Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Give Your Brain a Break: Silence and Brain Health

How many times a day do you check your phone?

We’re not saying it’s bad. Too many outlets demonize technology without taking into account the benefits provided by social contact and connectivity. However, recent studies have begun to establish the connection between too much noise and too little recovery time, leading to more fatigue, and higher rates of stress and discomfort.

According to recent studies, there is such thing as too much stimulation. With all of the modern conveniences at our fingertips, the temptation to always move on to the next thing can start to override our physiological tendencies. If you’ve stayed up too late watching episodes of your favorite show on Netflix more often than you’d like, you’ll know what we’re talking about: the craving for the stimulus that starts to seem more important than things like, say, sleep. Or food. It doesn’t have to be quite as blatant, either, with more subtle manifestations like the need to constantly check your phone, or the feeling that you’ll receive an important work email the moment you close your browser.

Whatever it starts to look like, the end result is–functionally speaking–fairly simple: your brain just doesn’t have enough down-time. In layman’s terms, the inability to separate ourselves from stimuli is similar to listening to a leaky faucet, except on a constant basis. Time and time again, your body is forced to react on a subconscious level to a noise or light, keeping your body in a heightened state of awareness. On a chemical level, this includes the release of the stress hormone Cortisol, as well as physiological responses like higher blood pressure.

Always having something to react to starts to wear on an individual. This includes exposure to what would otherwise be considered “ambient” noise, including so-called “relaxing” music; a 2006 study found indications that silence was more physiologically relaxing than exposure to quiet, relaxing music. Theoretically, the only time your body will enter an authentic “relaxation” mode is in the absence of stimuli, not in the presence of so-called “relaxing” stimuli.

Though we here at South Denver Psychotherapy understand the many benefits that modern living provides, there is a lot to be said for looking to strike a balance. Giving yourself some time to not react to anything can have a host of benefits, both physical and psychological. If you’re stressed, fatigued, or feeling overwhelmed, it’s possible that one of the things you may need is a whole lot of nothing.

If you have any questions about methods to reduce stress and increase mindfulness, please don’t hesitate to contact South Denver Psychotherapy. Our counselors can help you achieve a healthy balance that lets you take advantage of the modern world, without having it take advantage of you.

Just Get Out the Door: Connecting Exercise and Mood

When you think exercise, what comes to mind? Physical fitness? Hard work? Silly shorts? Exercise can be all of these things and more. But what if we told you that exercise might also mean a healthier mind?

According to a number of scientific studies, your New Year’s Resolution might be worth sticking to. Exercise doesn’t just mean sweat—according to these studies, it has been linked to an improvement of symptoms of depression and anxiety. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a run or just doing some yoga: both aerobic and anaerobic exercise seem to help address symptoms.

Theories abound on why exercise and mental health are linked, from the psychological to the neurochemical. Several beneficial psychological and sociological elements fit under the physical fitness umbrella, such as distracting oneself from negative stimuli—leaving work- or relationship-related stress behind, for example—and the feeling of accomplishment and efficacy that comes from reaching your fitness goals. Likewise, often times there is a social structure of support and camaraderie that comes from exercise: if you have a workout group or buddy, you’re more likely to receive support that you might not otherwise get.

These boosts to self-esteem that come from the psychological benefits of exercise often address a great range of symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, there seem to be physiological benefits, too: according to some hypotheses, exercise can affect the release of helpful neurochemicals. For example, according to one study, exercise can “increase the synaptic transmission of monomines.” While this may sound like a chapter in a psychology textbook, that information is exciting news: it turns out, that is the same function found in a range of antidepressant medications. In a similar vein, exercise has been observed to release endorphins, and while the connection between endorphins and exercise requires more study, there is a promising body of evidence to suggest that working out can give you the neurochemical dump you need to counteract some symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It is important to note that there are studies indicating that exercising may not be a catch-all solution to your mental health symptoms. Experimentally speaking, many gaps remain in the data that has been thus far collected—as with many other psychological and medical issues, modern technology has opened a huge range of options for exploration on these subjects.

On the other hand, however, exercise affects many different parts of your life. Several elements of physical activity seem to have complimentary effects, including distracting yourself from fixating on issues, and feeling better about your physical well-being. So, next time you’re feeling stuck, getting depressed, or feeling anxious, maybe it’s time to take a walk or do some push-ups. After all, mental health concerns your whole body, not just your mind.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call South Denver Psychotherapy at 303-730-1144, or visit our website for more information on how we can help you rediscover your authentic self.

Addiction Recovery: A New Perspective

When you hear the phrase “Addiction Recovery,” it’s often connected to thoughts of self-denial and stringent discipline. But a new perspective on the treatment of addiction is trying to change the conversation: instead of removing an addictive substance from the subjects life through punishment, new research suggests that reward may be the stronger alternative.

According to research performed by Dr. Suzette Glasner-Edwards of UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, addiction has as much to do with the presence of dopamine in a victim’s system as it does with the addictive nature of the substance in question. Indeed, the research suggests that a major cause of addiction is the increased levels of dopamine that alcohol or drugs have when compared to other stimuli.

Glasner-Edward’s so-called “Behavioral Activation Therapy” focuses on replacing the triggers of dopamine in a subject’s system with healthier, but no less rewarding habits. According to Glasner-Edwards, one of the major reasons for relapse is the feeling of disappointment in routine pleasure, coupled with the seemingly joyless prospect of removing the addictive dopamine source from an addict’s life. Therefore, replacing the addictive stimulus is an important step on the road to recovery, which should be treated as an important health regimen in its own right.

The key, according to Glasner-Edwards, is to discover or reclaim sources of enjoyment in the recovering addict’s life. Something that interests and engages, and provides the sense of enjoyment that the addictive substance once provided. This includes anything from trips to a favorite location, a new avenue of study, exercise, learning a new skill, and so on—as long as the new activity is an enjoyable and healthy alternative, it fits Glasner-Edwards’ criteria. It is also important to treat the activity as a learned pattern of behavior, creating a specific schedule around seeking this source of enjoyment, and reinforcing the healthy behavior through rewards such as a favorite food or a massage. To sum up Glasner-Edwards’ theory, “rewarding healthy behaviors can establish positive habits.”

It is important to note, says Glasner-Edwards, that the recovering addict must be aware of the already established patterns of stimulus and behavior. For instance, if a certain situation is associated with substance abuse, it can trigger a relapse.

There is no one way to address addiction and substance abuse. However, research such as Dr. Suzette Glasner-Edwards’ studies into the nature of addiction and association provide new tools for addressing the challenges a recovering addict faces. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or any other unhealthy behaviors, please contact us. We’re here to get you the tools you need.