September 20, 2011
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues”, is known to be caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. Its symptoms include irritability, weight gain, lethargy, and mood swings.
Experts do not agree as to the prevalence of the syndrome. While some purport that over 10 million are affected in the United States alone, others say that there is a lifetime prevalence of 10%, meaning that 10% of all individuals are affected by the disorder in some way. Regardless of the actual numbers, there is a general consensus that it is a world wide condition that affects millions of people each year.
According to Dr. Arnold Licht, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, 75% of all SAD sufferers are women. In his view, it is not only light deprivation, but also an “innate vulnerability that lead to the syndrome.” Women are more susceptible to depression over all.
What types of things can women in particular do to combat the winter blues? Dr. Carol Kaufmann, instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggests that women in particular should increase their self-care during the winter months. “We are biological-social-emotional- beings Anything we do to increase our internal resources helps the balance of our lives.” Dr. Licht suggests regular exposure to sunlight and exercise. “Natural light is the best even on overcast days, and an outdoor walk in the sun of about an hour is great.” He recognizes, however, that not everyone has that much time outdoors, especially in the winter time when days are short, and the nights are long.
In such cases, Dr. Licht has an answer, too. “Exposure to bright light of 30 minutes daily is best provided through the use of commercial ‘light boxes’. This must be done regularly or it will not work. Affected individuals who work in windowless buildings are greatly in need of this type of light exposure.” For more information about “light boxes,” you can visit this Web site.
For more severe cases, Dr. Licht reports that an appropriate dosage of medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy can assist SAD sufferers to lead normal lives.
“Some patients,” comments Dr. Licht, “with established patterns do very well by starting their antidepressant meds in late August or early September tapering off with the increase in light with the coming of early spring.”
Moving Beyond Depression author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz might not agree. His whole-person approach to healing involves a rigorous examination of each individual’s condition that involves nutrition as well. He not only treats people with SAD, but also with other types of clinical conditions such as eating disorders and sexual addiction. He argues that each person’s path into depression is unique and therefore each person’s path out of it would be, too. His healing center, simply called, The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc, treats the entire individual, inside and out.
Another simple way to get over the dumps while you’re waiting for your light box to arrive? Listen to uplifting music. BeliefNet is featuring a few great videos to help you get your mojo back!
August 2, 2011
Intuition, the sweet voice of our internal navigation system.Without it we bumble. With it, we grow humble. Intuition is the guide of consciousness. It’s truly a lovely thing.
Jackie Gilbert, Professor of Management in the Middle Tennessee State University College of Business, offers her wisdom about intuition in her guest blog below. Please visit her site, which is chock full of wisdom and thoroughly researched. Besides, she’s a great writer!
Take it away, Jackie!
A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans which it receives through listening to Wisdom that is not its own (A Course in Miracles).
How often have you felt frustrated as a result of either a failure to plan, or an attempt to plan too much at one time? Our sense of timing, intuition, and content of our very plans are all impacted by our state of mind. I love the following quote from A Course in Miracles:“The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions…The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What is has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way” (p. 210).
Intuition and the resulting sense of what to do can be channeled through our deliberate focus. In his study of lucky people, Wiseman (2003) found that they were more relaxed (less anxious) than their non-lucky counterparts. His findings suggest that creating our own future is more a state of mind than of circumstance. At every juncture we have the opportunity to choose our thought, rather than to be controlled by our cognitive wanderings. Buddhists refer to this quality as “mindfulness,” or full attention on a task, absent the background fast forwarding to something else.
The Dalai Lama describes mindfulness as the recognition that a negative thought has taken root, an “early warning system of sorts,” and the subsequent desire to change course. The byproduct of relaxation is then the ability to harness our thoughts in a way that is beneficial for our purpose, which is (in large part) to nullify negative voices, and to find our inner guidance system, or intuition.
Intuition can also be nurtured through freehand writing in response to pressing questions: e.g.: What should I do next? (Canfield, 2005). The immediate dictation, followed by subsequent directed activity, will facilitate an increasing number of instinctive responses. Journaling permits repressed feelings to surface so that we can take appropriate action, and it promotes catharsis through written self-expression. Hohlbaum (2009) explains journaling as an “unloading” technique, particularly for chronic worriers. When we list every single thing we are worried about, we realize that many of our concerns are inconsequential.
Relaxation broadens our perceptual lens. Achieving inner peace is the precursor to a self-induced state of “flow” in which we can work at peak capacity with minimum effort. Flow has been defined as “…the state of consciousness in which you find joy in the simple execution of a task, often losing yourself completely in it” (Hohlbaum, 2009, p. 21). Similarly, Maltz (1960, p. 264) describes this space as “being in the zone,” and “as entering a time and place and emotional state where [individuals] are totally relaxed, totally confident of the outcome.” Presence, “being in the moment,” and the “holy instant” are when:
- All senses are firing on five cylinders
- The world is in high resolution
- The little things don’t bother you
- You experience full engagement
- You feel enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you are doing
- You react without worry
- You are single-minded in your determination to concentrate on the task at hand
- You are in the moment absent the baggage of things past
Remove mental obstacles so you know what’s truly important, and can refocus on your priorities.
When the mind emanates peace employees’ work proceeds effortlessly of its own accord, and they experience the negotissimum otium, or complete leisure that is intense activity (Russell, 1991).
Carr-Ruffino (2001), in her book Creative intelligence model: Building innovative skills provides a table of emotions. The more positive emotions are associated with serendipitous occurrences, with insight, and with a “can do” attitude. Conversely, negative emotions lead to learned helplessness, to despair, and to a lack of creativity.
Expansive emotions engender a non-combative way of expressing feedback which creates feed forward, or dialogue between two parties where communication is a tool of empowerment. Similarly, Robbins (1980) mentions that “enabling states,” or conditions in which we experience peak resourcefulness, consist of confidence, inner strength, joy, and ecstasy. Positive states are created by the mental images that we conjure forth in our minds.
Our mental schema can in fact be so programmed for success that our subsequent behaviors have no choice but to follow suit. In Towards a New World View, DiCarlo (1996, p. 149) explains the effect of love on the human spirit: “When a person allows love into their field, the field becomes very soft, very flowing, resilient. The whole field blows up like a sort of balloon. It becomes very energized and energy flows out of the field in a very healthy way.” Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt (2000) describe the most resourceful state as “conscious and awake,” or a state of self-reliance, consisting of high self-esteem and inner validation. We can conjure forth positive emotional states by our deliberate actions. To be more positive, today engage in the following:
- Focus on what’s working in your life. What things are going well at this particular instant, and what actions can you take to create more of the same? Success begets more success, and a desire to work harder to produce results of the same caliber. Keep feeding your productivity engine with positive thoughts.
- Give gratitude. Being thankful for the many gifts that you have removes the focus from what you may think is lacking. According to Sarah Ban Breathnach (author of Simple Abundance) “all you have is all you need.” In this regard, service to someone less fortunate produces a contrast effect that forces you to focus on your blessings. See also The Minimalist’s Guide to Inner Peace
- Realize that our thoughts are of our own choosing, and consciously work to eliminate the unwanted. When you sense your mind wandering in a negative direction, choose to refocus. Remember that happiness is in fact a choice.
 The first six bullet points are from Morgenstern (2009).
Canfield, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. New York: Collins.
Canfield, J., Hansen, M. V., & Hewitt, L. (2000). The power of focus: What the world’s greatest achievers know about the secret of financial freedom and success. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.
Carr-Ruffino, N. (2010). Leading Innovation (p. 127). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.
DiCarlo, R. (1996). Towards a new worldview: Conversations at the leading edge (p. 149). Erie, PA: Epic Publishing.
Hohlbaum, C. L. (2009). The power of slow: 101 ways to save time in our 24/7 world. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Maltz, M. (1960). Psychocybernetics: A new way to get more living out of life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Morgenstern, J. (2009). Shed your stuff, change your life: A four step guide to getting unstuck. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Robbins, A. (1986). Unlimited power. New York; Fawcett Columbine.
Russell, J. B. (1991). A history of heaven: The singing silence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
July 12, 2011
Of all the OECD countries, Korea has by far the longest working hours of any other nation. Logging an average of 2256 hours in 2008, Korea also has the third highest suicide rate behind Hungary and Japan.
In a recent Financial Times article (German edition), the head of the state-run tourist agency, whose name is none other than Lee Charm, is actually lobbying for workers to take their mandated two weeks off per year. Some companies are even blocking their computer access so they can’t work even if they wanted to.
Looks like Korea could use some slow. What they may not know yet is that slow really is faster. The good news? It looks like The Power of Slow is being translated into Korean next.
When you compare productivity to the number of hours worked, you will see that less is more. Holland reached nearly the same productivity rate (as measured by GDP per hours worked) as the United States, but logged 390 fewer hours than their American pals. That’s nearly ten weeks fewer than US workers.
Cultural pressure plays a large role in Korean’s work ethic. They value face time and even if they are literally bidding their time until the boss goes home, they are fearful of taking time off because it might deem them as a disposable worker. It sounds familiar. American workaholism is based on the same premise. Time is money, but we all know that is no longer true.
Time is time. It equals your existence. Time-off can save it, too.
June 26, 2011
Life getting to you? Take a walk. It could literally save your life.
I’ve said this before, but now I have even more scientific proof that a few minutes outside can change your perspective.
According to a study reported on ScienceDaily.com, just five minutes outside can dramatically improve your mental health. Jules Pretty and Jo Barten, co-authors of the study, found that whether gardening, walking or cycling can lift your mood in no time.
Another thing: how you start your day makes all the difference in the world (I recently told Health magazine this). So if you tend to leap out of bed in a panic, you may wish to consider a different alarm clock. I usually awaken with the sun (which can be problematic in the wintertime here in Germany ~ it typically gets light out around 8:30 in the morning and the kids, well, they have to catch the bus at 6:45). But there are sun simulating alarm clocks that slowly guide you to consciousness. If your alarm clock jangles your nerves before you’re even vertical, it might be worth a try.
Yoga is another great way to find mental balance. A few stretches and poses can help you find your inner warrior when the going gets tough.
And let’s not forget tree-hugging, my personal favorite. If you’ve got one near by, give it some love. You may find yourself a lot more grounded afterwards ~ in just five minutes.
April 27, 2011
Terri Corcora has lived well outside her comfort zone for twelve years. Every day she has been called to stretch in ways she had not planned or ever imagined.
Within a month of her wedding, her husband started developing a neurodegenerative illness which over the years has impaired him greatly both physically and mentally. Within a few years, he could do nothing for himself. She has endured tremendous grief at the loss of her husband’s once-brilliant brain, and has undergone tremendous trials in caring for all his needs and every aspect of their lives with little help.
Her faith in God (and His grace) is what she has clung to all these years. But more than that, she has taken her grief and put it into action by becoming an active volunteer with the spousal caregivers organization, “Well Spouse (TM) Association“.
“I get through each day only by the grace of God – the faith I found and have hung onto over these years. I have truly been amazed at how I have grown and been able to build a new life as a caregiver and active volunteer for the Well SpouseTM Association.”
Terri’s endurance is both admirable and impactful. Instead of wallowing in her sense of loss, she has sought support, and lent it as well, to help others.
When we are other-facing, we enrich not only our own lives, but those of others as well. If you know someone in a caregiving situation, help them seek the help they need. Then, everybody wins.
March 17, 2011
Habits. They are the foundation on which our lives make sense. Or don’t. Do you know whether your habit is actually an addiction or something that raises you up? Take coffee, for instance. I stopped drinking it for almost a year, then started drinking it again after I realized the pleasure of chatting with friends over a cup of java far outweighed not having a cup at all. I proved I could live without it, but chose to live with it. Habits make us feel safe, give us a sense of control and order. They are the grease that makes the engine run.
But then there are other habits that turn to addictions, such as sex or attention addictions, that destroy people’s lives. Charlie Sheen is no exception. My kids, who are reaching puberty on the fast train, asked me the other day why Charlie is getting so much attention doing bad things. His online rants have garnered so much attention he’s been offered several new shows. The UK edition of Marie Clarie reported that the live shows he’s planning for April in Chicago and Detroit sold out in eighteen minutes. Whether that’s spin or truth is immaterial. He’s being celebrated for acting badly.
But it goes even deeper than that.
His addiction is being exploited for ratings and sales. It is sad as we all snicker about him behind our palms in a voyeuristic, sadistic way. In truth, we are enabling Charlie to continue down a path of self-destruction. All in the name of entertainment.
Dr. Dahlia Keen, a well-known clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, sat down with me for a chat about Charlie Sheen (six and one-half minutes) to talk about Charlie’s addiction and what he, and so many others who are afflicted by it, might do about it. The highlights include:
- How attention disorder comes to be
- Why celebrities are particularly susceptible to it
- When voyeurism turns to sado-masochism (or why we feel good when others feel bad)
Enjoy the show!
February 3, 2011
Life may not always be a walk in the park, but according to new research, a walk in the park could literally save your life. Not only do you get exercise, fresh air and sunlight exposure; but you also benefit from the healing properties of nature unlike any pharmaceutical.
“Sometimes a tree tells you more than you can read in books.” C.G. Jung
Nature can heal your soul as you stroll. Shaman Brant Secunda and Ironman athlete Mark Allen joined forces to provide some neat tips for you power of slow pals. So without further ado, I present to you seven ways to boost your mood naturally.
7 Ways to Use Nature to Boost Your Moods
By Brant Secunda and Mark Allen
Adapted from their new book, Fit Soul, Fit Body
If you’re depressed, stressed out, anxious, or fatigued, the cure might be right outside your door. New research from Holland shows that people who live near a park or wooded area experience less depression and anxiety. And a study from the UK found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression — especially SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, in winter.
When you tap into the regenerative power of your environment, it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions such as fear, depression, anger, and anxiety into a peaceful, happy state of mind. Try these techniques:
See the big picture.
To bring fear or worry into perspective, focus on a positive event in nature that will continue whether you face your fear or not. Recall the colors of the last sunrise you saw, or think of the present season and its inevitable progression into the next one. You’ll see that such large events continue — whether you and your fears are there or not.
Embrace the darkness.
At night, find a place in nature where you’re not surrounded by things manmade and the only light is the stars. Get enveloped in the welcome darkness, listen to the sounds of nature, and connect to your world.
Get lit up.
Set your alarm in time to get outside when it’s still dark. As the sun is rising, concentrate on the dawning light. The sun’s rays transform the darkness of night into the brilliance of day. It will brighten your mood naturally too.
Get “soleful” love.
Take a walk outside — someplace where you feel peaceful. Put one foot in front of the other slowly, and quiet your internal chatter. With each step, visualize the earth’s love coming into your body through your feet and dissolving any problems you have.
Center between earth and sky.
Sit or lie on the ground outside. Visualize the light of the sun entering the top of your head, filling your heart and body, and then going down into the earth. Feel the earth beneath you, and draw the love of the earth up into your heart and body, and then send it up to the sun. Feel your connection to all life.
Invoke the deer spirit.
The Huichols use the image of the deer to represent innocence, gentleness, and clarity. To melt away emotional stress, visualize the image of a deer surrounded by a circle. Ask the deer, out loud or to yourself, to help you find harmony and balance, and help you to stand tall like a tree.
Fight negativity with fire.
Transform negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy by sitting before a fire outside or a candle inside and looking at the flame. Imagine your heart opening like a flower and see yourself breathing in the fire’s light. Do this for about 5 minutes. This technique also gives immediate relief to the part of your body that’s holding the emotion (e.g., your stomach).
* * * * *
Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at www.fitsoul-fitbody.com.
November 7, 2010
Dr. Charlotte Reznick, author of The Power of Your Child’s Imagination, was on my mind this weekend as we took the kids to the mountains for a few days of frolicking. The four-star hotel offered great food, free WiFi, a wellness area with a pool with an Alpine view and enough cable TV to make the kids’ eyes bug out. We managed to go for two hikes, swim in the pool four times, and visit the gym twice. To distract the kids on our long walks, we practiced math problems in our heads. All in all, it was a glorious time.
The imagination part came in with all the storytelling I did to keep the kids’ entertained (and in complete unawareness that they were, gasp, hiking!). Remembering Dr. Reznick’s nine tools to broaden our kids’ imagination, we practiced some deep breathing on foot. Dr. Reznick calls it “balloon breath.” She says:
“Get comfortable on a flat surface and place your hands around your navel. Focus your attention two to three inches below it, and breathe slowly and deeply into your lower belly so that it presses into your hands like an inflating balloon. Stay there for a minute or two, feeling its gentle rise and fall. Notice how you feel. Try it sitting and standing.” (page 20-21) It is a great power of slow exercise for young and old.
It wasn’t hard to do the next piece because, in truth, our special place was right before our eyes. In the second section of her book, “Discovering Your Special Place,” Dr. Reznick says to foster the sense of self that dwells within. She suggests to visualize a peaceful place…perhaps our kids will think of the mountains the next time they’re bored, looking out the window during class!
Although we didn’t find any real animals (it is, after all, almost winter in the mountains, despite the unusually warm temps). Dr. Reznick recommends “Meeting a Wise Animal Friend” to act as protector. Perhaps the protective quality of animals is the reason why animal movies such as ICE AGE, LAND BEFORE TIME and GARFIELD are so popular.
In the third section, “Encountering a Personal Wizard” Dr. Reznick says sometimes we need to look to magical beings that might be able to assist us in times of need. During a particularly acrimonious homework session, I once called my son’s Math Wizard on my cell phone. Suddenly, he was able to solve the math problem on his own because of the mere confidence his imaginary wizard friend gave him.
If you wonder why imaginary friends are useful, consider the next section, “Receiving Gifts from Inner Guides.” Much like the phone call to Math Wizard, imaginary wizard and animal friends can provide gifts of strength and confidence when you need it most. The sixth section, “Checking in with Heart and Belly,” helps your child get in tune with their own feelings.
Dr. Reznick writes: “Neuroscience has shown that certain ‘brain’ chemicals— neuropeptides, which communicate with other parts of our bodies— don’t live only in the brain; they also reside in our intestinal tract. This suggests a second “Belly Brain” for emotions. Other research suggests that the heart has its own intelligence and communication system.” (page 40)
Other Suggested Reading
In section seven “Talking to all your body parts,” I was reminded of a recent blog post in which I offered up a simple exercise to help us re-enage with our bodies in a powerful way by greeting each section of ourselves with love, compassion and acceptance. Starting with your toes, moving up your ankles, shins, etc., thank each body part for the part it plays in getting you through the day. Give it a try!
We all know color can have an effect on our well-being. In “The Healing Properties of Color”, Dr. Reznick addresses how we can creatively use color to express our emotions. And finally, in “The Healing Power of Energy,” we learn the positive effects of ‘sending’ and receiving good vibes from others.
Fostering your imagination is a wonderful way to engage in the power of slow. Let it be your guide, wizard, animal or otherwise!
June 7, 2010
CTV news wrote a piece about Harvard Business School blogger Peter Bregman who embarked on a single-tasking experiment after a series of multitasking blunders. He tried to craft an email while on a conference call with a board member, who asked him a question. When the board member received no response, the situation got awkward.
Peter swore off multitasking for a week.
Here’s what he found.
- Enhanced productivity.
- More patience for the ‘useful things’ in life.
- Reduced stress levels.
- More protective of the time he spends.
- He looked into his personal bank account of time and smiled.
- No downside.
- More energy.
- More focus.
- He literally saw the leaves on the trees and felt a rush of gratitude.
Time to celebrate!
March 1, 2010
Deborah Wearing‘s story is so powerful that my goosebumps cried when I read it. Her husband, Clive, lost his memory after contracting a virus that destroyed parts of his brain. He only ever lives in the now without a working memory of anything that happened before him. Not unlike Alzheimer’s patients whose hippocampus responsible for learning and long-term memory malfunctions, he can’t remember what happened just three minutes prior. Miraculously, he remembers his wife and delights each time he sees her. Since 1985 he has lived this way. Deborah divorced him, then remarried him about a decade later. After twenty-five years, he has been able to condition himself to understand his situation. His life is an example of how powerless always being in the now can be.
While Eckhart Tolle rightfully suggests we embrace the Power of Now, it is based on the assumption that we have a past and, most likely, a future to which we can refer as we navigate through life. We are human beings with a history. It is what makes us become embedded in this thing called time.
Imagine not having time as friend? Imagine living in an ever timeless state! It is stories like these that remind us how powerful time can be for us. It gives us a semblence of structure. It is the safety net that lets us know where we are, even if we feel lost.
Time is by our side. Clive’s wife is by his. It is a story of true love and of what it means to be a time translator for those to whom time means nothing.