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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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,...
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...
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:
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...
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...
Restoring and maintaining optimal mental health requires a multi-pronged approach that supports your mind, body, and heart. A key part of that holistic approach involves caring for your gut. So, what (or who?!) lives in your gut and how can you care for it?
Your gut (AKA gastrointestinal tract) primarily includes the stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas. A collection of micro-organisms call your gut home- a housing situation often called the "gut microbiome." I call these helpful micro-organisms "good bugs" and they include a zoo of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi. Good bugs communicate with your brain constantly via chemical messengers and nerves. Some help manufacture neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA and also help make vitamins needed for optimal brain functioning. Good bugs also support your response to stress and contribute to healthy immune system activities. Given their big jobs, it's vital that...
Last month's theme aimed at waking up your senses so you can feel more grounded, focused, and in balance. This month, the availability of so many fresh fruits and vegetables will serve as inspiration to eat a wider variety of foods that come with the season and that nourish your body, mind, and heart.
With this in mind, the intention this month is:
Here are two strategies to focus on:
The sun shines not on us, but in us.
The river flows not past, but through
us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every
fiber and cell of the substance of our
bodies, making them glide and sing.
Ah, the delight of waking up the senses!
Many of our senses can easily fall out of awareness and lie dormant, unnoticed. When one is rushing out the door in the morning, wondering if there is enough gas in the tank, already a little late for the next event, who can take in the beauty of the sunrise? When anxiety is jerking the mind through a series of worst case scenarios because of the latest problem at work, who smells the lasagna baking in the oven? Or numb and tired from insomnia, it’s hard for the hands to feel nourished by the soft warm nestling of the cat in the lap.
And all this time, the dear thinking mind, hoping to perfect us, commandeering most of our attention, is housed in the body. This body, like a precious...
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