you don’t want.
If you haven’t got all the things you want, be grateful for the things you don’t have that
you don’t want.
You've heard me talk about the benefits of breathing exercises to reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. (You'll hear me say it again...and again). Here is an exercise that you can follow step-by-step to practice the simple, yet effective, art of deep breathing. Although this exercise can be practiced in a variety of poses, the following is recommended:
1. Lie down on a blanket or rug on the floor. Bend your knees and move your feet about eight inches apart, with your toes turned slightly outward. Make sure that your spine is straight.
2. Scan your body for tension.
3. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest.
4. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen to push up your hand as much as feels comfortable. Your chest should move only a little and only with your abdomen.
5. When you feel at ease with step 4, smile slightly and inhale through your nose and exhale thorough your mouth, making a quiet, relaxing, whooshing sound like the wind as you blow gently out. Your mouth, tongue, and jaw will be relaxed. Take long, slow, deep breaths that raise and lower your abdomen. Focus on the sound and feeling of breathing as you become more and more relaxed.
6. Continue deep breathing for about five or ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day. Then, if you like, gradually extend this period to twenty minutes.
7. At the end of each deep-breathing session, take a little time to once more scan your body for tension. Compare the tension you feel at the conclusion of the exercise with that which you experienced when you began.
8. When you become at ease with breathing into your abdomen, practice it any time during the day when you feel like it and you a4re sitting down or standing still. Concentrate on your abdomen moving up and down, the air moving in and out of your lungs, and the feeling of relaxation that deep breathing gives you.
When you have learned to relax yourself using deep breathing, practice it any time you'd like, but especially times when you feel yourself getting tense.
Exercise from Relaxation For Dummies by Shamash Alidina
If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends
on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in
the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
There are so many wonderful resources available out there with lots of great information. If you've ever walked into the "self-help" section of the bookstore or browsed online, it can be tough to know which books are truly useful compared to those that are mostly nonsense or fluff.
I'm sharing a list (in no particular order) of some of the books I often find myself suggestions to clients. Some are helpful workbooks with exercises that focus on a particular issue or concern (e.g., self-esteem, physical pain, memory), others explore personal issues and offer a framework for a new perspective (e.g, perfectionism, indecision, gratitude), and others are just interesting or fun to read. Enjoy!
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
by Brene Brown, PhD, LCSW
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
by Gretchen Rubin
Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life
by M.J. Ryan
The Self-Esteem Workbook
by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
by Barry Schwartz, PhD
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert
by John M. Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
by Gary D Chapman, PhD
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
by Sue Johnson, PhD
The Book of Questions
by Gregory Stock PhD
The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition
by Bernie Zilbergeld, PhD
The Pain Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Life
by Dennis C. Turk, PhD and Frits Winter, PhD
The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook
by Martha Davis, PhD, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW, and Matthew McKay, PhD
Brainfit: 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory
by Corinne Gediman and Francis Michael Crinella PhD
The Memory Prescription: Dr. Gary Small's 14-Day Plan to Keep Your Brain and Body Young
by Gary Small, MD and Gigi Vorgan
Let's face it--aging is unavoidable. However, the negative stereotypes and expectations that growing older means becoming forgetful, and leading an inactive, dull life are just plain absurd! In fact, many people find their older adulthood is among the most satisfying times of their lives. They key to staying active and mentally engaged is quite simple and based largely on the "use it or lose it" principle. While there are environmental and genetic components to memory problems, you have an active role in staying healthy. As the saying goes--prevention is the best medicine.
This post will share information from two great resources on brain health and disease
The Memory Bible: An Innovative Strategy for Keeping Your Brain Young by Gary Small
Brainfit: 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory by Corinne Gediman
Brain Cells: The Forest in Your Mind
The brain has billions of nerve cells that stretch out like the branches on a tree, growing smaller as they extend outward. These branches send messages to each other.
As our brains age, the synapses, or connections between these branches, begin to function less effectively.
Messages firing from one part of the brain to the other may break down. One area of your brain may tell you to walk into the kitchen and open the refrigerator, but then you just stand there. Unfortunately, the part of the brain that should have told you to reach in and get some water because you’re thirsty didn’t get the message.
Without use, the branches can shrink; but when we exercise them in new and creative ways, connections remain active as they pass new information along.
Remarkably, new dendrites can be created after old ones die.
Evidence shows we can “work out” our dendrites and extend their branches in many ways.
Even routine activities can create a trip to the gym for brain cells: tie your shoe backwards, brush your teeth with your nondominant hand, any conscious effort to tease your brain can potentially create new brain cell connections.
"Use It Or Lose It!" – Disease Prevention
Research shows that keeping your brain active over time can lower your risk for dementia. Scientists at Case Western University found a person's risk for Alzheimer's Disease was 3 times lower in when they had been intellectually active during their 40s and 50s compared to those who had not. Couch potatoes didn’t reap benefits of prevention. Passive pursuits like going to the movies and watching TV didn’t help lower risk.
Brain fitness can tone up our memory performance, protect us from future decline, and may even lead to new growth of brain cells.
Brain Fitness & Mental Aerobics
Any mental activity that stimulates your mind can help protect your brain.
Be creative and have fun!!
Crossword Puzzles Sudoku
Riddles Play charades
Jeopardy Take a Class or Learn a New Language
Jigsaw puzzles Play Cards or Board Games
Arts & Crafts: Painting, Knitting, Woodworking, Drawing, Photography
MENTAL AEROBICS SHOULD BE FUN!!!!
Most of us put our minds to coping with real problems in our daily lives—jobs, health, family, etc—yet many of us find time to enjoy solving puzzles and playing games. It is this fun factor that makes it easier to maintain mental aerobics over the long-haul.
Some final tips:
>>Choose a variety (cross-train!)---Minimize boredom and maximize results!
>>Build stamina over time; gradually introduce novel situations and new activities.
>>Stimulate your mind but don't overdo it.
>>If it's much too difficult, you may get frustrated and give up.
>>If it's much too easy, you may feel bored or distracted.
So go have some fun! It's good for you AND your brain!
One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.
In a previous post, (Body Responses) I reviewed some of the great benefits of using relaxation to reduce stress. Often times, people get turned off by the idea of "practicing relaxation," as though it's just one more chore on the already long to-do list. Trust me--relaxation doesn't have to be complicated! Breathing techniques are generally the foundation for relaxing.
One of my favorite resources for learning and practicing breathing and other relaxation techniques is the Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Davis, Eshelmen, and McKay (2000). I'm sharing a few exercises from the workbook that I highly recommend.
Remember: Breathing exercises are portable. You can do them anytime, anywhere. Use the following exercises at any point throughout your day to enhance relaxation and release tension.
1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your arms and legs uncrossed and your spine
2. Breathe in deeply into your abdomen. Let yourself pause before you exhale.
3. As you exhale, count "one" to yourself. As you continue to inhale and exhale, count each
4. Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for five to ten minutes.
5. Notice your breathing gradually slowing, your body relaxing, and your mind calming as you
practice this breathing meditation.
The Relaxing Sigh
During the day, you probably catch yourself sighing or yawning. This is generally a sign that you are not getting enough oxygen. Sighing and yawning are your body's way of remedying the situation. A sigh is often accompanied by a sense that things are not quite as they should be, and a feeling of tension. Since a sigh actually does release a bit of tension, you can practice sighing at will as a means of relaxing.
1. Sit or stand up straight.
2. Sigh deeply, letting out a sound of deep relief as the air rushes out of your lungs.
3. Don't think about inhaling—just let the air come in naturally.
4. Take eight to twelve of these relaxing sighs and let yourself experience the feeling of
relaxation. Repeat whenever you feel the need for it.
Letting Go of Tension
1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor.
2. Breathe in deeply into your abdomen and say to yourself, "Breathe in relaxation."
Let yourself pause before you exhale.
3. Breathe out from your abdomen and say to yourself, "Breathe out tension." Pause before
4. Use each inhalation as a moment to become aware of any tension in your body.
5. Use each exhalation as an opportunity to let go of tension.
6. You may find it helpful to use your imagination to picture or feel the relaxation entering and
the tension leaving your body.
Davis, M., McKay, M., & Eshelman, E.R. (2000). The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. p. 26.
When one pours out one’s heart, one feels lighter.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Great resource in helping to support families and educate them on mental illness.
The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need.
-Find state organizations and local affiliates
-Family-to-Family Education Program free 12-week course
Mental Health America (MHA) also offers a variety of programs and resources.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Education& Resources; Find Treatment feature
This site is for people living with mental illness—and their friends. You'll find tools to help in the recovery process, and you can also learn about the different kinds of mental illnesses, read real-life stories about support and recovery, and interact with the video to see how friends can make all the difference.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
Al‑Anon Family Group Meetings
Friends and family members of problem drinkers share their experiences and learn how to apply the principles of the Al‑Anon program to their individual situations.
– Find a Therapist Search by zip code, specialty, provider type
Popular Self-Help Books
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss
by Nancy L. Mace
The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia: Helping Your Loved One Get the Most Out of Life
by Kim T. Mueser & Susan Gingerich
Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients and Providers
by E. Fuller Torrey
Schizophrenia for Dummies
by Jerome Levine & Irene S. Levine
The Bipolar Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know
by David J. Miklowitz
The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers
by Barry Jacobs
On the Mind...
Welcome to my blog offering information and thoughts on a variety of psychology topics and common concerns.
Megan M. Paris, PhD
I'm a licensed psychologist in Houston helping adults
work through life's challenges. I provide an objective and nonjudgmental space to explore your situation and improve your overall
Click here to learn more about my practice.