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When In Doubt, Talk It Out

Humans have communicated via storytelling for thousands of years. Prior to the codification of language, non-verbal acts such as pantomime were used to inspire, educate, and entertain. The advent of language allowed for a more refined method of addressing some of life’s most pressing questions.

Within the process of storytelling, both the teller and the listener are thought to benefit. The former is given an opportunity to share, while the latter may find comfort in the connection. Case in point: my first-ever concert was legendary blues guitarist B.B. King at the long-gone Poplar Creek Music Theater. As was typical, he opened the show with his classic tale of woe, The Thrill Is Gone. As he bellowed such lines as “the thrill is gone away from me / although I’ll still live on / so lonely I will be,” the crowd erupted with cheers of approval as the storyteller put words and melody to a universally relatable feeling.

Recent findings from UCLA’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory appear to support this idea. This research team found that when participants were shown photos of angry faces, the region of the brain that prepares us to defend ourselves exhibited increased activity. When participants were then asked to verbally assign descriptive words such as “angry” or “mad” to the images, the same area of the brain appeared to cool. In the words of UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman, “This is ancient wisdom, but now we can verify it with brain mapping.”

Spring Forward with more Steps!

With winter coming to an end (hopefully!) and spring approaching, what better way to ‘Spring Forward’ than incorporating more movement and exercise into our daily routines. Why is exercise really the ‘best’ medicine and why does my doctor keep recommending that I exercise more? Is there really a correlation between exercise and mental health? Absolutely!

In general, consistent exercise has proven to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Boost self-esteem
  • Prevent feelings of anxiety and depression

The Mind, Body and Soul Connection

When was the last time you enjoyed a quiet mind? Have you found yourself attached to an emotion or thought? Have you noticed that often thoughts and emotions produce physical symptoms? In order to improve the well-being of an individual, we need to view them from a mind-body-soul perspective.

We often have heard “just try taking a deep breath” when stressed. Why? We know that when we take a deep breath it signals to our brain to relax. Focusing on breathing has been found to have positive results on well-being. One way that psychologists teach this technique is through the use of biofeedback. Biofeedback is a form of treatment that teaches individuals to use signals from their body to improve their health. This leads to an awareness into how their minds and bodies work together in response to stress and anxiety. Learning about one’s heart and breathing rates when stressed is an example of how this awareness is achieved. Biofeedback can help many different conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Holiday Stress

Holiday times remind us of special significance and meaning.  Thanksgiving is an American tradition. It’s about being thankful for all that we have. Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and holidays at this time of year also have special meanings. Of course, New Year’s is a celebration of the ending of the year, with all the excitement about ushering in a New Year and making resolutions.