Create a Meditation Practice

Meditation is a wonderful way to relax, relieve stress, and connect with your body and mind.

If you are new to meditation, you may not know what meditation is or how to do it effectively. You may even be tempted to give up as soon as you’ve started because it’s not just right for you.

While you may be tempted to quit, hang in there a bit longer. There are many health benefits to having a meditation practice and it’s a lot simpler than people think.

Change of thought

Unrealistic expectations are a big hindrance for those trying to implement a meditation practice. In western society, we focus a lot on outcome goals which are goals that are focused on having a specific, final product or outcome. When we approach meditation with the end in mind, we miss the whole of what meditation is.

Instead, think of thinking of meditation as a destination, think of it as a process. As you do meditation more frequently, you will learn and grow from each individual session. You will gain new insights, find beauty in the nuances, and have different experiences every time you meditate.

When you approach meditation in this way you are opening yourself up to learn from the process.

What is meditation?

Dr. Richard J Davidson told the New York Times,

“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing,”

In general, those who are not familiar with meditation do not realize that there are so many different types of meditation. As with sports, they all fall under the same umbrella but have unique areas of focus and different processes.

Here are some examples of different meditation types or techniques.

Concentration Meditation

To engage in concentration meditation, you start by placing your focus on one of the five senses: breath, touch, taste, sound, or sight.

Focusing on the different senses could mean staring at a candle flame, listen to repetitive music, speak a specific mantra that you repeat aloud over and over again, etc.

The key is to hyper-focus on the sense.

As you concentrate on your sense of choice, your mind will wander, especially if you are a beginner. THIS IS OKAY! It is part of the process. Gently refocus your attention.

Mindfulness meditation

In mindfulness meditation, you practice being in the present moment. It is hearing the sounds around you, noticing how the chair feels against your skin, or being aware of the thoughts as they come and go.

The goal in meditation is to keep the mind clear. For mindfulness, you may not be able to sit with a clear mind at first. As the stray thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them, and let them go. The goal is to not engage in or continue with the thoughts.

The American Psychological Association wrote an article called What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness. They describe mindfulness as,

” Rather than dwelling on the past or dreading the future, mindfulness encourages awareness of a person’s existing surroundings. Crucial to this is a lack of judgment. So, rather than reflecting on the annoyance of a long wait, a practitioner will simply note the wait without judgment.

Mindfulness meditation is something people can do almost anywhere. While waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, a person might calmly notice their surroundings, including the sights, sounds, and smells they experience.”

They also went on to report research evidence that showed mindfulness helps:

  • reduce fixation on negative emotions
  • improve focus
  • improve memory
  • lessen impulsive, emotional reactions
  • improve relationship satisfaction
Loving-kindness meditation

The goal of the loving-kindness meditation is to foster a sense of love and kindness towards oneself, people in the practitioners’ lives, and a general feeling of love for life in general.

The loving-kindness meditation is done by the practitioner focusing on the feelings of love and kindness. They send love and kindness to themselves internally and send it outward to others.

The more you are able to feel these emotions in meditation, the more you will be able to feel them throughout the rest of the day. This meditation has been linked to the reduction of PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and depression as well as being a general mood booster overall.

Body scan or progressive relaxation

This meditation is known by both names, the body scan meditation or the progressive relaxation. To practice this meditation, you do a progressive scan of the body releasing tension as you go.

There are different variations of progressive relaxation. For one variation, you begin at one extremity of the body, moving through the body inch by inch, finding any tension and then releasing it. You focus on one body part at a time until you have worked through the whole body.

Another way to do progressive relaxation is to work through the body in a similar fashion to the one above. The difference is that instead of just releasing the tension in each body part, you purposefully tense up all of the muscles of each section and then release that tension. Repeat through each section of the body.

A third variation to help release the tension in the body is to imagine yourself floating on a cloud, drifting in the ocean, being weightless, or any other similar variation. The idea of floating weightlessly helps the body relax.

MOVEMENT MEDITATION:

Movement meditation combines rhythmic movement with meditation. The rhythm of the movement helps focus and center the mind. This type of meditation may be easier for some people as they don’t have to sit still.

The movement most associated with this meditation is yoga, but other types of movement can be movement meditations as well. Tai chi, swimming, or walking are examples of other movements that could be used for a movement meditation.

Meditation is a much simpler practice than it may seem at first glance. It is very individual and based on the practitioner’s intentions for each practice. Try one today and reap the many rewards meditation can bring!

14 Tip to Increase Overall Wellness

Wellness is a word that is highly used in our society today. What comes to your mind when you hear the word wellness? Chances are that you think of health and fitness which is just one of the seven aspects of wellness.

“The word ‘wellness‘ is generally defined as the process and end state of a quest for maximum human functioning that involves mind, body, and spirit. There are seven dimensions of wellness: social, vocational, intellectual, environmental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.”

The Wellness Council of America

The University of California, Davis had a great addition to the definition. They describe wellness as not just preventing or avoiding illness but making choices that promote change and growth in these seven areas of life.

Here are 14 ways to improve your overall wellness

Social

Social wellness is the connection we have with others. It is our sense of belonging.

1- Communication. The better we are at communicating, the better our relationships will be. Communication isn’t just us telling others what we want or need, but also the way we listen and act when others are talking to us. It is not limited to the words we say but includes our body language, our tone of voice, etc.

Communication is key because it is the way that relationships are strengthened. It is the way to exchange our needs, our wants, our hopes, our dreams, our expectations, etc with one another. When we are better communicators there is less miscommunication and hurt feelings.

2- Find others who enjoy a mutual hobby. Are you an avid Catholic? Do you really like anime? Maybe you’re a triathlon fanatic? Finding others who you identify with and who share your passions is a great way to bond and forge amazing friendships. It can be a starting point for developing trust and feeling a deeper connection with those around you.

Vocational

Google dictionary defines vocation as,

  • ” a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.
  • a person’s employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.”

Vocational wellness is not only feeling happy in the workplace but also feeling you belong in that particular field of work.

3- Do work you enjoy. You spend a significant amount of your life working so it is very important that you spend your time doing work that is personally rewarding to you.

If you are not currently in a job that you enjoy maybe think about going back to school and studying something you enjoy.

If you are doing work you enjoy but the company is stressful, maybe look at finding another company.

4- Create a vision for your future. We are programmed for growth as human beings and hate feeling stagnant. Part of vocational wellness is expansion and continual growth in our knowledge, skill sets, and involvement.

Create a vision for your future vocational goals and then make a plan of things you need to do to get there. A plan will help you know where you want to go and give you a rewarding feeling as you accomplish those goals.

Intellectual

Intellectual wellness refers to the exercise and nourishment of the mind. It is growth, learning, and enlightenment.

5- Read more often. Did you know that a study by Thomas Corley found that 85 percent of self-made millionaires read two or more books a month and spend 3o minutes or more a day reading?

Reading is a great way to unwind, to keep your mind sharp, improve your vocabulary, expose yourself to new ideas, expand your knowledge, increase your skillset, and always be growing.

6- Find ways to be creative. Creativity helps the brain be more innovative by improving thinking processes, problem-solving skills, and promoting self-expression.

Creativity allows your brain to make things up, to create what hasn’t ever been created, and to dream of a better future. Thinking outside of the box is something that cannot be taught in school, but can be learned through creativity.

Environmental

Environmental wellness addresses nature and our relationship with it. It is being conscientious of the earth and doing our part to protect it.

7- Go green. The popular slogan refers to doing our part in recycling or reducing our human fingerprint on earth.

If your community has a recycling program start participating in it. If it does not, find a local recycling facility where you can take your recyclables.

Recycling can have a great effect on the amount of waste that is dumped and can help clean our oceans.

8- Grow your own greens. Having a personal garden can be very beneficial. It can help decrease the extra materials used for buying store-bought goods, car transportation costs, and reduces water runoff.

Having your own garden and plants in and around your home are also beneficial in cleaning the air of carbon monoxide as well as other pollutants. Natural plants can help reduce chemicals and pesticide consumption.

Emotional

Emotional wellness is taking care of our mental and emotional states. It is making sure we are aware of and taking care of our inner worlds. This includes reducing stress, developing inner strength, and being aware of the positive and negative emotions that we experience on a day-to-day basis.

9- Embrace vulnerability. What?! Why in the world would this be a recommendation? No one likes being vulnerable.

Bear with me.

Dr. Brene Brown, the leading researcher on vulnerability and connection, describes vulnerability as, “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” She says that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”

With her definition not only is vulnerability something we all experience, but it is imperative in order to have what most of us crave emotionally, as uncomfortable as it may be.

10- Find a way to destress. Stress is one of the leading causes of emotional and physical illness. Finding a way to destress that you enjoy can significantly improve your emotional state of being. Different ways to destress are meditation, art or a creative outlet, deep breathing practices, yoga, journal writing, gratitude practices, taking a walk, being in nature, and many many more. There are endless possibilities, the trick is finding one that works for you.

Spiritual

11- Be a part of something greater than yourself. Most people think of spirituality as solely being religious. While this is a very common practice of spiritual wellness, it is not the only way.

To be connected to something greater than yourself could mean being a part of nature, meditating and being more connected with your inner self, or simply the act of looking for deeper meanings in the everyday events that surround you.

Don’t let the typical connotation of spirituality deter you from being curious and exploring your spirituality.

12- Have values that you live by. In Dr. Brene Browns book Dare to Lead she says,

“A value is a way of being or believing that you hold most important”.

– Brene Brown

In her book, she suggests identifying two values that you live by. These values are what help you decide how to act through conflict and hard decisions. They do not change based on the circumstances. These values are what keep you grounded.

You can find a list of values from her book Dare to Lead on page 188. In this list, she gives over a hundred different values to identify from. Identifying and sticking to these values helps create a connection to something greater.

Physical

13- Exercise. Exercise tends to have a negative connotation, but exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and strenuous. Exercise can be simple. The purpose is to get your body moving. Different types of movement include walking, bike riding, dancing, yoga, stretching, and so much more.

Finding a movement that is enjoyable and that resonates with your body has major health benefits. Exercise releases a happy hormone called endorphins, it can increase your energy and focus, aid in bone density, and decrease risks of chronic disease.

14- Diet. Diet affects everything in our bodies from hormones, energy levels, mental processing, emotional states, gut health, and illness.

The easiest way to better the quality of food consumed is to focus on small, manageable changes that move you closer to a healthier lifestyle. This could be changing one of your snacks to a healthier alternative, changing one or two processed carbohydrates that you routinely eat to more complex carbohydrates i.e. whole grains, oats, lentils, beans, fruits,  and vegetables, or substitute some of your caffeinated beverages/juices for water.

These are many simple ways to get a head start on your nutrition and taking care of your body from the inside out. You only have one body after all so take care of it.

11 Ways to Increase Your Inner Peace

August is International Peace Month and was founded in commemoration of WWI on August 16, 1926, at the Democratic Peace Conference in Germany.

While this month was created to foster world peace, this post addresses how we can first develop inner peace within ourselves.

Just as you cannot love others unless you first love yourself, you cannot be at peace with your neighbor if you are not first at peace with yourself. You cannot give what you do not have.

what is inner peace?

Wikipedia says:

Inner peace (or peace of mind) refers to a deliberate state of psychological or spiritual calm despite the potential presence of stressors. Being “at peace” is considered by many to be healthy (homeostasis) and the opposite of being stressed or anxious, and is considered to be a state where our mind performs at an optimal level with a positive outcome. Peace of mind is thus generally associated with blisshappiness and contentme nt.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_peace

Stress is the opposite of peace and is one of the leading causes of physical and mental illness in the United States. The American Institue of Stress did a study where they found that

77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
73% of people regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.

This means that most of the citizens of the United States are at least experiencing one symptom of stress in their daily lives and that all of us are subject to it.

By decreasing our stress we allow peace to enter. Here are eleven things you can incorporate into your life for added peace.

11 Ways to increase inner peace

1. Find a way to unwind. You should strive to find one activity a day that helps you relieve stress, let go of negative energy, and take your mind off of the rest of the day.

These types of activities include, but are not limited to, exercising, reading, participating in a hobby, journaling, etc.

2. Breathe. Taking a moment every day to turn inward and focus on deep breathing has massive benefits for the body. It calms the mind down, increases blood flow, lowers your heart rate, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, reduces inflammation, and is a mood booster.

In as little as ten breaths you can reduce your risk of disease and illness while experiencing the positive side effects of deep breathing every day. You can set aside a time every day and make it part of your routine.

Deep breathing is also a handy tool for stressful situations. If you lose your temper, feel flustered, or are getting anxious you can use it as a coping mechanism to calm yourself, take control of your thoughts and emotions, and avoid reacting to the situation.

3. Forgive. Forgiveness can be a healing balm not only to relationships but to the heart as well.

When you forgive yourself and others, you remove the cancerous effects of holding on to pain, hurt, shame, or anger. When you let go of past errors you take your body out of flight or fight and can be at peace with yourself and those around you.

4. Self-compassion. Self-compassion is similar to self-forgiveness.

Kristin Neff’s definition of self-compassion goes as follows.

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others… [For others], you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself ‘this is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?'”

Kristin Ness

In essence, self-compassion is allowing yourself to make mistakes and be gracious to those shortcomings. It is acknowledging your pain and letting it be okay.

Taking care of ourselves emotionally and mentally can relieve pain, suffering, and can increase our self-esteem because we are making ourselves a priority and taking care of ourselves. If we are feeling better, then our peace automatically increases.

5. Slow down. Slow down during your day. Take time to enjoy the moment and be present. Too many times in our culture we either ruminate about the past and what went wrong or are too focused on the future and worry about how we want it to go right.

But you cannot really be in the past or the future, you can only be at this precise moment in time. Being in the moment helps relieve depressive thoughts from the past and the anxiety you may feel about the future.

6. Plan ahead. Plan ahead to arrive at destinations ten minutes early. Being in a rush or driving frantically causes a stress response in our body. Taking the extra time to drive relaxed can make a difference in your day.

7. Set boundaries. Most of the time when we hold resentment or feel hurt by others it’s when they cross some type of boundary. A lot of times these boundaries have never been communicated to the other person.

Example. You make dinner for your significant other every night and then do the dishes and clean up afterward. You feel resentful that your partner doesn’t get up to help you, but you have never communicated this expectation to them.

The way to set up the boundary is to communicate with the person we feel resentful towards the need that is not being met. In the case of the example above you could say something like,

“Honey, I love cooking dinner for you every night, but it would be a huge help to me if you could pitch in and take care of cleaning up afterward. It would mean a lot to me to cook and not have to worry about the cleanup too.”

Setting these well-defined boundaries lets both parties know what the need and the expectation is. It also works for letting people know what is and is not okay.

Creating these boundaries is liberating. It allows you to stand up for yourself and to avoid holding on to dangerous emotions that nag at you. Boundaries make it easier to hold yourself and others accountable.

Letting go of resentment, feeling liberated, and standing up for yourself all contribute to your inner peace.

8. Ask instead of guessing.

PEOPLE ARE DISTURBED NOT BY A THING, BUT BY THEIR PERCEPTION OF A THING.”

— EPICTETUS

Similar to setting boundaries is to ask instead of guessing. Ask instead of guessing means to ask for clarification, for further detail, etc.

If we assume or guess at what the other people around us want or mean, then there is room for error, miscommunication, blame, anger, or hurt feelings.

Brene Brown has a fantastic quote that says,

“Fear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”

By being clear in our communication to others and by asking for clarification from others, we create an atmosphere of trust, understanding, and growth. When we feel assured in the situation our peace and calm increases. It also sets us up for future wins instead of future stress.

9. Accept and let go. There are so many things outside of our control. We feel we are in control when we worry about them or try to predict the outcome, but all we are really doing is adding stress to our lives for things we cannot control.

Instead of trying to predict the future or change someone, accept what the truth of the situation is and then let go. If it is outside of your control, let it go.

This doesn’t mean that you have to like the situation but is the acknowledgment that it is outside of your control and you don’t have to take it on as your responsibility. This change in thinking can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

10. Make time for nature. Nature has a calming effect and is good for the soul. It allows us to slow down, sit with our thoughts, and unplug.

Robert Puff Ph.D in an article by Psychology Today called, How to Find Inner Peace, says that to be out in nature doesn’t mean you have to be standing on top of a mountain. He describes it as, “an environment that fosters stillness and silence. “

This could mean sitting at your desk at work watching the rays of sunshine shine through the leaves of the tree next to your window. It could mean walking outside on your lunch break and enjoying the flowers at the nearby park. It is taking in the beauty of the nature around us and taking time to just… be.

11. Connect with a higher power. This means to connect with something greater than ourselves. This could be worshipping a God or deity, connecting with Mother Earth, the Universe, or good vibes.

Connecting with this higher power is unique to each individual. This increases inner peace by having the belief that there is something greater than us and that there is a purpose or meaning in this life.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) was first mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual edition 4 (DSM-4) in 1994 where it was listed only as a feature of “eating disorder not otherwise specified,” or EDNOS. It wasn’t until 2013 that the DSM-5 recognized binge-eating as a stand-alone disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

To be diagnosed as having BED you must fit the DSM-5 criteria above. The signs and symptoms of BED are common among those who have BED, but may not be all-inclusive. Some people without BED may experience some of the same symptoms, while others who are diagnosed as having BED, do not experience all of the same symptoms as others. It is best to see a psychologist or therapist if you believe you have a binge eating disorder.

Common signs and symptoms are

  • Embarrassed by how much you eat
  • Prefer eating alone
  • Depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating habits
  • Sneaking, stealing, or hiding food from others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Being overweight
  • Dieting without losing weight

diagnosis

Binge eating disorder is much different from simply overeating at a Thanksgiving dinner or a night out with friends. It is where individuals frequently feel compelled to eat large quantities of food that is not normal for a regular person. They also feel unable to stop themselves from continuing to eat.

The DSM-5 has five criteria for diagnosing binge eating disorder (BED).

Criterion 1: Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

  1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances
  2. The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

Criterion 2: Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  1. Eating much more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  4. Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
  5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

Criterion 3: Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.

Criterion 4: The binge eating occurs, on average,

  1. at least 2 days a week for 6 months (DSM-IV frequency and duration criteria)
  2. at least 1 day a week for 3 months (DSM-5 frequency and duration criteria)

Criterion 5: The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

The severity scale is as follows:

  1. Mild: 1-3 binge eating episodes per week
  2. Moderate: 4-7 binge eating episodes per week
  3. Severe: 8-13 binge eating episodes per week
  4. Extreme: 14 or more binge eating episodes per week

Risk Factors

  • Being female. An article from Mayo Clinic stated that binge eating disorder “is more common in women than in men. Although people of any age can have binge-eating disorder. “
  • Being 17-23 years old. The same article said that those in their late teens to early twenties are more at risk of developing a binge eating disorder although it can occur during different ages as well.
  • Family history. You are more at risk if you have family members who have or have had an eating disorder.
  • A history of dieting. Many people with eating disorders have a long history of dieting, especially those that drastically restrict their caloric intake. Those who have binge eating disorder tend to restrict and then binge.
  • Poor self-image. Those who have a poor self-image and feel negative about themselves are at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Prevalence

The National Eating Disorders Association did a study in 2007 where they found that 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had a binge eating disorder during their life.

They went on to say, “This makes BED more than three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. BED is also more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia.”

BED is by far the most common form of eating disorders, yet most people do not receive treatment. The same research from the National Eating Disorder Association stated that more than half of those with BED did not receive treatment at any point in their lives.

If many people do not seek treatment for binge eating disorder, it would make sense that it would have a higher prevalence compared to the other eating disorders.

But why wouldn’t they seek treatment?

One reason why many do not seek treatment could be that a lot of people who have BED may not even know they suffer from it. Instead of realizing they have a disorder, they simply think they lack self-control and don’t know how to diet properly.

Another reason why they might not reach out for help is that they are ashamed of their problem and afraid of the stigma and labels that are associated with those who have mental health problems.

Treatment

The main goals of treating a binge eating disorder are to help the client gain control over their eating binges, learn healthier eating habits, work on depression if present, and work on positive self-image or self-confidence.

There are various methods of treating binge eating disorders if seen by a mental health professional. The Mayo Clinic suggested the following types of therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT may help you cope better with issues that can trigger binge-eating episodes, such as negative feelings about your body or a depressed mood. It may also give you a better sense of control over your behavior and help you regulate eating patterns.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy. This type of therapy focuses on your relationships with other people. The goal is to improve your interpersonal skills — how you relate to others, including family, friends, and co-workers. This may help reduce binge eating that’s triggered by problematic relationships and unhealthy communication skills.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy. This form of therapy can help you learn behavioral skills to help you tolerate stress, regulate your emotions and improve your relationships with others, all of which can reduce the desire to binge eat.”

To find a therapist in your area you can go to Psychology Today at www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.

From there, make sure to check the specialties of the therapists you look at or try calling their offices to see if they work with eating disorders. If you or a loved one suffer from BED, getting help is always the best option.


Mental Health Risk Factors for Minorities

In 2008 the month of July was established as the Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in efforts to provide public awareness to mental health struggles that minorities and underrepresented populations face.

Originally, the word “minority” was used to distinguish minority populations such as minority ethnicities, races, or cultures. Today the phrase encompasses other minority groups as well. Such minority groups include the LGBTQ community and immigrants.

In this article, we will be discussing the unique mental health challenges experienced by each minority group.

LGBTQ

While not all LGBTQ’s have the same experience, many have experienced discrimination, prejudice, harassment, family rejection, and even hate crimes. These type of experiences have lasting effects that can be hard to overcome.

HealthyPeople.gov wrote an article stating:

“Research suggests that LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) reported that LGTBQs are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts than the general population. They stated that LGB adults are more than two times as likely to experience a mental health condition when compared with the heterosexual population.

They went on to report that LBG high schoolers are almost five times as likely to commit suicide and 48% of adult transgenders have contemplated suicide in the last year.

how you can help

Suicide is a tragedy for all who are affected by it. Reaching out and supporting friends and family who are LGBTQ could help reduce their suicide risk. As communities, we can help this population by practicing mutual respect despite differences.

immigrants

Immigration can be an extremely shocking experience. Most people who immigrate experience culture shock, encounter a language barrier, feel isolated from the new community, and miss the culture and people they left behind.

A study called “Mental Health in Immigrants Versus Native Population: A Systematic Review of the Literature” found that globally “immigrants experience more problems in depression, anxiety, and somatic disorders, pathologies related directly to the migration process and stress suffered.”

The American Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study of immigrants in the U.S. They found that immigrants in the United States “generally have lower rates of mood, anxiety, and substance disorders compared to the U.S.-born populations.”

Risk factors correlated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders include age at the time of immigration and length of residence in the United States. The younger the child at the time of immigration was linked to higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. They found that the more time spent in the United States was correlated with much higher rates of psychiatric disorders. They said,

“Generational status is associated with an increased lifetime risk for all psychiatric disorders, such that lifetime prevalence rates for first-, second-, and third-generation immigrants are 19.3%, 35.27%, and 54.64%, respectively.”

The study found that for a lot of psychiatric disorders in the U.S., immigrants ranked lower than native-born populations, but with each new generation, their prevalence rates increased so as to surpass the native-born population.

They found that immigrant groups globally tend to have higher rates of mental illness compared to native-born populations. Globally, the trend was similar to that of immigrants to the U.S.; that prevalence of mental illness increased with each generation.

Immigrants that are refugees have an even higher risk of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

How you can help

A lot of immigrants do not have the money to spend on getting help for mental illness. They also experience isolation, rejection, or indifference from the native-born people in their communities. This can lead to an increased risk for mental illness.

By getting to know those refugees and immigrants in our communities we can better help them integrate into their new life, the new culture, and can even assist with the language barrier. By doing these things, we could help reduce the isolation and stress they experience which in turn helps reduce the risk of mental illness.

Ethnicities

Asian

The Asian ethnicity ranks above average in all mental health categories. While they are above average, the highest prevalence of mental illness is suicide in the American- Asian population, especially with those who are immigrants.

Latino/ Hispanic

NAMI said that “common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disordermajor depressionposttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. Additionally, Latina high school girls have high rates of suicide attempts.”

They argue that a lot of Latino-Americans do not get help due to the stigma of being “loco” or crazy, lack of health insurance, the language barrier, fear of being deported because of legal status, and the cultural belief that family matters should be kept private.

African Americans

The National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that

“African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. “

Such mental health problems include depression, PTSD, ADHD, and suicide.

The research poses that the increased risk of mental health illness could be due to a lack of education on the topic, shame, and stigma in the culture.

A lack of education would make it difficult to identify mental illness along with knowing how to help treat it. Shame and stigma could make mental health issues appear as a weakness and cause reluctance to share when experiencing personal struggles.

Additional risk factors

McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research wrote an article stating,

“There is a significant association between poverty and mental illness in the United States. Research shows that this relationship is bidirectional: poverty may exacerbate mental illness and mental illness may lead to poverty.

Those who rank lower financially tend to have a greater risk of developing a mental illness. Those who are in poverty and have additional risk factors would increase their probability of having a mental illness.

how you can help

Mental health stigma affects all races, all financial demographics, and all populations. The more we are educated about mental health and treatment for mental health the better we will be able to discuss mental health issues. Normalizing mental health is one of the best ways to help all who suffer from it.

Technology’s Affect on Mental Health

In this day and age, our lives are hugely supplemented by technology. Without our phones, laptops, tv’s, wireless routers, and Bluetooth devices our world would crash.

But is there a price to be paid for convenience and speed?

These devices, that most of us spend ten-plus hours on daily, emit something called blue light. This blue light can be detrimental to our health.

Technology’s interference with our circadian rhythm

The National Institute for General Sciences describes circadian rhythm as

“physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.

Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.”

The body produces a hormone called melatonin which is known as the sleep hormone. This hormone regulates sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin production is affected by the light and dark cycle of our environment.

Darkness signals to our brain to begin producing more melatonin and when there is more light in the environment the brain is signaled to stop melatonin production.

Technology is used around the globe twenty-four hours a day. When technology is used at night, the blue light that is emitted from our devices interferes with our regular melatonin production and therefore our circadian rhythm.

Without melatonin, it is hard for our bodies to fall asleep and/or have the quality of sleep that is needed for recovery. A 2017 article found in Translational Psychiatry stated that “sleep disturbance is an important factor contributing to the onset and maintenance of mood disorders,” among other health problems.

American Psychological Association released a study that showed that the rates of mood disorders and suicides have dramatically increased in the last ten years. While it may still be somewhat controversial, studies are beginning to show the correlation between technology use, sleep disturbance, and the rise in mental illness.

What you can do

Harvard Health wrote an article about blue light stating,

“Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they’re not suitable for use indoors at night. Glasses that block out only blue light can cost up to $80.”

The Harvard article went on to describe how other colored light may have some effect on melatonin production, but that blue light was by far the biggest culprit in decreasing melatonin production. By decreasing your blue light exposure at night you may save yourself from experiencing health problems down the road.

Along with blue-blocking glasses, there are apps and filters that you can put on your phone and computer to block the blue light at night.

For further study check out these additional articles: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/

PTSD Awareness Month

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is caused by experiencing or witnessing some traumatic event such as accidents (car, boat, falling from great heights, etc), abuse of any kind, assault of any kind, any life-threatening experience, unexpected and severe injury or death of a loved one, and war.

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of PTSD are agitation, irritability, hypervigilance, social isolation, mentally reliving the traumatic experience, flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, severe anxiety, fear mistrust, guilt, shame, and avoidance of things that are reminders of the trauma.

For those who have PTSD, it can be a scary and lonely road. They often feel fear, anxiety, have panic attacks, nightmares, or have trouble sleeping.

Those who have experienced a traumatic event and have PTSD may be distrusting of others or have a fear of social situations that make them feel vulnerable and unsafe. They may be easily triggered by events, people, certain topics, noises, etc.

treatment options

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
    • Medical News Today defines CBT as, “A short-term therapy technique that can help people find new ways to behave by changing their thought patterns. Engaging with CBT can help people reduce stress, cope with complicated relationships, deal with grief, and face many other common life challenges.”
  2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):
    • EMDR is a nontraditional method of treating PTSD and trauma. Instead of talk therapy, it helps alleviate the distress that is associated with traumatic memories and form more positive associations with those memories.
    • The therapist will have the client begin by focusing on an external stimulus. The most common is to move their fingers from left to right in front of the client’s face and have the client follow along with their eyes. Other alternatives are toe-tapping, finger-tapping, or audio tones. The therapist will prompt the client to think of the stressful event while continuing the eye movement.
    • Gradually the therapist will prompt the client to shift their thoughts to more pleasant ones. This helps diminish the intense negative feelings associated with the event.
  3. Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET):
    • Psychology Today says, ” The goal of PET is to gradually help you reengage with life, especially with things you have been avoiding. By doing so, you will strengthen your ability to distinguish safety from danger and decrease your PTSD symptoms. ”
  4. Medications:

how to help a loved one with ptsd

Living with someone with PTSD can be tricky especially if the trauma was recent. They may be distant, less affectionate, be skittish, fearful, or just act differently from how they used to act.

Some ways you can help your loved one is:

1- Be patient. Your loved one is processing a lot of emotions that are hard for them to handle. They might be experiencing intense stress, fear, and anxiety. Your patience and understanding can be a rock for them through their hard times.

2- Manage your own stress: Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and managing your own stress first. If you are not taking care of your own needs you will not be fully prepared to help your loved on in their time of need.

3- Accept and expect mixed emotions/ feelings. As your loved one is going through the healing process and hopefully getting help, it is inevitable that they will be up and down a lot. They might be triggered easily and have a panic attack. Their mood may change abruptly. Be prepared for this so that when it happens you will not take it personally and better handle the situation.

4- Don’t pressure your loved one into talking. We all have our own timeline and needs when it comes to processing emotions and healing. Let your loved one know you are there for them but do not pressure them into talking about the traumatic event. Give them time and space.

Additional resources

PTSD can be a scary for those who suffer with it. If you have PTSD, know you do not have to do it on your own. Find professional help and a support group if that would help you. aid Psychology Today is a great resource for finding a therapist in your area.

If you know someone who has PTSD, become more educated on PTSD and learn how to be an advocate for your loved ones and aid them in the healing process.

Here are some additional resources.

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder/Support

http://www.ptsdalliance.org/resources/

https://www.everydayhealth.com/ptsd/guide/resources/

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Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Children

One might think that most of us should be experts at having emotional intelligence. It does seem common sense to be able to identify and understand what emotions are and what they look like in ourselves and others.

Psychology Today describes emotional intelligence as:

“… At least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and cheering up or calming down other people.”

Emotional regulation goes beyond just being able to label and identify emotions. It also includes being able to feel an emotion, but still be able to think logically. It is learning coping skills to help manage the emotions that you and those around you feel so that you can calm down and move past the emotion.

If you are anything like me, then you may have had times where you lost control of your temper and lashed out at a loved one or were so sad that you ate the whole Ben and Jerry’s carton to emotionally eat. Sound familiar?

If you can relate, then it’s proof that one, we’re human and two, that it is a hard skill to master. It is one that MANY adults still struggle with.

This is why teaching our children emotional intelligence at a young age can be a game changer.

Click here to purchase this printable poster.

5 STEPS OF EMOTION COACHING YOUR CHILD

Step 1: Be Aware of your child’s emotions.

Kids many times do not know how to express how they feel. To help emotion coach your child you must be aware and sensitive to your child’s feelings.

Pay attention to your child’s posture and their tone of voice. Is their head down? Are their fists clenched? What are they saying with their tone of voice?

All of these are insights into what your child is feeling and can help you understand them better.

Step 2: Recognize emotion as an opportunity for connection or teaching.

Once you have recognized your child’s emotion you are then able to use it as a teaching moment. You may have to use some of your own emotional regulation when teaching an angry or upset child, especially starting out.

Recognize that your child’s emotions are not a challenge or inconvenience. They are facing something that upsets them and they have not learned how to deal with the emotions they are feeling. This is why they act out or have tantrums.

Step 3: Help your child verbally label their emotions.

Next, ask your child how they feel. Allow them to express in words the emotions they are feeling and the reason they are feeling that way.

This is a teaching opportunity to help your child develop an awareness and a new vocabulary for the way they feel.

Step 4: Communicate empathy and understanding.

State back to your child what they said to make sure you understand how they feel. Understanding your child and listening to them will make them feel loved, heard, and important.

As you speak with your child make sure to make eye-contact and encourage them to use eye-contact as well. Eye-contact helps build a connection between people and helps them feel heard.

This will create an opportunity to connect with your child and teach them that it’s okay to express how they feel and learn to work through challenging emotions. Your listening to them will help soothe them as they work through their emotions and will help them develop the ability to self-soothe as they grow.

Step 5: Set limits and problem solve.
Teach your child that it is okay to feel angry, sad, annoyed, happy, anxious, etc, but that not all behaviors are acceptable. This will help your child learn appropriate ways to cope with their emotions and problem solve. Limit their expression to appropriate behaviors.

Be patient with your child. Remember, adults still struggle to mange their own emotions and emotional intelligence. children are learning this skill for the first time and will need more time to develop this skill. Also, remember that each child is unique and may take more or less time than one of their siblings.

Focus on connecting with your child and building that loving, safe, and open relationship. Your patience and consistency will help them develop this vital skill.

Reducing Stigma in Mental Health

What is a stigma?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stigma as:

” 1 a: a mark of shame or discredit: STAIN

b: plural usually stigmata: an identifying mark or characteristic specificallya specific diagnostic sign of a disease”

Stigmas are a defining mark or characteristic that sets someone apart from the group. They are a negative attitude or belief toward a certain group of people that we perceive to be different from ourselves. This stigma can cause us to be afraid or wary and can lead to discrimination.

Stigma in mental health

Those in a stigmatized population can experience isolation, discrimination, fewer opportunities in the workplace, verbal abuse, bullying, negative and misleading labels, and fear or mistrust from others.

If you have the fortune of never having to struggle with a mental illness, then you may not be able to understand or empathize with those who do.

Stigma shames those with mental illness, but mental illness is a condition just like any other medical condition. Would you ever shame someone for having diabetes? No. In like manner, we shouldn’t shame those who struggle with mental illness.

Stigma in mental illness is very common and can vary depending on the mental illness. These stigmas may be deliberate attitudes/beliefs that others choose to make or can be the by-product of ignorance.

Some examples of stigma in mental illness are:

  • ADD/ADHD: Those who struggle with ADD or ADHD might be labeled as lazy, as having a short attention span, or too energetic. They might be labeled as stupid because they struggle to pay attention in school and therefore get bad grades.
  • SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Someone with a substance abuse disorder might be labeled as a low-life or unmotivated. Others may think they choose to partake of the substance that they abuse and don’t realize that to them, it is a need or compulsion.
  • TRAUMA: Those with trauma-related disorders might be thought of as dramatic, attention seeking, or exaggerators. People may tell them that they just need to “Get over it,” and move on.
  • DEPRESSION: Those with depression might be labeled as isolated, moody, or negative. Others may think of them as insensitive or not capable of being in a relationship or friendship. Others tell them to be more positive and grateful and their mood will turn around. This tells them that it’s all in their head.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) stated:

“Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. For a group of people who already carry such a heavy burden, stigma is an unacceptable addition to their pain. And while stigma has reduced in recent years, the pace of progress has not been quick enough.”

How can we reduce it?

For those who don’t struggle with mental illness:

  • Educate yourself about mental illness. Mental illness isn’t just emotional, but also very biological in nature.
  • Be more aware of the harmful things you may ignorantly say to those who struggle with mental illness.
  • Be an advocate and a friend to those with mental illness.
  • Create a safe dialogue around the topic.

For those who struggle with mental illness:

  • Don’t define yourself by your mental illness. It is something you struggle with, not a definition of who you are.
  • Get help/treatment. Trained professionals will be able to help you with the struggles you are facing and you never have to go through it alone.
  • Join a support group.
  • Don’t be ashamed of your mental illness. Create dialogue in the community.

Education and Help

Here are some websites that have information concerning mental health, treatment options, and other tips on how to live with mental illness.

www.nami.org

www.MentalHealth.gov

www.ActiveMinds.org

www.MentalHealthAmerica.net

www.mentalhealth.org.uk

www.samhsa.gov

www.dbsalliance.org

www.bbrfoundation.org

www.rethink.org

Autism Awareness Month

April is national Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is recognized internationally as World Autism Awareness Day.

How is autism diagnosed?

In the United States, the most popular way of diagnosing mental disorders is through the diagnostic system created by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). They frequently update their system and are currently on their 5th edition (DSM-5).

According to the DSM-5, Autism is now called autism spectrum disorder. Where someone lies on the spectrum is dependent on the severity of the symptoms.

According to WebMD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is:

“A complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors… ASD ranges in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.”

What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder typically appear within the first three years of a child’s life. Symptoms vary, but common symptoms are:

  • Speech delay in children
  • Flat speech
  • Learning disabilities
  • Poor eye contact
  • Inappropriate social interaction
  • Repetitive movements
  • Self-harm
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Inability to understand or perceive others’ emotion
  • Tantrums and temper outbursts

Tips for parents who have children with autism

Raising a child is difficult, period. But raising a child that has Autism Spectrum Disorder brings other factors into play that can make it even more challenging especially for those who haven’t been around those with Autism.

1- Get your child tested.If you suspect your child is on the Autism spectrum, get them tested. Once you know if your child has Autism or not, learn all there is to know about Autism. This will help you understand your child better, be informed of the best treatment options, and find a community with support.

2- Be an expert on your child. Get to know your child’s individual triggers, agitations, what soothes them, what makes them happy, etc. Learning the intricacies of your child will help you know how to best help them and avoid situations that could potentially trigger them. Look for their non-verbal cues that help you know their mood, what they want, how they feel, etc.

3- Accepting what is. It may be hard not to compare your child with Autism to other children their age or even to their other siblings, but try to avoid this. Accepting your child’s individuality and quirks will help you learn to love and appreciate them for who they are. Instead of seeing the differences, you’ll begin to see the blessings that have come into your life by having such a special child.

tips for children with autism

1- Stability and Structure. Stability and structure are needed for every child, but even more so for children with ASD. Stability and structure help children feel safe and can help them know what to expect. Children with ASD especially crave this structure and may have tantrums if the schedule is not followed. Create a schedule for meal times, bedtime, fun time, etc.

2- Positive Reinforcement. Children with ASD are highly sensitive. Since a common symptom of ASD is the inability to correctly read and understand emotions and social cues, rewarding good behavior will go a lot further than trying to correct unwanted behavior. Give reward, praise, and love when good behavior is demonstrated. Be specific about what it is you are praising them for.

3- PLAY! A child with ASD is still a child and craves play time. Help them find ways where they can be creative and express themselves. Play helps children express themselves and ultimately makes them happier. Make sure to have time every day to play with your child.