1. The Evolution of Psychotherapy

    December 22, 2013

    The Evolution of Psychotherapy


  2. Can You Benefit From Psychotherapy?

    December 8, 2013

    Can You Benefit From Psychotherapy?

    by Dr. Dvora Weil

     

    People who feel emotional pain, who feel sad, lonely and anxious or worried for long periods of time can usually benefit from therapy. If you suffer from low self esteem, low self-wroth or you are having difficulties making decisions, psychotherapy could help you sort out the underlining reasons for those feelings. Talking to a friend can sometimes help you feel better at that moment, but it will not last for the long run. It is different from therapy because a friend will want to make you feel good and will be concerned about preserving the relationship. Therefore, they might not necessarily provide an objective interpretation that elicits an insight that will, in turn, lead to a change. The support and guidance of a warm objective psychotherapist will allow you to take time to stop, reflect and internalize.

    Another example of person who could benefit from therapy could be someone whose behavior is unsatisfying and self destructive. For example, you are in a painful relationship. Therapy can help to understand how you got there, what challenges you are facing, and clarify where you would want to go next. It is my recommendation, as an Imago certified psychotherapist, to always seek counseling therapy before taking action. Many couples could have saved their marriage if only they were more invested in fixing it, rather than on breaking it.

    You might be a very successful businessman but in your personal relationship you are at a loss. Either because you don’t know how to be in a close and intimate relationship, or because you don’t have the time to invest in looking within. Therapy can help you figure out how to bridge the two worlds in a way that will be satisfying and gratifying to you and to people around you.

    To those of you who are looking to form a long lasting relationship, therapy can help you figure out what is standing in your way of attaining a long-lasting relationship, and can guide you in finding the type of partner you really need.

    You are stuck in a bad work environment unable to assert yourself or to leave the situation. Therapy can give you the strength you need to move on from being stuck. You don’t necessarily need to leave your job. You can always look for way to repair the one you have.

    What all those patterns of behavior have in common is motives that are outside of your consciousness. No matter how hard you will work to change them, you might not succeed and then you will end up blaming yourself or feel even worse. The only way to resolve conflicts is by gaining awareness to the cause of the behavior. Awareness will allow you to gain control and take action in a way that will move you forward.

    For those of you in a relationship that seems stuck, but are motivated to fix it, therapy is most helpful in teaching communication skills, clarifying misunderstanding, such as to how to handle money, children or other issues. After all, you might actually want the same thing as your partner, and you do love each other but don’t know how to communicate it. Many times that love is hidden deep but it’s alive and well. It is buried behind a mountain of resentment, anger and frustration, which cause you to drift apart, to a point where you feel like strangers. Sitting in front of a couple’s therapist, who hears you both in an objective manner, and teaches you how to express your anger in a manageable way, can be very uplifting for a relationship.

    If you find yourself in one of those categories, don’t let time erode your life, your relationship or your self esteem. Seek professional help. Take a step towards improving your life. Sometimes relief is closer then you think.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctabu/342220423

     

     


  3. A Cigar is Never Just a Cigar: Freud’s Impact on Psychology

    October 21, 2013

    Sigmund Freud

    Attempting to quantify Sigmund Freud’s impact upon psychology is a bit like trying to describe the significance the wheel has had on the motor vehicle ­— to wit, there is little purpose in discussing one without the other. Along with Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud is considered a father of modern psychology. Long before Freud became a household name inextricably linked with the practice of psychoanalysis as we understand it today, he was simply an Austrian doctor intent on helping others understand the mind as a constantly evolving apparatus, capable of so much more than simply sustaining life. As Freud saw it, the brain was not a fixed object, but rather a labyrinthine structure formed in unequal measure by one’s innate sensibilities and the world in which they lived.

     

    Bucking cultural norms, Freud’s approach to psychological theory, and, in turn, treating his patients, and was decidedly lacking in the prudishness that colored the atmosphere of late-19th century Vienna. While many parents at the time were still raising their young under the assumption that children operated in a similar manner to adults, although with limited faculties, Freud was among the first of his contemporaries to put forth the notion that a child’s mind and an adult’s are different animals entirely, and should be treated, and studied, as such. From this basic, yet somehow novel notion, Freud’s groundbreaking theory of psychosexual development was born, calling into question how the early stages of childhood inform adult practices as the child moves through the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital phases.

     

    In Freud’s study of how the mind evolved from the highly malleable form it takes in infancy and early childhood to the often neurotic, preoccupied form of consciousness that plagued many of his patients, he often made pronouncements about what methods best fostered child development, something the work-obsessed society of his time was not ready to hear. During a period when children were routinely forced to work as soon as they could lift a shovel, Freud’s ideas about the beneficial aspects of play and, in simplistic terms, the ability to have a “true” childhood unburdened by adult pressures, did not always win the doctor allies.  Nor, for many families, were the ideas that little Billy wanted to do away with daddy and live happily ever after with mommy, thanks to his raging Oedipus complex, and that little Suzie’s obsession with obelisks may be an indication of a deeper fixation.

     

    Freud’s lexicon has become such a deeply ingrained part of the fabric of the modern world that it is often hard to discuss matters of the mind without making use of his language. From his drive theory, which lends us the idea of the drive for Eros, or sex, a force Freud posited as a contrasting force to Thanatos, the drive toward death, we get the modern concept of the “sex drive.” From Freud’s structural model of the psyche, we derive the concept of the id and the ego. Without Freud, concepts like the unconscious, regression, and free association, would have no cultural significance. Were it not for Herr Doktor, the Freudian slip might be little more than a Viennese negligee.

     

    The practice of modern psychotherapy has been influenced more by Freud’s early practice of psychoanalysis than by any the work of any psychologist or psychiatrist since. Despite the prevalent assumption that Freud’s method of psychoanalysis was limited to sessions during which the patient disclosed intimate details of his or her life to a silent doctor, scribbling furiously away, Freud is widely credited with helping promote the use of techniques including play therapy and group therapy, in addition to advocating for interaction between patient and therapist during individual sessions.

     

    Freud’s impact on psychology is difficult to quantify because Freud’s theories have permeated the boundaries of his profession and significantly colored culture as a whole for generations since his death. Whether you’re struggling to understand why you’re no longer your child’s favorite parent or watching “Annie Hall,” Freud’s influence is everywhere — in theory, in practice, and even in the words we use to describe parts of our lives we can’t imagine being touched by a long-dead neurologist. As Freud himself described, “The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.”

     

    This post was contributed by Garrison Point, your new home in Toronto

     

     


  4. Escaping Depression: A Middle Class Kid’s Guide

    October 11, 2013

    dealing with depression

    by Tyler Fleck

     

    I feel like a ton of people have this kind of story, the success story that is supposed to be uplifting, and drag how many readers out of a dark hole just on the merit of its ideals and noble notions. But, though I truly hope this can help, this is more of a story of how I dealt with a very dark time in my life, rather than a cure all. I hold no illusions of grandeur, no misappropriated ideals of myself—I know I’m no psychologist or therapist—but, I do know what worked for me, and maybe it can help some of you who might be dealing with a similar issue to work through it. At the least, perhaps it can give you another angle to work from. Anyways, here’s my story of how I was able to defeat depression.

    Background

    When I was younger, I went through a period of time where I felt literally nothing can go right. My friends had all moved away—save a loyal few—I couldn’t catch a break in the dating world, and my family life was crumbling as my favorite relatives left one by one, and my parents divorced. Waking up in the mornings was harder and harder every day, and it came to a point—after one of my best friends and mentors died in a car crash—that I started feeling like the darkness was never going to end.

    I felt depressed, lonely, and sometimes I just wondered what the point was. It was hard, to say the least.

    And yet, at the time, I had this strange dichotomy underscoring my life. It wasn’t really apparent at the time, but I was doing well in school, the bullies—who had marred my life before this difficult time—had all moved on to different targets (or different schools) and I still had those aforementioned loyal friends who always seemed to be there for me, even when we had our differences. But, still, I had my problems, and I had to deal with them, which I did in the only way I knew how—by throwing myself into my passions.

    Escaping the Darkness

    I remember, as a younger kid, when things got really bad, I would retreat into my books and my video games to get away from it all. With all the news as of late, many of you might think that’s wrong, that this would just open up a path for me to become some psycho serial-killer; but, for me, I truly needed the escape. Video games and movies and books gave me a whole separate land to go to that I could be king. Nothing was truly impossible, and I had a chance to get out of my head for a while, and just enjoy life. It’s strange to hear, but I think these fantasy lands actually gave me a strange sort of self-confidence; it was just easier to be me while I was playing/reading, and that transferred into the real world after a while. Even more importantly, I started gaining new friends just through common interests in these medias, which really helped me throughout Jr. High and High school, the period of time when I was rebuilding my life.

    Friends and Therapy

    But, with all this said, I don’t want to promote escapism as the only way to fix your problems. I loved playing video games, reading, and throwing myself into projects that would take my mind off of everything else, but that was only part of what I did to save my mental health. I talked to the people close to me (though there weren’t many), pried the minds of whoever would listen (of which there were even fewer), and did the same for others who needed it. Yeah, at the end of the day, those conversations only lasted a few minutes—and sometimes I would go weeks without anyone to talk about where I was in life—but, those few, fleeting moments of true human connection kept me feeling happy, alive even. It was in those moments that I knew I wasn’t completely alone, and I clung to those as hard as I could. I allowed them to drag me out of the dark place I lived in, and it got me where I am today; a perfectly functioning, outgoing individual.

    I also gained a major appreciation for therapy out of this period of time, as I found a wonderful therapist—a family friend—who was really able to connect to me on an emotional level, and kind of help me through all the bad parts of my life. Honestly, I was really lucky in finding someone who could, in conjunction with my friends, help me see the things that I wasn’t seeing, which I now think is probably the hardest part of getting out of a depressed state. It really was so difficult to appreciate the better parts of my life, when everything else seemed so bad. This is kind of why I have such a high appreciation for therapy now, and is precisely why I it makes me happy to see therapy becoming a much more integral part of our society. I really think that, though it doesn’t work for everyone, just having someone to talk to is the key to getting around the darkness in your life, and a therapist gives you that person if you don’t really have anyone else.

    No Regrets

    The strange thing is, I don’t look back on those moments of darkness and wish they never happened—not anymore at least. I mean, I have no doubt life would have been better then without them, and who knows, maybe it would be better now. But, I honestly feel stronger now because of it. I can see my weaknesses for what they were, and I can push myself as far away from them as possible, which has garnered me a rather large social circle, and an even closer relationship with my friends and family, who stuck with me through thick and thin.

    I know that my story probably isn’t as sad, or as hardship-filled, as many who share here on this blog; but I also know that there are a lot of people out there who do have it good, who have loving friends and family and yet cannot see how great things are because of an unnamed inner turmoil. This story is for you, because sometimes it’s hardest to see that light when it’s everywhere but right in front of you. Just take it from me, someone who has also gone through what you have; you just have to look around a bit to find it.

    Author Bio: Tyler Fleck is a multi-purpose blogger who truly supports the therapeutic industry with all his heart. This is precisely why he wrote this article, to get this stuff out of his head and onto paper, as well as to help support a company whose goal really is quite noble, TurnKey Therapy. So, if you are a therapist looking for a way to connect with more clients, check out TurnKey’s website and their home therapy software. It truly is making a difference in the therapy industry.

    Image Credit: Daniel Horacio Agostini at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhammza/94194086

     


  5. How to Beat Depression… with Diet

    August 24, 2013

    beat depression

    Depression is a common problem though its severity and symptoms do vary. Unlike occasional sadness that we all feel from time to time, depression is a chronic issue that claims around 850,000 lives each year. There are different types of depression including:

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – A disorder that only affects people at certain times of he year, most notably around the winter months with a kind of ‘cabin fever,’ where you may find yourself feeling more sad than normal.

     

    Postpartum Depression – A type of depression that occurs within women that have recently given birth. This form of depression can be a result of powerful emotions that can lead to psychotic episodes.

     

    Bipolar Disorder – This affects 3 out of every 100 adults and can occur when the chemicals in your brain are not balanced.

     

    How to spot the signs of depression?

     

    There are ways to spot if you or a loved one are depressed, here are a few of the telltale signs:

     

    • Constantly feeling sad, irritable or tense
    • Lack of interest in the usual hobbies
    • A lack of energy
    • Changes in appetite, with either weight loss or gain
    • A change in sleeping patterns
    • A lack of concentration
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • Thoughts of suicide and death

     

    If you experience any of these thoughts for an extended period of time then it is important that you  talk to clinical psychologist or psychotherapist, if left untreated depression gets much worse. Remember that depression is not always just a state of mind, often there are other factors too including hormone or chemical imbalances. I know that there is a social stigma surrounding depression and that it may feel easier to bottle up your feelings but this will not help in the long run.

     

    Could your diet help?

     

    Although depression is not always caused by one issue your diet can help you to take a step in the right direction. A lack of certain vitamins, nutrients and fatty acids can contribute to depression so it is important that you try to eat a healthy balanced diet, while avoiding any unnatural and processed food choices.

    Here are a few food options that could help to improve your mood:

     

    An omelet

    Eggs contain important B vitamins that have been shown to help lessen the severity of depression. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are particularly important as they can improve neural function, meaning your moods can be improved.

    Eggs also contain protein so can help keep you full for longer and can stabilize blood sugar levels meaning you wont experience those sugar highs and lows associated with high sugar foods.

     

    Nuts and seeds

    Both nuts and seeds contain magnesium that can naturally increase your production of serotonin, a chemical that helps you to feel good. They are the perfect alternative to traditional snacks as long as you stick to the unsalted and unsweetened versions.

     

    Cold water fish

    Cold water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are full of omega-3 fatty acids that can help increase the amount of grey matter in your brain. These fatty acids are an essential material for our brain. Those with severe depression have been noted as having less grey matter than others. Again fish is a good source of protein, so the usual benefits of protein can be experienced. It is unlikely that you can enough enough fish to get sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, you will likely need to take supplements as well. In case of depression you need supplements with high EPA-to-DHA ratio.

     

    Ancient grains

    Grains such as quinoa and barley are less likely to be processed and refined with sugar so will not be digested as quickly as those refined with wheat flour and sugar. This will stop any blood sugar spikes and subsequent drop that can result in fatigue, food cravings and mood swings.

     

    Green tea

    In most green tea varieties you will find the amino acid L-theanine that has been shown in EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves, which can help to improve your focus and have a calming effect on your body.

     

    In conclusion

     

    Depression is a serious condition and if you suffer from it then you should speak to a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist. A healthy diet can help, but it can only supplement psychotherapy.

     

    Author Bio: Jac Jenkins is a stay at home Mom passionate about health and fitness. She writes about diets such as the Fasting Diet at her own blog.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abstrato/418493178


  6. What is Social Anxiety and How to Beat It

    July 13, 2013

    anxious and crying

    It is quite common for people to feel tense or awkward during social interactions. If this happens to you often or if you feel stressed before meeting other people, you might suffer from social anxiety. Do the following situations make you anxious?

    • Large crowds of people
    • Meetings
    • Social settings
    • Public speaking
    • Parties
    • Getting to know new people
    • Working in groups
    • People that praise or acknowledge you
    • Receiving attention from other people

     

    Varying degrees of social anxiety

    If one or more of these things make you nervous it doesn’t necessary mean you suffer from social anxiety. There is a bit of ambiguity here but you need to keep in mind that many people feel a bit nervous in one or more of these situations. There are varying degrees of social anxiety too. A good way to diagnose yourself is by answering the question: ‘Do I actively try to steer clear of social occasions?’ If your answer to this question is ‘yes’, you probably do suffer from social anxiety. If you really want to find out if you have social anxiety, the best way is to see a professional who can diagnose you properly. If you feel avoiding social situations is a daily disruption, it might be time to admit you suffer from a mental problem. The first step to solving a problem is to admit that you have a problem.

    Mental problem

    When you fear judgement by others, you may suffer from a social phobia. When you suffer from this, you fear you will be embarrassed or lose control in a social setting. The fear of embarrassment can cause people to actively try to avoid social situations. A social phobia will get worse when people find themselves in a social situation they don’t want to be in, which will cause them to act in an irrational way. After this happens they’ll try to avoid a social occasion even more. In certain settings, a lot of people will be nervous. Especially talking in front of groups of people is something not all of us are comfortable with. Many of us will feel self-conscious under these circumstances but still have the strength to push through. People with a mental problem have such a strong reaction to this that they physically will not be able to stand up and talk. They experience stressful days, weeks or even months before the event will take place.

    Control your inner voice

    Everyone has an inner voice that can give you positive messages or negative messages. You can say to yourself ‘I’m not successful with other people and in social situations.’ The more often you say this to yourself, the more you will begin to believe your own story. You’ve got the opportunity to have a positive life story or a negative one. You can treat social anxiety with visualization techniques and imagery. You can get rid of a negative belief by opposing it yourself. For instance, if you believe you aren’t good at meeting new people, try to think back of a time where you were successful on such an occasion. Meditate on it and write it down: every time you read this you’ll think back of something positive where you handled the situation well. This will challenge the negative belief you have about yourself and make you feel more confident.

    Do you really have a mental problem?

    You need to be absolutely positive you have social anxiety. It is dangerous to think that something is wrong with you when you’re perfectly normal. Unfortunately, some doctors are quite willing to prescribe drugs to you even when you don’t have a mental problem. You need to keep in mind that there is a difference between being a little stressed when you meet someone new versus having a mental illness. Therefore, if you’re often stressed in social occasions don’t run to the doctor immediately but rather try to control your inner voice through meditation and doing things that make you feel more confident.

    This is a guest blog provided by Chemist Direct, a leading online pharmacist in the United Kingdom. We provide products ranging from slimming and weight management products to pet prescriptions.

    Image Credit: Anaïs Nannini


  7. Research Quantifies Benefits of Exercise Against Depression

    June 16, 2013

    exercise against depression

    by Jessica Josh

     

    We all heard that: exercise to avoid or alleviate depression. For years, mental healthcare providers have universally agreed on the merits of exercise as complimentary therapy for depression. But no clinical research has been performed in order to quantify its power over mental illness. Until now.

     

    In the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, psychiatrists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas reported unprecedented research findings on benefits of physical activity for treating clinical depression, known in medical parlance as major depressive disorder (MDD).

     

    “Despite the substantial evidence supporting the use of exercise in the treatment of MDD, previous studies have not provided a clear indication of the proper dose of exercise needed to elicit an antidepressant effect,” wrote authors Chad Rethorst, PhD, and Madhukar Trivedi, MD.

     

    According to World Health Organisation, depression afflicts around 350 million people worldwide, with 9 million adults in the US alone suffering from clinical depression.

     

    Specific guidance

     

    Reviewing findings from existing randomised trials, the authors found that exercise is indeed an effective antidepressant, either by itself or in conjunction with drugs and psychotherapy, among other treatments. These trials also suggest that MDD patients respond optimally to aerobic exercise and, to an extent, resistance training.

     

    Based on statistical results of their study, Rethorst and Trivedi recommend depression patients to aim for 50 to 85 percent of their HRmax (maximum heart rate) when performing aerobic activities. They also prescribed weight training at 80 percent of 1-RM (repetition maximum); three sets of eight repetitions involving both lower- and upper-body muscle groups are adequate.

     

    All in all, MDD sufferers should clock in three to five exercise sessions weekly, with each session lasting 45-60 minutes. However, Rethorst and Trivedi warned that measurable health benefits can manifest within four weeks of starting the regimen.

     

    Granted, clinical psychologists argue that exercise of any frequency and intensity is better than doing nothing at all. Even in the study by Trivedi and Rethorst 15 percent of patients did not finish the physical activity regimens required by the trials. So, why does it work? Physical exercise increases the rate at which serotonin (aka “hormone of happiness”) is generated by the brain, thus causing the increase in release and synthesis of serotonin.

     

     

    Stubborn depression

     

    Alas, even the best treatments may prove futile against depression. Sometimes other conditions, can aggravate it. Bipolar disorder, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular ailment, and anemia have all been known to make depression resistant to treatment.

     

    Psychiatrists may prescribe, in addition to antidepressants, medications indicated for other mental illnesses, e.g. mood stabilizers, stimulants, and antipsychotics. They may also request a cytochrome P450 genotyping test, which tells if the patient can efficiently metabolize a drug.

     

    Clinical psychologists are essential participants in the treatment of depression. Psychodynamic treatment, a relatively drastic kind of psychotherapy, helps the sufferer dig up deep-seated beliefs and feelings that contribute to the depression. This method obviously takes time but, unlike medication, it arms the patient with tools to avoid depression in the future.

     

    It is rarely used nowadays, but if worse comes to worst, psychiatrists may proffer options like transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), both of which make use of electric currents.

     

    In the former, a large coil builds magnetic fields that affect the mood-controlling parts of the brain. ECT, on the other hand, offers stopgap relief from severe depression by practically passing electricity through the brain; patients experience a seizure each time.

     

    Author Bio: Jessica Josh is an Australian freelance writer and blogger.  Since 2007 she has been writing about health and nutrition and fitness, and articles for  Northshore Health & Fitness

     Image Credit: Mark Sebastian


  8. Coping With Mental Illness: Anxiety, Depression, Adult ADHD and Other Conditions

    June 14, 2013

    Coping With Mental Illness

    by Valerie Johnston

     

    Mental illness can easily interfere with a person’s quality of life, even if the issues aren’t outwardly apparent. People who suffer from mental illness often struggle with inner demons that can make the ordinary tasks of life seem like burdens that are impossible to overcome. Each type of mental illness has its own unique set of problems as well as methods of psychological treatment. However, there are a few coping strategies that can help people with any kind of mental illness or disorder, from anxiety and depression, to adult ADHD and other serious types of mental illnesses.

    Step 1: Get Help

    Mental illness still carries a stigma in many communities; so people are often reluctant to seek treatment for their condition. If you are experiencing the symptoms of any mental illness or disorder, it is important to realize that the problem that you are suffering from is a real and physical problem. Though you may or may not be able to see any outward physical problems of the condition, that doesn’t make the symptoms any less real. If you are experiencing anxiety, fear, depression, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, or any other symptom, you should plan a visit to the psychiatrist or clinical psychologist to get help. At the very least, you should confide in family members or friends that you trust. They will be able to give you some support and advice to help you move forward.

    Step 2: Develop a Plan for Treatment

    The best way to cope with mental illness is to get regular treatment from a doctor, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist. They will be able to help you treat your condition in any number of ways. They may prescribe medication that will help reduce your symptoms and make coping with your condition easier, though medications do not necessarily have to be used as the first line of defense. Many clinical psychologists will suggest starting with therapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help you learn how to cope with your mental illness. Having regular appointments with a therapist can help you work through some of your issues and create routines that make it easier to manage the symptoms of depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or whatever type of mental illness you are suffering from.

    Step 3: Build a Network of Support

    There is no doubt that patients who have a support system will experience far better success rates with their treatment of mental illness. Coping with the stress and added anxiety of a mental illness is easier when you have friends and family members who can take some of the burden away from you. It is important to build a support network and to involve these people in your treatment, so they can know how to help you cope. If your family and friends are aggravating your symptoms and making your condition worse, they might not know what to do to help you manage your condition. Sit down and talk with them, and explain to them how they can help you cope with different types of situations.

    Step 4: Make Lifestyle Changes

    Sometimes our lives are a source of undue stress, and this can easily aggravate any type of health problem, especially a problem like depression, ADD, or bipolar disorder. Clinical psychologists recommend taking the time to evaluate your life and look for ways to reduce your stress levels, which will hopefully help alleviate some of the problems you are dealing with. If work is particularly stressful, try to sit down and talk to your employers about your condition.

    See if there is anything they can do to help make the work environment more productive and less triggering for your illness. Make changes to your thinking, positive thinking is the best remedy for anxiety and depression. It is equally important to make sure your home life is as balanced and stress free as can be as well. Have your family members lend a hand, so you can cut down on the stress at home. Making changes to your lifestyle can reduce your level of stress and ultimately make it easier to cope with the symptoms of your illness.

    Author Bio: Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian


  9. How to use positive affirmations for maximum psychological benefit

    June 1, 2013

    positive affirmations

    We all have the same goal in life when we strip all nonsense to the basics. We all wish to experience as much life as we can, and learn and grow from those experiences.

    Although we could never run of new things to try we seldom do. Most of us have a routine that we stick to for months, or even years.

    We all have baggage we carry

    The reason is that we all have some kind of baggage or a barrier that holds us back from really prospering. These barriers can come in many forms.

    For example, some of us may lack the confidence to go after what we want, others may believe that they are not good enough, and then there are those of us that are addicted to one thing or another, be it cigarettes, alcohol, food or something different entirely.

    Unfortunately it usually takes us a lot more time to deal with our problems than we both planned and hoped it would take. Some of us might never even get close to getting rid of our baggage.

    Positive Thinking

    The first, fundamental thing every one of us needs in order to be able to develop is a positive mindset.

    A positive mindset will make it much more likely that you will find the motivation, strength and endurance to do what needs to be done so you can finally start living the life of your dreams.

    There are many ways to rewire your psyche to think positively.

    Positive Affirmations

    Positive affirmations are just statements which we affirm to be true. We affirm those statements to ourselves.

    The goal of affirming sentences to ourselves is to start believing in them. Positive affirmations a person might recite to him or herself might include ones like “I am confident”, “I always go after what I want”, “I love myself” and “People find me attractive”, among countless others.

    Positive affirmations help solve pretty much any problem you may have, if they are used the right way. Here is list of a few problems they can help you deal with:

    • Confidence issues
    • Health issues
    • Weight loss
    • Quitting smoking
    • The law of attraction

    There are of course many more areas positive affirmations can help you with. You can find a huge list of positive affirmations written to help you deal with almost any problem imaginable at http://www.freeaffirmations.org/.

    How Do Positive Affirmations Work?

    The underlying reason positive affirmations work is repetition.

    Go back to the time when you were in primary school. The way you learnt anything was to repeat it enough times so that you were able to recite it at will, even if someone woke you up at any point during the night.

    That is the same way positive affirmations work. Repeat them enough times, and you will rewire your mind and replace the old, negative beliefs that hold you back with the new, positive ones that will help you take your life to the next level.

    You would use positive affirmations by first writing down the ones you believe would benefit you the most, and then setting up a time each day during which you would recite them to yourself.

    Do stay consistent. Reading them takes only a few minutes of your time per day, while the positive changes that the affirmations would bring would be permanent!

    The Best Way To Use Positive Affirmations

    There are a few things that can help you get the maximum benefit from reciting positive affirmations. Of course, over time you will develop a style that suits you best, but this is a list of things that work form most people.

        1. Stand in an upright position, take a good posture and relax your shoulders;

     

        2. Speak affirmations out loud one by one, with a tone of voice that leaves no doubt that you are confident in what you are saying;

     

        3. Speak in a slow, deliberate fashion. Take your time;

     

        4. Speak in front of a mirror so you are able to catch yourself if you are breaking any of the rules;

     

      5. Smile;

    Reciting affirmations two times per day, once when you get up, and once before you go to bed and repeating your list of affirmations a few times in a row could also help you to maximize their effectiveness.

    As already stated, they work because of repetition. Make a list of affirmations, schedule the time to recite them each day and do so in a confident manner fully believing in what you are saying, and over the next few weeks you should see gradual positive changes in your behavior, and also in the way you feel and the way you think.

    It would be advisable to make a promise to yourself that you will stick to reciting the affirmations for 30 days, and see where to go from there. Basically, when you experience the results after those 30 days have passed, you might realize that positive affirmations might have been the best thing you have discovered in your life.

     

    Image CreditSpencer Williams

     


  10. Five Depression Self Help Strategies

    May 30, 2013

    depression self help

    by Dr. Ralph Bieg

     

    There are a number of effective depression self help strategies. These strategies can be especially beneficial when used in combination with psychotherapy.

    1) Monitor your self talk (and learn to talk back). No big surprise – depressed people think a lot of negative thoughts. They put themselves down, are critical of others, expect the worse, overgeneralize, and lack hope for a brighter future.  These self-defeating thoughts lead to self-defeating behaviour (Like not even applying for a job that you are qualified for, because you’ve convinced yourself they won’t hire you.)

     

    When you experience a negative emotion, that negative feeling was preceded and caused by a negative thought.  So if you’re feeling, depressed, anxious, hopeless, guilty, etc. – STOP – and examine your thoughts. You can train yourself to recognize negative thoughts, challenge them, reframe them, put them in perspective, replace them with something neutral (or better yet, positive), or just reject them. Read a good article on how to challenge negative talk by Ben Martin, PSY.D. here. Another useful therapeutic approach is to alleviate negative thoughts using repetition. This approach is described in the article “Handling Negative Thoughts by Repetition” by Tali Shenfield, PSY.D – read it here.

     

    You can also be affected by other’s negativity. Avoid, or at least limit contact with, the complainers and “Debbie Downers” who see the world as out to get them and their glass as half empty. As much as possible, hang out with happy, optimistic people who see the best in and encourage you.

     

    2) Keep a gratitude journal, a simple notebook in which you write down at least five things you are grateful for each day, even if it is as inconsequential as your first morning cup of hot coffee. As Christine Kane explained so well in her online article Gratitude Journals and Why They Work, “This is not about living in denial or being phony. What it is about is refining your focus. In other words, I encourage the sensitive and bright people in the world to refocus their sensitivity so that they are sensitive to the joy and the good things in their lives, and not just to how bad and painful things feel to them.”

     

    3) Take a natural remedy – Consult with a alternative health practitioner or natural health store about natural remedies such as 5-HTP, SAMe, and St. John’s wort:

     

    • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body. The body uses the amino acid tryptophan to make 5-HTP, which it then turns into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Unlike serotonin, 5-HTP can cross the blood/brain barrier, accessing the brain from the bloodstream.

     

    It is also a precursor of the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Serotonin plays a role in mood, appetite, and sleep, and 5-HTP is sold over the counter in many countries as a dietary supplement to treat depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, binge eating and fibromyalgia.

     

    5-HTP is sourced from the seeds of the West African shrub griffonia simplicifolia. Do NOT take 5-HTP if you are taking a prescription anti-depressant. Both 5-HTP and antidepressants increase the levels of serotonin in the body. Too much serotonin can result in a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome.

     

    • SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) is another naturally occurring substance found throughout the body, and in high concentrations in the brain. It too can cross the blood/brain barrier, and affects the metabolism of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. It also influences hormones.

     

    While clinical studies have shown that SAMe is effective in alleviating depression, scientists aren’t sure why. It’s speculated that it facilitates synthesis of the same neurotransmitters that anti-depressants act on. It has long been used as a prescription depression medication in Europe.

     

    According to an editorial by Dr. J. Craig Nelson in the American Journal of Psychiatry, “Low levels of SAMe have been reported in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of severely depressed patients. Oral and parenteral administration of SAMe result in a rise in CSF SAMe concentrations, indicating the compound crosses the blood-brain barrier. An increase in SAMe levels has been positively correlated with improvement in depression. SAMe concentrations also appear to rise in patients who respond to other antidepressants such as desipramine. SAMe is produced in the one-carbon cycle involving folate, homocysteine, and vitamin B12, and abnormalities of each of these compounds has been associated with depression. ”

     

    “In short, the hypothesis is that abnormalities in the one-carbon cycle may result in low concentrations of SAMe that in turn may limit the synthesis of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This may directly contribute to depressive symptoms or interfere with or limit the action of other antidepressants. Administration of SAMe may ameliorate these deficiencies or augment antidepressants and facilitate neurotransmission.”

     

    Whatever the mechanism, SAMe works to alleviate depression faster than prescription drugs and other alternative therapies, sometimes within a week.

     

    • St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) was one of the earliest popular natural remedies for depression, and is the most studied. It has consistently been shown to work as well as, or better than, prescription antidepressants for mild to moderate depression. The plant may prevent nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing some chemical messengers involved in mood, including dopamine and serotonin. St John’s Wort is a stimulant, and may not be the best choice of natural antidepressant for those who experience anxiety.

     

    Taking St. John’s wort can weaken many prescription medicines, including antidepressants, birth control pills, and some HIV, cancer and heart medications, so make sure your health care provider is aware of every natural remedy and prescription medication that you are taking.

     

    4) Light therapy – If your depression typically occurs in the late fall and winter, it may be seasonal effective disorder (SAD), linked to a lack of sunshine. SAD may respond to a light therapy box, also known as a light box, bright light therapy box or a phototherapy box. Light therapy boxes mimic outdoor light.

     

    According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood, and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for at least 30 minutes every morning.

     

    5) Emotional freedom techniques, or EFT, is described by founder Gary Craig as “an emotional version of acupuncture, except we don’t use needles. Instead, we use a simple two-pronged process wherein we (1) mentally ‘tune in’ to specific issues while (2) stimulating certain meridian points on the body by tapping on them with our fingertips. Properly done, EFT appears to balance disturbances in the meridian system and thus often reduces the conventional therapy procedures from months or years down to minutes or hours.”

     

    While the fastest results are likely achieved with a trained therapist, EFT can be learned and practiced on one’s own. Craig has released his work into the public domain, and free tutorials can be downloaded from his website, www.emofree.com.

     

    While serious and long lasting depression should always be reported to and evaluated by your doctor or a mental health professional, mild or moderate depression will likely respond to a combination of these depression self-help techniques. They can also be used along with therapy and/or prescription medication (but don’t take the natural remedies along with anti-depressants) for more serious and deep-seated depression.

     

    Consistent use of self help methods like positive self talk, a gratitude journal and Emotional Freedom Techniques will result in lasting change in how you think about and experience life, lessening your chances of experiencing future depression.

     

    Finally, But first, don’t ignore these obvious and often repeated basic self-help advice for depression, including:

     

    • Getting enough sleep.
    • Eating a healthy diet (lots of fruit, vegetables and whole grains).
    • Meditating, or practicing relaxation.
    • Avoiding “self medicating” with alcohol, recreational drugs, and/or food.
    • Exercising – even if it’s just a couple of 10-minute walks a day.

     

    With this foundation, you will have much more success in your fight with depression.

     

     

    Author Bio: Dr. Ralph Bieg is the Medical Director of Pender Medi Spa in Vancouver and the Medical Director of Skincare Centre in North Vancouver, BC. He specializes in skincare and is a member of the Face Institute. He is also a recognized trainer of Botox and Fillers in North America.

    Image Credit: Daniel Horacio Agostini