What You Need to Know About Caffeine

calm focus joy sleep Mar 13, 2019

By Henry Emmons, MD

“Life is short. Stay awake for it.” Caribou Coffee nailed it with that promotional tagline. It’s funny, memorable and a widely shared sentiment. If we want to get the most out of life, if we don’t want to miss anything, caffeine offers a safe, legal and increasingly pleasurable way to feel more enlivened.

I have nothing against caffeine. In fact, I personally love it. I’ve given it up several times over my life, thinking it might have negative health effects on me. But each time I’ve come back to it, finally accepting that I just plain enjoy it. I like the effect it has on me, the flavor, the ritual and the communal nature of sharing a cup of coffee with someone.

I believe that the research on the health effects from caffeine come out mostly on the side of it having an overall positive impact on health. It’s a legal stimulant. It can temporarily improve energy, focus, even mood. So long as it is not used in excess, it...

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Affirmation Scramble!

focus Jan 29, 2019
 

Hooray! It's National Puzzle Day!

Press the play button on the video above to try the Affirmation Scramble. There are four affirmations to solve and they move pretty fast. Press play again [and again] until you have all four solved.  

Puzzles can help calm stress, improve focus, and boost mood. How?

Here's one reason: Successfully completing a puzzle requires single tasking (vs. multitasking). Single tasking means that one task is focused on and completed at a time. Single tasking is soothing for the brain and body, whereas chronic multitasking can elevate cortisol and decrease mental sharpness and memory.  

Want more single tasking in your life? Try our Single Task Challenge!

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Hemp, Marijuana, CBD, and THC: What They Are and When to Use Them

calm focus joy Jan 21, 2019

 By Tim Culbert, MD

Hemp, Marijuana, CBD, and THC... what's the difference? Can any of them help with anxiety? Depression? Do they make you high? Learn the basics below so that you can decide if any are right for you.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Hemp, Marijuana, CBD, and THC

Cannabis is thought to be one of the oldest domesticated crops. Throughout history, humans have grown different varieties of cannabis for industrial and medical uses. These sturdy plants were grown by early civilizations to make a variety of foods, oils, and textiles. These plants were bred with other plants with the same characteristics, leading to the type of cannabis we now know as hemp.

Other varieties of the cannabis plant were identified as psychoactive (causing euphoria or the “high” experience) and were bred selectively for medical, recreational, and religious purposes. This led to unique varieties of cannabis that now known as marijuana.

While hemp and marijuana are both...

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Adaptogens and Nervines for Resilience in Body and Mind

calm focus joy sleep Dec 20, 2018

 By Tim Culbert, MD

Adaptogens and nervines can support resilience in body and mind. These substances are generally well-tolerated and can help your system adapt more skillfully when faced with stress. 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are typically plant-derived substances that work to balance your body and mind. You may also hear them called “adaptogenic herbs.” These substances can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, environmental, and emotional stress; and can also exert a normalizing effect on bodily processes.

Adaptogens Can Help

  • Increase blood flow in the central nervous system.
  • Increase the release of helpful brain chemicals such as nerve growth factor and BDNF.
  • Modulate brain waves.
  • Support neuroplasticity.
  • Boost the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Prevent cell damage.
  • Eliminate toxins.
  • Balance the stress response of the adrenal system.
  • Quiet the mind and body.

Common Adaptogens

  • Ginseng.
    • American ginseng (panax quinquefolius) can help...
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Minding the Mind

focus joy meditation Dec 18, 2018
 

By Catherine Duncan, MA, BCC

*Read below, then click the play button above to practice the "Minding Your Mind" meditation.*

My cell phone rang during dinner with friends. Scott, my husband, had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital.

Panic rose in my chest as I made my way to the ER. The doctors struggled to make sense of his symptoms. Was he suffering a heart attack? An aortic dissection? A strange cardiac rhythm? I gasped for air as the doctors wheeled him from room to room for tests– and again when he landed in the ICU. Breathe, I told myself.

Soon after entering the ICU, Scott flatlined. My heart flooded with terror. The medical team rushed to his room and after a few minutes his heartbeat picked up again. I held fast to only one thought: Breathe.

Scott was taken to the operating room for a temporary pacemaker implant. Breathe, I reminded myself. Ten days later we were told that Scott has a very rare heart condition. Breathe, I thought. One breath at a time.

Few of...

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Foods that Help You Focus

digest focus Nov 14, 2018

Food has an amazing ability to affect your mental clarity, mood, memory, and your ability to focus and to feel calm. If you’re looking to boost your focus, one of the places you should start with is what you’re eating. Below are some general suggestions and specific foods that may help you improve your focus.

General Suggestions: 

Eat Breakfast. Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Foods at the top of researchers' brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, protein, dairy, and fruits. Just don't overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

Keep Regular Mealtimes. Your mid-day meal should be the largest if possible with a light meal at supper. Eat moderately, neither fasting nor indulging in large meals.

Relax. Take time to relax after eating. You'll digest better and feel more calm, satisfied, and ready to focus on your next task. 

Eat...

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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]

awaken calm focus joy meditation 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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Single Task Challenge

calm focus 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. 

 

 


Find stillness or no-tasking to help ground you, support calm, and reconnect you to the present moment. Read Henry's reflection on stillness here.>>>

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Go Deeper With Your 19 Senses

By Dr. Tim Culbert

Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy.

The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don't know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.

-C. Joy Bell

In order to wake up your senses, it’s important to understand them a bit better. You probably learned about the five senses in health class: touch, smell, hearing, seeing, and taste. One appealing and straight-forward quality of the five-sense model is that each of the senses is paired with a specific, highly visible part of the body. You can point to your eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and skin. However, depending on how you define the human sense organs, functions, and abilities; there may be many more senses beyond just five. And you can access them!

...

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