Tag Archives: dcpsychologist

Is simplicity significant?

Whether or not you call it minimalism, neuropsychological research indicates there are certainly mental health benefits to this type of lifestyle. Primarily, following a minimalist lifestyle emphasizes saving time, energy, and money, areas that are integral to mental health. Based on research from clinical psychology, minimalism has cognitive, social, and emotional benefits.

Allows you to self reflect
Overcommitment creates a frenetic pace. Time to sit and think is rare. Making time for meditation, prayer, and breath work/pranayama forces our brains to slow down in a way that is often not possible during the rest of our busy lives.

Encourages solitary time
Neuropsychological research shows that solitude has a number of benefits including increased feelings of creativity, introspection, agency, and even spirituality. Decreasing our social commitments and social media time is often difficult but actually provides a brain boost.

Reduces decision fatigue
Over 35,000 times. That’s the current cognitive research estimate on how many decisions we are required to make each day. And, if true, that comes out to 2000 decisions per hour or one decision to be made every two seconds. Overthinking is not just a phrase, it’s reality.

Supports executive brain functioning(such as organizing, planning, prioritizing, and self monitoring).
Simplifying life can help assist with productivity. Everything from meal prep, giving away items that are not used, going through your closet, not scrolling endlessly, and removing unnecessary events and tasks from your calendar all support your frontal lobe abilities.

Also see my post on simplified daily rituals that matter.

 

On Neuropsychology and Respect: the complicated history of sage

Burning sage, also known as smudging or cleansing, is an ancient indigenous North American spiritual ritual.

Scientifically, it has been established that white sage (Salvia apiana) is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain. In addition to dissipating negative energy, improving mood, and strengthening meditative practice, burning sage may improve memory, attention, and focus. A 2016 literature review of neuropsychological studies noted that evidence for Salvia’s cognitive-enhancing benefits are promising, and perhaps a means to help battle dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Last but not least, burning sage has antimicrobial properties. It truly cleanses.
 
Smudging has been well established as a Native American cultural or tribal practice (see the American Psychological Association sources on indigenous mental health).

As non-native individuals and mental health practitioners, it is our responsibility to be informed and respectful. For example, if non-native people “cleanse their space of negativity” through the use of smudge medicine (burning sage, sweetgrass, palo santo, etc.), it is crucial to understand its cultural significance and history. It was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religion until 1978 in the U.S., and many were jailed and killed just for keeping indigenous practices and traditions alive. Smudging sage was part of those banned religious practices. It was literally a crime.

Because of all that complicated history of sage burning, when non-Native people use white sage to “smudge” their homes or other spaces, it can infringe upon the cultural importance and authenticity of the ritual and its historical spirituality. The practice of smudging, therefore, should not be taken lightly, according to Dr. Adrienne Keene, an assistant professor of American Studies, Psychology, and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, author of the blog Native Appropriations, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation

It is possible to practice and appreciate indigenous cultural, medical, and spiritual practices without disrespecting them. Do research, be mindful, have gratitude, and strive to celebrate Indigenous people and traditions in a way that is culturally conscious. It is a gift, not a right.

Hot in Here: heat waves and mental health

The extreme heat that much of the country is experiencing this summer has significant impacts on mental health alongside serious physical health impacts. Some groups, including people with pre-existing mental health conditions, are especially vulnerable.

Extreme heat has been associated with a range of mental health impacts in extensive research over many years, including increases in irritability, anxiety, impulsivity, frustration, symptoms of depression, uptick in psychotic symptoms, and an increase in suicide. It can also affect behavior, contributing to increased aggression, incidence of domestic violence, and increased use of alcohol or other substances to cope with stress. Rates of homicide, physical conflict, and sexual assault go up during heat waves. Learn more: Packing the Heat

Research has also linked high temperatures to problems with memory, attention and reaction time. Sleep difficulties associated with extreme heat can contribute to and exacerbate mental health symptoms. Heat makes us sluggish. Not surprisingly, high heat countries along the equator often have a business model where everything shuts down during the hottest part of the day, and subsequently stay open later into the evening.

It is also easy to miss emotional and psychological turmoil that does not necessarily rise to the clinical level. Even when these experiences don’t lead to an official mental health or diagnosis, they influence people’s well-being. Writ large, temperature spikes can send a shockwave of angst through multiple households. For example, the stressed parent trying to stay patient with a screaming and bored toddler in an overheated house during a summer of heat waves. People with older or vulnerable companion animals who must be monitored because heat can be lethal. Or a senior who feels trapped and scared in the midst of record-high temperatures. As Earth gets hotter and human populations skew older, medical and cognitive problems and heat-related fatalities among older adults are expected to grow. Learn more: The Effects on Heat on Older Adults.

Heat: It’s knocking at the door, it’s ringing the bell. Ignoring it is not a great choice.

Hurts so good: Neuropsychology and Chili Peppers

Ghost peppers
The world’s hottest peppers, originally grown in Assam Province, Northeast India, epitomize the lure of pain and pleasure. Also known as raja mircha (king chili), ghost peppers or bhut jolokia originated in a region of the country where the cooler temperatures, heavy rains/monsoons, and soil quality made them grow naturally.

Currently, they are served most delectably as a condiment with mounds of rice ladled with curry, lentils, salad, and vegetables. They also pack a punch served with Maggi noodles, a South Asian comfort food, leaving you with a runny nose, sweating face, and a slow burn of volcanic heat.

The neural science
Brain pain receptors are proteins that have a certain shape that only fit specific molecules. Some pain receptors have the correct shape for capsaicin, the heat component of all peppers to fit into, like a lock and a key. When a capsaicin molecule binds to one of these pain receptors, there is a release of neurotransmitters that send a message to the brain. All neurotransmitters are chemicals that are transmitted from one neuron to the next, instant messaging, saying this is HOT. There is a quick burst of endorphins, the pain alleviating neurochemicals. Capsaicin also stimulates the thermo receptors that perceive heat, stimulating sweating and flushing. This actually has a cooling down effect, crucial in hotter climates. Not surprisingly, many countries with extremely hot menus are found in Africa, South Asia, the Caribbean (the Trini Scorpion chili pepper will make you gasp), and South America, where the temperatures are often steamy.

Why yearn for the burn? A sample of the research.
-Longevity: All chili peppers have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer (free radical), and blood-glucose regulating effects. Many of the health benefits have specifically been attributed to capsaicin molecules. Additional benefits include lower levels of bad cholesterol, increased metabolism, better gut health, analgesia (increased pain tolerance), and a general boost in immunity.

-Personality: A number of studies have found that more adventurous people are drawn to spicier and more stimulating foods. Chili 🌶 lovers are eager to try new things; willing to take risks; have a higher level of mental flexibility; and may be hungry for a variety of strong emotions, visceral experience, and adventures. This means they have a high degree of curiosity; or in other terms, they may be easily bored.

-Mood: Spicy foods create a safe high. The burst of endorphins produced by biting into a searingly hot pepper creates a burning sensation and then a sense of euphoria.

-Social Interaction:  Sharing hot food creates a sense of connection or similarity. Couples and family research shows that arguing over ‘what to eat for dinner’ is a common source of potential conflict or compromise.  “Because what I eat, what I drink, is in itself the ‘second self’ of my being,” wrote the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Figuring out what each person would like to eat, or not, is part of relational negotiation: do we fit together?

Also see: On nutraceuticals and mental health – Turmeric and Mental Health.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.