Lifestyle counselling resources available in eBook format

Sunday 2nd September

Blog post

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Lifestyle counselling resources are now being made available in low-cost eBook format via Kindle

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Resources for counsellors and psychotherapists – and for self-help enthusiasts

The following resources are now available in low-cost, Kindle eBook format:

The Lifestyle Counselling Book

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy,

By Dr Jim Byrne with Renata Taylor-Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/counselling-the-whole-person/

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical exercise,

by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.

Available here: https://abc-counselling.org/diet-exercise-mental-health/

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Writing Theapy book coverHow to Write a New Life for Yourself,

by Dr Jim Byrne

(with Renata Taylor-Byrne).

Available here:

https://abc-counselling.org/how-to-write-a-new-life-for-yourself/

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These three books have proved very popular with counsellors and psychologists on LinkedIn, and they are selling in significant numbers.

DrJimCounselling002It seems there is an appetite for radical change abroad in the world of counselling and psychotherapy at the moment, and people are ready to explore new ideas.  In particular, the relationship between the body and mind (the body-mind connection); the problems of sedentary lifestyle and inadequate nutrition; plus inadequate sleep; and how to process our own experiences in a journal.

All of these developments are very encouraging for the future health of our counsellors and therapists, and for their clients!

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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 dot byrne at abc-counselling dot com

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Reduce stress – increase energy

Blog Post No. 48

1st May 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A star technique for saving your energy: Wiping the slate clean each day

Introduction

Every day we all are involved in the business of energy management, (physical and mental) whether we are aware of it or not, as we juggle different tasks, time pressures and negotiating with other people. We are all expected to engage in ‘multi-tasking’, which is actually virtually impossible, but the pressure of life is certainly intense.

1-Man-workingSo how, in such a demanding environment, do we manage our energy successfully? So that we optimise our productivity, but conserve our energy and protect our physical and mental health.

What I know is that if we don’t manage our energy carefully, we become the victim of burnout and stress, and unhappiness and ill health, and who wants that?

One successful energy-management strategy

Here is a great suggestion from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.

“This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterday”.

When I was a tutor in a college, I had a variety of challenges to face every day in my job, just like everyone else has to face in their jobs. I needed a very high energy level to keep going in the face of the challenges at work, and to adapt and adjust to the needs of the different learners I worked with.

To preserve my energy, so that I could face the following day’s work feeling refreshed, I developed a strategy that served me well for a long time and I want to pass it on to you.

Whiteboard-image-6Each day, at the end of the final teaching session, I would wipe the whiteboard clean of all the information that was on it, and I would remember all the outstanding events of the day, good and bad, and wipe them away in my mind at the same time.

I wiped away my hopes for successfully getting information across to people, and disappointments and mistakes.

This left my mind, and the whiteboard, empty and this action created a calm, white, clear mental space on which I could start anew, again, the following day. After all, I couldn’t change what I had done (or hadn’t managed to do). I could only learn from my experience.

I call this my ‘blank slate’ technique.

Goethe-2The other aspect of this approach was this: I was asserting my boundaries with my job. In other words, I was taking responsibility for managing upwards.  I was not allowing myself to develop ‘leaky boundaries’ through which outside forces could use up my precious reserves of energy!

The ‘Blank slate’ technique is a very powerful, effective visualisation process. It requires effort, determination and  insistence that ‘it’s over!’  But it works only if you work it!

Quality recovery time

Once we have finished work, (if we want to return to our work the following day with strength and vigour), we are then into ‘Quality recovery time’.

Swimming-athlete-3 Some years ago I found this idea was used by Olympic athletes. After they had been working on the skills they wanted to develop, then they needed time to rest and recover. The human body needs proper recovery for sustained and improved performance, for development, and even for preventing injuries.

For those athletes, the athletic skills practice time and the recovery time were a partnership – they were absolutely intertwined, if you wanted to become really accomplished in what you were doing. Their conviction was that, if you neglected your recovery time, your ability to sustain high levels of energy to achieve your goals would quickly run out.

Quality-recovery-4

Part of quality recovery time is mentally and physically completing the day’s work, whether paid or unpaid, and then moving into regeneration of our energy: getting the most nutritious food we can afford; having a decent night’s sleep; having a mental break; spending time with our loved ones; and generally recharging our batteries.

Boundaries between work and quality recovery time are essential, and people can be very vulnerable if they don’t create boundaries. Their employers will not do it for them: I recently read of an American estate agency that has moved into London, and insists that its staff answer their mobile phones in the middle of the night, if a client wanted to speak to them or make an enquiry about a house purchase.

The agency is proud of their customer service! What about the mental and physical health of their employees? This is arrant exploitation of people’s need for a job.

Far from being a good form of work/life balance, this employer is only interested in work/work imbalance.

Work-life-balance-7

Conclusion

If you want to have a good quality of life; to have real work/life balance; and to preserve your physical and mental health in the process, then there is no alternative but to create our own boundaries between work and recovery time.  This is also necessary if you want to be creative and productive in your work time!

Thinking back to my ‘blank slate’ (or ‘blank whiteboard’ technique), if you learn to use this technique at the end of each day, this will ensure that you don’t leak lots of energy away when you need to be into quality recovery time.

What you need to create is some physical representation that the end of the day’s work has arrived (like my cleaning of the white board).  An example would be creating a clear desk; or unplugging a piece of equipment; or putting your diary in a locked drawer; etc.

There is a lawyer in a novel by Charles Dickens who, when he got home after a day’s work, would spend a long time washing his hands, getting rid of the accumulations of the day’s work from his body and, symbolically, from his mind.

Reflection and leaky boundaries

Leaky-boundaries-image

Reflecting at regular intervals on how happy you are with your work/life balance will give you valuable clues as to whether you are managing your life energies in the best way for you.

If you are aware of leaky boundaries in your life, and are giving your energies away to others, (without your full consent), then you could consider the strengthening skills of assertiveness and negotiation.

Strengthening these skills will make you happier and more confident as you manage your life in the face of pressures from others (and pressure from your own Inner Critic).

Brene-brown

Contact me if you want to learn some very useful techniques for managing your energy for better work/life balance; for increased creativity and productivity.

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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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Self discipline and therapeutic writing

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Diary of a counsellor – Self-discipline and Writing Daily Pages

by Jim Byrne (c) 2014-2016

Posted on Friday 2nd December 2016 (Originally posted on Saturday 12th April 2014)

Introduction
Man-writing3I am currently (2nd December 2016) working my way through a three month course in ‘creative recovery’, based on Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way.

For this reason, I thought it would be instructive to re-post a piece I wrote about this process a couple of years ago.

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What I wrote…

Today I want to share with you some insights into my own life; my own struggles with self-discipline; in order to help you to think about your own life, your own self-discipline; and to help you to become your own counsellor in this area.

In the past, I have posted about Julia Cameron’s wonderful system of Morning Pages (from her book, The Artist’s Way) – a writing activity involving stream of consciousness writing, designed to clear the clutter out of your mind, and to improve your creativity.

Of course, I have tended to advocate this system as a form of writing therapy, or being your own counsellor, using a process of self-reflection and emotional processing.

The problem is that we all have busy lives, and it is very easy to lose good habits, and to form bad habits.  So, even though I know the value of my daily pages as a writing activity (whereby I write two to three pages about whatever is on my mind) I do have a tendency to let this habit slip, especially when I am very busy.

CoverBut that is probably the time I need it most; being a counsellor who has to do a lot of very challenging emotional labour with my clients.

So sometimes I skip my pages; sometimes for days, or weeks, or even months.  This is like Popeye failing to eat his spinach!  Or Superman playing with Kryptonite.  It’s a good way to weaken myself; and to fail to take advantage of a good way to strengthen myself!

When I notice that I have let my pages slip, or drop completely, I sometimes try using ‘lines’ as punishment for skipping the writing of my pages.  Lines which include:

“I must not skip my pages.  I must not skip my pages.  I must not skip my pages”.

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Why is the writing of pages so important?

But why not?  Why must I not skip the writing of my Daily Pages?

Because, as shown by the quote I recently put on my homepage:

Writing about your problems, in a diary or journal, can help you to process them and resolve them: “Diarists reported better moods and fewer moments of distress than non-diarists.  Those, in the same study, who kept a journal following trauma or bereavement also reported fewer flashbacks, nightmares and unexpected difficult memories.  Writing can itself be an act of emotional processing so it can help in many situations of danger, extremity and loss of control.  People who keep diaries are admitted to hospital less often and spend fewer days there than those who do not (keep a journal)…”

Philippa Perry, How to Stay Sane (2012). (3b)

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So, if I return to writing my Daily Pages:

I will get better moods – automatically!  I will have fewer moments of distress than non-diarists (including about my business indicators, income, health, etc.!!!)

I will have fewer unexpected difficult memories, when I run into traumatic events.  By writing my pages every morning, I will be engaging in emotional processing, which will help me to stay emotionally healthy; to be happier; and to enjoy my work and my leisure; rest time, etc.

It will also help my physical health – thereby avoiding the GP and the hospital.

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the-artists-way“I must not skip my pages.  I must not skip my pages.  I must not skip my pages”.

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How to use penalties to keep up your good habits

Given what I know about the value of daily pages, of journaling, of keeping a diary, it would be a stupid act of self-sabotage to skip my daily pages.

So therefore, I must apply the “£2 down the drain” penalty to:

  1. My daily physical exercise (5 days per week);
  2. My daily meditation (5 days per week);
  3. AND MY DAILY PAGES WRITING (5 days per week).

If I fail to do any of these activities, by bedtime (on Monday to Friday), then I will either make up the deficit before retiring, or I will go outside, right there and then, and drop two £1 coins down the nearest drain.

That is to say:

£2 for my physical exercise (if I have not done it that day); and/or:

£2 for my meditation (if I have not done it that day); and/or:

£2 for my Daily Pages (if I have not written them that day).

This is now ‘carved in stone’.  From Monday to Friday each week I will do my meditation; do 20-30 minutes of physical exercise; and also write 2-3 pages of Daily Pages.

Make a commitment and then keep it!

This is my commitment.  I will apply the penalties shown above to keep myself on track.  I will also have a system of rewards.

If I do my meditation and my exercise and my daily pages today, I can go out for lunch in a café tomorrow, and also have a large Americano, and read the Guardian.

If I do not do my meditation and my exercise and my daily pages today, I cannot go out for lunch tomorrow, and I cannot have any coffee either.  Nor can I read the Guardian.

These three processes stand me in good stead.  When I have 3 or 4 clients to see in one day, I find I need to do all four of my exercise systems, in order to feel resilient in the face of my clients’ difficulties.  So this week, which was very busy, I did all four of my exercise systems every morning (taking about 30 minutes each time):

Warm-up exercises;

Zham Zhong (Standing like a tree)[1];

Press-ups and sit-backs; and:

Chi Kung (or Qi Gong).

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If you want to learn how to use these kinds of writing therapy approaches, then please see my book on Writing therapy: How to do it.***

 

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

[1] See Lam Kam Chuen’s book ‘The Way of Energy’, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chi-Kung-The-Way-Energy/dp/1856752151

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The benefits of ‘Forest bathing’ or ‘Shinrin Yoku’

Blog Post No.9

Posted on 2nd July 2016: (Originally posted on 28th October 2015)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: Several fascinating research findings about the benefits of ‘Forest bathing’ or ‘Shinrin Yoku’

Introduction:

Bluebells-trees.JPGMy job as a coach/counsellor is to help my clients become strong, confident and healthy. And if I find information that will help people achieve that goal, then it’s my job to spread the good news.

So in this blog I am going to show you the research evidence that walking amongst trees, simple as it may seem, can do amazingly beneficial things for our bodies without us realising it.

What is ‘Forest bathing’ or ‘Shinrin Yoku’?

The name ‘Shinrin Yoku’ was created by the Japanese ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1982, and what it means is: ‘Making contact with, and taking in the atmosphere of the forest’ (not actually bathing). There are now a few dozen forest therapy centres in Japan, as the process has been scientifically investigated and the research findings demonstrate the benefits of walking in the forests.   These ‘forest bathing’ activities have been shown to be very beneficial for the body.

Yoshifumi Miyazaki, one of the main researchers in this field, has been researching the effects of nature on our bodies for over 30 years, and he mentions in his TED  talk on ‘Nature therapy,’ a  highly significant fact:

Miyazaki.JPGHe mentioned that we as human beings (homo sapiens) have lived on earth for 5 million years, and for 99.9999% of that time, we lived in the forests. Then urbanisation took place, with the industrial revolution, but this period of time has only been 0.0001% of that 5 million years!

So because we are living in an artificial, man-made (or human-made) environment we’re always in a state of stress, and to strengthen ourselves against that stress, if we return to nature and walk in the forests, then we will benefit a great deal from that. We will, he maintains, strengthen our immune system.

Here are some of the research results:

The forest environments reduce the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the bloodstream. Research conducted in 2005-2006 produced evidence that it reduced cortisol concentration by 13.4% after simply looking at the forest for 20 minutes, and it had decreased by 15.8% after walking in the forest.

People’s pulse rates dropped: In the 2008 research, the average pulse rate dropped by 6.0% after viewing the forest, and a further 3.9% decrease after walking there.

But the highest change was in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ [or relaxation response] part of the nervous system, which switches on to help our bodies recover from the effects of stress).

Researchers know that this is connected to our heart rate variability, and this activity increases when we feel relaxed.

Hardcastle-Crags1.jpgSo when the research participants simply viewed the forest settings, there was an enhancement of the parasympathetic nervous system’s activity by 56.1%.

But after the research participants had walked in the forest, there was an enhancement of the parasympathetic nervous system activity – an increase of 103%!

Why did these bodily changes take place in the research participants?  Dr. Miyazaki discovered that one of the reasons for these changes is that the pine trees in the forests release a substance called ‘phytoncide’. This is the substance emitted by pine trees to kill insects and stop wood rot, and this substance has a beneficial effect on people as they walk through the forests. He has done a lot of interesting research with different wood scents, and shown how they have a positive effect on the body.

So when you’re out walking in the trees, you are really helping your body recover from the strains of working and driving in an urban environment, and regular walking in a natural, tree-rich setting will strengthen your immune system.

(I strongly recommend that you look at Dr. Miyazaki’s TED talk: at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD4rlWqp7Po )

He also mentions in his talk the effects of looking at flowers on humans, and he hands out red roses during his presentation – a lovely gesture to put across his ideas.

I hope you experiment with this idea of walking in the woods or forest.  Happy walking – and finally I’d like to recommend Hardcastle Crags in Hebden Bridge  as a great place to walk!

That’s all for this week,

Best wishes,

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata 4 coaching at btinternet dot com

01422 843 629

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My new book on counselling practice

Writing and editing books is so time-consuming!

My new book on counselling theory and practice is almost ready!

Dr Jim's photoA blog post by Dr Jim Byrne, 22nd June 2016

Many years ago, I read a book on project management, in which the prime principle was said to be this: Estimate each task required to complete the project, and then double it!

In planning the writing and editing of my new book – titled, Holistic Counselling in Practice – I forgot to double my time estimates.  And so the book’s arrival has taken much longer than I had expected.

I am now close to the end of the endless processes of writing, illustrating, editing, and proof-reading.

Some delays occurred because: I decided to write a Foreword; Renata’s appendix – on Diet, Nutrition and the Body-Brain-Mind – took much longer than expected; and I decided that the book must have an index.

Anyway, here is an extract from the Foreword, for those of you who are getting impatient for an insight into the final shape of the book:

Foreword

Book-cover-frontIn these pages you will find a detailed introduction to the theory and practice of one of the most recent, and most comprehensive forms of holistic counselling and psychotherapy. This new system (for helping people to optimize their positive experiences of life, and to process their negative experiences), necessarily deals with emotions, thinking, stories and narratives, plus bodily states; and thus is called Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT).

This book has been designed to be helpful for three audiences:

(1) Counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, educators and other;

(2) Students of counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry, social work and related disciplines;

(3) Self-help and personal development enthusiasts.

Complex-ABC-model-2003The content of this book has been a long time incubating, at the very least since 2001 when I first tried to defend the ABC model of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)/ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) by relating it to the three core components of Freud’s model of the mind (or psyche): (1) the Id (or It [or baby-at-birth]); the Ego (or sense of self, or personality); and the Superego (or internalized other, including social and moral rules). The more I tried to defend REBT, the more its core models fell apart in my hands!

At the same time, I was studying thirteen different systems of counselling and therapy, from Freud and Jung, via Rogers and Perls, and the behaviourists, to the cognitivists and existentialists.

Later, I considered Plato’s model of the mind, alongside the Buddhist and Stoic philosophies of mind.

Attachment_urgeInto this mix, at some point, Attachment theory arrived, and that helped to make more sense of the mix.  Attachment theory and Object relations theory eventually formed the core of my model of the mother-baby dyad, and the way in which the mind of the baby was born out of the interpenetration (or overlapping interactions) of the physical baby and the cultural mother.

And this gave rise to a greater awareness of the individual counselling client as a ‘social individual’, who is ‘wired up’ (neurologically) by social stories to be a creature of habit, living out of historic scripts; and viewing the world through non-conscious frames which dictate how things ‘show up’ in their automatic (cumulative-interpretive) apprehension of the external world.

As these developments were reaching fruition, I also discovered the insights of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB – Siegel 2015) and Affect Regulation Theory (Hill, 2015).

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Body-mindsBut even beyond those developments, I also became increasingly aware that, because we are body-minds, our experience of sleep, diet, exercise, alcohol, water consumption, and socio-economic circumstances – (in addition to current and historic relationships) – have as much to do with our emotional disturbances (very often) as do our psychological habits of mind.

And in Appendix E, Renata Taylor-Byrne presents compelling evidence, from reliable sources, that anti-depressants are not nearly as effective as has been claimed; that drug companies hide negative trial results; that the real pills often fail to outperform placebo (sugar) pills; that the real pills are often totally ineffective; that they seem to be addictive, and difficult to get off in some cases; and they have serious side effects (in some cases involving suicidal ideation). And in addition, we agree with those theorists who have argued that physical exercise is at least as effective as anti-depressants; and also that some forms of dietary change can and do reduce and/or eliminate depression. (See Appendices E and F, below).

Exercise-body-mindCounselling and therapy systems have normally ignored the convincing evidence that exercise and diet can change our emotional states.  For example, in Woolfe, Dryden and Strawbridge’s (2003) book on counselling psychology, there are no references in the index to diet or physical exercise[1].  As in the case of McLeod (2003)[2], there is a ‘virtual postscript’ (in Chapter 29 [of 32] in Woolfe, Dryden and Strawbridge) on counselling psychology and the body – which is essentially about using bodily experience in counselling and therapy – as in breath work, and body awareness – though the chapter author (Bill Wahl) also includes a consideration of body-work as such.  However, in E-CENT, we consider that touch is too problematical (ethically) to include in our system of counselling.  What we do include, because it is now clearly an essential ingredient of the health and well-being of the whole-client (body-brain-mind), is awareness of the role of diet and exercise in the level of emotional disturbance of the client; and an awareness of the need to teach the client that their diet and exercise practices have a significant impact upon their emotional and behavioural performances in the world.  (See Appendices E and F).

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For more, please go here: E-CENT Institute, Book Preview.***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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[1] Woolfe, R., Dryden, W., and Strawbridge, S. (eds) (2003) Handbook of Counselling Psychology. Second Edition. London: Sage Publications.

[2] McLeod, J. (2003) An Introduction to Counselling. Third Edition.  Buckingham: Open University Press.  Chapter 21 of 21; section 6 of 9 within that final chapter! No references to diet.  This is the totality of his commentary on physical exercise: “The therapeutic value of physical exercise is well established.  But, for the most part, counselling remains centred on talking rather than doing”. (Page 523 of 527!)

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Meditation for stress reduction

Renata’s Blog Post No.6

Written on 7th October 2015.  Posted here on 6th May 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015-16

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: The dramatic benefits of Daily meditation

Introduction:

Meditation-benefits.JPGIn this blog I am going to explain why meditation is really good for you. It’s the mental equivalent of being on a very nutritious and healthy diet.

And it’s better for our bodies than going on holiday, or going shopping –because you feel good for longer and it doesn’t reduce your bank balance!

That’s a big claim, so I’d better explain why I think it’s so good for you. In order to do that I need to get a bit technical.

But firstly, let me clarify what I mean by ‘meditation’: Sitting quietly, clearing your mind of mental chatter, and focusing your attention in the here and now by counting your breaths in and out.  It’s that simple.  But you can always get more guidance on how to do it by consulting our How to Meditate page.***

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Mental demands on our energy

Meditation-effects.JPGIn our daily lives, here are some examples of the mental demands we face:

# Starting the day with too much to do and too little time to do it.

# If you are married: Getting the kids dressed, breakfasted and ready for school – and keeping the mobile phone on, so you can be easily contacted

# Other people’s conversations (and problems), and responding to them appropriately

# TV and radio news which always give the bad news first, relentlessly

# If you use a mobile phone: Text messages throughout the day – with good or bad news; and the ever-present threat of a bad/stressing phone call

# Emails waiting for us when we get to work

# Adverts trying to get us to buy things

# If you are a car driver: Other drivers’ behaviour on the roads

# The demands of the job when you get to work

# Your inner dialogue (mind chatter), as you prepare, respond and carry out your daily responsibilities

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Have I missed anything out? Probably!

NataCrags005.jpgOur poor brains are deluged with information overload, and the messages don’t stop until we crawl, tired out, into bed, hoping for a decent night’s sleep.

By that time your body has got plenty of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) circulating in it, so the quality of your sleep will be affected by them. That’s the bad news.

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The good news: how meditation works

What meditation does is it switches off your stress response, and switches on the relaxation response.

The stress response is a natural, human response to all the daily challenges you’ve been facing. You’ve probably heard it referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’.  Your heart rate and breathing increase; your big muscles tense up to fight or run; your digestive system closes down, to conserve energy; your body/brain fills with cortisol and adrenaline, so it becomes difficult to think straight.

We’ve got 2 nervous systems in our body: the ‘sympathetic’ nervous system, which activates our ‘fight or flight’ response; and the ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, which switches on when threats to us have passed.  The parasympathetic nervous system is also called the ‘rest and digest’ or ‘relaxation’ response.

These two systems alternate with each other, to keep a balance in the body – a bit like mixer taps for hot and cold water.

Meditation gets your body’s relaxation response activated which means that the feelings of stress drain away and the ‘rest and digest’ mechanisms start to operate in your body.

So your body stops producing cortisol, and switches to the relaxation part of your autonomic nervous system. Your digestion starts working again, your big muscles relax, and mental relaxation and whole-body rest take place.

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Breath-counting – recommended by the Buddha:

Begin by sitting quietly, with no external distractions. Switch off the TV or radio. Sit in a room which does not have any human activity going on. And focus your attention completely on your breathing, so that your thinking about yesterday and tomorrow close down.

Counting your breaths over and over for a period of time rests your brain and reconnects you to your body – to the regular rhythms of your breathing. And in this way your thoughts settle down, lose their power to disturb or run you ragged, and become mere thoughts which come and go, like clouds in the sky.

Meditation roots you more powerfully in the reality of your body and your current surroundings and less in the world of your thoughts.

You may quickly feel sleepy when you start meditating – this is a sign that your body needs rest and wants more sleep.

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How do you do it?

You sit still, in a quiet place, and slowly start counting your breaths from 1 to 4, over and over again. It’s as simple as that.  Count 1 on the in-breath; 2 on the out-breath; 3 on the in-breath; and 4 on the out-breath.  And repeat.  Slowly, slowly; let your rate of breathing slow down, and relax your body.

For more guidance, see our How to Meditate page.***

I suggest you try 10 minutes a day at first. Ten minutes of peace!

But as you get to feel the effects on your body I would suggest that you build up to 30 minutes a day. That will be really good for your mind and body.

You will be able to feel and experience the benefits for yourself, and may well want to go into the subject of meditation in more depth.

The Buddha recommended counting your breaths, but there are loads of different types of mediation.

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Regular practice makes for successful meditation

Why meditate every day? You will only get the full benefits of meditation, and experience them for yourself, if you do it every day, because it takes time to reap the rewards, just like when you start an exercise programme.

Zig Ziglar once said: ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily’.

The same applies to meditation.  Daily practice will strengthen your connection to your body, slow down your mind, build up your stamina and lower your blood pressure. The resultant increase in relaxation will mean that when you experience stressful events, you will be meeting them with a more relaxed body/mind. Therefore the stress response will be less powerful and you’ll recover more quickly.

And the only time the brain rests is when we’re meditating!

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The benefits of meditating:

Here is a link to a website which has listed 100 of the benefits of mediation:http://www.lotustemple.us/images/Benefits_of_Meditation.pdf

And here is a more detailed account of how to meditate which my partner, Jim Byrne and myself, wrote some time ago: our How to Meditate page.***

How come such a beneficial technique isn’t more popular?

Well, firstly, you will need to get up earlier in the morning or carve out the time in your daily life, if you want to experiment with it.  And some people don’t like having to do that!

It’s not a quick fix, and some people are not very patient.  Give it time to work. The benefits will be worth the effort.  For examples: people have been able to give up hard drugs, cigarettes, lose weight, change their lives, start exercise routines, etc., through using this very simple technique.

It is also very useful if you have difficulty getting to sleep at night or wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about past or future events. The simple practice of breath-counting will help you get off to sleep more quickly.

That’s all for now. I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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A rave review of “Brain Maker: The power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life”

Blog Post No. 30

22nd April 2016

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: A rave review of “Brain Maker: The power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain – for life” by Dr. David Perlmutter

Introduction

brain-maker-coverIn this blog I’m going to review some of the key elements of this book on brain-mind-body health.  In the process, I will explain to you why I think this is such a useful and surprising book, and how it can help all of us to be happier and healthier, and to enjoy our life more. Then I’ll outline a few of Dr Perlmutter’s dietary guidelines – from which we could all benefit – and then explain why it can be very tough to make changes to your diet on our own.

Why is nutrition important?

If we have to get up in the morning for work, school or college, and we have no energy, that’s bad news, isn’t it?  So we need energy to get things done in life.

So where do we primarily get our energy from? Strictly speaking, from our carbohydrate consumption.  But it’s not quite as simple as that; think of the example of the lethargy of depression.

According to Dr Perlmutter, the state of our guts is very important.

He says, “I’ve found that patients report never feeling anxious or depressed until they start having problems with their guts. Coincidence? I think not. Thankfully studies are finally starting to emerge that show the connection.”

 

Good-b.JPGPerlmutter considers that our mental health and physical wellness are totally affected by the internal systems of bacteria that operate in the gut.

But what happens there? 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’s at least 360 microbial ones. These organisms include fungi, bacteria and viruses.

So what do all these microbes do?

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

Apparently our guts contain 70-80% of our immune system. They can keep cortisol and adrenalin in check. These are the two major hormones of the stress response that can cause havoc in the body when they are continually triggered and flowing.

Gut-imageAnd our gut microbes influence whether we get: 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 our diet which he says will: treat and prevent brain disorders; alleviate moodiness, anxiety and depression; bolster your immune system and reduce autoimmunity problems; and improve metabolic disorders, including diabetes and obesity, which are all linked to overall brain and body health.

Six essential keys to a healthy gut

gluten-free-food

Perlmutter’s recommendations are very practical and there are six essential keys, which are:

  1. Only eating gluten-free foods;
  2. Consuming healthy fats;
  3. Taking prebiotics (which are functional foods, high in fibre, that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria, helping produce digestive enzymes);
  4. Probiotics (like acidophilus), which stimulate the growth of micro-organisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora);
  5. Fermented foods (like sauerkraut);
  6. And low-carb foods (such as: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, high-fat dairy, fats, healthy oils and maybe even some tubers and non-gluten grains).

What’s wrong with gluten?

Article-curing-leaky-gut

I’ll briefly look at his first recommendation, which was “eat gluten-free foods”.

Why does he say that?

Apparently gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and what it does is damages the lining of our guts, because it causes the release of a protein called gliadin.

What gliadin does is pulls apart the tight junctions that exist between the cells in our guts. The space between the cells start to widen, and the result is that toxins and larger molecules of food (that normally pass through the intestine and are eliminated), begin to leak into the blood circulation system of our bodies.

As a result, you get increased inflammation when your intestinal barrier is compromised. This means that you are susceptible to health challenges such as rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, asthma, eczema, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The blood/brain barrier’s integrity is threatened

depression-callourtWhat happens is that the blood-brain barrier (which has been thought of as a “highly protective, fortified portal keeping bad things out of the brain”) is weakened if the gut is leaky, and this lets in molecules that could be really bad for the body, including bacteria, viruses and proteins that would normally have been prevented from crossing the blood/brain barrier.

Dr Perlmutter illustrates in his book how eating gluten harms the gut wall and causes all sorts of problems for the body and brain. I had no idea that gluten was so bad for your guts but I am now more than 80% gluten free, and can report that it is great to be free from having indigestion, which I always used to get after eating bread.

The effects on our mental life of a change of diet is clear to see in the experiments Dr Perlmutter describes, especially in relation to children who have autism.

Cropped-picture-youth-glutensensivity

Perlmutter has presented a lot of case studies in his book.

On his website (www.DrPermutter.com) he presents a picture of one of his clients, Martina, who came to him for anxiety and depression.  He advised Martina to change her diet (gluten-free, prebiotics, probiotics, etc.), and he has presented a “before” and “after” picture of her on his website. The contrast is dramatic.  If you go on his website, and click on “Success” and then go to “Older posts”, which is right down at the bottom of the page, at the left hand side, you will see a picture of Martina before and after treatment from Dr P.

IKnsomnia-calloutBy the way, if you suffer from insomnia, then, on page 85 of his book is a section entitled, “Gut bacteria and a good night’s sleep”. What he says is this: “Balance the gut, break through the insomnia”.

Conclusion

This is just a short introduction to some of the ideas in Perlmutter’s book, which gives lots of evidence to show how mood disorders like anxiety, depression; plus insomnia; and brain diseases of different types; are very influenced by the different types of bacteria in our guts.

And these ideas are now becoming more widely supported.  As Dr Perlmutter writes:

Dr-Perlmutter“New, leading-edge science coming from the most well-respected institutions around the world, is discovering that, to an extraordinary degree, brain health, and on the flipside, brain diseases, are dictated by what goes on in the gut.”

The only difficulty with a book like this is that it challenges our ideas about our daily diets, and asks us to change very deep-seated habits, which isn’t easy!

Why is it so difficult?  Because human beings are by definition creatures of habit.  We operate automatically, and we tend to eat today what we have habitually eaten in the past.

That’s where a coach/ counsellor comes in – because changing our habits can be one of the most difficult things we ever do; and a coach-counsellor who understands behaviour change methodologies can be an essential step in the process.

In previous blogs, I have talked about some of the habit-changing techniques and strategies that I have taught over the years.  And when my coachees do the necessary work, the rewards (of better health, more stable moods, more energy, and a stronger immune system) are invaluable to them.

I hope you take a look at Perlmutter’s website – and the feedback from satisfied clients to Dr Perlmutter.  This could really benefit you, or one of your loved ones.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor-Tutor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843629

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