Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy 2016!!

Wishing all of our clients and their family and friends a very happy and healthy new year! If you are looking to make a change for 2016, please feel free to reach out at http://innerpassagestherapy.com/


Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Good afternoon,

We want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you find peace and joy wherever you can during this holiday season. Here's to another year!


Monday, December 14, 2015

What Do You Notice In People?

Good morning,

Today we are sharing an article from Psychology Today on noticing the good in people. Sometimes with the holiday season madness we can get carried away and forget to notice others. Take a look at this article by Dr. Rick Hanson and see what you think!

What Do You Notice In People?
How often do we take a few seconds to get a sense of what's inside other people?
Posted Dec 14, 2015
What do you notice in people?

The Practice:
See the good in others.

Why?
Many interactions these days have a kind of bumper-car quality to them. At work, at home, on the telephone, via email: we sort of bounce off of each other while we exchange information, smile or frown, and move on. How often do we actually take the extra few seconds to get a sense of what's inside other people - especially their good qualities?

In fact, because of what scientists call the brain's "negativity bias" (you could see my talk at Google (link is external) for more on this), we're most likely to notice the bad qualities in others rather than the good ones: the things that worry or annoy us, or make us critical.

Unfortunately, if you feel surrounded by lots of bad or at best neutral qualities in others, and only a sprinkling of dimly-sensed good ones, then you naturally feel less supported, less safe, and less inclined to be generous or pursue your dreams. Plus, in a circular way, when another person gets the feeling that you don't really see much that's good in him or her, that person is less likely to take the time to see much that's good in you.

Seeing the good in others is thus a simple but very powerful way to feel happier and more confident, and become more loving and more productive in the world.

How?

Slow down - Step out of the bumper car and spend a few moments being curious about the good qualities in the other person. You are not looking through rose-colored glasses: instead, you are opening your eyes, taking off the smog-colored glasses of the negativity bias, and seeing what the facts really are.

See positive intentions - Recently I was at the dentist's, and her assistant told me a long story about her electric company. My mouth was full of cotton wads, and I didn't feel interested. But then I started noticing her underlying aims: to put me at ease, fill the time until she could pull the cotton out, and connect with each other as people. Maybe she could have pursued those aims in better ways. But the aims themselves were positive - which is true of all fundamental wants even if the methods used to fulfill them have problems. For example, a toddler throwing mashed potatoes wants fun, a teenager dripping attitude wants higher status, and a mate who avoids housework wants leisure. Try to see the good intentions in the people around you. In particular, sense the longing to be happy in the heart of every person.

See abilities - Going through school, I was very young and therefore routinely picked last for teams in PE: not good for a guy's self-esteem. Then, my first year at UCLA, I gave intramural touch football a try. We had a great quarterback who was too small for college football. After one practice, he told me in passing, "You're good and I'm going to throw to you." I was floored. But this was the beginning of me realizing that I was actually quite a good athlete. His recognition also made me play better which helped our team. Thirty-five years later I can still remember his comment. He had no idea of its impact, yet it was a major boost to my sense of worth. In the same way, unseen ripples spread far and wide when we see abilities in others - especially if we acknowledge them openly.

See positive character traits - Unless you're surrounded by deadbeats and sociopaths, everyone you know must have many virtues, such as determination, generosity, kindness, patience, energy, grit, honesty, fairness, or compassion. Take a moment to observe virtues in others. You could make a list of virtues in key people in your life - even in people who are challenging for you!

Last and not least: recognize that the good you see in others is also in you. You couldn't see that good if you did not have an inkling of what it was. You, too, have positive intentions, real abilities, and virtues of mind and heart. Those qualities are a fact, as much a fact as the chair you're sitting on. Take a moment to let that fact sink in. You don't need a halo to be a truly good person. You are a truly good person.


To view the original article source visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-wise-brain/201512/what-do-you-notice-in-people

Monday, December 7, 2015

On hand for the holidays: culinary stress-busters!

Good morning,

Today we are sharing an article from RebeccaKatz.com entitled 'On hand for the holidays: culinary stress-busters!' This is a fun and informative quick read about some essential foods you may want to have around to help reduce stress over the next few weeks. As we all know good health is about the whole picture and eating some of these delicious goodies just may help!

Here we go! The cascade of the holidays starts now.

On Thanksgiving we focus on the traditional feast, our special menu or dish we have GOT to have. 4 days to make, 4 minutes to eat. Whew! But November is about SO much more than that ONE big meal.

According to the sages of Traditional Chinese Medicine, November is the transition time into winter, a time to go inward, hibernate, rest, read books, and enjoy quiet. The weather is changing, and the body needs nourishment and care to stay healthy. But in our world, this is the time we have to bust it out!. Run around to holiday parties, put on a happy face, eat sugary treats, run around the malls, deck the halls, cope with family shenanigans -- in short, dial up the stress!

The good news: a little strategic shift and planning and cooking ahead could make this holiday season a whole new experience.

To continue reading and find out the stress-busting food alternatives visit: http://www.rebeccakatz.com/blog/on-hand-for-the-holidays-culinary-stress-busters

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dr. Ellen Hughes' 10 Tips for Healthy Living

Institute Scholar Emerita Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD, sought to understand how each of us can attain our highest level of well-being at every stage of life. Her Institute supported-work involved studying the many ways people age—on molecular, genetic, epigenetic, and cellular levels; as a whole organism; and as a member of a community.

Based on her investigation, here are Dr. Hughes’ top tips for healthy living and active aging:

Maintain a healthy weight. We need fewer calories as we age, so watching portion size is key. Strategies to try: Since we tend to “eat with our eyes” serve meals on smaller dishes. Eat with the opposite hand to slow yourself down. Use smart phone apps, such as MyFitnessPal, to track your calories and exercise.

Exercise. Significant health benefits are associated with being active, but exercise doesn’t need to be intense or prolonged to be beneficial. In fact, just getting up off the couch helps your muscles metabolize fat and sugar more effectively. Work activity into your daily schedule: Park farther away, take the stairs, walk during breaks.

Stay mentally active. Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain. Clinical trials show that brain fitness programs work. Our brains grow new neurons, and neurons make new connections. Learning new things will keep you mentally strong.

Reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to play a role in diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Exercise, daily flossing, stress management, and eating an “anti-inflammatory” diet (high in healthy fats and low in simple carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, and additives) helps reduce inflammation.

Cultivate positive emotions. How we view the world affects our health. Happiness is 50 percent genetics, 10 percent environment, and 40 percent voluntary activity. Gratitude and forgiveness are associated with increased happiness, health, and optimism. Laughter reduces cardiovascular stress, enhances immune function, increases pain tolerance, and lowers blood sugar in diabetics.

Manage stress. We can’t eliminate all the stress in life but we can control our response by learning how to relax, which lowers respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol and adrenaline. There are numerous pathways to relaxation: diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, biofeedback, imagery, hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, prayer, exercise, and music.

Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to obesity, accidents, physical pain, and poorer health. For better sleep, wake up at the same time each morning. Go to bed only when tired. If unable to fall asleep, get out of bed until you’re sleepy. Slow down before bedtime: no TV, surfing the net, or checking email. Avoid alcohol, stimulants, and heavy meals close to bedtime. Create a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep.

Stay connected. Meaningful relationships are the most consistent predictor of quality of life. Loneliness, depression and isolation increase mortality by three to seven times.

Engage in activities that are meaningful. People are happier when they give. Volunteering, for example, has been found to extend the life of elderly veterans.

Connect with something beyond you. Transcendent purpose and spirituality are associated with better health and greater happiness. Something larger could be a higher power, nature, or something else. More than 50 studies have shown positive health benefits of regular religious attendance.

RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE THE POWER

Thanks to the new science of aging, we know there are things you can do to live better—and not just longer. Healthy lifestyles have a powerful effect on how your genes are expressed. Even small changes can make a big difference!

To view the original article source visit: http://tiih.org/who/blog/dr-ellen-hughes-10-tips-healthy-living/?utm_source=Fall+2015+News&utm_campaign=Fall+Newsletter&utm_medium=email

Monday, November 23, 2015

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.

Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier
By Arthur C. Brooks

TWENTY-FOUR years ago this month, my wife and I married in Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks after our wedding, flush with international idealism, I had the bright idea of sharing a bit of American culture with my Spanish in-laws by cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner.

Easier said than done. Turkeys are not common in Barcelona. The local butcher shop had to order the bird from a specialty farm in France, and it came only partially plucked. Our tiny oven was too small for the turkey. No one had ever heard of cranberries.

Over dinner, my new family had many queries. Some were practical, such as, “What does this beast eat to be so filled with bread?” But others were philosophical: “Should you celebrate this holiday even if you don’t feel grateful?”

I stumbled over this last question. At the time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

To continue reading this article, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html?_r=0

Monday, November 16, 2015

What is Integrative Medicine?

Good morning,

Today we are sharing an article on Integrative Medicine from U.S.News Health.

As the American healthcare system grows progressively stressed and truly patient-centered care becomes increasingly difficult to find, more people than ever before are looking for alternatives to the conventional healthcare model.

Integrative medicine, which focuses on caring for the whole human being—body, mind, spirit, and community, not just flesh, bones, and organs—is steadily becoming a desirable and logical option for many people.

The article explains how integrative medicine combines complementary therapies with conventional treatments and will discuss why and how you might choose a health provider who follows this approach.

To find out more visit: http://health.usnews.com/health-conditions/heart-health/integrative-medicine/overview


Monday, November 9, 2015

How Yoga Might Save the U.S. Trillions of Dollars, And A Lot of Lives

This is a great article we are sharing today! Enjoy it!

Find a comfortable nook to settle in to folks, because this article via Forbes.com is a big one.

How Yoga Might Save the U.S. Trillions of Dollars, And A Lot of Lives 

Scientific evidence is mounting daily for what many have long sensed: that practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help us address certain intractable individual and societal problems.

Prominent companies – Google, General Mills, Target, Apple, Nike, AOL, and Procter & Gamble among them – and prominent individuals have already embraced this possibility. Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who wrote the book A Mindful Nation, has been a big proponent of bringing mindfulness to the masses. He, along with others, believes that mindfulness should be a part of everyone’s day, to help wire our brains to deal with our many modern stressors.

And, perhaps more importantly for our global health, for kids dealing with extreme stressors, traumas and abuse, putting these practices into schools could be the difference between failure and success.

Last month, a group of American and Canadian scholars, researchers, businesspeople, and yoga teachers came together for a weekend at Omega Institute to discuss how this group of practices that helps us self-regulate as individuals could, quite possibly, help us regulate on a society level. The issues the country is facing – the massive dropout rate of school kids, substance abuse among all age groups, PTSD among veterans, the staggeringly high incarceration and recidivism rates – cost the country volumes in human potential, not to mention trillions in dollars. There are no single solutions, but the evidence suggests that some or all of these problems may be amenable to the practices that have been shown to redirect attention, improve concentration, increase self-control, and endow people with reliable and healthy coping mechanisms in the face of stress and trauma.

Some of the faculty at Omega’s conference have been key players in making this happen. BK Bose, PhD, of the Niroga Institute, a former Silicon Valley engineer who grew up practicing yoga, now works to make mindfulness/meditation/yoga the game-changer that many believe it can be. Rob Schware, PhD, who heads the Give Back Yoga Foundation and the Yoga Service Council, and writes for the Huffington Post, brought his two decades of management experience with World Bank to help grow the movement as a second career. Many, including Bose and Schware, say that the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a famously insidious and costly problem in lives lost and money wasted, is one of several that could be altered by a little mindfulness training early on in life.

In terms of economic cost alone, Cecelia Rouse at Princeton estimates that one high school dropout “costs” about $260,000 in lost earnings over his or her lifetime. Given the fact that at least a million kids drop out of school every year, the annual cost of school failure alone is estimated at $260 billion. As Bose points out, “Over ten years, the cost is upwards of 3 trillion dollars. And this is just for dropping out alone.”

If you continue the trajectory a little further, he says, based on the relatively common course that can include juvenile hall and prison, the numbers grow. “The school-to-prison pipeline is incredibly costly,” says Bose. It can cost upwards of $250,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison, if you factor in all the direct and indirect costs that tend to come with it, like loss in productivity, damage to the family, the escalated health and mental health costs. “Folks have been looking at career criminals – and estimates over their lifetimes are between $4-7 million. If you apply this to all those who land in jail over and over again, the numbers become stratospheric.”

One approach is to increase school retention; the national dropout rate is between 25% and 35%, and up to 50% in inner city schools. But if you go back a necessary step, Bose argues, the real culprits are enormous stresses and traumas that are so often present in the kids’ lives. “The single common denominator is stress: Chronic stress, toxic stress, traumatic stress, primary and secondary post-traumatic stress. Trauma is endemic. The tentacles of stress and trauma run right through – domestic abuse, substances abuse, poverty, racism. And once a kid drops out, homelessness, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, violence are just waiting to pounce. Not to mention the boatload of chronic disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes… You start to see this powerful trajectory between school failure and adult outcomes.”

And this is where the capacity to cope becomes highly relevant. Methods that train the brain attend differently, self-regulate, and respond to stressors are one part. “If you look to neuroscience,” says Bose, “it tells us that stress, among other things, disrupts brain functioning, especially in the prefrontal cortex. And the same neuroscience is also saying there’s also class of practices that mitigate all of this: Mindfulness.”

There’s some good evidence for the idea. In 2011, a Harvard study showed that mindfulness is linked to increased gray matter density in certain cortical areas, including the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in self-referential thoughts and emotion regulation. There seems to be a strong connection between mindfulness and the brain machinery involved in self-regulation. Other work has shown mindfulness to be linked to relative de-activation of the default mode network (DMN), the brain system that’s active during mind-wandering and self-referential “worry” thoughts, which are generally stressful in nature. Indeed Jon Kabat-Zinn, MD at UMass has developed his career to developing the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) to helping people learn to change the stress response. (For nice reviews of the application of the practices in early childhood education, see this 2012 piece and this 2011 piece.)

This is all well and good, Bose adds, but there’s an obvious caveat. When they’re in the midst of stress and trauma, few kids have the ability to sit still enough to take part in a sitting practice. “If you’re not ready to sit in classroom,” says Bose, “you’re not ready to do sitting meditation. If you have drugs and gangs and violence all around you, you simply can’t sit still. Teachers tell us that they often yell at kids 100 times a day to sit and pay attention. It doesn’t work. And to ask them to do this in the context of meditation can have a worse-than-neutral effect – it could be disastrous.”

So, you have to go beyond the neuroscience-of-meditation field and look to the trauma research, which tells us that physical activity can help the brain deal with stress and trauma. “Trauma research tell us that we hold trauma in our bodies… The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex doesn’t even talk to the amygdala. Neuroscience says mindfulness; trauma research says movement. All of the sudden you’ve got moving meditation or mindfulness in motion. Mindfulness alone isn’t going to cut it for these kids.” One theory is that because the executive areas of the brain can be affected by stress and trauma, “getting in” through another avenue is key. Indeed, some studies have shown that physical activity can enhance cognitive control via the prefrontal cortex in children, and exercise is well known to enhance neurogenesis in brain regions like the hippocampus, in you and old alike, which can be affected by stress (for a brief review, see here).

Therefore, Bose and his colleagues have done what are also beginning to, combining movement and mindfulness into one program, called Transformative Life Skills (TLS), which incorporates elements of movement, attention training and relaxation skills. The 18-week program can be introduced to schools relatively cheaply. The research so far has shown that it can be extremely helpful in helping kids reduce levels of negative thinking, negative affect, revenge motivation, depression, emotional arousal, physical arousal, rumination, perceived-stress, attitudes toward violence; and it’s been associated with greater levels of self-control, tolerance for distress, and school engagement.

The return-on-investment seems to speak for itself. The cost of training and coaching 50 teachers in TLS is $5,000. And if they work with 1,000 students, works out to be about $5 per kid. If even one kid took a different path in life, the program would be worth the investment many times over.

And similar programs, like the one run by the Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. (HLF) serving inner city schools in Baltimore, have found just this. Ali Smith, Executive Director, who founded the program along with his brother and college friend as a way to bring meditation to “at-risk” kids, has seen the results firsthand. So has the early research. Smith and his brother grew up in this hectic environment, but his parents had them mediate every day before school. He says he didn’t understand its purpose so much back then, but it made a difference on some level, and sparked his and his brother’s desire to give back in the same way as they got older. He hopes that mindfulness will be a part of every school day in the future: “Even just to give kids a moment of stillness in their day, so that they stop, and can have inner and outer silence… That would be amazing.”

One problem with this type of service at this juncture is the relatively small size of the operations. Though service programs are growing, many are still local in reach, and affect people only on the order of tens or hundreds per year. “What I see happening,” says Schware, “is a lot of very fired up yoga teachers who want to serve; so they go work in drug rehabs or jails.” After a year or two, though, many realize they can’t pay their bills while doing this work, so find themselves in a difficult position. “And if you’ve set up a nonprofit,” adds Schware, “it’s even harder financially.” The Yoga Service Council helps many of these small non-profits become sustainable, but it’s unclear where the future of the industry really lies here, or in a larger domain.

“The math is pretty simple and clear,” says Schware. “We’re going to get our money back many, many times over. There’s a huge potential return on investments, if we’re going to implement these things systematically.” Policy-level initiatives would, of course, be ideal, and they may come in time. Hopefully the right people will see the connection sooner than later.

“This is about more than just mindfulness,” says Bose. “It’s about the integration of these modalities. This is not some feel good, foo-foo practice from the Himalayas. This is based in cutting edge neuroscience, trauma research, and in somatic psychology. This is vital to ensure our well-being, and to our economy.  Let’s come together under the banner of transformative practices, and put forward the essence of yoga, not the hype. This is simple. Anyone can do this, anytime, anywhere. If you can move, if you can breathe, then you can do the practice.”

- See more at: http://www.yoganonymous.com/forbes-com-how-yoga-might-save-the-u-s-trillions-of-dollars-and-a-lot-of-lives#sthash.DNqk0JhC.dpuf

Monday, October 26, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert & Marie Forleo on Fear, Authenticity and Big Magic

To feel uplifted and inspired, listen in as Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo talk perfectionism, why you shouldn’t strive to be fearless, and unpack the keys to living your most creative life. Don’t miss this Big Magic episode, it’s one of our all-time favorites!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyUYa-BnjU8&app=desktop

Monday, October 19, 2015

Self-Confidence Versus Self-Esteem

Good afternoon!

Today we are sharing an article from Psychologytoday.com. Enjoy!


Self-Confidence Versus Self-Esteem
Self-confidence and self-esteem do not always go hand in hand.
Posted Oct 19, 2015
By Neel Burton M.D. 

People usually find it easier to build their self-confidence than their self-esteem, and, conflating one with the other, end up with a long list of abilities and achievements. Rather than facing up to their imperfections and failures, they hide them behind their certificates and prizes. But as anyone who has been to university knows, a long list of abilities and achievements is neither sufficient nor necessary for healthy self-esteem. While people keep on working on their list in the hope that it might one day be long enough, they try to fill the emptiness inside them with status, income, possessions, relationships, sex, and so on.

So what, then, is the precise difference between self-confidence and self-esteem?

"Confidence" comes from the Latin fidere, "to trust." To be self-confident is to trust in oneself, and, in particular, in one’s ability or aptitude to engage successfully or at least adequately with the world. A self-confident person is ready to rise to new challenges, seize opportunities, deal with difficult situations, and take responsibility if and when things go awry.

Just as self-confidence leads to successful experience, so successful experience leads to self-confidence. Although any successful experience contributes to our overall confidence, it is, of course, possible to be highly confident in one area, such as cooking or dancing, but very insecure in another, such as mathematics or public speaking.

In the absence of confidence, courage takes over. Confidence operates in the realm of the known, courage in that of the unknown, the uncertain, and the fearsome. I cannot be confident in diving from a height of 10 meters unless I once had the courage to dive from a height of 10 meters. Courage is a more noble attribute than confidence because it requires greater strength, and because a courageous person is one with limitless capabilities and possibilities.

Self-confidence and self-esteem do not always go hand in hand. In particular, it is possible to be highly self-confident and yet to have profoundly low self-esteem, as is the case, for example, with many performers and celebrities, who can perform before an audience of thousands but then damage and even kill themselves with drugs.

"Esteem" is derived from the Latin aestimare, meaning "to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate," and self-esteem is our cognitive and, above all, emotional appraisal of our own worth. More than that, it is the matrix through which we think, feel, and act, and reflects and determines our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world.

People with a healthy self-esteem do not need to prop themselves up with externals such as income, status, or notoriety, or lean on crutches such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. To the contrary, they treat themselves with respect and take care of their health, community, and environment. They are able to invest themselves completely in projects and people because they do not fear failure or rejection. Of course they suffer hurt and disappointment, but their setbacks neither damage nor diminish them. Owing to their resilience, they are open to growth experiences and meaningful relationships, are tolerant of risk, quick to joy and delight, and are accepting and forgiving of themselves and others.

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is important; how do we develop it?
Written by: Karen Kissel Wegela Ph.D. 
Posted Jan 19, 2010
Shared from psychologytoday.com 

Cultivating mindfulness is the key to overcoming suffering and recognizing natural wisdom: both our own and others'. How do we go about it?
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Schaewe, photographer
Source: Lisa Schaewe photographer

In the Buddhist tradition and in Contemplative Psychotherapy training, we nurture mindfulness through the practice of sitting meditation. There are many different kinds of meditation. For example, some are designed to help us relax; others are meant to produce altered states of consciousness.

Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.

You may wonder what good that is. After all, don't we want to suffer less? Aren't we interested in tuning in to this natural wisdom, this brilliant sanity, that we've heard about? Aren't those changes from how we already are?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, suffering less and being more aware of our inherent wakefulness would be changes from how we experience ourselves right now, or at least most of the time. On the other hand, though, the way to uncover brilliant sanity and to alleviate suffering is by going more deeply into the present moment and into ourselves as we already are, not by trying to change what is already going on.

The sitting practice of mindfulness meditation gives us exactly this opportunity to become more present with ourselves just as we are. This, in turn, shows us glimpses of our inherent wisdom and teaches us how to stop perpetuating the unnecessary suffering that results from trying to escape the discomfort, and even pain, we inevitably experience as a consequence of simply being alive.

As we've seen in earlier blog postings, the man called the Buddha taught that the source of suffering is our attempt to escape from our direct experience. First, we cause ourselves suffering by trying to get away from pain and attempting to hang on to pleasure. Unfortunately, instead of quelling our suffering or perpetuating our happiness, this strategy has the opposite effect. Instead of making us happier, it causes us to suffer. Second, we cause suffering when we try to prop up a false identity usually known as ego. This, too, doesn't work and leads instead to suffering. (See earlier blog entries for more on these ideas.)

Mindfulness, paying precise, nonjudgmental attention to the details of our experience as it arises and subsides, doesn't reject anything. Instead of struggling to get away from experiences we find difficult, we practice being able to be with them. Equally, we bring mindfulness to pleasant experiences as well. Perhaps surprisingly, many times we have a hard time staying simply present with happiness. We turn it into something more familiar, like worrying that it won't last or trying to keep it from fading away.

When we are mindful, we show up for our lives; we don't miss them in being distracted or in wishing for things to be different. Instead, if something needs to be changed we are present enough to understand what needs to be done. Being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in our lives and taking care of our own and others' needs. In fact, the more mindful we are, the more skillful we can be in compassionate action.

So, how do we actually practice mindfulness meditation? Once again, there are many different basic techniques. If you are interested in pursuing mindfulness within a particular tradition, one of the Buddhist ones or another, you might at some point wish to connect with a meditation instructor or take a class at a meditation center. Still, I can provide one form of basic instructions here so that you can begin.

There are three basic aspects worked with in this meditation technique: body, breath and thoughts. First, we relate with the body. This includes how we set up the environment. Since we use meditation in preparing ourselves to work with others, we use an eyes-open practice. That makes what we have in front of us a factor in our practice. Very few people can dedicate a whole room to their meditation practice, so they choose a corner of a room or a spot in their home where they can set up a quiet space.

If you like, you can make a small altar of some kind and decorate it with pictures or photos and sacred objects from your own tradition. You might want to light candles and incense as reminders of impermanence, but you can also have a plain wall in front of you. As long as you are not sitting in front of something distracting, like the TV or the desk where your computer lives, it doesn't matter too much what is in front of you.

Once you've picked your spot, you need to choose your seat. It's fine to sit either on a cushion on the floor or on a chair. If you choose a cushion you can use one designed for meditation practice like a zafu or gomden or you can use a folded up blanket or some other kind of cushion or low bench. The point is to have a seat that is stable and not wiggling around.

If you choose to sit on a chair, pick one that has a flat seat that doesn't tilt too much toward the back. If you are short, like me, you will want to put something on the floor for your feet to rest on, taking a little bit of weight. You don't want your legs dangling uncomfortably. If you are very tall, with long legs, make sure that your hips are higher than your knees-either on a chair or on a cushion. If you don't do that your back will start to hurt pretty quickly.

Okay, once you have your seat and your spot, go ahead and sit down. Take a posture that is upright but not rigid. The idea is to take a posture that reflects your inherent brilliant sanity, so one that is dignified but not stiff. The back is straight with the curve in the lower back that is naturally there. I was once told to imagine that my spine was a tree and to lean against it. It works for me; you can see if it works for you.

Sitting on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. There's no need to contort yourself into an uncomfortable posture. Just simply cross your legs as you might have done as a child. Notice again that you want your hips higher than your knees. If necessary, add more height to your seat by folding up a blanket or towel.

Hands rest on the thighs, facing down. The eyes are somewhat open and the gaze rests gently on the floor in front of you about four to six feet away. If you are closer to the wall than that, let your gaze rest on the wall wherever it lands as if you were looking that distance in front. The gaze is not tightly focused. The idea is that whatever is in front of you is what's in front of you. Don't stare or do anything special with your gaze; just let it rest where you've set it.

Let your front be open and your back be strong.

Begin by just sitting in this posture for a few minutes in this environment. If your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back to your body and the environment. The key word here is "gently." Your mind WILL wander; that's part of what you will notice with your mindfulness: minds wander. When you notice that yours has wandered, come back again to body and environment.

The second part of the practice is working with the breath. In this practice rest your attention lightly (yes, lightly) on the breath. Feel it as it comes into your body and as it goes out. There's no special way to breathe in this technique. Once again, we are interested in how we already are, not how we are if we manipulate our breath. If you find that you are, in fact, controlling your breath in some way, just let it be that way. It's a bit tricky to try to be natural on purpose, so don't get caught up in worrying about whether your breath is natural or not. Just let it be however it is.

Again, sit for a few minutes with the posture and the environment and with your breath. In and out. In and out. Sometimes this is quantified as 25% of your attention on your breath. The idea isn't to get it "right," but instead to give you an idea that you're not channeling all of your attention tightly on to your breath. The rest of your attention will naturally be on your body and the environment.

Finally, the last part of the practice is working with thoughts. As you sit practicing, you will notice that thoughts arise. Sometimes there are a great many thoughts, overlapping one over the next: memories, plans for the future, fantasies, snatches of jingles from TV commercials. There may seem to be no gaps at all in which you can catch a glimpse of your breath. That's not uncommon, especially if you're new to meditation. Just notice what happens.

When you notice that you have gotten so caught up in thoughts that you have forgotten that you're sitting in the room, just gently bring yourself back to the breath. You can mentally say "thinking" to yourself as a further reminder of what just happened. This labeling is not a judgment; it is a neutral observation: "Thinking has just occurred." I like to think of it as a kind of weather report: "Thinking has just been observed in the vicinity."

How long should you practice? If you are new to it, try to sit for 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase to 20 or 30 minutes. Eventually, you could extend it to 45 minutes or an hour. If you want to sit longer, you might want to learn how to do walking meditation as a break. We'll get to that in a later posting.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that mindfulness meditation is about practicing being mindful of whatever happens. It is NOT about getting ourselves to stop thinking. Repeat: it is not about getting ourselves to stop thinking. It is easy to fall into believing that that is the goal. Many people have a mistaken idea that becoming blank is the goal of meditation. Perhaps it is in some approaches, but it's not in mindfulness meditation. So once again: if you find you are thinking (and you will), include it in what you notice. Don't try to get rid of your thoughts. It won't work and it's the opposite of the spirit of the practice. We are trying to be with ourselves as we already are, not trying to change ourselves into some preconceived notion of how we ought to be instead.

Happy sitting!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Yoga for Depression: An Integrated Practice

Yoga for Depression: An Integrated Practice 
Yoga teaches us how to lift ourselves out of depression and move toward a deeper sense of self. Find out how—and try these poses, breathing exercises, and mantras.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Genuine Acceptance

Good morning,

Today we are sharing a great archive from Tara Brach:

"Our capacity to accept this life is key to our freedom, yet there are many misconceptions about acceptance: People wonder, if acceptance makes us a doormat in relationships? Isn't acceptance akin to resignation? Doesn't it make us passive when what is needed is action? This talk explores some of the misunderstandings about acceptance and offers teachings on the nature of genuine and liberating acceptance."
Listen to more from Tara Brach here: http://tarabrach.libsyn.com/genuine-acceptance-2009-08-26

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid (video)

We'll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don’t we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don’t have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.

Click on the link below to watch the full video: http://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene


Monday, September 14, 2015

Releasing Limiting Beliefs (2015-09-09)

As always, Tara Brach is as compassionate as she is insightful... Listen, and lean in to this...

http://tarabrach.libsyn.com/releasing-limiting-beliefs-2015-09-09

Releasing Limiting Beliefs (2015-09-09) - If we investigate patterns of emotional suffering or “stuckness,” we’ll discover that under our pain is a fear based belief. Until these beliefs are brought into the light of compassionate awareness, they control and confine our lives. This talk reviews key steps of inquiry and mindfulness that help us realize the freedom that comes with awakening from the grip of beliefs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ETHICS OF TOUCH WORKSHOP

Calling all Social Workers Seeking Ethics CEUs! Sign-up today for out ETHICS OF TOUCH WORKSHOP, Tuesday, September 15, 2015 from 10 am to 1:30 pm.
Participants will explore the development of a paradigm for assessing ethics and boundaries when hands-on techniques and other forms of physical touch are used in clinical interventions, as appropriate for a variety of mental health disorders.

To register: https://50353.thankyou4caring.org/yoga-as-medicine-2015---2016?erid=29955&trid=3836ff37-9b7c-4638-bcf7-a8ac75476f25

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

5 Yoga Poses to Heal Emotional Pain and Calm the Mind

5 Yoga Poses to Heal Emotional Pain and Calm the Mind


Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to strengthen and unite the mind, body and soul. When the mind and soul become out of balance, the body is also affected. In turn, physical wellness can affect and strengthen a person’s mental wellness. The two are so interconnected that many doctors and therapists suggest exercise as a partial regimen for people suffering from anxiety and depression.  However, those who are feeling depressed often find it difficult to begin an exercise routine as an unbalanced body and mind can feel listless and lack energy.


To read the rest of this article, please visit:  http://www.gaiamtv.com/article/5-poses-heal-emotional-pain-and-calm-mind#sthash.7nle2k3d.dpuf

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Navigate the Perils of Creative Success

How to Navigate the Perils of Creative Success
A case for magic, fairies, and gratitude
Posted Aug 12, 2015

From the outside, success seems to be an enviable state of affairs, even a balm for the insecurities that so many of us feel. But for some people, especially for creative types, there are perils that come with success. It is crucial to pay attention to these perils because they are linked to some very painful experiences such as paralyzing creative blocks, performance anxiety, procrastination, depression, relationship troubles, substance abuse, health problems, and even early death.

Highly creative people tend to be highly sensitive people. Plagued by perfectionism and self-doubt, they often struggle to do the work required of success, even though they clearly have the talent for it. We all probably know a talented someone whose progress was thwarted by the debilitating worry that their work wouldn’t be good enough. The underlying belief may go something like this: if it’s not perfect, it’s no good. And then the deeper belief: if it’s not perfect, I’m no good.

After having some success, the inner dynamic lives on but takes a different shape. The successful person may worry that the success he or she has achieved will be taken away. After all, success isn’t static; one doesn’t arrive at success once and for all. You have to keep it going. The debilitating anxiety of this state of mind is linked to an underlying belief that goes something like this: if I can’t do it again, it means that it was a fluke. And then the deeper belief: if I can’t do it again, it means that I am a fraud and was never any good in the first place.

In my experience as a sensitive, creative person and listening to sensitive, creative people, it seems that such personality types have a disproportionate sense of responsibility—they are quick to take the blame for failure and crave the admiration that comes with the success. This is a perilous place because one’s good sense about oneself then depends on the success. It’s too much pressure, especially for the creative process which requires so much vulnerability, risk taking, and courage.

There are two ideas from psychoanalysis that may help us move forward in better navigating these perils. The first is the idea of separateness, which involves the capacity to not take things so personally. Easier said than done, I know! But it is so helpful to be able to step back from one’s work—even from one’s relationships, audience, and critics—and to claim some separateness from it. In other words, you are not your work, I am not my blog. We are connected to them, yes, but that is different than being them. To my mind, the capacity to be separate is the Holy Grail of mental health.

The second idea that may be useful in navigating the perils of success is to understand the pressures of omnipotence. While at one level, perfectionism is driven by anxiety rooted in low self-confidence and esteem, in another sense it is rooted in an inflated sense of personal power and self-importance. Omnipotence fuels the belief that I am the center of the universe and that everything depends on me. It fails to recognize that there are other people and other forces at play in our lives. The appealing upside is that, in this state of mind, when we succeed, we deserve all the credit. The miserable downside is that when we fail, we then deserve all the blame.

Elizabeth Gilbert (link is external), author of the freakishly successful memoir, Eat Pray Love, explores these dynamics in her 2009 Ted Talk (link is external), Your Elusive Creative Genius. With her new podcast, Magic Lessons (link is external), and her forthcoming book, Big Magic (link is external), Liz is on a mission to help creative people live longer, more stable lives of ongoing creativity by helping them find some separateness from their work and lifting the burden of omnipotence.

In her TED Talk, Liz pitches a radical idea as an antidote to the perils of creative genius. She makes the case for bringing back our belief in fairies. She tells of a time in our collective history when creative people were not so burdened by the pressure of success because they did not believe that they had earned the success alone. There was a cultural understanding that great genius came from the other side, the work of another genius in the form of fairies or the gods. The artist was seen as a conduit, a vessel. It meant that neither success nor failure belonged to the artist him or herself alone. The burden of both success and failure was shared.

It might surprise you that a psychoanalyst would be inclined to think of such an idea as helpful but, in fact, I do. I think that there is something liberating about the idea that our work is not entirely our own. After all, as a psychoanalyst, I believe in the mysterious unconscious with its myriad figures and phantasies that influence us profoundly. Then, there is Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious with the awareness that we are impacted by all that has come before, that we are connected to the universe in real, transcendent ways. In his later writings, psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion tried to convey this sense of the numinous in his idea of “O”—an ineffable presence within and beyond, the source of truth and life.

There is another, perhaps less mystical, psychoanalytic perspective that may help us here as well. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein developed her model of mental health and well-being around the idea of gratitude. She believed that a satisfying, full life is rooted in the capacity to view one's life fundamentally as a gift. She suggested that gratitude can help liberate us from the chains of omnipotence because we give credit where credit is due: to our parents and their parents and their parents before them—parents both literal and figurative. In so doing, we recognize that others share both our success and our failure. Such perspective has a way of turning down the pressure.

If we can slowly shift our mindset from seeking success in order to prove our worth to seeking to use the gifts we have been given, we have more reliable protection from the perils of success. Gratitude brings awareness of the other, which helps us to be separate. Gratitude puts us in a position of helpful dependency and humility, which are antidotes to omnipotence. It opens up the possibility that we might be able to better enjoy and use the gifts we have been given.

Copyright 2015 Jennifer Kunst, PhD

Like it! Share it!

To view the original article click here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/headshrinkers-guide-the-galaxy/201508/how-navigate-the-perils-creative-success?collection=1078668

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brené Brown on How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative

Good Morning!

Today we are sharing an article from Brené Brown where she talks about how the most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves. But beware—they're usually fiction.


How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative 

My husband, Steve, and I were having one of those days. That morning, we'd overslept. Charlie couldn't find his backpack, and Ellen had to drag herself out of bed because she'd been up late studying. Then at work I had five back-to-back meetings, and Steve, a pediatrician, was dealing with cold-and-flu season. By dinnertime, we were practically in tears.

Steve opened the refrigerator and sighed. "We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat." I shot back, "I'm doing the best I can. You can shop, too!" "I know," he said in a measured voice. "I do it every week. What's going on?"

I knew exactly what was going on: I had turned his comment into a story about how I'm a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother. I apologized and started my next sentence with the phrase that's become a lifesaver in my marriage, parenting and professional life: "The story I'm making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up."


Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Brene-Brown-Rising-Strong-Excerpt#ixzz3jkOszJhA

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sutures With A Soundtrack: Music Can Ease Pain, Anxiety Of Surgery

Good Morning!

In continuing with the theme of last week's blog (hint: music if you missed it!) This week's article is from NPR.org and it talks about how studies are showing that listening to music can help ease pain after surgery.

Sutures With A Soundtrack: Music Can Ease Pain, Anxiety Of Surgery

Hospitals have a free and powerful tool that they could use more often to help reduce the pain that surgery patients experience: music.

Scores of studies over the years have looked at the power of music to ease this kind of pain; an analysis published Wednesday in The Lancet that pulls all those findings together builds a strong case.

When researchers in London started combing the medical literature for studies about music's soothing power, they found hundreds of small studies suggesting some benefit. The idea goes back to the days of Florence Nightingale, and music was used to ease surgical pain as early as 1914. (My colleague Patricia Neighmond reported on one of these studies just a few months ago.)

Dr. Catherine Meads at Brunel University focused her attention on 73 rigorous, randomized clinical trials about the role of music among surgery patients.

Maria Fabrizio for NPR:
To Ease Pain, Reach For Your Playlist

"As the studies themselves were small, they really didn't find all that much," Meads says. "But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not."

She and her colleagues now report that, yes indeed, surgery patients who listened to music, either before, during or after surgery, were better off — in terms of reduced pain, less anxiety and more patient satisfaction.

Maybe most notably, patients listening to music used significantly less pain medication. Meads says, on average, music helped the patients drop two notches on the 10-point pain scale. That's the same relief typically reported with a dose of painkilling medicine.

Some hospitals do encourage patients to listen to music, but Meads says the practice should be more widely adopted, given the evidence of its effectiveness.

In many of these studies, she notes, the patients chose the music they listened to. "It could be anything from Spanish guitar to Chinese classical music."

And, unlike drugs, she says, music "doesn't seem to have any side effects."

Well, there may be one side effect. A few studies (such as this one) have noted that operating rooms are very noisy places, and music played in the room can make it harder for the surgical staff to hear what's going on. Doctors sometimes have to repeat their commands, creating opportunities for misunderstanding or error.

"If surgeons are listening to music, it can be a bit of a distraction," Meads says. "So it may be it's not such a wise idea to have it during the operation itself."

That was not, however, something Meads analyzed in her study of music and medicine. Many surgeons listen to music during a procedure; discouraging that habit could be a tough sell.

To listen to the original broadcast, or to view the original article click here: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/13/431695242/sutures-with-a-soundtrack-music-can-ease-pain-anxiety-of-surgery?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

Monday, August 10, 2015

What Your Favorite Songs Can Tell You About The Way Your Brain Works

Are you an empathizer or a systemizer?

Today we are sharing this article from The Huffington Post about how music and your favorite songs can reveal ways that your brain works. How neat is that?

What Your Favorite Songs Can Tell You About The Way Your Brain Works
Are you an empathizer or a systemizer?
By Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Health + Science Writer, The Huffington Post
Posted: 07/23/2015 03:23 PM EDT | Edited: 07/23/2015 03:45 PM EDT


Why do you love certain types of music and hate others? It may come down to the way your brain processes information.

Psychologists already know that music preferences are linked to personality, but a new study finds that your taste in music is also associated with the way you think.

The University of Cambridge study, which was published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One, found that people who are high in empathy prefer "mellow" music -- including R&B/soul, adult contemporary and soft rock -- while those with more analytical minds tend to prefer more "intense" music -- such as punk, heavy metal and hard rock.

Taylor Swift or AC/DC?
For the study, U.K. researchers recruited over 4,000 participants using a Facebook app. The participants filled out personality questionnaires, and then were asked to listen to and rate 50 different songs from a variety of genres.

The researchers found that empathetic individuals ("empathizers") tended to prefer more emotionally driven music, while analytic minds ("systemizers") gravitated toward music with greater sonic complexity.

"Empathizers, who have a drive to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, preferred music ... which featured low energy, negative emotions (such as sadness) and emotional depth," David Greenberg, a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. "On the other hand, systemizers, who have a drive to understand and analyze the patterns that underpin the world, preferred music ... which not only features high energy and positive emotions."

Why? The researchers hypothesize that people seek out music that reflects and reinforces their own mental states.

"People’s musical choices seem to be a mirror of who they are," Greenberg said.

How it could help
A next step for the research would be to determine whether music with emotional depth can actually increase empathy.

If so, therapies using music to boost empathy could be devised. In particular, these could help individuals with autism, who often rank below average in empathy but have heightened levels of systemizing.

"Findings from this line of research can be applied to music therapies, clinical interventions, and even computer-based interactive programs designed to teach emotions and mental states via music to individuals on the autistic spectrum," the study's authors write.

Or the results might just be used to optimize your Spotify "discover" recommendations.

"Not only can these findings be useful for clinicians in various therapeutic [settings]," Greenberg added, "but it can also be useful for the music industry and for music recommendation platforms such as Pandora and Apple Music."


To view the original article, click here.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Help unlock your child's best self with a few tried-and-true strategies.

Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise 'good' kids. Here are 6 tips.
Help unlock your child's best self with a few tried-and-true strategies.

A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.
Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.


But beneath the madness of modernity, the basics of raising a moral child haven't really changed.
Parents want their kids to achieve their goals and find happiness, but Harvard researchers believe that doesn't have to come at the expense of kindness and empathy. They say a few tried-and-true strategies remain the best ways to mold your kids into the morally upstanding and goals-oriented humans you want them to be. To find out about six practical tips that can help, check out today's article we're sharing from Upworthy.com:

http://www.upworthy.com/harvard-psychologists-have-been-studying-what-it-takes-to-raise-good-kids-here-are-6-tips


Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Pain-Relieving Yoga Poses

Good afternoon,

Since we are all about integrative and holistic health, we wanted to share an article with you posted a few years ago about five yoga poses which can help with significant pain relief.
"If you're looking for an alternative to pills to treat joint pain and other common (and uncomfortable) aches, relief may be a yoga class away. A review of 20 years worth of studies conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that yoga is effective in the treatment of chronic pain, including osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. In the studies reviewed, patients saw significant reductions in joint pain, muscle stiffness, and overall physical discomfort while greatly improving their flexibility, range of motion, and muscle strength."


To continue reading and see photos of each yoga pose, click on the link below:
http://www.prevention.com/fitness/yoga/yoga-poses-relieve-aches-and-pains?cid=socFit_20150723_49648076&adbid=10153419261351469&adbpl=fb&adbpr=87494991468

Monday, July 20, 2015

We're at our best when we can think clearly. Here are 5 ways to help get there.

Good Morning everyone!

Today we are sharing a post from Upworthy on how we are at our best when we can think clearly. Although this particular post mentions one sanctuary in particular, it does do a good job of highlighting some points that make help you think more clearly and fulfill your goals.

The mind is a powerful place. How do you make time to step back and really think?
How do you solve the questions in your life when your mind feels cluttered? Perhaps being able to think more clearly can help us all work through tough times or situations that occur in our lives. Take a look and see what you think!

For more, check out the link below:
 http://www.upworthy.com/were-at-our-best-when-we-can-think-clearly-here-are-5-ways-to-help-get-there?c=ufb1

Monday, July 13, 2015

Why Does Anyone Do Yoga, Anyway? An article from Psychologytoday.com

Good Morning!

Today we are re-sharing an awesome article featured on Psychologytoday.com about Yoga and the incredible benefits it can have not only on a person physically, but mentally too. Enjoy!

Why Does Anyone Do Yoga, Anyway?
The health benefits are very real. But few understand how it affects the mind. Post published by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D. on Jun 22, 2015 in Urban Surviva

After my last weekend of yoga teacher training, a friend asked me at dinner, “Why do you do yoga? So you can learn to do what, headstands?”

Why do people do yoga?

More than 90% of people who come to yoga do so for physical exercise, improved health, or stress management, but for most people, their primary reason for doing yoga will change. One study found that two-thirds of yoga students and 85% of yoga teachers have a change of heart regarding why they practice yoga—most often changing to spirituality or self-actualization, a sense of fulfilling their potential. The practice of yoga offers far more than physical postures and headstands—there is self-reflection, the practice of kindness and compassion, and continued growth and awareness of yourself and others.

Yet the health benefits are very real: Yes, yoga can increase your flexibility, improve your balance, and decrease your cholesterol. A recent review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology showed that yoga reduces the risk of heart disease as much as conventional exercise (link is external). On average, yoga participants lost five pounds, decreased their blood pressure, and lowered their low-density (“bad”) cholesterol by 12 points.  There is a vast and growing body of research on how yoga (link is external) improves health concerns including chronic pain, fatigue, obesity, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, weight loss, and more.

As a psychiatrist, though, I am also naturally interested in the brain. While most people intuitively get that yoga reduces depression, stress and anxiety, most people—even physicians and scientists—are typically surprised to find out that yoga changes the brain.

A new, May 2015 study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to show that yoga protects the brain from the decline in gray matter brain volume as we age. People with more yoga experience had brain volumes on par with much younger people. [In the figure to the left, red triangles represent people who have zero yoga experience and filled circles are people who practice yoga with varying frequency]. This finding has also been true in brain imaging studies of people who meditate (link is external). In other words, yoga could protect your brain from shrinking as you get older.

Even more interesting, the protection of this gray matter brain volume is mostly in the left hemisphere, the side of your brain associated with positive emotions and experiences and parasympathetic nervous system activity—your “rest and digest” relaxation system. Emotions like joy and happiness have exclusively more activity in the left hemisphere of the brain on positive emission tomography (PET) brain scans.

But the truth is that the practice of yoga is not just about changing the brain, the body, headstands, or even about gaining greater joy or happiness. If it were, it'd be just like another spinning class or weight-training at the gym. Yoga aims toward transcendence of all those things. In a culture in which we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, body, or emotions, or to plan the future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have—to who we already are.

As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron explains:

“When we start to meditate…we often think that somehow we’re going to improve, which is a subtle aggression against who we really are.

"Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest….We recognize our capacity to relax with the clarity, the space, the open-ended awareness that already exists in our minds. We experience moments of being right here that feel simple, direct, and uncluttered.”

So, why do I practice yoga? The answer can be complex and personal, but it can also be simple and universal: Because I want to be present. Because I want to be present not just on my mat but also to myself and the people—the community— around me.

Yoga can change the heart—but we’re not just talking about blood pressure.

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD (link is external) is a psychiatrist and author in New York working on the upcoming yoga book along with co-author Harvard psychiatrist James E. Groves, MD.

Follow me on Facebook (link is external) and on Twitter  @newyorkpsych (link is external)

Copyright Marlynn H. Wei, MD, PLLC © 2015


To view the original article, click here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-survival/201506/why-does-anyone-do-yoga-anyway?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost

Monday, July 6, 2015

Yoga Hacks for Stress & Anxiety

We know that yoga can help with the physical strain of an intense workday, but what about the mental exhaustion, creative blocks or anxiety that surface as well?

Today we are sharing an article from 99u.com on just that. Check out the link below for more!

http://99u.com/articles/43297/yoga-hacks-for-stress-anxiety?utm_source=99U&utm_campaign=6f643d176e-Weekly_05_10_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bdabfaef00-6f643d176e-145452681

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Health Consequences Of Negative Thinking

Good Morning!

Today we are sharing an article with you from the-open-mind.com on the health consequences one can have with negative thinking. "The old philosophy that mind over matter has a few different connotations but in regards to modern life we should start taking it a little more seriously. The old philosophy that mind over matter has a few different connotations but in regards to modern life we should start taking it a little more seriously. For a long time this philosophy was a practice of self control over ones pain or the idea that humans were becoming more intelligent and inventive with their abilities to manipulate their surroundings. Today, that same saying should be looked at as a stress-disease model where negative thoughts and emotions are actually capable of changing one’s physiology for the worse. This concept has been explored from many different paradigms of thought but they all lead to the same result: negative emotions lead to negative physical outcomes."

- Keep reading by clicking: http://www.the-open-mind.com/the-health-consequences-of-negative-thinking-1/

Monday, June 22, 2015

Goodbye Happiness, Hello Well-Being

Hello All! 

Today we are sharing an interesting article from psychologytoday.com written by Dr. David Can Nuys. This article talks about the differences of positive psychology compared to hedonism and how happiness isn't everything, it's about a fullness of well-being. Take a look and see what you think! 

Goodbye Happiness, Hello Well-Being
Positive psychology has been misperceived as being all about hedonism. Post published by David Van Nuys Ph.D. on Jun 14, 2011 in The Happiness Dispatch

Kudos to Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, for being big enough to publicly change his mind. The canon of science asserts that all theories are open to revision. It's been my observation, however, that in actual practice it is all too rare for someone who has staked out a significant portion of their career and reputation on a certain theoretical position to give it up without a fight. I'm reminded in this regard of Thomas Kuhn's observation in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that scientific paradigms tend to yield only after the founding dinosaurs have died off.

In a previous blog post, here, I noted that a number of national brands seemed to have picked up on ideas from the positive psychology movement (Coke's "Live Positively... Open Happiness" and BMW's "We Don't Just Make Cars... We Make Joy" among others). At the same time, I observed in my last two posts that there has also been something of a backlash against positive psychology's perceived emphasis on happiness and "positive thinking."

Indeed, Seligman himself recoils from the way the culture at large seems to have latched onto these ideas, reducing the undertaking of thousands of serious scientists to a kind of "Happiology." Seligman made a cameo appearance in a video on happiness that aired last year on PBS and he remarked with what I thought was some despair that the popular press had run away with these notions, ahead of what could actually be supported by the research. Of course, his own heavy marketing of Positive Psychology, might have had something to do with that.

In his new book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Seligman reveals that he was less than keen on the title of his earlier book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Seligman reports that he wasn't pleased with either the word "Authentic" or "Happiness" in that title. He wanted to call the book "Positive Psychology" but the publisher thought "Authentic Happiness" would be much more marketable and they were probably right. However, an unfortunate side effect, Seligman observes, is that the hackneyed smiley-face image is used whenever positive psychology makes the news [mea culpa!]. He notes that he's never won a tug-of-war with a publisher over the title of a book which, of course, makes one wonder if this latest title has his whole-hearted support!

In fact, I can certainly identify with the issue about titles. I had some similar reservations about naming this blog series The Happiness Dispatch, fearing that it would lock me into having to always post cheery, up, positivity-boosters. The editors and I wrestled over a number of alternatives and, for better or worse, this one won out. So, Dear Reader, I hope you won't box me in too narrowly.

Speaking of titles, I recently interviewed Russ Harris, MD for my Shrink Rap Radio (link is external) podcast about his book, which is titled, The Happiness Trap: How To Stop Struggling and Start Living. This title would seem to support my earlier contention about the positive psychology backlash. In the interview, I specifically asked Dr. Harris about this title and he shared that it is very much intended to play against the success of Authentic Happiness. In other words, it was a canny marketing decision to more or less ride on the coattails of Seligman's book. And, to Seligman's earlier point, The Happiness Trap even features a smiley face on the cover. The Happiness Trap also confirms Seligman's worst fear that positive psychology has been misperceived as being all about hedonic pleasure. In our interview, Harris emphasized that a full, meaningful life is not all about happiness, that pain and suffering come to all and must be dealt with. I suspect Harris knows he has set up a straw man here but, once again, it's good for marketing. My own reading of the positive psychology literature in no way suggests a denial of the many challenges life throws our way. Rather, I think, positive psychology has been interested in the factors that lead to resilience in the face of life's slings and arrows. And, Seligman, himself, has written about the futility of what he calls "the hedonic treadmill." By the way, aside from my carping about the title, I think The Happiness Trap is an excellent self-help book, based on Dr. Steven Hayes Action Commitment Therapy (ACT) which, in turn, is rooted in more than 30 years of research.

In Flourish, Seligman confesses that his initial conception of positive psychology was too narrow, based primarily on the single concept of happiness. In that earlier version, happiness rested on three legs: positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. And, in that version, he saw the goal as increased life satisfaction. He states the goal of his new theory as Well-Being, by which he means increased "flourishing by increasing positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment."

So we see that he's added two new elements: positive relationships and accomplishment. Positive relationships were already recognized as playing a pivotal role in long-term life satisfaction but he's given that element a more explicit role in his new theory.

The new element of "accomplishment" is one that particularly resonates with me. The concept of "mastery" has been around in psychology for some time. It helped to unseat the long dominant theory of motivation that had been based on "drive reduction." Drive Reduction asserted that all behavior is motivated by the urge to reduce need states such as hunger, thirst, the need for attention, the need for affection, and so on. Later, psychologists came to realize that some activities are gratifying for their own sake, that motivation can be intrinsic. There is a natural delight in growth, in learning for it's own sake, in mastering a new skill or domain for it's own sake. In fact, the idea of activities pursued "for their own sake" becomes a sort of mantra that runs throughout Flourish.

According to Freud, "Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness." It looks to me like Seligman has come to a fairly similar conclusion. I think Seligman's emphasis on positive relationships more or less corresponds to Freud's "love." Were he alive, perhaps, Freud would concede that "work" encompasses more than vocation. Discovering our unique "work" or mission in life and having the courage to live it, I think, is central to the well-lived life.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What is Yoga Therapy?

Good Afternoon!

As we have been mentioning over the last few weeks, Inner Passages has expanded their horizons and service list to help better serve clients' needs. One of those things is Yoga Therapy. In previous blogs we have mentioned how yoga and exercise can be beneficial to working through and treating certain problems that we incur. However today, we want to explain a little more about what 'Yoga Therapy' is! Thanks to our friends and the Yoga for Health Conference, we can share this information with you.  If you are in Maryland or the surrounding areas and would like to get started on your own yoga therapy journey, please contact us at www.innerpassagestherapy.com 

What is Yoga Therapy?


Yoga is beneficial for the health in ways that modern science is just beginning to understand.  Even though it has been applied with therapeutic intention for thousand of years, Yoga Therapy is only just now emerging as a discipline in itself.   More health care practitioners are starting to include yogic techniques in their approach to healing -- and more yoga teachers give a therapeutic intention to their teaching.  People who have never tried yoga before are starting to consider including Yoga in their treatment plan.

As science begins to document the importance of understanding the interrelation of all existing things, it looks to Yoga with an intrigued eye, for Yoga speaks Unity in every word. As yoga techniques are researched and new data is gathered,  it becomes easier for science and the medical establishment to understand and accept the benefits of Yoga Therapy.
Yet there is still not one consensual definition of the discipline. In order to arrive to an adequate definition and to come up with proper standards for Yoga Therapy, it is crucial at this early stage to properly address some delicate professional and ethical issues. At the same time it is important to educate the general public about Yoga Therapy's benefits and careful use.

The following is a list of tentative definitions of Yoga Therapy by the International Association of Yoga Therapy:
 
*  Yoga therapy, derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges at any level manage their condition, reduce symptoms, restore balance, increase vitality, and improve attitude.
-American Viniyoga Institute
Gary Kraftsow
 
*  Yoga therapy is that facet of the ancient science of Yoga that focuses on health and wellness at all levels of the person: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Yoga therapy focuses on the path of Yoga as a healing journey that brings balance to the body and mind through an experiential understanding of the primary intention of Yoga: awakening of Spirit, our essential nature.
-Integrative Yoga Therapy (U.S.A.)
Joseph LePage, M.A.
 
*  Yoga therapy adapts the practice of Yoga to the needs of people with specific or persistent health problems not usually addressed in a group class.
-Samata Yoga Center (U.S.A.)
Larry Payne, Ph.D.
 
*  Yoga therapy is the adaptation of yoga practices for people with health challenges. Yoga therapists prescribe specific regimens of postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to suit individual needs. Medical research shows that Yoga therapy is among the most effective complementary therapies for several common aliments. The challenges may be an illness, a temporary condition like pregnancy or childbirth, or a chronic condition associated with old age or infirmity.
-Yoga Biomedical Trust (England)
Robin Monro, Ph.D.
 
*  Yoga comprises a wide range of mind/body practices, from postural and breathing exercises to deep relaxation and meditation. Yoga therapy tailors these to the health needs of the individual. It helps to promote all-round positive health, as well as assisting particular medical conditions. The therapy is particularly appropriate for many chronic conditions that persist despite conventional medical treatment.
-Yoga Therapy and Training Center (Ireland)
Marie Quail
 
 (Yoga therapy is) the use of the techniques of Yoga to create, stimulate, and maintain an optimum state of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
-Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D.
 
* Yoga therapy consists of the application of yogic principles, methods, and techniques to specific human ailments. In its ideal application, Yoga therapy is preventive in nature, as is Yoga itself, but it is also restorative in many instances, palliative in others, and curative in many others.
-Art Brownstein, M.D.
 
* Yoga therapy is of modern coinage and represents a first effort to integrate traditional yogic concepts and techniques with Western medical and psychological knowledge. Whereas traditional Yoga is primarily concerned with personal transcendence on the part of a "normal" or healthy individual, Yoga therapy aims at the holistic treatment of various kinds of psychological or somatic dysfunctions ranging from back problems to emotional distress. Both approaches, however, share an understanding of the human being as an integrated body-mind system, which can function optimally only when there is a state of dynamic balance.
--Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.
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What is Yoga Therapy?
This article originally appeared in the April 2006 edition of Yogi Times:

"Yoga Therapy: Unlocking the Hidden Vitality" by Antonio Sausys

It's widely known that Yoga can enhance your physical and emotional well being, but when Yoga is practiced with a therapeutic intention in the form of Yoga Therapy, it can help prevent and aid recovery from physical and mental ailments. Yoga has long been practiced with therapeutic intentions as way of transforming both the body and the mind. 

According to classical texts, most of the problems in our health come from a state of ignorance of who and what we are.  By offering a vehicle for self-knowledge, yoga provides an opportunity to become acquainted with our essence, in tune with the Oracle at Delphi's command: "Know thyself."  From a psychological standpoint, therapy is defined as the possibility of accessing self-knowledge that will enable us to change that what we consider dysfunctional.  A number of research studies have proven the effectiveness of Yoga Therapy as developing exactly that type of awareness.
 
The applications of Yoga Therapy range anywhere from maintaining health, to recovering from illness - in some cases, even those considered incurable.  The first stage of healing involves the movement of vital forces in the system.  Practitioners of many Eastern forms of medicine believe that every illness involves a certain level of energy blockage.  By promoting the flow of prana, or vital force, yoga combats those blockages, restoring the basic condition for health.  Common applications for Yoga Therapy also serve structural problems such as spine misalignments or joint function.  Deeper applications may even aid more intractable problems such as AIDS and cancer.
 
By combining different techniques such as massage, stretching or alterations of the circulatory patterns, yoga promotes specific changes in muscles, joints and organs altering the vital functions of the body. A good example would be the way Yoga Therapy can help overcome panic attacks. By practicing a balancing breathing technique, a sense of control is gained, combating the fear and anxiety produced by its loss. Additionally, by practicing Tratak, a specific technique that involves eye movement, the pituitary gland is reset via the optic nerve, influencing the 'fight or flight' reaction so intimately related with the syndrome.
 
On a psychological level, the introspection promoted by yoga is essential to the self-knowledge process that fuels psychic transformation. The different relaxation techniques allow the troubled mind to calm and decrease its activity while promoting stability.  Yoga considers the psyche to be spread in different centers along the body (chakras).  Each related to a nervous plexus, an endocrine gland, an organ or group of organs and specific psychic qualities.  By acting upon the chakras, yoga brings light to any psychic blockages, making them available to the conscious mind. The modern western correlate of this scheme is in the core of psycho-neuroimmunology, a branch of psychology that studies the interaction between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, explaining some of the subtle mechanisms of psychosomatic medicine. 
 
The fact that the different branches of science are now acknowledging that everything in the universe works together with absolute, intimate and exquisite interrelationship is part of the basis of the increasing success and respect that Yoga Therapy is gaining among main stream medical practitioners. As more clinicians use these techniques either for themselves of or their patients, and as more masters design specific applications of yoga, the spectrum of Yoga Therapy grows exponentially. 
 
More than following just one style or one branch of yoga, Yoga Therapy feeds from virtually all styles and branches, combining the tools that each one of them bring in the design of a yoga sadhana, or a routine that addresses the given condition. Even though different Yoga Therapists follow different procedures to establish the sadhana, a pretty general scheme would first determine the condition to be treated, and then an evaluation of person's general abilities. Then the appropriate techniques can be chosen from the various disciplines which best serve the therapeutic process.
 
At last, the logistical aspects of the execution of the sadhana should be determined, such as order of practice and number of repetitions.  The person then can practice this sadhana on his or her own, or receive the expert guidance of a Yoga Therapist. The sadhana is then updated according to the progress that the student accomplishes.
 
The integration of mind and body is very important for the healing process, but perhaps the main area where yoga comes in handy is the inclusion of the 'spiritual' realm into the equation. Even if the student or patient belongs to no religion, or even if she or he does not acknowledge the existence of spirit, the practice of some of these techniques can eventually integrate this aspect of the self
 
After all, the Earth is spinning, and it needs not our acknowledgment, nor it does it need us to push it!


To view the original article, click here.