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Don’t let anyone fool you, an over-inflated ego and money are good things.

money and egoI am studying abnormal psychology and this course has made me look at my life in new ways. According to studies published in the book “Abnormal Psychology 16th Ed.” it has been shown that people who are very self-confident and who view themselves in an overly positive light tend to do remarkably well in the face of trauma. Combine that with people who also have higher incomes then you get higher than average positive mental health outcomes.

Now, I am not pointing this out to excuse any particular behavior, for instance, I am not saying become a greedy douche-bag. I am sure we have all met that guy who is full of himself and likes to show off. I think it is important to have an overly confident view of yourself and I think you can have that without being annoying.

Some other really interesting studies that have thrown me are that the list of stressors that have been linked to a suppressed immune system include marathon running. I am going to look into if that means full marathons or at what distance does it go from healthy to unhealthy.

What do you think about this?

Happy Friday!

Hector

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Stress literally did not exist before 1956.

You can blame Canadian physician and endocrinologist Hans Selye for stress. Prior to 1956, the word stress was a term used by engineers. Selye used the term stress to describe the difficulties and strains experienced by living organisms as they cope with and adapt to changing environmental conditions.  (Butcher, Hooley, Mineka 2014)

Does that mean people did not experience difficulties in adapting to changing environmental conditions before 1956? Of course not. Prior to 1956, people did not go to their doctors and say, “hey doc, I am stressed out”. They may have described their physical, mental and emotional conditions in other ways.

What do you think when you hear the word stress? It’s probably negative, right? Something to avoid. However, what if what we think of as stress is actually good for us? If you go by Selye’s original description of a living organisms coping mechanism of adapting to changing environmental conditions, it doesn’t seem so bad right? I hate to be the one to break this to you but our environment is constantly changing. I believe that it’s not that the environment is constantly changing that causes us problems. It’s our ability to adapt and cope with those changes that is a source of either problems or solutions.

What if we transform our relationship to stress? We can start by what we call it. What if instead of stress we call it something empowering? So now you know, your environmental conditions are constantly changing and how you adapt is key. Next is how are you going to react the next time life throws a curveball at you?

Last night my mom said, “you know I don’t why I bother asking you how you are! You always say you are well! Do you ever have bad days?”

Ever since I can remember I have never thought to myself, hmm today is a bad day. I have always known that I have had problems, sometimes big problems but never bad ones. To me, problems and even stress are not bad. They are actually good, I see them as opportunities that bring results.

The question really is, how are you going to deal with “stress”?

Happy Thursday!

Hector

I wanted to shout during class “Did everyone just hear what I just heard?”

Memories2I have always felt like a fraudulent nerd most of my life, until now that is! Starting in middle school I hung out with the science kids. We would study maps, math and random trivia. Our idea of a good time was playing chess and trivial pursuit! However, I never felt like I totally fit in with them. I hung out with them because they were smart. You see inside I didn’t “feel” smart. No matter how hard I would study I was never a straight A student, not even close, more of a C+ student. I worked really hard for that C+. I would read book after book and spend countless hours studying at the library but no matter how hard I tried I rarely got As.

I just discovered at age 43 in my physiological psychology class why that has been. Last week, the professor showed us a video on how our neurons work to retain memory. It turns out that mindless repetition of a fact over and over again for 2 minutes several times per week will move that piece of information from short term memory to long term memory!  I couldn’t believe my ears! Where have I been that I didn’t know that!!

I had been studying incorrectly all these years. I would read a flash card and immediately try to memorize it. That is just not as effective as repetition. So, I had been getting low scores in this class and then after this I tried it on the mid-term exam. I repeated the definitions for 2 minutes several times per day. BINGO! I got an 82% on my mid-term!!

 

Happy Tuesday!

Hector

One month into studying psychology and I am already psychoanalyzing everything.

psychoanalysisThis past weekend I was looking out the window with a good friend and we were watching children play in the street. My friend mentioned that to him the sounds of these children shouting sounded like birds chirping and that to someone else it may sound annoying. My response was “well, sounds are really just vibrations of air that are perceived by our auditory sense and the way you hear the sound is impacted by the location and angle of where you are so if you were somewhere else these children may not sound like birds chirping”. We both looked at each other and we started laughing.

I realized that I was using what I had learned the day before in class to describe this situation. Then I realized oh wow, I am psychoanalyzing  children on the street, once I go to school full time I am probably going to psychoanalyze everything!

Before I freaked out, my friend calmed me down. “Don’t worry”, he said, “you have been given a unique opportunity  to see the world with a new lens”. That’s when I realized, you know he is right, this knowledge is going to give me a unique view of life that if I maintain my mindfulness and compassion, I will able to use this power for good!

Happy Tuesday!

Hector

Ancient mental patients lived better than you do.

alexandria egyptIn Alexandria, Egypt after its founding in 332 B.C. as the center of Greek culture, medical practices developed to a higher level and temples dedicated to Saturn were first rate sanitoria. Pleasant surroundings were considered of great therapeutic value for mental patients who were provided with constant activities including parties, dances, walks in the temple gardens, rowing along the Nile and musical concerts. Physicians of that time also used a wide variety of therapeutic measures including dieting, massage, hydrotherapy, gymnastics and education as well as some less desirable practices such as bleeding, purging and mechanical restraints. (source Abnormal Psychology sixteenth edition Butcher, Hooley and Mineka)

Treating patients who display abnormal behavior went into the dark ages for centuries after that up until recent times, really. Even today there is so much ignorance around what we could call abnormal behavior.

I am intrigued by these ancient therapeutic practices. I imagine  that combining our current knowledge of the biological causes of mental illness with these ancient therapies could really revolutionize our modern mental health system. I can already hear some people say, “Wait, we can’t do that! I don’t want to pay so that others are treated better than me!” To be honest my first thought at learning how these ancient physicians treated mental patients was “wow! I want to live like that!” Imagine partying, dancing, walking temple gardens, rowing along the Nile, being fed healthy meals, gym membership as a part of your doctor’s orders?

I think as a society we are starting to see how unbalanced our lives really are. I am of the opinion that balance is the key. Regular exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, connecting with friends and family, positive outlook on life, a spiritual connection (God, religion, universe, nature, art or whatever your expression of spirituality) and awareness that you can only do so much and sometimes we all need some extra help are all the foundations of what I see to be a happy and balanced existence. After learning about these ancient physicians, I think they were on to something remarkable. Why not bring back these ancient practices?

What do you think?

Happy Saturday!

Hector

Thomas Edison turned you, yes YOU into a zombie, or so some say.

plants-vs-zombie-papercraft-002In my physiological psychology course we are studying sleep and why we sleep. It is a very fascinating subject. I have always been big into sleep. Before taking this class, I USED TO feel guilty about sleeping more than average. I usually get 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night. I would feel guilty about it because I hear people say they get very little sleep. Some of my friends even called me lazy, ha ha!

Well, it turns out that in the past, hundreds of years ago, most people slept a lot, at least by our modern standards. People usually went to sleep after sunset and would wake up at sunrise, you could say in a more natural way.  So what people ended up getting was 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night. There are theories that because of this natural way of sleeping and longer hours, people were more productive and more awake during the day. Some theorists say that most of us modern people who rely on an alarm clock to wake up, coffee to keep us up during the day and stay up late into the night have no idea what it’s actually like to be fully awake. We are basically walking zombies.

This disruption to our natural system impacts our REM sleep and our dreams. It has been discovered that REM sleep and dreams are crucial to our survival. Everyone dreams, they are so important that if you are deprived of dreaming during the night, you will dream during the day while awake. For those people that say that they do not dream, what is actually happening is that they don’t remember their dreams.

A few years ago some scientists did an experiment on our circadian systems to check this theory about 10 to 12 hours of sleep based on the sun. You can google circadian video for more information. Respondents in the experiment slept 10 to 12 hours per night based on when the sun set and rose. You guessed it, respondents reported better mood, mental and emotional acuity, many went as far to say that they had not felt this clear ever before.

So supposedly the culprit is Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb. Our lives have changed dramatically for the better and for the worst because of his invention. I am certainly not advocating that we return to the dark ages, literally. My point is how to learn from our past and from our present.

So, now I don’t feel guilty about sleeping 9 to 10 hours. If you are not getting enough sleep, STOP IT!! Get some sleep! Do whatever you have to to make it happen.  Oh and don’t use artificial methods like Ambien, not good. It will take effort but adapt yourself naturally such as drink less coffee and exercise more.

Happy Thursday!

Hector

 

Heart Repaired, Brain Damaged

B0005622 Enhanced MRI scan of the headIn my physiological psychology course I read about a woman who felt pain toward her left shoulder and then traveled down her left arm. The sensation was terrifying and she was sure it was a heart attack and was going to die. But after a few minutes the pain went away and she visited her doctor the next day.

Her physician examined her and later told her  that she had not had a heart attack. Her pain was from angina pectoris, caused by insufficient flow of blood to the heart. Some of her coronary arteries had become partially obstructed with atherosclerotic plaque – cholesterol containing deposits on the walls of the blood vessels. Her physician cautioned her against unnecessary exertion and prescribed nitroglycerine tablets if the attack occurred again.

In the course of the next year the frequency and intensity of her attacks increased. Her specialist finally recommended that she consider having a coronary artery bypass performed. She agreed to do so.

Later after the surgery she felt fine but complained of vision problems and confusion. The physician said that is normal after a big surgery and discharged her.

Her problems did not get better over time. Her physician sent her to a neuropsychologist who evaluated her to have Balint’s syndrome. She could see but could not control her eye movements. She was confused because she saw only fleeting, fragmentary images. She could no longer read and she could no longer locate and grasp objects in front of her. Her vision was almost useless. Her heart was fine but she would have to live in a nursing home, where she lost her independence.

Could this have been avoided? If so, how?

Credit “Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience” Neil R. Carlson

Happy Wednesday!

Hector