Can Fear of Happiness Get in the Way of Healing?

Why is it so hard to get people to follow through on strategies that are good for them? Patient noncompliance can be one of the greatest roadblocks that keeps people from achieving their goals. And I recently came across some new research that might hold a clue to what holds some people back. You see, for some of our patients, the fear of experiencing a positive outcome might actually be stronger than their desire to heal. Now this isn’t really a new idea, but what is new is that it’s starting to be evaluated by researchers. A 2014 British Journal…

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Trauma and the Brain: Why Congress is Finally Helping Traumatized Veterans

On February 12, 2015, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The purpose of this act is to provide help to US veterans suffering from PTSD. This legislation provides funding for the study of new trauma treatment strategies as well as for recruiting more mental health practitioners to work with veterans. When the bill was voted on, it passed with no opposition. I believe this action highlights a massive shift in thinking within this country over the past few decades. You see, my generation is sometimes referred to as a lost generation. Thousands of young…

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Fear, Self-Esteem, and the Power of Touch

How crucial is the power of touch in developing a healthy sense of self-esteem . . . . . . and what role do these play in how people respond to fear? To answer these questions, Dr. Sander L. Koole and a team of researchers at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands conducted a series of studies looking at whether interpersonal touch might help people who have low self-esteem when they’re reminded of their own mortality. You see, Dr. Koole and his team had looked at a body of research called Terror Management Theory. Previous studies stemming from this theory…

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How the Brain Works with the Vagus: Empathy and More

When someone’s frowning, or beaming, or gaping in surprise, they’re wearing their heart on their face. That’s because the muscles that control facial expression are linked to the smart vagus, says Stephen Porges, PhD. Thanks to the vagus nerve, the emotions we feel are displayed on our faces and in the sound of our voices. Without the vagus nerve, in fact, we wouldn’t be able to tell how anyone else was feeling. Here’s Stephen’s explanation for why the vagus nerve makes empathy possible – and what it means to clinicians. It’s only about 3 minutes long, so please take a…

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Creativity and the Brain

Could it be time for you to get out your painter’s smock and brushes? A new study by the Mayo Clinic may be just the motivation you need. The clinic recently published findings of their four-year study on risk factors for cognitive aging. A team of researchers led by Dr. Rosebud Roberts selected 256 participants aged 85 or above, whose cognitive level was deemed within normal limits. They were interested in looking at measures of depressive symptoms, chronic conditions, and midlife onset of hypertension within this group as predictors of mild cognitive impairment. Researchers took baseline measurements of participants by…

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10 Ways Dance Strengthens the Brain

The other day, we shared some brand-new studies that investigated the neural effects of dance on people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Dance has been shown to improve motor function, cognitive function, mental symptoms, and overall quality of life in people both with and without Parkinson’s disease. These results have been found in scientific studies, but also shared by a number of you in the comments that were left on the last blog. Deb, a child trauma therapist, shared how tap dance has made such a difference in the life of a traumatized young patient. And Virginia, LPCA, highlighted how dance…

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