Posts tagged ‘self-help’

February 15, 2013

The DISH Method: Develop Your Life Skills

by Dave P.

TrainingWheelsThe DISH Method was originally developed to help people overcome public speaking anxiety, but it also works to help people thrive in life.

Relationships

You need certain skills to be successful in life. The most basic is relationships skills. Without them, you’re probably not going to be happy.

Your relationships skills actually begin while you’re still developing in your mother’s womb. If your mother experienced a lot of stress during pregnancy, her body had high levels of cortisol — the stress hormone. Cortisol has the ability to permeate the embryonic sac and affect prenatal brain development. You would have been born with emotional and cognitive problems, which would have had a big impact on your ability to succeed and be happy.

During the first few years of your life, you experienced a tremendous amount of neurological development. During that time, the parts of the brain that were exercised, grew, and the parts that weren’t used were “pruned.” If you weren’t attuned to your mother and father, your endorphin receptors were not developed sufficiently, which affected your ability to experience pleasure later in life. You probably experience less pleasure from relationships than most people and are less happy.

Child abuse affects a person’s confidence, self-esteem, cognitive skills, and ability to have healthy relationships. That’s too big of a topic to go into here, so I’ll cover it more in upcoming posts.

You develop many of your relationship skills while in school. How well you interact with your peers sets the tone for the rest of your life. If you had good friends and didn’t experience much rejection during that time, you built a sense of confidence in your ability to form and maintain close, personal relationships. But if you felt ostracized in school, it probably affected your self-esteem and your personal relationship self-efficacy — confidence in your ability to form healthy, close, personal relationships.

The good news is, your brain is plastic; it continuously changes throughout the lifespan — even into old age. No matter what your emotional or cognitive skill deficiencies, they can be overcome, but it takes work. Contrary to what many doctors would have you believe, there are no pill solutions. While certain medications can help in some cases, it takes hard work to develop your skills.

Education

Unless you live in a socialized country, you need skills in order to be able to earn a living. Your best bet is higher education. While tuition costs have soared during the past 10 or 15 years, the cost of not having an education is much higher. University degrees open the doors to career opportunities.

Understanding

Thousands of years ago, people attributed the things they couldn’t understand to supernatural forces. Today, science has unlocked many of the mysteries of nature. Through understanding of the world around us, we gain wisdom. Fear of the unknown has caused a great amount of suffering. Through study and understanding, we can rid ourselves of those fears.

Skills development is a never ending process

People who continue to learn throughout their lives are less prone to dementia. We can build and maintain our self-esteem by doing our best at everything. Self-growth provides meaning and pleasure in life. Never stop learning and growing.

February 12, 2013

The PERMA Model For Happiness

by Dave P.

MartinSeligmanMartin Seligman, researcher and author, came up with a theory of happiness that he calls PERMA. The acronym stands for Positive emotions, Engagement (flow), Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.

Positive Emotions

Dr. Seligman originally called this element “pleasure,” but we can experience pleasure but still not be happy. People who have emotional problems often seek out pleasure from alcohol, drugs, promiscuous or illicit sex, or fatty foods. That kind of pleasure is fleeting because the underlying problems still exist. It’s more pain relief than actual pleasure.

Read more…

February 7, 2013

Sleep for dummies

by Dave P.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink?
No no no
~ The Beatles (lyrics by John Lennon)

“I’m so stupid, I can’t even sleep! What’s wrong with me?!!” Those are some thoughts that used to go through my head when I’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep. I’d sometimes get so mad at myself, I’d punch myself in the head. I often wished I could cry myself to sleep, but wasn’t able to. It was pure hell.

Insomnia is a horrible condition. It leads people to drink, do drugs, and give up on life. Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and required medically induced sleep. It eventually killed him. The great American blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield had the same problem. It destroyed his career. He turned to heroin for relief, which eventually killed him.

Unhappiness and discontentment often cause insomnia. When you don’t have something worthwhile in your life to look forward to, it affects your sleep. When you have strong meaning in life, you tend to sleep like a baby.

Everyone suffers from an occasional sleepless night, but when the problem becomes chronic, you begin spiraling downward — out of control. Every task becomes arduous. You can’t think clearly. You feel lousy. Your speech becomes slurred. You can’t remember anything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You become irritable. You can’t pay attention. All you can think about is going home and going to bed, but then when you’re in bed, you can’t sleep, and you think about all the things that are going wrong in your life. You dread the coming day.

People who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time reading books about insomnia. While proper sleep hygiene is important, spending an inordinate amount of time reading about insomnia isn’t going to help and can actually make your problem worse.

When people are unhappy, they often do things that reinforce their unhappiness, like reading about depression, insomnia, or other problems. They do so because they can relate to the material. We experience temporary pleasure when we connect with something. Even a good cry provides us with pleasure by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain.

The problem with spending too much time learning about your problems is it strengthens the negative thinking part of the brain. What is needed is the opposite — the exercise of the positive thinking part of the brain! But that’s a bit difficult when you feel crappy due to lack of sleep. But there is hope.

First of all, take a step back at your life and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. What are your goals and aspirations? Don’t factor in your insomnia because we’re going to solve that problem. What do you want out of life? Friends? Family? A career? A nice home? Hobbies? Don’t say, “a lot of money.” While it takes money to acquire some of the things we want in life, it in itself will not make you happy. And be realistic. Setting a goal to learn how to fly will only lead to disappointment or worse if you actually try to fly!

Goals provide us with meaning in life. Now, what would it take to achieve those goals? Set a course. Again, ignore your insomnia for now. What will it take? Training? Additional education? Just hard work? Map out your path. Remember to keep it positive. At this point, it may seem futile because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t sleep, but that is simply an obstacle that can be overcome.

Next, we’ll address sleep hygiene.

Wind down before going to bed. Write down anything that’s bothering you or problems that you need to address the next day. That will cut down on the ruminations and worry.

Meditate before going into your bedroom. Meditation actually gets you into a pre-sleep state with increased alpha brain waves.

Keep your bedroom cool. Your body releases tryptophan and increases serotonin levels as it cools, which cause drowsiness. A hot shower before bed will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel tired when it cools down. Exercise also raises your body temperature, so don’t engage in any strenuous activities before bed. Sex may be the exception.

You can meditate while in bed to help you fall asleep. Simply observe the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils — the cool air entering and warm air exiting. Listen to the sounds of the night. Feel the comfort of your bed. Just observe.

If you live in a noisy area, some earplugs can help. A sleep mask can provide you with a dark environment — even during the day.

But what do you do when your brain won’t shut down when you’re trying to fall asleep? After all… it’s dark and quiet — the perfect time to think about things without any disruption! We seem to get some kind of satisfaction from rehashing our problems, but it also generates anxiety. There is also the worry about not being able to sleep, which, of course, prevents you from sleeping.

Many people resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them fall asleep, which often do help you sleep, but they affect the quality of sleep. You’ll spend less time in deep sleep and not feel refreshed when you awaken. Personally, sleeping pills always made me feel worse than if I didn’t sleep at all. I’d feel dizzy and spaced out the next day.

If you’re not really worried about anything but your mind just won’t shut down, often simply observing your breath can help. But if your thoughts are high in emotional content, extra strength thought-stopping techniques are needed!

I’ve written about this before, but it works well for those who have tried it. Get into a comfortable position and simply close your eyes and slowly and gently move them back and forth. You can combine this technique with mindfulness practice. Observe your breath, but when a thought enters your consciousness, move your eyes back and forth to erase it. Then return to your mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling anxious, move your eyes back and forth until you have calmed down. Then go back to your mindfulness practice.

If you’ve suffer from severe, chronic insomnia, you might benefit from SSRIs such as paroxetine (generic Paxil). They cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. Ask your doctor if it might help.

Once you get your insomnia under control, you’re free to pursue your goals and reach your potential.

February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

February 6, 2013

You are the star of your life

by Dave P.

Take it as it comes, specialize in having fun.
~ Jim Morrison

No matter what happened in the past, you can’t change it. There are no “do overs” in life. But we can learn from our mistakes and use them to help us grow. People who don’t get to experience mistakes often develop a fear of failure. We don’t need to be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human.

Put your mistakes behind you. You are the star of your life. If you were writing a script for today, you wouldn’t decide to spend it ruminating and worrying. That would make for a boring movie!

Ruminating can become a bad habit if you do it too often. The parts of your brain that you use most develops strong neurological connections. The more you do something, the stronger the connections become. That’s what you want if you’re trying to learn how to play the piano, but it can take a serious toll on your state of mind if it involves maladaptive thinking.

Research psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who ruminate a lot are prone to depression. Ruminators often suffer from low self-esteem, which is why they seek the approval of others. When they don’t get it, they obsess, worry, and ruminate, which results in the loss of respect from others and the diminishment of self-respect.

When you find yourself ruminating, try this. Simply close your eyes and move them back and forth fairly rapidly — about twice the speed of a clock pendulum. Don’t try to block the rumination, but instead, try to ruminate while oscillating your eyes. You’ll find it to be extremely difficult to think about anything since the process of moving your eyes back and forth requires a fair amount of concentration; there’s not much processing capability left over to process other thoughts. Any time the maladaptive thought enters your consciousness, simply close your eyes and move them back and forth.

I did a study on this technique, which I call Rapid Eye Oscillation Technique, or REOT, and the people who tried it reported it to be effective. I use it all the time to help me fall asleep and to stop ruminations that would otherwise disrupt my day. Nothing else has ever worked for me.

You can be the star of your life if you stop worrying so much about what others think about you. While we all want to be liked and respected, if your sense of self-worth depends on the approval of others, it will have the opposite effect; people will like and respect you less.

Be yourself. Be authentic. If you don’t like yourself, work on self-improvement. Develop your conversational skills. Make an effort to learn new things every day. Show gratitude for your relationships and the good things in life. Work on being a positive person. Try to make the world a better place. Take it as it comes. Specialize in having fun.

January 30, 2013

Respect yourself (Part 2)

by Dave P.

Even in the most dire circumstances, we have far better chance of faring well if we maintain our dignity. Many of those who survived the Holocaust did so because of their mental toughness more so than their physical strength. Many of them did what they could to help others, which allowed them to maintain their self-respect. They had meaning in their lives and reason to keep on trying.

Viktor Frankl wrote about meaning in life. Meaning was the central theme of his Logotherapy, which became Existential therapy. We can find meaning in even the most trivial of events. A walk around the park can be a mindful experience. Picking up a loaf of bread can be an opportunity to brighten up someone’s life with a smile. Self-respect comes from doing good things — from making the world a better place.

We tend to lose self-respect when we’re self-focused. When we’re in that state of mind, we’re self-absorbed and sensitive to criticism. We don’t want to be bothered with other people’s problems when we’re desperately trying to deal with our own. We pity ourselves, which destroys self-respect. It makes us feel inferior — that we’re victims.

If you were playing the role of yourself in a movie about your life, you wouldn’t want your character to be a weak, self-absorbed, vindictive character. You’d want that person to be strong willed, noble, honorable, and to have impeccable integrity. You’d want your character to stand up for what’s right and to fight wrongs.

We can aspire to be good, decent people. It’s not that difficult. Doctors take an oath to practice medicine honestly and ethically call the Hippocratic Oath. At it’s core is the message: “First, do no harm.” It’s equivalent to the negative version of the Golden Rule that states: don’t do bad things. But that’s not enough. We need to also do good things when we can, but at the very least, don’t do bad things.

April 17, 2011

Autogenics relaxation techniques

by Dave P.

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz and first published in 1932. The technique involves the daily practice of sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. During each session, the practitioner will repeat a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation. Each session can be practiced in a position chosen amongst a set of recommended postures (for example, lying down, sitting meditation, sitting like a rag doll). The technique can be used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders.

Schultz emphasized parallels to techniques in yoga and meditation. It is a method for influencing one’s autonomic nervous system. Abbe Faria and Emile Coue are the forerunners of Schultz. There are many parallels to progressive relaxation. In 1963 Luthe discovered the significance of “autogenic discharges”, paroxistic phenomena of motor, sensorial, visual and emotional nature related to the traumatic history of the patient, and developed the method of “Autogenic Abreaction”. His disciple Luis de Rivera, a McGill trained psychiatrist, introduced psychodynamic concepts into Luthe’s approach, developing “Autogenic Analysis” as a new method for uncovering the unconscious.

Example of an autogenic training session
Sit in the meditative posture and scan the body
“my right arm is heavy”
“my arms and legs are heavy and warm” (repeat 3 or more times)
“my heartbeat is calm and regular” (repeat 3 times)
“my solar plexus is warm” (repeat 3 times)
“my forehead is cool”
“my neck and shoulders are heavy” (repeat 3 times)
“I am at peace” (repeat 3 times)
Finish part one by cancelling[vague]
Start part two by repeating from step 2 to cancelling
Start part three by repeating from step 2 to cancelling

Many practitioners will choose not to cancel between the three iterations, in order to maintain deeper relaxation.

Quite often, one will ease themselves into the “trance” by counting to ten, and exit by counting backwards from ten. This is another practice taken from progressive relaxation.

Read full Wikipedia entry

Autogenic Training: A Practical Guide in Six Easy Steps by Karl Hans Welz (pdf)

April 17, 2011

Using Hypnosis to Gain More Control Over Your Illness

by Dave P.

KIRSTEN RITCHIE, 44, is no stranger to surgery — nearly 20 years ago, doctors removed four tumors from her brain. She remembers the operation and its aftermath as “horrific.”

So the news that she needed brain surgery again was hardly welcome. Determined to make her second operation a better — or at least less traumatic — experience, Ms. Ritchie, an insurance marketing representative in Cleveland, turned to an unusual treatment.

At the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, she had four hypnosis sessions in the month before her procedure, during which she addressed her fear of the coming surgery. She also practiced self-hypnosis every day.

Eventually, she said, “I got to a place where I felt a sense of trust instead of fear.”

In February, doctors removed a plum-sized tumor from her brain. But there the similarity to her previous experience ended. Ms. Ritchie woke up from the procedure, she said, feeling “alert and awesome.” She ate a full dinner that night and went home in two days.

“My neurosurgeon was stunned at how little medication I required before and after surgery, and how quickly I bounced back,” she said.

Ms. Ritchie attributes her speedy recovery and calm state to her hypnosis sessions. Used for more than two centuries to treat a host of medical problems, particularly pain management and anxiety, hypnosis is now available to patients at some of the most respected medical institutions in the country, including Stanford Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

[…]

During a session, the practitioner guides the subject into a relaxed state and then makes specific suggestions to help change a behavior, a perception or a physiological condition. Someone who is trying to quit smoking, for instance, might be told under hypnosis that cigarettes are poisons and that it’s important to care for and respect his body.

Some patients find that hypnosis is a helpful adjunct to traditional psychotherapy.

[…]

Specific conditions — like smoking, a fear of dogs or flying or temporary insomnia — may require just one session. In 2008, the personal health columnist Jane E. Brody recalled in this newspaper that her husband was able to stop smoking after just one session of hypnosis.

“For very circumscribed disorders, hypnosis works very quickly or not at all,” said Dr. Frischholz.

If your problem is more complex, like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, it may require multiple sessions. “I might spend the first two sessions taking a history and learning about someone’s background,” said Carol Ginandes, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School who uses hypnosis in her private practice. “Then I would work with the patient in a very individualized way.”

Read more…