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The Perfect Morning Routine

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

Mornings are not always easy. If you need to get up early for work or other commitments or were up late and did not get much sleep, mornings may be your worst enemy. Developing a healthy routine in the morning can help you feel ready for the day ahead, even when your body is telling you to go back to bed. Not everyone’s routine will look the same, but there are a few practices you should follow that will allow your body to wake up and be ready to tackle the day.

Practice Mindfulness
Incorporate at least one mindful activity into your routine each day. Mindfulness means bringing awareness to the present moment. Your focus should be centered on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment through a nurturing lens. Doing one routine activity mindfully each morning can help shift your attention away from any ruminating thoughts and into the present moment. Being more present can help you increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions. By focusing your attention on something positive, we are allowing ourselves to let go of stress and feel prepared to face the day.

To practice mindfulness, choose one activity and complete that activity mindfully. You could brush your teeth; take a shower or bath; or get dressed while focusing your full attention on that activity. Making mindfulness part of your daily routine will allow the skills associated with mindfulness to grow stronger so you can more easily access those skills when needed in other capacities.

Slow Down
Another important concept to include in your morning routine is to not multi-task. If you are like many people, your daily routine is already fast-paced and stressful. One way that I incorporate slowing down into my morning routine is by sitting down to eat my breakfast. I used to grab my breakfast and eat it on my way out the door, which caused me to feel stressed and rushed before even getting to work. By slowing down my morning activities like eating breakfast, I can better manage my mood and feel more in control of my emotions.

Give Gratitude
One of the most important things you can do for yourself each day is to practice gratitude. In the morning, before getting out of bed, list two to three things you are currently grateful for in your life. It may seem inauthentic at first, but there is science that supports the many positive benefits for your mind and body that practicing gratitude will bring. Incorporating a regular gratitude practice to your routine can significantly increase well-being, life satisfaction, quality of sleep, immune health, compassion, and kindness. The more regularly you give gratitude, the stronger gratitude will grow. Giving gratitude each morning will help you start the day with a positive mood, even when you may be dreading the day that lies ahead of you.


References

Mindfulness Defined. (n.d.) Retrieved July 31, 2019, from
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

Carpenter, D. (2019) The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)
Retrieved from https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

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Ways to Overcome Procrastination You Won’t Want to Put Off

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Procrastination is a problem dealt with daily by people of all ages. It can be said that many of us have been through at least one period when we did not manage our time well. Recent studies have shown that roughly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are chronic procrastinators (Cherry).

There are many reasons why the number is high, but also just as many ways to help us manage our time more effectively, which we’ll explore below.

Deeper mental health issues may contribute to poor time management. Depression, ADHD, OCD, and chronic stress are all capable of worsening procrastination (Wiebe). These issues can work to shift the focus onto other tasks and activities, leaving important “to-dos” for a later time, which may or may not ever come.

Developing good time management skills has more benefits than the obvious boost in productivity. Cutting down on procrastination has also been shown to reduce stress significantly and can improve our overall quality of life (Mayberry).

Depending on the situation, talking with a therapist, or just taking a mental break, can reduce symptoms, such as stress and procrastination.

It is far easier to accomplish the tasks at hand with a clear mind. Keeping a planner or list of priorities, as well as evaluating our time usage, can help us stay organized and motivated (Mayberry).

Finally finishing a seemingly endless or daunting task typically gives us a great sense of relief and satisfaction. When time is well-spent and the “to-do list” shrinks, we experience fewer stressful thoughts that can put us on edge.

Putting into practice these time management skills can help us not only to finish tasks efficiently, but help us live a happier life.


References

Cherry, Kendra. “Psychology Behind Why We Wait Until the Last Minute to Do Things.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 30 June 2019, www.verywellmind.com/the-psychology-of-procrastination-2795944.

Mayberry, Matt. “Time Management Is Really Life Management.” Entrepreneur, Entrepreneur Media, Inc., 13 Feb. 2015, www.entrepreneur.com/article/242855.

Wiebe, Jamie. “Struggle with Time Management? Here’s What It Says About Your Mental Health…” Talkspace, Talkspace, 3 Oct. 2018, www.talkspace.com/blog/time-management-mental-health/.

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Hakomi: States of Consciousness and Establishing Mindfulness

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

States of Consciousness

In Hakomi psychotherapy, there are four states of consciousness:

  1. Ordinary consciousness, which includes open eyes with direct eye contact, a conversational tone and pace of speech, and low or controlled emotions.
  2. Mindfulness where eyes are generally closed; speech is slower, softer and quieter in general; breath is gentle; the body is still; and which includes all components of a light trance.
  3. The child state with childlike voice; a sense of wonder; simple sentence structure; youthful facial expressions and gestures; younger-looking body; shy in a childlike way.
  4. Riding the rapids wherein there is excitement; a high level of emotional expression; labored breathing; and wavelike body movements (Kurtz, 1990).

“In teaching and inviting clients to turn their awareness inside to notice whatever their present awareness is, we are deliberately encouraging our clients to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness” (Barstow, 2015, p. 142).

Establishing Mindfulness

“Before attempting to evoke experiences in mindfulness, mindfulness itself must be established” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 85). Mindfulness is an open, vulnerable, non-ordinary state of consciousness where rapport and safety are already established. Before using techniques like probes or taking over, some things need to be in place including the relationship. All signs of cooperation, including cooperation of the unconscious, are there. Also, the clinician needs to conceptualize what would be a meaningful, interesting experience for the client.

Additionally, when the client is talking, it’s important to wait for the client to finish saying whatever they need to say. Even if the therapist has some valid ideas regarding what to do, it is nevertheless important to give the client time to finish. When the client is finished talking, she will then wait for the therapist to respond. When this happens, then the therapist can ask the client if she wants to try something that might be interesting like, for example, a probe (Kurtz, 1990).

The therapist doesn’t know how much the client needs to discuss her “story in ordinary consciousness” to feel safe, so a way of responding to a talkative client might be, “‘Why don’t we hang out with this sense of cautiousness, and maybe it will tell us more about itself?’” (Gaskin & Cole, 2015, p. 133). Another intervention might be to ask the client how she experiences the caution in her body.

Ron Kurtz found that nearly everyone he worked with could get into a state of mindfulness. Even the briefest moments of mindfulness can reveal significant, evoked experiences that can be utilized for accessing emotions, core beliefs or the child state (Kurtz, 1990).

If the therapist has listened to the client and has conceptualized some possible ways of responding then she can use a probe, a little experiment, an acknowledgment, or take something over for the client. These techniques can be combined in elegant ways. “Probes, acknowledging, contact statements, little experiments, and the various forms of taking over are the main interventions in Hakomi Therapy” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 90). These are the “core techniques,” just as mindfulness and nonviolence are the “central principles” (p. 90).

According to Kurtz, the closest precursor to probes would be Carl Jung’s use of “word association techniques” created by Wilhelm Wundt (p. 90).


References

Barstow, C. (2015). Ethics: right use of power. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 139-148). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Gaskin, C.L. & Cole, D. (2015) Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 129-138). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

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Five Fun Ways to Get Your Child to Do Homework

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

It’s that time of year again. School has started and weekly homework struggles have begun. This struggle is not just difficult for the little ones in our lives. It’s also a challenge for us parents to motivate our kids to do their homework. As a parent who has struggled to get through homework with my little one, I have realized how much patience and persistence are necessary to overcome homework resistance. Through this experience and research, I have discovered five simple strategies to make homework more manageable, creative and fun.

1. Set a time

Instead of planning for homework to be done right after school, give your child some time to settle down after a full day. Homework time should be about an hour long and can be a time for everyone in the family to complete their “homework” together. Parents can also choose to work on something at this time and everyone can do their homework together in a common area, such as at the dining room table. If you are working on something at the same time, you are modeling appropriate work ethic and are also more available to help with any questions your child may have about their homework. If a full hour is too long for your child to complete their homework, and it will be for younger children, break the time up into shorter periods. Have your child work on their homework for 10 minutes and take a 5 to 10-minute break. Then repeat this a couple more times until you are through the assignment. Your child will let you know when they have reached their limit, so try to work with them to figure out a timeframe that best suits their abilities.

2. Give out rewards 

I am a believer in using a token economy to get through an assignment and there are several ways you can do this. Sticker charts can be modified to fit each assignment. Parents may choose to use a basic chart in which the child receives a sticker for every question they answer. I have included an example of a basic sticker chart, labeled as Handout 1. Make sure to have stickers that interest your child, so that they are interested in earning the stickers!

Download Handout 1

3. Play a game

You can turn the sticker chart into a fun activity or game to help motivate your child to get through the assignment. For example, in Handout 2, I created a “slide” that I broke up into components, each representing a question that needs to be answered. As the parent, I would explain that the boy wants to go down the waterslide, but he needs water on the slide to reach the pool at the end. The child will color a box every time they answer a question until the boy reaches the pool. This tool can be modified and should be adjusted to match your child’s interests. You can include favorite cartoon charters and a familiar story they enjoy to engage them more in the activity.

Download Handout 2

4. Be mindful

Be aware of when you’ve both reached your limit and need a break from homework. If there’s too much stress involved, your child could begin to associate homework with stress, which is the opposite of what we want. As professor of psychiatry and author Daniel Siegel says, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” When homework is paired with stress, homework begins to be viewed as a stressful and unpleasant activity. The goal is for homework a be part of your child’s routine. Adding an element of fun can help decrease their stress and dread when sitting down to complete homework. Be a calm presence during homework time since you are an example for them on how to handle stress and frustration.

5. Stay creative

Be open to your child’s suggestions on what would motivate them to complete an assignment. My son was able to help me improve the “waterslide” handout by adding coloring to the activity, which made the activity more fun for him. Try to be open to modifying the process over time. These strategies may not work forever so you will need to be prepared to have another strategy lined up when one stops working.


References

Barish, K. (2012 September 5). Battles over homework: advice for parents. Psychology
Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pride-and-joy/201209/battles-over-homework-advice-parents

[Boy on a water slide]. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from:
https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-boy-water-slide-little-slides-down-waterpark-image39798538

[In Ground Swimming Pool]. Retrieved September 1, 2019, from:
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/ground-swimming-pool-271444649

Siegel, D. J. and Bryson, T. P. (2014 August 20). No Drama Discipline. New York: Bantam Books.

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Sustain a Positive Environment with the Circle of Excellence

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By Riah Skrinnik, MS APCC

The science of epigenetics brings traditional genetic science to a new level of the “above the genes” dogma, which suggests that it is not our genes, but our response that controls our environment. Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of groundbreaking book The Biology of Belief, does not teach ways to detox subconscious programming and emotional body, but instead, endorses practitioners who specialize in what he calls “belief change and energy psychology modalities.” This approach indicates that our nervous system connects to the skin and picks up on signals through our five senses in order to control our biology. These signals change the shape of proteins in our body and create an instant response in the genetic activity called “signal transduction pathways,” which can control reaction and behaviors. Lipton believes that signaling transduction can help people improve and adjust their behavioral and biological responses to daily challenges (Lipton).

After decades of study, researchers have concluded the following finding: our brain stores numerous files of responses and each file contains powerful and desirable signals that can be accessible and therefore re-experienced. This finding led to a myriad of attainable modalities developed for our benefit. I would like to offer you one of the persuasion skills modeled by Robert B. Dilts in his book The Sleight of Mouth. “The circle of excellence” is an accessible tool that can help us better organize our experiences. This reliable and uplifting practice goes as follows:

1. Stand or sit in a neutral position. Breath slowly from the belly (move any rapid breathing from the upper chest down to your stomach to reduce stressed mode). Visualize a circle on the ground in front of you. Make it large enough for you to be able to step into the ring (you can physically outline a circle with chalk or tape).

2. Search for every good accomplishment, every notable achievement, every strength, empowerment, or any other source of positivity that resides within you by asking questions, such as, “Have you ever received a good grade on the test? How did it make you feel?” Try to bring up all positive achievements you have experienced throughout your life. Identify associated feelings. Write them in your notes and rank each of them on a scale of 1 to 10.

3. Read your list of experiences and feelings and imagine placing them into your circle. Visualize each item and give them colors, shapes, sounds, smells (if any) and textures. Look at the circle you have filled and check if you feel satisfied with your level of excellence. Feel free to add more and increase the volume and brightness of each item to complete your circle of excellence.

4. Step physically into your circle of excellence. Take a deep breath and feel bright and positive colors, shapes, vibrations and feelings inside the ring. Remember, all you are experiencing inside the ring is a reflection of your achievements and your excellence. Validate the feelings again on a scale of 1 to 10.

5. Stay inside your circle with the ongoing feelings and sensations in your body until you are aware of the positive and encouraging environment below, above, and around you until you feel focused, complete, confident, and ready to continue your life journey (Dilts).

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References

Lipton, Bruce H. (2016). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles / Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. — 10th-Anniversary Edition.

Robert B. Dilts (2017) Sleight of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change / Robert B. Dilts -Kindle Edition.

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Strategies for Healing Perfectionism

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Perfectionism is a concept that plagues a wide array of people. When in full effect, it can provide both positive and negative benefits. In the long run, however, it is important to ensure it does not become an overwhelming force. Perfectionism can come from numerous sources, however, it can be dealt with by using several strategies.

Firstly, perfectionism can come from disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder (Star). It is typically brought out by an internal need to be better or in an ideal state created by one’s mind. It can also come from nagging fears about others’ perceptions of oneself. Living with a perfectionist mindset can become both mentally and emotionally exhausting. Additionally, perfectionism can hinder one’s ability to properly manage anxiety and the other symptoms that come with it (Star). Perpetuating the negative emotions of perfectionism by feeding into it will only bring more distress. When the desire to be perfect comes into mind frequently, it becomes a problem.

Let’s try being more mindful by addressing perfectionist thoughts head-on and recognizing when feelings of doubt and/or embarrassment are irrational. Furthermore, perfectionism can be challenged by an array of mindful methods. Professionals in mental health, as well as simple self-help practices, work well in combating anxiety (Star). Thinking about the “need” or “want” to be perfect, what it entails, and why one wants to reach perfection is another method that challenges oneself to delve into the root of perfectionist anxieties. Through deeply considering the nature of one’s anxieties, it becomes easier to dismantle them and deal with the thoughts that push us so hard to be perfect (Jacobs & Antony). If one is feeling courageous, seek out small things that can trigger feelings of anxiety due to perfectionism (Jacobs & Antony). These things can be as simple as missing a spot while cleaning the floor or “forgetting” to put a book away. In doing this, it becomes easier to get comfortable with imperfection and come to terms with it.

Perfectionism is a tricky feeling to deal with. It provides motivation, yet also leaves stressful and negative emotions in the back of one’s head. Managing it can be made trivial by trying to be more mindful and reducing stress. Perfection does not exist; in chasing after it, anxiety and stress will only follow. Remind yourself to relax sometimes and remember that mistakes aren’t inherently bad. Without them, no one would learn a thing.


References

Jacobs, Andrew M., and Martin M. Antony. “Strategies for Coping with the Need to Be Perfect.” Beyond OCD, BeyondOCD.org, beyondocd.org/expert-perspectives/articles/the-search-for-imperfection-strategies-for-coping-with-the-need-to-be-perfe#.

Star, Katharina. “How Perfectionism Can Contribute to Anxiety.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 20 May 2019, www.verywellmind.com/perfectionism-and-panic-disorder-2584391.

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Hakomi: Contact

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

At the level of technique in Hakomi, making contact and staying in contact involves using contact statements. A contact statement succinctly summarizes the situation the client is describing after the client has spoken and then paused, waiting for the therapist to respond. Without interrupting, the therapist offers a simple, direct statement like, for example, “sad, huh” in response to the present-time experience like sadness that the client is sharing. Other examples of contact statements include: “that surprised you, didn’t it”, “that’s scary, isn’t it” or “that was intense, huh” “A statement like ‘you seem a little nervous to me,’ offered without judgment and without breaking the rhythm of the other’s presentation, is a way of making feelings real, okay to have and okay to talk about” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). Also, after offering a contact statement, it is important for the therapist to pause and wait for the client to respond (Kurtz, 1990).

“Verbal contact is naming the client’s present experience. We contact something we have tracked, something the other person is doing, feeling, or focusing on in the moment” (Martin, 2015, p. 155). This may be something she is aware of or it may be outside her awareness. It’s important to not contact the story or content of what the client is saying, except to let her know that you are listening and following her. Contact statements let a client know you are hearing what she’s sharing and are present in a heart-centered way, interested, nonjudgmental and understanding her inner experience and feelings (Martin, 2015).

“A contact statement is open-ended, almost like a question” (Martin, p. 155-156, 2015). But contact statements are not questions as asking a question indicates that the therapist doesn’t know what’s going on for a client and therefore isn’t really in contact. Questions interfere with spontaneity. Questions also involve thought and distance but contact statements involve experience and intimacy (Kurtz, 1990).

An important part of a therapist’s job is to create safety for the client to dig deeper. By “letting them be, by supporting them taking the lead if they will,” you assist them in feeling safe and understood (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). If a client is quiet then the therapist can meet them in that quiet place by saying something like, “It’s hard to talk about it, isn’t it?” or “hard to talk, huh” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80, 82). Statements like these address what is going on for a client in the present time.

Also, a contact statement needs to be worded in a way that allows a client to disagree if they want to. We don’t want disagreements but, in therapy, the client is “automatically right” because it’s the client’s experience (Kurtz, 1990, p. 82). It is much more important to have safety and win the cooperation of the client than for the therapist to be right (Kurtz, 1990).

Finally, using contact statements for someone in a crisis situation may not be appropriate since the goal is to stabilize rather than explore deeper wounds and core beliefs. For example, using a contact statement might be too powerful of a tool to use with a more fragile psyche like that of a paranoid client. But to just hold a space and trust that what is coming up for them is a part of their healing process will have a positive impact. You can subtly mirror and adjust your body language and speech to be congruent with whomever you are working with. Clients feel this regardless of whether or not one ever uses a contact statement (Moody, 2013).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-centered psychotherapy: the Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Martin, D. (2015). The skills of tracking and contact. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 151-160). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Moody, J. (2013, March 8). Using Hakomi with clients with chronic mental illness. Retrieved from http://joannamoody.net/blog/using-hakomi-with-clients/

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How Podcasts Boost Mental Health

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I often recommend listening to podcasts to my clients as a tool to help distract their ruminating thoughts are podcasts. Podcasts are in the same realm as music in that it can take you out of your head and help you focus your thoughts on something outside of yourself. What podcasts do differently though is broaden your mind to new information and sometimes even help you feel less isolated in the world. Here are a few reasons why listening to podcasts can boost mental health:

1. It can relieve anxiety

We as humans are less likely to do an activity when it causes anxiety or fear. Thus, we might avoid the situation so that we do not have to experience discomfort and distress. A healthy distraction, such as a podcast, can actually be a way to gain an initial sense of relief from our anxiety and reduce the overall intensity of these symptoms. If something is bothering us, listening to an engaging podcast can be an adaptable way to handle a stressful moment so we can work through an uncomfortable situation. Focusing on something less anxiety-provoking can also give us a sense of control over our anxious thoughts so they do not take command over us.

2. It can increase mindfulness

Mindfulness is about is being in the moment and doing one thing at a time. While listening to an engaging podcast, we can practice mindfulness by solely focusing on the sounds and words being said. By doing this, we do not allow other thoughts or worries to come into our mind. Mindfully listening to a podcast can prevent thoughts from completely flooding and overwhelming us.

3. It creates empathy and connection 

Many people on podcasts disclose their own personal struggles, which can help a person feel less alone in their own personal struggles. In one podcast I listen to, the hosts frequently discuss their struggles with their mental health and the benefits they have received from therapy. They regularly receive feedback from listeners about how helpful it is to hear that another person is going through the same experience as themselves and how they appreciate their candor. There can be comfort in knowing you are not alone in managing your mental health.

There are currently over 750, 000 podcasts focused on many different issues. There are podcasts that are primarily focused on mental health and some that are focused on a specific subject and comedy. The following are some of the podcasts that I currently recommend to my clients:

The Mental Illness Happy Hour An in-depth conversation with a comedian and his guest with a focus on mental health, traumatic life experiences and negative thinking. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Childish
Candid conversation between two comedians about the personal struggles that come with being a parent. The hosts also frequently discuss the personal struggles and triumphs that come with their own mental health journey. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

The Hilarious World of Depression 
Conversations with top comedians about their struggles with depression and anxiety in an attempt to end the stigma that surrounds these disorders. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Note: Some of these podcasts use an explicit language so if this is a concern for you, look for the “E” symbol next to a podcast episode to see if it falls in this category.


References

Agarwal, P. (2018, June 18) Seven Podcasts for Mental Health and Well-Being. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/06/18/seven-podcasts-for-mental-health/#1404e06b233f

Beck, A. (2017, August 3) The Use of Distraction in the Treatment of Anxiety. Retrieved from https://beckinstitute.org/the-use-of-distraction-in-the-treatment-of-anxiety/

Fitzsimmons, G. & Rosen, A. Childish Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://childishpod.com/

Gilmartin, P. The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Podcast retrieved from https://mentalpod.com/
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Winn, R. (2019, June 1). 2019 Podcast Stats & Facts (New Research from June 2019). Podcast Insights. Retrieved from
https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/

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Decluttering for Better Mental Health

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Cleaning can be a dreadful but necessary chore. We tend to put things like cleaning off. However, taking the time to declutter has proved to be a way to create harmony not only in your physical space but also your mental space.

Clutter can cause stress and is distracting, as additional objects within one’s line of sight can easily avert attention away from the task at hand (Swedish Medical Center). Additionally, stress from putting off cleaning can lead to different stress reactions, like stress eating (Swedish Medical Center). In turn, decluttering is capable of reducing triggered responses to high stress and leaves time for other, more engaging activities. The additional amount of time gained from having an organized home will aid in other healthy and productive habits, as well as reduce anxiety.

One well-known guru of home tidying is Marie Kondo, creator of the “KonMari Method™” and host of the Netflix original series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it,’” she writes in her #1 New York Times bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Goodreads). Kondo developed this method to help her clients and readers rid themselves of their needless possessions. It is important to ask oneself if everything one owns is essential for keeping.

Decluttering is an activity that creates a multitude of desirable benefits. Positive effects will become apparent as one goes. Having a clear mind and a clear space are two traits of a mindful individual. One will find that a cleaner environment may lessen stress and its symptoms. Take a moment to look around your things and clear out anything taking up too much space. It will feel good to know that action has been taken not only to make one’s space look nicer, but also to grow closer to gaining a more positive and stress-free mindset.


References

“How Decluttering Can Improve Physical and Mental Health.” Swedish, Swedish Medical Center, 16 May 2017, www.swedish.org/blog/2017/05/how-decluttering-can-improve-physical-and-mental-health.

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Quotes by Marie Kondō.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/41711738.

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Are We Really Born That Way?

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By Riah Skrinnik, MS APCC

Traditional science once established the notion that our DNA molecules control our mind and program our behavior. But in the groundbreaking book, The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton discusses how our behavior is instead a subconscious reflection of our beliefs and not our genetic data. “We are not victims of our genes, but masters of our fates, able to create lives overflowing with peace, happiness, and love,” Lipton wrote. With these wise words in mind, we can explore the marvelous discoveries of both seen and unseen abilities of human biology.

The traditional thinking had been that the information from our DNA is flowing in one direction forming the concept that we are the result of our genes and, therefore, we cannot influence our genetic data. This hypothesis was firmly embedded in academia as well as society as a whole. As a larger community, we embraced this limiting belief, leading us to operate as if we were biological machines controlled by genes. This gave many of us the excuse that we were born a certain way and that there is nothing we can do to change. This thinking had relieved pressure of responsibility to heal and had impacted generations to accept the limited idea that we are victims of our DNA.

Later it was assumed that by altering genes, we could alter functions and behaviors. This concept was even tested in a well-known study that discovered what has been coined the “gene of happiness,” a particular gene more active in happy people. (Weiss). But this was unfortunate news for the group of people who showed no extra activity in their “happy gene” because they assumed they can’t change anything about their mood because they can’t control their genes.  This dogma promoted mass acceptance of a victim mentality that is constantly in need of a rescuer. This theory had programmed our minds to believe that the part of our inheritance is to be an expression of our genes.

Lipton is one of the revolutionary teachers who claimed that the notion of how genes dictate our existence was, in reality, a false belief. According to Lipton, our genes do not control our biology, rather, they are just a blueprint that requires our minds to design and produce our behaviors, habits, and lifestyle. We have about 150,000 parts of different proteins in our body that react to the environment by altering their shape. In fact, our life is a movement of our proteins that can create and recreate new designs. “Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals,” wrote Lipton.

With this discovery, a modern scientific term was born called epigenetics, which means “above genetic.” This new field is a game changer because it challenges us to look “above the genes” and takes us from victim to creator. New research has found that the perception and response to our environment control the genes. We are not victims of our genes because we have the power to change the immediate environment around us and, consequently, change our response. New studies show that our well-being depends not on hereditary dogma, but on our ability to understand the enormous capacity of our mind, which can lead to effective responses for external stimuli so that we can achieve a healthier environment for ourselves, our families, and our communities. There is much we can learn from this new biology, but the most important is the emerging belief that we have the power to create the lives we lead.


References

Lipton, Bruce H. (2016). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles / Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D. — 10th-Anniversary Edition.

Weiss, A., Bates, T.C. & Luciano (2008). M. Happiness is a Personal(ity) Thing: The Genetics of Personality and Well-being in a Representative Sample. Psychol. Sci. 19, 205–210.

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