to concentrate, and makes you more impulsive. It can also cause weight gain.

How to improve the quality of your sleep?

Here is a summary of 14 suggestions given in Fix Your Sleep Hygiene by Dr Korb.

1. Go to bed at the same time every day.

The reason for going to sleep at the same time is that your brain releases melatonin about 30 minutes before it thinks you want to go to sleep. If it doesn’t know when you’re gonna go to sleep it can’t do that.

2. Avoid bright lights after the sun goes down.

The melatonin that prepares you for sleep is inhibited by bright light so when it’s getting close to bed time turn off most of the lights in your house .

3. During the day stay in a brightly lit environment.

The melatonin cycle is part of a hormonal package collectively called circadian rhythms, controlled by a region of the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalaums , which projects to the pineal gland to release various hormones. These rhythms are synchronized by bright lights during the day. So take a few minutes to go walking in the sunshine. This has the added benefit of boosting your serotonin, which may be why it helps sleep, as melatonin is derived from serotonin.

4. Sleep for 8 hours straight.

Your brain needs to cycle through various stages of sleep (Stages 1 to 4 and then REM sleep). Each cycle takes about 90 minutes, so in about 8 hours you get the appropriate number of cycles. If you wake up in the middle of a cycle you don’t feel rested. Your brain needs to know how much time it has to get everything done it needs to. In general the older you are the less sleep you need. In college you need about 8 hours and 24 minutes (approximately). When you start drawing Social Security you might only need 7.

5.  Use your bed/bedroom for sleeping, not doing work.

That way your brain associates your bed only with sleep, and it will induce sleepiness like Pavlovian conditioning.

6. Make your environment comfortable.

Sleep requires down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is harder if you’re uncomfortable. If your room is too cold, or too hot, or too noisy, or too smelly, then do something about it. If it’s something you can’t change, then just accept it.

7. Don’t take naps.

Taking a nap will often make it difficult to fall asleep at your bedtime. If you must nap, keep your nap between 20-30 min. This may surprise you, but if you actually consistently get quality sleep, you won’t even feel the need to take a nap.

8. Create a routine for preparing for sleep.

Do it every night. This helps you separate yourself from the hectic nature of the rest of your day. It prepares your brain for sleep.  A bedtime ritual might be brush your teeth, wash your face, go to the bathroom, and then read for a few minutes. These should be non-stressful activities. If you have a really hard time falling asleep, then include some meditation as part of your routine.

9. If you find you’re stressing over all the things you have to do, then write them down.

Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for keeping all these things in your working memory, and worrying about forgetting them is stressful. That stress inhibits sleep. Write it down so you don’t need to keep your prefrontal cortex working overtime.

10. Just chill.

Just relax, and lie still in a comfortable position. If after 20 minutes or so you’re still not asleep, then go to another room. Do something relaxing for a little bit (no more than 20 minutes), then try again.

11. Avoid caffeine near bed time. Duh.

12. Don’t eat a large meal less than 3 hours before bedtime. 

Indigestion can interfere with sleep, and acid reflux is more common once you’re horizontal.

13. Don’t use alcohol as a regular sleep aid.

While it may help you fall asleep, it disrupts the patterns of brain activity while you’re asleep. That means your sleep is not as restful as it could be.

14. Exercise.

Exercise is pretty much good for everything. Make physical activity a regular part of your life. The exact role of exercise in improving sleep though is not well understood. It may be due to increased levels of the neuropeptide orexin, which is essential for appropriate sleep regulation. It may also be due to the effects of exercise synchronizing circadian rhythms, or stress reduction, or some combination of several factors. Regardless of the reason though, it is clear that aerobic exercise helps improve sleep. Exercising too close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep though, so try to do it a few hours before.

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

Maslow  was a Humanistic psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.

According to Maslow, an individual is ready to act upon the growth needs if and only if the deficiency needs are met.

DEFICIENCY NEEDS

 1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.;

2) Safety/security: out of danger;

3) Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and

4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.

Self-actualized people are characterized by characteristics such as incorporating an ongoing freshness of appreciation of life, a concern about personal growth and the ability to have peak experiences.

GROWTH NEEDS

5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;

6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;

7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; and

8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the self or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.

An interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom (Image from wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow)