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Outdoor Therapy and Grounding Techniques for Mental Health

calm focus foundations joy Sep 28, 2018

By Tim Culbert, MD

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

-John Muir

Where do I go when I feel burned out? I head to the mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and desert landscapes for rejuvenation and a sense of calm. That simple step of heading outside almost magically shifts my internal landscape. I think of this immersion in a wild environment as “swimming with the senses.”

As a physician, I’ve sought out the scientific support for how these healing effects of nature take place. It's a free activity, there are no side effects, but is it just good for me or is something my patients should do too?

Well-known authors, poets, political leaders, and healers from all over the world have understood this connection between health in mind, body, and spirit, and the natural world. I love Seth Adam Smith’s...

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How To Meditate Properly [For You]

calm focus joy Sep 21, 2018

By Tim Culbert, MD

You've likely been told that you HAVE to meditate. Perhaps even in a particular seated position, in a particular outfit, in a particularly-decorated room.

Have you tried that strict meditation technique only to discover that you're more stressed out when you finish than before you began it? 

Don’t worry! That meditation technique is just one mind-body practice and there are many others to explore that can offer the same benefits. Finding a better fit is worth your time as many mind-body practices will work to enhance your ability to deal with symptoms related to depression, anxiety, or focus. This ability is often called “emotional regulation” or “self-regulation.” At Natural Mental Health, we also refer to this ability as resilience.

Additionally, as you find practices that fit you better, you'll be more likely to practice consistently and for longer durations at a time. This is key because the time you practice and the positive...

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Stay & Wait for the Sun

inspire Sep 13, 2018

It's National Suicide Prevention Week (and month). Let's make space for ourselves and those around us who may be suffering. May we help each other stay. 

From Jennifer Michael Hecht's book Stay:

"None of us can truly know what we mean to other people, and none of us can know what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find...

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Understand and Balance the Chemicals of Your Mood

calm joy Sep 06, 2018

By Henry Emmons, MD

Let me start by saying that the field of psychiatry has greatly oversimplified brain chemistry, and I’m guilty of doing that again here. Nonetheless, a more simple way of understanding and talking about this very complex subject is necessary. A bit of understanding of brain chemistry can help you create a healthy, well-functioning brain and a good, sustainable mood.

Brain Chemistry 101

I have come to view the brain as functioning mostly through communication from one part to another. There are a series of discrete centers, or nuclei in the brain, each with a unique job to do. All of these areas need to communicate effectively with one another for the brain to work well. That is done through the flow of energy between these centers, and it is accomplished largely via the neurons. In a way, they are like electrical wires transferring energy from one place to another. Neurons are separated from one another by a small space called a “synapse.” Since...

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The Benefits of Family Meals & Five Tips to Make Them Happen

digestion kids Aug 29, 2018

By Erin Erickson, DNP, MPH, MA

Erin is a nurse practitioner dual certified in family practice and women’s health and currently sees patients at Minnesota Personalized Medicine. She is also Co-Owner and Co-Founder of Mom Enough®, an evidence-based parenting blog. 

Dear busy families with kids:

  1. Do you ever wonder if it’s really worth the effort to have a regular family meal?
  2. After your hard work in the kitchen, are your children done eating within 5 minutes of the food hitting the table and begging to leave?

If you can relate, know that you're not alone. Also know that in spite of what might feel like a futile effort, the time spent on meals is well worth it.

Before I dive into the strategies of making family meals happen, I’d like to invite you to join my family for dinner. The five of us sit on little stools, squished around a too-small table in a too-small kitchen not made for “eating in.”

My oldest son stands over his food, adding...

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Single Task Challenge

calm joy Aug 21, 2018

In this month's newsletter (sign up here), we took on the challenge of... doing nothing for 90 minutes. A simple idea, but tough in practice. 

One way to warm up toward doing nothing is to do just one thing (doing less is the practice!). This is particularly helpful as multitasking can be a default answer to those times when you feel overwhelmingly busy. Multitasking pumps that busy energy up, but doesn't offer a return of productivity. You're actually more productive when you do just one thing at a time vs. all the things at a time.

Give this single task challenge a try and then go for the big non-doing challenge in the newsletter when you're ready. 

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Stillness. It’s What Your Soul Longs For

calm Aug 14, 2018

By Henry Emmons, MD

When my boys were young, we would pack up the van and head south every year for spring break. Desperate for sun and warmth, we made a beeline as far south as needed to find them and then set up camp for a few days.

All of these trips were fun, but one stands out in my mind as being exceptional. After many hours on the road, we discovered a state campground in the Florida panhandle and were pleasantly surprised to find so few people staying there. It was inland and we figured most people headed to Florida had already chosen the beach. Our plan was to use the campground as a launching point and head out in different directions each day to explore the area—including the beach.

The morning after we arrived, we found ourselves lingering over breakfast, enjoying the peace of the nearly deserted campground. None of us, not even our active and typically restless boys, made any move to get ready to leave. The leisurely morning soon turned into afternoon,...

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Reset Your Sleep Schedule

sleep Aug 07, 2018

By Tim Culbert, MD

August offers that last excitement of summer for kids. You can likely relate as the popular summer activities have persisted over the decades: sleeping in, daytime sprinkler-running, ice cream before dinner, and stay-up-too-late-sleepovers. 

September usually comes crashing in with strict school schedules and increased workloads for parents. The result? Tired, cranky kids.

And tired, cranky adults. 

Adjusting to new sleep schedules is tough. Adolescents typically require 8-10 hours of sleep to function optimally. Adults need about the same at 7-9 hours.

One strategy that parents and kids can use to reset sleep schedules is the use of a melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a neurohomone that helps regulate the sleep-wake rhythm. It can be taken orally to help re-establish that rhythm. It also appears to have antioxidant action and supports the immune system. 

In general, doses for melatonin range between 1 and 5 mg and are taken...

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What Is Integrative Mental Health?

joy Jul 31, 2018

Though integrative mental health is becoming a more buzz-y term, it's something our NMH team has been doing for decades. The term “integrative” mental health typically refers to a novel approach to treatment that differs from the traditional biomedical approach in the following ways:

  • Works with lifestyle factors like diet, movement, and stress to address potential underlying causes of illness.
  • Blends conventional and complementary treatments to address symptoms in the most effective way without rigidly adhering to certain paradigms.
  • Combines a combination of approaches that includes various modalities like psychotherapy, traditional Chinese medicine, nutrition, and body work.

Many factors influencing mental health must be addressed for more lasting and meaningful healing. See below for the interacting factors that make up our Integrative Mental Health Model.

 

At NMH, we seek to expand upon this understanding of integrative mental health by adding...

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Six Ways to Keep Your Mind & Body Cool

Uncategorized Jul 24, 2018

By Henry Emmons, MD

Do you notice yourself feeling irritable in the heat of summer? Overly critical? Agitated or impatient? Or just sapped and lethargic?

You may not know that serotonin (that soothing, feel-good brain chemical that is so associated with mood) can get depleted in the summer just as it can in the winter. I think of serotonin as a “brain coolant" because it helps protect the brain under extreme conditions like high heat. This hard work can deplete serotonin. In effect, when air temperatures go up, serotonin levels go down. Some speculate that this may explain the increase in violence seen during the hottest days of summer.

Another way to think about what’s going on in your body during the hot months is through the lens of Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine from India. Ayurveda views the summer months as the pitta season. Pitta is one of the primary mind-body types and is associated with a somewhat fiery personality and a more driven...

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