Anita Kemp Ph.D. Blog

Ideas for a healthy body, mind and spirit.

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

Thyroid and Mood

This little organ – the thyroid- does amazing things for the body and needs to be in balance for your physical and mental health. If you have symptoms of stress, insomnia, feel overwhelmed, have trouble losing weight, feels depressed or anxious, take a look at this wonderful book – ADRENAL THYROID REVOLUTION by Aviva Romm MD.

Her focus is on hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue. Imbalances occur through chronic stress, toxins, infections, food triggers and problems with the gut. The  solution is to work on all the relevant areas. Stress management is central and here is where yoga and meditation can be a tremendous help. Other areas need to be assessed by  WHOLISTIC DOCTOR.  These come under various names like integrative medicine doctor, functional medicine doctor or naturopathic doctor. Visit websites for American Board of Integrative Medicine, Institute of Functional Medicine.

 

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Emotional Well Being, health, weight management | , , | Leave a comment

The Placebo Impact

There is so much information on the positive benefits of placebos. Here is some more. When Diazepam for anxiety is given without the patient knowing that he/she received it, there is no impact at all. This indicates that most if not all of the impact of drugs like Valium and Ativan is due to the placebo effect. This is good news. It means that we ourselves create the change in our bodies and receive relaxation from the belief that this should be happening. This indicates that relaxation training can be as successful as drugs.

Even more good news! For chronic pain, a study found that an intravenous injection of a saline solution and telling the patient that they are receiving a painkiller is as potent as 6-8 mg of morphine and this hold true for other pain killers as well. So what is causing the pain relief? Our own brain/body. This has also been studied with brain imaging and finding impact on the brain from expectation alone.

Check out this new book by Jo Marchant CURE: A JOURNEY INTO THE SCIENCE OF MIND OVER BODY.

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Emotional Well Being | Leave a comment

Gut Microbes and Your Moods

Absolutely read David Perlmutter’s new book BRAIN MAKER. He is a neurologist who has worked with and studied various mental health conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Depression and Dementia from the point of view of healthy diet and keeping the microbes in the body happy. There is fascinating information here that can benefit everyone. The gut bacteria are involved in producing 80-90% of your serotonin and have their own immune system which is 70-80% of your total immune system. If you need more incentive to read this book – certain gut bacteria are related to weight loss and others to weight gain. After you find out about the critical importance of the microbiome, he offers help on how to maintain healthy bacteria. Some of this you certainly already know – like yogurt- and other ideas may be new to you – like foods rich in prebiotics. Happy reading and happy health.

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Emotional Well Being | | Leave a comment

Mindfulness Benefits

Research continues to find benefits for mindfulness based meditation and these can not be ignored. Mindfulness is associated with positive emotion, improved resilience to stress, increased immune functioning, improved cognitive performance and overall reduction in anxiety, depression and improved longevity. How can you ignore the benefits? The amount of time required for benefit seems minimal compared to the amount of time we might spend texting/e-mailing or watching television/movies. Positive results are found for even 20 minutes a day for 10 weeks with improvement being maintained after this for months. Take a look at material available from Jon Kabat-Zinn who has one version of mindfulness called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and look into the research of Richard Davidson Ph.D. Invest in your health and it is fun as well.

February 4, 2015 Posted by | Emotional Well Being | , , | Leave a comment