Leigh Richardson: The Threat of Humiliation May Lead to Suicide

A new online scam is hitting the web threatening to expose users’ browsing habits unless a fee is paid. The hackers behind the extortion scam are likely bluffing, but the impact on victims could be more damaging than just financial. Dallas counselor Leigh Richardson worries that the fear of humiliation is a trigger that could lead to suicide.

It hits that fear button, it could be enough to make you think, “I’m so stupid, that was so dumb, If anyone finds out it would be easier if I wasn’t even here.”

The scam uses the fear of public embarrassment and humiliation, similar to the Ashley Madison leak from several years ago, where we saw suicides there also.

Watch The Entire Interview Here

Leigh Richardson: Social Media Posts Might Be Masking Real Pain

Life portrayed on social media may not be what it seems. A viral tweet by Buzzfeed writer and podcast host Tracy Clayton was a catalyst for conversation about mental health and how social media is used as a tool to mask real pain behind the screens.

The tweet read:

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“Social media has created a different culture, a comparison culture.”

The tweet received thousands of likes and hundreds of retweets. Leigh found the gesture inspiring and impactful.

“People found hope, more hope by being able to share information and to hear what other people had to say about it…Social media, it’s here. It’s part of our day-to-day life. But we all need to learn how to use it and that it’s not just a spot for us to compare ourselves to everybody else.”

Watch the Full Interview Here

What To Remember About Memory Loss

Forgetting is Normal

We all forget things, and with time, we’ll start relying more on lists, note apps, and social cues to recall. The good thing though? It’s natural, and it’s okay. Here’s what you should know about memory loss and how to cope with it, whether it’s you or someone you love.

What Is Memory Loss?

Memory loss is characterized as “unusual forgetfulness.” That means, remembering new events or recalling one or more memories from the past becomes more difficult or impossible. Memory loss and other cognitive declines can result from normal aging, but it can be due to other health problems or injuries such as concussion or cancer treatment. Some of these can be treatable, and there are ways you can cope.  

Coping with Memory Loss

Memory loss, even simply from aging, can be frustrating and sometimes scary for a person. If you know you struggle with remembering things, take precautions:

  • Try to stick to a daily routine.
  • Rely on calendars, lists, post-it notes, or daily planners.
  • Designate spots for important items, and if need be, label the spot.
  • Don’t leave a room with water running or the stove on.
  • Take things slow. If you can’t remember a word, describe it, and do so calmly. Sometimes, the panic of not immediately remembering a word can nix all efforts of recalling it.
  • Use associations for recall.
  • Sleep well and routinely.
  • For important documents, print them out and keep a file in case you can’t find where you stored them on your computer or you accidentally deleted them.
  • Practice repetition. It’s been proven that repetition can make things easier to remember. For example, when meeting someone, repeat their name out loud.

Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Nothing makes memory loss an even more upsetting predicament than distracting thoughts resulting from panicky frustration.

Memory Loss & Communication

When someone you love is dealing with more than normal memory loss, it can be hard to communicate like you used to. Understanding what they’re saying and vice versa becomes more difficult. Patience, empathy, and open communication are key here.

Be patient while they try to remember a word or if they don’t remember something you’re referring to. Empathize when they forget something because it upsets them more than you. And communicate when you think it’s getting more serious, but do so kindly and in a soothing environment.

Choose simpler words and minimize other distractions in the environment during a conversation. Aid them however you can, and when talking to them about their impairment, do so respectfully, without speaking to them like a baby. Give them time to comprehend your words and come up with a response. More than anything, show that you care.

Maintain a Healthy Brain, Especially As You Age

No matter what age you are, taking steps to keep your brain healthy can impact your cognitive performance and help with memory loss. Practicing these habits can put some control back in your hands. Not to mention, they can impact other aspects of health as well. Other options are open as well, such as Neurofeedback, a proven method to increase neuronal communication in the brain.

Pain Lives in the Brain

Pain is a universal concept. It’s understood as the unpleasant (sometimes chronic) sensation that warns against potentially damaging or harmful stimuli found in everyday life. While pain is in fact uncomfortable and unpleasant, it does help us as humans adapt in a way that teaches us to avoid situations that could hurt us. But, have you ever wondered exactly how we interpret pain?

The Perception of Pain

In simplest terms, pain is a complex interaction between sensory nerve cells, the spinal cord, and the brain. When an area of our bodies is injured, certain pain receptors are activated and send signals throughout the peripheral nervous system (PNS) to the central nervous system (CNS), where responses are triggered. The PNS actually houses the nerves that respond to pain (peripheral nerves); these nerves carry messages from skin, muscles, and internal organs to your spinal cord and brain (CNS) in the form of electrical currents and chemical reactions.  

The peripheral nerves are what sense the threatening stimuli, whether it’s a cut, burn, or pressure. In fact, these are the same nerve cells that transmit information from your senses (smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch). The specialized nerve endings we are referring to are called nociceptors, all found in your skin, bones, joints, muscles, and tissues, and send the pain messages along the peripheral nerve to the spinal cord.

Pain is Multidimensional

Pain is both physical and emotional, involving other psychological aspects, like learning and memory. After life experience in hurting ourselves in the past, we now know that cutting ourselves while dicing onions is painful. Thus, the anticipation of pain has a say in our perception. Often, there’s even an emotional response that comes after we stub our toe or slip and fall, such as frustration with ourselves.  

There are two types of pain: chronic and acute. Chronic pain lasts longer than six months and can be anywhere from just annoying to crippling, while acute pain is onset by a specific injury or disease and usually heals after a certain period of time. Chronic pain, on the other hand, hijacks the brain, causing it to reorganize the white and gray matter into a dys-regulated state. To help with this pain, a person needs psychological and neurological assessment. One way to stop the pain is to change the way the brain reacts to nerve impulses from a dys-regulated state to a regulated state. Biofeedback is a recognized treatment modality for chronic pain.

Emotional Pain Feels Physical

When we have our hearts broken, we often describe this feeling as “heartache.” There is truth to this metaphor, as emotional pain can cause physical reactions, such as certain sensations in our chest. Whether it’s muscle tightness, increased heart rate, nausea, or shortness of breath (a panicky feeling), emotional pain involves the same areas of the brain as that of physical pain.

The anterior cingulate cortex is the area of the brain that regulates emotional reactions. It’s been shown that activity in this region helps to explain how an emotionally stressful situation can trigger a biological response. When dealing with something emotionally stressful, the anterior cingulate cortex increases the activity in what’s called the vagus nerve (which starts in the brain stem and connects to the neck, chest, and abdomen). When overstimulated, the vagus nerve can cause feelings of pain and nausea.

Pain is Different for Everyone

Brain imaging today has confirmed that pain is felt differently by everyone, as some may be more sensitive to pain than others. While one sensation may feel painful by one person, it may simply feel uncomfortable to another. It’s important that, if you are experiencing pain, to seek the appropriate help and advice. You don’t have to live with it.  

Brain Awareness Week: Maintain A Healthy Brain

Next week is Brain Awareness Week, an appropriate time for a quick refresher on how to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. It’s also a time to really appreciate what our brains do for us. The brain is, in a sense, the nucleus of all of our decision-making, emotional experiences, physical movements, memory, and much more. As such an integral part of our existence, the brain should be treated as healthily as possible. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep Learning

In other words, exercise your brain. Studies show that mentally stimulating activities help the brain to create new connections between nerve cells, possibly even creating new cells. In turn, this improves “neural plasticity,” which is the brain’s ability to adapt. Examples of mentally stimulating activities include reading, taking school courses, word puzzles, chess, or even more creative tasks, such as painting, drawing, knitting, and other crafts in general.

Exercise

Actual physical exercise has been shown to improve brain health as well, as it increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the part of the brain in charge of thought. Much like mental stimulation, using your body’s muscles helps the brain become more efficient, plastic, and adaptic. It also lowers blood pressure, helps balance blood sugar levels, improves cholesterol levels, and reduces stress. All of these benefit the health of the brain and the body as a whole.

Be Quiet

In today’s world, everything is moving so rapidly, and our schedules are stressing us out. From working out, keeping up with our social lives, maintaining our full time jobs, and having relationships, families, and sometimes even dealing with trauma, there is a lot going on in our heads. In fact, it’s all happening so fast that our brains are sometimes unable to process the information and our environment. At some point, your brain just needs silence–a practice that has been shown to create new cells in the brain and speed up mental processing.    

Have a Healthy Diet

Not only is a healthy diet good for your body, but it also has effects on cognitive processes and emotions. Studies have shown that dietary factors influence neuronal function and brain plasticity, potentially improving cognitive ability. With a decent focus on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils, and plant sources of proteins, you have a brain-healthy diet that is less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.

Have a Healthy Social Life

Social connectedness has a lot of benefits, including decreased feelings of depression, living longer, stronger immune system, and even reduced risk of dementia. Studies have shown that those who connect with others tend to perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. This is not to say that anyone should force themselves to be around people constantly, but rather to find people–even a select few–to connect with and confide in. Having that deep connection with others makes life less lonely and more genuine.

Get Some Feedback: Neurofeedback

Sometimes, to maintain a healthy brain, you have to look at the brain itself. Through neurofeedback–a form of biofeedback that relies on brainwave patterns and measures brain wave activity to indicate how a person is functioning–you can learn to improve and strengthen brain waves. In turn, it improves learning, focus, and attentiveness.

Happy Brain Awareness!

Brain Awareness Week, in a sense, is “awareness of awareness.” Your brain gives you the ability to even be aware, so give back to your brain. By doing so, you give back to your entire body and your well-being altogether.

 

SOURCES

Cell Phone Addiction is Changing Our Brains

We may not even notice we’re doing it, but it has become a primary form of entertainment, information, and now addiction: the mobile device. The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin word, “addico,” which means “to devote or surrender to” or “enslaved by.” Today, it’s seen as a chronic disease that can actually change our brains’ functioning and structure. Without much awareness, we depend on our smart devices and act on that dependency compulsively.

For adolescents, it’s even more of an issue, with 94% of teens going online using a mobile device daily, and 24% of them going online “almost constantly.” According to 2015 Pew Research, 46% of smartphone owners said “they couldn’t live without” their devices. With the usage prevalence, some researchers even consider it to be one of the greatest addictions of the current century.

A team of South Korean researchers have found that kids who used the internet or messed with their phones compulsively experienced an increase in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, to the part of the brain involved in addiction. In other words, dopamine is part of the reward system of the brain, and rewarding behavior can lead to addiction. Dopamine also plays a role in learning and memory, so repeated exposure causes nerve cells to communicate in a way that associates liking something with wanting it, driving us to pursue it.

Behaviors of Cell Phone Addiction

Cell phone addiction can manifest itself in many behaviors, but it’s mostly a combination of some of these.

  • Checking phone in the middle of the night
  • Anxiety at not having the device with you–even if it’s not lost. Or, feeling a drug-like withdrawal
  • Checking phone as many as 900 times a day (addicted)–while the average person checks their phone 110 times a day
  • Sleep deprivation can be a symptom that affects school performance and increases irritability (61% of teens say cell phone use has negative impact on schoolwork)
  • Usage creates family arguments
  • Have less face-to-face interactions/conversations
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Cell phone usage becomes a way to escape stress and reality
  • Constant use, even while doing other things, such as driving and walking (11 teens die every day texting while driving)
  • Experience something called “text neck,” which is chronic strain from looking down
  • Eye strain/blurred vision from focusing on blue light and small screen
  • Decreased neural connectivity, affecting emotional control
  • Experience phantom vibrations, which is when we feel a non-existent cell phone alert
  • There are co-occurring disorders, such as deepening depression with lack of human interaction and increase in anxiety when cell phone is not available
  • Sleeping with phone under pillow (90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their smartphones)

Setting Smartphone Boundaries

In the end, if it interferes with quality of life, relationships, and career, it’s time to set some restrictions for your teens and/or re-evaluate your own dependence. First, create self-awareness about how much data you’re actually using and then restrict yourself or your children’s data usage. For your kids (and you), designate a time without cell phones or devices. We all need to be brought back down to earth; otherwise, we (especially younger ones) are only going to become dependent upon the dopamine released when using an electronic device. Our brains need fresh air and physical/motor activity for good mental health.

Reward this “tech time-out” with positive reinforcement, and ultimately, be a role model. Show your kids–and even your adult family and friends–that life is good when you put down the phone. Connecting with your surroundings and those around you is just as important as (if not more than) connecting with your friends across the country or reading up on the royal wedding.

Is this easy to do? No.

Is it doable? Yes.

Is it necessary? Absolutely.

SOURCES:

Does TV Rot Your Brain?

television--electronics_19-105647Watching TV is something virtually everyone does, but did you know that TV can actually be harmful to you?  Television viewing can, for example, increase your risk of premature death, reduce your level of intelligence, completely obliterate your ability to concentrate and increase your risk of developing neurodegenerative brain disorders.

Researchers in Australia have concluded that watching television increases risk of death from heart disease, strokes and even cancer. Every hour spent watching television each day increases the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth, say scientists. Studies found that people who sat in front of the box for more than four hours a day were 80% more likely to die for reasons linked to heart and artery disease.

“Even if someone has a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods of time still has an unhealthy influence on their blood sugar and blood fats,” said the study’s lead researcher, Prof David Dunstan, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia.

While we know a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to our health, few studies have  examined the effects of what watching too much TV can do to our brains. Research carried out over 25 years by California’s Institute for Research and Education has recently shown the dangers of television for our neurons, even in those who exercise regularly.

The participants were divided into two groups according to their television habits: frequent viewers (more than 3 hours of television per day) and moderate viewers (less than 3 hours per day). Their cognitive function was evaluated using the DSST (Digit Symbol Substitution Test), Stroop test, and RAVLT (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test).

The results showed that the most frequent viewers over the 25 years (10.9%) were more likely to perform poorly on the cognitive tests. Secondly, the participants with low physical activity (16.3%) performed poorly on the DSST. Thirdly, when compared to moderate viewers engaging in regular physical activity, frequent viewers who exercised little were nearly twice as likely to perform poorly on cognitive tests. Too much television and a lack of physical activity represent independent factors linked to a decline in cognitive brain performance.

And the worst news: Exercise can’t compensate for the harmful effects of too many hours spent watching television. If you’re athletic, you are undoubtedly maintaining your cognitive abilities better than sedentary individuals, but if you also watch television for more than three hours per day, it is likely to have negative consequences on your intellectual activity.

Television reduces your ability to think critically. When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left side of your brain (responsible for logical thought and critical analysis) to the right side.  This is significant because the right side of the brain tends not to analyze incoming information.  Instead, it uses an emotional response which results in little or no analysis of the information.  In other words, this is like someone telling you something and you believing what they say without doing your own research.

Your brain is actually more active when you are sleeping than when you are watching television! Since the health of your brain is largely determined by how much you actively use it, watching too much television can have a detrimental effect on the health of your brain.  One of the reasons that brain activity is so low when watching TV is because you really don’t have to do anything.  When you read, for example, you have to mentally create images of what you are reading. This requires significant brainpower to do so.

So, the saying ‘TV rots you brain’ has more truth to it than you might imagine. Excessive television viewing has also been linked to degenerative brain disorders later in life such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Beating Social Anxiety With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Have you ever had someone tell you… “Wow, you’re a really shy person.” It can be incredibly embarrassing. It’s difficult enough having to deal with social anxiety on a daily basis, it’s even worse when people point it out. The normal reaction to a statement like that for someone with social anxiety is probably to turn red, dart the eyes to the floor pretend to be completely invisible.

Social anxiety may seem silly to those who don’t have it, but for those that do it’s serious business. Social anxiety transforms even the smallest bits of social awkwardness into big mountains of fear and insecurity.

Thankfully, we now have more information and knowledge from psychology research on how to better manage social anxiety and not let it completely ruin people’s lives.

We’re constantly learning more in psychology and neuroscience about how to improve our lives and overcome certain obstacles and mental disorders. Interestingly, a new study has just come out in the journal Transactional Psychiatry with some incredibly promising results for those who suffer from social anxiety and excessive shyness.

After just 9 weeks of  cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), patients showed a significant reduction in social anxiety symptoms. But most surprisingly, the study found that the “fear center” in people’s brains – the amygdala – actually decreased in size by the time they were done with the course.

The shrinking of this “fear center” is neurological evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can absolutely make a drastic impact on how our brains work.

Are you overthinking things??

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It  happens all the time.  Someone you know is going through something really tough.  You want to reach out to them, but you just don’t know what to say.  The more you think about it, the more your mind begins to overthink it.

We all have thoughts that inhibit our actions.  We question ourselves, should I call or email, or maybe text my friend in need? What if I say the wrong thing and make it worse? What if they don’t want to talk to me?  What if I make it worse?  Those negative self defeating thoughts keep coming and coming.  Sadly,  we end up not reaching out and continue to overthink the situations.

Our brains directly control our behavior. When the brain is ‘regulated’ properly it works better. It gives us clarity.  How do we get that clarity?

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback provide clearer thinking.

Biofeedback and  Neurofeedback are a great ways to help open our brain’s neural pathways that create self regulation to improve, and enhance our neurological and physiological responses. It can help us think more clearly and teach us how to respond to everyday stress in a healthy way. Biofeedback and neurofeedback provide the kind of evidence-based therapy that can benefit everyone. It enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance in our daily lives.

Clear thinking allows action:

  • Don’t assume others have called. Often, even good friends don’t call because they know what to say.
  • Don’t text or email. A phone call can make someone feel loved at a time they need it most. They will remember it.
  • Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. The act of you picking up the phone and giving your voice to their pain trumps any of the actual words you’d use in the conversation.
  • If they don’t want to talk, they won’t answer. Leave a message. It means just as much.
  • If you’re worried about it being uncomfortable, you’re focusing too much on yourself. The phone call isn’t about you. It’s about them, and there is nothing uncomfortable about taking a few minutes to let another human know they matter.

Don’t overthink things.  Just call.

Handle your stress – Don’t let it handle you

Stress is part of our everyday life, and some days we handle it better than others. Some days we get stressed about being stressed, starting a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on our nerves, our work , and personal lives. However, you shouldn’t feel so guilty, as some of these are reactions are completely justified – in fact, it’d be strange if somethings didn’t cause you stress.

New research published in “The Journal of Neuroscience” shows that a stress you can control is very different from a stress that you can’t control. An example of an uncontrollable stress could be a traumatic event, such as the divorce or death of a family member. A controllable stress could be training for and running a 10k race, or preparing for your dream vacation. Not all stress is bad.

Since we’ve already identified that stress is inevitable and unavoidable, we can then agree that it’s how you handle the stress that is most important. After exposure to a controllable stress there is increased activity in the frontal cortex and research suggest that exciting this area can create resilience to stress in general. So just as with anything in life, practice dealing with stress. Set goals for yourself that required a certain amount of controllable stress, be they fitness, professional, or social. The  small amounts of stress that you are able to handle and conquer will help train your mind and body to deal with those unavoidable uncontrollable stressors in life.

But how do you keep the frontal cortex activated when the uncontrollable stress comes into play? The easiest and simplest way to do that is through the use of biofeedback, and slowing your breath rate down to a more optimal functioning level. By changing your breath rate, you change your heart rate. If you can get those two to dance together in sync, moving at the same beat, then you have created physiological balance. Both the autonomic nervous system and the central nervous system will preform better and keep the frontal lobes in an active state.

There are breathing programs that you can purchase for home use such as MY Calm Beat or M Wave, which I have both used and recommend. There are other things that you can do to help keep your brain balanced, depending on the different variables.

Remember, not all stress is bad; it is how we handle it that counts. Handle your stress, don’t let it handle you.