Written By: Lauren Polzella, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Endicott College
How often do you think back on your week and forget half of the things you did? Or step out of the shower and not be able to remember if you washed your hair or not because you were busy thinking about the meeting you have in an hour? Most of us tend to fall into the habit of just going through the motions each day, rather than paying attention to the little things in life, which may end up being pretty powerful once you stop to notice them.
Mindfulness is defined as a psychological state of awareness that promotes focusing on the present and becoming aware of each moment without judgement. Mindfulness is a state of awareness that can be achieved at any time, any place, and at any moment. Practices like yoga, meditation, or tai chi help to achieve mindfulness, however, mindfulness can be practiced in daily settings as well.
There are several benefits of mindfulness on the brain and the body, like reducing inflammation in the gut, supporting better cognition and executive control, and improving mood, to mention a few. It is almost inevitable to be stress-free in our daily lives, but taking a few minutes to be mindful each day could make a huge difference.
Other benefits of mindfulness include, but are not limited to:
- Reduced rumination
- Stress Reduction
- Boost in working memory
- Improved Focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- More cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
- Enhanced self-insight
If these aspects could be improved in your life, think about becoming more mindful throughout your day. Mindfulness is easy to achieve, quick to practice, and it will never hurt to take a few moments each day to become more aware, especially when it could result in becoming a little less stressed or anxious. You never know, those few little moments might have a profound impact on the rest of your day.
Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
Written by: Lauren Wilson Medical Psychology Center Intern Endicott College
There are 45 different benefits of Optimism….
Optimism is defined as looking at the more favorable sides of a situation, anticipating the best possible outcome. People who are more pessimistic according to Winston Churchill see the difficulty in every opportunity and people who are optimist see the opportunity in every difficulty. It recent studies it has been shown that women in the US who are optimistic lived longer and showed decrease risk of heart disease and other diseases in last eight years since their last follow up. Women who were more pessimistic had higher blood pressure and cholesterol.
People who practice Optimism can enhance their personal growth and look at life with the glass half full not half empty and it doesn’t cost a penny to practice optimism.
It gives you a reason for living.
It reduces the level of stress experienced.
Research shows that it increases longevity.
It enables you to handle and put your emotions in check.
It promotes happiness.
It promotes self-respect and integrity
It enhances various coping skills developed in order to combat life’s struggles.
It forges persistence which is an essential trait required for achieving success.
It creates a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
It promotes healthy living.
It creates a positive anticipation of the future.
It increases your level of productivity.
It allows you to deal with failure constructively.
It allows you to develop the attribute of patience.
It makes you proactive.
It improves your physiological and psychological well-being.
It enables you to take a balanced approach to life by dealing with the constant negative thoughts which spring up.
It increases the likelihood of effective problem solving.
It gives you peace of mind.
It enables you to generate an alternative, more hopeful explanation for various difficulties experienced.
It ensures you believe in your dream.
It creates a positive attitude.
It increases your tolerance levels because it lowers the risk of you being irritated by little things.
It allows you to develop the habit of being thankful.
It increases your level of motivation.
It builds successful careers by promoting productivity.
It promotes laughter.
It doesn’t give any room for self-denial.
It welcomes any form of constructive change.
It creates positive expectations.
It sets your mood for the day.
It promotes positive relationships.
It builds resilience in the face of adversity.
Written by: Lauren Wilson Medical Psychology Center Intern Endicott College
We tend to overlook mental illness and associate people that suffer from it as the bad guy. Is this because we hear the word mental illness and think about people sleeping on the streets or people who are in jail? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
Millions of people are affected by mental illness every day. As a nation, we have paired it with a negative association. Having a mental illness can be frustrating in and of itself, but seeking help can also be embarrassing, because of how our society stigmatizes. Statistically, 1-5 (18.5%) of adults are affected by mental illness, as well as 1 in 5 (21.4%) of children ages 13-18, and 13% of children who are 8-15 are also affected. In the United States, a little more than 50% of the population has a mental illness from severe to mild.
So why are we so hush hush about mental illness? We have this stigma that has been latched on for many centuries now and "People with mental illnesses are crazy" is the new phrase people have been using and can be hurtful. People don’t want to seek treatment because they do not want to be labeled as "crazy" or they don’t want others to know they may have something going on in their lives that is making their daily lives tougher.
It’s time to change that stigma. It’s okay to reach out for help when you need it, everyone does. So many people are just like you. Seeking help is for your benefit and that is important to be a better you.
This movement is called “Time to Change”, a social movement that has been working on ways to help change the way people think and act about mental health. Time to change is website the covers personal stories, topics about mental health, and is a safe place about mental illness. This website prompts the well-being of others and is trying to spread the word to get rid of this stigma.
Written by: Lauren Polzella, Medical Psychology Student Intern, Endicott College
You won’t be a selfish person for taking care of yourself, just a happier one. Self-care is something people often put on the back burner. It has been stereotyped as “selfish” or “self-centered” to put yourself first, but sometimes it is necessary to ensure your well-being.
Self-care is defined as making daily living needs a priority, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and daily hygiene. However, it is not limited to these alone. Self-care also involves taking time to do the things that nurture and feed your soul. But what happens when even these things aren’t enjoyable anymore? Individuals who struggle with depression often have low motivation for activities and hobbies they used to find enjoyable. Depression can make self-care feel impossible, especially when a person feels tired, listless, and emotionally drained. Depression is associated with the dysfunction of the frontal lobes, which are responsible for executive function. Executive function controls skills in the brain such as problem solving and judgement and reasoning. When an individual is depressed, it is much harder for executive function to work correctly, therefore making it harder for self-care to feel attainable. However, the brain is adaptive and able to make new connections.
Creating a self-care plan is a great way to start rewiring your neural pathways on the path to recovery. Start small. Aim for small goals and recognize the little things each day, even if it's just getting out of bed and getting dressed, or recognizing you have been given another day and taking time to identify three things you are grateful for during that day. These small habits will help to lighten your mood and promote positivity, even if only for a few moments. Then, start to build off these small, daily habits and goals. Find what works for you and what makes you feel your best. Feed your senses. Whether it’s smelling the flowers and fresh air outside, eating one of your favorite foods for some comfort, or taking walks with a loved one; anything that boosts frontal lobe activity will help in the process of recovery. So, find what works best for you and roll with that, you’ll thank yourself later.
And remember - be kinder to yourself. You are important, you are loved, and you aren’t selfish for focusing on bettering yourself.
Serani, D. (2017, February 06). Why self-care is hard for depressed individuals. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201702/why-self-care-is-hard-depressed-individuals
Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Inter, Salem State University
The goal of any healthy and well functioning family is to be together, to grow together, and to experience life with one another. Immigration policies that have led to the separation of children and their parents at the US and Mexican border are creating lifelong detrimental impacts on these young children. This separation policy openly violates two UN Conventions; the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Rights of the Child. An executive order has since been signed by Trump that prohibits the separation of families during detainment, but this order does not undo the damage that has already been inflicted upon both the children and parents involved. Psychological, biological and emotional changes have been ignited in these children that can prove to be lifelong and irreversible.
High levels of stress, induced by any traumatic or crisis situation, can ignite changes in the body that would not have previously been activated. It has been know that sparking the stress dysregulation system at a young age can rewire a child’s brain in terms of dealing and coping with any form of stress, no matter the source. Activating change in the stress dysregulation mechanism can cause children (or anyone) to be hypervigilant, can pump extra cortisol (the stress hormone) into the brain and body, and can even lead to adrenal burn out due to constantly being in “fight or flight” mode. Our body’s mechanism for facing danger is still very primal, and is directly associated with anxiety and panic disorders. This “toxic stress” can also inhibit children from developing social skills, language skills, and gross motor skills.
Extensive stress on the body is not only related to psychological disorders, but biological health disorders. These include diabetes, heart disease, and even put someone at risk for substance and alcohol abuse. The separation of these families is causing unnecessary stress and trauma that is not only inhumane but totally preventable and avoidable. To put these children at an emotional and psychological disadvantage early in life is morally unacceptable. This act against humanity goes against everything psychologists and parents know about fostering a healthy environment for children to develop and prosper.
If left untreated, these children are at higher risk for developing major depressive disorder, PTSD, substance abuse disorders and possible suicidal ideation or behaviors. This not only goes for children being separated from parents at the border, but for children wrongly separated from their parents and placed into foster care. Even children who should be removed from a toxic home situation are having their entire world dismantled, and can experience toxic stress. A healthy, productive and nurturing family unit is the best way to set a child up for success in life. The only way to prevent this from happening, and to stunt further damage, is to reunite these children with their parents.
Keating, D. P., Ph.D. (2018, June 24). The Torture of Forced Family Separation: The Lifelong Impact. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stressful-lives/201806/the-torture-forced-family-separation-the-lifelong-impact
Roberts, J., & Lloyd, R. (2018, June 22). This Week in Science. Retrieved from https://undark.org/2018/06/22/children-separated-border-trauma/
Written by: Rachel Johansson, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Curry College
Neural pathways in the brain are activated when we respond to stimulus on our digital devices. When we click and scroll through videos, text messages and pictures we experience reward sensations. These intermittent rewards activate reward circuits in the brain, which leads to behaviors that would be categorized as Internet addiction. The behavioral addiction starts to form neurological connections; similar to how opioid addiction is experienced. Internet and smartphone addiction can lead to decreases in social connections and cause issues with emotional regulation. Internet addiction has also shown to increase attention-deficit disorders and distractibility as well as decreasing self-initiative.
Social isolation and perceived loneliness, due to smartphone addiction, impact physical health due to the neuroendocrine affects that are associated with social isolation and loneliness. Being connected to the Internet or a smartphone constantly limits reflection time as well as regeneration. Disconnected time allows for new ideas to develop and provides time for understanding your actions along with the actions of others. A key component of disconnected time is neural regeneration. Being constantly exposed to stress or stimulation with no time for regeneration can lead to illness and neural death. Being exposed to excessive stimulation during development may be harmful to the brain; increased television viewing hours is associated with attentional difficulties.
There are steps that can be taken to address digital addiction. Limiting interruptions throughout your entire day. This includes during work, relaxation, and fun. Turn off notifications and schedule times for checking notifications. Schedule uninterrupted time as well, especially during hours where you are most alert. Turn off all devices when attending social events to help you remain active, present and engaged during the event. Turning limited digital use into a game during social events can be beneficial as well. When out to dinner, stack all digital devices in the middle of the table and the first person to look at their device has to pay for dinner. It is important to give yourself unstructured and disconnected time to allow regeneration and self-reflection to occur (Peper & Harvey, 2018).
Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2018). Digital addiction: Increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
NeuroRegulation, 5(1), 3-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.15540/nr.5.1.3
Written by: Rachel Johansson, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Curry College
A positive school social climate is most often viewed as a climate where students feel respected, listened to, and valued within the school community. When a positive school social climate is achieved student crime, including violence, can be effectively prevented. In a positive school environment, encouraging learning conditions can be established. The encouraging atmosphere helps promote pro-social bonds, improve levels of self-control, provide students with positive motivation, and support youth social development. Improved school climate increases overall school safety through better communication and cooperation.
A large aspect of improving school climate involves assisting students with mental health support. When a school is able to identify students who are in need of support, provide students with tools for coping with traumatic experiences, and offer students emotional support or guidance improvements in school social climate are made. Increasing the school social climate would provide effective prevention for tragedies in school. Researchers have discovered a large amount of evidence supporting that student misbehavior decreases in positive social climates as well as evidence that shows it would be unlikely that a student would cause a mass act of violence in a school where they feel valued and respected.
Increasing student access to disciplinary and counseling services as well as increasing funding for more full-time school resource officers and mental health agents is a substantially more effective prevention measure than criminal justice-oriented security. More invasive and intense the security is correlated with increased reports of student victimization and fear. The invasive security also impacts school involvement for parents and community members. The cost of increased security could indirectly cause a less secure school environment by taking the needed resources away from educational and behavioral therapy. The most important key to prevention is being able to recognize warnings and cries for help; a positive school social climate supports prevention effectively (Kupchik et al., 2015).
Kupchik, A., Brent, J. J., & Mowen, T. J. (2015). The aftermath of Newtown: More of the
same. British Journal Of Criminology, 55(6), 1115-1130. doi:10.1093/bjc/azv049
Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Salem State University
Designer and entrepreneur Kate Spade was found dead in her New York home on Tuesday, June 5th due to an apparent suicide. A note was left at the scene that addressed her daughter and husband. Family members are shocked and heartbroken, just as is much of the fashion industry and fans of her billion dollar brand. Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, said he had no indication that his wife had planned to take her life. They had been living apart for the last 10 months, but there were no talks of getting divorced. One of Spade’s close friends, Elyce Arons, states how “Katy was very happy most of the time, the funniest person in the world, and sometimes she would get really sad”. Arons also reported to the New York times that Spade had made it clear very times that “[she] would never do that”, in regards to taking her own life.
Kate Spade choosing to end her life embodies the misconception that if you have money and fame, you are supposed to be happy. This misconception is just one of the many stigmas regarding mental health and mental illness that have become popular in our society. Unfortunately, money and fame do not immunize a person from suffering from a mental illness. Depression is not discriminatory.
Spade's sister, Rita Saffo, told New York Times that Kate was afraid of getting help because she felt it would damage her brand and reputation. The fact that Kate recognized she needed help but refused to seek it due to societal stigma and industry expectations is why we need to change the conversation about mental health. Guilt and embarrassment should not be the feelings someone experiences when they are thinking of seeking mental health services. Having a mental illness and admitting that you are struggling should not be associated with weakness. Tragedies like this can be avoided, but this means changing the negative connotation our culture has around mental illness and self care.
Kate was not weak and she was not broken. She was a beautiful, intelligent and innovative business woman that was internally struggling. People often fail to reach out when they need help the most, especially if they feel they will be shamed because of it. Changing the conversation begins with you. Think about what you share on social media regarding mental illness, how you talk about mental illness with your friends and family, and challenge your biases about what it means when someone is mentally ill.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the free 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency services provider. You are worth helping. Your life is worth living
Friedman, V. (2018, June 06). Kate Spade's Death: 'There Was No Indication and No Warning,' Says Her Husband. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/style/kate-spade-husband-andy-spade.html
Levenson, E., & Gingras, B. (2018, June 05). Designer Kate Spade found dead in apparent suicide. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/05/us/kate-spade-dead/index.html
Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Salem State University
Have you ever wondered why you or others around you feel sad and tired during the winter months? Have you noticed you feel happier in the spring and summer when the weather is warm and the sun is shining? Do these feelings come and go yearly with the changing of seasons? You may be experiencing SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that can occur due to the change of yearly seasons. It is a type of depressive mood disorder that has many of the same symptoms of a classic depressive disorder. Generally, the onset begins in the fall or the winter and last until spring or summer season (when there is more sunshine). A rare form of seasonal depression is “summer” depression, which begins in the spring or summer and lasts until fall or winter. Symptoms of winter SAD include, but are not limited to:
What are the causes?
The specific causes of SAD are unknown. However, there are several biological and chemical indicators that may offer an explanation. People with SAD may have trouble producing or maintaining adequate serotonin levels in the brain, which is known as the “happiness” neurotransmitter. People diagnosed with SAD may also produce too much melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter associated with sleep and your circadian cycle. Lastly, and probably the most obvious is that people with serotonin lack an adequate amount of vitamin D, which plays a role in serotonin production.
Who does it affect?
SAD can affect anyone, of any age. For example, many individuals in the Northeastern United States experience winter SAD because of the lack of sunlight and vitamin D. The farther north or south you live from the equator (the sunniest place on earth year round), the higher your chances of developing SAD. Women are also 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. If you have a family history of depression, or have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, this also increases your chances of developing SAD. 5% of adults in the U.S experience SAD. Their symptoms generally persist for about 40% of the calendar year. The most difficult months for SAD prove to be January and February; in the dead of winter.
How do you treat SAD?
Just like any mood disorder, SAD can be treated in multiple ways. These treatments involve light therapy, medication, psychotherapy and intake of vitamin D. SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, help stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Light therapy through the use of light boxes is a very common treatment for SAD. This involves exposure to cool fluorescent lighting for 20 minutes to an hour by sitting in front of a light box from the fall until early spring. People typically do this first thing in the morning before they start their day. According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder associate (SADA), light therapy is effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases of SAD. Traditional psychotherapy can help combat the negative self thoughts and help with mood regulation that is disrupted by SAD. Promotion of engaging in indoor and outdoor activities during the winter is a common piece of psychotherapy as a treatment for SAD. Lastly, the addition of a vitamin D supplement to one’s routine may help improve serotonin production and improve mood and energy levels. Vitamin D supplements can be purchased at your local drug store or pharmacy. Any of these treatments alone or in combination can be used to combat SAD. Going on vacation, spending time outdoors, maintaining a healthy diet and maintaining a set sleep schedule are also alternative options in treating SAD. It is important to consult a doctor for a diagnosis, and to make sure your symptoms are not related to a possible medical condition.
A. (2017, January). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder
N. (2016, March). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
Whiteman, H. (2015, December 28). Seasonal affective disorder: Could you spot the signs? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270059.php
Winch, G., Ph.D. (2015, October 26). 10 Signs of Seasonal Depression (and 6 Ways to Fight It). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201510/10-signs-seasonal-depression-and-6-ways-fight-it
Written By: Jonathan Acquaviva, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Southern New Hampshire University
Although the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, the nation ranks lowest in terms of “efficiency, equity and outcomes,” according to the 2014 Commonwealth Fund Survey 2014. Given that a typical patient visit usually lasts anywhere from 8-15 minutes, it is hard to cover all that is happening medically (Fricchione, 2014). In addition, patients have more and more specialized care, however research shows that patients feel less and less cared for. That is, generally the days of personal relationships with physicians may be coming to an end. One possibility of a counter movement is the development of the Accountable Care model. Its basic thrust is the movement away from fee for service payments and towards reinforcement to the physician or hospital for better care based on better outcomes. The intent of this brief communication is to acknowledge how the typical doctor visit has progressed in light of this trend towards disenfranchisement over the years, and to encourage patients to discuss matters with their physicians that they may not consider appropriate despite the lack of time or feelings of empathy.
It has been a common practice for physicians to seemingly not empathize with their patients for a significant amount of time. In fact, there may have been instances where such an approach was encouraged for the sake of objectivity. This can be further illustrated by the literature of Dr. William T Branch Jr from the Department of Medicine at Emory University. While being trained as a physician in the 1960’s, Dr. Branch recalls being taught to maintain distance from patients in order to seek objectivity. In contrast to our encouragement, physicians did “not much respect their input into decisions affecting their own bodies”, in regards to the patient (Branch, 2014).
One of the key elements of Freudian psychology is the role stress has on the individual’s life, both psychologically and physiologically. Stress transcends all fields in medical care. In addition to psychological diseases, stress can manifest itself in forms of diseases such as cardiac disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other neuropsychiatric disease (Fricchione, 2014). Given the nature of a typical fifteen minute appointment, there is not much a physician can do for the sick individual. Often times, the results are simply a slowing of progression of the disease which may still lead to suffering and higher levels of stress; stress that may not be actively discussed with a physician. It is not to say that a healthy relationship between physician and patient will alleviate all medical symptoms, however there is evidence that this healthy relationship can promote better outcome.
However there is research demonstrating that this lack of connection does negatively affect treatment. US government surveys of 5100 family physicians were reviewed and it was concluded that during the typical 15 minute visit, only 3% of the sample doctors reported discussing stress management, 17% provided nutritional counseling and only 12% provided exercise advice. Ideally, these percentages should be higher.
Being social animals, human beings rely on relationships for their most productive interactions. One key element of relationships is respect. If a patient feels respected by his doctor, there may be a better chance to develop a relationship which in turn, should elicit a more productive meeting. Research from the University of Bristol illustrates this notion. The researchers acknowledge there has been little research on the effects of respect of doctors on patient outcome. The study consisted of role play in which participants played the patient and the doctors while following scripts. The results showed that patients felt more respected when the doctor displayed a more respectful demeanor. In addition, higher patient satisfaction was also reported as well as adherence to the doctor's’ advice, and the likelihood of visiting the doctor again. Lower feelings of hurt, higher self esteem, and lower perceived illness identity was also reported. Therefore, it can be concluded that respect from doctors can result in a more productive, positive experience, despite how brief patient appointments usually are (Clucus, & St. Claire, 2010).
Given the likely positive effects of having a positive relationship with a doctor, it is highly encouraged that patients take the initiative to talk to their physicians about more concerning personal issues. There are absolutely physicians currently practice with a more humanistic approach. What we at MPC are advocating is that whatever your relationship with your physician, and ideally it is a good one, that you will benefit greatly by advocating for your wellness. The patient’s “job” is to demand the attention to his or her needs in a clear and concise manner so that the physician can best respond to his or physical needs.
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