Influencing OthersBy AmenClinics

You have much more influence than you ever imagined. The best way to influence the people you love is to FIRST get healthy yourself.  If your health habits are bad, you influence your loved ones in a negative way.

Research suggests that your diet will affect generations to come.  In a new study, animals that were given the typical Western diet over several generations bred more obese offspring.  The diet changed the functioning of the animal’s genes, so that over time they ate more food and became fatter and fatter.

This is very disturbing, because it means that unless you get your health under control NOW, it can affect your children, your grandchildren and even your great grandchildren.

If you get healthy … you lose weight and you improve your energy and your mood … people will want what you have.

Your legacy can be about health or about illness.  You get to decide … are you going to be a good role model, and help the people you love?  Or are you going to be a bad role model and hurt them?  You can have a tremendous influence on the health of those around you.

What are you doing TODAY to get healthy?

What are you doing TODAY to model good health for those you love?

Who do you want to influence?  Is it your husband, your children, your grandchildren, your employees?  I know for me, I want to influence all the people in my life, but if I am not healthy I have NO influence and I have NO credibility.

You can do this.  It is not hard.  It just takes loving yourself, loving those around you, and great brain-based information.  By using these 10 Amen Solutions, you can become thinner, smarter, and happier and help those you love become thinner, smarter, and happier too.

And don’t forget this twelfth step of the Amen Solution @ Home, “Influence Others.”  People get better together.  Be the change in your family and community by being a good role model so that you can influence your family, friends, co-workers, church members and schoolmates to get and stay healthy too.  The more you give this program away, the more you teach other people the concepts that you’re learning in this program, the more they’re going to be solidified in your own head.

The Amen Solution @ Home will give you all the support tools you need to get yourself healthy so you can then influence others and help them do the same.  Click here to get started on your own brain health journey now!

 

Overcome BarriersBy AmenClinics

There are so many people and societal influences out to sabotage your success.  Every day you will face obstacles that threaten to sabotage your brain healthy plans.  This is why the eleventh step of The Amen Solution @ Home focuses specifically on helping you overcoming barriers.

One of the best ways to keep your bad behaviors in check is to “H-A-L-T-S.”  H-A-L-T-S is an acronym that is commonly used in addiction treatment programs (Healing for the Soul added the fifth letter, “S,” several years ago), but it is also particularly helpful for people who have trouble coping with daily stress.  H-A-L-T-S stands for:

  • Don’t get too HUNGRY.
  • Don’t get too ANGRY.
  • Don’t get too LONELY.
  • Don’t get too TIRED.
  • Don’t get too SICK, SAD, STRESSED, SCARED, or SHAMEFUL.

H-A-L-T-S has proven to be a very effective way to keep people on track when they are trying to change their habits.

Don’t Get Too Hungry

Going too long without food lowers your blood sugar levels which can lead to a variety of emotional issues including feelings of anxiety and irritability. These may be the very emotions that trigger your overeating.

Low blood sugar levels are also associated with lower overall brain activity, which is linked to an increase in cravings and impulsivity. Heightened anxiety and irritability coupled with more intense cravings and impulsivity is a recipe for emotional overeating. Keeping your blood sugar levels even throughout the day is critical to keep you on track.

Here are some tips to keep your blood sugar levels from getting too low.

  • Eat a healthy breakfast—people who maintain weight loss eat a nutritious breakfast.
  • Have smaller meals throughout the day. Eating big meals spikes your blood sugar levels then causes them to crash later on.

Amen Solution @ Home Tip: Keep track of your eating habits in your online Food Journal to make sure you are eating often enough so you don’t let yourself get too hungry.

Don’t Get Too Angry

Uncontrolled anger can send you running to the cookie jar to calm your emotions. Here are some tips to help keep anger under control.

  • When you feel mad, write down your thoughts and ask yourself, “Is it true?”
  • Practice deep-breathing exercises.
  • Meditate. Just a few minutes of meditation can help you refocus your thinking.

Amen Solution @ Home Tip: Go to the ANTs game to talk back to your angry thoughts.  Visit the Relaxation Room to practice deep-breathing exercises or to meditate.

Don’t Get Too Lonely

Social skills and a positive social network are critical to your emotional well-being. Working on your current social situation is important to healing. Here are some tips to increase your social bonding.

  • Enlist a team of supporters and healthy role models.
  • Volunteer in your community.

Amen Solution @ Home Tip:  Invite friends, family, and coworkers to join you in living a brain healthy lifestyle by joining The Amen Solution @ Home.

Don’t Get Too Tired

A 2007 study found that sleep deprivation caused the emotional centers of the brain to become 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That means your brain simply can’t cope as well with stressful situations, leading to worse moods, more anxiety, greater irritability, increased anger, and more frustration. And when your emotions are running wild, you are more apt to run to the refrigerator for solace.

In addition, lack of sleep lowers overall brain function, which leads to more bad decisions. Several studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to higher calorie intake and higher consumption of refined carbohydrates, which as you learned in the Don’t Get Too Hungry section, causes blood sugar levels to spike and then crash.

If you routinely have trouble sleeping, I suggest keeping a sleep journal for at least a few weeks. Make copies of the following chart to track your sleep. It can help you pinpoint everyday habits that might be contributing to the problem.

Make sleep a priority to boost brain function, moods, and energy levels, and to improve judgment and self-control. Here are ten ways to make it easier to drift off to dreamland and get a good night’s sleep. Remember that we are all unique individuals and what works for one person may not work for another. Keep trying new techniques until you find something that works.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule—going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day, including on weekends. Get up at the same time each day regardless of sleep duration the previous night.
  • Create a soothing nighttime routine that encourages sleep. A warm bath, meditation, or massage can help you relax.
  • Some people like to read themselves to sleep. If you are reading, make sure it isn’t an action-packed thriller or a horror story—they aren’t likely to help you drift off to sleep.
  • Don’t take naps! This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you have insomnia. Taking naps when you feel sleepy during the day compounds the nighttime sleep cycle disruption.

Amen Solution @ Home Tip:  Visit the Relaxation Room for tools to help you sleep better.  Consider supplements that help you sleep, such as melatonin, valerian, magnesium, and B6, found in Restful Sleep.

Don’t Get Too Sick, Sad, Stressed, Scared, or Shameful.

While these emotions are part of the human condition, it is important not to allow them to swing our emotional state to the extreme tempting us to “act out.”

Being prepared for these unplanned barriers is the key to overcoming them which is why the Amen Solution @ Home provides you with not only the full H-A-L-T system, but also a variety of other protocols to help you overcome obstacles.

A Simple Way to Have a Happy BrainBy AmenClinics

A positive outlook can have a strong positive effect on your brain and body. Studies have shown that having a positive attitude and feelings of thankfulness show beneficial effects on multiple body and brain systems. “Those include mood neurotransmitters… reproductive hormones… cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters… immune system… stress hormones” and blood pressure.

The brain’s “fundamental organizing principle” in life is to avoid threats and maximize rewards. “The brain’s primary reward chemical is called dopamine.” However we cannot feel rewards and threats unless we focus our attention on them, after an event comes to our attention, we then get neurotransmitters released that makes us feel good or bad. The fascinating thing is that the brain cannot tell the difference between reality and fiction, that is why you feel scared while watching horror movies, or you feel an adrenaline rush when you are watching an intense, fast pace, car chase scene. In the same way, feeling thankful and expressing positive feelings act as a “mental movie.” The brain releases dopamine, which, in turn, has a positive effect on mood and emotional well-being.

Showing gratitude helps us focus in on the “good stuff” that happens in our lives.  On our new community site (www.amensolution.com ), we ask you to keep a journal every day, including 5 things you are grateful for.  This has been shown in research to increase your level of happiness in just 3 weeks.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/science-thankfulness/story?id=15008148#.Ts_cPfJ9l8H

Making Brain Healthy Decisions by AmenClinics

This article is adapted from AmenClinics blog.

The quality of our decisions determines our success in all that we do. Here are 8 tips you can use to help you make better brain healthy decisions every day:

  • When your brain is troubled, you are much more likely to act in impulsive, careless ways that put you at risk for illness and early death.  When your brain works right, you are more likely to act in thoughtful, conscientious ways that help you live longer.  Prioritize your brain health and better behavior will follow.
  • Nothing is more important to your health than the quality of the decisions you make in your life. And the quality of your decisions is a direct reflection of the physical health of your brain. Taking time to look at and upsize your brain health may be the most important decision you make to live strong and long.
  • Decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) has been associated with lack of forethought and poor judgment. When the PFC does not get enough blood flow, you don’t have a good working brake on your impulses. Increasing blood flow to this area with brain-healthy habits, along with supplements, such as green tea and rhodiola, will help a person make better decisions, leading to a longer and happier life.
  • Head injuries, even minor concussions from the past, show up on SPECT scans and may affect your behavior and feelings years later. We often have to ask people many times, “Have you ever had any sort of injury to your head?” before they recall the incident that hurt their brain. Recognizing and rehabilitating these injuries will dramatically increase the quality of all of your decisions.
  • Addictions, including drug, food and sexual addictions, are made worse when we literally “wear out” the brain’s pleasure centers by the constant exposure to highly stimulating activities, such as video games, text messaging, sexting, internet pornography, and scary movies. Take inventory of the adrenaline producing activities in your life: eliminate unhealthy ones, take breaks with activities (even good ones) that are becoming compulsive.
  • An overly optimistic worry-free, attitude (without forethought and planning which are prefrontal cortex activities) lead people to underestimate risks and approach them in lackadaisical fashion, decreasing longevity. Be optimistic, as this is good for longevity; but balance this trait with a healthy level of anxiety and careful thinking.
  • People who are persistent achievers with stable families, habits, routines did the best in longevity studies. Consider your daily and weekly routines: can you make them more brain-friendly? For example, can you walk somewhere that you always drive? Can you exchange an hour of TV for playing brain games?
  • To make better decisions make sure to optimize the blood flow to your brain by stabilizing your blood sugar (make sure you eat healthy and often), getting good sleep, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and eliminating nicotine.

Because the quality of your decisions determines your success in all that you do, one of the 12 steps of the Amen Solution @ Home online program focuses specifically on improving the your decision making abilities.  If you are interested in this program, be sure to use promo code ECENTER4 at checkout to receive 15% off.

Additionally, here are 9 more helpful tips you can use to make better brain healthy decisions every day:

  • If we want our children to make better decisions for their lifetime we need to do a much better job of taking care of their brains. The brain is not fully efficient until we are twenty-five years old. To avoid disrupting early brain development, help young people avoid smoking, substance abuse, brain trauma, a lousy diet, stress and poor sleep.
  • The Amen Clinic’s research shows a new burst of increased activity in the prefrontal cortex after the age of fifty. We become more thoughtful and more able to focus on what really matters in life. Have a few wise friends over age fifty who can give you valuable insight when making decisions.
  • When fighting addictions or everyday temptations of any kind, always keep these two words in mind: “Then what?” Whenever you think about doing or saying something, ask yourself about the consequences of your behavior. This question can serve as a “slow down” or “stop” sign to a brain that is about take you down a bad path.
  • A hallmark of intelligence and what separates us from other animals is our ability to think of the consequences of our behavior before acting on an impulse. It is the internal dialogue that accompanies “Then What?”
  • A high percentage of people who struggle with addictions also have ADD or ADHD. When left untreated, a person has less ability to control his or her impulses, setting them up for significant health problems, poor decisions, and early death. Natural ways to treat ADHD, include intense aerobic exercise, a very healthy diet, a multiple vitamin, fish oil, and supplements (such as green tea, rhodiola, l-tyrosine) or medication (such as Ritalin or Adderall) to enhance prefrontal cortex function.
  • Being overweight is damaging to your prefrontal cortex, and can have a negative impact on the decision making part of the brain. Get your weight under control, starting now, will help you enhance your health and longevity.
  • Practicing self-control is a good exercise to strengthen your prefrontal cortex. The more you use it the stronger it gets. To develop your PFC, practice saying no to the things that are not good for you and over time you will find it easier to do.
  • Low levels of omega three fatty acids have also been associated with ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity – all brain issues that lead to poor decision-making. You can optimize your omega three fatty acid levels by eating more fish or taking fish oil.
  • Keep a One Page Miracle. On one piece of paper write down the specific goals you have for all the main areas of your life. Then ask yourself every day, “Is my behavior getting me what I want?” This simple but profound activity can be of tremendous help in encouraging better daily choices that add up to a better life.

To learn more on how to make better brain healthy decisions, or to start optimizing the health of your brain right now, please contact us or visit www.theamensolution.com.  As a Healing For The Soul/The Soul Healers friend, use promo code ECENTER4 for a 15% discount and priority shipping.

Here’s to your (brain) health!

Stress Is Sabotaging Your Ability To Make The Right Decision

by Dr. Amen

Trying to decide whether to buy a new car or not, while also being stressing about your in-laws coming for a visit?  You might want to hold off on buying that car.    A new article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows that feeling stressed changes how people weigh risk and reward.  Specifically, we tend to pay more attention to the upside of a possible outcome when making decisions under stress.

It’s a bit surprising that stress makes people focus on the way things could go right, says Mara Mather of the University of Southern California, who cowrote the new review paper with Nichole R. Lighthall. “This is sort of not what people would think right off the bat,” Mather says. “Stress is usually associated with negative experiences, so you’d think; maybe I’m going to be more focused on the negative outcomes.”

But researchers have found that when people are put under stress they start paying more attention to positive information and discounting negative information.  Because of this, stress seems to help people learn from positive feedback, but impair their learning from negative feedback.

In other words, when you are stressed about difficult decision, you will pay more attention to the upsides of the alternatives you’re considering and less to the downsides.  So someone who’s deciding whether to take a new job and is feeling stressed by the decision might weigh the increase in salary more heavily than the worse commute.

The increased focus on the positive also helps explain why stress plays a role in addictions, and people under stress have a harder time controlling their urges.  ”The compulsion to get that reward comes stronger and they’re less able to resist it,” Mather says.  So a person who’s under stress might think only about the good feelings they’ll get from a drug, while the downsides shrink into the distance.

Stress also increases the differences in how men and women think about risk.  When men are under stress, they become even more willing to take risks; when women are stressed, they get more conservative about risk.  Mather links this to other research that finds, at difficult times, men are inclined toward fight-or-flight responses, while women try to bond more and improve their relationships.

The truth is making decisions under stress is unavoidable.  If your child was involved in an accident and ends up in the hospital, that’s a very stressful situation with decisions that need to be made quickly.  Even big decisions themselves can be sources of stress which ultimately just makes the situation worse.  It’s very likely that how much stress you’re experiencing will affect the way you’re making the decisions.

A great way to lighten the load from stress is to meditate or pray on a regular basis.  Decades of research have shown that meditation and prayer calm stress and enhance brain function.  There are also a number of other very effective ways to manage stress such as regular exercise, listening to soothing music, limiting caffeine and avoiding things that are harmful to your brain such as alcohol.  Next time you’re feeling stressed take a brisk walk and then listen to some relaxing music afterwards.  It’s good for your brain, body and as shown here, it will help you make the right decision.

Source:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228114308.htm

 

Destiny Arrives and We Show Up

I never wanted to be a sex addict. I never asked for it, and I certainly never intended it to take hold of my life the way it did. In fact, getting addicted to anything was the furthest thing from my mind. But when I realized how serious my problem was, all I wanted then was to recover from my addictions, because I was afraid I might die. However, through the ongoing process of my recovery, I have received so much more than I ever wanted or thought I might receive. The healing of my addictions has been, and continues to be, an incredible journey leading me into a radical kind of personal transformation. I have changed and I continue to change, gaining wisdom and insight that I could never get from a book, in a classroom or from another person.

I once thought of myself as a physical being trying to have spiritual experiences, but now I think of myself as a spiritual being that lives out physical experiences in ways God designed for me to live. As a man who has been sexually addicted, and having offered myself to God, I have become the most blessed of all men.

A New Purpose

As my recovery continues, gratitude for my addictions grows. I have learned to think of my addictions as preparation. I call them pre-recovery preparation. They have helped me become the kind of man who embodies the progressive prodigal experience of selfishness, disaster, desperation, hopeless cries for help, discovery of God’s gracious power to change, and a life resurrected. There was no better plan for me. Now today, having used up every resource of my own, I recognize my purpose in life is to seek, discover and experience God as Jesus Christ knows God, and as I receive the benefits of knowing God, I encourage others to seek, discover and experience God for themselves. We are all prodigals in one way or another, after all.

I am humbly proud of my growth and the growth of the other people who share their recovery with me. We are well prepared to do good business with God and with other people. God has a future for each of us that is uniquely designed for us by Him. When following His plan, we are well equipped to give goodness and love to whomever we encounter.

Now I still consider myself a sex addict. And I need to admit that my brain makes a spontaneous wrong turn every now and then, creating a conflict of impulse and desire inside me. Recovery has taught me that temptation is not a calamity. Temptation reminds me that I am a man at risk and that I must remain diligent in my recovery work and spiritual disciplines. The only thing insuring my recovery is the maintenance of my spiritual submission to God. He alone has the power to keep me safe and secure from my own selfish nature.

Sometimes, the feelings and temptations I experience are uncomfortable; other times, they are miserable. Nevertheless, no matter how conflicted I feel, I continue to admit that I am powerless over my addictions and that it is only through the life-changing power of Jesus Christ, that I will continue recovering from them. Each time I feel the urge to chase after my addicted — and attractive — way of life but do not, the impulses and compulsions that accompany these temptations lose some of their power. New attachments for goodness are established inside me with each obedient moment, ultimately gaining strength over the old disobedient ways. Moreover, I lose interest in my own life compared to the expanding joy of sharing God and His life with others. I prefer taking the personal spiritual revolution God has given me, and blessing the whole world with it.

Possessed by God

The gift of new life is not without a cost. I claim no ownership rights for this life God gives me — I am owned and possessed by God. Being aware of His grace gives me the gift of gratitude, which nourishes my new desires making every area of my life an act of surrender and worship. Through the grace of the Giver, I enjoy His gifts, and I become His as well. The gifts He gives to me are only mine to hold, to enjoy and to pass along.

“You can’t keep it unless you give it away.”

Alcoholics Anonymous

What started with Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two alcoholics helping each other stay sober, has resulted in a movement that helps millions of people recover from alcoholism and drug addiction. AA has also spawned the Al-Anon movement, which helps millions of codependents and addicted families worldwide. Just like Bill Wilson and Dr. Smith, in recovery we become a gift to each other and to the world one moment, one situation, one person at a time. The greatest needs of our day will not be met by counselors, doctors and professionals. They will be met by recovering people like you and me.

We are grateful leaders in pain suffered and humble leaders in recovery gained. We are men and women who have joined the fight for our own lives and for the lives of others as well. The great need in our world remains the same today as it has always been: godly men and women who display a quality of character and life that ignites a desire in others to know God in a way that changes them from the inside out. We have an important role to play and no one can live out this role better than we can. We call to anyone who is dead and dying in his or her struggles, problems, addictions and sins. We say to them, “Come with us, we are going to God. We are going to Life.” Everyone needs what we have.

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:1 MSG

We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. I Corinthians 10:24 MSG

Interview with Ed Millard, LMFT

This week, we’re privileged to sit down with The SoulHealers therapist Ed Millard to discuss what brought him to the practice, why he has a passion for working in this area, and his best piece of advice.

Tell us about yourself, Ed:

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist and have been married for 9 years and have three amazing children.  I discovered several years ago that my passion was working with men.   I have found that I love working with men, because they often feel free for the first time in their lives when they make progress.  Being able to be part of that moment with someone is absolutely priceless.

What was your childhood like?  What were the highlights?

When people ask me about my childhood the best example I can come up with is the boys in the movie Sandlot.  I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids and we spent all of our free time playing together.  There was even a neighborhood pool with a lifeguard we all had a crush on!  My favorite holiday to this day is the Fourth of July, because every year all of the families in the neighborhood would get together and have a BBQ.  When it got dark out everyone brought out there fireworks and lined the street to see who could come up with the best show.  There was also a forest across the street from my house we would spend endless hours exploring and building forts in.  I also loved playing sports, which is what I did most of the time.

What is your educational background? What credentials do you have?

In 2003, I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Multnomah University in Education and Biblical Theology.  I finished my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Seattle Pacific University in 2005 and have been working in the field ever since.

What brought you to The SoulHealers? What is your role today?

I originally met Jayson through the graduate school that we both attended (Go Falcons!).  I got an e-mail from the alumni department explaining what The SoulHealers did and that they were looking for a counselor to run groups and do therapy.  When I read the about The SoulHealers, I just had to get involved, so I contacted Jayson as soon as I could and the rest in history.  Currently I run a Men’s Group, Teen’s Group and the College Group, along with doing individual and marriage counseling for The SoulHealers.

What is your best piece of advice for individuals working through whatever they may be dealing with?

Unlike most therapy experiences, The SoulHealers helps people become part of a community of recovery, but helping people build encouraging relationships with other people who share similar struggles.  I would tell people that the more open they can be in the therapy process the more they will get out of it.  Also expect this to take a while.  Life-change does not happen overnight, so expect to put the time in.  It is also well worth the time and effort.