Mirror Images

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

I attended a training this past week on how to “Rewire the Anxious Brain” by Heidi Schreiber-Pan, PH.D, LCPC. I had heard much of the information in a previous training by Dan Siegel. But what I  forgot was a study of "Mirror Neurons" where the neurons in the brain show activation of mirroring qualities such as eye contact and sound. Have you ever played that game with your friends or siblings, where you try to make the other one laugh while keeping a straight face? It is really hard not to laugh.  This being said, depression is also contagious or mirrored as well.  As you will see in the following video, mirror neurons also respond to touch.  Visit Dr. Christine Neff’s website selfcompassion.org for some great ideas for self-compassion and touch.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S

 “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln

 

I have lived a while now, 50+ years. I have some experience and several years of counseling myself. However, I wasn’t always happy. In fact, it would have seemed I enjoyed my sadness. When I was young, maybe even a child, I experienced shame, hate and even some physical and emotional abuses. It isn’t that I didn’t want to be happy, but I just wasn’t, I was sad, unhappy, and even mad.

People with happy brains have their parents to thank, to a certain extent, not only for happy genes, but also for loving childhoods. Studies have shown that angry or critical parents can alter a child's happiness level until it's set around age 16. But can adults adjust their own feelings of happiness (Mendelsohn, 2018)?

In our current society, researchers have found medications such as anti-depressants do what? Not make us happy, but to make us less sad. With the recent studies in Positive Psychology, we are finding methods to change the way our brain thinks to help promote more happiness in our lives.

University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her new book, "The How of Happiness," argues that as much as 40 percent of our happiness "is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in -- the things that we do and think every day of our lives." (How happy are you? CLICK HERE to see where you fall on Lyubomirisky's Subjective Happiness Scale (Mendelsohn, 2018).

Now I have learned that despite some of the negative things I experienced when younger, I could change my brain and be happier. I was a complainer, very unhappy, always unsettled, worried, anxious, waiting for something bad to happen pretty much describes my every day till around age 40. I began making subtle changes in my life along with changing the way I view things, my response to things and my choice to be happy about things.

Consider this list of 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. Embrace one new action item… practice all of them… or simply use them as inspiration to discover your own. (Baker, 2015)

1.      Count your blessings. Happy people choose to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative. They set their minds on specific reasons to be grateful. They express it when possible. And they quickly discover there is always, something to be grateful for.

2.      Carry a smile. A smile is a wonderful beautifier. Our facial expression can influence our brain in just the same way our brains influence our face. In other words, you can program yourself to experience happiness by choosing to smile.

3.      Speak daily affirmation into your life. Affirmations are positive thoughts accompanied with affirmative beliefs and personal statements of truth. Affirmations used daily can release stress, build confidence, and improve outlook.

4.      Wake up on your terms. Most of us have alarm clocks programmed because of the expectations of others: a workplace, a school, or a waking child. That’s probably not going to change. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose control over our mornings in the process. Wake up just a little bit early and establish empowering, meaningful, morning routine. Start each day on your terms.

5.      Hold back a complaint. The next time you want to lash out in verbal complaint towards a person, a situation, or yourself, don’t. Instead, humbly keep it to yourself. You’ll likely diffuse an unhealthy, unhappy environment. But more than that, you’ll experience joy by choosing peace in a difficult situation.

6.      Practice one life-improving discipline.  Embrace and practice at least one act of self-discipline each day. This could be exercise, budgeting, or guided-learning… whatever your life needs today to continue growing. Find it. Practice it. Celebrate it.

7.      Use your strengths. Each of us have natural talents, strengths, and abilities. And when we use them effectively, we feel alive and comfortable in our skin. They help us find joy in our being and happiness in our design. So, embrace your strengths and choose to operate within your giftedness each day.

8.      Accomplish one important task. Choose one important task that you can accomplish each day. And find joy in your contribution.

 9.      Eat a healthy meal/snack. One simple action to choose happiness today is to eat healthy foods. Your physical body will thank you… and so will your emotional well-being.

 10. Treat others well.  Treat everyone you meet with kindness, patience, and grace. The Golden Rule is a powerful standard. It benefits the receiver. But also brings growing satisfaction in yourself as you seek to treat others as you would like to be treated

 11. Meditate. Find time alone in solitude. So, take time to make time and use meditation to search inward, connect spiritually, and improve your happiness today.

 12. Search for benefit in your pain.  When you encounter pain, remind yourself again that the trials may be difficult, but they will pass. And search deep to find meaning in the pain. Choose to look for the benefits that can be found in your trial. At the very least, perseverance is being built. And most likely, an ability to comfort others in their pain is also being developed.

Go today. Choose joy and be happy. That will make two of us.

 

 

References:

            MENDELSOHN, M. (2018). Pursuit of Happiness: Your Behavior. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4115033&page=1 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].

           Baker, J. (2015). 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. [Online] Available at: https://www.becomingminimalist.com/choose-happy/

Can the End of Daylight Savings Time Affect Mood?

By Dr. Penelope Chavez-Frigon

We have all heard the saying, Fall Back and Spring Forward to remember how to change our clocks for Daylight Savings Time.  Does changing the clocks have any effect on mood?  When we change the clocks in the fall (fall back) we get an extra hour of sleep for one Sunday, but night time seems to come very early the next evening.  Although it may not appear to be too dark in the mornings anymore, it starts getting dark as early as 6pm.  What does that do for our mood, if anything?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is now labeled in DSM-5 as Major Depressive Disorder with seasonal pattern.  This means that for some people who do not display any significant symptoms of depression during the majority of the year, the winter months bring symptoms of depression including increase fatigue, lack of motivation, feeling of worthlessness, feelings of hopelessness, increased problems in attention and concentration.  Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan (2014) found the prevalence rate for SAD to range from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.   The closer a location is to the equator, the more sunlight it will have through the winter months. 

Sunlight is important for mood because it can affect the production of serotonin and/or the way that the brain uses serotonin.  Appropriate serotonin levels are important for a healthy, happier mood.  Lower serotonin levels are associated with an increase in depression.  What can someone do if they find they are experiencing a lower mood during winter months?  A few ways to naturally increase serotonin include 1) increase physical activity, 2) reduce sugary snacks and foods high in carbohydrates, and 3) get some sunlight when possible.  Remember to consult your physician before engaging any strenuous activity and use proper sunscreen when out in the sun. 

If you finding yourself experiencing a significant increase in depressive symptoms, please consult your primary care provider to determine if mental health treatment is indicated. 

Tips to Help You Get Through the Winter Months

By Sam Golden, LPC, MFT

This time of year can be stressful for everyone.  Whether it is searching for the perfect gift, or planning a family gathering in your home, the sources of stress can feel endless and overwhelming.  Since the things that stress you out cannot be always be avoided, it is important to find healthy ways to cope with the pressure of the holiday season.

 

1.      Breathe

·         I know this seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of people forget to do it when they find themselves wrapped up in trying to get everything done. Take a moment for yourself and breathe deeply with your diaphragm.

·         The general rule of thumb for deep breathing is to exhale twice as long as you inhale. There are several apps to help you with, including Breathe2Relax and Pranayama

2.      Practice Mindfulness

·         Mindfulness is a practice that combines deep breathing while focusing on your senses. Try stopping by the candle store in the mall and taking a moment to smell the candles, while focusing on your breathing.

·         You can also practice Mindfulness in the car while you’re driving. Take slow, deep, breaths and focus on how the wheel feels underneath your fingers. If thoughts pass through your mind, acknowledge them like an item on a conveyor belt, and let it pass through your mind.

3.      Set small, realistic goals for yourself

·         Try doing something small each day to make your list a little less overwhelming. For example: buy or brainstorm a gift for someone each day or put up decorations a little bit at a time.

4.      You don’t have to be perfect

·         We sometimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the best, or to be perfect for the holidays. This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

·         This ties into the last tip as well. Make reasonable goals, and know that it’s okay to not get the perfect gift, or have the perfect house.

5.      Ask for Help!

·         The holidays are a time of giving, so don’t be afraid to ask someone to GIVE you some help! You don’t have to do everything yourself.

6.      Breathe

·         Yes, I will say this again, because it’s so important. The holidays can be stressful and family members can be unpredictable. Just remember to take a moment every once in a while and take slow, deep breaths.

7.      This too shall pass

 

Stress Reduction Tips from Crystal

1) Walk away for 20 minutes from your stress. Sometimes stress is addictive and we get sucked into hanging out with it, thinking we will resolve it. However, taking a 20 minute break from thinking or working on the issue can bring new perspective and calm.

2) Try to look at things from a different point of view.  In counseling, the term is reframing. I always ask myself this question:

"What can I gain from this situation that is positive?"

For example, I have a pressing bill due and the money isn't here. I won't make enough to pay it, so I worry about it, trying to find ways to make it work. I look at the facts: I can only pay $10 on this bill, but they want it paid in full. After praying and doing all I can, I give up the worry. I look at the positive. I learn patience, I learn how to budget, I learn wisdom as I learn better ways to save my money. It isn't easy, but it helps me worry less.

3) Talk with a friend, parent, counselor, or colleague. Talking about an issue that causes worry can help put things into perspective. This helps to avoid what we call catastrophizing.

4) Schedule a worry time. Remind yourself you have 20 min of worry time every day at the same time. This helps you not worry the whole day until this time, where you get out your list and you worry about it for 20 min. We eventually try to get the worry time down to smaller amounts of time.

5) Breath in.Breath out.ig belly breaths. 5 times. Now, let your shoulders fall in relaxation. Do this when you are not anxious or worried and it gets easier to do when you are stressed. When you are stressed, you don't get enough oxygen because breathing shallows. Purposely breathing deeply in and out replenishes your supply so you can think more clearly.

6) Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the brain that make you feel happy. It is similar to drugs such as morphine.

7) Meditate. Use your own scripts, ones you find online, or in the Bible. These scripts can be recorded and played back with relaxing music. I depend on this daily. It is my go-to plan for calming myself down and it works. Here are some scripts:

http://www.innerhealthstudio.com/anxiety-relief-scripts.html

A Brief History of Psychotherapy

Adapted from History of Psychotherapy, by Jim Haggerty, M.D.

According to Jim Haggerty, people have been telling their problems to someone for centuries. It didn't always look the way it does now. Treatment for emotional problems can be traced to antiquity. The ancient Greeks were the first to put a label on "mental illness" as a medical condition rather than a sign of an evil spirits. They originally thought that hysteria only affected women due to a wondering uterus. Their treatment for mental illness was quite peculiar. Bathing was used for depression and blood-letting for psychosis. They did not recognize the treatment value of encouraging support and consoling words.

During the Middle Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire, people attributed mental illness to supernatural causes. They used torture to gain confessions of demonic possessions. During the sixteeth century, the time of Paracelsus, a form of psychotherapy emerged as a treatment of the insane.

Walter Cooper Dendy introduced the term"psycho-therapeia" in 1853. Around the turn of the century, Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis and made  profound contributions in with his studies of infantile sexuality, use of dreams, description of the unconscious, and his model of the human mind.

Freud believed that mental illness was caused by keeping memories or thoughts in the unconscious. He believed treatment succeeded by listening to the patient while providing interpretations to help bring memories to the forefront. Freud believed this would result in a decrease in symptoms.

Around 1950, American psychology began to include more active therapies such as behavioral psychology to treat emotional and behavioral problems. Combining the therapy with an emphasis on thoughts and feelingsmade cognitive behavioral therapy a major type of treatment for many psychiatric conditions.

In the 1940s, Carl Rogers was founded unconditional positive regard, meaning the transmission of warmth, genuineness, and acceptance from the therapist to the individual. In the 1960s, over sixty types of psychotherapy surfaced, ranging from psychodrama to guided imagery.

Now, with the issues of price and time, psychotherapy treatment is incorporating more brief forms of treatment. This trend is further driven by the arrival of manged care insurance plans and limits to coverage. Today, there are many therapeutic modalities that offer some sort of brief therapy designed to help people deal with specific problems.

 

APA Reference

Haggerty, J. (2015). History of Psychotherapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/history-of-psychotherapy/