7 Top Mental Health Podcasts

7 Top Mental Health Podcasts

Are you looking for a podcast to help you take better care of yourself and your mental health? I love the convenience of a podcast— It’s self-care you can access in your car, while you wash the dishes, or take the dog for a walk. Self-care is critically important to a well-rounded and satisfying life!  Podcasts help with self-care in a way that only modern technology is able to do.

Let’s have a look at seven popular mental health podcasts that are waiting to show you the way:

1. The Hilarious World of Depression: Calling it out like it is, this podcast series is intended to bring the light to the often too-dark world of depression by combining it with humor.  If you’re looking for a education on mental health, specifically depression, and you want to enjoy it even on your darkest days, this free podcast is something to check out.  Find more information waiting for you at:https://www.facebook.com/thwod/

2. Headspace: Finding inner peace could be as simple as finding the right podcast to lead you down the path to relaxation.  Headspace is a popular due to its mobile app focus.  It offers guided meditation in both short and long sessions to fit every part of your life. It’s a favorite podcast for those struggling with stress and anxiety. Podcasts and blog posts can also be listened to and read, respectively, for free if looking for a more immersive experience.  Find more information at:https://www.headspace.com

3. Good Life Project: Listen to uplifting conversations with some of the biggest names in wellness– Brene Brown, Gretchen Rubin, Tim Ferriss, and more! The Good Life Project shares a new interview every week. When looking at something that is going to fit into your social media world and offer you a community to support you on your rough days, Good Life Project has got what you want.  They also offer a Facebook-based mental health group is a just that: a private community of people at all stages in mental health focus and you can belong to it and give and take within the group for free.  Offering a little bit of everything in focus, this is great for those that need to see the community they’re a part of. Learn more at: https://www.goodlifeproject.com/about/

4. Feeling Good: When you want a book to start you off on an adventure of podcasts centered on understanding mental health and depression in a positive and immersive way, look no further than the world of Feeling Good to offer it to you.  With many years of experience, Dr. Burns shares advice in his book,Feeling Good, and combines this with podcast material for free on his website.  Great for a dash of traditional meets modern.  Find more waiting for you at: https://feelinggood.com/about/

5. The Mental Illness Happy Hour: In hour-long sessions you’ll find helpful advice and uplifting messages focused on addiction, depression, and more.  You can listen to podcasts for free that are up to a year old and subscribe via Stitcher to listen to new ones for a monthly fee.  Take a look at it for yourself at: http://mentalpod.com

6. Food Psych: A first step to feeling good is fueling your body.  More and more people are stuck in chronic dieting, leading to weight cycling that is harmful to your physical and mental health.  Find relief from diet culture, fat shaming, and other disturbing societal norms.  Food psych takes firm hold on these concepts, using the latest research, helping each listener learn about having a healthy relationship with food that spills over into accepting and loving your body in a way that is healthy on all fronts. Have you been curious about the Health at Every Size movement or Intuitive Eating approach? Learn more here.  It’s waiting for you with a membership of $47 for access to two seasons of this innovative podcast and bonus content, or simply enjoy the free weekly interviews.  Find more at: https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/

7. Body Kindness: What if loving yourself was as simple as learning to love yourself for all of your good and bad parts?  That’s exactly what Body Kindness offers.  From talking about food to relationships and everything in between, this podcast will help you on your way to a better understanding of yourself.  You’ll learn to love your body and practice respectful ways of caring and nourishing it.  Weekly podcasts are free to listening and you can also look for one-on-one consultation or invest in a $20 book on body kindness.  For more information, please look to: https://www.bodykindnessbook.com/podcast/

Before the internet-based world, mental health was something that you needed to struggle with on your own, but these seven option offer you seven ways to get in charge of yourself and your mental health in healthy and accessible ways.  Pick you favorite podcast and start transforming your life for the better today!

 

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5 Benefits of Mindfulness

5 Benefits of Mindfulness

There are a lot of terms floating around the online world out there and it can be difficult to determine which ones to trust as the real deal and which ones are simply trigger words or click bait.  One of the up-and-coming ones is mindfulness.  As more and more experts start to discuss it in relation to its positive effects with both depression and anxiety, it’s important to understand what’s really waiting behind this term.

 

What is mindfulness?

At its most basic level, mindfulness is exactly how it sounds: the idea of knowing your mind at the minute detail level within the present moment.  Being mindful means that you are listening to your thought process, acknowledging and identifying your emotions and simply being aware of what’s going on inside of you.  This is often combined with the idea of meditation or yoga or something that can help your focus on what’s going on within yourself.

The reality is that mindfulness can be present in many forms and on its own or in combination with meditation.  Regardless of how it is present, it is a healing process that has many benefits to its name.

 

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  1. It’s free:Maybe it’s not the first benefit you’d think of, but mindfulness is totally 100% free. You can do it as often as you need to and it won’t charge you per use or per dosage.  For those that really enjoy it and find it helpful, this is a major perk.  It is also free from addiction or dependency in an unhealthy way.

 

  1. It’s easy to do wherever you are:Whether you are in the privacy of a bedroom or meditation space, a crowded shopping mall or anywhere in between, mindfulness is something you can practice just about anywhere and it is going to be able to offer you that comfort when you need it.  It’s also discrete which is good when you need a little bit of help in a busy spot.

 

  1. It has quantifiable results with both anxiety and depression:There are proven results – with more studies being done currently – on its positive effects with anxiety and depression, both. When used in combination with other therapies or even in place of medication, there are substantial increases in quality of life for those with anxiety and/or depression.  This is particularly helpful in teens who are not looking to engage with medication right away or adults with addiction concerns.

 

  1. It treats physical symptoms as well:There are also benefits on the physical side when it comes to practicing mindfulness such as with IBS and psoriasis.  While a lot of dependable studies have still yet to come, it seems as though mindfulness can be helpful across many playing fields, offering an actual option for those who suffer from both mental and physical health concerns.

 

  1. Can be a long-term additional therapeutic option:While mindfulness may not be considered a full treatment on its own for depression, anxiety, PTSD and more, it can be used in accordance with other therapies to offer prolonged relief and help in times of crisis from common mental health illnesses.

 

Mindfulness is popular online in social and professional circles for all of the right reasons.  As it continues to enjoy an online presence, more and more quantifiable research is going into its healing effects in mental and physical health to see how it can be exercised as a professional treatment option.  Time will tell just how useful it can be long-term, but it clearly has got a lot going for it already and makes it something that you’re going to want to know about.

How to Ruminate Purposefully

How to Ruminate Purposefully

Do your thoughts ever end up stuck in the past, replaying a conversation or event in your head?

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema from Yale University describes ruminating as “a mode of responding to distress that involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and on the possible causes and consequences of these symptoms.”

You’ll know you are ruminating when:

  • You replay the same old memory over and over, like watching a video on a loop
  • You examine the memory in detail, play-by-play
  • You think (and re-think) about what you could have said or done differently to cause a different result
  • You try to remember exactly how another person reacted in order to evaluate yourself

Most people do not enter into ruminating thoughts on purpose. Instead, ruminating tends to be an automatic response and force of habit. You might even ruminate without realizing it consciously until you start feeling slightly (or a lot) embarrassed, anxious, disappointed in yourself, or guilty. Because the thoughts operate on auto-pilot, they are often unproductive. The thoughts can leave you with hyper-judgmental inner thoughts that have gone nowhere to propel you forward.

Have you ever paused to wonder: WHY ARE THESE THOUGHTS HAPPENING TO ME? WHAT’S THE POINT?

In her book, “The Language of Emotions,” Karla McClaren suggests ruminating might not only be replaying the past, but is in fact is the brain looking for NEW information. This new information might be of help to you in future, similar circumstances.

What if ruminating thoughts bring with them a powerful GIFT? What if you could channel their efforts into something that DOES help and DOES move you forward?

Here are some tips for ruminating more effectively and purposefully:

  1. Notice when you are ruminating and name it: “I’m ruminating.” This will help you shift into on-purpose self-reflection and away from a spiral into automatic negative thinking.
  2. Reflect back looking for learning points. What would I have done or said differently if I had a do-over? What did I miss that I’d want to watch for in the future?
  3. Avoid judging yourself. Labeling yourself harshly (Example: “failure”) serves no practical purpose and only causes you harm. In fact, rumination that is laden with negativity about yourself amplifies your experience of depression or anxiety.
  4. Be kind to yourself and intentional about practicing self-compassion. That means assuming the best about why you did or said what you did in those moments. In that moment, you probably did the best with what you knew. If practicing self-compassion is difficult for you, a counselor may be able to help.
  5. Some events we ruminate on were not in our control. Don’t take ownership of stuff that’s not yours, especially if it’s related to an experience of abuse.
  6. Know when to stop. The moment you realize that reflecting back is not helpful (HINT: You’re finding no further learning points), call it quits. There are a number of different strategies you can take to help you let go of unhelpful intrusive thoughts. Try out a cognitive defusion technique, prayer, or confirm to yourself out-loud: “These are just thoughts. They’re not helping anymore. I’m letting them go.” Some intrusive thoughts are harder to shake than others, especially if they’ve been around for a long time or if there’s trauma involved. Be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask a counselor for help.

 

If you’d like assistance shifting out of a destructive pattern of rumination, a therapist at Star Meadow Counseling might be able to help. We love to see clients shift ruminations into something more constructive, useful, healing, and less self-critical.

Negative Thoughts are Like Country Music

Negative Thoughts are Like Country Music

Imagine for a moment that the negative thoughts running wild in your brain played like a country song on repeat. Would any of the songs have titles like these?

 

  • “She Don’t Think My Beard Is Sexy”
  • “All Alone Again (In My Truck)”
  • “My Guitar Only Has Three Strings”
  • “My Love (and My Tractor’s) Tank Are Outta Gas”
  • “The Short End of the Stick (Life Ain’t Fair)”
  • “Failing Like Roadkill”
  • “Little Doggie, I’m So Miserable Without You”
  • “Stuck in This Here Town”
  • “Like Me Please, ‘Cuz I Don’t Like Myself”
  • “What I Want Don’t Matter (All I Want Is a New Rig)”
  • “Stop Feeling That Feeling I Feel”
  • “Gotta Be Perfect (Hat, Boots, and All)”
  • “Can’t Slow Down This Fast Train”

 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you like/dislike country music), negative thoughts don’t sound twangy, musical, or even remotely playful when they’re happening. Instead, they tend to evoke anxiety, sadness, disappointment, guilt, anger, or shame.

Like a good country song, however, our negative thoughts tend to have a repetitive “hook”–a chorus (or negative theme) that plays over and over again on repeat. Most of us aren’t super creative with our negative thoughts. They tend to be the same variations of ten (often much fewer) repetitious themes.

THE REALITY IS: We don’t have as much control over our thinking as some would like to believe. Most of us do not on-purpose sit there thinking, “Man, now would be a good time to think really crappy things about myself.” No, the thoughts just happen, all on their own. Often, the thoughts are on autopilot, automatic responses born out of habit, not intention.

 

What then can be done with negative thoughts? Here are two practical solutions:

 

  1. ENGAGE IN A FULL-ON RAP BATTLE WITH THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

 

Like a country song that exaggerates for dramatic effect, not all of the negative thoughts we experience are not fully accurate, truthful, or likely. It can be confusing, because in the moment, most of negative thoughts sound true and feel true. However, feeling something is true does not make that thought true. Emotionally-laden thoughts can be skewed toward the negative similar to how a fun-house mirror that takes the image of a person and distorts it grotesquely.

Listen to the lyrics of one verse of Hank Williams’ classic country song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry:”

“I’ve never seen a night so long

When time goes crawling by

The moon just went behind the clouds

To hide its face and cry”

Most of our negative thoughts are not nearly so poetic; however, they do often apply similar distorted tactics– Generalization and Magnification. The feeling of loneliness is real, raw, and genuine. Though the feeling grows to new proportions when the thought is amplified to include something much broader; in this case–the whole world seems lonely (time, the moon, etc.). Do your negative thoughts do something like this? Do they:

  • Overgeneralize: “always” or “never”
  • Make Things Personal
  • Magnify or Catastrophize
  • Label: “stupid”, “lazy,” “ugly”
  • Attempt to foresee the future (except in an apocalyptic, pessimistic way)
  • Filter out the Positive
  • Shame you for what you SHOULD be doing, but you’re NOT

 

If so, it might be time to sass those thoughts back like Kellie Pickler with thoughts that are more true, balanced, or at least neutral.

TIP: Don’t just let that negative thought on repeat have its way with you. Talk back! Engage those thoughts in a RAP BATTLE.

In a traditional rap battle (if something like that can be called “traditional”), rappers will take turns taking jabs at each other (in a rhyming fashion). You don’t need to be quite so creative. You can also hold back from belittling the negative thought like a rapper would. Instead, talk back to your negative thoughts with more accurate statements. Battle back with TRUTH. You might not be able to control the first thought that comes into your mind, but you do have some say over the second thought.

If you’d like help talking back to your chorus of negative thoughts, a counselor trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help. There are also great books that can guide you, including “Mind Over Mood” by Dennis Greenberger and “Feeling Good” by David Burns.

 

2. THINK OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS LIKE FAMILIAR ELEVATOR MUSIC & RELEGATE THEM TO THE BACKGROUND

What if we were to think of thoughts like country music playing in the background of an elevator. Just like with elevator music, you are not always the DJ controlling the content or volume of your thoughts. If you were the DJ, certainly you’d flip the “off” switch and opt for some silence! If your thoughts aren’t responding to the RAP BATTLE APPROACH described above, perhaps this next idea might be for you.

Try it: Write out a list of your most frequent negative thoughts. Group similar ones together. Is there as much variety as you were expecting? I bet you could make a playlist of your own that would be shorter than your average country music album. This approach to handling negative thoughts that comes from a therapeutic approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

If you experience the same negative thoughts, over and over, some of the best things you can do are:

  • Recognize them (“Oh I’m having that thought again”)
  • Name them (“That’s the ‘I’m a failure’ thought.”)
  • Simply acknowledge that this is “a thing” your brain does in response to certain triggers.
  • Allow the thought to just be a thought. Don’t give it power by digging deeper. Digging deeper = Looking for further evidence that the thoughts is true, wise, actionable, real.
  • Don’t allow the thought to dictate your actions. You can hear the music playing in the background and still move forward toward your goals and act according to your values. Sometimes the volume of the negative thoughts is loud and distracting, sometimes attempting to demand your full attention. Nonetheless, negative thoughts do not have to define a person or their behaviors.

 

If your intrusive negative thoughts aren’t quite as fun as country music, a professional therapist may be able to help. The counselors at Star Meadow Counseling are trained in helping clients shift out of negative thought patterns. You don’t have to stay stuck on repeat.

10 Places to Relax around Vancouver, WA

10 Places to Relax around Vancouver, WA

Are you exhausted by the burden of responsibilities you’ve been shouldering? Do you need a break or a breather, even if it’s just for a few moments? Self-care is an essential component of survival in this busy world! All of us need moments when we can slow down and recharge.

Here are some places, all nearby around Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR where you might find reprieve:

 

  1. Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

Located just north of Vancouver in Ridgefield, WA, the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge contains 5300 acres of natural habitats, alive with birds and other animals–all native species. The Refuge offers walking trails and an auto route you can tour in your car. When I visited, I saw a juvenile bald eagle, great blue herons, and nutria (beaver-like critters) all in one 30 minute drive!

  1. Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens

The annual “Lilac Days” garden is open from April 21- May 13th 2018. You’ll be surrounded by the scents and sights of lilacs in full bloom in this stunning walkable garden. These aren’t just ordinary lilacs, but specialty varieties hybridized by Mrs. Klager during her life’s work. The Lilac Gardens are located in Woodland WA.

  1. Waterfront Renaissance Trail

The Waterfront Renaissance Trail is a 5-mile stretch of paved trail along the Columbia River. It connects Esther Short Park and Wintler Community Park. You’ll find awe-inspiring views of Mt. Hood and find peace as you sit on a bench and watch the water slowly move by.

  1. Wintler Community Park

Looking for a place to swim outdoors in the summer time? Or get some sun on the riverside beach? Wintler Community Park is the perfect place in Vancouver for summertime relaxation. It’s great for picnicking too!

  1. Salmon Creek Regional Park/Trail/Klineline Pond

The Salmon Creek Regional Park has it all–a spash pad for children to play, miles of paved walking/running/biking trails, roped swimming areas with lifeguard on duty during the summer, a plethora of picnic benches, and a pond perfect for wildlife viewing. It’s an ideal getaway if you’re looking for something close to the city of Vancouver that makes you feel like you’re miles away.

  1. Esther Short Park Summer Concert Series

Do you relax best to the sound of music? Every summer, free concerts are available to the community in downtown Vancouver, WA at Esther Short Park. Experience a variety of musical tastes, including jazz, bluegrass, rock, country, and even a symphony orchestra. A separate venue of free concerts will take place at the Columbia Tech Center in eastern Vancouver, WA.

  1. Vancouver Lake Park

Looking to relax on the water? Try canoeing, windsurfing, or kayaking on Vancouver Lake Park located on the west side of Vancouver, WA. This expansive park also offers sand volleyball, playground equipment, and a paved walking trail. It’s a beautiful place to slow down and connect with nature!

  1. Pearson Air Museum

Perhaps getting up close with history is your idea of relaxation. The Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, WA is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday, 9am-5pm. The museum is a slow-paced experience of ingenuity, showcasing aircraft as it transformed and developed over time.

  1. The Columbia Gorge Riverboat

If you have time (and money) for a longer excursion, a cruise along the Columbia River might be just what you need. You can select a cruise that best fits your interest– Are you interested in seeing the sights along the Columbia River gorge? Or are you more interested in learning about the history of the Lewis & Clark Expedition or about Native American legends?

  1. Powell’s City of Books

Maybe your idea of relaxation is getting lost in a good book. Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR has a collection of books like nowhere else, boasting over two million books in inventory, a vast diversity of literature of every kind. A visit to Powell’s is not like visiting other book stores. It is truly an immersive experience, offering a fun kind of break from the rigors of day-to-day life.

 

If you need help relaxing, especially if it feels like anxiety has a hold on you, a counselor with Star Meadow Counseling is available to help. You can call us at 360-952-3070 or email us at info@starmeadowcounseling.com to schedule an appointment.

THOUGHT DEFUSION: An Alternative Approach to Handling Intrusive Negative Thoughts

THOUGHT DEFUSION: An Alternative Approach to Handling Intrusive Negative Thoughts

Automatic negative thoughts are a natural part of the human experience. For the most part, we don’t conjure them up or think them on purpose. They happen instinctively.

 Negative thoughts get directed toward ourselves (“I can’t believe I’m running late again today! I’m going to get fired!”), toward others (“There’s Jim, walking in late; he’s so lazy.”), and toward our environment (“Stupid Portland traffic! It’s making me late!”). Sometimes negative thoughts are so pervasive that they can tank your mood for the day, or leave you stuck in a spiral of worries. These natural, instinctive thoughts can take on a life of their own!

In the book, “The Happiness Trap,” Steven C. Hayes describes what happens when we become “fused” with our negative thoughts:

  • Thoughts are reality: as if the awful thing we are imagining is actually happening
  • Thoughts are the truth: we completely buy-in
  • Thoughts are important: we treat them seriously and urgently, giving them our full attention
  • Thoughts are orders: we must obey them
  • Thoughts are wise: we assume they know best and we follow their advice
  • Thoughts are threats: we let them bother us or terrify us

He suggests that some “fused” thoughts may be helpful and others might not be as helpful. Those thoughts that ARE helpful and constructive are worth giving your time and emotional energy. For example, the thought that says “I can’t believe I’m running late again today” might prompt you to examine your morning routine, adjusting it to allow for more margin.

On the other hand, some thoughts are downright self-defeating and serve no useful purpose but to shame you, worry you, or leave you feeling stuck. It’s up to you to determine which thoughts are, in fact, not helpful. Those will be the thoughts you might be ready to “defuse” or disconnect from.

Here are some creative strategies for creating distance for those pesky negative thoughts that you need some space from:

  • Label your thoughts as thoughts (Example: “I’m having a thought that I’m worthless” feels different than “I’m worthless”).
  • Imagine your thoughts like clouds in the sky, just passing by. They can come and go as fast or slow as they please, simply watch and observe them without judgment. Become a fly on the wall observing thoughts, labeling them (“there’s a thought”), and letting them go on their way. Some thoughts are recurring visitors, appearing over and over. That’s okay! You can simply notice them and watch them pass on by.
  • Try out one of your particularly “fused” negative thoughts using the voice of a movie or cartoon character (how does it feel differently to say the negative thought using the voice of Micky Mouse or the voice of Al Pacino from The Godfather?).
  • Try singing the thought to the tune of “Happy Birthday” or “Jingle Bells.” Does it still feel the same?
  • Don’t only observe your thoughts, but also try shifting your focus to observing your body. Notice your breath–See if you can track your breath from the moment it enters your nose (cool and refreshing) to the moment it exits your mouth (warm and rushing). Notice how your feet feel in your shoes, where you feel tension, and where you feel at ease.

If you’d like to learn more about thought defusion, “The Happiness Trap” is an excellent resource guide. Thought defusion skills are an integrated part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another therapeutic approach that has been specifically designed for helping shift unhelpful, negative thought patterns in a more direct manner. A professional counselor can guide you in customizing coping skills so that you can shift out of negative thought ruts and feel free from their persistent haunting.