On this page you will find articles, free audio and video, and other resources that may give you tips on working toward healing and growth. Whether you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or addictive behaviors, no matter the struggles you come here with, this is a place for you to get some tips to support you.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 · 1 Comment
Thanks to pioneers like Robert Emmons and Michael McCollough, we now know that gratitude can have an enormously positive effect on our mental health. Not only that, thanks to the advent of neuroplasticity, practicing gratitude can even help shape your brain in ways that promote resilience and well-being.
If you need a boost on ways to practice gratitude, check out my post on 5 Steps to Gratitude and Lovingkindness: Mondays Mindful Quote with Hafiz.
But this post isn’t just about gratitude, it’s about taking it a step further which moves into another stage called altruism. Altruistic behavior is all about acting selflessly to help serve or benefit another. Altruistic behavior has been found to be a predictor of happiness and life satisfaction (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Altruism is also tied to another hot topic in our culture today and that is compassion and kindness. In this blog I have written a number of posts about compassion and kindness because they are such good nutrition for our health and well-being. Compassion has been called an antidote to anger and kindness has been called and antidote to fear.
Now, it could be argued that because I brought up all the personal benefits you may experience from engaging with kindness, compassion and altruism that these endeavors are not pure because you know they will serve your mental health. In other words, they’re ego-driven. Try and set this argument aside for now as we move into the social implication of kindness, compassion and altruism.
While the brain takes longer to register compassion for social pain than individual pain, the effect is longer lasting when awareness around social pain settles in. There are certain tragedies in this Continue Reading →
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 · 5 Comments
After the recent attacks in Paris, the Dalai Lama said: “Unless we make serious attempts to achieve peace, we will continue to see a replay of the mayhem humanity experienced in the 20th century.” It’s easy to feel helpless when watching the news or thinking about how deeply rooted the suffering is in this situation and in many other situations of conflict around the world today. When a person watches a relative die in a conflict, their contempt for the other side can last a lifetime. There are so many powerful people and strong forces at play, what can we really do?
One answer I came up with is be a force that helps build an army of compassion.
The fact is I can do this and you can too.
Life is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters. Now we know the science behind the wisdom of his words, and why all the compassionate acts we do can have a significant impact on our mental health and a potential healing in the world.
Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way our brain grows throughout the lifespan. So if we have a continuous series of moments where we are paying attention to helpless thoughts and worrying, so goes the brain. If we have a continuous series of moments where we are cultivating compassion, joy and curiosity in life, so goes the brain.
In the same way, we can have this impact not only on our mental health, but on the relationships that surround us and the world as a whole. You may not be a single force in solving the Middle East conflict or in reversing global warming, but everything you do matters. In order to better understand why everything you do matters, it’s important to understand how emotional contagion works:
The social scientists Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD, conducted a study to look at the effect of social networks. To determine if there was a causal relationship for obesity, Continue Reading →
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 · 10 Comments
There’s a practice I’ve been doing for a while that is so simple and yet so impactful in working with difficult people and also bringing a sense of balance and perspective in the moment, it’s almost shocking to me. I live in Los Angeles, California which is well known as a city with one of the highest degrees of traffic. If we were to be able to peek into the average LA driver’s brain I think you’d see a hyperactive amygdala and most of the blood flow moving out of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, LA drivers can be a large group of difficult people with emotions and stress running high.
One day while I was driving here I was cut off by some sports car who seemed to be speeding weaving in and out of the car lanes. My teeth locked together and my shoulders tensed and what went through my mind is only appropriate on HBO.
In that moment I realized how tense I was and likely how out of control that driver was. It made me think of all the cars on the road and how many people were very likely tense in their cars.
That simple recognition sparked the beginning of something important.
My shoulders dropped a bit and the question arose, “What is it that I’m actually needing right now?” The word “ease” came to mind.
So I said…
Thursday, November 5, 2015 · Leave a comment
One things we know about parenting is that while it can be incredibly rewarding at times, at other times it can be extremely challenging. Then you throw in a little attention deficit and hyperactivity with the kids or parents and life gets interesting. Mark Bertin, MD is a board certified developmental pediatrician and respected mindfulness teacher whose latest book is Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress, and Helping Children Thrive. Today he is with us to talk about the unique challenges of parenting a child with ADHD, why we’re seeing more ADHD in our culture and a few specific techniques a parent can take home with them today to help themselves and their kids.
Elisha: What are the unique challenges of parenting a child who has ADHD?
Mark: Being a parent is, of course, frequently stressful and full of uncertainty. As a developmental disorder that affects not just attention but life management skills in general, ADHD amps up that experience. When you have a child several years behind in organizing, planning and self-management in general, that can affect everything from morning and bedtime routines to social and academic success. That’s hard for a child, and their parents too.
The challenge around ADHD becomes this: ADHD creates stress by making daily life harder. Too much stress makes us tired, burned out and less resilient. It makes flexible problem solving and communication harder. Which means, living with ADHD makes it harder to manage ADHD.
For any family, a significant step around ADHD is getting a handle on stress. It’s hard to start new routines, manage homework, make tough choices, and support a child who really does need more support than peers. When more grounded, you’ll see things clearer, and stick easier to all the things you want to do.
That’s where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix, but directly supports almost all of ADHD. It starts with stress management, getting out of that flooded, fight-or-flight driven cycle. It also mixes with behavioral management for ADHD – the ability to pause, refocus, and catch a child being successful is harder than it seems without practice. So is sticking to limits and routines, if we’re too stressed and distracted ourselves.
Elisha: How do we change ingrained parenting styles that aren’t working?
Mark: One of the under-discussed parts of parenting in general, and certainly around ADHD, is how hard it is to change habits. We have ways of thinking and of doing things that begin in childhood. That even includes the fact that, for parents, children influence parenting style. In fact, ADHD tends to push parents away from the exact parenting approaches that best address ADHD. Continue Reading →
Tuesday, October 27, 2015 · 3 Comments
Most people believe that waiting is a waste of time and it’s best to fill that time with something… anything. Whether we’re in line at a the grocery story, waiting at a doctor’s office, or sitting at a stoplight, the brain seems to be cued to fill that space. Nowadays, many of us pull out our phones and begin sifting through various messages, reading over documents, or surfing the web.
However, the belief that waiting has no value is a mistake. In fact, the secret to a sense of personal control, general satisfaction with life and even success lies in learning how to find peace with waiting.
We’ve all heard the famous adage, “Patience is a virtue” or “Good things come to those who wait.”
Easier said than done, why?
We’re not in control of our brains
Because underneath the subtle yet intolerable experience of waiting is a little anxious gremlin that fears being alone. This gremlin is operating on old software that says if you’re alone that means you’re not being protected by your clan and it’s a threat to your safety. In those small moments of waiting, it takes the controls of your brain and reaches for something to “be with” so you’re not alone anymore.
In other words, the anxious gremlin is in control and you’re not in control. Studies are clear that lacking a sense of control is associated with negative stress, anxiety and depression. Also, the more we let the gremlin run the brain, the stronger it gets – or as the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb says “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Using waiting for good