Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

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 http://www.blissbrainbook.com.

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

EMOTIONAL INFLAMMATION

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

FACE-TO-FACE versus TEXT/ONLINE

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

CBD for Anxiety/Depression?

CBD (cannabiol) is now getting a lot of press and increasing use by indivduals wanting relief from anxiety and depression as well as physical ailments. CBD does not produce the high that THC does and therefore is not addictive. Please note that we produce a similar chemical in our bodies (endocannabioid) and this has an impact on a lot of processes in our body and mind. If you also take it in externally, it will impact our natural system and perhaps lower our ability to produce this.

That said CBD is increasing being prescribed to quell anxiety and PTSD symptoms by mental health professionals. Studies that have looked at this use large amounts from 400 mg to 1000 mg and the typical available capsule is between 10-25 mg.  Also the products available vary in the amount of CBD actually in the capsule despite what they say and may have various contaminants like pesticides, since this is not well regulated yet.

Little evidence has yet been produced for benefit for depression. Limited research shows  some improvement for insomnia at low doses but increased wakefulness at higher doses.

So the bottom line is  BE CAREFUL and use non-drug means to handle anxiety before you start any drug.

 

 

September 28, 2019 Posted by | anxiety, Depression, Emotional Well Being, health | | Leave a comment

Mindfulness Continues To Surprise

Another study using mindfulness meditation that increases the support for its amazing benefits. This study was summarized in Mindful April 2019. Adrienne Taren, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon, studied the size of the amygdala in people with stress and mindfulness. The amygdala is part of the limbic system and involved in emotional responses including fear, anxiety and aggression. It can react with anxiety even when there is no danger but there is a learned pattern.

Taren’s first study looked at people who were not meditators but had mindfulness as a personality trait. She compared them with people who had high stress levels.The mindfulness group had smaller amygdalas that the high stress group. The assumption is that with smaller amygdala you are less stress reactive.

Now comes the amazing study – Taren had a group of high stress unemployed people and enrolled them in a three day retreat. Half of the group practiced Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and the other half were given relaxation practice. The mindfulness group after three days had smaller amygdalas. If this can be replicated, it is truly revolutionary. How quickly we can change and rewire our brains!

May 10, 2019 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, meditation, mindfulness | , , | Leave a comment

The Mind-Gut Connection

Another good book on the mind-gut connection, The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer MD. Here is a summary of some of the points that are most critical for mental health. The lining of the gut has specialized cells that can release up to 20 different hormones and this is greater that any other endocrine organ. 95% of the serotonin is stored here and its release is impacted by what we eat, by the chemicals released from gut microbes and from signals of the brain. Ninety percent of the signals between the gut-brain go from the gut to the brain through the vagus nerve and only 10% from the brain to the gut. With more than 100 trillion microbes n the gut, who is in charge?

Excessive dietary fat and reduced fiber compromise the intestinal barrier leading to inflammation with subsequent decreased energy, increased pain sensitivity and increased likelihood of depression. There is a growing link between this and Alzheimer’s. Maybe ice cream feels better in the short term but then what? Interesting that patients can be classified as having depression just be examining their gut microbes.

Sobering news is that the gut microbes that play such an important role in mental and physical health are mainly set by age 3. Various probiotics and diets do not alter the gut microbes much but they do impact the metabolites produced by the microbes. So yes eat yogurt. However, diet alone is not an answer. Anxiety, anger and stress need to be reduced to have healthy gut microbes.

The bottom line is to eat healthy while reducing stress and know that our thinking brain is only a small part of our mental health.

January 1, 2019 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being | , , | Leave a comment

Compassion versus Empathy

Joan Halifax has just published a wonderful book STANDING AT THE EDGE: FINDING FREEDOM WHERE FEAR AND COURAGE MEET.  For all of you who suffer from empathy burn-out – this is your book. It is Buddhist based because Joan is a Roshi and has an incredible background in many areas. Empathy is necessary as a starting point for compassion. But staying there is a prescription for stress and illness. Feeling another’s feelings and staying with these feelings accentuates suffering and really does not help the other person. The move to compassion keeps your heart open but you don’t take on the other’s burden. There is a clear boundary between you and the other person which is healthy. This is essential at this time when we are bombarded with violence in our country and abroad. Joan talks about the edge states of altruism, empathy, integrity, respect and engagement. She discusses how you can lose your footing on the edge state. Altruism can turn into another form – pathological altruism. Empathy can become empathic distress. If you take on others emotional or physical feelings, please read this book.

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Emotional Well Being | , | Leave a comment

Stress Is Good For You!

Here is an amazing concept which is beneficial for all of us. We can not avoid stress. Trying to avoid only leads to a shut-down in life and less joy and well-being. Here is the paradoxical answer as to how to have stress beneficial for you – welcome stress. Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. has written a summary of the stress research and how to apply this to your life. The title is The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good For You and How To Get Good at It. 

How you think about stress impacts the neurotransmitters released and the impact on your body and mind. “The effect you expect is the effect you get.”  Research has shown that people who believe stress is enhancing are healthier, happier, more productive, more satisfied with their lives than those who believe otherwise with the same amount of stress.

There are three categories of benefits of stress and the concomitant mindset.

  1. Stress helps you rise to the challenge by mobilizing energy
  2. Stress helps you connect with others and increases courage
  3.  Stress helps the brain learn and grow

The book has helpful exercises to get to this new place around stress as well as lots of examples and research. http://www.kellymcgonigal.com.

 

 

 

 

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, health | , , | Leave a comment

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

This information is extracted from a new book by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, ALTERED TRAITS: SCIENCE REVEALS HOW MEDITATION CHANGES YOUR MIND, BRAIN AND BODY.  It is fairly dense reading about the controlled scientific studies done to date. The importance of these new studies is that they are demonstrating changes in the brain through fMRIs that with continued meditation become traits or permanent changes in the brain.

These authors look at studies that used Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Compassion practice and different types of meditation practices.

Studies are showing certain areas of the brain enlarge. These areas help attention and self-regulation. It is less likely to become hijacked by emotions and to fall into anxiety or depression or impulsive action. The amygdala has reduction in activity which leads to a calmer state of being.

Other benefits: age-related brain atrophy slowed, reduction in shortening of telomerase, reduction in pain.

 

 

 

January 20, 2018 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being, meditation | , , | Leave a comment

Fight Depression with Diet, Exercise and Meditation

If you are contemplating taking antidepressants or are already on antidepressants and they are not working, here is the information you need now. Kelly Brogan MD had written a book that summarizes what we know about depression and antidepressants and then presents her plan to help women especially to get healthy without drugs. The book is A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. She reviews the research that basically says antidepressants are a placebo but have negative side effects that are not worth the minimal help. Healthy diet, exercise and meditation are the answer. Her diet is very restrictive and you have to be very motivated to follow this. For 30 days, she asks you to be off gluten, dairy, sugar, potatoes, rice, soy and legumes. And only drink water. No other beverages. Wow! However this is for 30 days and then you add back foods to see if they work for you or not. Even if you don’t want to do this sort of eating, please read the book. The information is invaluable.

December 10, 2017 Posted by | Depression, Emotional Well Being | , , | Leave a comment