Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Health, Mental Health, Addiction
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Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
MAKER.AI generated and edited post inspired by a recent psychotherapy session
Depression is a crippling condition that significantly influences how we think, act, feel and related to ourselves, others, and the world around us. Many individuals struggle to understand their depression: where is comes from, the way in which it affects them, and how to deal with it or get rid of it. Our beliefs contribute to and are shaped by our experiences and subsequently our mental health. Let’s explore the relationship between beliefs and depression; examining the interplay between them and exploring how our beliefs can help us reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of periods of depression.
Our beliefs can have a profound impact on our health and mental health, especially when it comes to depression. The way we think about ourselves and our lives influences how we feel. When someone has negative core beliefs or distorted thinking patterns, such as catastrophizing thoughts (worst-case scenario thinking) or low self-esteem, depression often follows and grows. These kinds of thoughts are often reinforced over time. They become entrenched in one’s belief system leading to persistent feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness. Furthermore, experiencing traumatic events or experiences can shatter existing positive and healthy beliefs resulting in negative beliefs. This can lead to overwhelming emotions that can lead to depression.
Our environment also shapes our beliefs and in turn affects our mental health. For example, growing up in an environment surrounded by negative people and receiving negative messages from others (such as family members telling them they will never amount to anything) can plant the seeds of negative beliefs inside a person. These ideas may become embedded within their own belief system, contributing to feelings of worthlessness and eventually leading to depressive symptoms. Similarly, if someone is constantly encouraged by others around them (like being told they are capable) then this may help shape a more positive self-view which be protective against developing depression later in life.
When someone struggles with depression, it can have a dramatic impact on how they view themselves and the world around them. People living with depression often form negative core beliefs about themselves, such as feeling inadequate or worthless, and about the world, such as not trusting others and feeling like they don’t belong, or nobody loves them. These thoughts can become self-perpetuating, leading to further feelings of hopelessness and despair. This kind of distorted thinking then often gets reflected back to them from their environment. Friends, family members and society are perceived to be inadequate, worthless, or meaningless and can reinforce negative beliefs about oneself. In fact, one may seek out evidence to reinforce negative beliefs through the words and actions of others. If an individual is constantly told that they will never amount to anything, then this could lead them to internalize these messages which leads to depressive symptoms, and then spend their lives being attuned to such negative messages, thus reinforcing a vicious depressive cycle of beliefs and feelings.
When someone experiences traumatic events or difficult life circumstances while struggling with depression it can shape how they think about themselves in a very profound way. The stressors associated with these situations can make already existing negative beliefs even more deeply ingrained which only serves to worsen one’s mental health over time. It is important for individuals who are dealing with depression to be mindful of the influence their environment has on their thoughts and beliefs. Increasing awareness of these influences can help prevent any further deterioration of their mental wellbeing. Being aware of and then challenging these negative thought patterns through therapy, journaling exercises, meditation, or talking with others are all effective ways to manage one’s depressed state while also working towards healthier belief systems overall.
Our beliefs are a major factor in managing depression. By taking the time to explore and challenge our thoughts as well as understanding how environmental factors may have shaped them, we can gain insight into why we feel depressed and identify patterns in our thinking which could help us manage symptoms more effectively. For instance, by examining any distorted thought processes such as catastrophizing or ruminating on past mistakes one can begin to develop a sense that some core beliefs may in fact be false or outdated and thus no longer apply to present day reality. Becoming aware of negative core beliefs about oneself allows for the recognition of when these messages are unhelpful. Only then is it possible to take steps towards challenging them with healthier perspectives that can attract feelings of wellbeing.
By recognizing the connection between our beliefs and depression, we can amplify our capacity for self-reflection; enabling us to become more mindful of what is going on within us and work towards building healthier belief systems. This kind of self-awareness allows us to develop strategies for coping with depressive symptoms, protecting against further deterioration of mental wellbeing over time, and finding ways to challenge unhealthy thought patterns. This will alleviate feelings of hopelessness or despair associated with depression. Ultimately, learning how our beliefs shape who we are both mentally and emotionally is essential for reducing or eliminating depression over the long term
It is clear from this overview that there is a complex connection between our beliefs and our depression. Our beliefs can shape how we experience depression, both in terms of understanding it and managing it. It is therefore important for us to be mindful of the ways that our core beliefs, values, and attitudes may be influencing our current level of depression, as well as how to develop more adaptive and helpful responses to manage and cope with it. This can help us better understand our emotions and make meaningful changes in order to foster better mental health within ourselves.
Do you find yourself struggling to stay consistent with your goals? Developing self-consistency can be incredibly difficult. It is also something that many of us strive for every day. It’s not as simple as telling oneself “I am consistent”, but rather a journey that takes commitment and accountability. There are some easy ways to develop self-consistency in your daily life: define what it means to you specifically, set realistic goals for yourself, create a plan and stick to it, understand setbacks may arise, and reward yourself for sticking to your plan. Let’s get started!
Self-consistency means being able to rely on yourself to stay true to your values and commitments, no matter what life might throw at you. It’s about having the courage and strength of character to stick with something, even when it gets tough or uncomfortable. For me, self-consistency is important as it shows that I am reliable, trustworthy and dependable when it comes to my goals and values. By staying consistent in taking actions towards those goals I can ensure that I will reach them in time – whether big or small. Furthermore, by being consistent with myself I am also showing respect for who I am and what matters most to me; this further reinforces my commitment to be the best version of myself possible!
Setting realistic goals for yourself is a vital part of achieving success and maintaining self-consistency. When setting your goals, it’s important to ensure that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). This will help you stay on track towards achieving your goal as you know exactly what needs to be done in order to reach it. Additionally, setting realistic goals also helps keep the focus on progress rather than perfection – meaning that even if something doesn’t go entirely according to plan or takes a bit longer than expected; this shouldn’t discourage you from continuing with your efforts! As long as the steps taken are manageable and reasonable then success can still be achieved.
Making a plan and sticking to it is an essential part of achieving success and maintaining self-consistency. Once you have set your goals, the next step is to create a plan that outlines exactly how you intend to reach them. This will help provide structure and direction as well as serve as a reminder of what needs to be done each day in order for progress to be made. It’s also important to remember that even if something doesn’t go according to plan or takes longer than expected, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – simply adjust your plan accordingly (if needed) and continue with the same level of effort until completion!
Sticking with your plan can often be one of the most difficult parts; however, by having clear reminders such as post-it notes around the house or setting regular alarms on your phone it can help keep you motivated and focused throughout. Additionally, breaking down larger tasks into smaller chunks makes them more manageable which helps encourage productivity levels while minimising feelings of overwhelm or burnout. Most importantly though, don’t forget to reward yourself when completing milestones along the way – whether it’s giving yourself some extra time off for lunch or treating yourself after completing all tasks for the week – rewarding yourself reinforces positive behaviour which further encourages consistency!
No matter how well you plan, life can throw a few curveballs your way and these may cause some setbacks in achieving your goals. It’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world and that there are ways to work around them without compromising on self-consistency. The key is to stay flexible with your plans – if something doesn’t go according to plan then make adjustments as needed whilst still remaining committed to your overall goal. Additionally, try not to be too hard on yourself when things don’t go exactly how you wanted them too; understand that sometimes we need a little extra time or help from others in order for us to reach our desired outcome.
It’s also useful to prepare for potential setbacks ahead of time so that you’re better equipped when they come along – create contingency plans or alternative solutions which could be implemented should something unexpected occur. This will provide peace of mind knowing that there is an alternative route available while taking away any added stress associated with problem solving during times of difficulty. By being prepared for potential obstacles, self-consistency remains achievable no matter what life throws at us!
Rewarding yourself for sticking to your plan is a great way to reinforce positive behavior and keep you motivated. Setting small rewards that match the progress of your goal can help break down large tasks into achievable chunks, making them more manageable and encouraging consistency. Rewards don’t have to be expensive – taking a few minutes for yourself each day or treating yourself after completing all tasks for the week are both simple yet effective ways of rewarding good behavior! Not only do they give you something to look forward too but also act as an incentive which helps maintain focus throughout.
By regularly rewarding yourself it will not only provide motivation in achieving success but remind you of how far you have come since starting out. Celebrating small milestones along the way is important as it reinforces behaviors associated with reaching goals while also helping build up confidence levels; this in turn further encourages self-consistency which makes it easier when overcoming any potential obstacles that may arise during the process! So remember, take time out now and again to reward your hard work – it’s essential in keeping on track towards achieving success!
Self-consistency is all about knowing your capabilities and setting goals accordingly. Make sure to set achievable targets, create a plan to follow, and accept that mistakes are part of the process. Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself for sticking with your plan – it helps motivate you in the long run! Taking these steps will help strengthen your self-consistency and make sure that you reach your end goal.
There may be no “gamechanger” and no “magic bullet” to reduce stress, improve wellness, or to otherwise make positive changes in life. The instant gratification from a quick fix is like a promissory note that can only be paid off through practice. When in search for a cure, for transformation, or for lasting change, the unsexy truth is that the panacea is in the practice. What often seems like drudgery, impractical, or otherwise impossible is actually one of the most fundamental imperatives of progress, success, and an inner sense of peace: consistent practice.
We are collectively approaching a new year, 2021, and collectively we are leaving behind a year that will never be forgotten. The year 2020 has disrupted our lives with unceasing uncertainty. We have either adapted to it, been exhausted by it, or totally succumbed to it in terms of our collective health, mental health, and overall wellbeing and general functioning. The year 2020 has given us all an opportunity to practice things like living one day at a time, letting people we love know how much we love and appreciate them, or cultivating new relationships that may continue for a lifetime. In other words, in 2020 we practiced more of who we really are as humans. Many of us may not see it this way, or perhaps only see the worst parts of our humanity.
Many would like to heed the call to evolve beyond the limitations we’ve been confronted with during this era of COVID. Maybe many will choose instead to get things “back to normal” as quickly as possible. Those who experienced 2020 as a catalyst for lasting change have likely already begun to put in place the kinds of daily practice that produces positive results. Each day is a day to begin anew, to refine old skills, develop new ones, and help move us all in the direction of progress. From the sculptor Elizabeth King, highlighted by Seth Godin in his recent book “The Practice” and discussed on a recent Tim Ferriss podcast, this is an excellent quote to ponder, a lot: “Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions”. I like to substitute practice for process because it is basically synonymous in this context. To elaborate even further, there is the notion that self-consistency may help save us from the erosion of self-trust.
To paraphrase a favorite quote: “I am a person of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” (Everett Dirksen) Not only does such a quote point to the wisdom of paradox, it also highlights what may be considered a universal principle for health and well-being. We find countless examples of the significance of flexibility in nature, biology, science, spirituality, literature, philosophy, and psychology. As an exercise in creative thought, the Flexibility Principle holds that thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions maintain a balanced and positive vibration in so far as the individual, partnership, or organization is able to easily be modified without breaking AND maintain an open willingness to change or compromise under all circumstances. Hence, thoughts, feelings, beliefs or actions should not be considered good or bad in-and-of themselves, but only in reference to their flexibility (i.e., ability to maintain balanced and positive vibrations). That’s it. That’s the blog for today. Hope it was enjoyable!
This is a difficult topic area to cover in a short, three paragraph blog as part of a 30-day blog-a-day challenge for December 2020. It has been chosen because it truly struck a cord when an article was forwarded along with the curiosity-inspiring title: “The science of addiction: Do you always like the things you want?” In a loosely associated way, it is reminiscent of the very popular Wired Magazine article from 2010 entitled: “Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works”. And what it all boils down to, in a word, is craving.
While craving, as a phenomenon, is written about and discussed a lot across various domains of human experiences, it remains an enigma to both the philosophically and scientifically inclined. The experience of craving, or wanting rather than liking, cuts across explanations of human functioning from behavioral conditioning, cognitive processing, spirituality/connection seeking, social modeling, and neurochemical signaling. The point of the aforementioned article which serves as the inspiration of this post is that, in addiction, “wanting becomes detached from liking”. That is, for people who go on to develop addiction, what started as a partnership between the experience of enjoyment or liking of the substance, behavior, or experience, eventually matured into a coupling of liking AND wanting, followed by the decoupling of liking and wanting. What is left is a living hell of chasing after a previous enjoyed experience driven entirely by craving or wanting, while often disguised as both liking and wanting.
What is wanted may no longer be liked and the distinction between the two gets buried under layers and layers of conditioning, cognitions, connections, and a cacophony of confusing inconsistencies in daily life. The fact that Alcoholics Anonymous has been around since 1935 and deeply considers the primacy of craving as the main driver of self-destructive addictive behaviors is significant. While scientific progress continues to shed light on craving as it relates to human health, mental health, and addiction, the philosophical underpinnings of this uniquely human experience will also continue to provide insights and revelations for those who appreciate the more abstract and spiritual constructs that attempt to answer life’s most meaningful questions: Who Am I, Why Am I Here, and What Do I Do?
Here are two really cool recommended books on Craving – (Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough by Omar Manejwala and The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer):
A little relapsy? This came up in an addiction recovery-based support meeting recently and the significance of such a concept is worth exploring. What is a relapse, a lapse, a slip, harm reduction, “abstinence violation effect“, or “a little relapsy”? From an addiction context, relapse is variably defined and even more variably addressed. For example, “relapse is defined as the recurrence of behavioral or other substantive indicators of active disease after a period of remission” by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Put another way, relapse seems to be to continue to engage in self-defined and self-destructive patterns of addictive behaviors after setting the personal goal to abstain from such behaviors. One of the defining criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is: “wanting to cut down or stop using but not being able to”.
“A little relapsy”, slipping or sliding, seems to suggest teetering on the edge of what some may call “a full-blown relapse” or perhaps a “binge” or in old-school language “to go on a spree“. Therefore, it is important to make the completely made-up distinction between being “a little relapsy” and being in “relapse mode”. The distinction can be quite simple and requires three main tools: a) honest self-appraisal, b) honest feedback from trusted others, and c) time, namely, staying present (see tools below). Two of the biggest drawbacks of the rabbit hole of relapse or a potential relapse are secrets and shame. Keeping secrets about one’s return to a self-defined self-destructive behavior and getting stuck in a vicious shame cycle about such a return to unhealthy behaviors are the real fuel for crashing and burning when it comes to relapse.
If someone is feeling “a little relapsy” or suspect that they are “headed for a relapse”, there is no need to despair (although the gift of desperation is totally underrated!). The single most important factor when wading in the waters of uncertainty, of whether or not one is on a path to healing or path to destruction, is the feeling of freedom. If those waters feel like bracing oneself for a wave of destruction, then feel free to walk back up on shore for a while and take in the breeze, the sound of the ocean, and the view of the great expanse. If the waters feel perhaps a little cool, a little choppy, and there are others around to lend a hand if it starts to get a little rough out there, it could be a feeling of freedom from addiction and a connection to the world around. There is so much more to “a little relapsy” or the “psychology of relapse” than is blogged about here. Hopefully, this provides “a little helpsy” for those finding their way in addiction recovery!
In times of quiet contemplation, like a morning cup of coffee, there may arise from within, a calmness, or a sense of clarity or peace. During or after a morning meditation, in the shower, the commute to work, sitting on a park bench, looking out a window, or staring at a device without purpose, it is possible to connect to something within and around us as real and as invisible as air, particles of light, waves of sound, and the inner workings of millions of automatics processes occurring in our bodies every second. This momentary awareness could be called “re-ligio”. What does this mean?
Years ago I directed a program teaching medical residents in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and ob/gyn programs around New York City on alcohol and substance use disorders. The program consisted of 5 days of immersion in didactic and experiential teaching processes inclusive of lectures from leaders in the field of addiction medicine, psychology and spirituality as well as attendance in group therapy session, treatment programming and mutual aid support groups with patients undergoing residential and outpatient treatment. One of the lectures was on spirituality and addiction given by a priest from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The lecture always started with breaking down the word ‘religion’, from the latin “re” or “again” and “ligare” bond or connect.
In recovery circles it is often said that religion is for those afraid to go to hell and spirituality is for those who’ve been there. In fact, many in AA go to some length, as did the co-founder Bill Wilson, to distinguish religion from spirituality. Perhaps the distinction is unnecessary when traced to the essence of religion. To bond again, to connect again, to oneself, to others, to the environment, to a higher power. Everything is connected. This is important to re-member.
Two foundational concepts in basic pharmacology are pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Put simply, pharmacokinetics refers to the way in which the body acts on the drug and pharmacodynamics refers to the way the drug acts on the body. Let us consider the creative application of how the body acts on gratitude and how gratitude acts on the body.
There are 4 processes in pharmacokinetics: drug absorption, drug distribution, drug metabolism, and drug excretion. The acronym ADME is often used. In pharmacodynamics, there are three interactions that can influence the effect of a drug: drug-disease interactions, drug-drug interactions, and the drug and aging interactions. How can we apply these concepts as if Gratitude was a Drug?
First, this is a fun exercise: to apply scientific concepts or processes to the value or virtue, principle or practice, experience or expression of gratitude. The kinetics of gratitude may be to observe how gratitude gets absorbed into one’s experience in the moment (absorption). This is followed by following the flow of gratitude throughout the mind, heart, body, and soul (distribution). Next up is how gratitude gets metabolized in the system, broken down into meaning, mindfulness, and perhaps even magnificence (metabolism). Finally, the act of how gratitude emerges from an individual, how it gets expressed, and experienced like an extemporary prayer (excretion). The ADME of gratitude may be an area of personal development that embodies the essence of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
The dynamics of gratitude are as exciting to play with as the kinetics. How does gratitude interact with a disease or disorder? What about the ways that gratitude interacts with other emotional or mental processes that are active in one’s moment experience? How does gratitude interact with a person’s socio-emotional development? It is fun to think about how gratitude neutralize diseases and disorders, how it may enhance positive emotions and experiences while eliminating negative ones, and how gratitude influences the quality of life over the years.
If gratitude was a prayer rather than a drug then this famous quote comes to mind:
“If the only prayer one says in life is “Thank You”, that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart
We have all been invited to this event called life. Please respond. How have we responded? With delight or dread? With rejoice or resistance? With curiosity? Regardless, we were invited and we showed up to the event. Each day we can choose how we show up for life. Maya Angelou once said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Viktor Frankl said: “Everything can be taken from a human but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And William James stated “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” Imagine that we can choose our thoughts at any moment of any given day. How do we operationalize this? Read on…
We ruminate, worry, obsess. We get stuck, distracted and discouraged. In negative or anxious states of mind and body, it seems impossible to simple choose a new thought or change an attitude just like that. But we can. Often, the answer comes down to action – ACT I ON (I Act on myself). Move your body by breathing deeply 5 times. Reach both arms up to the sky several times. Get up and go for a walk around the block or the room. Drink some ice cold water. Do something. In the time that you are taking to move your body somehow, pay attention to your thoughts and quickly say to yourself “new thoughts, new thoughts, new thoughts”. Or, don’t say anything to yourself or out loud. Rather just notice and in the attempt notice, what happens is that the worry, confusion, repetitive negative thoughts stop in that instant. It’s true. It happens. However, that’s not all. We merely cannot keep moving all the time.
In that time of movement is a range of thoughts and emotions t\hat begin to get clarified. Experiential avoidance may get activated and become a barrier to a sustained change in mood, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The process is the practice and the practice is the process. Self-consistency and discipline in changing one’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs and actions is the vital key. Finally, to quote William James again: “Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”
Surrender is not a 4-Letter word. In a world smitten by self-reliance and strict self-determination, any association with the experience of surrender is quickly dismissed as a form of defeat, resignation, weakness, or powerlessness. Salty expressions of indignance at the concept of “giving up the battle to win the war” or that admitting weakness is a sign of strength, are a sad commentary on how we are conditioned to believe that the “Almighty Self” is the center of the universe.
A self-centered society is one aspect of how surrender is seen as sh*t. Another way in which surrender seems to be shunned is the tidal wave of trauma that has taken over our collective consciousness. As described in PTSD Nation, we now live in a world in which self-defeat and self-empowerment are mutually exclusive. Surrender and powerlessness have become synonymous with re-traumatization. Once a “self” has been shattered by trauma and then fought so hard to piece itself back together, any suggestion of letting go of this reclaimed sense of self is a terrible threat. In reality, true empowerment comes from surrendering our sense of self for the purpose of tapping into an expansive awareness of true power, for the individual and community, for country and cosmos. Does this sound too lofty? Listen again.
When we align what we think of as our “self” with others, with the world around us, with a sense of a higher self, or some might say a “higher power”, we discover power, connection, energy, movement, stillness, and growth. The “self” at the center of ‘our’ universe merges with “something else” (like spirit) at the center of ‘the’ Universe. Still sound too out there? Try this: Surrender Guided Meditation by Sarah Blondin. Another good listen is this podcast by Tara Brach on Surrender. Forgiving, giving up, and giving in all involve giving. When we give ourselves over or give of our selves, we gain, get, and grow immeasurably. Holding on to pain, resistance, suffering, and hurt may be necessary for a time while also constraining and imprisoning us. It is often in total surrender that we find true peace. Ego deflation, dissolution, deconstruction allows for the discovery of true power within and around us and allows us to rebuild on a new kind of foundation. This is discussed in 12 step recovery from addictions, research with MDMA and trauma, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and research on psilocybin and anxiety around death and dying, among others.
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” Oprah
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.” S. Kelley Harrell
“Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.” BVDK