Oh thank goodness, someone finally says that mindfulness practice isn’t for everyone. Neuroscientist Catherine Kerr studies the effects of mindfulness practice on the brain, and is a practitioner herself, but denies that it is the emotional and scientific wonderdrug it’s been made out to be.
Kerr was an author on a 2005 paper that claimed, tentatively, that mindfulness meditation — basically, focusing one’s attention on the feelings, sensations and emotions in the present moment — increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex, which many news outlets jumped on as proof that meditation is absolutely an effective treatment for stress and depression for everyone. Kerr is much more reserved: There’s evidence that meditation is beneficial to brain function, but not enough to paint it in the unfalteringly positive light that some have done. Keep reading »
One of the focuses (focii?) of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project is figuring out how to break bad habits and moderate indulgences. Yesterday on the project’s blog, she talked about two different ways to manage temptations: Abstaining and moderating.
She describes author Delia Ephron as a “Moderator”: When she goes to bakeries, for example, she can take a few bites of whatever she buys, get bored with it, and throw the rest away (Ephron’s husband has named this “Discardia”). Moderators can indulge a little bit at a time, but they panic if they’re told that they absolutely can’t have something. Rubin describes herself, on the other hand, as an Abstainer: Abstainers have a hard time stopping once they’ve started, but find it easy to just totally cut themselves off from something, too. Keep reading »
I’ve had anxiety and depression for years, long before I started therapy and began taking medication under the advisement of a psychiatrist. I look back at my teenage and college years and see glaring signs that I was unhappy but didn’t know how to put it into words that anyone, including myself, could understand. Mental illness runs in my family, the most notable example being my dad, who died nearly two years ago from drug addiction, something that developed as a “coping” mechanism for his untreated mental health issues, if you ask me. I’ve taken my mental health very seriously as a result, as I’ve seen far too tragically what can happen if you don’t. I’ve been seeing the same bad ass therapist for eight years now and my prescription for Lexapro, an anxiety-focused anti-depressant, has helped clear the fog so that I can delve deep into the exacerbating issues. I think I’ve made an extraordinary amount of progress in that regard, though I’ve come to accept that a dull, ever-present level of sadness might always reside within me. In some ways, I’ve been oddly okay with that. As an extremely sensitive person, I don’t know that it would be physically/mentally possible for me to exist in this world, with all its terribleness, and feel completely happy. To me, the pursuit of total happiness is a blind one — to actually achieve it, you’d have to be just that. Blind.
With that said, I know enough about my brain chemistry to be aware of when I’m feeling an unhappiness that is outside the realm of what I consider normal. And for the last, oh, eight months to a year, it has become increasingly abnormal. Keep reading »
I have shared with you all lovelies before that I have PTSD and, because of it, suffer from pretty crushing anxiety sometimes. I’m pretty much on top of it during my waking hours, but lately (i.e. increasingly since May) that daytime anxiety just feels like it’s getting pushed to the nighttime.
Here are all the things I’ve tried to make myself sleep better: Keep reading »
The journal Pediatrics published research today that suggests — pretty strongly — that physical activity is important for kids who have ADHD because it increases executive control and inhibition, much in the way that ADHD medications do. Exercise: Possibly the best thing for all mental health?
No word as to how it affects adult ADHD, but I’d wager that it’s also beneficial. James Hamblin at The Atlantic raises a really important point about how we treat kids with ADHD:
“‘If physical activity is established as an effective intervention for ADHD,” they continued, “it will also be important to address possible complementary effects of physical activity and existing treatment strategies …’ Which is a kind of phenomenal degree of reservation compared to the haste with which millions of kids have been introduced to amphetamines and other stimulants to address said ADHD. The number of prescriptions increased from 34.8 to 48.4 million between 2007 and 2011 alone. The pharmaceutical market around the disorder has grown to several billion dollars in recent years while school exercise initiatives have enjoyed no such spoils of entrepreneurialism.”
Keep reading »
I’ve said it briefly before, but I want to say it again in more depth: I’m not ashamed of my emotional disorder. In the six months since I started writing for a living, I’ve had a rash of people — okay, trolls — on the internet writing e-mails, leaving comments, and even writing blogs about my mental stability, but specifically saying that there’s something “wrong” with me.
I mean, kind of. I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t think I’ve ever said explicitly why: Because I was in a long-term, abusive relationship, and because six months after I left it, I was raped. On top of that, I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 13, and I’ve gone through a slew of diagnoses to figure out exactly why I feel emotions as intensely as I do, and my doctors and I have recently settled on it being sort of a generalized personality disorder — not exactly one or the other of those listed in the DSM-V. Keep reading »