Read this online at Thrive Global:
I attended a great little book festival in Carpinteria, California last weekend, and signed health books for people who came by. Carpinteria is my home town, and it was fun to get to connect to locals, some of whom I went to high school with.
I spoke to one woman who was dealing with anxiety and depression, who was wondering how to proceed in order to heal. She liked what I said, so I thought I’d write about it for more people to hear.
I said that some people (among them Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard) have written about the unconscious mind as an elephant and compared the conscious mind to a rider.
We grow up being trained to be a good rider, and to maintain strict control of the elephant. With actual elephants, young elephants are tied to a stake that they can’t break free of, no matter how hard they try. The elephants are constantly shown that their trainer has total control of them. The trainer is the one who determines if, when, and how much they get fed, how and when they get punished, etc. By the time the elephant is grown, it no longer tries to break free because its accepted the paradigm that it is helpless.
We end up doing the same thing to our unconscious mind. We are told by adults in our lives that if we act a certain way, we won’t be loved, so we learn to reign in our unconscious. Over time, our unconscious adds all sorts of limiting beliefs to our world view. Eventually, it can get so bad that we are unable to act anymore, for fear of making a mistake that will cause punishment. Our inner elephant is very sensitive to every thought we think.
That inner elephant is in charge of our digestive system, our immune system, and all of our unconscious behavior patterns. We want it to have a good world view. If it sees the world as a hostile place, it will generate a whole slew of epigenetic changes that make our cells pump out fight-or-flight hormones. From our negative or fearful thinking, it primes itself to see life as a fight or a flight, which is exhausting for our body and brain, and wears both out prematurely.
It makes sense to learn how to interact with our unconscious in a positive way, and to be the best self-coach that we can be. I’ve found that it’s worth taking on the task. At first, it can be challenging, because it’s a skill that needs to be learned. Every time we try the skill, the better we get at it. It’s just like exercise—the more we do, the stronger we get. We’re changing the preferred circuitry in the brain. It’s a skill we then get to benefit from for the entire rest of our life. The more I practiced this, the progressively better my days got. I found a huge improvement in my outlook when I got to catching myself half the time. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect to feel better.
For people who’ve been traumatized, like me, it can be hard to accept positivity. Positivity can trigger one’s inner critic, which believes that only strict harshness, negativity, and staying small and unseen can keep us safe. I had big problems with perfectionism, which kept me safe from positive feelings because I could only rarely meet the standards I’d set. For traumatized people, success can trigger feelings of self-loathing, anxiety, and depression that leads to self-destruction. Think of famous people like Anthony Bourdain, and Kate Spade, or artists like James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Michael Jackson, or Amy Winehouse. Emotional pain becomes physical pain. Physical pain becomes emotional pain. We need to develop tools to access the right brain, which doesn't judge anything as negative. Then we can be at peace and acceptance no matter what our circumstances. We need those moments of peace in order to keep striving towards success whatever life dishes out. Sometimes it's the success that's the hardest thing to conquer on our way towards self-love.
Keep at the self-encouragement and self-love practice, and over time, you’ll push through layers of healing, and be able to accept a better and better view of yourself, and outlook for you and your life. It’s been shown that positive people produce more in their lifetime, and I can attest that my productivity and creativity have continued to grow the more truly positive I have become.
Throughout my life, I had always thought of myself as a positive person and as someone who loved myself, but when I look back, I can see that anxiety and depression were clues to where I wasn’t being a good self-coach. Now I can see where I fell short on positivity and good self-talk. I’ve mentioned authentichappiness.org before, but if you haven’t read that piece, please go check out that website for help in what areas you could change. There are many aspects of positivity. If we are anxious or depressed, we have not fully developed them. Letting go of judgment of others will help lessen anxiety and depression. We live during difficult times. Most everyone is doing the best they can given the ancestral beliefs and epigenetic changes they've inherited, along with their own personal traumas. Your pain is everyone's pain. When you don't fully love yourself, our ability to love ourselves is lessened. When you harm yourself, you harm us. We all need to heal to help lift each other. You can do it; I believe in you.
Hi and welcome to you,
Perhaps it seemed that one day your child's odd behaviors just seemed like quirks, and the next day, they became a problem for his or her kindergarten teacher, and you and your family suddenly found yourselves on a conveyor belt towards diagnosis and intervention.
Ask around; you may find a friend of a friend who knows a neuropsychologist. You'll be basing so many decisions on their findings, so you want to find one with a great reputation whom you click with.
One big thing that often goes missing on a neuropsychologist’s report, something that I think everyone should know about, is the importance of finding a good family therapist. Take a good look at your spouse. One or the other of you, or possibly both of you, could start to struggle with anxiety or depression over your child’s diagnosis. How can you best support your spouse? Yourself? If your spouse’s coping mechanism is denial, insisting on getting services could drive you apart. Having a professional help educate and mediate between the two of you could be helpful, so it’s not all on you.
Your child is still the same wonderful being s/he was before the diagnosis, but dreams and expectations for his/her future are potentially changed. Your relationship with your spouse could be challenged. The workload of taking your child to get treatments is stressful. Trying to stay on top of educating yourself about treatments can be overwhelming. Juggling all of that is very difficult even if one of you is a stay-at-home parent. If you’re both working, it can feel like over-the-top stress.
The expectations placed on autistic spectrum families is high. AS kids don’t always act in ways that make them, or the rest of their stressed-out family members, welcome at family get-togethers or friends’ parties. Maybe individual counseling is necessary to help each parent cope with that stress. There’s nothing like an intact, happy family for providing security and consistency for your autistic spectrum child. Think of therapy like an insurance policy for maintaining an intact family. However expensive therapy seems, it’s nothing compared to the cost of divorce, and the splitting of resources.
The more successful outcomes I'm aware of were in families who saw therapists, so if you have an autistic spectrum child, think about family counseling. One last thing to keep in mind is to be kind to yourself. Life is about trying and learning, so give yourself a big hug for how hard you try and how far you've come. You are the best advocate your child has. Be kind to yourself by pacing yourself. You’ll get where your child needs you to be. One day at a time.
Studies have shown that believing that our stress response is harmful to our health can stress us enough to kill us prematurely. So rather than putting a negative spin on the word stress, how about a big old smile? As health psychologist Kelly McGonical points out, belief that stress is bad for you is the 15th leading cause of death in the US. People who experienced a lot of stress, but who didn't believe that stress is harmful had the lowest death rate in the study, lower even than the people with the lowest stress levels.
While some of us may worry about our stress response, it's not all a hardship for the body. In fact, part of our stress response is to release oxytocin, which causes us to reach out to others for support and inspires us to notice others' stress so that you can support others. Not only that, but oxytocin acts in the body to protect us from the effects of stress. It's anti-inflammatory and helps our blood vessels stay relaxed when under stress. Oxytocin also helps the heart repair itself. So your stress response strengthens your heart. We have biologically built-in ways to develop stress resilience when we reach out to others. So take heart.
You can find Kelly's talk here:
We, as parents and educators, have a limited time to develop proficiency in reading for our children. Why? For a variety of reasons, not least of which is self-esteem. Children begin to compare themselves as early as preschool and kindergarten. My children entered kindergarten already knowing the alphabet. They could read a very limited number of words. They were considered slightly ahead of average. One of them had a classmate who could read Harry Potter with comprehension. You better believe that my kids found that intimidating, especially my younger son, who had a hard time reading when he was tired. The words would start to swim by the time he got home from school, and he would pull words from lines below the one he was trying to read. He got incredibly frustrated. I did a lot of extra work with him on the weekends, when his eyes were fresh. We also had him tested by a vision therapist and discovered that he needed prism glasses and vision therapy in order to see 3D. I could practically hear the clock ticking: would I be able to make this easy enough for him to master, so he considered himself smart, or wouldn't I?
"...millions of American children get to fourth grade without learning to read proficiently. And that puts them on the dropout track." According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level, according to the Children’s Reading Foundation. And three quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, according to researchers at Yale University."
Many of our children who live in poverty have been traumatized. When traumatized, our primary reflexes either don't get mastered or get reactivated, making 3D vision impossible. Children of poverty are much more likely to have learning disabilities because of this. In an ideal world, kids like these could get their primary reflexes properly integrated, and get prism glasses to allow them to make the most of their innate intelligence. How? Through educational kinesiologies like Brain Gym, the Masgutova Method, Books Neural Therapy, brain training programs like Interactive Metronome, and treatment with vision therapists.
Again, the Annie E. Casey Foundation: "Analyses of data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that the United States will need 60% of its population to possess a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025 to remain globally competitive. Currently, 30% of all adult workers in the United States hold four-year degrees, an attainment rate second only to Norway. But if we look at the rate among the youngest adult workers—those workers on whom our future depends—the United States ranked sixth among OECD nations in 2006, behind Norway, the Netherlands, South Korea, Denmark, and Sweden. If we look at two-year degrees, the U.S. attainment rate for all workers is only average and has fallen over time. To achieve the OECD goal for workers with post-secondary degrees, the United States will need to produce 16 million more graduates above the current rate of production.” That cannot happen unless we increase the number of high school graduates. And that requires significantly more children getting on track to graduation by reading proficiently by the end of third grade."
But the bottom line is: do children feel competent at reading, or do they feel incapable? How they feel about reading is a deciding factor in what they dream for themselves, if they believe in themselves, or whether they give up on themselves, and opt out of school at the earliest opportunity. As Maya Angelou almost said, "children may forget what you said, maybe forget what you did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel." As a parent or as an educator, how do you make your children feel?
I got lucky with my younger son. I caught him in time, and he ended up graduating high school as a National Merit Finalist. His brother did just as well, and made it into a university rated in the top twenty in the world. My secret? Making sure they felt like winners at school, and backing it up with integrating primary reflexes, vision therapy, educational kinesiology, and Interactive Metronome.
Or did you walk early, thanks to a jolly jumper or exersaucer?
American parents are taught that the earlier our children meet developmental milestones, the better, but that's not necessarily true. In the case of creeping, crawling, and learning to walk, there's a downside to moving through each phase too quickly. If primitive reflexes aren't properly turned off, and we don't spend enough time creeping, then crawling gets impacted. It may look like crawling is happening, but it's done in a way that's compensating for non-integrated primitive reflexes. Additionally, bright kids can figure out how to game the system. Maybe they don't like the feel of the carpet on their knees, so they scoot instead. The downside is that crawling for six months allows for proper kneecap development. Kids who crawl for less time, or who scoot instead, will be more likely to have knee injuries.
Until the work is done to make up for underdeveloped lower regions in the brain, the compensation for non-integrated reflexes is done by the cortex. The cortex, which is what we should be using for excelling at schoolwork, is instead taking over for the midbrain and the primitive brain. Non-integrated reflexes hold back many children and adults from achieving their full potential.
My child development books are all packed up until I'm ready to write a book about that, so I'll recommend one website as a resource: braingym.org. This was created by a Touch for Health energy kinesiology instructor, who modified TFH to help his own learning disabilities. It's been used by parents to help their kids and by teachers to help their students since 1986.
The practitioners and consultants at Brain Gym are all about how to help restart delayed development and enhance potential, as well as how to tune in and activate different types of learning.
I recommend Brain Gym even for neurotypical kids. This is because kids these days are fast-tracked into reading too young and aren't allowed enough time for gross motor movement. It can make even neurotypical kids stressed out to be in a classroom environment all day. Brain Gym has simple movements specifically geared towards helping all kids have their nervous systems calm down and be ready for schoolwork, while honoring their bodies' needs.
There's a lot of debate on the right timing to start kids on reading, writing and math. Gross motor skills need developing young and instead we're largely restricting their movement to desks and fine motor movement instead, especially with smart phones and tablets. Young eyes need strong daylight when developing in order to mature properly. Instead, they're inside, spending most of their time under too-dim fluorescent lighting. It is leading to a generation almost entirely in need of glasses in every culture doing this.
Since most of us can't home-school our kids, one way to help make up for these deficits is to learn Brain Gym yourself and bring it into the classroom when you are volunteering in class during nursery school, kindergarten and first grade. When teachers see the difference it makes in behavior and learning, they'll tell the principal and teachers for the older grades. Before you know it, you've created a movement that will benefit all kids coming through the school, including your own. Be the change:-)
One great thing about the brain is it is neuroplastic no matter one's age. If you're having trouble with reading, either with comprehension or staying awake, or with organization, or focus, with listening or speaking, Brain Gym can help too. As we age, it's common for us to have more issues with learning disabilities. It doesn't have to stay that way.
I also have a one-on-one program to help people like me overcome their ADHD. If you are an adult with ADHD, feel free to contact me to find out just how much potential you have.
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
I was talking to a friend last week who's been suffering from complications from cancer treatment. "I know I'm going to die from this," she told me in a chipper tone of voice.
Truth be told, I was a bit taken aback. "Your doctors have been telling you that?" I asked. "Because I know it helps to keep a positive attitude."
"They told me they can buy me a few more years, but I'm realistic. Unless something takes me out first, like a bus, this is how I'm going to go. I'm a realist."
I asked a few more questions and it became clear. She likes what she's been telling herself based on her doctors' information. She's not willing to take in new information. She's got a set of beliefs in place and they are comforting to her. They are providing order in a chaotic world for her, this world that in her mind has now orchestrated her death.
If you're like this and happy to be like this, read no further. This post is not for you. I respect where you're at, life is hard enough, and I don't want to rock your world.
If you'd like to know more about epigenetics and how you might be co-creating your world, read on.
Epigenetics is the study of the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. In one study, researchers found that mice who were repeatedly shocked in the foot while smelling the scent of cherry blossoms passed the fear of the scent of cherry blossoms down to their children and grandchildren. It seems reasonable to assume the human mind likely can do more.
Think of all the close-calls your parents had from before you were born that might be impacting you. Then think of your grandparents' close-calls before your parents were born. It might someday be found that humans need to look back many more generations than that. Now think of your own traumatic events through your lifetime. These things are resonating within you, increasing the tension that you live under.
Now add to that the self-talk that you do. Are you positive and supportive of yourself all the time, just as if you are a loving parent or coach? Or do you get frustrated at yourself when you fail at something? Do you call yourself names that you wouldn't allow someone else to? Any negativity is increasing the tension that you live with. You might say that you're being realistic, but if you put a child down, you are stopping their motivation to try, which stops their growth. We all have parts of our childhood selves within us throughout our lifetime. Read Getting Unstuck by Dr. Don Kerson if you have any doubts about this fact.
All of your accumulated tension and all of the accumulated intergenerational tension you were born with is locked within you. Your unconscious is communicating with your cells and making changes minute-by-minute to them based on whether you think the world is a safe place or not. If the world is unsafe, you're more likely to be making excessive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol. You're stuck in fight-or-flight, which ultimately becomes an inflammatory process to your body if your body forgets how to reset. Inflammation leads to disease.
Getting back to my friend, it's possible to go into spontaneous remission from cancer. Read Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani if you doubt it. Do you think spontaneous remission is more likely to happen to a person who's decided they're dying or to a person who's decided to be a loving coach to themselves, learn how to reduce fight-or-flight to heal their body and mind, and figure out what self-love truly means and practice it?
It's possible to change. That's what I write about in my book, Your Best Health by Friday. Find the mind/body techniques you feel comfortable with to help change. Maybe it's yoga. Maybe it's meditation. Maybe it's one of the many other ways I delve into in my book. Try different things that put you into a sense of safety and flow until you find a fit, because you are retraining your stress patterns away from fight-or-flight and into wellness. Your unconscious is sending tens of thousands of messages to every last cell in your body every single day. Will you let those messages undermine your life, health and potential, or maximize them?
Look at the picture above--will you let your potential lie fallow or make it fertile?
Whether you work on your own, with me, or one of the many other mind/body coaches out there, know that I believe in you. Know that you can do it.
From my heart to yours--
Photo by Graeme Walker on Unsplash.
Our community of Santa Barbara has been hard hit lately with fire and flood. The 101 freeway was closed at Montecito for almost two weeks after intense rain caused a flood on January 9th. We lost 23 people to the storm--21 dead and 2 children still missing. In the aftermath, there has been a wide range of responses, everything from incredible generosity of spirit to looting. Fortunately, the generosity of spirit is the most abundant. There was a sense of isolation with 101 being closed again so soon after reopening from fire closures. Right after the fires, we have had several small but noticeable earthquakes. People seem to be carrying around a great deal of stress from the disasters and we're being urged to be especially sensitive of others. Almost everyone knows someone, or has friends of friends who have experienced great loss. People are in grief and everyone processes grief differently.
Through it all, I've been grateful for the everyday gifts of waking up, breathing clean air, having a roof over my head, and being able to stay in the moment and not spiral down into worry about the unknown. At times, the fire was advancing towards us at 60,000 acres a day and the weather forecast looked grim, yet I slept better than I typically do. I wasn't always like this. I've had a huge growth curve on that front.
I talk about it in more detail in my recent Thrive Global article, New Year, New You: How I Rewired My Brain for a Better Life and How You Can, Too.
Life has changed in Santa Barbara, and the neighboring towns of Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria, Ojai and Ventura. It will take years to get back to normal, if it ever does. Maybe that's part of our communities' growth. Life is uncertain. Any attempts we make to control it are ephemeral and Mother Nature can do what she wants. We're at risk for more floods and mud for the next few years. We're almost always in danger of fire here. Best for me to learn how to ride the wave of whatever's next by staying centered, grounded and grateful. Life can be uncertain anywhere, though. We all benefit if we have tools to stay centered, grounded and grateful.
On a personal note, I'm starting to reach out to libraries and adult ed programs in California to give programs in what I've learned about health. Look for me if you're a local. The step after that will be to branch out to other states. Invite me if you're interested in having me speak near you. I'm always happy to Zoom or Skype if I can't get there in person.
When I first heard about Earthing years ago, I laughed. It was not a kind laugh. Then at least a decade went by.
The first time I tried Earthing was when I went to a chiropractor in Santa Barbara, California. He attached a cord to my ankle and it felt like someone had plugged me into a mild electric current. I asked what it was and he told me. I have come back most of the way from fibromyalgia, but I still don't make enough endorphins. I'm very sensitive to sensations. By the end of the session, I felt like I was floating on a cloud, it felt so good. I bought an Earthing fitted sheet and went home, excited to try it out that night.
That night, my partner did not share my enthusiasm. He wanted to know what the big deal was. I was lying there, soaking up all that amazing energy. "Don't you feel it?" I asked him. No, he did not, not one little bit. Meanwhile, I felt so much sensation that it was hard to ignore it enough to go to sleep. All my nerves were singing, but the volume was up way too high. Eventually, I got tired enough to fall asleep.
The next morning, I bounded out of bed with way more energy than typical. I felt great. I felt amazing, actually. And then I went and sat in front of a computer for hours and by the third hour, I noticed something interesting: my spine started hurting and drooping like it was a flower that had been left out of water too long. "Interesting," I thought. So if the Earthing theory was right, I needed a recharge. I took my shoes off and went outside to sunbathe. In fifteen minutes, my backache was gone and my energy was strong. I so often felt back pain that I had never been able to isolate it like that before to find out what made it better.
Over the next three weeks, I noticed something else interesting: I felt less and less sensory feedback from using the sheet. And then came the day that I could no longer notice any sensory feedback at all from it. I still use it nightly, along with a band for when I use the computer. Every now and then if I forget to plug the grounding wire back in after I change the sheets, I pay for it the next day when the backache returns. I can see how much sunshine and outdoor barefoot time means to my body. I realize that part of what fibromyalgia is could be called indoor-itis. Outdoors, sunshine and Earthing are medicine for me.
If you're healthy, I don't know what Earthing can do for you. But if you've got fibromyalgia, I highly recommend Earthing.
Every few years, I buy a new copy of this book, after I splash my way through my current one. I hope you like it as much as I do!
I keep coming back to this book. It was a gift from my beloved great aunt Jean, after I had loved one of the dishes she made from it while I was out visiting. Then my sister wanted a copy, then my mom, after they tried dishes I'd made from it.
Faves include Hot Mushroom Dip p 51, amazing with French bread cubes, Whole Wheat Bread p 82, which I consider the best ever, Sour Cream Coffee Cake p 90, Peter Peter Pumpkin Bread p 94, Banana Bran Muffins p 100, Plucky Enchiladas p 224 (I make these with leftover turkey the day after Thanksgiving), Madora's Corn Pudding p 293 (be sure to at least double the recipe to prevent fistfights breaking out among the dinner guests), Chocolate Shortbread Crescents p319, Shortbread p325, French Poppy Seed Cake p 337 (yummy and elegant!), Lemon Applesauce Cake p338 (excellent and easy!) and the hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark dessert, Regal English Trifle with homemade English Custard p357. Make it and your toes will be kissed by your significant other.
It's almost easier to list what recipes didn't work, because I've only been disappointed twice (I did NOT like Breast of Chicken Chesapeake p205 or the Georgia Brunswick Stew p127.)
As you can see, I take my vittles seriously:-) Dive into this book and you won't be disappointed.
It's getting to that time again, that run up to calorie-heaven between Thanksgiving and New Year. It's kind of a hard time for those of us who are gluten-free and dairy-free. One way I get through it is by enabling others' wheat and dairy addictions. Another way, since I'm much healthier and I don't have celiac, involves a tiny bit of cheating.
It's hard, because I can bake really well, and I know what it tastes like. I think of the quality of whatever the forbidden food is. A bite of scone from Starbucks? I can pass that by. One of my own scones, hot out of the oven? I may not be able to hold out. I time my baking so I'm not tempting myself if I'm hungry.
I remember well what it felt like to be surprised and humiliated by my baking back in my twenties. Some days everything tasted great. Other days, it was like eating loofah. What turned things around for me was Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Cake Bible. Rose made me realize that cakes didn't have it in for me--it was all about chemistry. Once I read my way through her book and started trying recipes, it became clear that I could be a very good baker. Suddenly I could count on compliments.
Over the years, I've come to a few realizations:
At some point, I'll start posting recipes, both gluten-free and wheat. It's a joy to share good food. I hope you'll share some of your favorites too.