How To Find Happiness Part II

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In part one of this blog I identified where people look, but may not find happiness. There are a couple of thoughts from part one I want to expand on:
1- Not looking for the quick fix.
2- Making actions dominant over fear and intentions. (from a quote by Steven Forrest.)

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First, the quick fix: With each generation there seems to be an exponential increase in attention deficit disorder.  This isn’t a, “let’s pile on millennials” comment, rather a commentary on the mirrored evolution of our collective inability to slow down.  Paired with the advances in technology, distractions, and things to do, the pace and expectations for life have changed.

Further, we are living longer.  We have more conveniences to help complete responsibilities and chores in less time.  And we are healthier.  Yet despite having more time, we act like we have less.  Like we have no time to take care of ourselves and waste time on an esoteric search for happiness.  Nonsense.  No.  Not the esoteric search for happiness, rather, the idea that we don’t have the time to do so.

Another issue with “the quick fix” is that it is fools gold.  It doesn’t deliver what it promises.  Perhaps temporarily but not in the long run.  It requires quick fix after quick fix to pacify you.  These detours and distractions take many forms, I’ll leave it to you to fill in your blanks of where they may manifest in your life.

This reminds me of the of notion of the criminal, or lazy person, and if they would put as much energy into honest work as they put into getting out of it, they’d be okay.

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Second.  Making actions dominant over fears an intentions.  And I’ll add a third component to this one, a sense of obligation and responsibility.

 Socialization is a necessary reality of any society.  However, a drawback is the one size fits all conditioning for what makes a “good life”.  A “successful life”.  A “happy life”.

When this conditioning is at odds with what we truly want or for whatever reason do not have, it can torpedo a positive self-image, create stress, and unhappiness.  I’ve counselled many clients and friends who feel trapped by their situations, when in reality they are trapped by their own fear, and the limitations they are putting on themselves.  They either can’t see their options, are afraid to take them, or use their circumstance as an excuse.  Unhappy marriages, jobs, and vices, do not have to last forever.  Black and white thinking and inability to see options add to this dilemma.

Reasons, excuses, whatever you want to call them, if they are fueled by fear then they are an obstacle to your happiness.  However, obstacles can be overcome.

Another element to consider is the idea that we can have it all.  Like the increase in ADD, there has been an increase in the desire to have it all.  Many of us want more, and appreciate less.  This is not a recipe for happiness.  There is almost an addictive mechanism to the freedom and opportunities we have.  And like a drug, we build tolerance to it.  We take for granted that which we have and feel the need for more.

Freedom and opportunity are obviously basic human rights that all of us should have.  However, if, and when they foster an attitude of selfishness, entitlement, spoiled nature, and a lack of appreciation for what we do have, then they may needlessly sabotage happiness.

The path to happiness can be challenging to varying degrees for each individual based on too many factors for me to get into here, but if you’re not already there or if you feel like you can use a spike in happiness, that will be easier if:

  1. You can accept the things you can’t control.
  2. You can appreciate what you have.
  3. You augment goal oriented thinking with a focus on just making good choices and validating yourself for doing so.
  4. You name the fear inside of you and deal with it.
  5. You explore the current balance you have between choosing the practical over what is in your heart.
  6. You explore the current balance you have between planning for the future and living in the moment.  (And if you do not understand what living in the moment means, I urge you to do so.)
  7. You evaluate how you are taking care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and are open to improving.
  8. You read part III of this post… Coming soon!  (Okay this last one isn’t as important as the rest, but humor your humble blogger! 🙂
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Material placed on this website by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site and it does not provide medical or mental health advice. Jeff Schubert makes no representation, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information. The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

 

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Can We Talk About Bullying?

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Bullying is one of those things that when it happens to the degree that a bullying incident goes viral, people are quick to comment, and rightfully condemn the act.  But when the judgement is done.  When the venting is done.  What has changed?  Maybe a policy here or there?  I don’t want to minimize that.  I’m appreciative of efforts to put a stop to bullying.  However, like many issues, when the next story hits, bullying recedes to the background. 

What is inspiring me to write this today is  not long ago I had the opportunity to observe a martial arts class at Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts as part of a web show I am hosting called Destination EB.  I was looking forward to the training aspects of the episode as I had studied Tae Kwon Do in college.  I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Sensei Andrew Katz incorporate confidence and self-defense against bullying into his teaching.  These are worthwhile messages for boys and girls to learn.

Around the time of the filming, there was an anti bullying commercial/PSA from Burger King that had gone viral.   It’s a good one and worth watching if you haven’t seen it.  In the commercial, the bullying is done by actors, but the “spectators” don’t know this.  In the ad, a high school junior and some hamburgers get bullied.  To our collective shame, 95 percent of the customers reported their damaged burger, while only 12 percent came to the high school junior’s aid.

That sounds really bad, and it is, but the truth is humans can have a predictable reaction when it comes to potentially dangerous, or simply situations where they don’t know what to do.  They can freeze.  Observing a bullying situation, psychology may trigger the fight or flight response, and in this particular situation, the safe thing may be to do nothing.

  • What do I do?
  • What if the bullies start verbally assaulting me?
  • What if it leads to a fist fight?
  • What if they’re a minor and they attack me and I hit them in self-defense and am accused of using too much force?
  • What if they have a weapon?

These are just an example of a handful of questions that may consciously or unconsciously race through a person’s mind, when witnessing bullying, that can paralyze an otherwise good person from taking action.

In clinical groups that I lead I have often said the worst time to prepare for an earthquake is in an earthquake.  I think that message applies to anti-bullying.  If we want to lower that 95% number we have to arm people with information.  The “see something, say something” of the Burger King PSA is a simple message.  It is a start.  But the conversation needs to continue.  More scenarios need to be thought and talked through with what is and is not an acceptable response.

For example, I recently was certified in CPR/First Aid for the first time in over ten years.  First thing the instructor does when I tell him when I was last certified is, he spreads his arms as wide as he could and said, ten years ago I could teach you this much.  He then narrows his arms to where his hands are practically touching, and says now I can teach you this much.  Why?  Because when good Samaritans make mistakes or are overly aggressive, bad things can happen.  People can get hurt or die, and well intended people, who were trying to help, can get sued.

That last sentence could just as easily apply to a good Samaritan responding to a bully.  It is not offered as an excuse to do nothing, rather as reason why some may not.

The dialogue and education have to continue as to how to appropriately intervene AND follow-up.  Follow up, (by the parents, guardians, teachers, etc.) is extremely important.  Otherwise, you can unintentionally make a bad situation worse.  How?  Bullies don’t like getting in trouble.  When they do, they may blame their intended victim, and intensify the bullying behavior the next chance they get.  This includes threats to the victim to keep quiet or else.  If the victim doesn’t trust whoever is in authority to adequately deal with the bully, then the victim will stay quiet.

What the bully and the victim have in common is the ability to put on a good front.  Parents, teachers etc., must be diligent to see through it and follow-up even if there isn’t any evidence on the surface.

The victim needs to feel safe.  The bully needs to be held accountable for his behavior.  Both need to be educated in their own way moving forward or each will face emotional and psychological ramifications effecting present and future relationships.  But we can’t educate either until we educate ourselves.

Here are some links to learn more:

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Material placed on this website by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site and it does not provide medical or mental health advice. Jeff Schubert makes no representation, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information. The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

This website provides links to other websites. This website and its author, Jeff Schubert, have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this website links to another site does not mean that this website or Jeff Schubert endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which this website provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

How To Find Happiness

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There is an old expression, “money can’t buy happiness”.   Given, the rate of drug addiction, and suicide among not only the rich, but famous and powerful as well, it is fair to say that fame and power are not the yellow brick road to happiness either.  Further, at least 50% of marriages end in divorce and I suspect many marriages that stay together have their challenges to happiness too.

So what does this suggest about happiness?

  • It may not be bought.
  • It may not be a destination.
  • It may not be something we can necessarily find in others.
  • It is not necessarily something we can find in accomplishment.

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In other words, many of us are looking in the wrong places for happiness.  So, the obvious question this leads us to is where is the right place?  Inside of you of course.  Like many questions about your life, the answer lies within you, if you are willing to explore and be honest with yourself.  If you are willing to look beyond the quick fix.

Happiness will manifest differently for different people.  In some it can be extroverted, and filled with laughter.  For others, it is more of an internal feeling of peace and contentment.

You may begin to find it by being honest about your needs and wants.  A quote by author Steven Forrest comes to mind, “making your actions dominant over your fears and intentions”.

It’s a battle.  We do a good a job of screwing each other, and ourselves up.  It is no surprise many of us run from self-exploration.  And whether it is actual drugs, material things, relationships, goals or accomplishments we seek, or distractions of any kind (binge watching TV, fantasy football, etc) they act like drugs.  They can only temporarily sooth, or cover up various issues.  Issues, that not dealt with, can torpedo happiness.  Whether it is an unresolved conflict or repressed regret for a path not taken, these distractions can mask but generally not cure the longing inside of us to find more.  To find true happiness.

What to do next?  I’ll write about that in part II of this post.

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Material placed on this website by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site and it does not provide medical or mental health advice. Jeff Schubert makes no representation, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information. The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

This website provides links to other websites. This website and its author, Jeff Schubert, have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this website links to another site does not mean that this website or Jeff Schubert endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which this website provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

 

Make 2018 A Year Of Discovery!

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Peekaboo!  Ah the joy of discovery.  What laughter and joy it can bring.  In addition to fun and games, we humans are innately curious.  From newborns to old age there is something magical about the process of discovery.

So instead of resolutions, how about discoveries in 2018?

As the saying goes, resolutions are easy to make and easy to break.  So if you have been disappointed by resolutions in the past, discouraged from making them, or maybe they’ve never been your thing, forget resolutions and focus on what you can discover in the new year!

Ask yourself:  What can you discover about yourself in 2018?

  • That you enjoy doing?
  • About a relationship you are in?
  • About someone you love?
  • About how you love?
  • About a new hobby.
  • About the world we live in.
  • About other cultures.
  • About your own culture!
  • About the good things you have in your life.
  • About why you react the way you do?
  • About what makes you happy?

Discovery involves exploration and an open mind.  It can be scary.  And there is no guarantee you will always like what you find.

The rewards to discovery can be joy, excitement, personal growth, new experiences, or a new perspective on old ones, gratitude, letting go of things not working and the cathartic release that may come with it, and more…

Maybe in 2018 you will discover an interest in a sport, exercise or hobby that leads to better health, or weight loss… And the key here is, instead of thinking in the traditional terms of a “resolution to lose weight” which may feel like trying to turn a negative into a positive, and like a burden or responsibility, rather, to thinking about it in terms of discovering some activity you like.  Then, better health and weight loss will come as a byproduct of that!

Maybe you discover a new hobby which leads to new friendships, better mood, etc…

Maybe you discover a new career interest which leads to better pay and or life satisfaction OR…Maybe you discover something about your job, or the job market, that leads you to appreciate the one you have more.

Maybe you discover that you have the freedom to make choices and that the feeling of being trapped is a construct of your own mind, and you are free to move on or stay put.  And if you choose to stay put, this mental manipulation may help improve your outlook and lead to a happier more productive you!

I don’t think we ever lose that sense of wonderment that we are all born with.  Socialization, and maybe a few bumps in the road, has a way of locking it away sometimes.  But it is there.  You can unlock it!  And in 2018, I am challenging you to explore and or rediscover it!

All the best for a healthy and happy new year!

Peace on the journey.

Jeff

Blaming Obesity On Food Cost?

So I saw this meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a picture of a salad and a picture of a hamburger. The price underneath the burger is $1, and the price underneath the salad is $7. The meme then states, “Please, don’t write another article on obesity in America until you explain why salads are $7 and hamburgers are $1”. Of course the poster of the meme gets lots of “likes” and “anger” clicks… Hoo Ah!!
 
Except the meme is wrong. For a moment let’s get on board with the righteous anger over the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad. I say this sincerely as of course I would like healthier food to be less costly. However:
 
  • Does that mean articles about exercise, sleep, and medical/genetic conditions and how they can affect obesity should not be written?
  • Does it mean that articles about how to budget and eat healthier, or articles about maybe holding the mayo and the cheese from the “dollar” burger shouldn’t be written?
  • Does it mean that articles on the psychology of eating and or eating disorders, such as binge eating, should not be written?
No. No. And No.
 
Further, should people who are currently obese, and those vulnerable to becoming so, be encouraged or emboldened to boycott information and abdicate responsibility for their choices, or trying to become more informed, in some sort of protest because of the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad? Yeah, that would help them. #Sarcasm.
 
The meme infers cost of food is thee reason/cause of obesity.  While there is some evidence to suggest there is some validity to a connection between poverty and obesity, according to Pew Research: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together.  It can’t explain it all away.  
 
In addition, education also impacts obesity. Meaning in some instances, poor an uneducated translates to higher obesity rates than poor and educated. (See here and here.) This highlights the need for more articles/education on obesity, not less.
 
To imply that ALL obesity is because of food cost is wrong.  And to imply that low-income earners can only eat burgers is also wrong.
 
As an aside, I work with a homeless and a low-income population that get food stamps from the department of social services, or SSI and or SSDI from the social security administration… I know it is anecdotal… but I see many of them spend a lot more that a $1 on the fast food burgers they buy, not to mention the soda, candy and other poor food choices that add up and cost more than a salad.

Generally, f
ast food burgers for a buck are usually pretty small. Calorie wise, a junior cheeseburger for a $1 from Wendy’s has 280 calories. Three or four of those a day, on their own, will not make you obese. In other words, what are $1 cheeseburger eating people eating in addition? Fries? Sodas? Milkshakes? Just eliminating soda can lead to reduced weight and risk of diabetes.  Also, what are their exercise habits?  Are there metabolic issues?  Etc..
 
Other FYI considerations:
  1. You can make your own salads for far less than $7 bucks. 
  2. Healthy eating now could mean better health and less disease and medical bills later.
  3. It could also mean improved mood, self-esteem, and productivity. All of which could possibly lead to… wait for it… more income! 
  4. The burger/ salad question has no bearing on whether or not you exercise or have a medical condition or are taking medications for another medical condition that could lead to weight gain.

A moment ago I spoke anecdotally.  What is not anecdotal is over 2 billion people suffer from obesity.  Over 4 million people died from obesity related illness in 2015.  According to Dr Christopher Murray, from the University of Washington: “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.” 

Obesity needs to be covered from every aspect.  From causes, or contributing factors already mentioned such as: Cost, the psychology of eating, genetics, and medical conditions. Too other issues not discussed here: Such as access to healthy food, the media’s and Hollywood’s role, and a big one, advertising. (Think billions spent on advertising unhealthy food vs. the last time you saw a vegetable commercial.)  

They all (as well as issues I may have missed) need to continue to be explored. Given the complexity and myriad of factors involved in obesity, solutions may vary from person to person and involve a combination of lifestyle and or medicinal changes. 

Please don’t write another blog about obesity in America? Given the number of people effected by obesity and the potential health consequences… We’re not writing, or doing, enough.

12 Tips On How To Eat Healthier

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In my previous food blogs, Food, The Ultimate Trojan, and 8 Reasons Why American’s Eat The Way We Do, I wrote about the good and the bad about how and why we eat, what we eat. And if you read those blogs, you know there is a lot of not so good.

Here I will make suggestions on how to improve your diet. But not to worry, as a foodie myself, I still love the taste of food and eating. That doesn’t have to change when you eat healthier!

Recognizing the challenge that changing one’s diet can be, I want to encourage you to embrace two concepts:

Progress not perfection – Focus on what you can do, and not on what you cannot. Feel good about the progress you make. Don’t beat yourself up if you do not live up to yours, or someone else’s expectations, all of the time.

Harm reduction – A less bad choice is a positive step in the right direction. Change will come easier for some than others. It is not a competition. If you consume something that has less sugar and “bad” fat, such as trans or saturated, for many, that is a good start.

It’s about the process. Oftentimes with diet or exercise, if people do not see or feel the results they’re hoping for in a short span of time they get discouraged and give up.

In embracing progress not perfection and harm reduction, “the win” is the positive steps you are increasing and or the negative steps you are decreasing. The results will come. It reminds me of the song from the animated classic, Santa Clause Is Coming To Town, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other. If the Winter Warlock can do it, so can you!

So without further ado, consider one or all of the below tips to help get you on a healthier more actualized path of eating.

12- Have a cheat day – No. Not that kind of cheat day! For some people, eating healthy 6 out 7 days is too much too soon. This tip is for people who want to change slooowwwwlllyyy. If you’re eating poorly seven days a week, or however you’re eating, for you a cheat day = one day a week of healthy or healthier eating.

Give yourself one day where you improve from whatever your baseline is. For bonus points:

  1. Eat a whole foods, plant based diet. You can incorporate meals around lentils, beans, fruits vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and spices*.
  2. No processed foods on this day.
  3. if you have meat, have it at one meal and just a single grass-fed portion.

For beverages? Eliminate soda, and energy drinks. Try sticking to water, herb teas, or vegetable based smoothies/juices. Experiment with different combinations of the above. You will find something you like.

After you get consistent with one healthy cheat day a week, stretch it to two. And after you get comfortable with two, well you can see where this is going.

11- Pick one – Another way to begin your adjusting, is to pick one. Pick one bad thing to outright eliminate from your diet. And pick one good thing to add to it.

At mid-life, a good friend of mine wanted to make a conscious effort to eat better, start exercising, and lose weight. For years I unsuccessfully tried to get him off the soda. Regular or diet, I’m not a fan. But now he was ready. He gave it up cold. It was challenging for him for about a month. However, it went from challenging, to progressively easier, to him saying, “My God I can’t believe I drank that garbage for so long!”

From there, he was able to make more changes. I am both happy and proud of him because he did not get the results he was looking for right away but he stuck with it. Tried different things. He kept making positive choices. He recently turned 50 and he has reached his goals and says he feels better than he ever has.

Whether it is a vegetable, a piece of fruit, a healthy omega 3 fat food, or supplement, pick something good to add to your diet.

And if you can’t eliminate something entirely, remember progress not perfection, and harm reduction, cut down and go from there.

10- Don’t be a sucker for the latest headlines – If you do see a post you like that makes a, to good to be true claim about a questionable food or nutrient:

  1. Question it.
  2. Read counter expert opinions.
  3. Check methodology of study, i.e. – know what is being compared to what.

Borrowing from Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org, and how easy it is to make something look good, (such as saturated fat), one could claim, that based on a recent study, a diet with butter lowers your chance of having a heart attack. Well, hypothetically, if I have two groups in a study, and one group has a small amount of butter, and the other has five candy bars a day and the candy bar group has 14% more heart attacks, the designer of that study can now say according to my study butter lowers your heart attack risk.

Now cue the, “butter is back”, headlines. And if the study is not explored further? You wind up with people bathing their food in butter as if it were the nectar of the Gods! Again, don’t be suckered by headlines.

Stick with tried and true, whole foods, plant based diet, with grass-fed meat for non vegans, and whole grains. Ix-nay on the transfat, keep the saturated fats and heavily processed foods down, and get plenty of omega 3.

Trying to change eating habits can be challenging enough without conflicting information playing on our desires and food addictions. Tune out the white noise as discussed in my previous post and here is the link that includes what experts with differing opinions on diet (paleo, vegan etc.) were able to come together and agree on.

9- Portion control – According to the American Heart Association a single serving of lean meat is two to three ounces. So if you go to a restaurant and get a ten to twelve ounce steak, you’re getting four to five times that. Factor in some bread and butter and I can feel those arteries cringing. Do this several times a week or more and do the math on how you are potentially taxing your system with excess fat, sodium and calorie intake.

I’ve got a word for you… LEFTOVERS! Eat less, save money, be healthier. That sounds like win win to me.

You can do the same with sugar. Depending on your height and weight 25 to 50 grams of added sugar a day may be what is recommended not to exceed. (added sugar includes all forms of sugar except for the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and dairy) Long term, ideally you will reduce this to as close to zero as possible.

For now, portion control your added sugar. If you’re not already, start reading labels. Devise realistic goals that you can accomplish. Aside from anything else, sugar is just plain dangerous.

8- Stop Overeating! – It goes hand in hand with portion control. In addition to portion control, eat slower, and try drinking a glass of water before you eat.

Here we can also take a lesson from the Chinese. Cut your food before you eat it, and eat with chopsticks instead of a fork. This may assist you in eating slower, getting content by eating less, and digesting better!

Do you always finish what is on your plate out of some sense of obligation to those in poor countries who do not have food? You want to help starving children in another country? Donate money to them, but using them as an excuse to stuff your pie hole is not helping them! (Or you.) Of course another option is to eat on a smaller plate!

Since, in theory your mind registering the feeling of being full operates on a delay, if you wait until you feel full or “stuffed”, you’ve likely over eaten. This may not apply to obese individuals or others who suffer from leptin resistance, however you don’t know until you try, plus there are other reasons to eat slower.

7- Don’t be intimidated by cost – If you’re eating less, slower, and having leftovers. If you’re eating less meat and less sweets, then the switch to healthier foods may be negligible at worst. Far more significantly, if you’re eating healthier, you are less likely to get sick in the short-term and add to the growing statistics of people who succumb to a preventative disease.

  1. More likely to live longer. 
  2. Less likely to miss work/pay.
  3. More likely to feel better on a day-to-day basis.
  4. More likely to save on medical costs. 

6- Disassociate food from moods. For example, if you’re a stress eater, come up with new ways to react when stressed. You must have ideas in place for this to work. The next time I get stressed I will… and fill in that blank. It can be exercise, talk to a friend, write in a journal, read a book, harm reduction, eat something healthy, heck, I’ll even take watching TV if it gets you off the skittles! Same goes for boredom and other moods.

For more on emotional eating, and solutions, click here.

5- Reclaim your free will – In my previous blogs I talked about the various influences that can creep into a person’s mind, such as advertising, parents, peers and so on that corrupt your free will. I challenge you to be or become aware of them and reject them. If you do and you still want to make the same choices, then go for it. However, you may choose to go in completely different/ healthier direction, or somewhere in-between. Ways to do this are through research (more on that below), shutting out advertising, and going through a periodic detox diet to kick-start yourself.

Hypnosis can potentially be a powerful tool in reclaiming your free will. A myth about hypnosis is that you are giving up control, when in fact it, when done correctly, it is about regaining it. Unfortunately it is not regulated so it may be challenging to find a credible one but that should not stop you from considering.

4- Do your research – Research? I know, not a fun word. But I’m thinking, with all the tweeting, posting, chatting, texting, and so on, there is a little time in the day for #research!

I can maybe understand denial or the blasé mentality of, “oh it will never happen to me”, when it came to things like cancer in the early 1900’s when the odds were somewhere between 1 and 20 or 30 people being diagnosed with it. But now, according to the American Cancer Society, it is roughly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 for men.

And cancer is the number 2 cause of death. I can rattle off more statistics for heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity, Alzheimer’s and more but hopefully you get the point. Mindful, conscious eating has never been more important.

U.S. News & World Report has an annual ranking of best diets that can assist you in familiarizing yourself with some of what is out there. They have different ranking for diet based on this like weight loss, cancer, heart disease etc..

When you consider the Time.Com report that Nearly Half Of US Deaths Can Be Prevented With Lifestyle Changes, it makes sense to give your diet the attention it deserves.

In this era of fake news, fact check and don’t only go to websites that confirm what your already believe.

3- Create healthy (or less unhealthy) alternatives –  For example, I love warm apple fritters. So when I’m reaalllyyy feeling the urge I will have a piece of organic Ezekiel toast with a little raw organic honey, a splash of organic extra virgin olive oil, and some organic true cinnamon. It delicious and hits the spot!

2- Have a Plan – When I facilitate groups at the mental health center where I work, I often say the worst time to prepare for an earthquake is in an earthquake! If you try to make changes on the fly, you will make things harder on yourself.

  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Try apps like Myfitnesspal.
  3. Do it with a spouse or friend.
  4. Go to meetup groups.
  5. Prep your meals in advance. Start bringing healthy dishes with you to work and holiday parties.
  6. In addition to fat and sugar, restaurant food can be load with sodium. Here are some tips to help you plan for eating out.
  7. See if your insurance offers any discounts or services that could help. (such as gym, massage, supplements or other discounts)

Until I got comfortable with my diet I would type it out and save in the draft folder of me email. Don’t eat or shop when you’re hungry for as you may have heard it is far more difficult to be disciplined in those situations.

1- Pay attention to your particular needs and health circumstances – Blogs and articles are generally… you guessed it, general. You are a specific. Consult your doctor before making diet changes as he or she will know about any health specific concerns you should consider. Perhaps as important is to consult a dietitian. As medical doctors do not receive much training in nutrition.

If you’ve read my three food blogs, or even just this lengthy one, you have an interest in diet and self-improvement. I encourage you to continue to cultivate and act on it.  Follow reading the post by writing out a list of 5 things you can do next. I wish you well on your journey.

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*If you are not used to fiber in your diet, integrate it slowly. From My.ClevelandClinic.org: Add fiber to your diet slowly. Too much fiber all at once may cause cramping, bloating, and constipation.” Don’t let that discourage you! The Cleveland link also speaks to fiber’s many benefits! And most people are lacking in it.

Disclaimers:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

This website provides links to other websites.  I have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this blog provides links to other sites does not mean that I endorse or accept any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which I provide a link, you do so at your own risk.

8 Reasons American’s Eating Habits Are What They Are

 

eat-fast-foodIn my previous post on food, I wrote about food being the ultimate Trojan. If we don’t eat, we die. Faced with that choice the vast majority of us do choose to eat.

Given the extremely high rates of obesity, diabetes, acid reflux, cancer, heart disease, and so on, and the impact food can have on those maladies, it is fair to say we may not be making the best choices.

Like other human characteristics, habits and behaviors, the conditioning and socialization of how, when, and what we eat, begins at birth. It is influenced by culture, economic class, and parenting. As we age, peers, and other social groups subliminally assert their influence as well. And of course lets not forget the billion dollar food industry, with billions of dollars at stake, prefer not to leave you’re eating choices to chance.

So with that in mind, and in no particular order, here are 8 reasons why our eating habits are what they are.

Illusion of free willPerhaps more than any country, Americans pride ourselves on our free will. The food industry, consisting of many tentacles, does in fact spend billions of dollars in advertising trying to manipulate that free will. All the commercials, magazine/ web ads, product placement and integration in TV and film, celebrity endorsements, and billboards in the middle of bum f*#k nowhere; are done so that when you get hungry and think to yourself, “hmm what am I in the mood for?” You actually think you’re spontaneously thinking of their product…. Fat chance!

Think of it another way. Would American eating habits be the same if billions were not spent on advertisements for fast and junk food? Or if billions were spent on healthy food? I submit the answer is no. Our eating habits would not be the same, in fact they would be radically different. So the question then becomes, do we… do you… want to let advertising continue to manipulate your “free will?”

Misinformation campaign We don’t all have the time or the inclination to get PhD’s in nutrition. So, for many looking for professional guidance, that leaves us in the hands of the media and “experts”.  Of course big food buys themselves some experts. Their experts don’t have to convince us. They win by confusing us with misinformation about what is good or bad for us food/health-wise. Dr. David L. Katz details this well in his post, Why ‘No Two Nutritionists Agree’ Is A Myth.

If they can confuse us, they can get us to throw our hands up in frustration. “First they say this is bad for you and then it’s good, then it’s bad, whatever I’ll eat what I want”. Unfortunately, this is an effective strategy. Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.Org explains it nicely in two blogs:

In the past I have written how I think the precautionary principle, should be applied to cancer prevention. Science may not yet be able to prove certain foods and lifestyles cause or prevent things like cancer and heart disease, but as I stated in my previous food blog, with over 1.2 million people dying a year from them, I believe just a wee bit of precaution is warranted.  

To be fair, just because a specific industry is funding research that doesn’t disqualify the research in and of itself, but of course it should be disclosed, and a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent.  For example, according to Rebekah’s Kearn’s piece in CourtHouse News, “The egg industry is increasingly involved in financing studies on dietary cholesterol. It funded 29 percent of such studies in 1992, 41 percent of the studies in 2001, and 92 percent in 2013, the complaint states”.

Think about this the next time you see a headline promoting health benefits of eggs while denying or downplaying any possible health risk.  At the very least, their findings are worth a deeper look, especially if you read how Dr. Greger explains how easy it is to design a misleading study.

Food is an addiction And like other addictions, there are many times when addicts are in denial. Obstacles that may be unique to a food addiction are: it is easier to hide, it is legal, and lots of people do it. In other words, a food addiction can be hidden in plain sight. And of course while we don’t have to smoke, take pills or inject ourselves, we do have to eat something. 

Speaking of denial, if food is an addiction, then like other addictions, when one is in the throes of it, it may be very challenging to get them to admit it, or do anything about it. They may also seek to rationalize and justify their eating similar to how an alcoholic may do the same with drinking.

Couple denial with the fact that we are living in an unprecedented era of political correctness, it may be deemed too offensive to point out how someone’s eating may be contributing to their weight and current and possibly future health problems.  They may drop dead prematurely, but hey, at least they won’t be offended by anyone.  

Eating for the wrong reason If nature had its way we would eat when hungry to provide vital nutrients to survive. However, we eat when we’re depressed, bored, stressed, angry, and so on.  

This is neither physically or emotionally healthy. This is an extension of food being an addiction. Further, just as smokers and drug addicts will use their substance of choice as a response to “triggers”, so to will people form associations with eating when in certain moods, time of day, activities, etc., that have nothing to do with hunger. In addition, not only are there triggers for eating when not hungry, there are triggers for eating unhealthy foods.

We also eat when we confuse hunger for food when we are actually thirsty. Drink a big glass of water and see if that satiates you till your next meal.

Cultural traditionsThere are cultural traditions, and generational beliefs, associated with food, food preparation, and eating that mindlessly get passed down from generation to generation. These traditions and beliefs may originate from a time when there may not have been the knowledge of the effects of food on physical and emotional health that we have today.

Laziness and convenienceIn our rush rush world, who has the time to cook? Who has the time to read beyond the headlines of health news? Fast food, processed food and the dying art of cooking makes healthy eating more challenging.  

Blissfully ignorant – If everyone were in the movie, The Matrix, my bet is many would pick the blue pill. Some people are so in love with their food addictions that they don’t want to know. They consciously choose denial.

If only the blue pill came without consequences such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and so on.  But it doesn’t. Knowing and ignoring this is also symptomatic of denial of a different fact of life: Death. “Those bad things won’t happen to me”.  Hopefully they won’t.  And while there are no guarantees, the percentages are such that it seems unwise to ignore the effect of diet on quality and quantity of life.

Food cost – Crapola food can be cheaper than healthy food. There are two ways to address this. One, that is the short-term view. When you consider the cost of health, disease, the effect on mood, and so on, spending a little more for food in the present can save not only money, but pain and suffering as well.

Second, wherever you are on the continuum of health/unhealthy eating, I would suggest you can do better and that limited funds is not an excuse.  I say this as someone who works in mental health with homeless and mentally ill adults that are on food stamps.  I’m with them at the market. I make suggestions, they make choices. If you don’t want to eat better, you don’t want to, but in many cases it is not because of cost. 

An example I have given many times to friends and clients is two people buy the same car off the same lot on the same day.  Owner A, changes the oil and gets routine maintenance done on schedule. He drives close to the speed limit and so on.  Owner B saves money along the way and gets oil changes when he remembers and takes the car in for service a few thousand miles after an indicator light goes on. He frequently drives well over the speed limit. Which car is going to last longer?  As the cars age, which will perform better?  I suppose if Owner B is wealthy or doesn’t mind using credit cards he can get new car parts or even a new car if and when needed. Organs can’t always be replaced.   

There you have some reasons why we eat the way we do.  Sorry to get all gloom and doom on you towards the end but the best way to avoid the negative in the future is to confront it today!

One final note is that I am specifically not addressing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia is this blog, nor did I in my previous food blog. I feel those conditions require distinct focus and attention. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with any eating disorder please seek medical and psychological attention.    

In my next post on food I will offer suggestions for those interested in making some changes.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

 

Food, The Ultimate Trojan

over-eating

According to mythology, a Trojan Horse was a huge wooden horse given as a gift. However, it was nefariously used to hide soldiers inside the horse to sneak them across battle lines, and help the Greeks win the war against Troy.

Today, more people are familiar with the term trojan virus; where something inviting, that you want to look at on your computer, is encrypted with something damaging. Once opened and inside, like the battalion of soldiers, the virus can be destructive.

So what makes food the ultimate trojan?  Unlike a wooden horse or a curious file we download, we need food to live.

The food we put in our mouths may seem like a gift and, if done consciously, food will not only enable us to live, it can give us energy, assist in making us feel better when sick, and extend our lives. However, if done haphazardly, this “gift” of food can operate like a trojan and wreak havoc on our systems.  It can sap us of our energy, assist in exacerbating or even causing depression and anxiety, it can contribute to or cause illness and disease.  

Ultimately “trojan food” can cause a premature systems failure: fatigue and moodiness at the least, and premature disease and death at worst.

We get all worked up about guns and terrorism (understandably so) but they are far less likely to kill us then our diet (combined with other lifestyle behaviors). In 2014, death by gun occurred 33,736 times, and for terrorism we lost 32 lives. This gives us a combined total of 33,768 deaths. Sad and tragic as this may be, it pales in comparison to death by heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,699) also in 2014, for combined total of 1,206,047. That is… one million… two hundred six thousand… and forty-seven. 

Between heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, respiratory illness, good eating habits is one factor that could greatly reduce mortality and assist with other chronic conditions facing many of us, such as Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

So, friend or foe, which is food you?

healthy_vs_unhealthy_food_foodguruz-in_

To put it bluntly, it is foe for a lot of us. The average American diet stinks. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. On average we only get one serving of fruit a day? And apparently if you cut out french fries and ketchup that number goes down. Wow.

Despite all of the rhetoric about what constitutes a healthy diet, there is a basic agreement that a whole foods plant-based is good, and processed crap (including processed meat, refined carbs and sugar laden “food”) is bad.

So why do so many reject or ignore basic healthy eating guidelines and continue to stuff their pie holes with crapola?

Like big pharma, big food spends not millions, but billions, to get inside of our heads. The goal being to get us to think that what we want, our free will, is what leads us to eat food that might actually be slowly killing us.  

evil-junk-food-companies1

And like the tobacco industry big food targets our kids because ya hook um young and you have a customer for life. Google the phrase “food is the new tobacco” and see what comes up. Here is one piece.

Further, food can be addictive.  Knowing this, what do you think the makers of big food do?  Put more or less of what is addictive, like added sugar, into their version of a trojan horse?  (FYI sugar substitutes have issues of their own.)

The good news is you can retrain your taste buds.  

Confession time. Despite always being thin, I have been a food glutton for a good portion of my life.  If it wasn’t stapled down I would eat it.  In the lunch room in high school, when friends would see me coming, they would go the other way, especially if I hadn’t eaten yet.  My motto was fast food wasn’t fast enough!   The older I got, the more into health I became.  My eating habits changed out of concern for:

  • Health.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Effects of food choices on the environment. 

An unexpected surprise was that these health foods started to taste really good!  A lot of the unhealthy things I use to eat that I have once in a while don’t taste as good, making it easier to further refine my habits.  Yes I still have my weaknesses and “cheat” here and there, but I feel like I have woken up.  

This isn’t about vegan vs. carnivore.  You can make healthy and unhealthy choices, including gluttony, within each realm.  The idea is to make conscious, mindful choices.  

Do some research, (these days I feel compelled to warn against fake news sites) and if you’re the all or nothing type, make radical changes. If you’re the dip your foot in the pool type, start small.  That is what I did, and the way I eat today is practically unrecognizable from where I use to be.  

Today, when I read through ingredients on websites and food labels, I get turned off by what I see knowing that the makers intentionally spike food with addictive substances (like sugar, fat, and salt) knowing how bad they are for health.  And just like suspicious emails that may contain a trojan, I stare at it for moment, shake my head no and move on.  Not today trojan, I’m not falling for you.

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Disclaimer:

Before considering any new diet program, or making any diet changes, please check with your doctor and clear any diet changes with him or her before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian and nothing in this blog should be used to replace medical advice.

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For those interested in the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian eating, I recommend the website: http://NutritionFacts.org

One of the articles embedded in this blog is Oldways Common Ground Consensus Statement on Healthy Eating.  The committee is composed of the below persons.  Co chair, Dr. David Katz has a great health and nutrition blog for you to consider following.  He has a non-judgmental balanced perspective.

The objective of the committee was to get experts with differing opinions on healthy eating (vegan vs. paleo, etc.) together to see what they can agree on.

Chairs:

David Katz, MD, MPH, Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition; Chairman of the Department of Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Participants:

Steven Abrams, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Dell Medical School, University of Texas (Austin, TX)

Sara Baer-Sinnott, President, Oldways (Boston, MA)

Neal Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine (Washington, DC)

T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and Founder, T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (Ithaca, NY)

S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Professor Emeritus, Emory University (Atlanta, GA)

Alessio Fasano, MD, Director, Center for Celiac Research; Chief, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and Associate Chief, Department of Pediatrics, Basic, Clinical and Translational Research, Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

Christopher Gardner, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine (Stanford, CA)

Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

David Jenkins, MD, DSc, PhD, Professor, Department of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto; Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital; Director, Risk Factor Modification Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, CA)

Tom Kelly, PhD, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sustainability Institute at University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, MD, MPH, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean, Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (Boston, MA) Malden Nesheim, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Provost Emeritus, Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Dean Ornish, MD, Founder and President, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (Sausalito, CA)

Simon Poole, MBBS, DRCOG, Medical Practitioner and Commentator (Cambridge, UK)

Eric Rimm, ScD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Loma Linda University School of Public Health (Loma Linda, CA)

Meir Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President, Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nutrition at the School of Medicine, University of Athens (Athens, Greece)

 

 

10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression?

tough-questions

When I scrolled down my yahoo news feed and saw a post with the headline, 10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression, as someone who works in mental health with clients who suffer from major depression, I was intrigued.

It’s an important subject because depression is far more prevalent than we would like to admit. Knowing how to see the signs and talk to people can make a difference.

I respect the author, Julie Revelant for writing the piece. However, while I agree with portions of it, I either disagreed or found much of her list to be an oversimplification.  You can read her entire article here.

Speaking of oversimplification, there is only so much to be gleaned from a blog on a topic like this. There are too many variables to account for every situation.

Therefor before I get to my critique of what Relevant says you should not say, maybe something you should say to someone with depression is have you thought about talking to someone professionally? While many experience mild to moderate depression, others experience major depression that can be life threatening.  This is not something to be diagnosed and treated by someone not qualified to do so.

Keeping the above qualifier in mind: Here are the 10 things Relevant states you should never say to someone with depression and my take on it.

1. “Don’t think about it.”

This is not an absolute.  Some may think about their depression too much, others not at all. Negative emotions can be signals your subconscious is trying to send you that something is off.  Another word for not thinking about depression or problems, is denial.

A common point where I will agree with many of the things on Relevant’s list is while some of the phrases don’t work as statements, they may work as questions.

If you think someone is depressed and is thinking about it too much, perhaps you can ask them how is thinking about the problem helping?  Is it possible to focus on something else for a little while?  Is the person ruminating and dwelling on problems?  If so, you can assist them in focusing on solutions.  In this way they are still “thinking” about it but you are redirecting them towards the positive by changing the focus.

Further, by questioning and suggesting rather than stating, you are acknowledging and empowering rather than belittling and dismissing.

Here, Revelant quotes Dr. Susan Noonan, a certified peer specialist and consultant in Boston, Massachusetts, “The thing about depression is that it’s not something you can will away. It’s a biologically based medical condition of the mind and the body”.

 

depressioninterventions

I agree with the first part of the statement, in that alleviating depression requires some intervention. To try and will it away, on its own, is not enough. If the depression is mild maybe the person can intervene on his own.  For moderate to major depression, maybe a trusted friend or therapist’s help will be needed.

Where I respectfully question Dr. Noonan is when she refers to depression as a biologically based medical condition.  From this I infer that she believes all depression must be treated with medication and or by a psychiatrist.  And while those suffering from depression should have an initial evaluation by an M.D. and a psychologist, medicine is not needed for all.  In some cases a person may benefit from being on meds for life, others for a brief time, and others are capable of doing fine with talk therapy, and improving things like diet and exercise.  Never needing medication.

2. “Just think positively.”

If said on its own, I agree with Revelant that it should not be said.  But there is whole segment in the field of psychology called cognitive behavior therapy that is based on helping people see through cognitive distortions and redirecting absolute negative thinking. If a friend is depressed “because nothing ever works outs”… true, you should not say “just think positively.” However you can ask him, can you think of a time when anything, anything at all worked out? Usually that answer will be yes. Start with a small positive and build from there.

Ask him to forget about the big picture for a moment, and think about one or two things, no matter how small, that can move him in the direction he wants to go.

In this case you are not telling him to think positive but you are leading him to thinking positively or at least piercing the distortion, and having positive thoughts.

3. “Be grateful.”

One issue I have with the statement, “be grateful”, in addition to what Relevant talks about, is you run the risk of pushing the depressed person away.

rogers_empathy

On its own, be grateful doesn’t convey empathy or understanding.  But let’s assume you spent some time expressing empathy and understanding; asking (as opposed to telling) your friend if they have anything in their life to be grateful for can be a positive redirect.  Or an indication of a deeper level of depression than you realized if he doesn’t respond.

And if after gentle probing and or suggestions of things to be grateful for, your friend cannot find something, you may consider contacting another friend or loved one to help, and or reiterate the importance of talking to a professional.

4. “No one ever said life was going to be easy.”

Certainly not an ice-breaker.  If a friend is struggling with or didn’t meet a life challenge, after expressing empathy, possible questions to ask are:  What were your expectations?  What can you learn from this? What can you do differently moving forward?

Revelant states, “This statement makes it sound as if the person who is suffering has control of what is going on his brain”.  IF the depression has a biochemical connection than all of the talking in the world may be insufficient, unless it’s the talk that gets the person to the doctor.

retraining-brain

However, our brains do get trained to think and react in a certain way and it is possible to retrain them. If the need for medication is ruled out or perhaps in conjunction with, a person can, if not in total, gain a measure of control.

If negative messages and thinking have seeped into our brains and predominated for years and years, then it will take more than one catchphrase, or one therapy session to turn it around.  But in many cases it can be turned around!  “Obstacles” can become challenges.  “Failures” can become opportunities to learn and improve… or… present an opportunity to make a different choice that works out even better!

Events that occur are immutable.  They are what they are.  Perspective, how we look at them and respond are very mutable… we can change them!

5. “Turn to God.”

I generally agree with the original post here.  I would add that faith is not limited to God or even a higher power.  There is room for faith to help in an atheist or an agnostic as well.

Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, uses a metaphor of avoiding a car accident.  He says, we are taught, if we are about to get into a car collision and we look at what we are about to hit, we will indeed get into an accident.  However if we look away, we will turn away.  You can encourage others to look in the direction they want to go as opposed to focusing on what they view as the accident.  It is a, “my room is a mess”, versus “today I am going to clean my room” mentality.

As Robbins would point out, One focus’ on the problem, the other the solution.  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.  But faith can be a powerful precursor/motivator that can drive action and be the spark that helps initiate change, and positively affect mood while in its pursuit.

One can find faith in many places:

  • God.
  • Spirituality.
  • Religion.
  • In yourself.
  • In a process that has worked for many others.
  • In a healer.
  • In a friend or family member.
  • In having a purpose.

6. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

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Here, after expressing empathy, I would rephrase:  Are you feeling sorry for yourself?  If yes, ask why. Empathize, validate the feeling but then ask what would help you after feeling sorry for yourself?  This attempts to get your friend unstuck and moving forward.  If they don’t know, perhaps suggest keeping a journal, and free associative writing.

7. “I know how you feel—I’ve been sad, too.”

Relevant and the Dr. she quotes have a problem with this one.  I agree you shouldn’t say this just to say it. However, it can be okay if you truly can relate to how the person feels, and can offer an experience that is relatable to who you’re talking to.  In working with adults and abused adolescents, I have seen this work again and again.  As a facilitator of groups on various mental health topics, some of the most valuable moments come not from the educational materials handed out, or anything my co-facilitators or I said, rather the empathetic understanding of peers in the group who shared their similar experience.

And this is one of  those things where the situation or timing may affect the appropriateness of saying something like this to a friend, and his receptiveness to it.  Right after a person loses a loved one, they probably don’t want to hear, “I know how you feel”.  Five months later in a loss and grief group it may be beneficial to be surrounded by people who know how they feel.

8. “Get over it.” 

Yeah, not a fan of this one.  But in keeping with rephrasing, depending on the issue, you may be able to ask why do you think you’re having a difficult time getting over this?  Especially if the person has a history of being able to emotionally recover from depressing events such as breakups, not getting a job, etc..

9. “You don’t look depressed.”

Not as bad as number 8, but not a good lead in either.  My theory on this phrase, which is similarly used in response to when someone says they are terminally ill, is, it is a defensive response due to being caught off guard by sharing, and not immediately knowing what to say.

Relevant states that what the person hears is, “I don’t believe you or you’re a fake”.  What I hear is, the mask I have projected to keep you from knowing how depressed I am is working.

As with all of the above, the best thing you can do for your friend is get yourself to a place of empathy, make your friend feel heard and understood before attempting to go to positive redirection.  And if you gauge the moment to be right, at some point during the conversation you can offer positive reinforcement in an area(s) where your friend is doing/looking well.

10. “You need a hobby.”

At its worst this statement can come off as condescending, and at its best it can still come off as dismissive.

In question form, have you thought about a hobby?  Can take on a different meaning.  And follow the initial question with probing for areas of interest and you may come up with something. Pair this probing with the aforementioned empathy and understanding, while a hobby may not cure the depression, it may be able to assist.  Then it is not dismissive or condescending.

Revelant correctly points out that people who are depressed do lose interest in activities they use to enjoy.  Clinically, this is referred to as anhedonia . However not all people who suffer from depression suffer from anhedonia or the same degree of it. A little push and encouragement may be the thing that helps get your friend back on track.

As suggested in the beginning, both this and Relevant’s post are simplifications.  There is a broad range to depression, that is not limited from mild to major.  There is also bi-polar.

Treating clinical depression can be challenging enough for the trained professional, if a friend or family member reaches out to you with depression, I would encourage you to encourage them to seek professional help.

Practically speaking, a lot of people do prefer to talk to their friends.  In this situation you can bring your authentic intention to help.  Actively listen.  Provide empathy.  Provide validation. And if appropriate, ask questions and make suggestions that try to steer your friend to some positive thoughts.

If you are not comfortable or if your friend continues to use you as a crutch, and it is not helpful to him and stressful for you, then to take care of yourself and to keep from potentially enabling your friend, you may need to draw a boundary that is in the best interest of yourself and your friend.  Which circles us back to therapy.

RE: Therapy, there are many therapists who offer a sliding scale and there are other options for those with low-income.  You can try contacting a local graduate school and see if they have interns available for a low fee.

If a friend is resistant to therapy because they don’t believe in it…Encourage them to keep an open mind. If they tried it in the past and did not like the therapist, suggest there are good and bad of everything and to give it another try, especially if they have never been evaluated for medication.  There are natural remedy’s and diet changes to try first if they are uncomfortable with meds or that is their preference.  Full disclosure, I use a natural remedy called Sam-e (with b-complex) with some positive results.

Initially, the best thing you can do is just be there for your friend.  They probably realize you are not a pro and may not be looking to you for solutions rather just to be understood and perhaps for attention.  If someone comes to you beyond a level you’re comfortable with, then take care of yourself and gently let your friend know this.

Here are some referrals:

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  2. Befrienders Worldwide
  3. Families For Depression Awareness
  4. Teen Health and Wellness (this link offer hotline numbers for lots of teen issues)
  5. ULifeline (for college mental health)
  6. The Trevor Project (For LBGTQ)
  7. Postpartum Depression
  8. Vets Prevail 
  9. Crisis Help Line – Offers hotlines for many issues. 800-233-4357
  10. Crisis Text Line 

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THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  WHILE I DO WORK FOR A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY WITH THE JOB TITLE OF, MENTAL HEALTH REHABILITATION SPECIALIST, I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

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Neutral State Of Consciousness

A Climate Change Concept Image

(c)kwest19/bigstockphoto.com

Are your thoughts, drives, and actions inspired by something you want to have? Or something you want to avoid?

For example: Do you want to be in a relationship to love and share or do you not want to be alone? Is being in a dysfunctional relationship preferable to being alone? Most wouldn’t answer yes, yet many do enter and or stay in such relationships when it is clear that it is far from ideal.

How long can you stand to be alone with your thoughts? When so, what is your state of mind? Is it boredom? Contentment? Fear? Jubilation? Loneliness? Depression or anxiety? A combination of things?

It has been said that we humans have a survival instinct. I would agree that we do. However I have seen many people knowingly engage in behaviors such as smoking, drugs, bad diet, and so on, that would seem to work against their own survival. It doesn’t mean they lack a survival instinct, but it does suggest that something going on inside of them is powerful enough to override it in some cases.

It has also been said that we humans need a purpose. “A reason to get up everyday”. Indeed, retirement doesn’t sit well with many. Retirement and the loss of a spouse is a double whammy that many do not recover from. But why do we need a purpose? Why do we need a reason to get up everyday? Why can’t we peacefully, joyfully exist in silence? Why do some of us have to fill ourselves up with relationships and a gluttony of things to do? Anything to avoid being alone with ourselves?

My theory is, it is like we are lost and running in the desert.  Either we are running towards our hopes, away from our fears or combination of both. Running away from our anxieties and towards that which we subconsciously believe will alleviate them.

Confusion Concept.

(c)sam2172/bigstockphoto.com

One challenge is that we want our hopes so badly, and want to avoid our fears just as much, that we sometimes cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is a mirage.

In a relaxed, meditative, neutral state of consciousness, figure out who you are. Where you are. The only wrong answers are the dishonest ones. We come across these when we try to deceive ourselves in to thinking we are what we think we should be. What we have been raised or conditioned to be.

What are your honest hopes, fears, dreams, likes and dislikes? Ask yourself, how do your actions and behaviors move you towards or away from what it is you want, and what it is you want to avoid.

You can also apply this to belief systems and thought processes. How do they serve or sabotage the stillness of your mind?

If you are engaging in something to avoid anxiety, depression or loneliness, it may just be an escape. Even if it is not a “bad” escape like drugs, it is still an escape that may be doing nothing more than filling a void.

If it does so as a temporary band-aid to see you through something, it can be helpful.  If it is more permanent, than it may seem all well and good until one day you see it for what it is, and it leaves you feeling empty and questioning and reevaluating life.

A neutral state of consciousness may help you figure this all out. Shine a light on what makes you tick. It could leave you feeling more peaceful, and have you making choices based on what you want rather than what you want to avoid. The latter being a recipe for seeing things that aren’t there, settling, and an inner turmoil that you can never quite put your finger on, but that you know is always there.

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I have three exercises for you.

1- Find yourself some alone time. No TV, no reading, no computer, conversation, etc. It is just you alone on an island.  Eyes open.  Exist here for as long as you can.  Right down how you feel.  What are your thoughts and feelings?  What are you wanting to do and why?

Now take  it one step deeper…

2- Meditate.  On a different day.  Find some more alone time to meditate.  If meditation is not normally your thing, not too worry.  Find a time when you have no distractions.  Yes, I know that can be challenging, but if this is important to you, you can do it.

Close your eyes.  Take some deep breaths.  In through you nose and out through you mouth.  Give yourself permission to let go of all of your concerns.  Tell yourself those concerns will be there when you are done and it is okay to let go for a little while.  All that matters is the moment and the breath.  Visualize or imagine yourself in a peaceful happy place.  A place where you feel safe.  Ask yourself, what do I truly want? Out of life, out of a job, out of specific relationships? Ask yourself, what do I fear?  Write this down.

3- Sleep with a pad and pen, or a digital recorder next to your bed.  When you wake up try not to move to suddenly.  The stiller you lay in the bed the better recall you may have of your dreams.  Write them down as best you can and see if understanding their meaning can help you in any way.

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THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.