1. Carl Jung’s Contributions to Psychology

    September 3, 2013

    Carl Jung, Psychologist

    by Adrienne Erin

    Carl Jung’s contributions to the field of psychology still impact how psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health workers perform their work today. Born on July 26, 1875 in Switzerland, Jung was the only son of a Protestant minister and his wife and, ultimately, the only surviving child out of four children. He described his childhood as lonely and spent most of his time observing people to try to understand their behavior. Though a number of his family were clergymen, Jung decided not to travel that path. Instead, he chased his intellectual pursuits at the University of Basel.


    Jung attended the university from 1895 and studied subjects ranging from archaeology, biology, paleontology, zoology and, of course, medicine. He became an assistant physician in 1900 and obtained his MD in 1902 from the University of Zurich. In his dissertation entitled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomenon”, he first presented his ideas on the wholeness of the psyche. Over his lifetime, he wrote approximately 200 papers and several books. He is considered one of the most prominent thinkers in the field of modern psychology.

    Word Association, Freud and Divergent Views

    Jung’s first research study was conducted in 1904 on word association. At this time, he coined the term “complex,” which refers to repressed psychic content. The term is still widely used today. As Jung continued his studies and wrote a number of papers, he confirmed many of Freud’s ideas. In 1906 at the age of thirty, Jung sent Freud a copy of his papers on word association, and this sparked a friendship and collaboration between the two.

    They met in 1907 and worked together for seven years until the relationship turned sour due to Jung’s divergent ideas on what drives a man to act. Freud felt that men (and women) are driven by sexual impulses while Jung believed libido is not an exclusive diver in formation of human personality, while not denying the role of libido, he felt that there are other factors such as the fear of death and collective unconscious. After Jung published “Psychology and the Unconscious,” which argued against some of Freud’s ideas, the two did not speak again. At this time, Jung lost a number of friends and professional acquaintances. Still, his time with Freud had a major impact on his later theories and fostered his fascination with the unconscious mind. In 1921, he published his book “Psychological Types,” which further distinguished his ideas from those of Freud.

    Psyche: The Conscious and Unconscious Mind

    One purpose of Jung’s research was to study the analogies between the contents of the conscious in Western man as compared to the cults, myths and rituals of more primitive societies. His theory of symbols was based on his idea that symbols are the key to understanding human nature. He found that humans used similar symbols across cultures and throughout time.

    Jung proposed that the psyche exists in three parts: the ego (conscious mind), personal unconscious and collective unconscious. The personal unconscious involves knowledge and concepts that we have acquired during our lifetime but have forgotten or repressed. Collective unconscious refers to the collection of “memories” that are common to all mankind. Jung coined the term individuation process to describe the full integration of the conscious and unconscious mind, which is essential to becoming a whole and fully developed person.


    These ideas concerning the psyche further formed his work on archetypes, which are the innate predispositions we have to experience and symbolize certain situations in a distinct way. (For example, finding a mate, having children and confronting death have elicited similar behaviors and symbols across cultures and over time). These archetypes are found in all mythological and religious systems. Jung also introduced an archetype of Self, which he defined as “archetype of archetypes”. In his book “The stages of life” he introduced concept of individuation as the most fundamental concept defining person’s meaning of life – through individuation, which usually takes place in the second half of life, one finds his purpose in life and realizes Self archetype. Jung also introduced core archetypal components affecting development of human personality and social life. These archetypal components are ego, persona, shadow, anima, and animus.

    Introversion and Extroversion

    The terms introvert and extrovert also made their appearance in our everyday vernacular thanks to Jung. He termed an introvert as one who is withdrawn and more interested in ideas over people. Introverts prefer quiet isolated environment and take pleasure in solitary activities. Extroverts are more socially-oriented people who are stimulated by other people and outside world. While Jung and Jungians popularized terms introvert and extrovert, the concept was originated by French psychologist Alfred Binet, who called “knowledge we have of our inner world, our thoughts, our feelings” an introspection and “orientation of our knowledge toward the exterior world as opposed to knowledge of ourselves” an externospection.

    Jung linked introversion and extraversion with four psychological functions such as thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation to create 8 categories for psychological types. He claimed that every person has one dominant psychological type (e.g. extravert thinking) that manifests in her persona and one secondary type (e.g. introvert feeling) that manifests in her shadow personality.

    The Significance of Dreams

    Jungian therapy deals with dreams and fantasies. Dreams, Jung believed, compensate for the neglected parts of personality, specifically for secondary personality type associated with shadow and hidden in the unconscious. His autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” offers deeper insight into his own dreams and the importance he feels they play in our personal development. He also believed that we could ultimately understand humanity through our dreams, art, myths and philosophy.

    Jung’s contributions can be found in many psychological disciplines today, with his influence far-reaching.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

    Image Credit: Anaïs Nannini

  4. 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.

     Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

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

    June 14, 2013

    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.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

  6. Three Most Common Misconceptions of ADHD

    June 3, 2013

    Girl with ADHD

    by TK Cooke

    Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (hereon ADHD) has come into public scrutiny as of late because of the media blitz reporting on its overdiagnosis. The increased scrutiny is not without cause—a report from Psychology Today stated that the diagnosis of ADHD has increased by more than 40% over the past decade. The increased scrutiny has also brought upon a lot of misconceptions about the disorder and what it entails. So to set the record straight, we are going to talk about some of the more common misconceptions of ADHD. The following are three of the most commonly-held misconceptions about the disorder:

    Adderall (Or any other ADHD medication) Makes You Study (Better)

    This is a common belief among those who do not have ADHD, especially those in college. Ritalin, Adderall, and other methylphenidate/amphetamine run rampant in colleges, with many students believing it to be the silver bullet to acing their finals. This is a myth. ADHD medication will not make you do anything you didn’t want to do in the first place. Although popularly labeled as a stimulant, The Last Psychiatrist thinks ADHD medication should be labeled as reinforcers instead. The medication reinforces your will—but if you do not have a will to study, then there is nothing to reinforce. Yes, Ritalin (and the like) will make you hyper-focused. But what you are going to focus on is entirely up to you. If you want to talk to your significant other, the medication will make you focus on that and no medication in the world is going to make you study if you don’t want to.

    If I Can’t Concentrate, I Must Have ADHD

    The lack of concentration is just one of the hosts of symptoms used to render a diagnosis of ADHD. If you find yourself unable to concentrate but do not display any other types of symptoms, it does not mean you have ADHD.  ADHD is broken into several subsets: inattentive, impulsive-hyperactive, or combined, and the disorder itself presents the following set of symptoms:

    • Difficulty paying attention to details
    • Easily distracted by trivial matters (such as a buzzing sound or crickets chirping)
    • Difficulty finishing work or participating in activities that requires some sort of prolonged attention
    • Frequently shifting from one thing to another without ever finishing
    • Procrastination
    • Disorganized
    • Forgetfulness
    • Tendency to make careless mistakes
    • Failure to complete tasks
    • Frequent shifts in conversation
    • Not listening to other people while they talk
    • Fidgeting, squirming when seated
    • Getting up frequently to walk or run around
    • Running or climbing excessively when it’s inappropriate (in teens this may appear as restlessness)
    • Difficulty in a quiet setting
    • Always needing to be ‘on the go’ and doing something
    • Excessive talking
    • Impatience
    • Difficulty delaying responses
    • Difficulty controlling impulse for immediate gratification
    • Frequently interrupting others in order to get your point in
    • Starting conversations at times that would seem inappropriate

    You do not have to have all the above symptoms for a diagnosis of ADHD; however you do need to display a more than just inattention. And remember, you cannot develop ADHD as an adult—the onset of the disorder is only from early childhood.

    ADHD is Not Real?

    On the other side of the spectrum are non-believers who do not believe that ADHD is a real disorder. This misconception stems from the same originating premise as the previous misconception—that the only symptom of ADHD is the lack of concentration. Although ADHD is a highly subjective diagnosis, advances in neuroscience have made it possible to diagnose the disorder via imaging studies. Brain scans have shown that those with ADHD have a variant dopamine receptor gene that has been linked to regulating behavior. In addition, studies using brain scans have also found that ADHD is related to lowered dopamine production.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

  7. Learn about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

    May 27, 2013

    Obsessive compulsive disorder

    by Joanna Fishman

    Obsessive compulsive disorder, or simply “OCD”, is a condition that pairs obsessive thought patterns with compulsive behaviours. These thoughts and behaviours cause the sufferer depression and anxiety. Some typical examples of the behaviour you might see in someone with OCD is constantly cleaning (beyond reason) or counting items over and over again.

    There are two distinct elements to OCD: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are not as easy to identify (to the outside world) as the compulsions. Someone may have obsessive thoughts about items being symmetrical, for example, but this behaviour manifests itself in compulsive organizing and rearranging of items.

    The causes of OCD are up for debate. There is strong evidence to suggest that the brain activity of the OCD sufferer is markedly different from that of those who do not suffer from OCD – suggesting a biological basis for the condition. Specific neurotransmitters may be key to understanding these biological anomalies. Neurotransmitters send messages between nerve cells within the brain. OCD sufferers are thought to have lower levels of serotonin than the general population.

    Unfortunately, having a parent with OCD may increase the likelihood of you being diagnosed with the same. While this seems to suggest a genetic link, studies have not been conclusive. The prevalence of OCD in families is likely a combination of both nature and nurture.

    Interestingly, some experts link certain infections with the onset of OCD symptoms. Some children are diagnosed with OCD within weeks after suffering from strep throat. This is due to the infection damaging the nerve cells within the brain that control OCD.

    Treatment for OCD usually comes in the form of medication and/or psychotherapy. Medication does not cure the disorder – it merely makes it tolerable. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, can provide a lasting and even permanent solution to OCD symptoms.

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a very popular treatment option for sufferers of OCD. CBT involves intervening negative or destructive thought patterns and replacing them with more rational thoughts. Some CBT therapists use exposure and response prevention, which teaches the sufferer how to cope with their anxiety toward a specific trigger by exposing them to the trigger gradually.

    While counselling is one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical treatments for OCD, there are other types of natural remedies that sufferers may try in conjunction with psychotherapy. Yoga can be used to treat a variety of medical ailments – but it is specifically beneficial for anxiety (which commonly accompanies OCD). Some patients also find St. John’s Wort (found in health food stores) effective in alleviating depression, which may be present in OCD sufferers.

    OCD can be crippling for sufferers, as it causes high levels of anxiety and depression. It can affect the sufferer’s ability to hold down a job, enjoy social situations or attend school. However, OCD need not be a life sentence. There are many effective treatments for OCD ease short-term and long term suffering. The first step is always to see a counsellor and get a proper diagnosis.

    Image CreditNwardez

  8. Six Tips for Depression Self Help

    May 21, 2013

    depression self-help

    We all get depressed at some point in our lives. We also know how difficult it is to do our tasks when we’re feeling down. Even simple things like cleaning the house, taking a shower, eating, or getting out of bed can be mentally and physically taxing even for strong-willed individuals. Most people deal with depression in a negative way, some will find ways to escape, some will blame other people for their woes, while others wouldn’t even acknowledge their woes. The easy way out of depression is to run to psychiatrist and ask for medication. Healthier option is to go to psychologist or therapist and sign up for psychotherapy e.g.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  But what about depression self help? Can you pull yourself out of depression without medication?

    Motivation is the key to get back to living your life and feeling better when you are feeling helpless. I know that this can be the last thing on your mind when you’re down, but there are some tricks you can do to get your groove back. Here are six ways to stay motivated during the bad times:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself

    It will take time before you feel like your old self again. You need to be patient before you can get things back under control. Changes don’t happen overnight, don’t feel bad if you commit mistakes or fall short of your goals. In many cases, you are your number one critic, so be more forgiving. Give yourself a pat on the back even for simple accomplishments.

    Write your plans on paper

    In order to get out of your funk, you need to remind yourself that everything will be alright. Get back on track by writing your plan down. When you put everything down on a piece of paper, you are indirectly reassuring your subconscious mind that you’ll do something about your situation, helping you overcome your depression. Be detailed about your plans and include a time table so you can track your progress easily.

    Be realistic

    Don’t go overboard when writing down your goals. Setting lofty goals is one way to set yourself up for failure, leading to more frustration and depression. Start with simple changes you know you can achieve and work your way up from there. Achieving your goals gives you a sense of accomplishment which you can build on. Being realistic is like taking baby steps towards achieving your goals.

    Get up and start moving

    When you’re feeling bad, it seems like staying in bed all day is all you can do. Being sedentary will only sink you further down into depression. Don’t make any excuses and just start an exercise routine. If you have been inactive for too long, you can start by walking around your neighborhood for thirty minutes each day. You’ll find that exercise builds on itself, so you can increase intensity over time. Staying active will not only help get you in shape, but is also an excellent way to make you feel good. It promotes the release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that elevates mood and reduces anxiety.

    Find someone to talk to

    We naturally withdraw from the outside world when we’re depressed. Being alone isn’t the best or the easiest way to deal with your dilemma. Go out of your way and seek help from family and friends. There are lots of people who are always willing to lend a helping hand during your time of need. Finding inspiration in others can help get you back on your feet. If you are having problems with seeing other people face to face, you can always start with e-mails and phone calls; the important thing is you are talking to someone. You can also try calling help lines if you don’t know anyone to talk to about your problem.

    Start working on a project

    Working on something unrelated to your problems is a great way to get your mind of things that bother you the most. This could be your best therapy. Work on something that interests you to help keep your mind off of depression and give yourself a treat when you’re done. You can learn how to play an instrument, a new language, or anything that gets your creative juice flowing.  Try different things and practice whatever works as your personal depression self help.

    Getting out of depression may be challenging, but with a little planning and progress you can find that silver lining once again. Just hang in there and know that you are bigger than your problems; you’ll be back to your old self sooner than you think. The sun will be shining again.

    This article was prepared by Simon Bukai who owns and operates Vista Health Solutions, a health insurance marketplace. Vista Health Solutions provides helpful advice and valuable insight to consumers looking for the best health insurance solution.

     Image Credit: Julien

  9. On Meaning In Life and Logotherapy – based on “Man’s Search for Meaning”

    May 18, 2013

    meaning in life and logotherapy

    “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for”. —Viktor Frankl

    by Amanda Greene

    An analysis of Viktor Frankl’s book on meaning of life and Logotherapy style of psychoanalysis.

    Psychiatrist, neurologist and social visionary Viktor Frankl developed Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA). In this school of thought in psychology, the search for a meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.

    Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:

    • Freedom of Will
    • Will to Meaning
    • Meaning in Life

    The motivation for Frankl’s path in life as a psychiatrist was born of his own struggle and grief. He was imprisoned in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. He beat some amazing odds and survived the ordeal although his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all fell victim to the horrors. Over three years’ time, with all that he witnessed in the death camps, he was able to turn his awful experience and the observations he made during it into a positive lesson for spiritual survival; he dedicated his life to helping and others through their psychological troubles and inspiring millions through his books.

    His most popular book, a recounting of his experiences during World War II is “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  It is also considered an influential self-help book that illustrates his school of thought, which is prevalent in psychotherapy practices still today.  The book has been translated into twenty four different languages and, at the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, his book had sold over 10 million copies. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is listed among the ten most influential books in America according to a reader survey that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life”.

    A recent Psychology Today  article explains Frankl’s message is “ultimately one of hope: even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanizing situation, life can be given a meaning, and so too can suffering.” His experiences in the horrendous conditions of a concentration camp were the catalyst of forming his school of thought in psychology that still applies today. What was no doubt some of the worst conditions imposed upon humans brought him to the deduction that human motivation in life is meaning. This was very different than the previous schools of thought from Freud and Adler who were also Viennese psychotherapists. Freud maintained that human motivation was based on pleasure.  Adler’s way of thinking was that power was the basis of human motivation. After his release Frankl founded the school of Logotherapy, which is often referred to as the ‘Third Viennese School of psychotherapy’ because it came after those of Freud and Adler. Logotherapy’s name comes from the Ancient Greek word logos meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. The goal of Logotherapy is to carry out an existential analysis of the person and, in so doing, to help him discover meaning for his life. Frankl, believed that meaning can be found in the following three ways:

    • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
    • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
    • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

    Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues, “we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” LTEA circles around the idea of the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. He did not question why all of those innocent people died in the concentration camps, but pondered why any lived. It was not a question of wanting to live for many; it was finding meaning and purpose. According to Frankl, “The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in life.” He listed the three ways he believed individuals could achieve this: work (doing something significant), in love (caring for someone), and finding courage in difficult times. He maintained the idea that suffering in itself is meaningless; it is the way in which we respond to suffering that gives it meaning.

    Perhaps the most powerful message from Frankl that we can all learn from and can be applied to all events past, present and future is that forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except for one thing and that is the freedom to choose how you respond to a situation.

    His theories apply today, especially with the many unfortunate incidents that occur in our daily lives, personal tragedies and national incidents that make most question how and why. Senseless shootings, environmental accidents, threats of war, and depletion of Earth’s resources all contribute to negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Yet people still find meaning in the world and meaning in everyday life. When someone sets up a charity to honor loved ones lost so that others can be helped and when the father of a fallen US Soldier hands out American flags to promote pride of our country, they are doing something significant and not letting the circumstances out of their control interfere with responding in a way that has meaning.

    Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.

    His therapeutic techniques are still used by many psychologists and psychiatrists today in an effort to help people help themselves. This is achieved through self-analysis with the help of a psychotherapist and guided self-observation. The therapist revisits the improper behaviors in an exaggerated fashion so that it can be evident to the patient. The goal is to get to the point where patients can distance themselves from situations enough it can help them see the wrong thought patterns and inappropriate behaviors. Patients are then guided to making conscious decisions to find meaning in all situations and restore productive living.

    Image Credit: Sheldon Wood

  10. The Bright Side of Life

    April 28, 2013

    positive thinking

    by Jamie Arnold

    Whenever events and circumstances make us unhappy, we usually ask ourselves questions like

    –          What is the reality of the situation?

    –          What should my attitude to it be?

    –          What should I do about it?

    There is not much in the way of wise counsel, be it religious, philosophical or psychological, that does not in some way address these basic questions.

    The Monty Python film “Life of Brian” pokes fun at the whole matter by ending with a crucifixion scene in which the song “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life” is sung. Originally written for the film, this song is now a virtual folk anthem, glaring irony and all. It’s an ode to the extremes to which we humans will go to view life with a tall order of stiff upper lip topped off with Polyanna’s rose-colored glasses.

    Shadow and Light

    What’s the alternative to forced, seemingly unfounded, optimism in the face of unhappy emotions and experiences? Psychotherapy and psychiatry are readily available to help us with what ails us mentally and emotionally so that we can gain perspective, heal if necessary, and go on with life. Engaging in psychotherapy does not require a simplistic optimism that belies the darker realities of a situation; it encourages us to explore these shadows in more depth.  On the other hand, some branches of psychology have emerged in reaction to what they see as a singular emphasis on negative human conditions in their field. Humanistic psychology and positive psychology focus a little more on the bright side, so to speak. Rather than dismissing Polyanna, a psychologist studying positive psychology would be interested in her core attitudes and coping mechanisms to see if they have the potential to make the rest of us healthier and happier.

    Positive thinking is one of the central ideas of the so-called New Age movement in America and elsewhere. It also permeates Buddhist thought and, probably, the commonsense attitudes of many of our ancestors who somehow survived to pass on life to those who thrive today. Despite the need to understand and address what seems like negative realities, our mental health really does appear to benefit if we get into the habit of putting a positive spin on our lot and especially on the future.

    Give Yourself the Gift of Positive Thinking

    Neuroscience has entered an exciting era in which brain imaging is being used to identify what the brain looks when we feel joy, hope and other positive emotions. By scanning to identify which areas of the brain are more active when we feel upbeat and optimistic, neuroscientists can even devise ways to train and exercise those areas of the brain to become activated more readily. They can also identify areas most associated with depression and other psychiatric imbalances and likewise create more accurate ways to lessen the effect of those types of brain activity.

    This is exciting news for everyone alive today. Our generation is blessed with the knowledge and the proof that it’s possible to change our thoughts and attitudes for the better, and that, most of all, it’s beneficial for us in the long run to do so. The catchphrase for this phenomenon is brain plasticity, which refers to the fact that we can train and improve our brains just as we can our bodies. All it takes is the right set of methods and exercises.

    A Healthier, Happier You

    What are some of the benefits of cultivating positivity and optimism? According to experts at the world-renowned Mayo clinic, you’re more likely to live longer with a higher quality of life, experience less depression, enjoy a stronger immune system, experience less heart disease and better manage stressful situations. Whether optimism is a cause or effect of living a healthier lifestyle, there is a relationship. Positive people tend to be more physically active and eat healthier foods while engaging in fewer addictive behaviors.

    If you don’t feel that you have the positive mental attitude that would bring you these benefits, try some simple exercises and do them regularly just as you might start a physical exercise routine. Maintain your motivation by detaching from any expectations for a while. If you expect to feel better overnight and it doesn’t happen, don’t let yourself become discouraged; just keep going. Develop positive affirmations that you can apply to your life, or borrow some generic sayings from religious or self-help sources and repeat them until their simplicity begins to win you over. There is a piece of traditional folk wisdom that suggests, “If you’re not happy, fake it and it will eventually feel real.” This is absolutely true. The brain begins to remold itself to reflect a more positive outlook. Enduring happiness may not be as simple as that, but research suggests this approach is on the right path!

    Your positive inner coach should focus on simple phrases that deal with a better future, forgiveness, gratitude and other humble concerns. The capacity to believe that even bad situations and feelings will turn out for the best is a powerful antidote to life’s ills. Holding on to anger and disappointment have the capacity to poison us, so stop counting your wounds and affirm your forgiveness of others. Likewise, make simple statements of gratitude for the people, experiences, and opportunities that benefit your life.

    Are you ignoring negative realities by practicing positive thinking? Perhaps you are; or you may be avoiding putting a negative spin on a more benign reality. Each situation and each person is different, but adopting a positive attitude can absolutely help you feel happier in the long run. Just give it a try – it’ll work wonders in your life.

     Image Credit: Wagner Cesar Munhoz