Creating Happiness with Meditation, Yoga, and Ayurveda

Bye! For now!

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Dear every one who has ever read this blog,

Once upon a time I was a practicing psychotherapist.

My clients were my instructors and they painted, for me, unique pictures of humankind.  They taught me many things.  From them I learned about strength and resiliency. They taught me how deeply affected people are by the individuals in their relational network. I learned, from my clients, about the enormity of individual emotional power. My deepest appreciation, however, goes for the “client lessons” I received about both the beauty and the practicality of love.

Love, that gorgeous emotion at the essence of our being, can strengthen resolve and encourage positive behaviors. I imagine a huge rope attached to love—this rope surrounds and encompasses everyone nearby.  Love offered to another heals and nurtures the self!  My clients taught me that when a person caught in a troublesome time draws on love for another she gains enough strength to surmount difficulties.

I loved my job but some time or other during the 90’s I began to wonder why talk therapy “worked” for some clients while for others talk did little or nothing to help them reach their goals.  I noticed that insight, considered valuable in the mental health community, did not always translate into a perceptual, feeling or behavioral change.  Seeing clearly did not mean that clients necessarily felt better.

Psychotherapy, in the 80’s and 90’s, was often touted to be an end all and be all.  Someone would have a problem and the question would be, “Have they gone to see a therapist?”  The implication was that seeing a therapist was the answer.  To myself, I began to mutter, “But therapy is only words—-surely more is needed than words.”

About the time that I was experiencing doubts about the helpfulness of therapy I began to hear about Ayurveda.

Of course you have all heard of an “Ah ha moment!”  An “Ah ha moment” is pretty much what I had.  Ayurveda made, to me, sense—-absolute and perfect sense.  Following are a few Ayurvedic concepts.  I hope they make sense to you too.

  1. The mind-body-spirit is one seamless energetic system
  2. The human being is an aspect of nature and the physiology is, therefore, an expression of the elements of nature.
  3. If the elements underlying the mind-body are out of balance a symptom will be experienced.

Wow!  I learned that Ayurveda not only possessed the knowledge to identify imbalances but also offered an instruction manual for the amelioration of symptoms.  Ayurveda offered the novel idea that emotional health was tied to physical health.  Happiness, the sages told us, is our birthright and a by-product of perfect health!

There is still a doorplate in Birmingham, Michigan that has my name on it but I haven’t entered that office in years.  My name is on the door only because my partners and I had invested in an expensive brass plate and my name couldn’t be erased from it. The last time I glanced at the door was sometime in the last century!

I became interested in Ayurveda and studied this ancient science.  With Sandra Moss I wrote Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way:  creating happiness with meditation, yoga and Ayurveda.  Following the publication of that book I’ve written this blog.  The blog offers Ayurvedic tidbits and occasionally I do write about my former love—– psychology.

My interest in Ayurveda hasn’t wavered and truthfully I don’t think it ever will but it has become time for me to stop writing the blog.  At least for now—-This blog will be my last.  I wish to say good-bye for now!

So what is in the future of a dedicated former blogger?  Well, I’ve decided to do an audio version of Healing Depression.  2009 is technologically speaking “the olden times” and back in 2009, when the book was published there wasn’t such an avid interest in audio books.  It seems that now many people are listening to books on tape and I am excited to have them (hopefully) listen to a book about Ayurveda.  I also plan to do podcasts on mental health.  Of course these will promote mind-body health—–happiness achieved through physiological balance.

A friend of mine, Dr. Marjie Scott, and I have also started to write a book about being old.  That’s right—–being old.  Of course there is a twist.  The book will be about maintaining a vital life style after retirement.  It’s about vitality and creativity…living life with zest during the final years on this planet!

I hope that you picked up a helpful idea or two from the blog. I thank you all for reading it especially those who left comments or got back to me with their thoughts.  I wish you all well and of course I cannot end this final blog without a reminder.  That reminder is—-do pick up a copy of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way!  If you already have a copy perhaps you know a friend or two who would appreciate one.

May God Bless you and I wish you perfect health and happiness always—-

Nancy

 

The child-care guru D.W. Winnicott wrote about “the ordinary devoted mother.”  He coined the term “the good enough Mother.”

A good enough Mom nourishes the connections she feels between herself and her child and she takes care, not only of her children, but also of herself.

Science is aware of how the connections between us as human beings affect us at a cellular level.  Nowhere is this connection more powerful than that between mother and child.

For instance, science tells mom not to be tense around baby or baby will feel the tenseness and become an uptight baby.  This is enough to make a new mom tense if she interprets the information to mean that she has to always be relaxed when she is with baby.  But, it can be helpful information if mom interprets it to mean that she has to take care of herself and focus on her needs in order to enjoy and to nurture baby. Yes, a tense Mom makes for a tense baby but baby cannot make Mom tense.  Mom makes herself tense by the pressures she puts on herself and by not taking proper care of her own mind-body needs.

Of course mothering is exceedingly important for the well being of the child.  But, Mom let’s go back to Winnicott’s time and remember that being good enough is good enough!  After all, you are not a perfect person and so no task you undertake will be done perfectly.  Rule number one for parenting must be to take pressure off of Mom!  I don’t think this happens often enough.  Actually I think many mothers are experiencing parenting as a pressure cooker.

Go to any gathering of young women and you will find them chatting about their kids and their parenting styles.  There is, I think, an underlying feeling of anxiety and competiveness in the conversation.  Who does more for their child?  Who does it better?  I wish they’d talk about politics—–even in today’s partisan world there might be less anxiety!

Is how the kids turn out mom’s report card on herself?  Wow!  If so that is a lot of pressure on both mother and child.  Kids often believe that their grades, their popularity, their success in sports or the arts is how you evaluate yourself.  Once they know that they begin to act for Mom instead of taking pleasure in their own successes.  This, in the long run creates an internal feeling of emptiness and it diminishes a desire to achieve.

Children need nurturing Moms who are happy within themselves and don’t lean on their kids for their self esteem.

How can you be a good enough mother?

There is not a recipe for rearing perfect children.  But if there were, the first line would read, “Remove parental pressure and anxiety.”

Children are amazing creatures. They see the world with fresh eyes, alert awareness and an open heart.  They need respect for their way of being, love, kindness and firm but loving boundaries.  They will grow up to reach their full potential if they receive positive messages.

We reinforce what we talk about.  If a child is sloppy, note the times they pick up their clothes.  “I notice you were very tidy when you made your bed today” is a powerful message for change.  “Why are you always so sloppy” is a powerful message for status quo. Telling a child that she is happy, healthy, and smart will go a long way to helping her to turn out that way.

Love the children but love yourself first and in this way insure that you do a good job for everyone: child and mother!

Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way is about the creation of health and its by-product, happiness.  The healthy and happy person is grounded and operates from a well of stability and flexibility. The maintenance of health and happiness through Ayurveda and meditation is the best insurance for the creation of competent, happy children.  Sandra and I suggest that you put on your oxygen mask first and that you focus on enjoying the small creatures God has placed in your care.  Enjoyment, love, positivity are the antidotes for pressure and guilt!

As always, we wish you perfect health and happiness.

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Sleep and Panic Attacks

Are you wondering how sleep and panic attacks go together? 
They are intrinsically connected because sleep and panic attacks fit together like a hand and a glove

Sleep is important. Recent scientific research tells us that sleep, even more than smoking, exercise or high blood pressure is indicative of how long we will each live.  Ayurveda agrees and takes this one step further.  Sleep according to Ayurveda, is more important than even nutrition for our health and well-being.

In Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way Sandra and I discuss sleep and insomnia at length and offer many time-tested ways to encourage sleep. No one need suffer from insomnia and no one needs to feel as if the only solution for insomnia is to take a dangerous medication.  As a matter of fact during a chemically induced sleep our body does not efficiently go through the myriad tasks it performs when eyes are closed naturally. 

Sleep debt breaks the brain and sleeplessness goes against the dictates of Mother Nature.  Ayurveda tips can absolutely prevent and cure insomnia and help any one suffering from this disorder to get their zzz’s by simply closing their eyes. Dangerous medications are not necessary to solve the problem of insomnia.

Lack of sleep triggers bio-chemical imbalances. There is a correlation between bio-chemical imbalances and panic attacks but a correlation is not a cause.  It simply implies a connection.  It’s that chicken and egg story.  Which came first the chemical imbalance or the panic attack?  And, there are natural ways to balance brain chemistry.  Sandra and I also discuss these in Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way.

Genetics?  Science now tells us that very little is genetically programmed.  We have tendencies or leanings toward specific problems but if our physiology is in balance the problem need not come to us.  In other words, just cause Mom had panic attacks you need not experience them!

Panic attacks are often triggered by an upsetting life experience. We digest, ingest and assimilate all experiences at a cellular level.  Ayurveda suggests we focus on rebalancing the physiology.  With balance comes the ability to not dwell on upsets. With balance comes he demise of panic attacks.

Sleep enhances our balancing act.  Panic attacks are most often, according to Ayurveda, triggered by an exhausted physiology.  Upsetting experiences and exhaustion go together.  Often when we are upset our routine becomes disrupted and we don’t follow a regular schedule. By not paying enough attention to how much sleep we are getting we begin to set the building blocks for a panic attack in place.

Sleep affects mood. Like the low fuel light on the instrument panel of a car, the symptoms that accompany sleep deprivation are warning signals that you need to stop and refuel or suffer the consequences of running out of gas.  A panic attack is one of these symptoms. 

If you are experiencing either insomnia or panic attacks Ayurveda can help you.  Breathing techniques, meditation, tips for enhancing and insuring a good night’s rest, nutritional tips, restorative yoga and the right exercise routine are all part of the Ayurveda repetoire.  These natural remedies will help you to snooze and to avoid the terrible discomfort of panic.

Sandra and I send you a big wish that you will experience the contentment and good spirits that come with deep rest and blissful sleep!

 

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www.depressionproofyourlife.com 

The Dangers of Adderall

The cover story in this weeks’ Sunday New York Times is titled Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions.  It’s a tragic story about a young man, a good student and president of his college class, who recently committed suicide after becoming addicted to Adderall, an A.D.H.D. medication.  Richard did not have A.D.H.D. but was easily able to procure prescriptions for Adderall from several different doctors.  I read the article and was shocked to learn how simple it was for Richard to get prescriptions for a medication that treated a condition he did not have. 

 

Wow!  I guess I’m pretty darn naïve.  Yesterday afternoon I spoke about this article with the Mother of two college students.  She informed me that her daughters tell her  “many kids take drugs meant for A.D.H.D.” Apparently these drugs make it easy to stay up all night to study. 

 

A clinical neuropsychologist, named DeAnsin Parker, made the following statement in reference to Adderall.  “Stimulants will help anyone focus better.  And a lot of young people like or value that feeling, especially those who are driven and ambitious.  We have to realize that these are potential addicts—drug addicts don’t look like they used to.”

 

To be ambitious is OK.  As a matter of fact, most people consider ambition and competiveness to be desirable traits.  Don’t we all feel happier if we perceive that we are reaching our potential?  It’s been said that work should be to adults what play is to children. We should enjoy our work and wish to do well at it. Parents want their kids to achieve and kids want to make their parents happy. If an ambitious and driven kid feels blocked or thwarted she is going to look for a solution.  What a tragedy that too often the solution is medications.

 

In our book Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way Sandra and I write about the incredible benefits of physiological balance.  When the mind-body-spirit is balanced potential is more easily reached.  Understanding the essence of physiological balance and suggestions on reaching this desirable state are offered in our book.  One of the interventions we suggest, and the one I wish to write about today, is the Transcendental Meditation technique.

 

Increased inner control, decreased anxiety, relief from insomnia, improved job performance and increased job satisfaction are only a few of the myriad positive benefits gleaned from practice of the TM technique.  Increased well being and improved grades are also reported after learning this meditative technique. TM is a positive solution for the competitive kid who feels thwarted.  Drugs are not!

 

Millions of people worldwide practice the TM technique but word needs to get out to millions more.  If you know of someone who is using a stimulant to stay up all night and study, someone who doesn’t have A.D.H.D., but who just simply wants to do well——-please tell her to get online and click on TM.org——–do that first and then click on Amazon and order copy of Healing Depression the Mind- Body Way.  Non-drug solutions do exist!

 

As always, Sandra and I wish you perfect health and happiness.

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The National Institute of Health, the federal government’s top medical research agency, recently completed a study comparing the health of Americans with the health of individuals living in other affluent democracies. At the completion of the study, Dr. Stephen Woolf, the panel chairman, and a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, commented that he, and other panel members were struck by the gravity of the findings.

 

And what were those findings? According to The New York Times they were as follows:  American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries studied and American women ranked at or near the bottom in nine areas, including heart disease, chronic lung disease, obesity and diabetes.

 

The panel suggested a campaign to raise public awareness of the American health disadvantage and a study of what could alter this dismal picture.

 

I have a suggestion. How about a focus on prevention?

 

It has long been noted that the American medical system is focused on disease care.  Doctors attempt to fix sick people.

 

What Americans need is a health care system; a system that focuses on health and attempts to help people to create and maintain health.  This is called prevention and it is true health care—-not disease care.

 

Symptoms are the last stage of a disease process and by the time symptoms appear medical intervention is all too often too little too late.

 

On the other hand, Ayurveda, is a medical system that focuses on the elemental imbalances in the physiology.  Imbalances are readily assessed and identified by a well-trained Ayurvedic practitioner.  In the Ayurveda handbook are a plethora of interventions that can be utilized to restore balance.  It is unattended imbalances that eventually become symptoms.  Ayurveda nips these in the bud!

 

A few medical schools have incorporated Ayurveda into their curriculum.  Some western trained physicians have turned their attention toward Ayurveda.  In many cities there are Vaidyas (Ayurvedic practitioners) working to help people create and maintain health.  If you are interested in learning if there is a Vaidya in your zip code you can check out the NAMA (National Ayurvedic Medical Association) website.

 

It is time for Americans to become health conscious.  It is time for our medical system to stop being a disease care system and to become a health care system.  It is our hope that the current study by the National Institute of Health will push us in the right direction!

 

As always, Sandra and I wish you perfect health and happiness!

Nancy-and-Sandra-signature

 

 

 

www.depressionproofyourlife.com

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Happy New Year!  I’ve been reading articles about the need to be careful when making a New Year’s resolution.The jist of these articles is that we start out with the best of intentions but do not stick to our resolutions. Most of us have forgotten our positive intentions by the middle of February. We aren’t quite “there” yet.  How are you doing?

Not sticking to what we said we would do or not do serves to harm self-esteem.  The majority of us will meet 2014 holding the same old worn out resolution. Isn’t this a sad state of affairs?

Does this speak to how difficult it is for the human being to change even if change is in a desired direction?

Perhaps it is difficult for the human being to achieve real and lasting change but I think we also make a mistake when we set our intention for change.  All too often the desired change is coupled with deprivation or hard work.  Examples of this are the intention to eat less or to work out more.  We set ourselves up for punishment; not reward.  Why would anyone want to stick with something that doesn’t feel good?

When I read these articles I was reminded that we are all more aware of our weaknesses than we are of our strengths.  When we want to change we look at behaviors we perceive that we do incorrectly instead of the things we do correctly and well.  We think of improvements we “should” make instead of thinking of how we can enhance our arsenal of strengths.

We also forget that as human beings we lead with our hearts; not our heads.  In other words, it is difficult to change a behavioral direction unless we acquire a means to relieve internal stresses.

Feeling positive leads to positive behaviors.  It is difficult to maintain positive behaviors if the feeling life remains chock filled with stress.

How about doing two new things in 2013.  First, think of something you do well and resolve to do more of it.  In this way you will enhance an existing strength.   Second, consider adopting an Ayurvedic lifestyle.

An Ayurvedic lifestyle is geared to helping the individual to feel perfect health and its by-product, happiness.  What more could you possibly desire for yourself in 2013 (or any other year, for that matter)?

In our book Healing Depression the Mind-Body WaySandra and I help you to identify your unique constitutional type and we give suggestions for the creation and maintenance of health and wellbeing. Ayurveda never suggests making a big lifestyle change all at once.  Big lifestyle changes are like New Years’ resolutions.  They aren’t lasting.

According to Ayurvedic philosophy we should chose one or two easy things to do.  The physiology responds quickly to positive change and as we feel better we can add another alteration to our lifestyle. The mind-body will always lean in the direction of more health if it is encouraged to go in that direction. Feeling good is the best encouragement one can have to add another positive lifestyle change.

How about re-thinking your resolutions and  choosing something easy?  Perhaps you will begin to go to bed an hour or even a half hour earlier. Maybe, for you, eating a warm lunch will be a health promoting change.  Or perhaps you will profit from choosing to imbibe in drinks which are at room temperature, foregoing ice and its deleterious effects on the physiology.  Maybe you will eat fresher food or to find another way to enhance digestion and create increased vitality for yourself.

Perhaps you desire to receive more positive feedback from other people.  If this is your wish you can begin to offer to others more of what you want from them.  Every communication is a response to what was heard and positive communication breeds more of the same.

Have you guessed yet what I am going to suggest for your New Year resolution?  I am suggesting that you buy a copy of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way and that you choose something   positive that you can do to enhance your overall health.  Do this with the realization that as you feel better it will be easier to correct any perceived weaknesses.

Have a blessed and happy 2013! Sandra and I wish you health and prosperity in the New Year.

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Sandra and I live in Michigan.  We aren’t having blustery weather (at least not yet!) but there is no doubt that winter has arrived. As the song says, it’s time to “button up your overcoat.”

The effect of seasonal changes on the mind-body are beginning to be considered by modern medicine. However, teaching us how to transition from season to season has been an integral aspect of Ayurveda for thousands of years.

Even if you aren’t a student of Ayurveda you know that you instinctively and automatically make some seasonal changes. For instance, in winter you most likely enjoy heavier food than you do during the summer months. But do you make enough alterations in your lifestyle? 

Oftentimes we are not aware of the many interventions easily available (and easy to implement) that we can utilize for our benefit.   Ayurveda can help.  This ancient system of natural medicine provides an instructional manual helping us to more completely understand the importance of seasonal lifestyle changes.  

According to Ayurveda (and modern science) nature and the body exist on single continuum of intelligence.  Natural intelligence (sometimes referred to as “consciousness”) is exhibited differently at different times of the year.  Each of the five elements (air, space, water, fire and ground) has a time to be the “star.” 

During winter the combination of air and space is “starring” and it’s our task to adapt.  If we fail we run the danger of creating a fertile field for all types of physiological problems to occur.  These problems can erupt either now or in the springtime.

In Chapter 3 of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way: creating happiness with meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda we discuss the mechanics of how natural intelligence is imparted into our physiology.  Gaining insight into these mechanics is immensely helpful in our quest to maintain balance during seasonal transitions. 

Winter

 

Do you notice an increase in appetite during the winter months?  Many people do.  The digestive fire burns at its brightest during the winter months.  Increased energy, vitality, and liveliness can also be side benefits during the winter months. 

Problems occur during the colder months if our elemental balance becomes disrupted.  Common problems are oversensitivity to cold, respiratory infections, insomnia, dry skin, indecisiveness, hyperactivity, and anxiety. 

Ayurveda identifies three distinct types of depression and a mixed type. Each type is based on particular imbalances.  Depression mixed with anxiety is the result of having the physiological balance of space and air out of whack.  This can easily occur during the winter months.

Ayurveda offers many practical interventions to help us maintain our elemental balance.  If we follow these suggestions we can avoid physical and emotional ups and downs.  Healing Depression the Mind-Body Wayhighlights these suggestions. Today I’ll offer one significant intervention that is exceedingly helpful for the maintenance of physiological balance during the winter months.

The Abhyanga (Sanskrit for “Massage”)

 

Abhyanga is an oil massage with sesame oil.

The abhyanga has, according to Ayurveda, profound health benefits. Ayurvedic tradition maintains that frequent oil massage promotes softness and luster of the skin, lubricates the muscles, tissues, and joints, and increases their flexibility.  Moreover, by stimulating the tissues in the body, oil massage is said to help keep impurities from accumulating in the system.  Daily abhyanga is recommended but if you cannot do the abhyanga on a daily basis even two or three times a week will offer you significant benefits.

Different oils work for different constitutional types.  But, in the cold of winter sesame oil works best for most people because sesame oil has particular properties that nourish and warm the body. 

Although oil massage is considered, in Ayurveda, to be important all year long it is particularly important in winter.  The soothing influence of warmth and touch on the skins’ many nerve endings has a calming effect on the elements which are predominantly expressed during this time of the year.

Abhyanga will benefit everyone at all times of the year, but it is particularly important in the winter.  Apart from the benefits mentioned above abhyanga will keep the skin from becoming dry and cracked, a frequent problem when physiological balance is aggravated in winter.

The oil must be organic and cured.  To buy high quality sesame oil go to Mapi.com or call Mapi at 1-800-345-8332.

If you maintain balance during the winter months you will transition into spring without encountering an excess of the mucus that triggers allergies and springtime colds and flus. Abhyanga is a helpful intervention for the maintenance of balance and the prevention of these springtime problems.  

Albeit with different language, modern quantum physicists echo Ayurvedic knowledge. Modern science and ancient wisdom agree on the nature of the universe.  But, only the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda gives us the practical advice necessary to roll with the seasons and keep our mind-body in balance.  Pick up a copy of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way.  The information tucked inside its cover will help you to create and maintain perfect health and its by-product—-happiness!

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