Tag Archive: counseling


The Art of Listening

The Listening Center believes strongly in the power of listening.  (Hence, the name.)  Our Vision statement reads:

The Listening Center believes that active, respectful, intuitive listening by professional therapists, fitness coaches, behaviorists, and other health care specialists will ultimately enable and empower individuals to hear their own story and realize that they can make a difference in the quality of their life.”

The truth is the quality of both your relationships and your work will improve dramatically if you hone your listening skills.  In relationships, communication breakdown is often behind many of the issues people face.  While it is important to work on being clear with others in what you say and what you are asking for, it is equally as important to be an effective listener.  Everyone wants to be heard, to be acknowledged, and to know that they are cared for.  In work, active and focused listening will help you see both possibilities and the holes in what is being said to you.  A good listener is a much better business person than one who only half-listens to what is being said simply because a good listener won’t miss as much.

The good news is that listening is a simple skill to hone.  The biggest step you can take is to simply be aware of how you are listening.  Just focusing on listening better will make you an exponentially better listener.  If you find your mind wandering while you are listening to another, simply redirect your attention and focus back to the person speaking.

There are two main components to being a good listener.  The first is the active component: your attention.  You cannot be a good listener without actively paying attention to what someone is saying to you.  Actively focusing on what is being said, how it’s being said, and any non-verbal cues from the speaker are all avenues on which to focus your attention.  The other main component to listening is more receptive in nature and that is being open and receptive to what another is trying to tell you.  Very often our own judgments, agenda, prejudice, or assumptions block us from really hearing what someone is trying to tell us.  That’s why it is so important to keep an open mind and an open perspective when you are listening to someone.  For instance, how often do we get stuck in a communication rut with our loved ones, having the same argument over and over?  Next time, clear your mind of all preconceived notions about what the other person is saying to you and try to take it in as if it was your first time hearing it.  This might help you have a fresh perspective and open up a line of communication between the two of you that had previously been closed.

A final tip on being a good listener is a strategy that “double-checks” you to make sure you really heard what someone was trying to tell you.  Sometimes, even if you are a great listener, you might misinterpret someone simply because they are having a hard time being clear.  That’s why most good listeners will reflect back what a person has said in an effort to be sure they heard it right.  This is a great tool for relationships because it cuts down on the possibility of miscommunication and it helps to make both parties in the relationship feel heard and validated.  Most reflect-back statements start something like, “So what you’re saying is…..” and then you just simply repeat what you heard.  If you got it right, great.  If not, the speaker has the opportunity to clarify.

We will end with one of our favorite quotes about listening, featured on the home page of our website:

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” -Rachel Naomi Remen

For parents of children with ADHD, it may seem pretty obvious as to why time ‘outside’ would benefit their child.  Children with ADHD are served well by physical activity, a release of their extra energy.  But, what may be surprising is that the type of outside environment can greatly affect a child’s symptoms.

The Landscape and Human Health Lab, a multidisciplinary research laboratory at the University of Illinois that is dedicated to studying the connection between mother nature and human health, has recently conducted research studies on children with ADHD.  While the number of studies is small, they have consistently shown that time spent in “greenery”, AKA nature, has a restorative effect on children and adolescents with ADHD, and improves their attention skills.  In one recent study, 17 children diagnosed with ADHD were taken on walks in three different environments over the space of three weeks. After each walk, concentration was measured using the Digit Scan Backwards test.  Results showed that children with ADHD concentrated substantially better after a walk in the park than after walks in the city or a suburban environment.  According to one of the study’s researchers, Dr. Frances Kuo, they were able to concentrate “shockingly better”.

Thus far the lab has only studied nature’s effect on attention because theory suggests that nature helps restore attention fatigue, which would exacerbate symptoms in a child with ADHD.  However, based on their studies with children of the general population, there is reason to believe it may also help reduce impulse control issues as well.

It appears that time spent in Mother Nature may do more for a child with ADHD than simply expend energy.  The following are some ways parents of children with ADHD might be able to utilize this knowledge to help their child:

  • Take walks outside in Mother Nature between tasks that require concentration, such as homework assignments.
  • Spend time outside when your child is displaying exacerbated symptoms.
  • Use regular Mother Nature time in conjunction with any therapies and/or medications to help optimize the results.
  • If you know ahead of time that your child is going to be asked to do something that is normally difficult for them because of their ADHD, try to work in some Mother Nature time directly before.
  • Expend excess energy AND get restorative, Mother Nature time by playing outside with your child in a green space like a park.

“It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Said It”

Chances are, you have heard your spouse say this or something similar more than once over the course of your relationship.  Sometimes, he or she has misinterpreted your tone of voice and, in fact, there was no ill-will behind the benign statement you made.  But, often your spouse is fairly accurate in picking up the non-verbal cues that you may have been trying to stuff or hide.  And, while your statement may have been benign, the intention or feeling behind it was not at all, which is what your spouse picked up on.  After all, we all learned how to communicate and to understand each other long before we learned how to speak or understand language.

There is a common exercise utilized by acting teachers that demonstrates this very phenomenon.  The actors are given a 5 or 6 sentence script of open-ended statements that could mean just about anything.  For instance:

“Hello.”

“Hi.  How are you?”

“Fine.  And you?”

“I’ve been to the store.”

“Did you find what you needed?”

“Yes.  I’ll have to get going soon.”

“Alright.”

Then the actors are given a background story and an intention.  If you have ever watched this exercise done in person, the different messages and connotations these few benign sentences can hold are rather astounding.  Each pair of actors’ performance is completely different because their stories and intentions are different.

You and your spouse have your own unique story that is always evolving.  And, if you are a couple in distress, you might be harboring a lot of ill-will towards each other, which is natural.  While communication breakdown is often something that needs to be addressed, along with learning proper communication skills, the fact of the matter is all the skills in the world can’t mask ill-will and negative feelings toward your spouse. They will hear the intention behind the words, and know your real feelings.

So, what to do? How can you begin to address this underlying communication issue?  Goodwill towards your spouse is not a skill to be taught, but rather an attitude or perspective to be consciously cultivated.  Here are some tips:

  1. Consciously choose to focus on the positive in your partner.  Make a list of his/her positive attributes.  If you find yourself focusing on the negative, stop and switch it to the positive.
  2. Learn about your spouse’s emotional needs; what makes him/her feel loved and valued by you.  It may not be what makes you feel loved and valued, so don’t make the mistake of only showing love as you would like to receive it.
  3. Tender touch is a basic human need.  Affectionately and tenderly touch your spouse on a daily basis.  This will increase your feelings of goodwill, as well as your spouse’s.
  4. When your spouse does something that angers or displeases you, channel your internal dialogue into a more positive and healthy avenue.  For example, “This really bothers me and angers me, but I know he means well and does not want me to feel this way.  He is my friend and I need to love him and respect him even in this moment.”
  5. Keep a gratitude journal and make sure you always include things about your spouse for which you are grateful.  It can be certain qualities, something he or she did that day, or simply that your spouse is alive and well that day.

A recent article in USA Today highlighted two research studies, which showed that when overweight children feel ostracized or left out, they tend to eat more and exercise less.  Both studies were conducted at the University of Buffalo where scientists have been studying the effects of different situations on children’s food intake and activity levels for a few years now.

In both studies, the kids would play a computer game that replicated ball tossing.  One set of overweight and normal-weight children’s characters were excluded or ostracized in the game and another set of normal and overweight children’s characters were included.  For the research study centered on food intake, the children from both sets (excluded and included) had a chance to eat as much as they wanted for about 15 minutes after playing the game.  The overweight children ate 200 calories more when their video character was excluded from the game than when the character was included.  The normal-weight children didn’t eat more when their video characters were excluded or left out.  Assistant Professor Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, lead researcher for these studies, thinks one possible reason for this is that overweight children seek food for comfort after they feel ignored.

In the study that focused on activity level, the findings were that both the normal-weight and the overweight children were less physically active after their video characters were ostracized or left out.

The findings of these two studies speak to a snowball effect that could likely happen for children who are overweight or obese.  Overweight and obese children, unfortunately, are often left out, ignored, or ostracized by their peers in all types of situations, whether they be social or physical, like in gym class or on sports teams.  These types of situations can cause them to overeat and to be less physically active, which will cause more weight gain which, in turn, will lead to more situations of being left out or ostracized.  It is a vicious cycle.  How do we break it?

If you are a parent with an overweight or obese child, it is important to address the emotional issues underlying your child’s weight gain, as well as the tendency to seek comfort from food, sometimes called emotional eating.  For some children, it may be beyond the parent’s scope and ability to tackle this all themselves, in which case it may be necessary to seek the help of a licensed therapist or counselor in order to help your child fully deal with these types of issues.  Also, it would be wise to encourage any and all physical activity your child shows interest in.  They may feel too ostracized by their peers to be ready for any organized sports, but they could very well be up for a hike or bike ride with you, for instance.  Incorporating physical activity into family activities is a great way to increase activity levels in your overweight child.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your child is of normal weight, you could help tremendously by encouraging your child to include those kids who are often left out and ostracized.  It is hard for kids to do this completely of their own volition, because being accepted is so important to children and teenagers.  But if you can instill the important values of being kind, empathetic, inclusive, and non-judgmental, you will not only help the overweight children, you will also help your own child grow up to be a thoughtful, generous, kind, accepting adult.

Parenting is not easy. Parenting a child with ADHD is that much harder.  It is hard on each individual parent, hard on their marriage, and hard for other family relationships, such as the parent’s relationship with the sibling(s) of the child with ADHD.  It is important to seek the professional help of a licensed therapist and/or psychiatrist if your child is diagnosed with ADHD.  They will be able to help you, your child, and your family best cope with it all.  Having said that, the following are some basic tips for parenting a child with ADHD:

1.  Parent Together

If you are lucky enough to have a spouse to help you parent your child with ADHD, take full advantage and parent together as a united front.  Most importantly, make all decisions together ahead of time and stay consistent.  The child with ADHD will respond best if he/she gets the exact same response out of each parent with whatever action he/she takes, good or bad.

2.  Maintain a Positive Outlook

A child with ADHD can be very trying and difficult.  It is crucial for you as the parent to maintain perspective, a sense of humor, keep calm, keep focus, stay hopeful and take it all in stride.  Above all, believe in your child.  Trust that they can and will learn, change, mature and ultimately succeed.

3.  Stay Healthy

It is near impossible to adhere to the second tip without adhering to this third tip.  Parenting requires a ton of energy.  Parenting a child with ADHD requires a ton more.  It is absolutely imperative that you take care of yourself.  Exercise regularly.  Eat nutritious foods.  Take a multi-vitamin.  Sleep 8 – 10 hours a night, preferably at the same time every night.  Schedule R & R time and stick to that schedule, no matter what.  Seek and accept support.

4.  Establish Structure

Children with ADHD respond best when they have structure.  Create that structure and stick to it.

5.  Clear Rules -  Rewards and Consequences

Children with ADHD need consistent rules that are clear and spelled out for them.  They respond well to an organized and upfront system of rewards and consequences.  But remember, rewards and consequences lose their value unless you follow through with them.

6.  Praise Your Child

Children with ADHD are often scolded.  Take extra care to notice and praise good behavior to help counteract that imbalance.

7.  Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep

We’ve already discussed the supreme importance of these three things for you, as the parent.  But they are equally important for your child with ADHD.   Children with ADHD often have excess energy.  Exercise, in any form, will help focus and release this energy.  Beyond the energy release, exercise has been proven to improve concentration, decrease depression and anxiety, and promote brain growth.  It will also help your child with ADHD sleep better at night, which will in turn reduce the symptoms of ADHD.  Scheduling an hour of quiet, “down-time” before bedtime will also lead to better sleep.

A child with ADHD will be helped enormously by proper, steady nutrition.  Feed your child healthy, nutrient dense foods every three hours or so.  This will keep blood sugar stable, as well as help brain function and mood.  If your child suffers from the sugar rushes and crashes that are associated with a poor diet, it will be much harder to concentrate and behave appropriately.  That is true for all children, but especially those with ADHD.

Resources:

LiveStrong.com, ADHD Parent Coping Skills

HelpGuide.org, ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips

ADHDHelp.net, ADD: How It Affects Families

ADHDChildParenting.com, How ADD Affects a Family

Teen Suicide & Prevention

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teens today.  That is a scary statistic.  The National Institute of Health believes that there are as many as 25 teen suicide attempts for each one that is completed.  That makes the first statistic even scarier.  Teen suicide rates have risen 200% since 1960, yet another scary statistic.  Fact of the matter is, teen suicide is a serious issue and a serious problem that needs to be continuously addressed.

Studies show that clear warning signs precede 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts.  It is important to note here that many teen suicide warning signs are also indications of depression.  To be clear, you may not see all the warning signs display themselves in the teen.  Instead, watch for a combination of two or three signs as an indication of depression and possible suicidal thoughts.  Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Disinterest in favorite activities
  • Withdrawing or isolating oneself
  • Substance abuse, illegal and legal
  • Complains more frequently of boredom
  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Reckless “death wish” behaviors
  • Self-injury
  • Neglects hygiene and appearance
  • Increase in physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines) possibly due to emotional distress
  • Feelings of being trapped, no way out
  • Perceived burdensomeness, others “better off” without them

The following are warning signs/indications of a suicide plan:

  • Verbal cues and hints, such as:
    • “ All of my problems will end soon ”
    • “ No one can do anything to help me now ”
    • “ I wish I were dead ”
    • “ Everyone will be better off without me ”
    • “ Nothing is going to change or get better ”
    • I just want to go to sleep and not wake up ”
  • Teen begins giving away favorite belongings
  • Throw away important possessions
  • Appear extremely cheerful or calm following a period of depression
  • Creates suicide notes

The three most important aspects of teen suicide prevention are:

1.)  Support / Being Involved

2.)  Awareness / Education

3.)  Professional help

These 3 aspects are like three legs of a stool.  Missing one, the stool will fall over.

The first aspect, support / being involved, is imperative because unless you are actively involved in your teenager’s life, you will never be able to catch any warning signs or changes in behavior.  If your teenager does not feel your support, he/she may feel more alone and hopeless and helpless.  The second aspect, education / awareness is imperative because if you don’t know the warning signs, you might miss them no matter how involved or supportive a parent you are.  Finally, the third aspect, professional help, is imperative for if/when you discover your teenager is depressed or suicidal.  Suicide is not something a family or teen can “handle” themselves.  It requires the licensed professional help of counselors, psychologists, and/or psychiatrists.

There is a non-profit organization right here in New Jersey whose mission it is to educate parents, teachers, and teens about teen suicide.  It was started in 2005 by the parents of Jimmy Ganley, who committed suicide in 2004, and it is called The Ganley Foundation.  Below is a link to their mission page that features a video excerpt from an ESPN special that tells their story.  It is heartbreaking and hard to watch, but it hammers home in a very real way how crucial it is to bring awareness to teen suicide and prevention.

http://ganleyfoundation.org/about-us/our-mission.html

If you, or anyone you know, is contemplating suicide, below are some hotlines you can call for immediate assistance:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Default.aspx
Veterans, press 1 to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline


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Kristen Brooks Hope Center – National Hopeline Network

1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

http://www.hopeline.com/


Here at The Listening Center, we are big admirers of Rachel Cosgrove.  For those who have not yet heard of her, Rachel Cosgrove is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, co-owner of a successful gym in California called Results Fitness, columnist for Women’s Health magazine, and best-selling author of a fabulous book we highly recommend, The Female Body Breakthrough.  (If interested, you can learn more about Rachel by visiting her website http://www.rachelcosgrove.com.)

Recently, I caught a video of Rachel on You Tube taken during her visit at Todd Durkin’s gym, Fitness Quest 10, also in California.  The video focused on a talk she gave to some of the members at the gym, focusing on the themes and messages of her book, The Female Body Breakthrough.  At one point, Rachel described for the audience the 3 major components to achieving overall health and fitness.  (Bare in mind, these 3 components apply to men as well.)  She used the analogy of a stool, each component comprising one leg.  They were:  exercise, nutrition and mindset.  If one leg of the stool is weak or out of balance, then the whole fitness stool is off kilter, unstable, and out of balance.  What struck me the most about the talk Rachel Cosgrove gave that day at Fitness Quest 10 was what she said about the importance of one’s mindset:

“… {I} realized the women who really made that change long-term, and lost the weight, lost the clothing sizes, and were able to do it and keep it off long-term, and really change their bodies for their LIFE, were the ones who were able to change their mindset.”

Makes sense, right?  It’s something many of us have learned in some aspect of our lives – maybe not health and fitness, but we can all instinctively understand that lasting change only comes when our mindset has also changed.  Those of you who are Biggest Loser fans have seen this theme play itself out season after season.  Every single Biggest Loser contestant in every single season needed to, at some point, face and come to terms with whatever it was in their mindset that had caused them to become obese.  For some, it was a self-image issue.  For others, it was an emotional issue.  Still others were a combination of the two and even other issues I haven’t touched upon.  Universally, they ALL needed to change their mindset to achieve the lasting success they desired.

A person’s issues with food can often be tied to emotional issues.  Food is a substance that can be abused as a means of escape like any other.  Unlike any other, however, it is not a substance that can be abstained from, as one would abstain from drinking alcohol if one were an alcoholic.  Everyone needs to eat, after all.  This means that you have to completely change your relationship with food, as well as heal the emotional issues that caused your food addiction in the first place.  Sessions with a licensed counselor, ideally one who is holistic in his/her approach and who is open to working in conjunction with others who can also help you on your journey, such as a nutritionist and trainer, could be instrumental in changing your mindset for lasting success.  Some issues run too deep and too wide to grapple with and decipher all on our own.  Getting the help of a therapist during your journey will help create that lasting success you desire.

Another common mindset issue that needs to be changed in order to achieve the health and weight-loss you desire is negative self-image and self-talk, coupled with low self-esteem.  Far too many of us say very mean things to ourselves – and believe them!!  No wonder we feel awful, and hopeless, and discouraged when we constantly tell ourselves that we are fat, and ugly, and sloppy, and lazy, etc., etc.  All this negative self-talk only causes us to turn to food even more for comfort.  Make a promise to yourself right here and now that you will cease the negative self-talk and replace it with positive talk.  You will tell yourself that you are beautiful, and fit, and healthy, and productive.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it at first.  In fact, you can count on not believing it at first.  After all, you’ve had years of conditioning yourself to believe just the opposite.  However, the more and more you replace the negative talk with positive, the better you will begin to feel and the more you will believe the positive vs. the negative.  Eventually, the negative voice will grow weaker and weaker until she/he ceases to exist.

To sum it all up, changing your mindset is the key to making any lasting change you seek in your life.  While this post has focused on it in terms of weight-loss and health, your mindset is the key to success in any endeavor you take on.  It should be your first priority.  If you find that you are unable to effectively change your mindset, do not be afraid to seek help.

Panic Attack Disorder

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are sudden surges of overwhelming fear and terror that strike with no apparent warning; that is, the fear seems unrelated and disproportionate to the circumstances at hand.  This overwhelming fear is often accompanied by symptoms such as a racing, pounding heart, feeling dizzy or faint, tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers, feeling sweaty or having chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, and feeling out of control.  Panic attacks usually last around 10 minutes, but can seem longer if you experience a succession of attacks.  It is estimated that one out of every 75 people worldwide will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but it is only if you have recurring panic attacks that disrupt your ability to go about your daily life that you would be diagnosed with panic attack disorder.  In many people the symptoms of panic attack disorder develop in association with major life changes, such as getting married, having a child, or starting a first job, as well as major life stressors.  The highest incidence of the onset of panic attack disorder occurs in the 17 – 25 years of age range, but people of all ages can experience anxiety attacks.

The thing about panic attacks that makes them so debilitating is that often after you’ve had a few in succession, you begin to have panic attacks about having panic attacks, especially at times when, or places where, you don’t feel safe such as a crowded public place like a train crammed with people.   Panic attacks are very frightening because you feel completely out of control and often like you might just pass out.  People with panic attack disorders will find themselves avoiding situations they think might lead to a panic attack, or places they are too scared to have a panic attack at.  It is this avoidance that causes the most interference in a person’s ability to live normally.

Panic attack disorders, like anything else, can be treated in a variety of different ways and should be tailored to suit each individual patient.  But, across the board, most clinical therapists will teach patients with this condition some coping mechanisms to help prevent the attacks, as well to help them deal with the attacks when they come.  Some of these coping techniques are outlined below, but it is recommended and advised that if you experience panic attacks with any regularity that you consult with a licensed therapist and not attempt to treat yourself.

It is important to note that many of these techniques and coping/preventative strategies are good practice for all people, whether they experience panic attacks or not.  I don’t know a single person who does not experience anxiety in their life about one thing or another.  Panic attacks / anxiety attacks are just forms of anxiety.  I encourage all of you reading this post to incorporate some of these techniques and strategies into your life as a way to lessen and prevent any anxiety you may experience.

1.  Deep Breathing & Meditation

Practice daily mediation to reduce stress and anxiety.  Also, if you find yourself feeling anxious or having a panic attack, focus on consciously taking deep breaths.  Shallow breathing (also called chest breathing), which usually accompanies a panic attack, disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and, in turn, your heart rate increases, you get dizzy, and your muscles tense, thus worsening the symptoms of your anxiety attack.  Clear your mind of everything but your breath.  (Counting will help.  Slowly count to 5 in your head as you breathe in, and again as you breathe out.)  This type of breathing will slow down your heart rate and release tension.

2.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (PMR)

PMR is a technique developed to reduce anxiety.  The thinking behind the technique is that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can lessen the anxiety by consciously releasing tension in the muscles.  The technique works in a sequential pattern, asking you to alternately tense and then release various muscle groups.  It does take practice and will become more effective with time.  There are CDs and MP3 downloads you can purchase that will guide you through PMR.

3.  Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  Before beginning an exercise program, always get clearance from your doctor.  It is also recommended to seek the advice and knowledge of a certified personal trainer who can design an exercise program specifically tailored to your needs.

4.  Avoid Stimulants

Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.  Remember, coffee is not the only source of caffeine.  It is also in teas, chocolate, and soda.

5.  Start a Panic Diary

It is important to understand your particular anxiety / panic attack triggers.  A diary will help you discover any patterns your anxiety may have.  While an anxiety attack may seem to come from nowhere, in all likelihood there is some thought pattern or situation triggering it that you are unaware of.  Some thoughts we have, called ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), are so “automatic” that we don’t really consciously register we are having them.  When you find yourself feeling anxious or having an attack, first control the symptoms using deep breathing or PMR.  Once it is under control, immediately go to your diary to write down any thoughts  you are having while they are still fresh.  Also, describe exactly what your were doing and where you were when the anxiety attack occurred.

6.  Have Patience

There is no point in increasing your anxiety levels by being anxious about how your treatment is going.  Do your best, whatever that may be (which will always change depending on the circumstances), and then let it go.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/understanding-panic-attack-treatment

http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attacks.shtml

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/panic-attack-symptoms

http://www.anxietypanic.com/signs.html

http://panicdisorder.about.com/od/livingwithpd/a/pdselfhelp.htm

I recently came across an article in Psychology Today[1] that discussed the link between sugar consumption and depression.  According to this article, there are two ways sugar can affect a person’s risk factor for depression.  First, sugar inhibits or hinders the expression of a key growth hormone in the brain called BDNF.  BDNF is largely responsible for neural development.  In other words, BDNF is what maintains the health of your neurons as well as what triggers the growth of new connections between neurons.  Without BDNF, you could not create new memories for instance, or change patterns of behavior.  If a person (or animal) were to suffer chronically from a condition that is characterized by low BDNF (such as chronic depression), they may in turn suffer brain atrophy in key areas like the hippocampus.  In other words, you lack the hormone for growth in the brain, so it shrinks.

The second, equally disturbing, effect of high sugar consumption is that it triggers an onslaught of chemical responses in the body that lead to chronic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation in the body greatly increases your risk for a host of not-so-fun things like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and periodontal disease.  It also greatly increases your risk of depression.  A diet characterized by the excessive consumption of refined sugar will also wreak havoc on your immune system, not to mention lead to some awful mood swings.  Your brain works best on a steady supply of energy, not the frantic highs and debilitating crashes caused by refined sugar.

It is important to note here that refined sugar does not just mean candy and chocolate. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, white rice, potato chips, pretzels and the like act the same as sugary snacks do in the body, causing the same inflammation, blood sugar spike, and BDNF inhibiting qualities.

The implications of this are vast and broad considering the obesity rate in this country and the easy access Americans have to these types of refined sugar foods in general.  Factor in the ever-rising childhood obesity rate and there is even more cause for concern.  The growing brains of children need that BDNF hormone desperately, their developing immune systems are more vulnerable than adults and should not be compromised by chronic inflammation, and no child struggling with obesity will be helped by the onset of depression triggered by the very food that caused their weight gain.

While consuming large amounts of refined sugar on a regular basis is indeed a contributing factor to depression, it is by no means the only factor.  That is why if you or a loved one is suffering with depression, the recommendation is to seek the counsel of a licensed therapist.  There are often underlying emotional issues and patterns of thought and behavior that need to be addressed as well.   We recommend seeking a therapist who looks at the person as a whole – their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, diet, lifestyle, physical activity and spiritual life.  All these aspects in a person are deeply connected and cannot be adequately addressed in a separate, compartmentalized fashion.


[1] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-depression-cure/200907/dietary-sugar-and-mental-illness-surprising-link

I am thrilled to welcome you to The Listening Blog on behalf of The Listening Center, a counseling and wellness provider serving adults and children. At The Listening Center we focus our wellness services on the mental health and the physical fitness of our clients. We have collaborative and complimentary ways to integrate your mind and body counseling needs; and the professionals to guide you through your  journey to comprehensive wellness.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, marital issues, couples counseling needs, family concerns, behavior problems, school concerns, interpersonal problems, anger management, fitness goals, weight loss road blocks, nutritional needs, unhealthy eating habits, career goals, financial stress, infertility, considering adoption, and other mental, emotional and physical needs, we have the psychotherapy, personal training, counseling and supportive services to help. Thank you for considering The Listening Center for your very personal and important needs. We respect the courage it takes to deal with these sensitive and vulnerable issues and we will offer you the utmost in professionalism and confidentiality.

In addition to the excellent services we provide, we have a dedicated staff who is committed to “listening” to you and to empowering you to “listen” to yourself and your body. Listening is so much more than the act of hearing. It involves using all of your senses as well as your heart and soul. Active, respectful, intuitive listening is truly a gift you can offer to yourself and your loved ones and we strive to help you get in tune with your listening skills. Please join us here at The Listening Blog where we will post weekly on Mind-Body news, tips, resources, success stories, etc., and the overall theme will always include some “Listening” tips. Hope to see you here often …thank you, Cathy Duzenski

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