Monday, February 24, 2014

How to Cope with Personal and Global Uncertainty

How to Cope with Personal and Global Uncertainty
Learning not to live in fear in the midst of life's uncertainty
Published on August 31, 2011 by Toni Bernhard, J.D. in Turning Straw Into Gold


What do you count on as "certain" in your life? If you'd have asked me on May 21st, 2001, the day before I got sick with an illness that continues to this day, "Do you believe that impermanence and change are universal laws?" I would have said, "Of course!" After all, I'd been a practicing Buddhist for ten years and the Buddha referred to impermanence as a "mark of experience," common to all human beings. We see it everywhere—in changing relationships, in changing political regimes, in the rapid-fire arising and passing of thoughts and moods.
If everything is subject to change, how can we be certain of anything? We can't. And yet, despite years of immersion in the Buddha's teaching, on that day in May of 2001, I felt certain of many things, including:

1. I'd be teaching for another 10-20 years and my husband and I would continue to take our treasured trips to Moloka'i where we'd rent the same secret hideaway I'd discovered in 1995.

2. My friends, Marla and Dick, would finish building their dream house on property they'd bought in the Sierra Mountains.

3. The World Trade Center towers would continue to dominate the New York City skyline, their image instantaneously identifying a movie or a television show as being set in The Big Apple.

Here's how those three "certainties" turned out:

1. Wrong. I had to stop teaching and am unable to travel due to the illness I came down with the very next day—May 22nd, 200l.

2. Wrong. Several months ago, Marla and Dick were killed in a head-on collision as they were returning to their property in the Sierras.

3. Wrong. Less than four months after that May 21st date in 2001, the twin towers were reduced to rubble by terrorists who killed thousands of people.

What this past decade has taught me about uncertainty. Although our bodies are wondrous organisms (just contemplate the workings of your circulatory or respiratory systems), they are but flesh and bones and blood. As such, they are subject to unexpected and unanticipated incursions—by disease, by an oncoming car in the wrong lane, by those intent on doing us harm.

How to cope with life's uncertainty:

1. Find the middle ground between the extremes of living in the delusion of certainty and living in fear and worry about the future.

When I got sick, Sylvia Boorstein (who wrote the Foreword to my first book) gave me Healing Lazarus by Lewis Richmond. In the prime of his life, Richmond was struck down with a rare life-threatening brain injury—viral encephalitis. He was in a coma for 10 days. In this remarkable book, he chronicles the devastating effect of the illness and his slow climb back to health.

One story he told had a profound effect on me. When he began to recover, he had to put his life back together. This meant learning how to walk and talk, resuming his career, and becoming an equal partner in his family life. During this long and grueling process, he suddenly found himself living in overwhelming fear and worry that something like this illness could happen to him again.

His therapist identified this fear as "catastrophic thinking" and told him that it was not an unusual experience following a trauma (for some of you, that trauma could be Hurricane Irene and its aftermath). Then she said:

Of course, any of those things might happen, to you or to me or to anyone, but we can't live our lives in fear of them. We all must develop an assumption of safety that allows us to get through the day. I have three children, and if I allowed myself to worry constantly that one of them might be hit by a car, or could be kidnapped, I wouldn't be able to function.

These words from his therapist have helped me immeasurably. I still get caught up in the fear generated by uncertainty: "What if something should happen to one of my family members and I need to be continually by their side in the hospital?" (I'm currently too sick to be able to do this.) "What if one of my children or grandchildren is at a shopping mall when a terrorist attack occurs?" When these fears arise, I remember what Louis Richmond's therapist told him and I repeat her words to myself: "We all must develop an assumption of safety."

This comment of hers has not only helped me cope with the uncertainty of this illness, but I've also relaxed about my children and grandchildren. I've wrapped them in an assumption of safety. It's been tremendously comforting and freeing for me. After all, the probability is low that anything disastrous will happen. Of course we should take reasonable precautions, but catastrophes are the exception not the rule, despite the media's constant focus on them. As Mark Twain famously said: "I've lived a long life and seen a lot of hard times...most of which never happened."

2. Use Weather Practice to make peace with the fact of uncertainty.

I write about Weather Practice in my book How to Be Sick—in the chapter on impermanence. Physical symptoms, thoughts, and emotions are as changeable as the weather. They blow in; they blow out. When

painful emotions such as fear or worry blow in, we can learn to greet them as expected guests (they certainly do seem to invite themselves over). Resisting them is like resisting the weather: it won't keep a storm from blowing in. It's not personal. Like a storm, these painful emotions arise when certain causes and conditions come together. Then they blow on through, maybe even making way for a ray of sunshine in the mind!
The more we can greet fear and worry as simply the result of causes and conditions—some external to us (e.g., a hurricane), some internal in the form of our reaction to those external conditions—the sooner these guests go on their way because they lose their stranglehold over us when we see their impermanent nature.

I try to welcome each day as it is for me, uncertainty and unpredictability included. I use a phrase from the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron: "Start where you are." So, I start where I am—with this illness and with a world that is troubled-—while at the same time working to improve my health and the well-being of others.

Buddhist teacher, Joseph Goldstein, likes to say: "Anything can happen at any time." This includes difficulties and even crises, but it also includes the possibility of a spontaneous recovery from illness or an unexpected laying down of weapons. In those precious moments when I don't feel threatened by uncertainty and change, a great feeling of relief sweeps over me and I feel at peace.

I know now that on May 21st, 2001, I wasn't prepared for what life had in store for me the very next day, or for all of us less than four months later. But, seeing deeply the uncertainty of life, I vow to treasure each moment of joy as if it were a rainbow that fleetingly appears when just the right conditions come together.
Note: The theme of this article is expanded on in Chapter 1 ("Change Change Change") and in Chapter 18 ("Equanimity: Fully Engaging This Life as It Is") of my book, How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow.

© 2011 Toni Bernhard www.tonibernhard.com

To view the original article, click here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Is There a Gene for Winning Gold Medals?

Good morning blog world!

In honor of the Olympics, today I would like to share a fun article with you, entitled, 'Is There a Gene for Winning Gold Medals? The nature and nurture of sporting excellence.' This article talks about a few theories on how someone can achieve gold-metal status in their desired sport or discipline. It mentions the ever-famous, "10,000-hour rule," as well as body type and sporting achievement.  This is an interesting read so if you have a minute, take a look and see what you think!



Is There a Gene for Winning Gold Medals?

The nature and nurture of sporting excellence
I recently came across a very interesting interview on the EconTalk website. The interviewee was the sports journalist David Epstein, and the topic of discussion was Epstein's recent book, The Sports Gene. This book - an exploration of the nature and nurture of sporting achievement - has been flying off the shelves over the last few months. In fact, a copy recently flew into the hands of President Barack Obama, who bought it for someone as a Christmas present. Obama's tacit endorsement of the book and its subject matter is noteworthy. You see, The Sports Gene is somewhat controversial. It's controversial because it deals with sex differences and racial/ethnic differences in elite sports performance, and because it doesn't attribute these differences entirely to nurture. Nature, says Epstein, plays an important role as well.
I have to say I'm not a big fan of the book's title. There's no single gene for prowess in sports, and genes aren't all that matters. But Epstein knows this, and the book itself is excellent. If you're wondering whether to add it to your own Christmas list, I recommend checking out theEconTalk interview. It covers a good range of the topics from the book. Here's a sample...

The 10,000-Hour Rule
The 10,000-hour rule is the idea, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, that you can attain mastery in any field if you just devote 10,000 hours to it. Whether you want to be a chess grandmaster, the next Jimi Hendrix, or the next Tiger Woods, natural talent is basically irrelevant. All you need is 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. Unsurprisingly, it ain’t quite so simple. The rule does have its origins in some perfectly good research. But this research doesn't show that anyone can master anything in 10,000 hours. For one thing, 10,000 hours is an average, and there's a huge range of variation on either side of the average—enough that it’s misleading to say even that approximately 10,000 hours is what it takes.
Epstein makes this point vividly with the story of Stefan Holm. Holm won Gold in the high jump at the 2004 Olympics. In interviews, he explained his success in terms of the 10,000 hour rule: He’d put in more than 10,000 hours—indeed, he'd put in more than 20,000—and he was now reaping the reward. But in 2007, at the World Championships in Japan, Holm went up against Donald Thomas. Thomas had started his high jumping career only months before, when a friend bet him that he couldn’t clear the 6’6” bar. As you've probably guessed, Thomas beat Holm and won the gold. So, Holm had put in 20,000 hours, whereas Thomas had put in closer to zero. The average was around 10,000 hours. But the newbie won. Obviously, practice matters. Equally obviously, though, talent matters too. And sometimes it matters a lot.

Body Type and Sporting Achievement
But what exactly is talent? If we define it loosely as anything other than practice, then it includes a very wide range of factors. One of these factors is body type. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and some shapes and sizes are better for certain sports than others. Body type is so important that, according to Epstein, if we had a list of the heights and weights of all Olympic competitors, and even if we knew nothing else about them, we could correctly guess their events in almost every case. Looking at body type helps answer a number of questions:


  • Why is Michael Phelps such a great swimmer? There's no single answer, of course. But one secret of his success is his atypically long torso. This functions like the long hull of a canoe, and is ideal for swimming. Phelps also has relatively short legs, which gives him an additional advantage in the pool. Of course, if Phelps didn’t put in the long hours of training, his canoe-like, short-legged body would never win a race. However, there are probably hoards of swimmers who are equally dedicated, but who none of us have ever heard of, in part because Mother Nature cursed them with short torsos and long legs.


  • Why are sprinters and football running backs usually short? The main reason is that shorter limbs have less “moment of inertia”—in other words, it takes less time to get them moving. For any athletic task that relies largely on acceleration, as opposed to maintaining speed, shorter is generally better. Curiously, the world’s greatest sprinter, Usain Bolt, is an exception. At 6’5”, Bolt is extremely tall. Is he exempt from the laws of physics? The hypothesis is certainly tempting, but it seems not. Because he’s so big, it takes Bolt longer than most of his rivals to get going, and he’s usually near the back of the pack in the early part of the race. But he tends to win anyway because his top speed—when he finally reaches it—is much faster than anyone else’s. He soon catches up with the little people, and leaves them and their low moments of inertia in the dust.


  • Why are marathon runners generally small? One important factor is that smaller bodies are less likely to overheat, because they dissipate heat more rapidly. That's because, compared to larger bodies, they've got more surface area relative to their overall volume. This means that, for each square inch of volume, smaller bodies have more skin surface for the heat to leak out from. This is basic physics, and thus the principle applies right across the animal kingdom: Smaller animals lose heat faster. That’s why diminutive creatures like mice are more prone to freezing to death, and why an elephant could never run a marathon. It is true that Paula Radcliffe, one of the greatest female marathon runners of all time, is a head taller than most of her competitors. But Radcliffe only won consistently in cooler weather. When it was hot, she was basically out of the running.


Group Differences
The discussion of body type leads naturally into the topic of ethnic differences in sporting achievement. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with international sports knows that certain ethnic groups predominate in certain events. So, for instance, many short-distance runners trace their ancestry to West Africa, whereas many long-distance runners trace theirs to a particular region of East Africa. As I mentioned, ethnic differences in sporting achievement are rather controversial. But they're also hard not to notice. This leads to the rather peculiar situation where everyone sees the difference but "right-thinking" people pretend that they haven’t. In case you doubt that these ethnic or racial differences are controversial, Epstein points out that many of the sports scientists he interviewed would only discuss the issue on the condition of anonymity.

Of course, the whole topic is less controversial if you chalk everything up to environmental or cultural factors. But Epstein doesn’t take that path. Nor, though, does he chalk it all up to biology. Instead, he credits group differences to a complex interaction of the two factors. Epstein is a journalist, not an academic. However, in my view, he does a better job of integrating nature and nurture than most academics. I’ll give you some examples.

West African Success in Short-Distance Running
Consider, first, group differences in short-distance running. Nature or nurture? Well, it can’t be all nurture. After all, since 1980, every man who’s won the 100-metre Olympic sprint, whether he's come from the U.S., Canada, Portugal, Nigeria, or the Netherlands, can trace his ancestry to West Africa. So can an overwhelming number of female sprinters. There are a number of reasons to think that people with this ancestry would be advantaged in running. First, the area of West Africa that produces all these champions sits at a low latitude. A general trend among mammals and birds, known as Allen’s rule, is that populations living nearer to the equator evolve longer limbs relative to their body size. In humans, this bodily configuration is good for running but bad for swimming (recall Phelps' long torso and short legs). In addition, people of West African descent appear to have a higher proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers, which are good for explosive bursts of activity. Epstein argues that this relates to the evolution of adaptations against malaria among populations living in West Africa (long story). Note that theaverage differences between West Africans and other groups aren't necessarily very large. But even small differences at the average are often associated with much larger differences at the extreme of the distribution. Thus, even if the differences are relatively modest in the general population, among elite athletes, they may be striking.

In any case, West African success in sprinting can't all be nurture. But it also can’t be all nature. As Epstein notes, Jamaica is a much smaller country than the US, but it produces more champion sprinters per capita. A lot more. A large part of the explanation for this is cultural. As a nation, Jamaicans love their track-and-field. Like rugby in New Zealand or football in the UK, track-and-field is a national obsession. Epstein reports that as many as 30,000 people will turn up to watch the National High School championships. The sprinting culture in Jamaica means that there's very little chance that any talented runner will fall through the cracks and escape notice. Thus, culture and biology conspire to produce Jamaican sprinting success.

East African Success in Long-Distance Running
Whereas people of West African descent dominate in sprinting, people of East African descent dominate in long-distance events. In the entire history of United States, 17 men have run a 26.2 mile marathon in less than 2 hours and 10 minutes. In contrast, in a single month - October of 2011 - 32 Kenyan men did exactly that. To be more precise, 32 Kenyan men of the Kalenjin ethnic group made that time. Although people living outside Kenya tend to view Kenyans as great long-distance runners, Kenyans themselves don't see it that way. They view the Kalenjin as great long-distance runners. The Kalenjin make up only ten percent of the Kenyan population, but around 80 percent of elite long-distance runners are drawn from their ranks. Again, nature and nurture both seem to be involved.To begin with, the Kalenjin have an ideal body type for long-distance running. Like West Africans, their ancestors lived near the equator. As a result, they too have long limbs relative to body size. In addition, though, their lower legs are very slender. This means they have what’s called "low distal weight"—that is, they have relatively little weight away from their centre of mass. This "Nilotic" body type dramatically lowers the energetic costs of running. This is important for long-distance events, where you've got to keep up a good pace for a long, long time.

So, those are some of the contributions of nature. What about nurture? To begin with, a lot of Kenyans run to and from school, and their schools are often many miles away. As a result, they soon discover who the best runners are. They’re also primed for training: They’re used to running and they’re not overweight. In the West, many people who could potentially be good runners never find out because they’re couch potatoes and they never give it a go. Economics also play a role. Because Kenya is a poor country, there’s little “opportunity cost” associated with trying to make it as a runner. Very few people have to choose between training and going to medical school. They have little to lose, and a great deal to gain, and thus many people try. Most fail. But a handful make it, and they’re the ones whose names we all know.

Other Interesting Tidbits


  • The relative importance of nature vs. nurture varies from event to event. Football coaches say “You can’t train speed." Epstein agrees. Slow children will never be fast adults. On the other hand, given six months, any healthy adult could probably train to run a marathon (albeit not in 2 hours and 10 minutes).


  • We tend to think of talent as something distinct from training, but that’s not the best way to construe it. According to Epstein, talent is about how rapidly training pays off within a given domain. Some people (like Donald Thomas) profit from training much more rapidly than others. Still, even with all the talent in the world, no one can reach the top rungs of the sporting ladder without training.


  • Genetic testing isn't yet useful for identifying the next Usain Bolt or Tiger Woods. But it might be useful for identifying people who shouldn't play certain sports. There's a gene variant called ApoE4. If you've got this variant and you get a concussion, you're more likely to sustain permanent brain damage. As such, you might think twice about which sports you want to play. Football or rugby might be a bad idea. Something more genteel might be more your speed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is Love??

What is Love?
Posted By Barbara Fredrickson On February 11, 2014 (9:00 am) In Mind/Body
Frederickson_opener-smAs you check out at the grocery store, you share a laugh with the cashier about the face you see peering up at you from the uncommonly gnarled potato in your basket. At work, you and your teammates celebrate a shared triumph with hugs and high fives. On your morning jog, you smile and nod to greet fellow runners and silently wish them a good day. After a trip that’s kept you apart for too many days, you share a long embrace with a family member. Can these everyday moments be called love? What exactly is love?
First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike. Love, like all emotions, surfaces like a distinct and fast-moving weather pattern, a subtle and ever-shifting force. As with all positive emotions, the inner feeling it brings you is inherently and exquisitely pleasant—it feels extraordinarily good, the way a long, cool drink of water feels when you’re parched on a hot day. Yet far beyond feeling good, a micromoment of love, like other positive emotions, literally changes your mind. It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self. The boundaries between you and not-you—what lies beyond your skin—relax and become more permeable. While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others. Indeed, your ability to see others—really see them, wholeheartedly—springs open. Love can even give you a palpable sense of oneness and connection, a transcendence that makes you feel part of something far larger than yourself.
Then, slowly, this expansive and transcendent feeling fades away, just like any other emotion, be it anger, joy, or sadness. However wondrous, feelings of love sweep through you for only a few moments. No emotion is built to last, not even the ones that feel so good. True, you can learn to coax your fleeting micromoments of love to linger with you a bit longer, and you can revive them later through conversation, but their duration is best measured in seconds or minutes, not months or years. Love is the ephemeral and precious openness you feel well up in your chest, not a rock-solid ring made of precious metal on your left hand.
The love I speak of here is also far from exclusive. It’s not just that unique feeling you reserve for your spouse or your romantic partner. It even extends beyond your warm feelings for your children, parents, or close friends. Perhaps counterintuitively, it’s far more ubiquitous than you ever thought possible for the simple fact that love is connection. It’s that poignant stretching of your heart that you feel when you gaze into a newborn’s eyes for the first time or share a farewell hug with a dear friend. It’s even the fondness and sense of shared purpose you might unexpectedly feel with a group of strangers who’ve come together to marvel at a hatching of sea turtles or cheer at a football game. The new take on love that I want to share with you is this: love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people—even strangers—connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong.
Read Symposium 2014 presenter Barbara Fredrickson’s complete article, “What Is This Thing Called Love? A Whole New Way of Looking at It,” in the January/February 2014 issue of Psychotherapy Networker magazine.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feeling SAD This Season? About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Feeling SAD This Season?


Integrative therapies for seasonal affective disorder
 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) should not be confused with mild winter blues. It can be as debilitating as other forms of depression.

Everyone feels blue from time to time, but if you notice that your symptoms are seasonal - and that they usually appear when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter - you may have a common condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these depressive disorders affect as many as 18.8 million Americans each year. Although it is also known as the "winter blues," SAD can occur during any season. It tends to come around the same time each year, but does not usually last year round. If you have it, you may experience recurring, cyclic bouts of depression, an increased appetite, and a greater need for sleep.

What causes SAD?
Let's face it - when the sun starts going down so early in the winter, before work is done - it's tough to catch some rays. This is important because sunlight helps us balance a hormone called melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland and regulates our sleep-wake cycle. When darkness falls, your body secretes melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. Serotonin is another chemical in the brain that may play a role in SAD. Serotonin is associated with sleep, mood, movement, eating and nervousness, and may be reduced with decreased sunlight.
Risk factors for SAD include being female, being between the ages of 15 and 55, having a family history of the condition, living in a location far from the equator (which means less sunlight), or having a diagnosis or symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder.
What are some common signs and symptoms of SAD?
If you have SAD, you may experience feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Work, school, or even interacting with your friends and family might become more challenging, since the disorder can impact your ability to concentrate and make you lose interest in normal activities. You might also have a lot more trouble saying no to that tempting jelly doughnut, since SAD is linked to carbohydrate craving and weight gain.

What are the available treatment options?
The first-line treatment for SAD is light therapy, which exposes the patient to intense levels of fluorescent or incandescent light that mimics sunlight. Light boxes can be purchased over-the-counter without a doctor's prescription, but it's generally a good idea to talk to your healthcare practitioner before buying one. These tools can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and reduce the secretion of melatonin. Alternatively, you can opt for a treatment called dawn simulation. Instead of sitting in front of a light box for 30 minutes, this strategy delivers a dim light automatically when you wake up via a tool that you can purchase and place beside your bed. The light gradually gets brighter to simulate a sunrise.
However, light therapy is not for everyone. If this is the case, there are certain lifestyle changes your doctor may advise you to make. This includes spending more time outside, braving cold weather, increasing exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet. Additionally, a number of prescription and non-prescription agents might help you fight your symptoms. Prescription drugs commonly prescribed for depressive disorders such as SAD are antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or tricyclic antidepressants.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
Supplemental use of 5-HTP may help balance levels of serotonin in the body, which can help you better control irritability, aggression, impatience, anxiety, and depression. Many studies suggest that 5-HTP may aid in the treatment of depression. However, it is not known whether 5-HTP is as effective as commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs, and studies specific to SAD are lacking. Caution is advised when taking 5-HTP supplements, as numerous adverse effects, including drug interactions, are possible. 5-HTP is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

St. John's Wort
St. John's wort has been shown to be effective for depressive symptoms caused by low levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which can sometimes occur in patients with depression. Studies have also found St. John's wort to be effective in combination with light therapy.
It is important to note that St. John's wort may interact with numerous medications, particularly SSRIs. Using these agents together may result in serotonin syndrome, a condition that involves blood pressure changes, agitation, delirium, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. This condition may also increase sensitivity to light.
Based on Natural Standard's review of published studies, St. John's wort has generally been well-tolerated at recommended doses for up to 1-3 months. The most common adverse effects include gastrointestinal upset, skin reactions, fatigue/sedation, restlessness or anxiety, sexual dysfunction (including impotence), dizziness, headache, and dry mouth. St. John's wort should not be used if pregnant or breastfeeding, unless otherwise directed by a doctor.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Essential fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids) have many roles in the body, including proper nerve and brain function. Although there have been studies on the use of omega-3 fatty acids in depression, enough reliable evidence to form a clear conclusion is lacking. Some results suggest that SAD is less common in those who consume more omega-3 fatty acids, such as Icelandic people, who eat plenty of coldwater fish.
You should avoid omega-3 fatty acids if you are allergic or hypersensitive to fish, omega-3 fatty acid products that come from fish, nuts, or linolenic acid, or omega-3 fatty acid products that come from nuts. Also avoid during active bleeding. Use cautiously with bleeding disorders, diabetes, low blood pressure or drugs, herbs or supplements that treat any such conditions. Use cautiously before surgery.

Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression. This nutrient helps regulate the activity of neurotransmitters like melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine. In fact, vitamin D was shown to be more effective than light therapy in the treatment of SAD. Taking 2000 IU of vitamin D each day may help rebalance your levels of these chemicals. However, you should avoid it if you are allergic or hypersensitive to vitamin D or to any of its components. Vitamin D is generally well-tolerated as long as you follow your doctor's dosage recommendations. Vitamin D is safe in pregnant and breastfeeding women when taken in recommended doses.

Conclusion
If adding a little light to your life doesn't curb your craving for jelly doughnuts, you may want to speak with your doctor about SAD, and how to handle it. Medications, dietary changes, and supplements can help you cope, and a medical professional can help you identify how to introduce these tweaks to your current lifestyle. 
If you do chose to take a natural product by mouth to help with SAD please be sure to check with your friendly neighborhood Pharmacist about potential interactions with other therapies you may be taking. Natural Standard also lists specific products that have been studied as not all brands are created equal. You want one that has been used in high quality clinical trials and tested for quality.

To view the original article, click here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Overcoming Loneliness: There is a way to reconnect when you feel alone in the world.

Overcoming Loneliness
There is a way to reconnect when you feel alone in the world.
Published on January 28, 2014 by Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. in Making Change

Loneliness can take root deeply within you. Maybe your daily routine is punctuated by this pain emanating from an emptiness in your chest. If so, you know that you are in trouble. It is a symptom of your severed connection from humanity. Though it can instill a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness, it can be soothed.
The healing agents for loneliness are awareness, acceptance and compassion. Here’s how it works:

Awareness: Choose to bring your awareness to your experience. Pay attention to how your body feels – the hollowness in your chest, the constriction in your throat, the heaviness of your body. If you feel the sadness well up within you, allow yourself to cry without restraint.

Acceptance: Many people instinctively try to run from their loneliness. Sometimes they try to hide from it by numbing themselves. They might sleep, watch TV, or play video games. Or, they might try to distract themselves with chores and activities. They keep busy and superficially engaged in life. But none of this really works – at least not for the long haul. The aching emptiness breaks through numbed bodies and mindless activity.

Sometimes people try to get rid of the pain by blaming themselves for it. They criticize themselves for being unworthy of others. They see all their flaws or mistakes and demean themselves for them. Frequently, their unconscious hope is that if they could identify what’s wrong with themselves and fix it, then they can make the pain go away. Or, if they can’t make it go away, they can at least make sense of it. But they only feel worse for their efforts.

Instead, choose to stay with the feeling. Acknowledge your loneliness and choose to continue being aware of it.

Compassion: Practice reminding yourself that others feel lonely, too. It is part of the human experience that most people share at some time or other. And, just as you would show compassion for anyone else who suffers from being lonely, you also deserve this caring response. So, choose to see yourself with perspective – as you would see someone else – and tell yourself that it is sad that you feel so alone.

If you have supportive others in your life, reach out to them. Take a deep breath, pick up the phone (to text or call), and ask for support in whatever form you need it. Allowing yourself to truly connect with others will help you feel emotionally stronger and less alone.

Strange as it might seem, there are benefits to loneliness, so you don’t necessarily want to be totally without it. By feeling lonely, you are able to understand and have compassion for others who feel similarly. Your loneliness can also be a crucial signal that your relationships are not as emotionally close, supportive, or engaging as you really want them to be. So, it offers you a chance to identify this problem and make efforts to fix it.

As you consider these ideas, keep this in mind: The person who you are right now is in pain, a very human kind of pain in which you feel different from all other people and yearn to feel connected. Just as it would be sad to see others struggle with this, it is sad that you feel this way. And just as you would naturally feel compassion for their pain, you deserve the same compassion. So, accept and feel your loneliness. Then offer yourself compassion. Doing this will help to ease your pain, open you up to experiencing a sense of feeling connected, and help you to take the necessary steps to reach out to others.