Friday, August 21, 2015

How to Start Breaking Your Worst Habit Today










Ideas and Actions for Kicking Bad Habits
Problem habits are high on the list of things that most people want to overcome. For example, do you worry too much? Do your friends joke about you showing up late? Do you shop and spend too much? Are you caught up in too many lies? Do you eat calorie-rich food when you want to lose weight? Do you live your life through Facebook? Do you bite your nails?  Do you procrastinate? 
What makes a habit a problem habit? Some of these automatic activities are both the causes and consequences of stress or anxiety.  Some you acquire or learn accidently or by imitating others.  Some, like nose picking, can cause you to look unappealing. Some can result in serious physical harm: smoking raises your risk for lung cancer. In short, problem habits normally have negative consequences.
You can learn to lessen or extinguish these and other undesirable habits. Let’s look at more than 12 options for getting them out of your life.

Habits of the Mind, Consumption, and Behavior

I divided problem habits into three categories: (1) habits of mind, such as worrying excessively, (2) habits of consumption, such as eating excessively, and (3) habits of behavior, such as nail biting. The categories suggest different remedies.  I’ll give brief tips for each type of problem habit (tips for one group of problems may also apply to another). Then I’ll share a general habit-breaking tip.
Before we go any further, what’s your worst problem habit?

Habits of the Mind

A habit of the mind is where you automatically repeat beliefs and thoughts that lead to the same emotional and behavioral troubles. For example, some anxieties are based on fictions where you exaggerate risks and threats that most would consider non-dangerous events. Here’s an example. You believe that strangers you meet will see your faults and reject you. You dread going to social gatherings where you may meet strangers and you habitually avoid them whenever you can. You often feel lonely and spend a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself.
Like most negative habits of the mind, fictional anxieties are correctable. They are based on situations that, when you are in them, evoke fears that are also based on fictions.  For example, face up to what you foolishly fear often enough, and you are likely to stop feeling afraid. You are less likely to feel anxious about something that you no longer fear1.  So, if you are afraid of rejection in social situations, daily expose yourself to a social situation. If, after a few weeks, you no longer feel so anxious, what changed? (Exposure is a gold standard for combating fear situations that arouse anxiety.)
You may do more than exaggerate or fictionalize threats.  You may also feel anxious about feeling and looking anxious. This is a double trouble situation. You feel anxious about a situation and anxious about feeling anxious2. By accepting anxiety over anxiety as inconvenient (not terrible), you may feel considerably calmer.

Habits of Consumption

It is tough to resist consumptive urges. You want to lose weight. You see a bowl of potato chips. You tell yourself you’ll eat only one potato chip. Then, almost as if you were in a trance, you gobble down one chip after another.  You smoke and want to quit.  You tell yourself you’ll stop someday. You drink too much. You know you have to quit.  But, the bottle is your buddy.
You don’t have to smoke or drink. Indeed, by the age of 30, most people kick their addictive habits without professional help3. However, you have to eat to live. But, you don’t have to eat fattening snacks. In a sense, they are like nicotine and alcohol.
You don’t have to devour potato chips as if you had no other choice. Nevertheless, when tempting snacks are before your eyes (or you have a craving for a particular fattening food) you have a first line of defense: do something constructive to take your mind off consuming the snack. If you don’t start eating chips, you avoid having your mind go on automatic pilot where you start consuming like a ravenous reptile.  Can you do better than what your reptilian brain dictates?
If you have a craving-urge problem to address, and have a hard time dealing with it, what's next? Perhaps you have a pink elephant problem. Here’s the situation. For the next minute, try not to think of a pink elephant. If you are like most the harder you try to suppress the elephant the bigger it grows4. In a sense, that is why some habit urges and cravings linger longer. Accept them without a felt need to act on them, and they tend to lose their power.
Here’s another option to the pink elephant problem.  Actively substitute a coping tactic. When you start to have a snack attack, before you do anything else, do something other than take the first morsel.
Here is a time interval experiment. When you have an urge to consume find out how long the urge lasts. Check your watch. Keep your eyes squarely on the time, Does the urge last two minutes? Twelve minutes? Watch for changes in your emotions. Do you get impatient watching your watch? Do you get bored? Do you feel intrigued by what is happening?  What do you make of your emotions?
Here is a hypothesis for you to test: Once the urge subsides, are you less likely to consume the snack?  If the timing technique works for you, keep practicing until you make this into a competitive, positive, habit to pit against the problem variety.
Here’s another. Try a combination technique and see if you can procrastinate on executing your worst problem habit.  Redo the time interval experiment. This time do the experiment with a different twist. Instead of watching your watch, fill the time with an activity. Here’s how. Between the start and end of an urge, use my procrastinationrewards technique. Intentionally do what you might do if you were procrastinating.
When you procrastinate, you always substitute something less relevant for what you are putting off.  You dust instead of read. You fiddle instead of doing a pressing report. You shuffle papers instead of making an important phone call. These habitual behavioral diversions extend delaying when you are probably better off not delaying.
You can turn procrastination distractions to your advantage. As you are doing your time interval measure, do things that might ordinarily reward a procrastination habit. You dust your desk. You text. You plan next year’s vacation.  You may find that distractions, that ordinarily reward procrastination, also reward delaying the habit that you want to delay, then end. Test it out. See what results from this combination experiment. If this doesn't work for you, try another way.
By the way, did you feel any different between when you watched your watch as time flowed on  and when you filled that time void with activity? Did you discover anything interesting that you can use to quiet your problem habit urges?

Habits of Behavior                      

Problem habits of behavior can be self-defeating, especially when you make a negative impression on people that you want to impress. Chewing your pencil is an example. Here are a few others: lip smacking, finger tapping, and vocalizations such as "Ya know,” “Umm."  
Awareness is an antiseptic for habits of behavior. Developing competing actions is a second. Let’s start with awareness.
“Seeing is believing.” Video feedback can be a great source of information.  Observe yourself on tape. You may notice mannerisms and habits that merit eliminating. Self-monitoring is another great method.  Watch what you do and when. Target high-risk timeswhere your habit is likely to surface. Plan, and then practice  a competitive habit.
To deal with a habit of behavior start building a competing habit. For example, if you tap your fingers when you feel impatient, practice a different response. Fold your fingers together instead.  If you want to make this competing response automatic, try anovercorrection experiment.  When you are by yourself, move your finger as if you were ready to start tapping. Then, immediately fold your fingers together. 
How long does it take to find out if overcorrection can work for you?  It takes as long as it takes. Here’s an experiment. For the next week, for four  times a day, for three-minutes per time, practice your overcorrection technique.  See what happens.

Your General Habit Breaking Tip

Here is a technique that you can use with different problem habits, including your worst habit. It involves taking an easy attitude toward the problem habit.
Here is how the easy attitude technique works. You allow yourself to experience the urge.  You study your urge and habit in live time. You accept the urge as transitory: it is like a cloud flowing with a passing breeze.
From the time interval experiment, you know that urges have a relatively short lifespan. By accepting the urge, as part of what is going on now, that shift in perspective can transform the urge into feelings you can tolerate.  If you can better tolerate a feeling or urge, you’ll have less of a struggle5.  
Here is something else.  Habit urges and substance craving are not the only thing that are going on in your life. What else is taking place that is of greater importance? This shift in the locus of your focus puts your habit urge into a broader perspective. The habit urge or substance craving may not seem so compelling or important in the broader context of your life.
To learn more about procrastination, click on End Procrastination Now(link is external)

References

Here’s the American Psychological Association style for citing the procrastination reward technique, or other information, from this blog:
Knaus, W. (August 12, 2015). How to Start Breaking Your Worst Habit Today [Blog Post]  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-and-sensibility/201508/how-...
1. Knaus, W. (2014). The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety (Second Edition). Oakland CA: New Harbinger.
2. Ellis, A. and Knaus, W. (1979). Overcoming Procrastination. NY: New American Library
3. Heyman, G. M.  (2013). Addiction and Choice: Theory and New Data. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 64: 31 Retrieved from  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3644798/(link is external)
4.  Knaus, W. (1982). How to Get Out of a Rut. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall.
5. Knaus, W. (1994). Change Your Life Now. NY: John Wiley.
© Dr. Bill Knaus

Monday, August 10, 2015

Anxiety is Normal!


by Joan Shepherd, NP

Just another word about anxiety.

We survived as a species because our brains have the ability to respond to what they perceive as dangerous. The brain perceives danger—usually either a Lack or Attack of some sort—and it prepares the body to react appropriately. In some cases, that means running away; in some cases, it means freezing and hiding; and, in some cases it means to stay and fight like hell.

Many people seek treatment for anxiety or self-medicate because they do not like the way they feel when their body is responding to a ‘dangerous’ situation. The racing heart, the tightness in their chest, the lightheadedness, the choking sensation….

It’s not unusual for me to hear from patients who are going through a detox that even before they became dependent on opiates, benzos or booze, they experienced anxiety. “I have anxiety,” they say. Their parents often nod in agreement, “He’s always been anxious—even as a kid.”

Well, that’s ok. We all have anxiety. We are all programmed to have these responses. It’s healthy and normal—unless you are letting these responses take up more than their fair share of your life. If you are allowing these feelings to get in the way of you acting on what you value most, then, there’s a problem.

Because, if anxiety is running the show, your life will become more and more constricted. If you believe you cannot tolerate the discomfort of anxiety symptoms, you will become an expert in avoidance. And, your life will become smaller. You will choose not to act in ways that support what you value.

But, you can learn to live with your anxiety, without defining yourself by it. The strategies for doing this are beyond the scope of this article, but it’s important for you to know, you do not need to live within the tiny prison walls you’ve created for yourself.


Courageously choosing to stop using an addictive substance may open the floodgates to increased anxiety at first. That’s why it’s so important to have a good plan going forward. Support and help are out there everywhere. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Son's Unfinished Life - And Mine


Boz Scaggs
  
by 
Peter R. Coleman, M.D.
Recently, a fellow practitioner sent an emaiI containing an article from Newsweek magazine, which was published back in February, 1999. 

Now, 15 years later, the message is still very timely given the alarming trends in opiate addiction, heroin use, and increasing overdose statistics.  It is worth the time to read again.

My Son's Unfinished Life - And Mine

Newsweek Magazine - February 22, 1999

Author: Boz Scaggs

On December 31st, 1998, I lost my son Oscar to an accidental heroin overdose. And my world is blown to smithereens. My son - this fine, beautiful, sweet young man - my Oscar is gone from this world. Twenty-one years old. Hooked on the high, the release, that place of no worry about pressures from family or school, or jobs not yet found. And I am trying to put together the pieces of my own life and of his. There are so many unanswered questions when one so young dies suddenly. So many parts of his life were in transition and unresolved. I hardly know how to begin. I have a dilemma about the role of drugs in our lives, and specifically about the role of heroin in the lives of my son's generation. 

A lot of the same drugs were around when I was his age. The challenge to drop out, tear down the walls and live as never before was there in the music, the fashion and fabric of the time. Every generation hears its own call to change the existing order. For many, that includes experimenting with drugs. But the nature of experimentation has changed - then it was primarily a counter-cultural expression; today it's that and a consumer activity as well.

 
Recreational drugs far more potent than the pot we smoked in college are marketed like designer underwear, cigarettes, soft drinks, CD's - like equally benign consumer goods, that is. But even among those substances with sure potential to be lethal, heroin belongs in a class of its own. It does not allow casual use for long. Kids believe that if they "only" smoke it or snort it, they won't get addicted. It's no wonder that an epidemic of "amateur" use is underway. No surprise either is the large number of accidental deaths being reported: the purity of the drug is so unpredictable.

Heroin used to be an unthinkable choice for all but the hard-core user. It no longer is. If your son or daughter or friend is experimenting with or using heroin in any form, don't wait to get information and help. Forget your preconceptions about people who "really" use heroin.

 
From the time my two sons were teenagers, I talked openly with them about drugs. It was a daunting position to be in as a parent, but I told them what I knew from experience. I didn't blacklist every drug, but described as objectively as I could their effects and consequences. I think we shared more than most parents and children on the subject.

My son Oscar suffered from addiction - given his genetic or psychological makeup, given the world around him, it was perhaps inevitable that he would come to abuse drugs. Countless people suffer from addiction. Many get treatment and learn ways to manage it; they cope with the pain and uncertainty that is part of life, and they live. Oscar experimented with drugs and alcohol throughout his adolescence. In retrospect they clearly interfered with his ability to develop and to function. Heroin brought his dysfunction into high relief - he became aware of the drug taking over and asked for help.

That was a beginning in his recovery. Oscar entered treatment last January. He worked hard in various programs, but the process wasn't linear or fast - two steps forward, one step back. It was in the last six months that his recovery program began to take on real meaning to Oscar. He was slowly coming to terms with his addiction and recovery. He worked hard. And slowly, Oscar's life began to fall into place. Given the progress he'd made and the new job he was clearly thriving in, given his new girlfriend and the holidays - well, it proved to be a sort of classic setup, in a clinical sense, for relapse. The confidence of having it all together may have made Oscar feel invulnerable to heroin. 

Then came payday; he was on his way to pick up tickets for a concert that night, he was dressed in his finest and he decided, I can only guess, to make a stop at his dealer's and celebrate it all.

Oscar's death was an accident, a miscalculation. I say this only to underscore the importance of the open discussions from earlier years, the work Oscar did in recovery, the work we, his family, did with him. None of it was for naught; communication never is. For Oscar, recovery work was a real chance at life; for his family it was an experience that changed our lives profoundly. I had always considered my relationship to my sons to be closer than that of any other father and sons I knew. 

But in these last six months we rediscovered our profound commitment to one another. I saw him without drugs in his system for the first time in years, clear-eyed and healthy, a true joy to be around himself. I began to see my role in Oscar's addiction and recovery. Oscar had yet to learn fundamentals of self-sustenance, and I had to learn to stand back while he caught up. 

I had to learn to give without giving, touch without touching, act without acting. 

I needed more time; the work was unfinished, his and mine.
 


Friday, July 24, 2015

I raised an addict - what could I have done differently?

It has been a very interesting month. Since my first post I have connected with old high school friends who have active or recovering addicts in their families. I have been contacted by people who are living the nightmare of Addiction as parents, spouses, children and friends of addicts as well as addicts themselves. Many have shared powerful stories of recovery.  I have written or spoken the words ‘I am sorry for your loss’ too many times to count, though we really do need to keep counting…  Every person we lose leaves a gaping hole in the world. That hole will swallow us all if the tide is not turned.
I did not intend to start a blog, and I am a bit unsure of where to take it from here. I am, after all,  just the Mom of a recovering addict who posted a bit of a hissy fit to her Facebook after learning of another senseless death. I don’t think I can keep tossing out hissy fits, it would get old pretty quickly. I have decided that I will post when something is swirling around in my head enough to make me sit down and write about it, since that’s what happened the first time. It may be a few things in a short amount of time, followed by a lull. We’ll just have to see where this blog leads me.
This is a new journey and I’m glad for the company of all who would like to walk this path with me. We have certainly walked it alone for far too long.
Today’s thought: What could I have done differently?
This question haunted me for many, many years. Should I have taken him back to school to get a forgotten book? When he left his report on the counter in fifth grade should I have left it there instead of bringing it to school? He had ADD so organizing was hard for him. Did I do too much? Did he never learn to be accountable for his own actions? Was I too worried about him failing a stupid sixth grade math test? Should I have let him fail and learn the result of not putting in the work instead of making him study against his will? Should have, would have, could have were constantly swirling in my head. Tiny voices blaming, blaming…
Yes, I should have let him fall on his face when he was little. The consequences of their errors grow as they do. I didn’t have to catch him when he fell —- I was holding on so tightly he never really fell.  And when he went away to college he fell hard. So yes, I should have let him fail more when he was young.
In all honesty, that is the one thing I feel I could have changed. I don’t know what else I could have done differently that would have gotten him to ‘just say no’ to drugs. Above is an old newspaper clipping of my son and his friends from the neighborhood with their ‘just say no’ signs. They marched around the neighborhood chanting. He wore his D.A.R.E. (Drug Addiction Resistance Education) T-shirt forever. We spoke about drugs and drinking and sex. Once, when my son was a freshman in high school he had some friends over. Two of the girls brought booze into my home in soda screw top bottles (OK, lesson one: no outside drinks allowed in my home). They also had some joints on them. My son and his friend came to me and told me what was going on. THEY CAME AND TOLD ME. Parents were called, girls cried, drama ensued. BUT HE TOLD ME. How, then, did this kid end up a freakin’ heroin addict? The one who told. The one who knew better. No matter how much we think ‘they’ve got this’, they don’t. Life is not black and white, and adolescence is the murkiest of grays. We cannot rest on our laurels, no matter how great our kids are – they are navigating a mine field.  Kids do dumb things, but many stupid choices don’t have the dire consequences too many families are facing today in eye of this epidemic.
Part of the problem is that we just didn’t know. We didn’t know to say, ‘stay away from Oxycontin kids, because it will lead to heroin’. We knew to say, ‘don’t drink – alcoholism runs in your family – but if you make poor decisions, don’t compound them by driving. Call us, stay where you are’. We knew to say, ‘Don’t have sex, you’re too young, but if you do, wear protection. If you get a girl pregnant, please come to us, we will work through this together’.  We knew to say, ‘don’t do drugs, they are dangerous, people get addicted’.  We didn’t know to say, and I wish with all my heart we had, ‘but if you get addicted, please come to us and we will help you. We will be here for you because we love you.’  Of course this Oxycontin thing wasn’t on our radar. Who could ever imagine their kid would go so far as to stick a needle in their vein?  I’ll tell you, my son didn’t think he’d ever do something so stupid either, even when he was addicted to Oxycontin, until he did.
I can’t re-think what we didn’t know. But I can warn parents of young children today. Because now we do know about OxyContin and the path it forges to heroin. There are many ‘not my kid’ campaigns out there. Parents today need to arm themselves with information about what drugs are popular with what age groups in their hometown and what the warning signs are.  They also need to have a plan about what they would do if they find out their child is making dangerous choices. Also, what’s their plan if they find out some other kid is making dangerous choices. Do they tell the other parent?  What will they do if their child came to them and told them they were addicted? What will they do to make it possible for their child to even feel capable of telling? Have a plan in place. Maybe even read a few books. Understand what enabling looks like. It can look a lot like love…
Co-dependence and enabling isn’t something that only occurs with addiction. I was an enabler-in-training for years. We need to learn to recognize when a child should do something for themselves, even if it’s hard to watch them not do it and pay the consequences.  If your Senior won’t fill out college applications then maybe he’s not ready for college.  Many of the things I learned in Al-Anon about detaching and not doing for someone what they can do for themselves would have come in handy during those teenage years. Would it have made a difference to my son? Would he have not become an addict? Who knows. But I do know that I would have been more equipped to deal with the addict who came to possess him.
Don’t just hope your children will never be exposed to drugs. Assume they will. Talk to your kids, speak to your friends, and  have a battle plan in place. If your school or town has informational meetings about this epidemic, show up, even if your kid is only 7 or 8. Be informed. Be ready. We need to fight this epidemic on all fronts. If your town does not have any form of parent education, Start the Conversation. All parents of young kids should listen to addicts in recovery speak. They are your neighbor’s children.  My son would tell you he had a nice childhood. He played baseball and soccer and took karate. We had a good relationship. He knew his parents loved him, and  – he did know better. What made him make bad choices in spite of knowing better? What changed from the age of 14 to the age of 16, when the drinking began? Murky gray. Minefield.
Recognize addiction can happen to your child. The epidemic is real. Be afraid. Be prepared to fight for your child’s life.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Arm yourselves.

Reprinted from:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Press Pause


by Gabi Pinto-Coelho

America: the land of the free and the home of the stressed. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly proud and grateful to be an American, and stress is not a uniquely American experience. But let’s face it, our workplaces promote a culture of more-is-more, dog-eat-dog, do-it-all, and by the way, your request for vacation has been denied. This doesn’t even take into account our often equally over scheduled home lives with household chores and errands, care giving responsibilities, and the ever-growing “wish I could get to” list. It can easily feel as if we are living in the middle of a hurricane, and the only thing we can do to stay in the eye of the storm is to keep doing more, and faster, and more efficiently. Gotta be one step ahead.

As a Type A person, this is how I have lived the majority of my life. To-do lists are my bread and butter, and for me, there is nothing quite as rewarding as crossing off tasks. And while this can certainly be a virtuous quality, I have begun to notice how it is a shortcoming. The constant need to “do” and “get things done” can leave me with a feeling of hyper-vigilance - Have I done everything I need to today? Can I get ahead on anything for tomorrow? Did I forget something? What if I forgot something? Living in this state of heightened stress can lead to a host of problems, which is why I am grateful for the practices of yoga and meditation. If the idea of sitting still on a cushion for 20 minutes or bending and twisting in a 90-minute yoga class makes you cringe, fear not. There is a simple and quick way to practice that peaceful feeling that follows a meditation or yoga session.

Whether it feels like it or not, you have the opportunity to “press pause” on your life whenever you would like to do so. No, I am not talking about literally stopping the passage of time, a la Hiro Nakamura in the TV show Heroes. Instead, I am talking about taking a moment in the day to notice the swirl of activity, thoughts, and emotions, and choose to intentionally pay attention. Notice that this practice is about attention - not about judging, storytelling, wishing things were different, grasping onto something, or pushing something away. It is just about arriving where you are, exactly as you are. So how exactly do you “arrive,” especially when you feel like you are on a high-speed carousel that you cannot escape? 

Well, you have some options:
  • ·      Pause by noticing the physical sensations in your body. You can do this seated, standing, laying down, walking, doing whatever.
  • ·      Pause by noticing the movement of the breath in and out of the body.
  • ·      Pause by noticing the thoughts and emotions as they pass across the mind. This one is a little trickier, so I recommend working with the body and the breath first. Especially when working with the mind, imagine that you are cloud watching - sit on the sidelines and observe as the thoughts and emotions arise and dissipate on their own.

The key to pressing pause is to just observe and bring the mind back to your focus (body, breath, or mind) each time your mind wanders. The practice is not about having an empty mind or only positive experiences - the practice is about returning to this moment without judgment over and over again. If your mind wanders 100 times while you are watching the breath, bring the attention back 100 times. That’s it. This practice might last 2 minutes or 5 minutes... it’s entirely up to you. Simple, but definitely not easy. You might be surprised how it makes you feel.

You might be thinking: well, who is going to get all this stuff done when I am “pressing pause”? What if something urgent comes up? First of all, it is important to trust that world will not devolve into pure chaos if you take a few minutes to arrive in the present. Second, the act of pressing pause is equivalent to a mental “reset” button, and it allows you to return to your tasks more focused and more productive than before. 

We are so focused on getting things done that we convince ourselves that “just another hour of work will really make a difference.” In reality, your push to be productive slows you down and gradually smothers your intellectual and creative capacities. Third, pausing is important not only in those routine moments of stress, but perhaps even more important in times of crisis. 

Research has documented how stress affects our decision-making abilities, and, unsurprisingly, when we are stressed out, we don’t always take the best action. In crises, our fight-or-flight instinct kicks in and we tend to react rather than respond intelligently. Pressing pause actually helps us respond well in those high-stakes situations.

The next time you feel that “swirl” in your life - of activity, of thoughts, of emotions - take a moment and press pause. See what happens.


Friday, June 26, 2015

14 Things You Can Learn From Your Pets


Reprinted from www.commonhealth.virgina.gov

Forget Multitasking
When dogs have a job to do, they give it their undivided attention. It turns out people should probably do the same. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those who juggle work, email, and web-surfing, compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Other studies suggest employees actually lose time when multitasking.

Take Naps
You won’t catch your pet going from dawn to dusk without any shut-eye. There’s good evidence humans can benefit from catnaps, too. A study involving about 24,000 people indicates regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who nap only occasionally. Short naps can also enhance alertness and job performance.

Walk Every Day
Whether you’ve got four legs or two, walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to burn calories and boost heart health. Taking regular walks can also help you: fight depression, lose weight, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, lower the risk of breast and colon cancer, keep your bones strong, and keep your mind sharp.

Cultivate Friendships
People are social animals, and friendships have measurable health benefits. Researchers in Australia followed 1,500 older people for 10 years. Those with the most friends were 22% less likely to die than those with the fewest friends.

Live in the Moment
Living in the moment is one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”, Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.

Don’t Hold a Grudge
Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges, and you’ll literally breathe easier. Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.

Wag
OK, so maybe you don’t have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you’re feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.

Be Silly
Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found a stronger sense of humor in people with healthy hearts than in those who had suffered a heart attack. They conclude that “laughter is the best medicine” – especially when it comes to protecting your heart.

Drink Water When You’re Thirsty
Dogs don’t lap up sports drinks when they’ve been playing hard – and most people don’t need to, either. During a typical workout, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water gives your muscles and tissues critical fluid without adding to your calorie count. Be sure to drink more than usual on hot days or when you’re sweating a lot.

Eat Fish
Most cats would trade kibble for a can of tuna any day. Luckily, you can choose to make fish a regular part of your diet. Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. In addition, Rush University researchers found that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Play
Goofing off is not just for kids and kittens. In his book, Play, Stuart Brown, MD, writes that playing is a basic human need along with sleeping and eating. Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors
A hike in the woods may be a dog’s idea of bliss, but it has plenty of benefits for the human mind and body, as well. Spending time outdoors can enhance fitness, increase vitamin D levels, and reduce stress. In children, playing in natural settings has also been linked to better distance vision, fewer ADHD symptoms, and better performance in school.

Stretch Often
Stretching will keep you limber, but the benefits don’t stop there. In a 10-week study, volunteers who did no exercise other than stretching experienced surprising physical changes. Besides improving flexibility, they increased their muscle strength, power, and endurance. Although the study was a small one, the results suggest stretching may be a good alternative for people who have a condition that rules out traditional strength training.

Source: WebMD

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New IWINS Education Program Now Available!


 by Peter R. Coleman, M.D.
We are currently living through an epidemic of opiate abuse. Over 60 people are dying every day from these drugs. And the main problem is that our young people do not know or understand just how dangerous it is to try these drugs, even once. 

For over a year now, we have been building IWINS, our non-profit project. IWINS is helping to educate our young people about the dangers of trying prescription painkillers, even once. The project is called IWINS - because it stands for "I Wish I Never Started"

We started by producing emotionally powerful 60- second YouTube videos. Each video is a real testimony from one of our patients - patients who thought they could try opiates, but who found that, very quickly, their life went downhill, they became physically dependent, and they couldn't stop. They were enslaved by the drugs and their lives went from bad to worse. These folks were able to look at the camera and say, "I wish I never started". We have had a lot of success showing these videos to help get the message out.

Now, we have produced a 30-minute informational program that is available for free for anyone to use. The education program uses the videos and other material and is developed to educate young people about the dangers of trying any kind of opiates, even once. The program can be run by anyone with only about 10-15 minutes of preparation time. It has been tested and found to be easy to moderate and any interested person can teach the material by just following the online instructions. 

The program has been used with Boy Scouts groups, YMCA groups, university students and high school students. The response has been phenomenal. We would love to have more people use the education program and help us to spread the word. 

We would be very grateful if you could help us. For more information you can contact the coordinator of this program, Debbie Cochrane at debbie@iwishineverstarted.org.   

Better still, you could decide to facilitate the program at your school, your church youth group, your sports club, or any other place where teenagers and young adults can benefit from learning about the dangers of these drugs.  To view a copy visit our web site at www.iwishineverstarted.org and click on the tab marked "The Program".  Once there, the page will guide you thru the preparation and facilitation of the program.

I need your help to spread the word.

Thanks for your support!

Peter R. Coleman, MD