Keep Talking…I Yawn When I’m Interested

Every had that awkward moment when you yawn while listening to someone? Try being a therapist. It can make for really awkward moments.

Have you every yawned and watched others yawn back?

In high school, a friend and I used to walk in front of our geometry class and yawn loudly, while the other counted how many people yawned in response. The person with the most yawns, won. Good times.

It does this because the brain is social, so it mimics the yawning of others. There are many reasons we yawn and they all benefit the brain and your emotional wellness!

Newberg and Waldman (www.psychologytoday.com/experts/andrew-newberg-md-and-mark-waldman ) describe yawning as “one of the best-kept secrets in neuroscience” for both relaxation and heightened cognitive awareness.  It helps you stay focused, more introspective, and self-aware.

Still not convinced?

  • Studies have shown that students who practiced deliberate yawning for four minutes before taking tests raised their grade point averages!  C’s moved up to B’s, and B’s to A’s.
  • These studies also indicate that yawning significantly reduces the anxiety experienced by those who suffer from anxiety disorders.
  • Yawning regulates the temperature of the brain via a cooling process.
  • Yawning stimulates alertness, increases memory recall, lowers stress, relaxes the body, and increases empathy and social awareness.
  • Yawning regulates the temperature of the brain via a cooling process.
  • Yawning stimulates alertness, increases memory recall, lowers stress, relaxes the body, and increases empathy and social awareness.
  • Many positive effects come from neurotransmitters involved with yawning, such as acetylcholine, glutamate, GABA, and serotonin.
  • Conscious yawning can stimulate natural yawning.

So go out there and yawn! Maybe you and a friend can start a contest. If you do, be sure to pretend you’re throwing away a piece of trash at the front of the room and use exaggerated stretching motions. Works every time.

PS- I’ve yawn ten times while typing this blog. I bet you have, too. If not, go look at a bunch of pictures of people yawning. I dare you.

Signs Its Time you Need Therapy

As a therapist, I’m often asked, “How do I know I (or someone I love) need(s) therapy?” 

Here are the signs I usually give folk to consider.  Understand, this is not a comprehensive list, THERE ARE MANY MORE REASONS, but these are for people wondering if they should consider therapy and the answer isn’t obvious to them. 

MOOD CHANGES

Do you seem short-tempered more than usual?  Or you can’t seem to feel happy even when you know you should?  If your mood seems a little out of whack, therapy may be necessary for insight and to empower you to be able to more effectively regulate your emotions.

ANNIVERSARIES OF EVENTS YOU GRIEVE

We grieve many things throughout life; the loss of a loved one, a transition in life, losing a job, a child moving up a grade.  At each anniversary, you are reminded of the loss or transition.  These anniversaries often bring up grief and memories that need to be processed with a therapist.

CHANGE OF SEASONS/HOLIDAYS

The change of seasons can change your affect.  Longer periods of darkness each day, no color on trees, birds flying south, and other seasonal changes can change your mood.  Holidays can be reminders of hard memories or losses.  When seasons or holidays approach, go talk with a therapist to help you move through them more effectively.

YOUR TRIGGERS SEEM TO HOLD MORE POWER OVER YOU

Although some triggers can be positive, the negative ones can require therapy for insight and tools to help regulate them.  Triggers occur when our senses are woken and remind our brain of trauma or create negative thoughts.  Pay attention to how you are responding to them.  You may need to address them with a therapist.

ANXIOUS AND INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS

Anxiety can be a source of many physical problems and can produce intrusive thoughts that keep you from functioning well.  Therapy can provide many mindfulness techniques that help you calm your anxiety and provide your brain with the much needed chemicals to find balance.

SUMMARY

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a local therapist.  Understand that good therapy involves a therapist that empowers you to learn to regulate your thoughts and emotions and one who empowers you to make informed decisions

A therapist’s job is not to give you advice.  She or he should help you verbally process your experiences and provide you insight, perspective, as well as tools and techniques to help you work toward integration and self-actualization.

If you are asking the question above, you probably need therapy.  Stop reading and make an appointment, now.

Lastly, treat therapy like a checkup with your doctor.  At minimum, go two times a year.  Talking is cathartic and opens up your subconscious to avoid new triggers from forming.  It pulls you from the fog and gives you a new lens from which to view your issues.

If you need help finding the right one, let me know.  If I can’t help you, I know many phenomenal therapists that can! Try me!

Smile, Laugh, Flail

In 2008, a video surfaced on YouTube entitled Where the Hell Is Matt? Almost 52 million views later, it still brings me boundless joy to watch.  If you want to know more about it, here is the website. https://www.wheretheheckismatt.com/

The song resides on my playlist and I return to the video often when I need some joy in my life.  Trust me.  Watching it will bring a smile to your face and it will lift your spirit. Go on. Try not to smile and feel good.

How can 52 million people be wrong?

What is it about this video?  Beyond the obvious, it includes several elements required to develop a healthy brain:

MUSIC

Music is one of the best tools to help develop a healthy and balanced brain because it involves both logic and creative sides of your brain as you match words, rhythm, and notes.

DANCING OR MOVEMENT

Exercise or movement of any kind sends endorphins to your brain that calm and cool it, helping you find balance.  Most people in the video flail about laughing, full of joy because movement can be utterly freeing and induces those chemicals our brains need.

SMILES AND LAUGHTER

Another fine way to get dopamine to your brain for balance is smiling and laughing.  Go back and watch the video again.  I bet you can’t find ONE person not smiling or laughing.  Ok.  The soldier in the Demilitarized Zone…but that’s it.

And how can Buddy the Elf be wrong?

SOCIAL

We are created for social interaction.  The brain is social.  If I smile at you, you feel good. If I frown, you wonder what went wrong. Additionally, when you have open minded, nonjudgmental, nondualistic dialogue with people, you increase your emotional intelligence. These positive interactions release the pleasure chemical, oxytocin, helping you find balance and happiness.

So what do you get when you combine music, laughter, smiling, dancing, movement, social interaction, and just plain flailing about? All the chemicals your brain needs to feel calm, cool, and balanced.

As Matt’s videos demonstrate, the world is too big and beautiful to get lost in darkness.  Laugh, smile, dance, sing, travel, flail, and be social!  And don’t be surprised if you find me dancing and flailing about ridiculously the next time you see me.

Post Partum and Mental Health

by Flo Paquet

Warning, a highly tragic news story is about to be mentioned. 

On May 7th a woman from our neck of the woods – Seymour, TN, was found, wrists scratched, and with her two infants unresponsive in the bath tub. I hear this story on the coattails of many others first hand, this year, from my own small community of clients, who have journeyed with post partum psychosis, OCD, depression, and so much trauma. 


I am happy that the local news has asked me twice now to cover these issues – I see that post partum mental health is finally starting to get the acceptance and attention it needs. People are opening their minds and hearts to an issue covered in shame and secrecy. 


However, as we get more of this attention and information – information that comes too little too late and it is often incredibly tragic – there is still so few answers to the questions: What do we do? Where do we go?


For the parents who are suffering, I often hear they feel alone, crazy, and like terrible people. How can they possibly not be happy after having a baby? How could they possibly desperately need space? How could they have fleeting thoughts of abandoning, running away, or hurting their baby? How can they be anything but the glowing new parent? 


What I know is that they aren’t alone, crazy, terrible or even unusual. If they felt like it was OK, maybe they could reach out and get the support that could prevent the tragic cycles and accidents that often follow unattended mental well-being.

In light of this, and hoping to answer those questions of what to do and where to go, all of us here at Revitalist are lit up, passionate, about having a new offering for post-partum parents:


 A 6 week empowerment group to support new parents’ ability to feel healthy, strong, and confident through the biggest possible transformation in life. 

It will be a place for new moms to learn they are not alone, not crazy, not stuck, not horrible. It will be a place to learn tools to tend to their well-being with ease. It will be a place to feel held, supported, and connected to people who get it. 


If you, or a loved one, might be interested, email growwithflo@gmail.com

More about Flo:

https://revitalistclinic.com/team-members/florence-flo-paquet-lmsw

Scale It Out

Do you ever struggle communicating with others?  A spouse?  Children? Co-Workers? 

Effective communication precludes healthy relationships.  However, it requires work and effort to succeed in communication.  After a long day or a stressful situation, who has the energy to do the work required to communicate effectively?

To help, use a scale (1-10) to help communicate when feelings and words are at a minimum.  Or make up any scale that works.

Examples with a spouse:

“I’ve had a good day, I’m at an 8.  I’ll do the dishes if you’d like.”

“It’s been a tough day, I’m feeling about a -20, can you get the kids to bed without me tonight?”

“I’m in the mood for fun tonight.  I’m at about an 8.  Where are you?”

Remember, if you are both at a 1, you may need to rest or one of you needs to sacrifice for the other.  If you are on opposite ends of the scale, help one another, make sacrifices, or adjust your expectations.

With children or co-workers, using similar scales can diffuse emotional or defensive situations before they begin.  Can you think of ways to use them in other situations?

Scales create an easy, non-threatening way to communicate your feelings when words and emotions are at a premium.  Give it a try and see if it does.

The Social Brain

Did you know the brain was social?  Positive social interaction promotes brain health and overall wellness.

Dialogue exercises our language skills, which helps to keep parts of the brain connected to other neural structures.  It requires social interaction, nurturing our brain’s social functions. It all helps to slow the decline of cognitive abilities.  

Conversing with others involves social interaction which protects the brain’s health.  Without social interaction portions of the brain are damaged, leading to aggression, depression, and various neuropsychiatric disorders.

Other interesting facts about the social brain:

  • Healthy conversation does not include just any talk; gossip, the weather, sports, and the like.
  • Healthy conversation involves abstract ideals, such as what one thinks about big topics in the world, what technology will look like in 20 years, the meaning of life, the omnipresence of God, or the universe.
  • Angry, fearful, worrisome, argumentative talk is harmful and driven by the amygdala (the downstairs brain).
  • Healthy conversation involves dialogue with others without trying to “win” your perspective, but with the intent to listen.
  • Listen with the intent to understand.  Understanding leads to empathy, empathy to compassion, compassion to caring, caring to love. 

So ask challenging questions and save room for disagreement.  Be social!  Your brain demands it!

The Power of Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Whoever came up with that phrase didn’t know what they were talking about!  Physical pain can often heal eventually.  However, words have the power to build up or destroy a person for a lifetime, especially if it isn’t addressed with a therapist.

The way we communicate verbally (and actually non-verbally, too) has a powerful effect on those you love.  Something as simple as replacing your “I’m sorrys” with “thank yous” can transform your self-esteem and build up the person you thank.

So how can this work with your relationships in marriage and family?

Think about the most simple of daily interactions.  For instance, when you meet at the end of a work or school day, you might ask, “How was your day?”  Typically, your spouse or child will follow with, “Fine” or “Pretty good.” 

However, with a little more intention, your words are more powerful. 

Next time, try this phrase.  “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” 

A phrase like this opens the conversation for more than a one word answer and gets the oxytocin in the brain flowing.  As a result, you will find your home a little more pleasant to live in and your relationships more healthy.

Give it a try and see if your words have more power and bring healing to others.  Leave the sticks and stones in the yard.

Vagus, Baby! Vagus!!!

Have you ever wondered why you are so anxious? Your vagus nerve may be to blame. Vagus, baby. Vagus!

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the cranial system and regulates your parasympathetic nervous system.  Not to be confused with the other Vegas, in which you lose your inhibitions and a lot of money at the slot machines, endless buffets, craps tables, or playing cards.  I’m talking about vagus, baby!  Vaaaguuuus!!!

When the vagus system gets triggered by what the brain perceives as a potential threat or unmet needs, your brain sends signals to warn you, otherwise known as a stress reaction.  The vagus nerve helps you regulate your emotion and provide calm and balance. 

If you have a strong vagus response, you are more likely to find balance and calm more quickly and recover from injury, illness, or stress more effectively.

You can strengthen your vagal tone and emotional balance, by practicing a few simple exercises. A strong vagal nerve can produce and release oxytocin in your system, which will provide you a “positive” attitude, calm your brain, and reduce stress and anxiety.

The easiest way to strengthen and stimulate the vagal nerve is slow, deep, intentional breathing. 

Breathe in slowly for seven seconds.  Fill your diaphragm completely and hold that breath for two seconds.  Then exhale slowly as you count to eleven.  Imagine the speed of a deflating air mattress. As an added bonus, focus on and relax your tense muscles as you exhale and slide into peace and calm.

Other ways to strengthen your vagal nerve include humming or singing along with music, smiling or laughing, and gratitude to name a few.

Now…how about that trip to Vagus, baby?!?!  Vaaaguuuus!!!

Choose Kind

If you haven’t noticed, the world is full of negativity, fear, and hate.

There is a solid reason for it.  Our brains require it for survival.  Blame it on your amygdala.  It thrives on negativity because that is its function. In fact, it is instinctual. 

It constantly scans the environment for things that will destroy you in order to keep you alive.  The catch is that it can’t distinguish between what is a real threat and what is an unreal threat.  As a result, we wrestle with unreal fears that create anger, hate, fear, and stress, often directed toward others.

The political climate has always been polarizing.  However, in the age of social media, google searches, and the internet, it exists incessantly in our minds, pushing us further into those negative emotions. 

NEGATIVE NEWS

Negative news sells and intrigues us because it appeals to our amygdala.  It sparks those chemicals our brain loves to feel that eventually lead us to calm.  Think about it. 

How do you feel just moments after you’ve finished an anger tirade, emotions expelled from your body? 

Your brain experienced the release of those chemicals.

SELF-ESTEEM

On top of that, we all suffer a bit from significant events in our life that influence our self-esteem.  So it is always easier to think on others negatively to help us feel better about ourselves. 

FEAR

Furthermore, our brains attempt to protect us from the unknown.  Remember the basic instinct of our brain?  Eventually, we fear people we need not fear.  We villainize them. Our anger fuels us when they disagree and we begin to hate them.

As a result, addiction to anger and hate pervades our thoughts, words, and actions toward others.  Repeatedly, our brain seeks those chemicals and forces us to respond to negativity in a…well…more negative way, in order to get the chemical reaction.

WHAT’S NEXT

So what do we do about it?

The first antidote was discussed in last week’s blog, The Pursuit of Happiness.

The second antidote is like it.  Choose kind.  This phrase was recently popularized from the movie, Wonder.  Here is the scene.

SUMMARY

The answer to the world’s negative belongs at the center of choosing to be kind, understanding, empathetic, and compassionate. When we understand the core of negativity comes from the basic function of our brain (amygdala), we can apply basic strategy to overcome it.

Surrender your need to be right.  Lay down your unrealistic fears of other.  Choose kind. 

Maybe if we all do this, the world would be a better place.

Pursuit of Happiness

Happy Fourth of July! 

OUR DECLARATION

As Americans, one of the reasons we observe July 4th is to commemorate and celebrate our many freedoms as a country and as individuals.  Our Declaration of Independence states our basic rights as human being derived from that freedom; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Before it was written, Thomas Jefferson said it this way, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

HAPPINESS?

We all have the human right to be happy, but unfortunately society has perverted what it means to be happy.

We often derive our happiness from relationship, possessions, and status in life. Yet, possessions and status rarely last forever and we end up having to grieve losing them.  In regard to relationships, we often place our ideals for happiness upon others.  Inevitably, when they don’t meet those ideals and our expectations, happiness eludes us.

So how do we discover true happiness in our pursuit of it?

Only you are responsible for your happiness. When you rely on others, status, and possessions, happiness eludes you.

PURSUE HAPPINESS

How do you pursue happiness?

Happiness begins with gratitude. Looking for things…VERY SPECIFIC THINGS… for which to be grateful each day. Acknowledge the simple things:

  • a cool breeze on a hot day
  • a flower growing through the crack in the concrete
  • a warm smile from a stranger in the grocery store
  • a kind word from the check out person
  • a day without the dog pooping on the floor
  • making a green light
  • good food on a grill
  • viewing fireworks for the 45th time
  • your freedom to pursue happiness

Pay attention to all the small things you typically take for granted. Grant them. Give them the special attention and the gratitude they deserve. See if you won’t find happiness all around you.

EXTRA CREDIT

If you really want to get serious about it this 4th of July, try to look at the person from the opposing political party as human. See them as a person with ideals that wants to make our country a better place. Refuse to see them as the enemy. See them as lovable. Too much to ask?

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Ok then. Keep it simple. Jot down ten things at the end of each day for which you are grateful. Make it a habit to share those things with family and friends around the dinner table or in the car. Share with them around the grill or fireworks this year. ALWAYS be intentional about acknowledging the simple yet beautiful things that are ALL around you. Choose to look. Choose to change your perspective.

Pursue true HAPPINESS this 4th of July.

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