LEARN MORE ABOUT DEPRESSION

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Mental illness affects tens of millions of people in the United States. Depression is by far the most prevalent, representing 99% of all mind-brain illness. (Schizophrenia and major psychotic illness represent the remaining 1%). 

The umbrella of depression encompasses Major Depressive Disorder and its related mood disorders including bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety disorder, and suicide.

Depression is a common, but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities; such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

If you experience these symptoms consistently for most of the day or nearly every day for 2 weeks you might be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Depression doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone. Different individuals might be affected by all symptoms or just a few, with varying degrees of intensity.

This also means different individuals will benefit from different treatments or mental health approaches and diagnosis. It is important to note mental health is greatly influenced by physical health and some symptoms might be caused by a physical condition. Please talk to a doctor as well as a mental health professional.

Depression is a condition that can bring many questions. The journey towards emotional health can seem scary, confusing, or daunting at times because it requires us to acknowledge something is not right. In order to be able to overcome our struggles, first, we must be aware of them and, second, decide what actions can we take to improve what is not working or hurting us.

When working towards building healthy coping methods and making healthy changes in our lives, it is always important to focus on things that are within our control by making realistic goals.

Focusing on factors we can control in our lives helps us feel empowered and take charge. Controllable factors include what we say and do, our perspective on different situations, how we handle and act in relationships, our self-awareness, our eating, sleeping, and exercise, etc.

Identifying factors that we can control helps set realistic goals we can reach, increase introspection, encourage healthy behaviors and boost self-esteem.

DEPRESSION MYTHS DEBUNKED

  1. DEPRESSION IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD

Depression is a psychological, social, and biological disorder. It can be chronic and takes treatment to manage. Someone who is depressed can’t just shut it off or “suck it up.”

The general public only sees the emotional side of depression-like acting out or not acting like yourself. If we took the time to realize that depression is a condition that causes physical issues as well, maybe we would see that depression is a real disease that takes time and treatment to manage.

2. MEDICATION IS THE ONLY WAY TO HANDLE DEPRESSION

Medication is only one way of treatment. There are other treatments that might not require medication or will work together with it. Therapy techniques including CBT, EMDR, DBT and Art therapy can help depression. Neurofeedback targets specific brainwaves training that can help enhance brain functioning and help depression by boosting positive thinking and self-awareness.

3. EVERYONE EXPERIENCES DEPRESSION THE SAME WAY

People who experience depression may have physical differences in their brains than the average person. These differences don’t always act the same way in everyone’s brain. The changes in the brain, plus hormone changes, can influence the severity of moods, thoughts, and physical issues.

4. DEPRESSION IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS

Depression does not discriminate. You do not decide to become depressed. The only reason depression is viewed as a weakness is that society has stigmatized the condition. Depression is a biological and psychological condition that has nothing to do with how strong you are.

5. DEPRESSION COMMONLY HAPPENS TO WOMEN

t’s not that there isn’t any depression in men, it’s just that men don’t talk about it as often as women. In the U.S., four times as many men die by suicide than women. Some men believe that talking about their emotions is silly or pathetic. Some men avoid treatments for depression in fear that they will no longer appear masculine or strong.  Some symptoms of depression in men, additional to the ones mentioned above, include anger, unable to meet daily responsibilities, loss of interest in sex.

“The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about.”

– Unknown

“Don’t let your struggle become your identity.”

– Unknown

Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Attachment styles

What is an attachment style? An attachment style is how each person behaves and interacts in their relationships. At a young age, we tried to figure out how to fit into our social circles. Based on how our parents or caregivers treated us, we figured out how to interact with people and develop our own attachment style.

Your personal attachment style that you learned from childhood follows you throughout your life. It is how you interact and behave with your family members, romantic partners, and kids.

Understanding what attachment style you have will help you understand your relationship difficulties and give you an insight as to what to work on. The healthiest relationships are built when both individuals feel a secure attachment to one another.

Attachment styles

Secure attachment

If you have a secure attachment style, you’ll seek out stable relationships and feel safe opening up emotionally. You’ll also feel comfortable asking for what you need. Secure adults will be able to reach out to their romantic partner in times of need but also attend to the needs of their partner.

Anxious attachment

If you have an anxious attachment style, you’ll desire closeness but may not feel as though you are ever able to get close enough. You’ll end up questioning yourself a lot, wondering if your romantic partner really loves you, and you’ll regularly seek out validation. If you have an anxious attachment, you might end up seeming clingy and do things that push your partner away.

Dismissive attachment

If you have a dismissive attachment style, you tend to distance yourself from people. When confronted with conflict, you’ll emotionally shut down and choose not to show your emotions. If you have a dismissive attachment, you may feel isolated from yourself and others.

Fearful-avoidant attachment

If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment, you may have grown up in a home where you detached from your feelings because of trauma. While you will desire connections with others, once the relationships become emotionally involved, your past trauma may affect how you see the relationship. If you have a fearful-avoidant attachment, you may have very rocky relationships and fear being abandoned – but also fear being close to others.

How do I develop a secure attachment style?

Now don’t get too discouraged if you’re not happy with your personal attachment style. The good news is that you can develop a secure attachment style.

  • Start taking note of when your behaviors are anxious, dismissive, or avoidant
  • Think about how you feel and what you need
  • Try to express your feelings and needs to someone close to you
  • Set healthy boundaries with those you have relationships
  • Model your behavior off someone with a secure attachment style
  • Work with a therapist to help you change your attachment style

Understanding SHAME.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” -Brene Brown

What is shame?

According to Google shame is, “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. According to Brene Brown, a research professor at the University Of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work,

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.  Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations.”

She went on to say on Oprah Winfrey’s Supersoul Conversations, “I think shame is lethal. I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep.”

Brown explains that feelings of shame can quietly marinate over a lifetime. “Here’s the bottom line with shame,” she says. “The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.”

By keeping quiet, Brown says your shame will grow exponentially. “It will creep into every corner and crevice of your life,” she says.

The antidote, Brown says, is empathy. She explains that by talking about your shame with a friend who expresses empathy, the painful feeling cannot survive. “Shame depends on me buying into the belief that I’m alone. Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

Brene Brown

Brene has many books and videos one can watch to learn how to beat this pervasive monster. Brene shows us how we can stop a shame spiral with these tips:

  1. Know your shame triggers and reality check them
  2. Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love
  3. Reach out to someone you trust
  4. Tell your story

You can find some very helpful tips on shame and how to conquer and coexist with it here:


Mental Illness

The Huff Post wrote, ” Only 25 percent of people with mental health issues feel that people are caring and sympathetic toward their struggles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” They stated that sufferers of mental illness feel isolated and hopeless due to a lack of understanding from other people.

Those who have never struggled with mental illness often criticize, judge harshly, misunderstand, and treat poorly those who struggle with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, etc.

By educating yourself on what mental illness is, how it affects those who struggle with it and recognizing the prevalence of mental illness, you will be able to better understand, have greater empathy, and support others who struggle with mental illness.

14 Quotes that describe mental Illness

Mental strength is not the same as mental health. Just like someone with diabetes could still be physically strong, someone with depression can still be mentally strong. Many people with mental health issues are incredibly mentally strong. Anyone can make choices to build mental strength, regardless of whether they have a mental health issue. – Amy Morin

Sometimes, mental illness is terrifying because you feel like you’ve lost control of your mind and nothing makes sense. It’s like watching yourself on autopilot and having little to no control.” – Author Unknown

You know when you’re in a bad dream and you’re trying to run, punch, kick, or scream, and your body just won’t move? You open your mouth and nothing comes out. You feel frozen or in slow motion, and no matter how hard you try to fight it, nothing changes. That’s how it feels to battle mental illness – Evyenia

“She is a beautiful piece of broken pottery, put back together by her own hands. And a critical world judges her cracks while missing the beauty of how she made herself whole again.”– J.M. Storm

”Don’t tell someone to get over it; help them to get through it.” Author Unknown

Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.” – Lemony Snicket

“We are all looking for places to put our pain.” – Author Unknown

And sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself because I could find no language to describe them in.”– Jane Austen

“People who die by suicide don’t want to end their lives, they want to end their pain. I appreciate people who are patient with me while I am distant and trying to figure things out.”

“Not all scars show. Not all wounds heal. Sometimes you can’t see the pain someone feels.”

“Recovery is not one and done. It is a lifelong journey that takes place one day, one step at a time.” – Author Unknown

”When I make a mistake, I know it. I feel it. I tear myself apart. I lose sleep. I don’t stop thinking about it. So when I say I’m sorry, know that I mean it. I’m my own toughest critic.” – Author Unknown

I’m not faking being sick. I’m actually faking being well.” – Author Unknown

Nothing in this world can torment you as much as your own thoughts.” – Author Unknown

5 quotes on Fighting mental health Stigma

The only way to get more people reaching out for help when they are struggling is to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. As long as the stigma persists, people will feel ashamed, embarrassed, and will continue to struggle in silence.

So how do we break down the stigma surrounding mental health? Here are five quotes describing how to start.

” We need to learn to identify the signs of mental health issues. We need to have the courage to reach out and have tough conversations with our friends and family members- and get help ourselves when we need it.” – Michelle Obama

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all. – Bill Clinton

We need to change the culture of this topic and make it OK to speak about mental health and suicide.- Luke Richardson

“We know that mental illness is not something that happens to other people. It touches us all. Why then is mental illness met with so much misunderstanding and fear?” – Tipper Gore

“When it comes to mental health conditions, we often treat them differently from other diseases like cancer, diabetes or asthma. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.” – Michelle Obama

11 quotes For those with Mental Illness

Facing mental illness can be challenging and can make you feel alone. If you are struggling with mental illness here are 11 quotes for you.

“Healing isn’t about changing who you are; it’s about changing your relationship to who you are. A fundamental part of that is honoring how you feel.” -Suzanne Heyn

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Khalil Gibran

“You can’t fix yourself out of a mental health issue. You can’t wake up and say, ‘Today I’m not being depressed!’ It’s a process to get well, but there is recovery. ” -Margaret Trudeau

“To that one soul reading this: I know you’re tired, you’re fed up, you’re close to breaking, but there’s a strength within you, even when you feel weak. Keep fighting.” – Author Unknown

“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.” – Steven Aitchison

Love all the hurt, traumatized, and abandoned parts of yourself. Honoring al of you gives your wholeness a voice.” – Author Unknown

“Turn your demons into art, your shadow into a friend, your fear into fuel, your failures into teachers, your weaknesses into reasons to keep fighting. Don’t waste your pain. Recycle your heart. ” – Andrea Balt

“Your mental health is more important than the test, the interview, the lunch date, the meeting, the family dinner, and the grocery-run. Take care of yourself.” – Author Unknown

“None of your scars make you less worthy or lovable.” Author Unknown

Friendly reminder that doing your best does not mean working yourself to the point of a mental breakdown.” – Author Unknown

 “You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared and anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a negative person. It makes you human.” Author Unknown

Does Your Child Have ADHD?

Raising kids is hard enough as it is as each child comes with their own unique challenges. But does it seem your child is especially challenging and wonder if they might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

what is ADHD?

ADHD is a condition caused by problems related to the structure and wiring of the brain and can affect one’s ability to focus, sit still, and make appropriate decisions. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how ADHD is developed, but we know it can be linked to family history as well as brain injury. It is usually diagnosed in childhood but can often continue into adulthood.

What does ADHD look like in children?

Psychologists have categorized ADHD into three groups or “types” based on their symptoms: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, or combined type.

If your child has been showing six to nine of ADHD symptoms for the past 6 months, it is likely that they could have ADHD. It’s important to note that you as a parent might not see all these symptoms displayed in the home. Be sure to talk to your child’s teachers, parents of friends, and other adults who they interact with to get a better picture of how your child is behaving in various situations.

Here are the two types of ADHD and their corresponding symptoms:

Inattentive type:

  • They don’t pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or tasks
  • They have problems staying focused on tasks or activities
  • They don’t seem to listen when spoken to (seems to be elsewhere)
  • They don’t follow through on instructions and doesn’t complete schoolwork or chores
  • They have problems organizing tasks and work
  • They avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • They often misplace important things
  • They are easily distracted
  • They forget daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands

Hyperactive/impulsive type:

  • They fidget with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
  • They are unable to stay seated (in the classroom, workplace)
  • They run about or climb where it is inappropriate
  • They are unable to play or do leisure activities quietly
  • They are always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • They talk too much
  • They blurt out an answer before a question has been finished
  • They have difficulty waiting for his or her turn, such as while waiting in line
  • They interrupt or intrude on others
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HOW CAN I KNOW FOR SURE IF MY CHILD HAS ADHD?

If you have wondered if your child might have ADHD, the first step to managing your child’s behavior is to first find out if your child does indeed have ADHD.

First start by talking to your child’s pediatrician, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist who specializes in ADHD. They can help set your child up with a treatment plan based on their diagnosis. If your child’s pediatrician is unfamiliar with diagnosing and treating ADHD, they may refer you to a child psychologist. Some mental health clinics may offer ADHD screenings as well.

You can go to this website to look for psychologists in your area that can better help with diagnosis. You can even go to your child’s school counselor to seek help.

From there, you can work with professionals to find the best form of treatment for whatever diagnosis your child has.

What treatment is available for ADHD?

An ongoing study from the National Institute of mental health has shown that the most effective treatment for ADHD in children is stimulant medication. This type of medication is designed to help children in their interactions with others, reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, and help them focus more. Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse are some of the common brands of stimulant medication. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a psychiatrist about whether or not your child can benefit from this treatment.

Psychologists and counselors will not be able to prescribe medication for your child, but they can help your child with behavioral issues that come with ADHD. Studies have shown that a combination of medication and behavioral therapy can significantly improve symptoms, especially if your child is struggling with any other type of emotional disorder.

You should also look into neurofeedback as a non-medication option for ADHD. It has been shown to help kids with ADHD think more clearly.

adhd, adhd awareness, adhd in children, therapy in orem utah, aspen valley counseling, neurofeedback

What can I do to help as a parent?

Catching and treating ADHD early is crucial to your child’s social and educational development. One of the most important things you can do is to praise them for their efforts and notice when they show good behavior. Reinforcing good behavior and appropriately addressing bad behavior will not only help their self-esteem but also help them learn right from wrong.

ADDitude Magazine has outlined 12 “Dos and Don’ts” for how to best help your child with ADHD. Some of them include punishment and positive reinforcement, avoiding blame, and modeling appropriate behavior.

Depression– The Basics

While everyone will experience high points and low points in their lifetime, the degree to which everyone experiences their highs and lows varies greatly.

For those who experience more extreme low points, it can be hard to know if or when you should seek help. In this post, we will discuss the symptoms of depression and where you can find help to better manage your low points in life.

There is a difference between feeling depressed and struggling with depression.

Feelings of depression are fleeting and don’t last longer than a day or two. Depression lasts for days, weeks, or other long periods of time and usually is accompanied by changes in weight, sleep, appetite, and mood.

Dealing With Depression: Symptoms

Depression Symptoms: Mood/ Cognitive
  • A feeling of hopelessness, helpless,
  • Mood swings
  • Intense sadness or feeling “empty”
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Loss of interest
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Lack of concentration
  • A bleak outlook on life
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Self-criticism
Depression Symptoms: Behavioral
  • Isolation
Depression Symptoms: Physical
  • Weight gain
  • Emotional eating
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Restless sleep
  • insomnia
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Unexplainable aches and pains
  • Frequent upset stomach
Suicide Signs and symptoms

Suicide and suicidal thoughts are not only associated with depression but can be linked to other mental disorders. If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be at higher risk for suicide.

  • Hopelessness 
  • Excessive sadness
  • Excessive moodiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Sudden calmness
  • Withdrawal

“Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression, a leading cause of suicide. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.”

WebMD
  • Changes in personality and/or appearance

“A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.”

WebMD
  • Dangerous or self-harmful behavior
  • Recent trauma or life crisis
  • Threatening Suicide
  • Making preparations

“Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide. Some will buy a firearm or other means like poison.”

WebMD

Finding a therapist

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, a therapist will be able to help you and can give you more resources or tools for recovery.

Are you nervous about going to see a therapist? Don’t worry, you still have options.

If dealing with depression is making it hard for you to get out of bed, you can talk to a therapist in your pajamas, from the comfort of your own home.

Today’s technologically enhanced world allows you the opportunity to talk with a licensed therapist through phone calls, online chats, or mobile apps. Such options include Talk Space, Better Help, Regain, Teen Counseling, and Break Through.

You can also set up a Skype or regular phone call with a therapist who does telehealth appointments. By visiting Psychology Today you can search for providers in your area. Once you put in your geographic area, on the left-hand side there is an option to search for providers who offer online services.

Living life with depression is hard enough. Don’t try to tackle it all on your own.

The National Network of Depression Centers also keeps a list of online resources that could be helpful.

To get more understanding about dealing with depression, watch this video called, “I had a blag dog, his name was depression” from the World Health Organization.

If you’re looking for more ways to help you deal with depression, the National Institute of Mental Health also gives great explanations about medication and other therapies that can be helpful for someone dealing with depression.

The Second Brain– How Food and Digestion Affect Mental Health

The information system of the body is most commonly thought of as the brain receiving information from, and relaying information to, the various parts of the body. While this is accurate, it’s not the whole picture.

Studies have shown that the brain isn’t the only one interpreting and relaying information. There is a second player in the game — the gut.

What does the research show?

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found through a study on mice, that 90 percent of the serotonin in the body is made in the gut. Elaine Hsiao, the senior author of the study, said,

“It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. More and more studies are showing that mice or other model organisms with changes in their gut microbes exhibit altered behaviors.”

Dr. Siri Carpenter stated similar findings from other researchers that confirm the findings of Elaine Hsiao. She stated that changes in the microbiome of the rat’s stomachs affect neural development, brain chemistry, and can affect different types of behaviors– such as– emotional behavior, pain perception, and stress responses.

The studies that have been done on rodents are starting to match what researchers are finding in humans.

In another study done by UCLA, their findings showed that bacteria ingested with food directly affects the human brain. Dr. Kristin Tillisch, the author of the study, said,

“Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”

 As the research shows, the food you eat and the health of your gut flora play an immense role in your overall health and could affect your mental state.

Why does the food I eat matter?

Your gut health can be affected by diets high in carbohydrates, low in nutrient-dense food, high in sugar, and processed foods, which are high in chemicals and preservatives. Change in gut health can lead to adverse reactions through food sensitivities and changes in mood.

This means that if you’re not happy — either physicall or mentally — then looking into your gut health might be a good place to start.

The American Psychology Association had an article written by Kimberly Keys where she shared her own experience on eating the right food for your body. She said,

“What I can share is that not eating the fuel mix that your body requires can make you have a number of deleterious symptoms like weight gain or loss, foggy thinking, depression, moodiness, inability to focus, nervous system disorders, fatigue, nausea, cravings, digestive disorders, headaches and migraines, and a host of other conditions that get inflamed because the improper fuel is basically taxing your immune system.”

What is a food sensitivity?

During regular digestion, your body breaks down the food you eat into simple components that can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Once absorbed, the components are distributed and used by the rest of your body.

However, if your bacterial composition of the gut is not favorable to the breakdown of a specific food, then those bacteria communicate with the gut immune system and promote an intolerance to that food.

As a result, your immune system produces antibodies to attack the food that caused the intolerance. This process can cause adverse reactions in the body.

Some examples of food sensitivity reactions are as follows.

-Feeling bloated – Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS) -Mood swings -Chronic fatigue -Restlessness -Brain fog -Aggressiveness -Headaches -Insomnia -Asthma -Canker sores -Sinus problems -Excessive mucus -Acne -Eczema -Excessive sweating -Hair loss -Hives -Itchy sensations -Weight gain -Cravings -Compulsive eating -Water retention -Depression -Anxiety -Muscle soreness -Earaches -ADHD -Hyperactivity -Lethargy

If you have one or more of these symptoms, there’s a 95% probability that you have a food sensitivity and could benefit from food sensitivities testing.

How do I know if I have a food sensitivity?

It is almost impossible to detect the exact food(s) that you are sensitive to on your own. Reactions can present themselves several hours to several days after the food is ingested thus making it hard to pinpoint the exact food that you are sensitive to.

The best way to determine which food(s) you have sensitivities to is through a simple blood test called Food Sensitivity Assay. This test measures your immunoglobulin immune response when different foods are introduced. The results include the foods that your body is sensitive to.

By identifying and eliminating foods that cause food sensitivities, you can help repair your gut health, potentially reverse food sensitivities, and decrease adverse reactions that can range from bloating to depression.

Addiction Recovery– 3 Steps to Getting Better

People used to believe that people with addictions just needed to “try harder.” Through science, we now know that this isn’t necessarily the case. Addiction has a direct effect on the chemical processes and structures of the brain.

Anyone who has struggled with addiction can tell you it’s a difficult journey and recovery will take time. But where do you even start? Addiction recovery usually requires professional help, but there are some things you can do to help you get started or help you progress as you’re working with a professional.

step ONE: understanding addictions

Harvard medical school in their article How Addiction Hijacks the Brain said,

The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure but also plays a role in learning and memory — two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.”

As your brain experiences something pleasurable, it releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When dopamine is released, it signals the brain to seek out further experiences that will create the same sense of pleasure.

Let’s say that you had alcohol for the first time. This is a new experience for you and your brain created a new neural pathway for that experience. You may have had a huge dopamine release while drinking and feel compelled to seek a drink again and again.

The more times you participate in this pleasurable activity of drinking, the deeper the neural pathway for drinking will be. The dopamine high along with deep neural pathways contribute to additions. Part of addiction recovery is rewiring these neural pathways.

With that being said, not everyone who has a drink will become an alcoholic. There are other factors that contribute to addictions. Factors such as how fast dopamine is released with the activity, the intensity of that release, and how reliable that release is contribute to how addicting an activity will be. For the example above, the speed, intensity, and reliability of a dopamine release were high.

Step two: notice your behavior

Addiction recovery isn’t just about getting rid of a bad habit; it’s about creating a lifestyle that will help you get rid of your addiction. So where do you start? You start by getting at the root of the addiction, creating new patterns, and noticing risky situations.

First, start thinking about what triggers your addiction. Is it when you feel sad? After you have a fight with a loved one? There could be many reasons. Write these down. These are your high-risk situations when you should be aware that you have a habit of giving in to your addiction.

Writing them down won’t change the fact that you have an addiction, but it will help you identify your behavior better so you can be aware that you’re reacting to something when you’re giving in to the addictive behavior.

Now, think of how you feel before you succumb to your addiction. Are you feeling angry, lonely, or tired? For each high-risk situation that you wrote down, write down how you feel in that situation. These are the emotions you’re going to want to watch out for. These emotions aren’t bad, but these are times when you might be more susceptible to your addiction because you’ve created a pattern of behavior. So, when you feel sad, you might automatically go to substance abuse to avoid sadness. These are patterns you want to identify so that you can interrupt them. If you notice you’re sad, then you can learn to acknowledge that feeling, and then use a different coping method rather than give in to the addiction.

Addiction recovery, therapy in Orem Utah, CBT, EMDR, motivational interviewing, neurofeedback

Step three: learning skills

Addiction recovery won’t be solved in a day with a list. You’ll have to learn new coping methods, change your lifestyle, and in some cases alter the way you think about things or heal from trauma.

Coping Skills

Sometimes we are faced with difficult situations or feelings we don’t know how to handle. In these cases, many people turn to their addictions. But there are other coping skills you can learn to replace your addictions with. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Meditate: When you take time out of your day to recenter your mind on what’s important, you can let go of feelings of frustration.
  • Learn mindfulness: Mindfulness is something you can use whenever and wherever you are. All you have to do is learn to focus on the here and now. What can you see, smell, feel, hear? When you stop worrying about what’s going to happen, you can learn to calm down.
  • Breathe deeply: Breathe in through your nose for six seconds and then out through your mouth for six seconds. Do this until you notice your heart rate is at a calm pace.
  • Keep a journal: Sometimes writing things down will help you organize your thoughts and help you stop worrying so much.
  • Exercise: When you exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins that will make you feel happy.

When you find a coping method that fits you best, try it out when you notice yourself start to feel one of the emotions on your list or after you encounter a high-risk situation. Even if it doesn’t work the first time, stick to it. Your addiction recovery will take time after all.

Addiction recovery, therapy in Orem Utah, CBT, EMDR, motivational interviewing, neurofeedback

Being Patient With Yourself

And of course, through this addiction recovery process, be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. And don’t give up.

Yes, you will have to make a big lifestyle change, but it will be worth it. It’s important that you start to notice other parts of your life that will have to undergo changes. Are there people who encourage your addiction? Are there places where you go that encourage your addiction? Be aware of these and avoid them when you can. But of course, you won’t always be able to avoid these things, so build up your arsenal of good habits and coping skills.

Getting professional help is going to be crucial in your recovery. If you don’t want to do an in-patient treatment program, or you have done one and need extra help, consider seeing a therapist who can help you. Here are some types of therapy that can help you in your journey of addiction recovery:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy will help you think more rationally and interrupt the thoughts that lead you into addictive behavior.
  • EMDR: If you are suffering from trauma, this type of therapy will help you heal and move forward with your addiction recovery.
  • Motivational interviewing: This therapy is very goal-oriented and will help you take steps toward recovery.
  • Neurofeedback: This therapy helps train your brainwaves so that you can think more clearly and make more progress in your addiction recovery.

How Neurofeedback can help

Because addiction is correlated with deep neural pathways of addictive behavior in the brain, one of the best ways to treat addiction is to rewire those pathways.

Neurofeedback can target those damaged areas and try to repair them by making different neural pathways.

Let’s compare addiction to a muscle that is overdeveloped and neurofeedback as an exercise for that underdeveloped muscle. With specific exercises tailored to the weaker muscles, those muscles grow. Since we are not working out the overdeveloped muscles, they weaken or deteriorate.

Neurofeedback is one of many treatments for addiction. For best results, it is better to go with a treatment that resonates with you and that you feel comfortable doing. Don’t be afraid to try different methodologies.

Remember, your road to addiction recovery will be your own, but you don’t have to do it alone. Understand how addictions work, understand how addiction shows up in your life and what your triggers are, and reach out for help. Get help from people who will encourage you to get rid of the addiction, therapists, specialists, and others who’ve recovered. And be patient. You’ll get there.

Happiness Just Happens… Or Does It? 8 Steps for a Happier You

What is happiness? True happiness goes beyond the fleeting, moment-to-moment emotion of being happy. The Merriam- Webster Dictionary states it as,

“: a state of well-being and contentment JOY

Happiness, or joy, is a state of being. For those who live in this state of being, it means that although they experience the ups and downs of life, they are happy more than they are not.

Here are 8 ways to help move your state of being to a state of happiness.

1- Smile. Smiling is contagious and for a good reason! When you smile your brain releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin– all the feel-good chemicals. By smiling you not only boost your mood but also lower your heart rate and blood pressure and relax your body. Periodically check in with yourself throughout the day and remind yourself to SMILE 🙂

“Of all the medicines in the inner life, a smile is by far the best medecine. “

– Sri Chinmoy

2- Shift your mindset. Most of us live in a state of scarcity, which means that we see most things as lacking. We see problems instead of blessings, what we lack instead of what we have, etc. We can move from a scarcity mindset by changing our focus to an abundance mindset.

An abundance mindset is believing that there are enough resources to meet your needs or achieve your goals and that there is enough success to share with others. It’s seeing the world through the eyes of possibility instead of limitations. This change in belief and mindset changes your view of the world. It can help see things in a positive light and create more happiness from within.

““If you always attach positive emotions to the things you want, and never attach negative emotions to the things you don’t, then that which you desire most will invariably come your way.” 

– Matt D. Miller

3- Clear your mind. Having a clear mind helps improve happiness, helps stay in the moment, helps shift your mindset, and helps improve your mental health.

Happiness flees when doubt, fear, worry, or anxiety fill our minds. Learning to clear your mind is a helpful way to relieve stress and anxiety, which in turn makes way for happiness.

“The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear. “

– Prasad Mahes

4- Stop comparing. Comparison is part of the scarcity mindset. It occurs because one feels they need to be as good as, or better than, those around them. It is a mindset where they desperately need to measure up and are failures if they do not.

Your worth does not come from being “better” than those around you. Your worth is innate. Embrace your individuality and unique talents and gifts. Loving yourself and knowing your own worth with help eliminate the need to compare yourself to others. Happiness will ensue as you stop questioning if you measure up.

“Comparison is the theif of joy.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

5- Sleep more. Depending on the severity, those who lack sleep can experience a weaker immune system, be at a higher risk of mental illness, and experience cognitive impairment.

Most people are more irritable if they do not get enough sleep; especially if they are chronically sleep-deprived. Getting enough sleep and being well-rested can make it easier to control your emotions, be positive, and be happy.

” Sleep is the golden chain that links health and our bodies together. “

– Thomas Dekker

6- Stop “pursuing” happiness. Be happy. Have you ever told yourself, “I will be happy when…”?

Do you postpone happiness until x, y, or z goal has been met? Sometimes you might think that attaining those goals will make you happy. What actually happens is that when the goal is reached, you end up feeling just as empty and unsatisfied inside as you were before. You do not need to accomplish something to deserve happiness.

As we explained before, happiness is not circumstantial nor dependent on our moment-to-moment emotions. Happiness is a choice and a state of being. We can choose to be happy and live in an abundant mindset while still moving towards our goals. Happiness requires being able to live in the moment and to choose happiness.

““Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for your life to begin and start making the most of the moment you are in.”

― Germany Kent

7- Give. When we bless the lives of those around us there is an undeniable joy that comes into our lives. Service to our fellow men blesses both the giver and the receiver. There is nothing that combats hard times more than lovingly serving another person and to see their smile of joy or tears of gratitude. This is one of the purest forms of joy that we can experience in our lives.

“I’ve been searching for ways to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.”

– Lady Gaga

8- Focus on what is important. There are so many distractions in life that can take up all of your time if you let them and leave you with a hollow life.

It is hard to know which activities to choose and which to focus on. Here is an activity to help you identify the things that will bring you the most happiness in life.

Start by making a list of everything you would like to accomplish in your lifetime: finances, relationships, work, health, adventures, experiences, self-improvements, and anything else you can think of. Then, go through your list and whittle it down until you have your top three most meaningful accomplishments.

These goals are the things that you can base your life around. When you have to make a decision about how to spend your time, ask yourself, “Does this bring me closer to any of my three goals?” If it doesn’t, chances are it’s not worth your time. If it does, then make room for it.

Filling your life and time with experiences that lead you to the life you would like to live is the best way to experience happiness. Focus on your passions. Focus on those you love. Do things that make you happy. This is the key to happiness.

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”

– Zig Ziglar

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!