Research Reveals The Purpose Of Your Emotions

research reveals purpose of emotions

Most of us perceive the brain as being for thinking, or intellectual functions. We often think of ourselves, our personality, as what is going on in those intellectual functions from the neck up. In fact, there are several parts to our brain that contribute to who we are and how we form our personality, not just our intellectual cortex. In this way, the purpose/role of emotions is far more complex than meets the eye.

The cortex is what we refer to as our smart brain. Most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually, yet they can be emotionally dysfunctional almost in the extreme. We often presume erroneously that our thinking brain should be “smart” enough to exercise dominion over our emotions.

However, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning.

Aggressive Or Passive?
Some of us learn to be assertive or aggressive in our environments to adapt, and some of us learn to become passive or try to become invisible to stay safe and secure. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than the drive to survive. Hence, our emotions win in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is helpful to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first five years of our development. Our familial input taught us, as it did Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

Embedded Conditioning
This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by thought processes; the thought process for humans is the newest component to our primitive, or primordial, brain. But it is in the survival adaptive portion of our brain that we form our personality and that we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

You have to understand that the interpersonal issues that can frustrate you may come from your drive to survive and the conditioned responses to the stimulation and environment you have experienced. They do not stem from a desire to be difficult or bad intent. Realize this and you can begin to be kinder and gentler toward yourself and others.

Our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot think them into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives. We can also explore techniques that allow us to have greater control over our emotions. For a free chapter download on brain function and behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

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Establish These Three Behaviors To Improve Your Life

The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. The way we think, eat, behave and use our resources define the quality of life we live. We all want to thrive and enjoy a healthy fulfilling life. Yet, in our over scheduled, frenzied personal environments and ever encroaching culture, the simple, basic, no-cost behaviors that will better our lives and foster an excellent relationship with ourselves are often overlooked.

Here is a list of 3 simple behaviors any of us can do immediately to improve and restore our well-being and enhance our health.

1. Buy with Cash

Over the last 5 years, most of us have had a reality check regarding the corrosive nature of debt. It can cause stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, robbing us of our well-being and causing us to lose control over our relationship with money. One of the fastest and easiest ways of “turning the ship around” when it comes to debt is to commit to using only cash for purchases and cutting up the credit cards.

While we can have an emergency card or line of credit squirreled away for a real emergency, by reining in our spending habits and eliminating debt, we can do more for our sense of well-being and health than following the latest health trends and starting an exercise program. Yes, it’s true – reducing and eliminating the crushing stress of debt accumulation is the number one act of self-care we all need to commit to. Studies show that chronic stress and worry will make us sicker and even cause life threatening events such as stroke and heart attack more so than any other lifestyle behavior.

Also, by paying in cash you are more aware of what you are actually spending and have the opportunity to ask yourself: “Do I really need to make this purchase?”

2. Clean out Your Closets

In our consumer-driven environment, we are invited daily to buy, buy, buy and can find ourselves living with closets, attics and basements overflowing with “stuff.” Much of this stuff we do not even use and may not even remember we have.

One of the most satisfying experiences is to clean out closets, drawers, basements, attics, garages, storage areas, and so forth. Thin out all the excess material possessions we have and do not need or use. Giving things away to the local “swap shop” or donating these unnecessary belongings to Goodwill or the Salvation Army will not only free up room and space in our homes, but will also provide a greater sense of control over your living space as well as provide a sense of orderliness and cleanliness – all good things for our health and happiness.

3. Post Your Life Goals and Affirmations

We all have goals and dreams we want to realize. One of the fastest, proven ways to achieve those goals and manifest our dreams is to write them down and post them throughout our whole working and living environments. Take the most urgent and important goal you have at this time and focus on it daily, using post-its or other reminders of what you want to manifest.

This no cost, proven method for creating the things we want in our lives can become an excellent life-long behavior. When one goal is realized or achieved, we can identify the next important goal and work on that specifically, using our desire and unconscious mind to manifest our dreams. After all, thoughts really are “things.” By repeatedly thinking on something, we can create it into reality.

Everything was a thought before it became a reality – the chair you are sitting on was a thought in someone’s mind before it was created. We can and do create our lives with our thoughts – so post away and realize your goals.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.ChangingBehavior.org

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Take The First Step Towards Happiness

Take The First Step Towards Happiness

With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation and recognition in our society, it is easy to become discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us. Being happy with yourself is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple, practical steps to develop habits of happiness.

Take the first step towards happiness right now. It starts with creating an environment to work and live in that reduces stress and workload and brings order and ease, making your work and living easier. This uplifting environment can also provide the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing on the disorder and chaos that often become the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Start With A Clean Slate

Clean out your desk drawers and closets, discarding excess. Redefining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with your values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves and have a more orderly, relaxing and peaceful space to live and work in.

Review Your “Friends List” Too

This same philosophy can be applied to your circle of friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Embrace Family

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes the people in our family who support us, are there when we need them and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. Take the time to give back and express your gratitude to those who care and nurture. Not only will this bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but it will become a reminder of how loved and cared for we are. That allows us to feel more content and happy with being who we are.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.ChangingBehavior.org

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
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Learn The Surprising Way That Food Affects Your Mood

Learn The Surprising Way That Food Affects Your Mood

Did you know that what you eat affects your mood? It's interesting that the emphasis is usually on how things from the outside of us affect our insides. In reality so much of what is going on inside of us affects our outsides. That’s right, our mood and our food are intimately connected.

This is really evident in terms of weight loss and weight gain. The way we feel about ourselves, work, life, if we are fulfilled or dissatisfied, has more to do with what or how much we choose to eat than how eating a food has to do with how it "makes us feel." Our food decisions are often linked to our level of emotional wellness.

One of the reasons diets don't work is because the "work" is being done on the outside of the problem instead of the inside. I have been a nutritionist for over 30 years and have seen tens of thousands of patients who want to change the way they look or the way they eat.

When we start to "work" on the goal, within a relatively short period of time, they become aware that there are underlying feelings and emotions associated with not eating foods that help them to "medicate" or mask their feelings.

They often become discouraged because the feelings are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It is our human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It takes courage to truly tackle and confront the underlying issues of "food and mood," rather than focusing on the outside of the problem, to focus on the inside instead.

Here is an exercise you may find to be of value. If you are dealing with mood or food issues, keep a journal for 10 days. Write down everything you eat and how you feel when you don’t eat what you want, as well as how you feel when you DO eat what you want.

Just becoming more aware of what you are putting in your mouth and how it translates to how you feel after you eat a particular food, can be the start of a healthier and happier relationship with food and your mood. Before you take your next bite, consider whether you are feeding your stomach, your mood, or both.

 

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Do Spiritual Communities Foster Improved Wellness For Baby Boomers?

Do Spiritual Communities Foster Improved Wellness For Baby Boomers?

Stuff happens — especially as we age. Our lives and health generally change. The usual causes include children leaving the nest, divorce, the loss of a spouse or partner, changing financial circumstances or any one of a dozen other events. Often the outcome of these changes can lead to sadness, loneliness, depression and decreased immune function, with the resultant lowered health indicators. Our immune system is an essential key to our longevity and as we age it becomes more important to preserve its function and integrity, especially for those of us over 55 years old. One common question I have encountered is whether spiritual communities foster improved wellness for the baby boomer generation.

Exploring The Existing Research

An interesting study at Duke University Medical Center found that older people who attended religious services at least once a week were about half as likely as those who do not attend services weekly to have elevated levels of an immune protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), which serves as an indicator of how well the immune system is functioning.

IL-6 indicates the presence of inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been implicated in most major chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. This decreased level of IL-6 translates into a healthier immune system enjoyed by those with regular attendance at their religious community.

The Duke researchers, Dr. Harold Koenig and Dr. Harvey Cohen, studied 1,718 older adults in North Carolina, factoring into the outcomes the health conditions experienced by the study subjects. These included depression, chronic illness, and negative life events — all of which the researchers identified as likely to affect immune status. Even with these conditions, the improvement to the immune system in those who attended weekly services was evidenced.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and first reported in the October 1997 issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, updated in 2004. These findings identified and suggest that religion or participation in a spiritual life community may affect immune function through better coping skills, psychosocial factors and the mechanisms by which organized religion promotes positive thoughts and behaviors.

However, there may be other factors at play as well. Feelings of belonging to a community, shared values, as well as the togetherness of a shared meaningful activity, such as worshiping with others, may be at the cause and effect of these findings.

Dr. Koenig, the lead author of the study, states:

 “Perhaps religious participation enhances immune functioning by yet unknown mechanisms, such as through feelings of belonging, togetherness, even perhaps the experience of worship and adoration… Such positive feelings may counteract stress and convey health effects that go far beyond simply the prevention of depression or other negative emotions.”

This study also raises the theory that there may be a factor in participating in such a weekly ritual that derails the experience of loneliness, experienced by older Americans to a larger extend than younger populations, and that this factor may be part of the healing effect of the weekly spiritual community attendance.

Establishing Validity In Subjective Study

While Koenig had found similar outcomes in a different study a year before this study, those outcomes were based on personal interviews as markers for wellbeing and health status. In the latest study, blood samples were measured for the body’s chemicals such as alpha, beta and gamma globulins, fibrin d-dimers, lymphocytes, and neutrophils, which regulate immune and inflammatory responses, providing a more accurate and scientific measurement to the findings and in calculating how healthy a person actually is.

“There is so much subjectivity when people say they feel better that you can’t rely on self reports alone to truly reflect health status,” said Dr. Harvey Cohen, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke. “By measuring blood levels of IL- 6, we were trying to put rigorous scientific parameters on the positive health effects of religion,” he said.

Dr. Cohen explains that the team selected IL-6 as it has been identified as contributing to a wide spectrum of various age-related diseases. Cohen’s own research identified a relationship between high levels of IL-6 and a “poor functioning ability, which is a term that is used for tasks of daily living such as dressing, cooking, bathing and so forth.

Physical And Physchological Benefits

Other studies have also shown IL-6 levels are elevated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure in older adults. It seems that as we age our bodies decrease the ability to overcome the many challenges to our immune system and this leads to a decrease in its function and a greater vulnerability to all forms of illness.

The Women’s Health Initiative follow-up survey based on 92,529 post-menopausal women, at 50 years or older, identified that attending religious services increased life expectancy. This survey was taken with a diverse group of women who varied ethnically, religiously and socioeconomically. The study was funded by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute; National Institutes of Health; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report was published in the Journal of Religion and Health in November 2011. The report states that “those who attend services frequently were 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don’t — and were 27 percent less likely to be depressed. Those who attended weekly were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility, compared with those who did not report any religious service attendance.”

Another study, published in the Winter 2001 Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported that “weekly religious attendants in 1965 were more likely to both improve poor health behaviors and maintain good ones by 1994 than were those whose attendance was less or none. Weekly attendance was also associated with improving and maintaining good mental health, increased social relationships, and marital stability.” So in that sense, yes, baby boomers who belong to a spiritual community may foster improved wellness.

While further studies to explore and more fully understand this data is warranted, for us longevity-focused boomers, a return to a spiritual or worship community could represent an opportunity for renewed connection with others in a shared environment, as well as potential discernment and insight into the importance of belonging.

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For a free chapter download on how to immediately improve your relationship communication skills, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt To Stress

Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt 

The ability for a human being to adapt to its environment and to deal with the many ongoing and changes it faces is the hallmark of a healthy body. That we can withstand day to day events that challenge our nervous system, and subsequently our immune system, is a reflection that our body is working very efficiently. This all comes back to your adrenal glands and their ability to adapt.

Understanding the connection between how events affect our stress adaptation system, primarily the adrenal glands, and how the adrenal's hyper-secretions under stress can create havoc with the digestive and immune systems is important. This allows us to make informed lifestyle choices that will preserve and respect our body and our long term health.

Variations In Stress

Most of us do not know what stressors are. We tend towards the idea that emotional upset is what constitutes stress. However, there are 12 major categories of stress that can impact our body and health. Unfortunately, we are subject to these stressors on a regular basis.

A stressor is any activity or event that requires the body to change or adapt in order to maintain its homeostasis, or balance. Therefore, it becomes essential to know the factors we must be mindful of in order to keep our stress levels in check.

Below is a list of the stressors to be aware of in your day to day life:

  • Weather (exposure to hot or cold)
  • Sleep and Rest (specifically, not getting enough)
  • Infection or Silent Inflammation  
  • Allergies (all types)
  • Dental or Medical Procedures and Surgeries
  • Reproduction  (for women: menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause)
  • Sexual Activity
  • Nutrition  (too many calories or non-nutritious food) 
  • Exertion and Exercise (too much or not enough)
  • Trauma (any form)
  • Fear, Anxiety, Worry  (ongoing)
  • Loss or grief

By keeping your stress level low, you will reduce wear and tear on your body parts that, in the long term, can lead to chronic illness and disease. It is not the stress itself that makes you sick, but the ongoing wear on the body that causes dysfunction and dis-ease.

Healthy Habits, Healthy Life

There are many ways to reduce stress and maintain a balanced nervous system. While the list is endless here are some of the most popular ways to do so: (1) Exercise regularly. (2) Listen to soothing music. (3) Practice Yoga. (4) Participate in sports. (5) Tend a garden.

Each person finds their best way to relax and de-stress. It is something we all need to do on a regular basis to balance or nervous systems and stay healthy!

 

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How Reducing Your Stress Can Aid Digestion And Prevent Disease

How Reducing Your Stress Can Prevent Illness

Understanding the connection between brain function, cranial nerves, digestion and immune functions illuminates how and why dysfunction and “dis-ease” occur in the body. Just as our machines need electricity to operate, so do our internal organs and cells require electrical impulses to function. The degree to which your nervous system is balanced and well-functioning – or not – is the degree to which you are healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in the world. This is how reducing your stress can aid digestion and prevent disease.

Many healing arts such as acupuncture, yoga postures, meditation, chiropractic, breathing techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and others attempt to restore balance to the nervous system as the pathway to improving internal and external bodily function. These methods address the cause of the presenting condition, rather than just treating the pain or symptom of the bodily malfunction. 

Exploring The Body Systems 

By looking more closely at the digestive system and its intimate relationship with the immune system and the nervous system, we can easily follow the pathway of how brain function and the nervous system can create a “whole body” systemic cascade of bodily reactions, which over time lead to chronic illness and disease. Our nervous systems are impacted by stressors; however, stress is not limited to just the emotional realm as many believe. The topic of stressors and adrenal function are explored more deeply in other blogs.

For now, keep in mind that when our stress or anxiety causes our limbic system to send biochemical messages to our cranial nerves, our digestive systems can be functionally affected. The anxiety and stress increases our adrenal function output, and this increase of adrenal hormones and steroids in turn decreases our digestive and immune system functions.

A written schematic would look like this:

Stressor = A limbic system response and/or increased adrenal cortisol secretion. = Decreased digestive function thru sympathetic cranial nerves (vagus nerve) and decreased immune (bone marrow) function.

Overcoming The Effects Of Stress

The effect of a stressor on the body in the short term can be readily overcome by a healthy, adaptive nervous system. It is the longer stress–the chronic ongoing conditions and issues–that place wear and tear on our nervous systems and organs. It is this friction or wear and tear leads to chronic illness.

By understanding the intimate dance of our body’s organs and systems and how to maintain a balanced, healthy nervous system we can reduce stress to aid digestion and avoid illness or chronic disease, and to live long, productive and disease free lives!

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Learn The Secret To Taking Control Of Your Health And Wellness

Learn The Secret To Taking Control Of Your Health Today

Do you ever wonder why, in spite of all your good intentions, you just cannot seem to take control over your whole health and wellness? The answer to that question can be found in the words of Albert Einstein, who reminds us "you cannot correct a problem with the same thinking that created it." In other words, you cannot change old behaviors and overcome old obstacles without new information.

The Institute of Medicine recently published a study indicating that ninety million Americans are "health illiterate," which means we do not know how to interpret or use health information to control or improve our health or prevent chronic disease. Data compiled previously identified "lack of information as the number one root cause of death." Understanding that there exists a cause and effect relationship between what we know and how we behave, we need a model of integrating this important information to change the behaviors that lead to chronic disease.

According to a seven-year, 1996 Harvard Medical School study, approximately 70% of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes. Furthermore, our diseases and conditions are primarily a result of stress, food, environment, attitude, emotions or beliefs that keep us in behaviors that lead to illness. Which invites the question, are we consciously choosing to be unhealthy, or do we just not understand sufficiently the relationship between what we think, how we behave, what we put into our bodies and how we keep ourselves well or make ourselves sick?

In a world exploding with health information, especially on the internet, we are caught in the dilemma of having abundant amounts of information, without a context through which we can understand and utilize this information in a way that is appropriate for our own unique personal health needs. There is, however, good news. Making its way into the mainstream of health care is an integrated model of health information and education that provides a "whole picture of health" perspective, allowing each of us to discern and create our own unique approach to taking charge of our health and well-being. Whole Health Education, developed over the past 28 years, in cooperation with Boston physicians, nurses and educators, is an approach to understanding the cause and effect our behaviors and choices have on our state of health. Demystifying the five major factors that influence how sick or well we become, Whole Health Education provides a perspective on human anatomy and physiology, bio-chemistry, psycho-social, environmental and spiritual aspects which allow for an authentic understanding of what we need to know to resolve chronic health problems or to stay healthy.

Integrating evidence-based information with the wisdom of various spiritual teachings and a whole-person overview of behavioral options, Whole Health Education offers each of us a tool for personal health management by providing personalized health information that explains the physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual aspects of a health concern.

For example, Mature Onset Diabetes affects approximately 18.2 million Americans and is the leading health concern in our culture today. As all chronic conditions are, Mature Onset Diabetes is a multi-dimensional disease state; the unique Whole Health perspective can facilitate the restoration of health for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Physical/Structural

What happens on a physical and structural level with Mature Onset Diabetes? The specialized beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin, become incapable of producing adequate amounts of the critically necessary secretion. This happens over a period of years and can begin in our bodies, over time, by eating large amounts of insulin-provoking foods. These insulin provocateurs, which are sugars and starches in the form of complex carbohydrates, require the pancreas to produce more insulin so that the sugars can be carried over the cell membranes to all parts of the body. Serious disturbances occur when we do not have enough insulin to carry the sugar over the cell membranes. Insulin hooks onto the sugar molecule and acts like a lock and key mechanism to bring that sugar into the cell, where it is then used in the energy cycle of cell metabolism. The nervous system, brain and the lungs cannot function without the proper metabolism of sugars.

Emotional/Social

Just as diabetes is a lack of nourishment on a chemical/nutritional level, so is it a lack of emotional nourishment on an emotional/mental level. It relates to the "feel good" nourishment component of your body. What do we know about carbohydrates and serotonin? Carbohydrates provoke the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that produces a feeling of well-being. There is a direct relationship between what our body is doing chemically and how we feel emotionally. When we crave or build our diet around carbohydrates, this can be a way of "self-medicating" our emotional needs by eating carbohydrates to provoke insulin production.

Sugar problems can affect us emotionally. Let's say you have a pancreas that is not working properly. What can happen somatic-psychically from the pancreas to the brain? If we are feeling the ups and downs of hypoglycemia, and its biochemical/neurological symptoms, it may undermine our sense of security, self-esteem, and produce anxiety and fear.

What is the emotional component of diabetes and the pancreas? Often, it can be a poor sense of self-esteem and a fear of not being "good enough" or not belonging. These feelings, medicated by the serotonin foods, can lead us to not look deeply enough into what is causing our health concerns and allow the feeling/feeding cycle to continue.

Chemical/Nutritional

On the nutritional side, the treatment for people with Mature Onset Diabetes is to decrease the stress on the pancreas by making changes in their diet — decrease starches and sugars and decrease calories. Eat less, eat right. What kind of a diet would be best for preventing Mature Onset Diabetes? Vegetables, vegetables, and vegetables combined with lean proteins such as fish, chicken, water, a little fruit and a little fat. In a hypoglycemic situation, it is wise not to eat grain or sugar, but sprouted grain bread and other substitutes can be healthy and satisfying.

Because hormones are chemicals, diabetes and hypoglycemia are both hormonal-based problems. What we know about the hormone system is that it works as a balanced interdependent system. Diabetes is an endocrine-related, systemic problem. With a systemic problem like diabetes, you have a body system problem–you do not just have a condition by itself. It is known that the pancreas is related, through hormone interaction, to the adrenals, and the adrenals are in turn related to the reproductive system. It is known that these glands are related through hormone interactions to the pituitary and the pituitary is related to the thyroid gland, the thyroid is related to the thymus, and the thymus is related to the immune system.

Environmental/Internal & External

The environment that we work in, live in, walk through, and/or live near  can have an impact on the way that we feel and the way we feel about ourselves. How do we learn to trust in the order of the universe? By behaviors that come from trusting the order inside ourselves. We do this by setting boundaries — codes of conduct of how we are going to behave, eat, work exercise and live. If we don't violate our own boundaries, we are less likely to let anybody else violate our boundaries. We have to start with ourselves. Our experience of victimization can begin with our own self-victimizing behavior.

Spiritual/World View

A Hindu Vendata truth is that "the whole world is one family." It is said that there is only one disease, the disease of separateness, separating oneself from the awareness that we are one living organism. Competition creates isolation. The spiritual challenge presented by hypoglycemia and diabetes appears to be involved with over- or under-valuing the self: judgment of self and then others. Where are we in the process of getting to the truth that we are all equally important? The drama created by a one-up or one-down dynamic that we may allow to be part of our experience can lead to psychophysiology and the behavioral issues which can contribute to and create Mature Onset Diabetes.

Expanding your knowledge of whole health can transform your experience of taking care of yourself. It can provide an understanding of our health concerns and conditions from this multi-dimensional perspective that makes sense in a way we can utilize the information directly and in a meaningful way. In addition, having the information provided in a mindful, respectful way that invites each of us to discern what we know about our health and condition, how to choose to resolve the problem and what kind of care we choose to have, allows each of us to experience whole-person health care through whole health information. Then, WE become the center of our health and healing process, rather than the doctors or practitioners we go to for guidance.

 

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How Love Affects Your Brain

 

HOW LOVE AFFECTS YOUR BRAIN

Love affects us in many ways. Much of this is felt more than it is seen, but did you know that love affects your brain in ways that can be observed? I recently read a fascinating article that discussed a study from Stony Brook University in New York. The study examined whether couples can still be very much in love after spending many married years together and whether they experience the same intense romantic feelings as newly formed couples. Continue reading to find out what research has discovered about how love affects your brain over a long period of time.

MRIs Show Brain Regions Stimulated By Love

The scientists took MRIs of long-term married couples who said they still felt very much in love with their spouses after an average of more than 21 years together. These images were compared to images from couples who had recently fallen in love. In this way, scientists were able to compare specific parts of the brain that function and respond to love.

The images were created while the subjects were shown photos of their beloved as well as photos of close friends and strangers. The brain activity was measured while the subject viewed the images. Then, using the same scanning methodology, the researchers compared the imaging results on men and women who reported falling in love in the past year.

Clear Similarities

The scans showed “many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of Stony Brook’s department of psychology. The scientists were particularly interested in the dopamine region of the brain—the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. “The VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images,” Aron says.

Applying This Knowledge To Improve Relationships

The researchers are hoping that the study might be able to provide or demonstrate the details of how some couples can stay in love over long periods of time. This study seems to show both groups have brain activity in the regions that are wired for reward, motivation and desire.

To apply this research, Aron is looking into the possibility of using the study outcomes to assist soldiers who have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to save their marriages. There is an unusually high level of divorce among deployed U.S. military. Perhaps this new information can help to improve the strength of their relationships during the stressful time of separation during deployment.

For a free chapter download on how to immediately improve your relationship communication skills, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
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Could Hormones Be The Cause Of Your Depression?

A research review by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explored hormonal dysfunction in women as a potential cause for depression. The focus of the investigators and their subsequent report was on how the female reproductive system interacts with the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the body's stress response.

HPA Disruption Consequences

This mechanism can set up a biochemical environment for psychological disorders in females. It was noted that females are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Through the HP-axis, stress in women impacts the reproductive hormones, which can upset patterns of ovulation. This upset can contribute to the loss of menses and to infertility. If the inter-relationship of stress and female reproductive hormones becomes chronic, behavior and mood disorders and depression can increase significantly.

When oxytocin is suppressed due to excessive stress hormones, fertilized eggs cannot implant into the uterus. This is believed to be a primary cause of infertility in American women, owing to our highly stressful lifestyle. Depression, eating disorders, alcoholism or other addictions may also occur with the estrogen-induced disruption of normal HPA function.

The Stress-Less Cure

The key to preventing or correcting the problem as we find in many physiological conditions is to create a more balanced, less stressful lifestyle. If the body's stress adaptation system becomes overwhelmed, and cannot appropriately adapt to the environment and demands of everyday life, many disorders and conditions can develop, depression being just one of them.

Post-Partum Problems

Regarding post-partum depression, the investigators identified that chronic hyper secretion of the stress hormone cortisol during a pregnancy creates a temporary suppression of adrenal function following delivery. This coupled with the sudden drop of hormonal levels of estrogen after birth may be a significant factor in post-partum depression or subsequent immune dysfunctions such as post-partum thyroid conditions.

Why Balance Is The Key

It is very important for women, because of our very integrated hormonal and nervous systems, to work towards a balanced, low stress life-style. Unlike our male counterparts, our hormonal system immediately lets us know when we are "off center" by delivering loud messages through hormonal dysfunction.
 

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