by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 15, 2020 hypersomnia, insomnia, sleep disorder, sleep hygiene0 comments
Sleep hygiene is a science formulated to help people overcome disrupted rest by removing any barriers that a person might be unknowingly creating that prevent against deep and complete rest. According to the American Sleep foundation, 47% of Americans report poor quality sleep has affected their daily performance in the last month. As mental health counselors know, there is a significant relationship between sleep and well being. Finding solutions for better rest are vital when your health is on the line, research suggests that sleeplessness can accelerate cancer, erode cognitive performance, and it also impacts mental well being in a variety of ways. Did you know that not getting enough rest can activate many mood disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression? In fact, sleep disruptions are a very common complaint among those who are seeking treatment for mental health disorders. Of course, most people have experienced a sleepless night as a result of a situational challenge or period of stress. There is a lot to lose when it comes to sleep but more than ever so many are so sleep deprived. By now you are likely wondering what you can do to enhance your sleep. This is where sleep hygiene comes into practice. There are some evidence-based ways to help you achieve a more restful state. Simultaneously, there are certain sleep disorders such as parasomnia, insomnia, and hypersomnia which should be ruled out with a medical or mental health counselor.
Know your sleep type! There are two primary types of sleepers, night owls and roosters, night owls are biologically programmed to sleep and wake a little later. Roosters crow at the sun, roosters, will do best to find a job routine that can be done early in the morning. Same goes for night owls, their peak performance will be later in the day. For both of these types of people, constructing a life that honors biology will do a lot for wellness and emotional wellbeing. For example, a rooster shouldn’t take the night shift if they want to feel their best.
Have a good routine- Routine is paramount to having improved quality and quantity of sleep. Find a regular hour in which you can rest. When you achieve a regular schedule, your body will be responding to multiple environmental cues that will help falling asleep and staying asleep easier. You should really be aiming for 7/8 hours per night so plan to go to bed that amount of time before your alarm clock will start buzzing.
Limit screen time at least an hour before bed. Our eyes are brimming with light receptors which are impacted by the screens we look at. When you are reading your email or social media account your brain is getting a large dose of light that signals to wake up! Limit exposure to at least an hour before bed to give your brain a chance to relax.
Spending time outdoors in the morning– The light from the sun helps us to become more alert in the morning giving our bodies higher energy. By maximizing exposure in the early hours we can find our way to relaxation in the evening. If a morning walk is not your thing, some people enjoy ‘sungazing.’
Work out in the am– Multiple studies have shown that working out in the am morning hours does help fitness friends to sleep better in the evening. Interestingly however, having an evening work out has not shown any effect on sleep.
Lengthen your exhale- When using your breath as a relaxation tool, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system. It works like this, by lengthening your exhalation to be longer than your inhalation, for example inhale for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 8, do this 10 times. This small but powerful technique is a potent relaxant as you are attempting to drift off to a deep slumber.
Limit Caffeine- Be mindful of what you are consuming, the half life of caffeine is quite long, if you are drinking caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 pm, it will still be in your system at 8 or 9pm. Try to limit caffeine to one cup upon waking and the same goes with sugar.
Try Essential Oils- Many people find that a calming essential oil will help them achieve a more relaxed and restful state. Scents such as lavender and chamomile are widely used as a part of night time routines.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 21, 2020 self care month, sex therapist, sexual wellness, Uncategorized0 comments
May is Self Care Month! In honor of that, let’s explore a form of self care that might not be the first thing you think of when you think about wellness. When the oxygen masks drop on the plane you always put on your own before helping someone else. This is self-care. The actions you take to keep all dimensions of your own health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental) as strong as possible so that you can continue performing at your peak, whether at home, at work, or in your personal life. The phrase ‘self-care’ has made its rounds in mainstream media and for many people may include a spa day, sleeping in, or saying ‘no’ to certain obligations. However, one activity, self-pleasure or masturbation, has not gotten the credit it deserves as the ultimate form of self-care. Sex therapist Lauren Aikin-Smith from Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh shares her expertise in masturbation as a form of self care.
To start, anyone can masturbate. It isn’t restricted by wealth, gender identity, body shape/size, ability, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. It’s easily adjustable based on your other life factors. For example, you can get it done in a few minutes while the kids are napping or leisurely take up an afternoon if you have the time. It can be done alone or with a partner(s). It’s cost effective and fits every budget. It can fit everyone’s personal style and isn’t limited to just involving the genitals, but may include a bubble bath, rubbing lotion on your body, or even involve other erogenous zones like the ears, scalp, and nipples.
Self-pleasure simultaneously has positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of health. The sensations, relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness that accompany masturbation promote the release of endorphins and oxytocin, even without achieving orgasm. Orgasm is accompanied by a surge of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward pathways. The endorphins and flow of blood throughout the body help release pent up energy, and promote stress and pain relief throughout the body by relieving stress, tension, headaches, and period cramps. Finally, there is a release of serotonin which is responsible for good mood and relaxation and can help promote sleep, another essential aspect of self-care.
Self-pleasure connects the mind and body, and can help you better understand what arouses and turns you on. It can help you recognize how your body responds to touch, sounds, and smells. Over time, you’re able to get a better sense of the sensations and movements that are pleasurable for you, which in turn also promotes body positivity.
Masturbation is empowering. You will never be in control of all aspects of your life, and many times you may feel like you aren’t in control of much at all, but, you can at least be in control of your own pleasure. You don’t need to rely on someone else for pleasure, it can be all your own.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, masturbation is the ultimate form of self-care because through all the craziness of life, it allows for a few moments that are focused solely on nothing other than your own personal gratification. The only way any of us are going to make it through life is by making time for ourselves, for our self-care, and for personal pleasure.
To discuss any sexual or intimate health concerns with one of our licensed counselors or sex therapists, call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 2, 2020 best ways to build self care plan, mental health matters0 comments
We hear lots of people taking about self care these days but what actually is it? Is there a right way to do it? I hope to answer some of these questions for you today because mental health matters and you matter. Self care can be defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Practicing self-care isn’t always easy. Most of us are crazy busy, we have stressful jobs, are taking care of children or aging family members or are too consumed with technology to make time for ourselves. “Me time” is usually last on our agenda and we can often feel guilty about taking the time required to take care of ourselves. Self care is not selfish. We can’t take care of others well if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves and good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with ourselves and others. So, where do you start? It’s important to build a self care plan. Begin by sticking to the basics for now and overtime you’ll find a routine that works for you. Overtime, you can implement more and more specific items into your plan. In the meantime here are some basic principles of self care to help get you started:
- Eat right- the right foods can help improve memory, combat inflammation and promote good gut health. All of which can have a direct impact on your physical and emotional health. If you have questions or want to learn more about this consider setting up a consultation with a nutritionist.
- Sleep- make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, establishing a healthy bedtime routine can promote deeper and more restful sleep. Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed and help reduce distractions such as light and electronics in your bedroom
- Physical exercise- this can mean lots of different things for different people. This can be a walk with your family in the evening or by yourself at lunch, swimming, or yoga. The type of activity isn’t as important as choosing something you enjoy and can commit to your schedule
- Schedule time away- this can be as simple a taking a half day to spend at the park or an extravagant weekend getaway
- Take care of your spiritual needs- this can be attending religious services, meditation, prayer, spending time in nature or making a gratitude list
- Learning to say “no” and setting boundaries- this can mean you don’t check email after business hours, don’t attend events or gatherings that you don’t want to or don’t take on additional tasks that you don’t have the time or energy for
- Get organized- get a planner for tasks or appointments, this can be especially helpful in scheduling your self care time or spend time prepping lunches so you have more time in the morning for an extra cup of tea and some meditation
- Spend time with loved ones and people that are important to you
- Lastly if you work in a field with high burnout rates seek consultation and supervision from mentors and peers to help reduce stress
Self care will look different for everyone for some it’s getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice deep breathing or journaling before the day begins. For others it’s an evening run, but just like many other things self care takes practice. I challenge you to commit to adding one self care element to your schedule for 2 weeks and see the difference it makes in your life and relationships.
Written By: Nicole Monteleone, MA, LPC, NCC
If you are looking for a counseling center near you, reach out to our reception team monday through friday from 9-5 and we will be glad to get you an appointment with one of our licensed counselors in 4 convenient locations, Counseling Pittsburgh, Counseling Wexford, Counseling Monroeville, Counseling South Hills.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 28, 2019 gratitude, gratitude challenge, reframing cognitive distortions, thanksgiving0 comments
The Real Gratitude Challenge
It’s Thanksgiving and everyone wants to talk about turkey and gratitude. Newsfeeds and flyers encourage us to take the ‘gratitude challenge’ by sharing how happy we are for our kids, our marriage, families, our job, our house. Nowonder, according to the National Institute of Health, gratitude can help us increase our life satisfaction and mental health! Oh, how nice that is! Things really are so well and good through the lens of this gratitude, but isn’t it almost too easy when we simply share what is great? I want to talk about a different kind of gratitude, the dark side of gratitude if you will, this is what I call a gratitude challenge. It is not the shiny happiness and gloating we feel when everything works out just the way we want it, but instead, this gratitude challenge, is the kind of gratitude that we can choose to cultivate when we are sitting on a big tall mountain of suck. In this vast beautiful adventure of life, reality more often than not smacks us in the face, universal are the experiences of hurt, loss, and grief. Yet, even more important than making a mental note of gratitude for all of the ways that we are blessed, our mindset truly evolves when we deliberately choose to frame our losses in one beset by gratitude.
Of course on the day that you get the job, and then again when you land the promotion, you are elated, but can you be grateful for those years of success and comradery even when you get the news that company is downsizing and you are handed your severance? Of course, you are beaming at the altar on the day that you say “I do” to the love of your life, but can you still find gratitude when you are headed to marriage counseling because you’re in conflict and bickering about who is doing more cleaning around hte house? Of course, you will be joyful on the day when you learn that you have finally conceived the child you have been yearning for but can you still be grateful that it has happened when their little heart stops beating in utero? Of course, you are thrilled when you finish the marathon in 2nd place, but what can you choose to be grateful for when you have knee replacement surgery from all of that running?
Choosing gratitude amidst the sucky moments of life doesn’t mean that we pretend it’s all ok. Instead, we do not try to block the hurt of our losses, we feel the devastation and despair deeply because let’s be honest here, we have no choice! Some things in life will rip the wind right out of our lungs and bring such agonizing hurt that we will fall to our knees in the pain of it. Yet, the difference is that we choose to live in the memory of the joy that they brought us, we choose to be grateful that the wonders in life have happened no-matter how long or short they stay with us. Cognitive behavioral therapy instructs us to reframe the despair of our cognitive distortions, we do not allow misery or grief to frame the pictures of our memories or the loss in our life. The gratitude challenge is to be penetrated by the suffering of a life well lived but then to hunt like a little scavenger for every little bit of joy, peace, and hope that our experiences have shown to us. Some days that might mean that we are grateful to know that they pain won’t last forever and allow ourselves to contemplate the gratitude for that. When you get here and can nurture this sort of perspective, you take a little bit of power and direction back to your life. On Thanksgiving and every day, the decision to live a life peppered in gratitude is yours. So go ahead, take the challenge, how grateful can you be, what about your pile of suck can you be grateful for?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 30, 2019 self care, self care strategies for mental wellbeing0 comments
Self-Care Strategies That Promote Positive Mental Well-Being
It’s safe to say most of us would rather be happy than unhappy. However, sometimes it’s easy to roll through life allowing your attitude to be shaped, rather than taking steps to increase your own happiness. With that in mind, read on for key self-care strategies you can add to your lifestyle that help promote positive mental well-being.
Stay Connected as a Couple
Are you in a long-term relationship? If so, you probably are well aware that all couples go through ups and downs, and sometimes intimacy can suffer during the down cycles. You might not feel very affectionate when times are tough, but Healthline points out that there are worthwhile health benefits associated with intimacy. For instance, hugging someone dear to your heart can lower your blood pressure, and kissing for just 30 seconds can boost dental hygiene. Beyond that, couples who are intimate on a routine basis lower risk for prostate cancer and heart disease, and they give their immune systems a lift.
One of the toughest times in life for many couples is the period following a baby’s birth. New parents are exhausted, and there may be periods when they feel the workload is unbalanced.
To keep things healthy and happy, consider setting aside time for one-on-one, routine date nights. If you can’t get out of the house, simply enjoying a movie and cuddling on the couch with your favorite healthy takeout can help you feel connected and close.
Gut Health for General Health
Are you familiar with the tiny world living inside your digestive tract? There are trillions of microscopic organisms that dwell inside your gut, and how well they are balanced can have a profound impact on your overall wellness.
As such, it’s important to read up on some key players in gut health; for instance, if your Akkermansia is low it can contribute to weight gain. Also, if you’re feeling stressed, more L. helveticus and B. longum might help you feel more relaxed.
Beyond those few, your metabolism, attitude, energy levels, immune function, and general digestion are just a handful of things directly affected by certain gut bacteria. Becoming more familiar with the various key players can help you identify issues and adjust your diet, or you can add a supplement as needed.
If You Don’t Snooze, You Lose
Sleep sometimes gets an undeserved reputation as a lazy, pointless activity. However, getting enough sleep each night can make a big difference in your well-being. There are benefits galore, from raised productivity to improved calorie regulation. It can help you ward off depression, lower your risk of heart disease, and improve your performance in the gym. While you sleep, your mind and body make repairs from the day before and prepare you for the next day, so ensure proper sleep hygiene is part of your self-care plan.
Tuck points out that sleep hygiene begins with a healthy bedtime routine. By doing the same thing to relax each night before bed, and by doing it at the same time, you condition your mind and body to recognize the signs that sleep is coming. Try spending some time meditating, sipping herbal tea, or listening to soothing music.
Also, address any issues with your sleep environment. Keep your room free of noise and distractions, aim for a cool temperature, and ensure the room is dark. Earplugs, adding a room air conditioner, and blackout curtains can make a big difference if you have ongoing issues.
Positive mental well-being is something all of us prefer, yet sometimes we struggle finding it. Staying connected with your partner, tending your gut health, and ensuring sufficient sleep can go a long way toward helping you feel better. Try making these simple self-care strategies part of your routine — you’re worth it!
Brad Krause, Self Caring Strategies.comLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 10, 2019 why its important to take care of your mental health0 comments
This Is Why its important to take care of your mental health
By: Melissa Howard
One in five American adults experiences some form of a mental disorder each year, yet only 25 percent feel that others show them any compassion due to the negative stereotypes often associated with mental health disorders. Sadly, this can prevent individuals from getting proper treatment, or disclosing their condition in the workplace for fear of losing their job. Matters can become even more complicated if someone is dealing with persistent and irrational fears, otherwise known as paranoia, or general anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD is like a proverbial vice in that it causes stress and prevents one from carrying on with daily activities. To an outsider, these individuals appear high-strung, neurotic, and perfectionist because of their anxious personalities. Researchers have concluded that this behavior is caused by a dysfunction in parts of the brain responsible for dealing with fear, emotion, and memory.
While medication and psychotherapy are two of the top ways to control the side effects, self-care is equally as important for maintaining mental and physical health in the present and in the future. Here are some ways to make conscious, daily efforts to nurture your own well-being.
Banish Any Bad Habits
Whether it’s cigarettes, binge drinking, or experimenting with drugs, your entire being is compromised by bad habits. It’s only logical, as when you’re feeling poor physically, it’s going to affect the way you feel mentally, too. First, determine whether the monkey on your back is too heavy for you to lift off on your own. If so, seek the necessary treatment, such as rehab or a nicotine patch. Of course, this is easier said than done, but in many cases, it’s a matter of life or death. Consider confiding in a trusted friend or family member if you’re scared about next steps — it’s likely that they’ve already noticed something is wrong.
Learn To Become More Present
Being paranoid can conjure up irrational thoughts like thinking about dying in a natural disaster or losing a job. Taking up yoga can help you be more present while feeling grounded and getting a grasp on reality. In fact, doctors are actually recommending it as a complementary, holistic therapy. The gentle poses and breathwork from a vinyassa yoga class have been known to improve sleep, and reduce panic attacks and overall anxiety levels, not to mention it’s a great practice for building strength, increasing flexibility, and improving balance. The average cost of a yoga class ranges from $12 to $16, but prices go down if you pay for multiple sessions.
Set Aside Time to Get Organized
Getting organized and keeping your house clean, believe it or not, can go a long way toward improving your mental health. Not only can organizing your possessions help reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep you get each night, but it can also reduce the symptoms of depression and help you become more productive. Once you have everything organized, consider bringing in a maid service to give your home a good deep cleaning, which is a surprisingly affordable option. For example, in Pittsburgh, a one-time cleaning will run you between $93 and $204, depending on the size of your property.
Embrace Alone Time
While you don’t want to isolate yourself, taking advantage of having ‘alone time’ can be beneficial for one’s mental health. Not only can it help you to focus on self-help, but it also boosts creativity, increases productivity, allows you to explore personal interests, and provides a sense of empowerment. Taking time for yourself also makes it easier to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, preparing a healthy meal, and exercising. When you learn how to be comfortable with yourself, the easier it is to be confident in social situations.
Don’t worry about the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Instead, establish a supportive network who understands that life can sometimes be challenging for you. For some, family and friends are enough of a support system, but others may be more comfortable adding a network of like-minded individuals into the mix. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral for a local support group in your area — you may need to try a couple of different ones out to find the right fit. You need not feel the pressure to participate. Sometimes, just listening to others share similar stories, concerns, and successes are enough.
Photo Credit: PixabayLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 8, 2019 meaning of rituals, rituals for self care, rituals for tranformation, rituals to reduce stress0 comments
Rituals, reducing stress and adding joyful meaning to life
5 Rituals You Should Try For transformation and wellness
Ever wonder why Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts every game? Rituals have enormous power to sooth and inspire as well as bring back balance to mental health by reducing anxiety and increasing confidence. According to the National Institute of Health, there are 3 primary functions of rituals, to manage emotions, to work towards goals, and to connect with others. From an evolutionary perspective we are creatures who have evolved to perform rituals including those of meditation or contemplation and group rituals. Have you ever knocked over a salt shaker and thrown some over your back? Do you attend church on Sunday? Do you pray? Have feast for the Easter holiday? These are all rituals. Flashback to the biblical era everything from attending Sunday worship, to praying for rain and lighting candles for the deceased, its clear that having a close relationship to spiritual rituals is very much a part of our cultural history. Still, whether we are referring to managing the emotional impact of times of stress, to ignite our faith, or to enhance wellness, many successful and happy people rely on rituals. The science behind why rituals work is compelling according to Scientific America. With some many different kinds of rituals we should really define that there is a difference in the Sunday beer drinking ritual, an obsessive hand washing ritual, versus a morning meditation ritual or a communication ritual with our partner. A ritual should be one that we complete with full attention and the deliberate effort to set an intention, reduce stress, or experience a divine aspect to ourselves, or foster our relationship to the spiritual realm.
Rituals can become a reliable tool for manifesting of our goal’s and enhancing our wonder, rituals have deeper embedded meaning. A beneficial ritual should be life sustaining and it is also true that the repetitive behavior of addiction and psychiatric obsessive-compulsive disorder both have the component of rituals built into them. When performing a ritual we are completing an act that becomes instinctive, our brains go into a flow state that doesn’t require higher order processing, the automatic nature of this state which can reduce our anxiety and promote calm. When we examine singing a hymn in a church, this is group ritual that can promote a sense of unity or connection among group members and with a deeper feeling of connection, these emotional components have clinically been show to reduced expression of aggression.
With so much to gain from incorporating rituals into your life, we are brought to the great burning questions, how do we incorporate more of them into our life? Start small and incrementally by adding a ritual component to something you already do, if you have never prayed or meditated it might be a large leap to attempt that everyday. A more manageable step might is to create a weekly goal. Some couples have a weekly ritual around problem solving and talking through emotional issues at the end of the week. Even meal-time can be a ritual when we bless our food or offer a moment of gratitude for the abundance on our plate. Others find that monthly rituals that set an intention with the full or new moon are the perfect time and space to set a goal for the month. Ultimately, we need to create rituals that are meaningful and manageable for you as an individual.
Meditation Ritual- whether daily, weekly, or monthly, meditation has a massive impact on wellbeing, stress reduction, and positive mood. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily makes a difference.
Love Ritual- Happy Couples have ways to celebrate the passage of time, they have yearly traditions that allow them to connect with the growth and change of their relationship over the years. It is also recommended that couples have a weekly communication ritual to release any residual emotional reactions and better connect.
Meal time ritual- Nourishing our bodies with life sustaining foods in a quiet and comfortable distraction free zone is a great way to enjoy eating. Eating has historically been an activity that is a part of ritual, think of the foods that surround every major holiday. It is also a time where families can connect to each other.
Self Care ritual- Whether it is journaling, fitness, using essential oils, or gardening, doing small things daily is important for your vitality and stress management.
Full Moon ritual- The full moon is the perfect time to release negative thought patterns and the new moon is a time for us to create new goals. Making time for a meditation under the moon light syncs us in to time and space and the greater cosmos. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, there is something sacred that we experience when we cast out focus on something as grand and magical as the world around us.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 20, 2019 essential oils for wellness, health benefits of essential oils, lemon essential oil uses0 comments
Each month in our quest for the best wellness tips that can be offered, we are sharing an oil and it’s health benefits as well as common uses. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn and if placing it anywhere other than the soles of the feet or fingers/palms it should be diluted.
Essential oils contain active compounds which interact immediately with the body by entering into the blood stream and activating various parts of the brain. This month, for spring, we are featuring lemon oil. Like the season of spring time, it is known to be revitalizing and has uplifting benefits on mood. It can also help to aid focused attention and accelerate energy and motivation when used for deep breathing meditation! This oil also has a whole team of added benefits.
An added bonus to lemon essential oil is that it is very helpful during a cold or with allergies, with just a small drop on the finger and then placed just on the rim of the inside of your nostril, nasal congestion is instantaneously diminished. It’s pretty miraculous and works faster than any decongestant that we know of. Overall, it fights bacteria and for a very delicious way to sooth a sore throat, you can add some to your tea with honey for a time-tested healing drink. Other sources site that by placing a few drops of medical grade lemon oil in water, the immune system is boosted and it has even further benefits during cold and flu season.
When diluted as a cleaning solution, it is very cleansing for kitchen surfaces and makes a great substitute for those other artificial lemon scents. It also can take tarnish from silver and nourishes cracked leather goods. It also removes scuffs from hardwood floors.
For your beauty regimen, sources indicate that lemon oil can be added to your nighttime beauty cremes, placing just a few drops in your favorite crème will brighten your skin. It is also recommended that it can be added to oatmeal for a fresh and natural skin exfoliant. If your nails have a problem with fungus, try lemon essential oil to rid yourself of the pesky fungi. It also can be diluted and used on rough patches of skin on the foot to smooth out dry spots.
When diffusing lemon oil, it is best to add it to other scents like grapefruit, pine, and even peppermint which will further enhance you with a serious jolt of feel good energy!
The physical health, wellness, and household benefits aren’t the end of the goodness that lemon oil has to offer your foods. We can also consume cooking grade oils by adding them to sauces, pancakes, whipped crème, fish and just about any dish that you want to have a very bright flavor.
It is an all natural way to remove tree sap from the hands! Just try it and see!
A word of caution and this can be applied to your use of all essential oils, they must be high quality and always read the label of your favorite brand before consuming it as some are not meant to be eaten. Finally, be sure to dilute them before putting them on the face or body but generally a drop or two on your hands can be a pleasant way to inhale them deeply on the run. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn.
For A Counseling or Wellness Consultation, Please call our office to schedule with one of our licensed therapists or wellness providers!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 12, 2019 bdfn, brain health, healthy food, NIH, Uncategorized0 comments
How to Boost Your Brain Health, BDNF!
If you knew that tweaking some lifestyle habits could act like brain fertilizer, building new connections to reduce your risk of dementia, improve mood and reduce depression, improve heart function, and more, would you want to learn about it? Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN, is here as your licensed nutritionist to help you navigate those changes and learn about the best ways that nutrition can support your wellness.
Then read on! Above I have provided a brief explanation of a protein that impacts all of this, and possibly even lifespan, greatly, and below you will find multiple ways that we can increase its production. This magical protein is BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and while some details of our individual levels are genetically determined, and it naturally wanes as we age, we have great agency in boosting its production through lifestyle choices and habits we make.
- Eat more oily fish! Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid, a neuroprotective nutrient found in the brain. Also, DHA Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, found in fish. Both of these nutrients have many benefits including increasing BDNF (it also has the most anti-inflammatory action). This is an essential nutrient, and studies show up to 95% of Americans are deficient in it. SMASH is acronym for high omega-3, low contaminant fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring.
- If fish consumption is not for you, supplements are also available, check for molecularly distilled 3rd party analysis and therapeutic dose levels. Omega-3’s are also found in vegetable sources like flax, chia and walnuts, and while still beneficial, contain ALA which may not convert well to EPA and DHA.
- Increase intake of Turmeric and Curry, Blueberries and Red grapes! Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color, and has a plethora of health benefits, including boosting BDNF. It has been recognized for many epidemiological aspects of better health in cultures where it is a staple, such as lower Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and less inflammation. Try a golden milk recipe, or cauliflower turmeric flatbread. It can be added to many dishes, with a sprinkle of black pepper to increase bioavailability. It is also available in supplement form. The pigment that gives blueberries their color, anthocyanin, and a phytochemical, resveratrol, found in red grapes also raise BDNF levels.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) these items have the opposite action, as the SAD (Standard American Diet) which are high in these elements, has been shown to result in lower BDNF levels. For optimal brain and all around function, we have to put optimal fuel into the body.
- Intermittent Fasting is another way to increase BDNF, there is increasing evidence that periods of gut rest, as short as 12 hours, can boost our bodies repair mechanisms. While this is not for everyone, there is a growing body of research on the topic.
- Exercise!!! It is the best way to boost our BDNF levels. Find ways that work with your life, and that you enjoy, as developing this habit is a huge key to keeping our brain and hearts functioning optimally throughout our lifespan.
- Social Connection, Stress Reduction and Mental Stimulation! Nurturing relationships with close friends and family members, and spending time where authentic communication, love and acceptance are present provides a boost. People under a lot of stress produce less BDNF, so finding ways to reduce stress including meditation, yoga, exercise and mindfulness practices, getting out in nature, are critical.
- Sun can boost BDNF levels. This can be short amounts daily, while practicing skin cancer awareness and limits.
- Sleep….last but not least! Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep, this is critical to general health. BDNF is reduced with sleep deprivation. If you struggle with this, investigate changing your sleep hygiene habits, including trying a guided meditation for sleep.
So many great choices….where will you begin with your health and wellness goals???
If you are thinking about how nutrition counseling can help you or looking for a near by nutrition counselor, Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN is glad to help. Call us at 412-322-2129 or find our counselors near you at;Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 1, 2019 how to meditate, kinds of meditation0 comments
We all have the innate capacity for greater clarity, calm, and focus. Consciousness is in fact a skill that can be sharpened when each day we wipe clean the debris that clouds our minds and trickles even into our physical bodies. Mindfulness meditation is a kind of focused awareness where we become distinctly aware of our selves, the nature of our thoughts, the quality of the sensations coursing within our veins. Yet mindfulness is not merely helpless attention that is splashed around our roving internal focus. It also incorporates the potential to alter the state and being of our consciousness, via our breath and attention. While meditation has so much potential that it can be prescribed as a tool to manage anger, depression, and anxiety, it is extremely trans-formative when used as a spiritual or mindful tool for wellness.
While there are many various forms of meditation, let’s explore some of the most common, starting with Zen Buddhism meditation. In the Zen tradition, the practitioner is seated cross legged or in lotus position, one of the more important components of which is that your spine be completely erect. Your focus then is simply on the sound and motion of your breath coming in and out of your nose. The sound and sensation of each breath is a meditative focal point, very simple but powerful. The drawback is that for beginners it may be very hard to just sit and breathe!
Another common Buddhist style of meditation is Vipassana. It is a style of insight-based awareness when attention itself is used as a tool. To concentrate all of one’s focus on a specific point can be an enlightening and extremely calming experience. For instance, you could place all of your attention on a body part, a thought, or a visualization. The goal is truly to become liberated from the shackles of our own awareness which tends to lack focus and be chaotic in its natural state. This style of meditation takes years of cultivation to improve upon but can be seen as a daily or regular practice. Like polishing a jewel, we clarify our thoughts and mind, as we will notice many different thoughts coming through our consciousness as we are seated. We do not attach to any one of them however, we allow them to slide by and label them as mechanisms of the ego, or desire, or self defeat. We become very aware and curious about our thoughts in this style of meditation.
This is perhaps the most accessible style of meditation for the beginner. It may start with breathing in a seated or lying down position with closed eyes. From there an instructor cues in various visual scenes, sometimes like a story. The practitioner is able to visualize various motions and enactments that can journey them into their unconscious. This is a favored method for beginners because it allows a place for the meditator’s focus to rest and is highly interactive and imaginative. After completing the meditation, if done in a group setting, the practitioners may talk about some of the things that they felt and visualized in the sequence.
This form of meditation is best performed after gaining a basic understanding of each of the chakras by becoming aware of their placement and function through the body. The practitioner then visualizes sending breath and sometimes light to those seven energy centers through the physical and subtle body. The subtle body is the non-visible and esoteric energy centers including the chakras and meridians. This form of meditation can be very effective and energizing to unblock the chakras and re-balance them. Chakra meditation is related to bringing balance to the flow of Kundalini energy which flows from the crown of our skull to the base of our root. This is an ancient yoga style that tends to be more spiritually focused.Learn More