Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

Taming Dragons That Control Your Mental State

If you have never heard of Daniel Amen MD, you should. He has been a leader in the mental health field with using SPECT brain scans to assess emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems. His clinics do a thorough assessment of the mental health issue and then provide treatment which includes nutritional supplements. He has demonstrated that his program can heal brain trauma in NFL players. You can check out his website He also has a brain fitness program on line

His latest book (Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits and Hang-ups) is a fun one. Using metaphor of dragons, he tackles various emotional issues like anxiety, anger, grief, low self-esteem. For example for the Hopeless and Helpless Dragon, he gives antidotes of creating a positivity bias, gratitude practice, writing down your accomplishments and strengths, and getting your brain healthy with Omega-3’s. All his suggestions are doable and make sense. Then he tackles ANTS – Automatic Negative Thoughts for each of the issues. This is the good old cognitive-behavioral work. Mainly this book would be for someone new to the arena of psychology.

May 29, 2021 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being | Leave a comment

Eating to End Depression and Anxiety

Wouldn’t it be better to eat your way to emotional health than to take medications that have side effects? It’s not that hard and really just involves healthy eating that you already know. However to help with this process Drew Ramsey MD has written a book – Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks.

He reviews the 12 essential nutrients to heal anxiety and depression – Folate, Iron, Omega-3 Fats, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, B12, Vitamin C and Zinc. Don’t worry. The food sources for these are outlined.

There are sections on inflammation and gut microbiome which are both involved in anxiety and depression. Then at the end of the book are recipes. The Mushroom and Chicken Cassoulet was good but the Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche was wonderful.

Who knew that you can eat well and heal your emotional health.

May 28, 2021 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, health | Leave a comment

Our Wisdom Years

I just finished reading a book that would interest anyone 60+. Charles Garfield wrote Our Wisdom Years: Growing Older with Joy, Fulfillment, Resilience and No Regrets. He leads us through nine stages for moving from adult to elder. He presents his own journey in which his goal oriented stress lifestyle dramatically ended with hip issues. He was stopped cold and had to reinvent himself by slowing down.

His Third Task stood out for me – “Shifting your eyes from the goal to the moment.” This is about finding joy in the moment and spending more time with the joyful and not asking “At my age?” I have seen 90 year old women doing yoga and on the balance bar in a gym. Why not? Or maybe your joy is watching the flowers grow or sitting with a tree.

You will find many good ideas and contemplative exercises here to move strongly into the next years of your life.

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Increase Your Resilience

In these times, resilience is what is required. Rick Hanson PhD has been working with this topic for a while and even has a book called Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakeable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness. The basic premise is to actively cultivate positive emotional states. The process involves being aware, feeling the state, then letting it be with the final piece installing an experience of the antidote. The last piece requires embodying the positive emotion and feeling it strongly.

Because we are wired to remember the negative more than the positive, this retraining does take effort and consistent effort. One time does not do it. Each time you are aware of depressed emotional state (for example), you bring up a time of joy and bring it into your body. Where do you feel joy inside? Then intensify the feeling.

Another key to the process is not to push away the depressed emotional state, feel it and hold it in awareness with all its nuances before you let it go. Note letting it go is different from pushing it away.

May we all experience more calm, strength and happiness in 2021!

January 2, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Bliss for Your Brain

all use a little bliss in our world now. So check out this new book by Dawson Church called BLISS BRAIN: THE NUEROSCIENCE OF REMODELING YOUR BRAIN FOR RESILIENCE, CREATIVITY AND JOY. He presents the Default Mode Network that operates for most of us as a scanner for all the things that can go wrong and fuels worries and negative thinking. With the Ecomeditation technique he developed and also other meditation techniques  the brain is rewired and creates a calmer and even blissful state. His technique is fun – starting with a round of tapping Emotional Freedom Technique and then a breathing pattern.

There is clear discussion of the parts of the brain that change along with neurochemical and brain wave changes. He stated that the Ecomeditation puts one in the alpha brainwave state immediately – not needing 20 minutes as other meditation techniques seem to need. Then there are the “Seven Drugs of Bliss” that kick in – dopamine (motivational neurotransmitter), serotonin (feel-good neurotransmitter), norepinephrine (wake-up neurotransmitter), oxytocin (hug drug), beta-endorphin (pain killer), anandamide (the primary endocannabinoid).

Especially now that our ability to hug and be with others along with other activities meditation that produces all the above benefits and more is even more crucial to our state of well-being.

There is a lot of good and interesting information in this book. You can sample Ecomeditation at

October 31, 2020 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, meditation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Here is a new concept for our times – EMOTIONAL INFLAMMATION. Lise Van Sustern MD, a psychiatrists, has written this book before the COVID-19 and how relevant it is. She discusses all the stressors present in our world now- hunger, homelessness, drug use, crime, federal budget deficit, poor health care, environmental crisis, income inequality, too many guns, poor race relations. Now we can add more. The result is anxiety, preoccupation with threats, rumination, fears. Even worse is that emotions are contagious. We have mirror neurons that pick up other’s emotions and help us resonate with these. All very good if the emotions are positive. Not so good in our current environment.

Given this contagious effect, she counsels that you may need to disengage from some friends, redirect conversations to less stressful topics, using positive visualizations and other stress management tools. She then outlines types of reactors: nervous reactor, revved-up reactor, molten reactor and retreating reactor. Then she delineates all the negative impacts of reactivity on us before she helps with ideas to “steady your body’s natural rhythms.” Then she presents ideas for managing distressful thoughts. Then the last part of her program for well-being is to “reclaim the gifts of nature.”  Here is the beautiful concept of forest bathing.

The last section presents some ideas for action. This includes smaller and larger steps. Action reduces depression and anxiety. It empowers us and as we all take action, big changes can happen. Let us all move forward in a positive way and heal our world.

Many will find comfort in the recognition Van Sustern gives to the distress we are feeling living in this world.





June 3, 2020 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being | Leave a comment


We are all being asked to Zoom, Skype, text, email instead of talking face-to-face. What are the implications for our humanity? The June Psychology Today issue addressed this in the article “Face Value.”

Here is a brief summary. Stephen Porges, neurocientist, sees our bodies as polygraph machines. Our autonomic nervous system picks up signals from people when we are with them. Are they safe? Are they dangerous? This process is beyond the words being said and beyond our conscious control. Our bodies know.  If we sense safety, we begin to synchronize and mirror each other. The mirroring allows empathy and as the process continues oxytocin gets released and we bond. We pick up subtle fluctuations in facial muscles that convey emotions. None of this can happen online or with text. A study looked into texting versus in person conversations between mothers and daughters. Bonding did not happen in the texting group. There are also nonverbal vocal cues that we pick up. Think of how many ways “I am happy to see you” can be expressed vocally with very different undertones.

These are things we inherently know but have been forgetting as our society becomes more tech and less in person. Even more concerning as we don’t use our in person skills, circuits and pathways in the brain atrophy. We lose the ability of reading people’s faces, empathy and bonding. I am reminded about a recent experience as National Park officer was prepping a group of us for our backpack. He was talking about the dangers and potential emergency situations. One young man had a question – “If I see someone hurt, should I stop and check on them?” This astounded me. Quoting from the Psychology Today article – ” When we move through the world with a level-headed gaze, we see others and feel responsible for those in distress. In our digital lives, it’s easier to turn away, but each time we do, we risk losing the capacity for empathy.

Perhaps this stopping due to Covid  19 will help us reassess our priorities.

April 30, 2020 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Amazing Benefits of Exercise

You will want to read Kelly McGonigal’s new book THE JOY OF MOVEMENT for a strong dose of motivation. Exercise releases endocannabinoids which reduces the stress response, stimulates the release of dopamine which fuels optimism and good feelings.  Regular exercise increases the brain’s sensitivity to this chemical. Therefore, exercise becomes more enjoyable the more you do it.

The exercise only has to be moderately difficult for you and for at least 20 minutes to get the high from endocannabinoids. It takes about 6 weeks from starting an exercise plan to get pleasure at its peak. Once it does, the motivation to keep exercising is there.

Exercise reduces anxiety, rumination and depression. The lactate produced by the muscles alters the brain neurochemistry to have these good effects.

Even more good news! Muscles are an endocrine organ and produce proteins called myokines that have multiple benefits. One such protein is Irisin which may prevent neurodegenerative  disorders like Alzheimer’s. It helps burn fat and stimulates the brain’s reward system.Thirty-five helpful myokines are released by the quadriceps during one hour of bicycle riding. These regulate blood sugar, reduce body and brain inflammation, kill cancer cells, help muscles get stronger.

Every step contracts over two hundred myokine-releasing muscles and the chemicals released benefit every area of your body and mind.




February 20, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression

I have attended a yoga class for many years and have noted the benefits – feeling great at the end of class. Now I am finding out that there is a whole trend toward using Hatha Yoga and Pranayama for anxiety, depression and trauma.

You may want to explore this as well. Check out Amy Weintraub’s books – YOGA FOR DEPRESSION and YOGA SKILLS FOR THERAPISTS.  I especially like the sections on breathing techniques. She teaches breathing for balancing, relaxation, energizing and cleansing. Why does it help the emotional state? Amy cites the work of Dharma Singh Khalsa MD who stated that Yoga stimulates the pituitary to release endorphin and the glandular system to release adrenaline and norepinephrin compounds. The end result is to have a balance of relaxation and stimulation.

Another book that may be of interest is David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper’s OVERCOMING TRAUMA THROUGH YOGA: Reclaiming Your Body. I haven’t yet started this one. However, Bessel Van der Kolk, the premier researcher on trauma,  has been endorsing yoga and body-based treatments for PTSD. If you have had any trauma, do read his latest book – THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE. 

Whether you want to alleviate anxiety or depression or just want to feel great, check out a yoga class.

January 5, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dangers of Antidepressants

Information has been out there for many years now that antidepressants have no more than a placebo effect. People do benefit if they believe the drugs will help, for sure. The problems with antidepressants are becoming clearer and everyone should consider  the use of this drug carefully. Unfortunately getting off an antidepressant is very difficult and can take months of tapering off along with nutritional support. Most medical practitioners are not knowledgeable about this process. There is withdrawal in coming off an antidepressant and the physical/emotional effects can be very difficult.

I am working through a course in nutritional and herbal treatment for mental health by Leslie Korn PHD that has been approved by the American Psychological Association. She recommends a three month plan at least and gradual reduction of antidepressant in this time period. Why does she recommend getting off these drugs? She notes that antidepressants increase vulnerability to chronic depression, increase suicide risk, contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction and lead to higher all-cause mortality.

Another resource to check out is Kelly Brogan MD and her new book “OWN YOURSELF”. her argument against antidepressants:

  1. They are ineffective
  2. They can induce psychosis and violence
  3. They are addictive and withdrawal is difficult

There can also be many side effects: anxiety, indigestion, insomnia, low sex drive, weight gain, heart rhythm problems etc.

So what can you do for depression? You probably already know – healthy diet, detox, exercise, manage stress, and live your life purpose.  Integrative medicine professionals also have an arsenal of herbal and nutritional support.  Dr. Brogan also recommends meditation, yoga, Qigong, breathwork, ecstatic dance.


November 27, 2019 Posted by | Depression | | Leave a comment