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The Defrocking of Dr.Oz

“Too often celebrity gurus lure consumers into wasting their money and pinning their hopes on pseudoscientific concoctions that are at best useless, and at worst dangerous.”-Paul Fidalgo

Last week, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared before a Senate investigatory committee to defend imageshis claims that certain dietary supplements could cause “miracle” weight loss. Lawmakers called for the hearings as a result of a series of actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against fraudulent action in the nutritional supplement industry. Dr. Oz, one of the most trusted faces on American television, received the dressing down of his life, as senators used the opportunity to challenge his claims and increase their own visibility. While it was embarrassing for Dr. Oz, the hearings also pointed out the futility of the quick fix mentality that most Americans have toward diet and exercise. Perhaps the highlight was an accusation by Center for Inquiry spokesman, Paul Fidalgo, that Dr. Oz was “peddling snake oil” to consumers on his popular daytime talk show. It was extremely embarrassing for Dr. Oz, America’s High Priest of Health. One has to wonder if he can ever get his credibility back.

The nutritional supplement industry is one of America’s largest and most lucrative. Sales reached $11.5 billion in 2012, and are expected to to reach almost $16 billion by 2015. These are just total sales. The the profit margin generated by the industry is astronomical, as manufacturers are not required to identify much of what is actually in their products, and are not required to substantiate claims made about the efficacy of their products.FTC testimony stated, “The endless flood of unfounded claims being made in the weight loss industry vividly illustrates the challenges that we, and consumers, are up against.”

snake-oil1The industry also benefits from something that has become known as the “Dr. Oz Effect,” where sales skyrocket after receiving a televised endorsement by Dr. Oz. Key players in the supplement industry know that if they can get a celebrity endorsement, the American consumer is more likely to believe that the product works. This increases sales immediately, and the placebo effect (see “Really? The Power of Placebo, “June 23, 2014) convinces enough gullible consumers to become repeat customers.

While Dr. Oz may have deserved the public beating he received, he should not become the whipping boy for what is a far larger problem. The reality is that consumers need to take responsibility for what they purchase and use. It is difficult, if not impossible, to protect consumers from their own gullibility. Americans have been susceptible to this kind of marketing forever. Dr. Oz and the food supplement industry are merely the 21st century version of Dr. Love’s Traveling Salvation and Medicine Show. Certain segments of people who exercise tend to fall prey to these kinds of claims. People who are extremely overweight probably have a tendency towards being lazy. Miracle weight loss products that promise to “melt off pounds while you sleep,” are likely to ass33be things that they are going to try. Teenage boys, hoping to build those 20 inch biceps by next summer, are more likely to try that miracle potion that the latest Mr. Olympia is selling on the back of the magazine, as the industry preys on his optimism and impatience. Such marketing has been going on for decades and certainly did not begin with Dr. Oz and his cheesy, infomercial style.

Some players in the medical community have also jumped on the bandwagon and the line between legitimate, holistic medicine, and placebos has become blurred. Consumers, and their physicians, are looking for less costly alternatives to prescription medications, and enlightened doctors are prescribing appropriate nutritional supplements for their patients with positive effects. It is a rare PCP that does not suggest omega-3 fish oil, or vitamin D3, to their patients over age 40. Others are open to the idea that nutritional supplements can help with joint health, eye care, bone strength, and many other specific conditions. Appropriate use nutritional supplements can play a critical role in your personal wellness program. If you are training for fitness, sport, or strength, then supplements can be beneficial. Just don’t overdo it. A good protein powder, fish oil supplements, and a balanced diet where you consuming enough calories through healthy, natural foods, can allow you to attain your goals.

The defrocking of High Priest Dr. Oz should not be an indictment on the entire nutritional supplement industry. There are a lot of good outcomes from the appropriate use of nutritional supplementation. Beware of terms like “proprietary blend,” celebrity endorsements, outlandish claims, and advertisements that are just too over the top. Realize that nothing will replace hard work, self-discipline, and time. Remember that health and wellness is not a destination, but a lifelong process that hopefully, you can learn to enjoy.

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Cognitive What??

The human brain is wired to function best in a logical, orderly way. We act and feel our best when our inside world of thinking and feeling is consistent with the external world in which we live. The term cognitive dissonance refers to the feeling of discomfort that one gets when what we think and feel are in conflict with what we do. The reality is that who and what we think we are is sometimes in contradicted by what we do. Most people strive to be good persons, healthy in mind and body. We tended to struggle when our actions contradict ourselves beliefs.

Cognitive dissonance was first studied in 1957 by psychologist Leon Festinger. His theory is based on the endidea that the human mind seeks consistency of beliefs with actions. Festinger was studying a cult that believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and the emotional impact on its members when the flood did not occur. There were two general responses, one group accepted that their calculations were wrong, left the cult, and moved on with their lives. Most chalked it up to being young and foolish in their beliefs. A second group, however, began to reevaluate and reinterpret their calculations. This second group came to the conclusion that the world was not destroyed because of the faithfulness of the cult members. It was their beliefs and convictions-which were correct all along-that persuaded God to save the world. The second group, experiencing cognitive dissonance, created a new belief that alleviated the discomfort and painful emotions that would have otherwise occurred.

All humans engage in cognitive dissonance from time to time, even healthy ones. Most of the time theySmoking-in-front-of-children are not quite as dramatic as a world ending flood. They can be problematic, however. Any time our behaviors conflict with our beliefs, we run the risk of cognitive dissonance. If you sneak a cigarette because you don’t want your kids to see you smoking, that uncomfortable feeling you have is probably cognitive dissonance. If you eat an entire pizza after a two-hour workout at the gym, that feeling may be cognitive dissonance. You consider yourself a kind person, but get angry when the guy panhandling for change asks you for money. Could result in cognitive dissonance. In each case your beliefs about yourself are inconsistent with your actions. We tend to come up with false, yet logical, ways to explain why we do what we do. “I only smoke three cigarettes per day,” or “I worked out hard, so I deserve it,” or “Let the bum go out and get a job,” are ways that we explain the above situations to ourselves.

The rationalizations that we tell ourselves are usually not a problem, and may even serve a protective pizzafactor. We all feel cognitive dissonance to a certain extent. It may be better to rationalize that entire pizza you ate, as opposed to believing that you are fat slob, and that working out and trying to get fit is futile. It is when cognitive dissonance causes deeper emotional pain that these feelings need to be addressed. Some people simply cannot let go of their cognitive dissonance, and focusing on these conflicting feelings can become a habit, leading to emotional conflict and feelings of guilt and shame.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the better ways to combat cognitive dissonance. Like most human behaviors, self awareness is the most important factor. In many cases knowing the relation between your thoughts and your actions can create valuable insights. Rather than think of the uncomfortable feeling as a self indictment, view it as a signal that you need to take a closer look at the connection between your values and your behavior. You are not a bad person, but some value you have is now in conflict with your actions. It is also very important to not over think or be overly critical of yourself. Conflicts between beliefs and actions are characteristic of being human. Accept this, and attempt to bring your actions into harmony with your beliefs. Don’t be critical of yourself if you use thoughts that are defensive to protect yourself from the uncomfortable feelings. Realize that these thoughts can have value if considered appropriately.

Written exercises, where you identify what your core values are, can help you to know what you are all about. When you experience that discomfort that cognitive dissonance creates, it becomes much easier to identify where the conflict is, and make an informed decision about what to do about it. Don’t be so hard on yourself, nobody’s perfect, life would be pretty boring if you were.

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Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

“Laughter is the best medicine.”-Bennett Cerf

Laughs, giggles, grins, guffaws, chuckles-whatever you call it, it’s not just childish behavior, but a necessary part of human wellness. A good laugh not only adds a little fun to your day, it has been proven to improve both short term and long term physical and mental health. A 2014 study conducted in California by Loma Linda University has finally proven what we’ve known all along, laughter is powerful medicine.

oldThe Loma Linda Laughter Study looked at 20 healthy older adults in their 60s and 70s, studying their stress levels and short-term memories. One group sat quietly while silently reading or listening to headphones. The second group watched humorous videos. After 20 minutes the groups were compared for their short-term memory. While both groups showed improvement in short-term memory, the laughter group had improved 43.6%, compared to 20.3% in the know on a laughter group. More importantly, the laughter group showed a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol by a ratio of more than 2 to 1. Another study, conducted by Vanderbilt University, showed that laughter increases our ability to burn calories, and another study by the University of Maryland showed that laughter can protect us from heart disease.

The Loma Linda Laughter Study also found that laughter has age defying benefits. “There are several benefits to humor and laughter,” explained the study’s co-author Gurinder S. Bains. “Older adults need to have a better quality of life. Incorporating time to laugh, through social interaction with friends, enjoying exercise in a group setting, or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV daily, can enhance your learning ability and delayed recall.”

Multiple studies have shown that laughter can improve quality of life in multiple areas. Some of them are:laugh_me
1. Improved blood pressure
2. Reduction of stress hormones
3. Improved cardiac health
4. Releases pain relieving endorphins
5. Improves the immune response
6. Decreases depression
7. Enhances relationships
8. Provides a burst of energy
9. Positively effects blood sugar
10. Provides instant stress relief.

How can this research be incorporated into your wellness program? Funny you should ask. If you already possess a good sense of humor, use it more frequently. If you don’t have a good sense of humor, you can learn to have one and use it as a health building skill. Find things that make you laugh-TV shows, comic strips you enjoy, and funny movies. Refer to them daily. There are literally hundreds of humorous things on the Internet that you can refer to easily that can make you laugh. Sharing humor at your own expense is quite possibly, the most beneficial, as it reframes your situation and allows you to see things more realistically.

Be careful not to confuse sarcasm with humor. Don’t laugh at others’ expense or engage in inappropriate jokes and humor. Humor that results in pessimism defeats the purpose and does not lead to the positive benefits mentioned here.

I hope you found this helpful. Although I am not a doctor, I am going to suggest the following prescription:images
“Take two ha ha’s and call me in the morning.”-mindbodycoach.org

No co-pay required!

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“Really?” The Power Of Placebo

“What the mind can conceive, and believe, it can achieve.”-Napoleon Hill

The human mind is nature’s most mysterious and complicated achievement. Even the most unintelligent human possesses a mind that is analogous to a multi billion dollar computer that is capable of incredible things. The average human brain possesses approximately 1 billion neurons, the same as the number of stars in the Milky Way. The number of ways that information travels in a typical human brain is greater than the number of stars in the entire universe! Is there any wonder why human behavior is so complicated?

The placebo effect is a characteristic of the human brain that is well known, but little understood. A imagesplacebo, or the placebo effect, is a simulated or otherwise ineffectual medical treatment that is intended to deceive the recipient. In many cases a test subject will respond to a placebo as well as, or even better than, those that receive legitimate medications or treatment. The effect is so common and pervasive that it is a part of any medical trial. In order for the medication to be granted legitimacy, it must be compared to the effects of a placebo in a clinical trial. For example, a comparison of two experimental groups of people might be given a medication claiming to suppress appetite. Some would get the actual medication, and others would receive the placebo, neither group knowing which. Researchers would then compare the effects of the drug versus the placebo. That way, they can determine the effectiveness of the drug and check for side effects. Consistently in studies like this, those receiving a placebo obtain similar results to those who receive the actual medication.

There is no logical explanation for the placebo effect. We do know that the placebo effect can have bothimages positive and negative results. For example, many people, upon being given a medication by their doctor, get on the Internet and look up the medication’s side effects. Lo and behold, they begin to exhibit a number of them. By law, pharmaceutical companies must report all side effects which surfaced during clinical trials. This explains those TV commercials where the narrator runs through a list of common side effects which usually end with the words, “vomiting and diarrhea.” Required by law, but not exactly helpful for those who are influenced by the power of suggestion.

How can the placebo effect be utilized in a positive way? Because of medical ethics, physicians cannot prescribe placebos without a patient’s prior consent. Subjects who take part in clinical trials know that they may, in fact, be receiving a placebo and not the test medication. They know this upfront. A physician, because of the Hippocratic Oath and medical ethics cannot deceive a patient. Other medical related industries, such as the exercise, vitamin, and food supplement industries, can. At least 40% of the results that any supplement has can be attributed to the placebo effect. And, if the supplement has a flashy ad campaign, and some exotic sounding ingredients, the expectations for the user are much higher, and so are the results. It becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to sort through where the benefits of the placebo effect ends, and those of the supplement start.

Many mainstream physicians remain open to the idea of using the placebo effect for their patient’s indexbenefit. Because of ethical reasons, they will agree to refer their patients to non-traditional types of treatment. The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Program of Placebo Studies in Boston has shown that the combination of traditional and non-traditional interventions consistently create better results than either method alone. Combining traditional pain management methods with nontraditional such as acupuncture, chiropractic, meditation, and hypnosis, can improve the results for each treatment episode. While the medical community wants to know specifically where the results are coming from, most patients could care less. Their only concern is improvement.

While the placebo is not the power of positive thinking, they are certainly close relatives. When undertaking medical treatment, starting a health or exercise regimen, beginning a new diet, or learning a new skill, the role of your expectation is quite clear. If you do not believe that you will improve, it is quite probable that you won’t. Looking for what’s working well, and focusing on that, rather than focusing on what’s not working, is a critical component of one’s success. Next time you start a new medication, change your diet, introduce a food supplement, or begin to analyze a change in your life, focus on what’s working. It could move you in the direction that you are hoping for. Keep in mind the old saying, “Whatever works, works.”

“Eighty per cent of your outcome is determined by your expectation.”-Howard Gardner

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What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

“What gets measured, gets managed.”-Peter Drucker

Denial is one of the most basic human defense mechanisms. Everyone does it, all the while denying that we do. We learn the usefulness of this logic as young children when we engage in avoidance behaviors toUntitled-1 avoid confronting our fears. We do things like pull the covers over our heads while sleeping, because if I can’t see the monster he can see me. As teenagers, the patterns of denial continue. We truly don’t know how we got that F on our report card sophomore year. And denial continues in adulthood. Adult denial takes on a more insidious tone because we deny that we even do it.

Adult denial continues as a lifelong habit. The irony of adult denial is that it is easily broken down, and when it is people usually have some major breakthroughs in all areas of their lives. Behavioral psychology has proven in studies over and over again that the simple act of paying attention to something causes a person to improve in those areas-almost without any extra effort. Behavioral psychology is never concerned with why someone does what they do. The internal and underlying motives are not important. What is important are results and outcomes. When a therapist or coach convinces a client to identify counterproductive behaviors and pay attention to them, the behavior, almost miraculously, becomes self correcting.

game-film1-300x225Auto correcting of behavior is the reason that, in athletics, videotaping practice or game performance is so beneficial. Seeing yourself clearly allows you to make corrections. Many people are inspired to lose weight and get back into shape because of the dislike they had for their own image in a full-length mirror. Commercial gyms usually have wall to wall mirrors. The reason for the mirrors is not so that you can check out that girl at the squat rack, they are there so you can make corrections to your form and gauge your improvement.

When a person decides that they want to make a change in some area, and begin to record, track, and measure, positive changes occur. In some cases, the change takes place without any effort. All that is necessary is a willingness to put aside denial and go in the complete, opposite direction by recording and noticing the very behavior or condition that you have been denying.

Here are some examples:
1. Weight loss-It has been proven time and time again that people who weigh themselves daily tend to maintain ideal weight. In the spirit of behavioral psychology, the reasons for this do not have to be known, it’s just the way it is. If you are desire to lose weight, get out of denial aisle and start weighing yourself every day.
2. Finances-The first step towards getting your financial life under control is to track your spending, all of it. Doing this for 30 days can be an eye-opener. That seemingly innocent coffee run that you go on every day becomes $150 at the end of the month. The same is true for that “just a few scratch tickets” that you play in the state lottery, another $150. You get the idea.
3. To Do Lists-This is one of the easiest ways to make improvements. We don’t do this because we pride0917p5-The-Most-Interesting-Man-in-the-World ourselves on being “spontaneous,” and in the moment. We think of ourselves as being action oriented, and flexible, kind of like the “Most interesting Man in the World,” in the Dos Equis commercial on TV. Maintaining this as a self image is almost a guarantee that you will stay thirsty, my friend. A brief, yet definitive, checklist of things to do on a daily basis can create incredible and powerful change.
4. Recording negative health habits-If you are a smoker and are trying to quit, count the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. You may find that, “Just half a pack” is really more like 15. If you, “just have a little chocolate once in a while,” you may find that you are consuming 300 calories of chocolate every day. In many areas of our lives the truth hurts, but it may also set you free.
5. Recording positive habits-Part of denial is to exaggerate positive things that we believe we are doing. Do you really “always” kiss your spouse goodbye in the morning? Do you “always” praise your children for positive behavior? How often are you really working out, is it really three days a week? Be brave, and start noticing how true self statements such as these actually are.

I’m sure that you’re starting to get the idea presented here. We think that we’re doing a lot of things that we are not, and vice versa. On a lot of levels, we don’t really want to know what we are actually doing because we have become content to fool ourselves. The folly of this is that we are protecting ourselves, and our own ego, from us. Kind of foolish isn’t it? Yet we all do it, some more than others.

That which gets measured, is more likely to be managed. In many cases no effort and nothing else is required to create change, the mere act of noticing begins to create momentum in a positive direction. Begin to pay attention to your behavior, record and measure, and pay attention to the positive results.

“You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”-Dr. Phil

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“Bend And Stretch, Reach For The Sky..”

“Bend and stretch, reach for the sky. Stand on tippy toes, oh,oh,so high!”-Miss Jean

A few years ago, author Robert Fulhgum wrote a book called, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The book was a feel good, nostalgic look at things that we were told as preschoolers. In it, he humorously reviewed the rules and regulations used to manage a kindergarten classroom. While the book is not considered to be about personal development, much of what it espouses can go a long way toward helping an adult maintain physical and emotional wellness.

I grew up in the greater Boston area during the 1960s. There was a very popular children’s television imagesshow of that time called “Romper Room,” which starred a young teacher who went by the name of Miss Jean. She had a variety of silly things that she did every day that, as a child, you looked forward to. In addition to “romper, stomper, bomper,boo,” and the daily chocolate milk toast, she took time every day to engage in “Bend and Stretch,” where we would stand, bend, and reach in a variety of directions, doing so with a seriousness of purpose and lack of self consciousness. After a brief commercial break, Miss Jean once again had our undivided attention.

Recently, much has been written and studied about the hazards of prolonged sitting on our health and wellness (see “Death By Desk,” posted May 16, 2014.) Evidence indicates that those of us who ride a desk more than hour at a time per day should bend and stretch at least once per hour. It doesn’t have to be a 436980-7220-40lot, a few stanzas of Bend and Stretch along with the Miss Jean method should be enough to keep us supple and alert. The same amount of time and movement can be a productive way to wake up from a night’s sleep. Nothing more elaborate is required. It is the consistency of performing these movements frequently that provides most of the benefits. And, if you are one of those kids that likes to color outside of the lines, you may even want to make up your own stretching movements.

Bending and stretching also applies to our emotional wellness. Psychological flexibility is considered to be a characteristic of emotional intelligence and resilience. Hanging onto our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and prejudices often leads us to experience psychological discomfort. Our thoughts and emotions tend to be unreliable indicators of what is actually happening. They tend to come on quickly in many situations and we stubbornly hang on to them, basing our reactions on these initial emotional responses. We would be much better off considering other possibilities and realities and “bending and stretching” as needed.

Recent studies of human behavior have shown that psychological flexibility is a vital characteristic of emotional wellness. A 2010 study defined psychological flexibility as, “adapting to fluctuating situational demands, shifting perspective, and balancing competing desires, needs, and life domains.” It viewed psychological flexibility as a series of positive interactions between a person and their environment. In other words, adjusting to what is, as opposed to unrealistic expectations that an individual may have. People who cannot bend and stretch emotionally tend to suffer from anxiety, depression, poor job performance, substance abuse, and an overall lower quality of life.

indexIn Neurolinguistic Programming, a personal development system which was popular during the 1990s, there was an expression that stated, “The person with the greatest number of choices in a given situation is likely to get the best outcome.” This is sound advice that even Miss Jean would agree with. It is a more elaborate way of saying be flexible, adjust, and bend with the reality of your situation. As Mick Jagger says, “You might find, you get what you need.” Understanding the difference between needs and wants is a sign of a healthy person.

You can see that bending and stretching appropriately, physically as well as psychologically, is one of the characteristics of a healthy blend of mind and body. Although kindergarten didn’t teach us everything we needed to know, it’s probably a good idea to remember to bend and stretch as often as possible.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”-Albert Einstein

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When Enough Is Enough

“Enough is enough!”

This is probably something you have found yourself say at some time when overwhelmed by some Woman expression frazzledperson or thing that you found challenging. It’s something usually said in a state of frustration and overwhelm, an internal signal of surrender. Upon further examination, however, you’ll probably find that when you felt this way it was actually too late, at that point enough was already too much.

The reality of human performance is that we all need a certain level of anxiety and arousal in order to perform at an optimal level. You may notice that you perform better with many tasks when you are slightly nervous. Moderate levels of anxiety are necessary in order to do well on tasks such as athletic events, exams, job interviews, and a host of other things that humans do that make life worth living. And, on the flipside, you probably noticed that when you have no emotional investment in an activity you have no interest in it and, as a result, don’t perform well in that endeavor. This explains why many people put important tasks off to the last minute. They do this because they instinctively need the pressure of a deadline to get the task done well. You may even be one of these kinds of people. If, while you were a student, you were the type who did your term paper the night before it was due, then that’s a pretty good indicator that you needed the anxiety that you yourself created to make it feel important enough to do it well. You may also be the type that enjoys self-created anxiety through behaviors such as gambling, action sports, sales, dating, and other behaviors were you put yourself out there and risk physical or emotional hurt. These behaviors, performed at a certain level, are in fact healthy and can lead to improvement and enjoyment in many areas of life.

In human performance, the relation between arousal levels and performance is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. This behavioral principle suggests that there is a relationship between levels of arousal and optimal human performance. Performance is improved as arousal and anxiety increases, but only up to a certain point, after which performance diminishes. This principle was first proposed in 1908 by pioneer psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson. They noticed that rats, when given mild electrical shocks, actually performed better in navigating their way through a maze. When the shocks were increased, however, the rats became overwhelmed and their decision-making and performance at the task was impaired. Their experiment demonstrated that increasing stress and arousal levels could improve motivation and performance, but only up to a certain point.

welkerIf you take a look at how the Yerkes-Dodson Law effects human performance you can readily see its relevance. You probably aced an exam or job interview at some point when you were “really nervous,” or maybe even “choked” during an athletic event. There are probably some things that you love doing because they are “exciting” that other people wouldn’t do because they are “too scary.” When one of my clients talks about an event they anticipate will create anxiety I ask the question, “Is it roller coaster scary, or cemetery scary?” I then explained that some behaviors, although scary, are actually fun. Other behaviors that cause arousal levels will never be fun. It is determined by unique personal preferences, experiences, and a host of other factors.

An awareness of the Yerkes-Dodson Law can improve your personal performances in a wide variety of areas. Becoming aware of just how much arousal and anxiety you need is the key factor. Some people instinctively know how much they need and subconsciously work to create it. Others have no clue how much they need, and find themselves failing during crucial points in their behavioral process. Self talk and arousal control are critical components in creating enough anxiety to perform well. Ask yourself “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much anxiety do I need to perform my best with this?” Examine times when you have done well when anxious and compare that to times when you “choked.” What were the differences? What was your self talk like at those times? What did you focus on that led to success or failure? Self-awareness is crucial to your ability to make the Yerkes-Dodson Law work for you. Visualization can help immensely in controlling your anxiety. Mentally envisioning an imaginary dial that you can turn to any number between one in 10 and dialing it to that level in your mind’s eye can help. Using your breathing to control physiological arousal can help you maintain the number that suits you best.


Experiment with ways that you can control your emotional and physiological arousal levels to enhance your performance and enjoyment. Start with simple tasks and activities such as athletics in order to develop some ability to control anxiety and arousal. “Dial in” the appropriate level of anxiety that is needed. Begin to move this activity to more complicated and critical tasks in your life such as job related and personal relationship tasks. If you choke during your weekend tennis match, it’s probably not a big deal. If you score poorly on your annual job review, it probably is.

So next time you find yourself muttering, “Enough is enough,” think again. If you’ve gotten to this point it’s more accurate to say, “Enough is too much.” An awareness of how much is enough for you can make the crucial difference in your performance.

“That’s why they play the games.”-Bill Parcells

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Smile, It’s Good For You!

“When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” – Louis Armstrong

Smiling is one of the world’s great cultural universals. People all over the world instinctively do it at birth, and use it as a way to connect with others. It is, as the TV commercial says, the first thing that people notice about you. And, as Louis Armstrong said, a smile tends to be infectious. Smiling makes us feel good, but research shows that it does more for us than just that, it has a positive impact on all areas of our lives.

Shortly after birth, infants from every culture learned that a smile gets a positive reaction. It is a facial smileexpression that gets positively reinforced, and as a result is repeated often. This simple stimulus response behavior sets off a lifelong chain reaction that becomes self reinforcing due to brain chemicals that come into play. As children, most of us smiled over 200 times per day. As adults, a third of us smile more than 20 times per day, and 14% of us smile less than five times per day. There is research that indicates that this is one of the primary reasons why children enjoy life more than we adults do.

Charles Darwin, author of “The Origin of Species,” also developed the facial feedback theory in which he stated that the act of smiling itself makes us feel better, rather than smiling being the result of a good feeling. Darwin based this on the study of French neurologist, Guillaume Duchenne, who used electrical currents to induce smiles in test subjects. Other theories by pioneer psychologist William James stated the same thing, that the act of smiling itself is the cause of good feeling.

barack-obama-yearbook-photo-high-schoolIn addition to the immediate benefit that a smile provides, there is some research that indicates that a smile plays a major role in a person’s success in life and their longevity. The University of California at Berkeley conducted a 30 year longitudinal study that looked at people who smiled in their yearbook and examined their success and well-being later in life. By measuring their smiles, researchers could predict how well they did on standardized test scores, the quality of their marriage and relationships, and various other indicators of success. A 2010 Wayne State University study looked at baseball cards of banksMajor League ballplayers who played before 1950. They found a positive correlation between longevity and a smile. Players without smiles lived an average of 72.9 years, while players who smiled lived to almost 80! And, perhaps the most interesting study was conducted by British researchers, who found that just one smile could generate the same amount of positive brain chemicals as 2,000 bars of chocolate!

Here is the science behind what happens when we smile:
1. Endorphins are released-Endorphins are brain chemicals that make us happy, reduce pain, and lower stress levels. Endorphin release decreases the brain’s ability to release cortisol, a stress hormone associated with anxiety and weight gain.
2. Heart rate is reduced-This allows the body to work more efficiently, reducing the heart’s need to work hard, and prolonging the life span.
3. Mood elevation-A smile has the ability to improve mood almost instantly, regardless of whether the smile is sincere or not. One study had test subjects put a pencil in their mouth to facilitate a smile. Although the smile was phony, subjects reported improved mood in comparison to a control group who did not have pencils in their mouths.
4. Raises productivity-Smiling makes you more productive at work. There is some positive benefit to those silly animal pictures that pop up on your computer. People enjoy a quick smile, and return to work in a more productive state of mind. Just don’t overdo it!
5. Smiling improves interpersonal relations-People who smile regularly tend to be perceived as more trustworthy, are able to produce empathy, have less regret, are perceived as being younger than they are, and have more positive personal and business relationships. They score high on qualities like leadership.
6. Smiling makes you healthier-An improved immune system correlates to smiling. People who smile regularly spend less time being ill, spend more time exercising, and report a greater sense of physical well-being and wellness.

So there you have it, a simple, easy to do, mind-body exercise to improve the quality of your life in virtually every area. Why not do it regularly?

“All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile.”-Chris Hart

P. S. Please share this article with those who could benefit from it. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Unwind With Ecotherapy

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”-Albert Einstein

A recent study conducted by the University of Essex in the United Kingdom has confirmed what sages BEJG5A Yorkshire Dales, Swaledale - The village of Gunnerside, England UKand shamans have known for centuries, nature has the power to heal mind and spirit. While people have intuitively known this, the scientific world refuses to believe anything without empirical studies and hard evidence. The UK study looked at the impact of walking outside in nature, as opposed to indoors at a mall or treadmill. They found that those who walked outside had a reduction in depressive symptoms of 71% as opposed to a 45% reduction in those who walked indoors. The study concluded that while walking is good in and of itself, walking outdoors in nature amplified the positive impact. Interesting footnote to the study was that 22% of those that walked indoors actually reported an increase in their depressive symptoms!

Being outdoors has long been associated with mindfulness, wellness, and health. Since the 1950s there has been a movement in psychiatry and counseling who find a medical answer to most mental health problems. There is a pill for just about any issue that a person has, as well as a series of letters that gives the problem a convenient label. One of the exciting developments in mental health over the last 15 years is the backlash against this trend. Researchers are looking for non-medical interventions and are finding high rates of success with common sense, old school practices. Nothing is simpler or more old school than being outside communing with nature. The movement to get people back into nature for their mental and emotional wellness has been commonly referred to as ecotherapy. Paul Palmer, chief executive of Mind, a British mental health organization states, “Our research indicates that people participating in ecotherapy receive health benefits, but also wider social benefits and cost savings that medication cannot deliver.”

A 2006 study done in the United States investigated the benefits of contact with nature and discovered that it can be a positive factor in prevention of mental health problems. This study suggested that cushinginvolvement with, and in, nature can serve as both an early intervention as well as an after-the-fact treatment. The study advocated “active, social, and vigorous contact with nature,” as the treatment method. While this study did not criticize more conventional methods such as psychotherapy and medication, it did cite ecotherapy as an important part of a total treatment plan. Getting people out of the high-tech society that we live in back into a corner natural state was deemed as a vital part of treatment. Richard Louv, author of the book “The Nature Principle,” labeled the problem “nature deficit disorder.” Numerous studies indicate that Louv is on to something with his diagnosis.

Large group comparisons of urban versus rural populations show that people who live in “green” areas have lower rates of depression and anxiety due to a “stronger sense of community and belonging,” as well as a health advantage which comes from a slower paced lifestyle and the benefits of a clean environment. Eight position paper published in the journal Urban Geography stated that, “although there are many benefits of big city living, high levels of happiness are not among them.” Statistics also show that people who make the move from city living to country show marked improvements in physical and mental health within the first three years. These benefits were fairly consistent across confounding factors such as income, employment, education, and personality traits.

damSo how can one incorporate this ecotherapy into their own life? While relocating to the country may not be practical, there are some things that virtually everyone can do to benefit from ecotherapy. As little as 20 minutes a day outside has been proven to change a person’s mental outlook and physical health drastically for the better. If you live in a city or densely populated area, take advantage of parks and public gardens that are available to you. Finding the time for outdoor hobbies such as hiking, canoeing, camping, and fishing can lead to a positive attitude adjustment. Outdoor exercise, when possible, can also be an incredibly positive experience. If you have children, introducing them to the great outdoors can be a preventative factor in their sense of well-being and self-esteem.

Get outside and experience ecotherapy for yourself. Tried and true, cost-effective, no co-pay, and no waiting room. And now we have the statistics to back up what many have known all along.

“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”-Theodore Roosevelt

P. S. Please share this article with those would benefit. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

True Lies

We all carry in us personal beliefs, values, ideas, and stories that we tell ourselves. We believe them to be true because they are ours and, therefore, must be true. We wouldn’t have these beliefs if they weren’t true, would we? Maybe, but much of our internal interpretation is not true, but our perspective. True lies is more than a movie title, or an oxymoron. It is a pretty accurate description of a lot of internal beliefs that we believe to be true.

gene_kelly_singin_in_the_rain  The reality is that our internal life is our truth, but our reality is not necessarily a literal truth. For example, a rainy morning is interpreted by quite a few people as a “bad day.” If you are a farmer, however, a rainy day is a great thing. So who’s story is true? The woman at the bus stop trying to stay dry under the umbrella, or the farmer’s crop is getting the first water it’s had in days? In both cases the belief is true for the individual. The beliefs of each can also vary depending on situational factors and other events. That woman at the bus stop may be dreading going to her son’s Little League game that evening. Rain cancels the game, so now rain becomes a good thing.

Aaron Beck, one of the pioneers of Cognitive Therapy made a study of some of the beliefs that most people hold and believe to be true. This article will focus on a number of fallacies that many people have that lead to thought disturbances and unhappiness. Beck’s belief is that these thought processes effect the way we feel and, as a result, the way we interact with the world.

Some of the more commonly held “true lies” are:
Control Fallacy- Some people believe that they are controlled by factors outside of themselves. They view themselves as helpless victims of fate, unable to influence outcomes and experiences. Things are outside of your control. Others, feel the opposite. They must control everything, and if things go wrong it’s “all” their fault. This fallacy of control puts undue responsibility on them for everything that happens.

Fallacy of Fairness-These people carry a resentment when “life isn’t fair.” Fairness is a huge value to them, and it is something that they live by. They become resentful when the world doesn’t show them the same fairness that they give to others. They also are highly indignant and hurt when others disagree with them. Their internal self talk often says, “Life’s not fair….It’s just not fair.” This belief is is set up for disappointment, as life doesn’t give a damn what you think is fair.

Fallacy of Change-People often expect others to change to suit their demands. They often resort to pressure, demanding, and manipulation. They often have unsatisfying personal relationships because they expect the other person will eventually “come around,” or change to suit their requirements.

Fallacy of Being Right-This applies to people who have to be always correct with what they think, do, or say. They will go to extreme lengths to prove to others that they are correct, and others are wrong. They tend towards defensiveness, and can be easily identified as obnoxious know what alls.

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy-This applies to those who believe that their hard work has to always pay off. Sacrifice and discipline must pay off. It’s almost as if someone is keeping score. They are shocked and dismayed when hard work does not lead to the desired outcome. Working hard to attain a goal is important, but so is working smart and having a clear plan. Those hurt by this fallacy confuse working hard with working smart.

The above beliefs are very common. Many of them are ingrained in us by our upbringing, and have hole-digging-contest-550x366become our “truths.” In some cases they are true, but not in every case. Being able to sort through when these beliefs are true or not is the mark of an insightful, self aware person. It is when we hold these beliefs to be true that we run into trouble. These beliefs, rigidly held, tend to dig us into an emotional hole that becomes difficult to get out of. Becoming aware of what our own, personal, “True Lies” are can avoid a lot of pain and suffering. Begin to examine some of your own deeply held beliefs.

“When you’re in a hole, stop shoveling.”-Unknown

P. S. For more articles on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy click on the “Therapies” section of this blog. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

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