Build resilience with Chinese exercise

Blog Post No. 56

2nd March 2018 – Updated on 31st March 2020

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018/2020

Renata’s Coaching and counselling Blog:

Millions of Chinese people can’t be wrong! Why practising Chi Kung will keep you away from the doctor’s surgery

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Introduction

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8Keeping fit by doing lots of exercise is good for you, isn’t it?  There is lots of talk these days about the importance of keeping fit, and of avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

However, there are certain drawbacks with some types of exercise, which I want to tell you about, because you may not be aware of them.

Not all exercise is automatically good for your body. A lot  depends on the type of exercise you do.  A good deal of injury to muscles and joints is common in the most widely practised systems of exercise in the West.

In this blog I’m going to outline some of the differences between Eastern and Western types of exercise – and describe the benefits of Eastern exercise, and some of the disadvantages of Western exercise, which are not widely known.

It’s important that you know the effects of different types of exercise, so that you can make an informed choice, if you decide that you want to improve your health by exercising.

Why is this important?  Firstly, because you will want a good return on the investment of your valuable time and money. And secondly, because you will want to avoid physical damage to your body.

‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ exercise

In his book, ‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003), Reid makes a distinction between ‘Hard’ exercise and ‘Soft’ exercise, and he explains the different effects these two types of exercise have on the body.

Here’s what ‘Hard’ exercise includes:

hard-exercise-picture

And now for some ‘Soft’ exercise systems:

Soft-exercise

The effects of ‘hard ‘exercise on the body

 There are lots of benefits from active sports, but there is also a downside to them. Here are some of the effects on the body of hard systems of exercise:

Infographic-on-hard-exercise.JPG

As you can see, the effects on the body aren’t all beneficial, and if there is also a competitive element to the sport, then this can act as a source of stress throughout the body-brain-mind.

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For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The effects of ‘soft’ exercise on the body

The Eastern approach to exercise (which we’ve called a ‘soft’ approach) is that the exercise must be therapeutic for the body. So let us look at some evidence of the value of soft exercise.   And this will help us to understand why millions of Chinese have practised it continuously for thousands of years.

Here are some of the benefits:

# One of the top rewards of doing this type of exercise is that it switches your body into the ‘rest and digest’ (or healing) mode of functioning.  When you do ‘Soft’ exercise (which involves slow, rhythmic movements, combined with deep breathing), this shifts the autonomic (or automatic) nervous system into the calming, healing branch of your nervous system and keeps it there throughout the exercise.

This enhances the immune system and stimulates the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

# It also stimulates the thymus (the immune system’s master gland) and other glands, to release the full range of immune system protection factors; and at the same time it stops the release of the stress hormones which are part of the ‘Fight or flight’ response – (which  have powerful immune-system inhibiting effects).

# “Chi-gong also stimulates the increase in secretions of natural steroids”, states Daniel Reid (2003) “thereby relieving arthritis without the need to resort to the toxic synthetic steroids which most doctors prescribe for this condition.” (Page 114)

group-chi-gong

# Furthermore, apparently when we stretch our muscles, this squeezes stagnant blood from our body tissues and then the relaxation part allows fresh arterial blood to flow in. And stretching also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which we need to stimulate through body movement each day, so that wastes (e.g. toxic waste products, infectious microorganisms, etc), can be destroyed by our white blood cells, as they pass through the lymph nodes.

Because these soft exercises are always done in a relaxed, smooth and slow manner, with the smallest amount of effort, this means that no lactic acid is produced in the body tissues, which is a side effect of ‘hard’ exercise.

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For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The benefits to the body (continued)…

Benefits-of-soft-exercise-chart.JPG

# Doing these soft exercises slowly ensures that the heart doesn’t race, and the breath isn’t reduced.

# Apparently twenty minutes of Chi Kung practice slows down the pulse by an average of 15%, while increasing the overall amount of blood circulating in the body, and this effect lasts for several hours afterwards.

This increase in the flow of blood around the body results from the way soft exercise alters the workload of circulation from the heart, over to the diaphragm.

And one of the implications is this: High blood pressure, which is a life-threatening condition all over the world, can be controlled without effort by doing daily Chi Kung practice, without the need for drugs.

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For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Research findings on how Chi Kung reduces blood pressure

At the Shanghai Research Institute for Hypertension, one hundred people who were suffering from chronic high blood pressure and hypertension, took part in a research project to test whether Chi Kung exercise could help them.

What the researchers found was that after only five minutes of Chi Kung practice, blood pressure levels in all of the participants began to drop dramatically. And after twenty minutes their blood pressure reached the level it normally would have reached after three hours as a result of taking the kinds of blood-pressure drugs normally prescribed by Western medical practitioners.

Ninety-seven of the participants stayed free of high blood pressure and didn’t have to use the drugs any more, just by continuing to practice Chi Kung at home every day.

And the three patients who decided not to continue their Chi Kung practice quickly relapsed and had to go back on drug therapy.

Older-people-chi-gong-practitioners

The benefits of Chi Kung for the brain

# Electroencephalographic (EEG) scans of elderly people in China – who practice Chi Kung daily – show signs of rejuvenation.  That is to say, a pattern and frequency of brain waves has been found that are usually found in the brains of young children.  This is interpreted as showing that those who regularly practise this type of exercise can bring back the mental skills and abilities they had when they were young.

# Also, Chi Kung infuses the brain with energy, and activates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and enkephalins. The effect of this is that brain functions are balanced.  Mental alertness is increased, and pain reduced.  And communication is enhanced between the brain and the peripheral nervous system.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Chi Kung benefits for the digestion process

# Indigestion, and acid reflux, are very common for people who are following a Western diet.  According to studies in China, the practice of Chi Kung affects the stomach in a beneficial way.  For example, fifteen minutes of practise of Chi Kung produces a big increase in the enzymes which are released by the stomach to digest food: pepsin, and other digestive enzymes; plus lysozyme, which is secreted by the salivary glands. Apparently this system of exercise balances the pH level in the stomach (the level of acid and alkalinity) and this helps prevent acid indigestion.

Conclusion

We are socialized in the UK, Europe and America to see sports as a necessarily competitive process, either between different teams (for example the recent Winter Olympics) or competing against one’s own previous performance at a particular sport. But competition causes stress, as nobody wants to lose the race, or to let their team down!  And even after your team has won, there is always the anxiety about next time!  Next time we might lose!  And then who would we be?!

And inevitably there are vast audiences for these competitive sports.  And this has become a major form of involvement in sport: A passive, consumerist approach.

But what about the health of the people who are watching these events? Clearly, their health doesn’t get better by watching other people exercising. In fact, we now know that sedentary lifestyle is killing people! (Spectator sport does however make large fortunes for sports-related businesses and TV companies.)

The Eastern approach is very different: The benefits to the body of Chi Kung, (which is one of several Eastern forms of exercise), are many and varied. It’s like a type of medical therapy as well as an exercise system.

I was very fortunate in the 1980s to stumble across Chi Kung, when I joined Penny Ramsden’s Chi Kung class in Hebden Bridge. I found it so helpful, and health-giving, that I am still doing the exercises almost every morning, for over thirty years later!

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Illustrating Chi Kung in action

Further down this page, you will see a video clip which illustrates the calming and relaxing movements of Chi Kung exercise, which gently gives the body a full workout – and practitioners feel great afterwards!

The exercise costs nothing, after you’ve learned how to do it.  It’s safe and effective and you can practice it anywhere at any time (indoors if the weather is bad. But exercising outside is better, because of all the fresh oxygen [chi] you get into your lungs and bloodstream).

You don’t need special equipment and, if you do it in the morning, it sets you up for the day to deal with the many hassles of life which you will inevitably face.

Here is a video clip of a group practising Chi Kung techniques:

My tutor (Penny Ramsden) told our group that, before she tried Chi Kung, she had been bed-ridden for a significant amount of time with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Now she was fully recovered, after being taught by Michael Tse (pronounced Shay!), who teaches Chi Kung all over the world.

There are many classes where you can learn the movements, which you can then use for your physical and mental benefit for the rest of your life!

This form of exercise is great for developing resilience and managing the stresses of daily life, and if you practice it every day, it will slowly transform and strengthen you and enrich your life.

For many years I have recommended these exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

I hope you investigate this system of exercise, and experiment with it. It’s incredible value for money. And it builds up your most precious asset: your physical and mental health.

It feels good right away, once you start to do it!  And when you set out to face your day, you can feel the energy flowing through your body!  You will also feel resilient in the face of the inevitable hassles of your day!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

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Reference

‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003). London, Simon and Shuster UK Ltd.

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Hype about antidepressants

Blog Post No. 163

By Dr Jim Byrne

27th February 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

Regarding some announcements about depression and medication

Some research results that should be known by all counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as their clients

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

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Context

Moncrieff on antidepressants.JPGWe wanted to post a blog about the new hype about antidepressants, which has been generated by a new report, which will be mentioned below; and which has been wildly hyped in the British newspapers over the past few days.

Then the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, produced an article which we liked, and we posted a link to that article, on Facebook, as follows:

“Antidepressants are a family of drugs that are bad and dangerous to know – and now researchers have named Effexor (venlafaxine) as the baddest of the bad. Patients are much more likely to attempt suicide while taking Effexor than any of the other antidepressants, a new study has found.

“The news comes as no surprise to those who’ve already been exposed to the drug. It’s considered to be one of the most powerful antidepressants, and one of the hardest to tolerate. In fact, around 19 per cent of patients stop taking the drug early because they can’t stand the side effects, which include anxiety, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, high blood pressure and thyroid depression. One patient even reported a sudden change of hair colour.

“They are the lucky ones. Once over the initial hurdles of life-destroying side effects, withdrawal symptoms are so severe that it’s almost impossible to stop taking the drug.

Antidepressants are a family of drugs that are bad and dangerous to know – and now researchers have named Effexor (venlafaxine) as the baddest of the bad…
WDDTY.COM

~~~

Some time later, there was a response.

A statement in defence of antidepressants!

A contact on a major social media platform posted this piece:

Unnamed Person: “…”  (The statement made by Unnamed Person has been removed, at their request, and is now replaced by a simple statement of the objections they made to my post above.) This was the substance of their objection:

1. It is ridiculous to post my post, because it is based on just ONE study!.

2. It seemed to Unnamed Person that there is a rigorous 6-year study of antidepressants and talking therapy which I should have posted alongside my post, for the sake of balance. And for the sake of acting responsibly.

I (Jim Byrne) responded like this:

Jim Byrne Hi Unnamed Person,
DrJimCounselling002Thanks for your message. So I looked up the study to which you refer, and this is what I found:

“The international study – an analysis pooling results of 522 trials covering 21 commonly-used antidepressants and almost 120,000 patients – found that all such drugs were more effective than placebos.” (Source, SBS News, Australia: https://www.sbs.com.au/…/antidepressants-really-do-work…).

What could possibly be wrong with the design of that study?

Well, look! They “…pooled the results of 522 studies…”.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, *how many* studies were *conducted* by drug companies, where they *refused* to release the results? It could be that they hide the almost half of studies which show *no benefit*, and publish the just over 50% that show *modest benefits*. (And they try very hard to *hide* the very widespread and *very serious* negative side effects of all of these ‘medicines’. (See this report in The Sydney Morning Herald – an equally well known Australian news outlet: https://www.smh.com.au/…/2008/03/02/1204402265828.html)

Here are some extracts from that Sydney Morning Herald source:

“The key issue is simple. In any situation, to make any kind of sensible decision about which treatment is best, a doctor must be able to take into account all of the available information. But drug companies have repeatedly been shown to bury unflattering data.”

“Sometimes they bury data that shows drugs to be actively harmful. This happened in the case of Vioxx and heart attacks, and SSRIs and suicidal thoughts. Such stories feel, intuitively, like cover-ups. But there are also more subtle issues at stake in the burying of results showing minimal efficacy, and these have only been revealed through the investigations of medical academics.”

“In January a paper in the New England Journal Of Medicine dug out a list of all trials on SSRIs that had ever been registered with the US Food and Drug Administration and then went to look for those same trials in the academic literature. There were 37 studies which were assessed by the regulator as positive and, with a single exception, every one of those positive trials was written up, proudly, and published in full.”

“But there were also 33 studies which had negative or iffy results and, of those, 22 were simply not published at all – they were buried – while 11 were written up and published in a way that portrayed them as having a positive outcome.”

I (Jim) then commented:

So, Unnamed Person, let me sum up. You cannot evaluate the effectiveness of drugs when the companies producing those drugs are allowed to selectively publish the results they want you to hear; and to hide the results they do not want you to hear.

And if some idiot, or charlatan, does a meta-analysis of the studies published by the drug companies, and their patsies, and says this proves those drugs are safe and effective, I have just one thing to say to them: This is not science! This is not good academic work! This is propaganda for the drug companies!

So, Unnamed Person. Who is being ridiculous? Think again about the flag you were flying under: “There is a *rigorous* 6-year study of antidepressants”. That flag is a pirate rag! There is no possibility of rigorous studies of all of the data on antidepressants so long as drug companies are allowed to hide bad data, and to publish what they choose to show us! 

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Unnamed Person‘s response

Later, Unnamed Person, got back to me:

Unnamed Person: OK – if you batter me about what has been omitted, what ignored, what privileged by Pharma, money generally, academic status, medical ranking… then who am i to make such a foolish, academically unfounded post? Goodness, i will not use the word rigorous again. I similarly hope that your posted promulgations are way beyond the deeply adulterated processes they used. Mea culpa – and i look forward to hearing more about external academic critiquing of your claims to efficacy as well.
Jim Byrne Hi Unnamed Person, I did not mean to batter your about. You came out batting for Big Pharma – without realizing that that was what you were doing. You thought you were citing irrefutable evidence of a high quality against my paltry single study. The point about my single study is that it adds a little to the body of knowledge we are building up about the effects of food on mood. People who eat junk foods, or a diet high in carbohydrate are likely to get inadequate amounts of the amino acid studied – argenine. As such, they may be vulnerable to major depression. They should be informed of that risk, and not told that they can eat any kind of diet they like – including high carbs, high sugar, and junk – and then Big Pharma will fix them up with ‘Medicine’. But most of the antidepressants being prescribed for depression should not be in use at all, because the *proportion* of patients who take them, who will develop serious side effects – like sexual dysfunction or suicidal ideation – is well above the 10% safety line – often as high as 40%, or 50% or more than 60%. It is *unethical* for physicians to cause so much predictable *harm*! But they continue to do it, and studies of the kind you cited earlier do help to keep their consciences quiet! PS: I did not mean to beat you up. But if you call my attempts to educate the public – about self-care – ‘ridiculous’, I guess I will normally come out fighting! 🙂
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Some thoughts from Mad in America
PS: Since Unnamed Person was interested in how well or how badly my position on antidepressants might be supported by scientific studies and expert support, I was pleased to see that Dr Joanna Moncrieff has published a piece on the latest hype in the Mad in America online blog – here: https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/challenging-new-hype-antidepressants/

Here is an extract from the opening of Dr Moncrieff’s piece:

Challenging the New Hype About Antidepressants

By

Joanna Moncrieff, MD

February 24, 2018

Joanna Moncrieff, MDThe extraordinary media hype over the latest meta-analysis of antidepressants puts the discussion of these drugs back years. Despite the fact that 9% of the UK population are taking antidepressants,1 and rates of prescribing have doubled over the last decade,2 the authors of the analysis are calling for yet more prescribing. John Geddes suggested in The Sun newspaper that only 1 in 6 people are receiving adequate treatment for depression in high income countries. In The Guardian he estimates that 1 million more people require treatment with antidepressants in the UK, but by my maths, if 9% are already taking them and they only represent 1 in 6 of those who need them, then 54% of the population should be taking them. I make that another 27 million people!

The coverage was almost universally uncritical, and said little about the terrible adverse effects that some people can suffer while taking antidepressants, or while trying to get off them. The Guardian even claimed that the new “groundbreaking” study will “put to rest doubts” about antidepressants.

But there is nothing ground-breaking about this latest meta-analysis. It simply repeats the errors of previous analyses. Although I have written about these many times before, I will quickly summarise relevant points.

The analysis consists of comparing ‘response’ rates between people on antidepressants and those on placebo. But ‘response’ is an artificial category that has been arbitrarily constructed out of the data actually collected, which consists of scores on depression rating scales, like the commonly used Hamilton rating Scale for Depression (HRSD). Analysing categories inflates differences.3 When the actual scores are compared, differences are trivial, amounting to around 2 points on the HRSD which has a maximum score of 54. These differences are unlikely to be clinically relevant, as I have explained before. Research comparing HRSD scores with scores on a global rating of improvement suggest that such a difference would not even be noticed, and you would need a difference of at least 8 points to register ‘mild improvement’.

Moreover, even these small differences are easily accounted for by the fact that antidepressants produce more or less subtle mental and physical alterations (e.g. nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness and emotional blunting) irrespective of whether or not they treat depression. These alterations enable participants to guess whether they have been allocated to antidepressant or placebo better than would be expected by chance.4 Participants receiving the active drugs may therefore experience amplified placebo effects by virtue of knowing they are taking an active drug rather than an inactive placebo. This may explain why antidepressants that cause the most noticeable alterations, such as amitriptyline, appeared to be the most effective in the recent analysis.

Antidepressant trials often include people who are already on antidepressants. Such people may experience withdrawal symptoms if they are randomised to placebo, which, given that almost no antidepressant trial pays the slightest attention to the problems of dependence on antidepressants, are highly likely to be classified as relapse.

The analysis only looks at data for eight weeks of treatment, whereas in real life people often take antidepressants for months or even years. Few randomised, placebo-controlled trials have investigated long-term effects, but ‘real world’ studies of people treated with antidepressants show that the proportion of people who stick to recommended treatment, recover and don’t relapse within a year is staggeringly low (108 out of the 3110 people who enrolled in the STAR-D study and satisfied inclusion criteria).5 Moreover, several studies have found that the outcomes of people treated with antidepressants are worse than the outcomes of people with depression who are not treated with antidepressants,67 even in one case after controlling for the severity of the depression (as far as possible).8 The huge increase in prescribing of antidepressants over the last three decades has been accompanied by a substantial rise in the numbers of people who are in receipt of long-term disability benefits due to depression and related disorders in the UK, and this is at a time when benefits for other disorders, like back pain, have been reducing.9

Calling for antidepressants to be more widely prescribed will do nothing to address the problem of depression and will only increase the harms these drugs produce. …

…For more, please click the link that follows: https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/challenging-new-hype-antidepressants/

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  1. Lewer D, O’Reilly C, Mojtabai R, Evans-Lacko S. Antidepressant use in 27 European countries: associations with sociodemographic, cultural and economic factors. Br J Psychiatry 2015 Sep;207(3):221-6.
  2. NHS Digital. Antidepressants were the area with largest increase in prescription items in 2016. Cited 2018 Feb 23; Available from: URL: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/article/7756/Antidepressants-were-the-area-with-largest-increase-in-prescription-items-in-2016
  3. Kirsch I, Moncrieff J. Clinical trials and the response rate illusion. Contemp Clin Trials2007;28:348-51.
  4. Fisher S, Greenberg RP. How sound is the double-blind design for evaluating psychotropic drugs? J Nerv Ment Dis1993 Jun;181(6):345-50.
  5. Pigott HE, Leventhal AM, Alter GS, Boren JJ. Efficacy and effectiveness of antidepressants: current status of research. Psychother Psychosom 2010;79(5):267-79.
  6. Ronalds C, Creed F, Stone K, Webb S, Tomenson B. Outcome of anxiety and depressive disorders in primary care. Br J Psychiatry1997 Nov;171:427-33.
  7. Dewa CS, Hoch JS, Lin E, Paterson M, Goering P. Pattern of antidepressant use and duration of depression-related absence from work. Br J Psychiatry2003 Dec;183:507-13.
  8. Brugha TS, Bebbington PE, MacCarthy B, Sturt E, Wykes T. Antidepressants may not assist recovery in practice: a naturalistic prospective survey. Acta Psychiatr Scand1992 Jul;86(1):5-11.
  9. Viola S, Moncrieff J. Claims for sickness and disability benefits owing to mental disorders in the UK: trends from 1995 to 2014. BJPsych Open 2016;2:18-24.
  10. Farnsworth KD, Dinsmore WW. Persistent sexual dysfunction in genitourinary medicine clinic attendees induced by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Int J STD AIDS2009 Jan;20(1):68-9.
  11. Sharma T, Guski LS, Freund N, Gotzsche PC. Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports. BMJ2016 Jan 27;352:i65.
  12. Fava GA, Gatti A, Belaise C, Guidi J, Offidani E. Withdrawal Symptoms after Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Discontinuation: A Systematic Review. Psychother Psychosom2015 Feb 21;84(2):72-81.
  13. Reefhuis J, Devine O, Friedman JM, Louik C, Honein MA. Specific SSRIs and birth defects: Bayesian analysis to interpret new data in the context of previous reports. BMJ2015;351:h3190.

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Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imagePostscript

In November 2017, we (Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne) published a book on How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical exercise.  There is a lot of evidence, and a growing evidence base, that the major mood disorders (which Big Pharma wants to treat with hard drugs with nasty side effects) can better be managed by healthy diet and regular physical exercise (and a good night’s sleep!)

Here is a brief extract from one of the main sections that deal with diet and depression:

(ii) Treating depression

There are many different views about how to treat depression, and here is a summary of some of the most recent explanations of what is happening to us when we are depressed.

Firstly, the views of Dr Kelly Brogan will be summarised, as she has a unique explanation, which she has described in her recent book, titled ‘A Mind of Your Own’ (2016)[i]. She is a practising psychiatrist in America, with training as a medical doctor, and a degree in cognitive neuroscience, including clinical training from the NYU School of Medicine. She uses holistic methods of treating her patients and describes her work as ‘lifestyle medicine’.  In this approach, she uses the techniques of meditation, nutrition and physical activity as crucial daily habits with which to treat her depressed patients (and this approach overlaps, but is not co-extensive with, the E-CENT approach [Byrne, 2016]).

Dr Brogan’s view is that depression is a symptom or sign:  “…that something is off-balance or ill in the body that needs to be remedied”.

She considers that mental illness symptoms aren’t entirely psychological or solely neurochemical. And she points out in her book that there is no single study which has produced evidence that depression is caused by a lack of chemical equilibrium in the brain.

She considers depression to be a grossly misidentified state and in particular for women who, in the US, are being medicated at the rate of one in seven. Also, one in four women in their 40’s and fifties use psychiatric drugs.

She states: “We owe most of our mental illnesses – including their kissing cousins such as chronic worry, fogginess and crankiness – to lifestyle factors and undiagnosed physiological conditions that develop in places far away from the brain, such as the gut and the thyroid”, and she goes on to state that:

“You might owe your gloominess and unremitting unease to an imbalance that is only indirectly related to your brain’s internal chemistry. Indeed, what you eat for breakfast … and how you deal with that high cholesterol and afternoon headache (think Lipitor[ii] and Advil[iii]) could have everything to do with the causes and symptoms of depression.”

Her opinion of the foolishness of applying chemical solutions to people’s problems is very clear. In her view: “… if you think a chemical pill can save, cure or ‘correct’ you, you’re dead wrong. That is about as misguided as taking aspirin for a nail stuck in your foot.”

Her approach is to get a medical and personal history of her clients, their manner of birth (natural or section), whether breast fed or not; and she orders lab tests to ascertain the whole picture of their biological make-up.

She focusses on the information from their cellular analysis and the workings of the immune system, and points out to the reader of her book that, over the last twenty years, medical research has identified the significant part that inflammation plays in the creation of mental illness.

She also focuses on the client’s lifestyle, dietary habits e.g. sugar consumption, the condition of their guts, and microbe balance (in their guts), hormone levels – e.g. thyroid and cortisol – and genetic variations in their DNA, which could affect their susceptibility to depression. And finally, their beliefs about their own health can also play a role, she says.

So Dr Kelly Brogan shares the same conviction as Dr Perlmutter (2015): that the state of our guts is a very important determinant of our emotional well-being.

Dr Perlmutter (2015) states: “Depression can no longer be viewed as a disorder rooted solely in the brain. Some of the studies have been downright eye-opening. For example when scientists give people with no signs of depression an infusion of a substance to trigger inflammation (in the body), classic depression symptoms develop almost instantly”. (Page 76)

Perlmutter is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He is also president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida. Dr Perlmutter considers that our mental health and physical wellness are totally affected by the internal systems of bacteria that operate in the gut.

But what exactly is going on in our guts? Apparently, we’ve all got millions of microbes in our body and most of them live in our digestive tract (10,000 species!). And each of the microbes have their own DNA, and that means that for every human gene in our body, there are at least 360 microbial genes. These organisms include fungi, bacteria and viruses.  In a healthy gut, most of these microorganisms are ‘friendly’, with a few ‘bad’ bacteria which are controlled by the ‘good’ stuff.

These tiny microbes: (1) strongly influence our immune system; (2) affect absorption of nutrients; (3) signal to us whether our stomach is empty or full; (4) and determine our level of inflammation and/or detoxification (which are directly related to disease and health).   They also affect our moods.

Apparently our guts contain 70-80% of our immune system, and so our gut bacteria participate in maintaining our immunity.

They can also keep cortisol and adrenaline in check. These are the two major hormones of the stress response, which can cause havoc in the body when they are continually triggered and flowing.

And our gut microbes influence whether we get any or all of the following conditions: Allergies, ADHD, asthma, dementia, cancer and diabetes, a good night’s sleep; or whether we quickly fall prey to disease-causing germs. And there is increasing evidence of a link to anxiety and depression.

Dr Perlmutter makes recommendations for changes in people’s diet which he says will:

(1) treat and prevent brain disorders;

(2) alleviate moodiness, anxiety and depression;

(3) bolster the immune system and reduce autoimmunity problems; and

(4) improve metabolic disorders, including diabetes and obesity, which are all linked to overall brain and body health.

He makes recommendations which are very practical, including…

…end of extract…

~~~ 

Endnotes

[i] Brogan, K. (2016) A mind of your own: The truth about depression and how women can heal their bodies to reclaim their lives. London: Thorsons.

[ii] Lipitor is a drug commonly prescribed for reducing high cholesterol.

[iii] Advil (ibuprofen) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body.

For more about this book, please go to: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical exercise.

~~~

Lifestyle coaching on diet and exercise

Blog Post No. 161

By Dr Jim Byrne

2nd February 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Walking the talk of the holistic self-care movement…

Managing my mind by the use of exercise, diet, meditation and self-talk…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

~~~

Introduction

natajim-coaching-counselling2My wife, Renata Taylor-Byrne, sometimes reminds me of the important principle of ‘extreme self-care’.

I didn’t learn any such principle in my family of origin, where the main message was to ‘behave yourself’; and to uncritically go along with the dominant trend of social pressure!

Over the years, I have woken up to the problem of (physical and emotional) stress, and how unmanaged stress leads to all kinds of mental, emotional and physical health problems. Also, because I developed a problem with Candida Albicans overgrowth – a gut dysbiosis problem – decades ago, I had to become clear about the importance of managing my diet – especially the elimination of sugary foods and alcohol.

This morning

Michael-Tse-demonstrating-Chi-KungAt a certain point this morning, I found myself exercising, and wondering if this information would be helpful in motivating some of our website readers (meaning you!) to shift to following the principle of ‘extreme self-care’. So here I am, following up on that thought, as a contribution to your health and happiness.

I got up this morning, at the same time as Renata, and got some salad ingredients out of the fridge, and put them on one side to warm up to room temperature.  (While that was happening, I checked my emails and website traffic, and so on).

When the salad ingredients had warmed up enough, I chopped them up and put them into two bowls.  They consisted of:

Salad bowl 74 leaves of Romaine lettuce (chopped very small)

2 radishes

a quarter of a yellow pepper (diced)

a quarter of a red pepper (diced)

four inches of cucumber (halved and sliced)

a quarter of a red onion (diced)

8 green olives

2 black olives

2 ozs of petit poise

6 fine beans (chopped small)

2 tsps of Maca powder

2 desert spoons of flaxseed

2 desert spoons of mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds

8 whole almonds

2 ozs of pickled beetroot

~~~

This meal was so much more exciting and enjoyable than a bowl of cereal, or a full ‘English’ (fried) breakfast; or waffles with maple syrup!  Truly enjoyable! However, it would not be a good idea to eat the same breakfast every day.  Varity is important for gut bacteria and the available range of nutrients!

~~~

On my own bowl, I also added some fermented cucumber (instead of kimchi, which I had yesterday), and some Miso (the brown rice variety).

I then ate this as my breakfast, with a mug of green tea.

(In case I am beginning to sound like Saint Selfless, I had a cafetiere of exotic coffee while I was processing my emails!)

~~~

Meditation and physical exercise

Sitting-meditationWhen we had finished breakfast, I read some brief quotes – about living in the moment, in the main – to set the mood for our Zen meditation, which we did for 30 minutes.  And then Renata led our Chi Kung (Chinese exercise) session, which lasted about 20 minutes.  Then we did a couple of minutes of the Plank (from Pilates) – for core strength – and then I did three sets of press-ups (30 presses in each set), and three sets of sit-backs (for 30 seconds in each set), for arm and stomach strength, and for hips and lower back.

~~~

The sun was shining in the front and back of the room in which we meditated and exercised, and we had Mozart playing in the background for the exercise session.  Divine!

~~~

At the end of this time, I was as relaxed, happy and de-stressed as a person could be, and all set for another session on the computer, working on promoting our book on diet and exercise.

Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imageThe book is called: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression using nutrition and physical exercise; and it is available at amazon, at the following links:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.com*** (North America)

Or:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.co.uk*** (UK and Ireland)

If you want to order the book from another Amazon outlet, then please go to the webpage listed below, and order it from one of the other links (in Europe, Australia, Canada, etc.), which are listed there.

Renata has just completed a little 2-minute video introduction to this book, here:

Please take a look and see what you think.

DrJimCounselling002If you would like some more information about the book (or to order it from a non-UK/US outlet), you can find a good introduction on our webpages. Just click the following link: Diet, Exercise and Mental Health.***

~~~

That’s all for now.

I wish you a happy and healthy life, and the wisdom to engage in extreme self-care! J

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

 

 

Sleep, meditation and relaxation strategies for greater quality of life

Blog Post No. 54

13th November 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017


Renata’s Coaching Blog: Developing resilience when you’re working on the front line in your job:

Coping with stress, anger, anxiety and depression…

Sleep, diet and exercise are critical…

~~~

Introduction

Front cover, 8Dealing with people is very enjoyable, and very demanding at the same time, isn’t it? Especially when you are dealing with people who are suffering from all the trials and tribulations that life has thrown at them.

How do you stay strong? You need all your energy to communicate with them and not become drained. And three of the most challenging conditions to deal with are the problems of anxiety, anger and depression, whether it’s experienced by yourself or other people.

My work is about helping others to grow in strength, creativity and happiness.  I do that in several ways: face to face coaching; and writing blogs; and (more recently) writing books.

What I have done most recently is to co-author a book with my husband, Dr Jim Byrne, which shows how our emotions of anxiety, anger and depression are very strongly affected by the food we eat, and the physical exercise we take, or fail to take!

We’ve put in some significant and surprising research findings which are therapeutic, because they show how we can better manage our energies and emotions so that we are stronger in ourselves. But also these findings can be used to help others.

I’m just about to begin the final proof-reading of that book, and then it will be available to you, via Amazon.

~~~

Moving on to sleep, relaxation and mediation

Sleep-book-coverBut as I mentioned in my last blog, I have now been reading Matthew Walker’s book called “Why we sleep”, which was published in September of this year. And I have been so shocked and stunned – by the many research findings that he quotes about why sleep is so important – that I have decided to write about his key findings, and to summarise them for everyone. I have also identified several other books which must be taken into account, and I have begun to do that research work and note taking.

I also intend to include research findings about the power of meditation and relaxation techniques in the book, because those three strategies are closely related; and support each other.

The benefits

Sleep, meditation and relaxation techniques can transform our experience of anger, anxiety and depression. This book will describe the ways that our resilience can be greatly enhanced by adequate sleep, daily meditation, and sound approaches to relaxation.

I’ll let you know when both books become available.

The Sleep/Meditation/Relaxation book will not be finished until I have found several ways to help you to put some new strategies into your life, to strengthen you, and to enhance the quality of your life.

Here is part of Walker’s message:

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”. (Walker 2017).

In the meantime, I strongly recommend Walker’s book, because, as he states, the importance of our sleep hasn’t been properly communicated to us by scientists. And when you look at the bare facts of the negative impact of the lack of sleep on us, it can be a real shock!

Conclusion

So if you want to live your life on a full tank of gas, then improving the quality of your sleep will make a big difference. If you have teenagers, the section of his book where he explains the needs of teenagers for more sleep than adults, is excellent and very helpful.

Sleeping -baby

See what you think of his book (and I swear I haven’t got any shares in his publishing company!)

So now, I must get back to proofreading our Diet and Exercise book; and then back to the sleep research!

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachIf you need any help or support, you know where I am!

Happy snoozing,

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

 

 

 

Health, happiness and self-disciplined goals

Blog Post No. 157

23rd October 2017

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2017

Dr Jim’s Blog: Health and happiness are the most important goals in (a moral) life

~~~

Introduction

It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog, because I’ve been extremely busy.  I am still very busy, finishing off the writing of a new book, but I thought it was about time I shared some ideas with the world.  The main theme of this blog is health and self-healing, using food and physical exercise.

~~~

Writing about diet and exercise for mood control

Front cover, 8For the past few weeks, Renata and I have been writing our book which is titled, How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  We have finished writing the five sections, and I am working on constructing a comprehensive index for the back of the book, to make it optimally user-friendly, as a resource.

Several days ago I constructed the index section on diet and nutrition, and type of diets.  And, by finishing time last Friday, 20th, I had just completed a section on Essential fatty acids (EFAs). And today, Monday 23rd, I will begin to work on the index entries for the section on physical exercise.

~~~

Self-healing

Last Thursday, I turned my body, suddenly, while leaving my feet relatively stationary, and pulled a muscle in my back.  Did I run to the doctor?  No!  Did I get some ‘painkillers’ from the chemist?  No!

Why did I not go to the doctor?  Because the doctor would have simply recommended “painkillers”!

Why did I not buy my own painkillers from the chemist?  Because most of the painkillers used today are what are called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). And the problem with NSAIDs is that they cause ‘leaky gut syndrome’, which not only allows whole molecules of food to enter the bloodstream, and trigger various forms of inflammation in the body (paradox of paradoxes!), but they also compromise the blood/brain barrier, which can precipitate mood disturbances!

So, what did I do with my terrible back pain?  I got out my copy of ‘Body in Action’, by Sarah Key, and did five of her exercises for improving the functioning of the muscles and joints in the lower back.  (I’ve done this several times in the past, and I know it always works).

I did the exercises on Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday the back pain had gone – completely!

~~~

Sharpening the saw

Rest and recuperation are very important parts of my self-management of health program.  So, on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, I had a siesta (of three hours each time).  I had been feeling tired because of overworking on the index of our new book on how to control anger, anxiety and depression, using diet and exercise systems.

CreasespaceCover8, diet-nutrition.jpg

I also had a restful evening with Renata, and I was in bed by 9.45pm.

By 5.45am today (Monday 23rd Oct) I was fully rested, and so I got up and made my breakfast.  A solid bowl of chunky salad.

~~~

Food for health and mood control

Book-cover-frontI chopped up the following ingredients into small chunks, of perhaps 3 or 4 mm at the widest point:

3 oz of red cabbage; 6 oz of cucumber; 1 spring onion; 1 organic carrot; half an organic apple; and put them into a soup bowl.

(See the Appendix on Diet and Nutrition, in our book: Holistic Counselling in Practice.***)

Then, I added a teaspoon of Maca powder; a dessertspoon of ground flaxseed; two dessertspoon’s of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, ???), ten almonds, three walnuts, four hazelnuts; ten blueberries; 2 ozs of cooked beetroot (diced); two small tomatoes (halved); and half a kiwi fruit (diced).

I then added some brown rice miso, and some sauerkraut.

After consuming that breakfast, I meditated for 30 minutes.

~~~

Physical exercise for health and strength and mood control

Standing pose 2Let me now describe the exercises that I went on to do, after meditating:

Twenty minutes of Chi Kung exercises.

Followed by a couple of minutes of ‘The plank’ exercise, which is like ‘stationary press-ups’: https://youtu.be/kiA9j-dR0oM

Then I did my own press-ups and sit backs, for about 5 or 6 minutes.

I then moved on to do fifteen minutes of my old Judo Club calisthenics (or whole body warm up exercise), which combine strength training, stretching of muscles, and aerobic exercise, all in one.

Then ten minutes of Zhan Zhuang (pronounced Jam Jong, and meaning ‘Standing like a tree’).  These are body poses which work on our postural muscles, affecting strength and speed and balance. They create a calm and happy mental state.  And they also relax the body and establish whole-body connection.

powerspinFinally I did some strength training using the Powerspin rotator, to build arm, shoulder and upper body strength.

~~~

Reflections

This is clearly a time-consuming start to the day, compared with a bowl of cornflakes, a cup of coffee, and a brisk scratching of the head!

So why do I do it?

Because, I value my health above all things.  Without my physical health, I am unlikely to be happy.  And I am unlikely to be emotionally stable.

The people who do the least exercise, and who eat the worst diets, have the worst physical and mental health outcomes. (I have not seen a general medical practitioner for more than twenty-five years! And I am not about to start now!)

Most people leave their health (physical and mental) to chance, and to the vague belief that there are people who can “fix them up” when they fall apart.  Sadly this myth is totally misleading.  Once you’ve ruined your health – from sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, and inadequate diet (such as one based on junk food, or an unbalanced diet, or too much alcohol [over the government limit], caffeine, sugary foods, gluten, and other toxic substances) – it is then ruined!  And a ruined body-brain is a burden to haul through life!

It takes self-discipline to get on a good diet, and to begin to do regular physical exercise, and to go to bed and have eight hours sleep, without mobile phones or laptops or tablets, and so on.  But the alternative to developing that self-discipline is a life ruined through serious illness, emotional distress, and early death.

Some people will argue with me, and insist that there are some things called “medicines” (and “surgeries”) which can be used to resuscitate their body-brain-mind once they have allowed it to fall into ill-health. The editors of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, strongly disagree with that fantasy!  See the article titled ‘Don’t trust me (I’m Big Pharma).***

~~~

POSTSCRIPT: Of course, it takes time to build up expertise in ‘extreme self-care’; and it’s a good idea to do that one step at a time.  Gradually, over a period of time, this will build up into significant changes, and huge improvements in health and happiness.  And you don’t ever have to adopt the kind of ‘monkish’ approach that suits me.  Some simple changes in what you eat, and how you exercise your body (brisk walking for 30 minutes per day is enough!), will make a huge difference over time.  You can find out more about how to begin these small, easy steps in our book: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.

honetpieIf you want me to help you to figure out how to live a happier, healthier, more emotionally buoyant life, then please contact me:

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

Telephone: 01422 843 629 (inside the UK)

or 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)

~~~

I hope you have a very happy and healthy life!

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

Sleep, learning, health and happiness

Blog Post No. 53

14th October 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017


Renata’s Coaching Blog:

Do you want to feel better tomorrow morning, at no cost? The amazing power of sleep can transform your life

Introduction

This blog is a rave review of a book review I read, two weeks ago, in the Sunday Times Culture Magazine (October 1st 2017). It was written by James McConnachie.

He was reviewing ‘Why we sleep’- a book written by Matthew Walker, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Berkeley, California.  The book was published in September of this year.

Sleeping -baby

Vital facts about sleep

McConnachie has done a very clear and fluent analysis of this book, ‘Why we sleep’, and has picked out some fascinating facts about why sleep is so important, and how we could all benefit from being more aware of its importance. In this blog post, I will present some of these gems so you can have the latest findings on sleep and how it makes you feel better.  Of course, to gain the benefits, you would have to take on board the implications of the research findings. They really clarify, on the basis of sound research, the importance of sleep for our well-being.

Sleeping-man

A vital fact: We need a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night!

If you think you can get by on less than 8 hours sleep a night, then you are most likely wrong.  According to Matthew Walker:

“You have forgotten what it is like to function properly”.

Sleep-book-coverWalker estimates that 2 out of 5 people in the UK are not having the sleep that they need, and he points out the consequences of not having enough sleep, which you may not be aware of. I will now present some of those consequences.

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

Short sleepers eat an average of 300 calories extra per day, adding up to 10lb to 15lb of weight gain over a year! This is because people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more. (Their bodies produce more ghrelin, which is a hormone that makes you feel hungry. They also produce less leptin, which is the hormone that makes you feel full up). You also become vulnerable to some of those medical conditions which sleep protects us from.  What are those conditions?

Appetite

Sleep protects us from:

According to Walker’s research, sleep protects us from:

# Influenza

# Infections

# Dementia

# Heart disease; and:

# Mental ill health. (Walker states that: “There is no major psychiatric condition in which sleep is [found to be] normal”.)

Adequate sleep also protects us from car crashes. (Drowsiness, resulting from sleep deprivation or insufficiency causes more road accidents than drugs and alcohol combined).

Walker also states that adults of 45 and over, who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night, are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke!

So what are the benefits of adequate sleep, apart from removing the risks listed above?

What having enough sleep gives you

The research results show that, adequate sleep will help you in the following ways:

# You will have more energy (and be more productive);

# You control your weight better;

# It makes you more creative;

# It makes you more emotionally intelligent and able to pick up vital, subtle, non-verbal and verbal cues from people in interpersonal communication; and:

# It makes you look younger!

Some ‘killer facts’ mentioned in the book

Matthew-WalkerIn addition to these benefits, Walker mentions two other important facts.  The first concerns sleep, and the other learning and memory (of particular interest to students).

Firstly, it has been discovered that a single night of inadequate sleep (of just 4 hours) destroys 70% of the ‘natural killer cells’ in the immune system!  Those killer cells are what protects us from various pathogenic invaders of our bodies.

Secondly, if you are a student trying to learn new information, Matthew Walker has some great advice for you:

On his ‘You Tube’ talk entitled ‘Why We Sleep’, he shows the power of sleep in relation to learning and memory:

~~~

What All-nighters do to your learning efficiency

As described in the video clip above, Walker did some research on sleep and learning.  One of the things he investigated was this: If we go to an all-night party (or cram for an exam all night), and have no sleep, would it affect our ability to learn the following day? Dr Walker wanted to test the hypothesis (a testable statement), that “Pulling an all-nighter is a good idea”, so he set up a research experiment:

Two groups of healthy young adults were split into a ‘Sleep’ group and a ‘Sleep Deprivation’ group. The ‘Sleep’ group were going to get a full eight hours’ sleep, and the ‘Deprivation’ group were going to keep awake all night, under supervision, with no caffeine or naps.

Then the following day, the members of each group were placed in an MRI scanner – (which can monitor their brain functioning) – and were asked to learn a whole list of new facts, as snapshots were taken of their brains’ activities. Following that, the participants were all tested to see how effective the learning had been.

When the learning efficiency of the two groups was compared, there was an amazing 40% difference in the ability of the brain to make new memories as between the two groups. So all-nighters have to pay a mental price tag in terms of almost halving their ability to learn!

If you are a student, or learning new material of any kind, then this has to be ‘a wakeup call’ for you (if you will pardon the paradoxical pun!).

Matthew Walker made the following statement in response to these findings, about the impact of sleep on our ability to learn new information:

“This should be frightening considering what we know in our education populations right now about what is happening to sleep. It would be the difference between ‘aceing’ an exam and failing it miserably”

He goes on to say:

It’s been recently discovered that you need sleep before learning, to prepare your brain, so it’s almost like a dry sponge, ready to soak up new information.

Sleep after learning is essential to hit the ‘SAVE’ button on those new memories so you don’t forget them”. 

He then also goes on to state that:

“Without sleep our memory circuits effectively become waterlogged and you can’t absorb information.”

So, to be clear, we need adequate sleep to prepare to soak up new information; and we need adequate sleep afterwards to consolidate the learning (in the form of memory traces in the brain).

Conclusion

This evidence about the importance of sleep has emerged over the last 20 years, and has massive implications for our health, and our ability to learn, to interact with others effectively, and to enjoy life.

Since I read the review by James McConnachie, I have been religiously making sure I get at least 8 hours’ sleep per night, and intend to get Matthew Walker’s book. I strongly recommend it, and also watching him talking on ‘You Tube.’

But please bear in mind: This blog has given you some of the latest information about sleep from an expert. I’ve just given you some declarative knowledge (which means that you’ve now got some information that can be retained or stored; or articulated or stated to another person). This has to be distinguished from what we call ‘procedural knowledge’.  That is to say, knowing how to tie shoe laces is not at all the same thing as being able to tie shoe laces.

If you want this information about sleep to improve your quality of life – your health and relationships, your learning and memorizing ability, and safety when driving – then you need to turn this information into procedural knowledge.

You need to actively change your sleep patterns, which are most likely well established habits!

You need to be able to stick to your commitment to change your sleep habits, and assertively alter them in the face of possible pressure from others. As Dr Phil said, “This is when the rubber hits the road”.

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachIf you want support in doing this, that’s when coaching can be a great moral and practical support. So contact me if you want to take on board these findings and change your sleep patterns for the better.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

 

 

 

Sleep,

A self-coaching exercise: Happiness audit

Blog Post No. 52

25th August 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

A Self-coaching exercise which can improve the quality of your life:

The “Haversack and Balloons” exercise

Introduction

In this blog I am going to introduce you to an exercise that you can do, which is like a visual ‘balance sheet’ of your life at the moment.  It will help you to see if you need to bring more happiness into your daily life!  And it will help to balance self-support against the pressures of life.

I came across this exercise many years ago and found it to be really helpful for lots of people – in particular with students on my stress management courses and counselling courses. It’s a very simple and effective way of checking out whether you have a good balance of pleasurable and nourishing things in your life at the moment.  It’s important to watch that balance, as you need adequate resources to keep you going as you do all those daily tasks at work and/or at home.

Method

Print off a copy of this four-step exercise – shown in green – and follow the simple instructions:

STEP 1: Burdens and responsibilities (tasks, etc)

Write in the white spaces on the haversack those things that weigh you down at the moment:

Haversack image

(If you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 2: List the things that lift you up or raise your spirits

In each of the balloons, write in one thing which makes you feel good, and enriches your life, and keeps you happy on a daily basis.

Ballons image

(Again, if you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 3: Review

Weigh up your stressors and the supports (or balloons and burdens)

As you look at the two different aspects of your life at the moment, (your haversack and your balloons), see what proportion of problems and challenges you have weighing you down, and what proportion of daily pleasures and uplifting experiences you have filled in.

~~~

STEP 4: Your action plan

For a happy and contented life, you need to make sure that you have a roughly equal balance of pressures and supports – or challenges and pleasures.

Your balloons will keep you going (and sane) as you handle all the aggravations life throws at you!

So decide what action you might need to take to increase your ‘daily balloons’ or reduce some of your mental burdens or pressures.

Make a list and commit to take action.

~~~

Review

Reviewing this exercise carefully will show you immediately if you have lots of problems weighing you down, like an invisible knapsack that you are carrying round with you all the time.

It will also show the number of daily pleasures or supports which you have – (your balloons) – to balance those problems out. This balance does affect the quality of your life.

Of course, too little pressure and strain can be almost as bad as too much. You could (theoretically) be having lots of self-nourishing experiences and pleasures, but  too little in the way of challenges to keep you mentally engaged in life, and stimulated. Boredom can be stressful.  We feel happiest when we experience ‘flow’, which means that the challenges in our lives are balanced by our coping capacity.

A valuable way to do this exercise is to share what you have put on your diagrams with a trusted friend or colleague, and if you take turns to talk about your lists, you will both benefit from expressing your current problems, and finding out if you are both taking care of yourselves by having daily pleasures and supports to balance the work you are doing.

Your balloons

As explained above, your ‘balloons’ are the daily experiences which keep you happy and motivated, and supported, either outside of work, or within the work situation.  A helpful list of balloons might include: Solid breakfast; slow and relaxing journey to work; planned daily activities so work load is balanced; tea break or dinner break with friends or work colleagues whose company you enjoy; sipping water at fifteen minute intervals during the day; avoiding sedentary lifestyle, which means get up and move around ever fifty minutes or so; daily physical exercise; listen to relaxing music; dance; write out your problems every day; and so on; and so forth.

Let’s take one example:

Music as a daily ‘Balloon’

Book-cover

Caroline Webb, in her book ‘How to have a good day’ (2016) describes how one doctor (Rakesh) uses music as an essential strategy (one of his daily ‘balloons’) to keep him going when he is on duty in the Emergency Room of the hospital where he works. Describing his job, Rakesh told her:

“You’re constantly handling problems. You don’t have much time, and you never stop moving. In one hour you’re probably making perhaps one hundred or two hundred decisions: which tests to order, where to send a patient, and what interventions are needed. You’re on different shifts – sometimes morning, sometimes nights. A 12 hour shift can turn into a 14 hour shift if something bad happens with one of your patients.”

Rakesh confirms that the job is emotionally draining as well as mentally and physically challenging… And so what he does to keep going throughout a long shift, is that he uses music to shape and alter his mental state.  He says:

“You know that you are going to walk into a full waiting room, and as soon as you walk in you’re going to need to spring into action. So I pump up my energy levels on the drive to work, with music that will do that for me, like some Linkin Park.

”Once I arrive I switch to Reggae music and we have it playing in the background for everyone. It’s sort of happy but also relaxed, which is how I need to feel to perform at my best under pressure.”

His use of music to keep him happy whilst doing a very demanding job, impressed Caroline Webb, who stated:

“One thing I’ve noticed about people who are able to sustain their energy in gruelling jobs is that they know themselves really well. They understand what causes their peaks and troughs, and they know the quickest way to lift their spirits when needed.”

The power of music to uplift you

What is the evidence that music be effective in improving your day? And what does it improve? A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009: Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014029/.

If you doubt that music can change your state for the better, then let me suggest that you have a listen to the following extract from Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23 (second movement) played by Helene Grimaud:

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How did you feel after listening to that short extract? The value of listening to Mozart’s music has been very carefully researched.

Listening to Mozart’s music can help reduce high blood pressure

Mozaet-pictureAccording to a new research report, listening to Mozart and Johann Strauss’s music can help lower hypertension, which means really high blood pressure. Listening to Mozart can not only soothe your mood, but also help lower blood pressure as well as stabilise the heart rate.

The findings showed that listening to classical composers,  Wolfgang Mozart and Johann Strauss (the younger), for 25 minutes, could lower blood lipid concentrations and heart rate.

The study analysed 60 participants who were exposed to 25 minutes of music by Mozart, Strauss or ABBA — a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972. Another group of 60 participants were allocated to a control group that spent their time in silence.

The participants who listened to Mozart lowered their blood pressure.  (Specifically, Mozart lowered their systolic [upper reading] BP — the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats – by 4.7 mm Hg, In the case of Strauss, by 3.7 mm Hg; whereas no substantial effect was seen for the songs of ABBA.  Diastolic [lower reading] blood pressure — when the heart rests between beats — also fell by 2.1 mm Hg for Mozart and 2.9 mm Hg for Strauss.)

Here’s what the researchers said:

“It has been known for centuries that music has an effect on human beings. In our study, listening to classical music resulted in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. These drops in blood pressure were clearly expressed for the music of Mozart and Strauss,” said Hans-Joachim Trappe and Gabriele Volt of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

But Mozart’s music had the strongest effect,” they added.

In addition, after exposure to the music of Mozart and Strauss, cortisol levels (which are stress hormones) were found to have dropped more in men than in women.

Quiet music of a slow tempo, and long legato (meaning that the notes are played or sung smoothly and connected together), are regarded as beneficial for the cardio-circulatory system, according to the paper published in the Journal ‘Deutsches Arzteblatt International’.

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I love to do Chi Kung exercises to Mozart music in the mornings; but I also find other forms of music to be uplifting balloons.  Here’a good example:

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson

Kids-cover-of-Uptown-FunkA fortnight ago I heard an amazing sound on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 music programme, and I enjoyed listening to it so much that this is one of my daily balloons, as it is full of energy and movement.

Here’s Mark Ronson’s official music video for ‘Uptown Funk’ performed by Bruno Mars. By the number of views of the video you can see that it’s pretty popular: (2,623,758,877 views on You Tube).

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Conclusion

If you try the ‘Haversack and Balloons’ exercise, you might find it to be a useful, quick self-coaching tool that can help you search for ways to enhance your daily life-balance. It can help you to produce an Action List for ways to reduce the pressures under which you labour, and to increase those experiences that uplift you and keep you going under pressure.

And if you need some help with this process, please contact me.

Best of luck.

That’s all for now.

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: Renata Taylor-Byrne

01422 843 629

(Or 44 1422 843 629 from outside the UK)

~~~

 

 

 

Creative writing and the therapeutic journey

Blog Post No. 155

18th July 2017 – Updated on 22nd January 2019

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2018-2019

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Recent books

If you have come to this page looking for recent books by Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne), then here is the list of the latest books: on Lifestyle Counselling; Writing Therapy; and Diet and Exercise linked to emotional functioning; plus building successful couple relationships.

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Book Descriptions:

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: 

Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy

Front cover Lifestyle Counselling

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available at Amazon outlets.***

The contents

In this book, you will find a very clear, brief, easy to read introduction to a novel approach to ‘counselling the whole person’. This emotive-cognitive approach does not restrict itself to mental processes.  We go beyond what the client is ‘telling themselves’, or ‘signalling themselves’; or what went wrong in their family of origin. We also include how well they manage their body-brain-mind in terms of diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional self-management (including self-talk, or inner dialogue). And we propose that it is better for counsellors and therapists to operate in a primarily right-brain modality, and to use the left-brain, cognitive processes, secondarily.

The most important, and novel, chapters in this book are as follows:

Chapter 4, which summarizes our research on the impact of diet/nutrition and physical exercise on mental health and emotional well-being.

Chapter 5, which reviews the science of sleep hygiene, plus common sense insights, and presents a range of lifestyle changes to promote healthy sleep, and thus to improve mental and emotional well-being.

Chapter 9, which explains how to incorporate the learning from chapters 4 and 5 into any system of talk therapy or counselling.

There is also a chapter (8) on counselling individuals using our Emotive-Cognitive approach, in which there is a section (8.3(b)) on using the Holistic SOR model to explore many aspects of the lifestyle of the client.

For more information, please click the following link: Lifestyle Counselling book.***

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How to Write A New Life for Yourself:

Narrative therapy and the writing solution

Writing Theapy book cover

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available as a paperback at Amazon outlets.***

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In this book, we set out to show you how you can quickly and easily process your current psychological problems, and improve your emotional intelligence, by writing about your current and historic difficulties.  (Chapter 8 contains a detailed introduction to the subject of how to understand and manage your emotions).

This approach to writing about your emotional difficulties in order to resolve them has a long and noble tradition.  Many nineteenth century poets were seeking to heal broken hearts or resolve personal dissatisfactions by the use of their poetry writing activities; and many novels are clearly forms of catharsis (or release of pent up emotions) by the author.

But not all writing is equally helpful, therapeutically speaking.  If the writing is too negative; or too pessimistic; or simply makes the reader feel raw and vulnerable, then it is not going to have a positive effect.  Later we will show you how to tackle therapeutic writing, (within the two main disciplines of writing therapy – [the scientific and the humanistic]), in order to make it maximally effective.

For more information, please click the following link: Write a New Life for Yourself.***

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression,

Using nutrition and physical exercise

Front cover design 4

By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Available at Amazon outlets.***

1. Introduction

What we eat has a very powerful effect on our bodies and minds. And knowing and understanding how our body-mind reacts to the substances we feed ourselves is a crucial part of self-care.

For instance: depression can be caused by psychological reactions to losses and failures.  But it can also be caused by certain kinds of body-brain chemistry problems, some of which can begin in the guts, and be related to bad diet, and lack of physical exercise.  For example:

“If you are depressed while you suffer from regular yeast infections (like Candida Albicans), or athlete’s foot, or have taken antibiotics recently, there is a connection. Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract and our mental well-being is dependent on healthy intestines. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses from autism to ADHD can be caused by an imbalance of gut microbes like fungi, and ‘bad’ bacteria”.  (Source: Michael Edwards (2014))[i].

And when we take antibiotics, we kill off all of our friendly bacteria, and often what grows back first is the unfriendly stuff, like Candida Albicans, which can then cause depression, anxiety and other symptoms, as listed above.

Also, we can really benefit from knowing some of the latest ideas about where – (in our diets) – our depression, anxiety and anger can originate from; as provided by specialists who have devoted their lives to years of investigation into the workings of the human body and mind (or body-mind).

[i] Edwards, M. (2014) ‘The candida depression connection – How yeast leads to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders’. Available online at:                https://www.naturalnews.com/047184_ candida_ depression_gut_microbes.html#

For more information, please click the following link: Diet, exercise and mental health.***

~~~

Top secrets for

Building a Successful Relationship: 

Volume 1 – A blueprint and toolbox for couples and counsellors: C101

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol 1543762369 (1905x1383)

The full paperback cover, by Charles Saul

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On this web site, you will find enough information about our new book on couple relationships to inform your decision about buying it.  We have posted the full Preface; plus the full set of (revised) Contents pages; plus a brief extract from each of the main chapters (1-13).

Pre-publication review

“I have recently finished reading Dr Jim Byrne’s immensely useful book (about love and relationship skills).  This book is full of cutting edge thinking and priceless wisdom about couple relationships; which inspires us to believe that we can undoubtedly shape and improve our most important relationships.  The approach is comprehensive (despite being Volume 1 of 3), covering as it does: the nature of love and relationships; common myths about love and relationships (which tend to lead young people astray); some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and very helpful chapters on communication skills, conflict styles, and assertive approaches to relationship; plus a very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin. I particularly liked the chapters on how to manage boundaries in relationships; and how to change your relationship habits. I can highly recommend this ‘must read’ book to couples and counsellors alike”.

Dr Nazir Hussain

Positive Psychology and Integrative Counselling Services, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

September 2018

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Here’s a quick preview of part of the contents of Chapter 1:

This book has been designed to be helpful to two main audiences:

1. Anybody who is curious about how to build and maintain a happy, successful couple relationship, like a marriage or civil partnership (civil agreement), or simple cohabitation; and:

2. Any professional who works with individuals and couples who show up with problems of marital or couple conflict, breakdowns of communication, or unhappiness with the couple bond.

For more information about this book, please go to Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship.***

~~~

Recent publications

Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience

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Holistic Counselling in Practice:

An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy

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Daniel O’Beeve’s Amazing Journey: From traumatic origins to transcendent love

The memoir of Daniel O’Beeve: a strong-willed seeker after personal liberation: 1945-1985

~~~

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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Introduction to first draft of this blog post

Cover444It is now more than three months since my previous blog post was published.  The delay was down to how busy I’ve been, largely because of writing my latest book, which is now available at Amazon: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: The case against Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.***

My main role in life, as a doctor of counselling, is to see individual clients who have ‘problems of daily living’ which they cannot resolve on their own.  I help people with problems of anxiety, depression, anger, couple conflict, attachment problems, and other relationship problems.  Dr Jim’s Counselling Division.***

drjim-counsellor1However, I also write books, blogs and web pages; and articles or papers on counselling-related topics.  And I help individuals, from time to time, who are struggling with their creative or technical writing projects.  Sometimes I help individual writers to stay motivated, or to process their repeated rejection by an unreceptive and uncaring world.

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The frustrations of writing

It is far from easy being a creative writer.  Frustrations abound, from conception of a new and useful writing project; doing the research; writing early drafts; then polishing, editing and publishing; and then trying to sell the end product in a world which is awash with information-overload.

~~~

In my book on REBT, I wrote about that period like this:

“As early as August 2003 (and probably earlier), I was writing about the fact that stress was a multi-causal problem.  That idea contradicts the ABC theory, which asserts that all emotional distress (including the common manifestations of stress: which include anger, anxiety and depression) are caused exclusively by the client’s Beliefs (B’s).  Here is an example of my writing from August 2003:

“I have developed a stress management programme consisting of fifteen strategies which help you to work on your body, your emotions, your thinking, and your stress management skills. This programme allows you to develop a stress-free life.

8-physical-symptoms-of-stress

“You may also be affected by many life-change stressors, e.g. Moving house; death of your spouse or other loved one; divorce; marriage; redundancy; bullying at work; promotion; demotion; change of lifestyle; etc.

“Your stress level also depends upon such factors as your diet, exercise, what you tell yourself about your life pressures, and so on. (What you tell yourself about your pressures is called your “self-talk”).

“And a lot depends upon your sense of control. Can you control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you confident and assertive enough to at least try to control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you wise enough to learn how to stoically accept those things which you clearly cannot control? The more control you have, the less stress you feel, according to the Whitehall Studies, conducted by Michael Marmot, beginning in 1984.” (Original source in footnotes)[1].

However, the frustration was this: Although I had expertise about managing stress; and although I had packaged 15 different strategies for getting your stress under control, very few people bought my book!

And today, I believe, most people do not understand stress: How it destroys their happiness, damages their physical health, and causes all kinds of emotional problems.

Tough stuff! This is the lot of the creative writer.  The world most often seems to not be ready for our insights!

~~~

People love simplicity and side-tracks

While my stress book was not selling to any reasonable degree, the simple books about the ABC model of REBT, produced by Dr Albert Ellis, were selling much better.  Those books presented an exaggerated claim that they could help the reader to quickly and relatively effortlessly get rid of any problem, simply by changing their beliefs about the problems they encountered.

My REBT book demonstrates that there was never any solid evidence that this claim is true.  It also demonstrates that, in the process, the REBT/CBT model blames the client for their own upsets, thus excusing the harshness of current government policy in the US and the UK, where the rich are enriched and the poor are squashed!  That squashing process hurts, and causes emotional distress and physical health problems.

Here is the evidence that it is not the individual’s beliefs, but the social environment that has the most impact on mental health and emotional well-being:

While psychotherapists like Albert Ellis tended to emphasize the role of the counselling client’s beliefs in the causation of anger, anxiety, depression, and so on, Oliver James, and his concept of ‘affluenza’, tends to emphasize living in a materialistic environment. As Dr James writes: “Nearly ten years ago, in my book Britain on the Couch, I pointed out that a twenty-five-year-old American is (depending on which studies you believe) between three and ten times more likely to be suffering depression today than in 1950. … In the case of British people, nearly one-quarter suffered from emotional distress … in the past twelve months, and there is strong evidence that a further one-quarter of us are on the verge thereof.  … (M)uch of this increase in angst occurred after the 1970s and in English-speaking nations”.  People’s beliefs have not changed so much over that time.  This is evidence of the social-economic impact of the post-Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal economic policies!

Oliver James (2007) Affluenza: How to be successful and stay sane.  Page xvi-xvii. (63).

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Conclusion

If you are a creative writer, and you want to write your own autobiography, or autobiographical novel, or you need support with any aspect of your creative writing process, then I can help you.

Coaching, counselling and therapy for writers.***

Or you could take a look at my current books in print.***

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

~~~

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

~~~

Happiness and relationships research

Blog Post No. 50

10th July 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching and Counselling blog: What really makes people happy?

A ‘rave review’ of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk

Introduction

It’s very easy for us in the west at the moment, to imagine that having more money, or a better house, more foreign holidays, a great new sports car or higher status at work (like getting to the top of an organisation), will make us really happy.

Bugatti-car

And if we have the right physical appearance, as defined by our culture, this can give people a feeling of confidence and self-assurance. So we obviously put a lot of investment and energy into trying to look our best!

KardashiansBut we did not make up these materialistic beliefs ourselves.  All the relentless advertising messages, and propaganda from the media, create this illusion: Having new possessions will really make life better for us, and guarantee our happiness.

But the truth is that they won’t!

Obviously, if we are desperately short of money, have nowhere to live, or no food to eat, then food, money, shelter and clothing are crucially important for our survival.

But if we do have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and a way of providing an income for ourselves, then some small improvements may make us slightly happier, but more material stuff is not going to make us a lot happier!

So what really does make us happy, after we have the basic means of survival?

Robert-Waldinger

In this blog, I will give a short account of Robert Waldinger’s TED talk in which he describes a major research study which provides powerful evidence for the conclusion that material things won’t make us happy. This conclusion is based on research that started in 1938, and is still ongoing.

The Harvard Study of Adult development

Picture-of-HarvardSeventy-five years ago, ‘The Harvard Study of Adult development’ was established.  A group of researchers started studying 724 teenagers through to their old age. The participants were from two very different types of backgrounds:

# One group was from the poorest part of Boston: from the most economically deprived and distressed families; and:

# The other group was more prosperous, from Harvard College, and was made up of second year students.

These two groups are asked to respond to questionnaires every two years; are interviewed in their homes; have brain scans; have medical records examined; and have blood taken for testing; and they have been videotaped (as adults) talking to their partners about what is really concerning them. And (in time) the researchers talk to their children as well.

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The research project is still ongoing.  Three directors of research have come, served decades in that role; and the project is now being conducted by a fourth director: Robert Waldinger.  And Dr Waldinger has presented a TED talk which explains the research findings.

So, what does the evidence from this study tell us about what really makes people happy?

Elderly-peopleHere’s what Robert Waldinger states:

“Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75 year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Good relationships!  Not cars, or cash, or status, or houses, or holidays, or any of that ‘popular’ materialistic stuff.

Waldinger goes on to say that the researchers learned three big lessons about relationships:

Firstly, the more socially connected we are to people, e.g. family, friends, and the community, the happier and healthier and more long-lived we will be. And the opposite applies: Loneliness is toxic. People who are less connected to people than they would like to be, suffer from declining health as they reach middle age, their brain functioning becomes less efficient and they are less happy.

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Secondly, it doesn’t matter what type of relationships you’re involved in; or whether you are partnered or not; or whether you have a large or small number of friends. The research results show that the crucial aspect of our close relationships is the quality. If we are living in the middle of conflict, then it’s really harmful to our health. Waldinger gives the example of high conflict marriages: If there’s no affection present in high conflict marriages, then they are really bad for our health, and are possibly worse than getting divorced.

Happy-coupleHe then states: And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.”

That is to say, protective of our health, of our life expectancy, our happiness.

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Thirdly: The final important lesson that the researchers learned was that not only do good relationships make us happier and healthier, but they also protect our brains. He gives an example of someone in their eighties: If they are in a securely attached relationship, and can count on their significant other person being there to help them in times of need, then their memories stay intact for longer.

And conversely, when people who were in relationships where they felt they couldn’t really rely on the other person to help them, they fared badly, in that their memories deteriorated sooner.

~~~

Happiness reduces physical pain

Couple-kissingIt might seem that physical pain is physical pain, and that is that.  But we have always known that physical pain and emotional pain are mediated through the same nerve networks.  Here Waldinger explains how pain can be experienced in different ways:

“Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80’s, that on the days that they had most physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were in unhappy relationships, on the days that they reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain”.

That is to say, physical and emotional pain are either additive or subtractive.  So, if you work at achieving a happy relationship, that happiness will be subtracted from any physical pain you subsequently feel.

~~~

Predicting happiness in senior years

Another insight from the research findings was that (on the basis of the information they had accumulated about the men, up to their entering their eighties), when the men had reached the age of 50, the researchers were able to predict who would grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wouldn’t.

They discovered that the people who were most satisfied with their relationships at the age of fifty, were the healthiest at age 80!

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Conclusion

The bottom line of this research is this: If you want to have a life that is happy, now and towards the end, make sure you invest in building happy relationships – or at least one good, happy relationship – now!

Waldinger’s message at the end of his TED talk, is this:

“…Good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being…this is wisdom that is as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that will make our lives good and keep them that way.”

In our western societies, developing relationship skills comes way down our list of priorities: after academic skills, money-making skills, technological skills, medical skills, selling skills, entertainment skills, sports skills, construction skills, accountancy skills, legal skills, creative skills etc. As Barbara Sher said (referring, critically, to American values, which are not dissimilar to those which dominate at the moment in the UK),

If it don’t make money, it don’t count!”

That is to say, all the propaganda of the neoliberal age emphasizes money, money and more money.  And organizational power, or dominance.  And none of these things will actually make you happy!

We now know, unmistakably, from 75 years of powerful research, that what will make us happy, and healthy, is good quality relationships – at least one!

So how do we develop quality relationships?

Traits of a healthy realtionshipAlthough maintaining the quality of our relationships is the key to health and happiness, there ain’t no quick fixes.  You have to work at building relationships!  You cannot buy them ready made!

Werner Erhard used to emphasize that “Successful relationships are based on agreed on goals!”  Yes, that’s right.  Agree on!  That means negotiated between equal individuals.

And Professor John Gottman stresses that you have to work at maintaining a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative moments in your relationships.  So you have to learn how to do that.

As I mentioned in my last blog, Robert Bolton identified twelve specific roadblocks to communication, which, when used, are likely to negatively impact on our relationships with people.

And John Gottman was able to pinpoint four distinctive ways of interacting that can destroy a relationship and he called them the “Four horsemen of the Apocalypse”. Again, you have to learn those insights, and I teach them to my relationship coaching clients.

There are many valuable techniques that we can learn to keep our relationships of a good quality, perhaps the simplest and most apt being the one that Werner Erhard mentioned in one of his seminars on relationships:

“If you want to have a really powerful relationship with anybody, you have got to stop making the other person wrong!”

(Immediately after he said that, someone in the audience piped up: “But Werner, I don’t make them wrong. They are wrong! I just point it out to them.”  You will never achieve a really powerful relationship with anybody unless you learn to stop being critical, sarcastic, condemning, judging, and so on.  And I teach those lessons to my coaching clients).

Creating good relationships can be difficult at times, because it is an art form, and one you have to learn.  And Waldinger states:

“Relationships are messy and complicated, and the hard work of tending to family and friends is not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong.”

But he finishes his presentation with this message:

“The good life is built with good relationships”.

If we were very lucky, we learned great relationship skills from our parents and other family members. If we didn’t, it’s important to not beat ourselves up because of that. But we then may have to learn the hard way, through trial and error and repeated experimentation, until we develop the people skills we need. And it is often impossible to learn what we need to know in this way.  It makes more sense to seek out teaching or training or coaching in these skills, and learn from people who know what works and what does not work.

That’s what my partner and I did, beginning in 1984, attending couples therapy; studying assertive communication; and Werner Erhard’s relationship and communication skills; and then on to studying Dr John Gottman’s approach to relationships, including marriage relationships.

Based on our experience, of learning how to have a really powerful, happy relationship, I can tell you: the effort is well worth it.

We now know, based on the rock-solid findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that investing time and money and energy in developing relationship skills is the most valuable investment that we can make, and will give us the benefits of health, happiness and brain longevity for the rest of our lives.

This is a really great TED talk and I strongly recommend that you watch it in full.

~~~

If you want to learn some of the techniques and skills that various specialists have developed, so that you can enrich the quality of your relationships, and you can have a happier life, then I would be very happy to help you.  Please contact me to discuss possibilities.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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References

Here is a link to the Adult Development Study website, and there is an interview on it with Robert Waldinger, at CBS ‘This morning’, the television news programme.

http://www.adultdevelopmentstudy.org/

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Post Traumatic Stress Solutions

Blog Post No.155 (was 119)

Posted on 4th May 2017 (Originally posted on Saturday 21st February 2015)

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about ‘Living in the Present’… And Processing the Past!

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2015

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A fly in my ointment

drjim-counsellor9About one week ago, I got up, ate my breakfast, meditated and did my physical exercise, as normal.  But something went wrong.

Just before I mediate, I am in the habit of reading some ‘thought for the day’ from a Zen source.  On that occasion, I read a quote from Chögyam Trungpa.[1]

This is what it said:

“…Once you begin to deal with a person’s whole case history, trying to make it relevant to the present, the person begins to feel that he has no escape, that his situation is hopeless, because he cannot undo his past.  He feels trapped by his past with no way out.  This kind of treatment is extremely unskilled.  It is destructive because it hinders involvement with the creative aspect of what is happening now, what is here, right now…”

This quotation was concerning for me, because it seems to support Dr Albert Ellis’s advice to “forget the god-awful past” – which I have rejected several times in recent years, in various pieces of my writing.

Dealing with tensions and contradictions

As a principled practitioner and researcher, I therefore felt obliged to address this statement by Trungpa; to investigate it; to see how it is constructed; and to come to some kind of resolution of the tension between Trungpa/Ellis, on the one hand, and myself on the other.

front-cover7I was very busy during that period, for perhaps the past two weeks – with much of my time going into editing my revised autobiographical novel.  (See Metal Dog – Long Road Home***)

Yesterday, I completed the current editing task, and today I wrote a little 29-page paper on the question of which is supportable: the suggestion of ‘forgetting the past’; or the suggestion of ‘processing the past’.

Please see: Personal history and the mind of the individual counselling client. The (frequent) importance of processing the past in counselling and therapy.***  

In this little blog post, I want to take Trungpa’s quote apart to see what it is made of.  Let us begin with the first element:

“…Once you begin to deal with a person’s whole case history, trying to make it relevant to the present, the person begins to feel that he has no escape, that his situation is hopeless, because he cannot undo his past. …”

This statement is:

(a) Not in line with my clinical experience. I could, given the time, write up lots of my client cases to show that many of my clients experienced dramatic levels of relief once they had finished processing some past, traumatic experience.

(b) Misleading.  The second clause – “…trying to make (the past) relevant to the present…” – is not a therapeutic task that has ever been proposed by any of the major therapists that I have studied.  This is either a misunderstanding or a red herring presented by Trungpa.

(c) Unsupported.  Which person “begins to feel that he has no escape”?  Certainly not any of the many individuals that I have helped to process their old traumas.  They have a very specific form of escape.

(1) They find and confront the troublesome past experience; and, simultaneously:

(2) They find a way to re-frame that old experience, so it does not seem so daunting; painful; impossible to bear.

(3) Once they have digested/re-framed the old, troublesome experience, they can let it go, and move on with the rest of their lives.

See my paper on ‘Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions’.[2]

(d) Unclear.  Who is this person who “feels trapped by his past with no way out”?  Certainly not me.  (See my papers on processing my own childhood traumas, in Byrne [2009][3] and Byrne [2010][4]).

(e) Not about any known therapy.  The process which Trungpa describes, which he says “is destructive” is not a process that corresponds to any form of psychotherapy that I have ever encountered.  There is nothing to stop any client in CENT counselling from being in touch with the present moment, immediately before, and immediately after, their attempt to complete and re-frame an old experience.

An additional argument…

Trungpa goes on, in the next paragraph, to say: “As soon as we try to unravel the past, then we are involved with ambition and struggle in the present, not being able to accept the present moment as it is”.

Again, this does not correspond to my experience.  Whenever I have worked on processing old childhood traumas, I was perfectly able to accept the present moment as it was.  (I have been meditating since 1980, and striving to ‘live in the present’).

Let us look at one of my recent cases.  It should be of interest to Trungpa that I worked with one woman who had a hugely traumatic family problem dating from her childhood (when aged about seven years onwards), which we reviewed, processed, and I helped her to reframe it – in just three sessions of 45 minutes of counselling.  At the end of this process, she declared that she was ‘done’ – but that she would join a Meditation Group and continue to develop her sense of having been ‘washed clean’ by our therapy work together!

Certainly it is true (as Trungpa says) that processing the past involves struggles, but they are struggles that are well worth undertaking and completing, because they allow you to live more fully in the present when you have burned out the old hurts and pains in the (largely non-conscious) basement of your mind.

I have written an eBook on how to face up to traumatic memories of past experiences, and to process them, digest them, and burn them out, so they can be filed away in an inert file in long-term memory, from which they can cause you no further disturbance.  Her are the details:

NTS eBook No.5 – Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons: How to process and eliminate undigested pain from your past, by Jim Byrne

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Finale

It may well be that every philosophy of life contains its strengths and weaknesses.  Trungpa and Ellis are illustrations of that hybrid nature of philosophies of life.

So, by all means, try to live in the present moment; try to engage in ongoing mindfulness as you go about your day.  But if you are troubled by emotional (or physical) symptoms which may be connected to childhood, or early adult life trauma, then by all means engage in the struggle that is required to process and re-frame those traumas, so you can free your energies for a more enjoyable life in the present moment.

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne – Doctor of Counselling

ABC Counselling and Psychotherapy Division

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

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[1] Chögyam Trungpa, The situation of nowness, in: Josh Baran, 365 Nirvana: Here and Now.  Element/HarperColins.  2003.

[2] Byrne, J. (2011) Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions.  CENT Paper No.13.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/ 

[3] Byrne, J. (2009) A journey through models of mind.  The story of my personal origins.  CENT Paper No.4.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[4] Byrne, J. (2010) The Story of Relationship: Or coming to terms with my mother (and father).  CENT Paper No.10.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

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