5 Steps to Changing the World

How exactly does change come about? As health and mental health practitioners, our calling is to help people change. But I’m thinking about change on a number of different levels. There are the changes we help our clients make, as well as personal changes we might hope to see in our own lives. I’m also thinking about change on a broader scale – change in our communities, change in our profession and, if I may be so bold, change in the world. Stay with me, and I’ll get back to you on what I mean by that. Recently, I decided…

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How Does Neuroplasticity Work? [Infographic]

When neuroscience began to discover more about the brain’s remarkable ability to change, it opened up new ways of thinking about our work with patients. By harnessing the power of neuroplasticity, we can help patients think more clearly, learn more easily, develop greater focus, and manage reactive emotions. And that can help them find new ways to respond to a wide range of conditions including brain injury, stroke, learning disabilities, traumatic experiences, depression, and anxiety. But neuroplasticity involves a number of complex processes, and it can be a difficult concept to convey to patients. So we created this as a…

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Olympic Training for the Brain?

Do Olympic athletes have strong brains as well as strong bodies? Research has shown the benefit of exercise in improving cell health (including brain cells), boosting the brain’s natural anti-anxiety drug, and strengthening the aging brain. But we still have a lot to learn about exactly how exercise changes the brain. Recently, a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a series of experiments to try to tease apart the processes that are at work when we exercise. To do this, they essentially tricked the muscle cells of mice into thinking they were doing aerobic exercise….

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Can Mindfulness Change the Anxious Brain?

What helps with anxiety? Anxiety disorders represent the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans. These can range from PTSD to common phobias, and they wreak havoc in a person’s day-to-day life. A team of researchers led by David Creswell, PhD at Carnegie Mellon University recently wanted to find out what impact mindfulness practice could have on the anxious brain. To design their study, Creswell and his team recruited participants from a population that’s under a lot of stress – job seekers. Now we know that when stress goes untreated, it can become chronic and contribute to anxiety and depression….

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Can Mindfulness Change How the Brain Processes Emotion?

We’d like to think it can, but what does the evidence show? A working definition of mindfulness is that it attentively and non-judgmentally focuses on present experiences. But does this actually affect anything in the brain? To find out, Jacqueline Lutz, from the psychiatry department at the University Hospital of Zurich, led a study investigating whether mindfulness could affect the brain during emotional arousal. Lutz and her colleagues recruited 49 subjects with no prior or existing neurological or psychiatric illnesses and randomly assigned them to either the mindfulness group or the control group, which received no mindfulness instruction. Researchers hypothesized…

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Why a Fresh Perspective Can Be As Precious As a Diamond

My good friend Judith, who is a psychologist in private practice, once told me, “If you can give me a new perspective on a patient’s problem, you’ve given me something of incredible value.” When you have a patient who’s just not making progress, it can be terribly frustrating for both practitioner and patient. But a new way of seeing a patient’s problem can unlock what once felt stagnant and stuck. In those discouraging moments, a fresh perspective can be as precious as the discovery of a rare, exquisite, glittering diamond. But how do we get those “a-ha” moments that can…

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