Feb 142018


willpower brain                       WILLPOWER

willpower dog ,, be still and know i am


willpower strong

Synonyms :     determination, drive, resolve, continence, restraint, self-command, self-containment, self-control, self-discipline, self-government, self-mastery, self-possession,  will, energetic determination, meditation, contemplation, concentration, attention


Give us all you have and we will give you all we possess!willpower muscle

“The fear of the unknown is the beginning of wisdom”

Love is not only the beginning of wisdom; it is wisdom of the highest order.

Concentrated Attention is the key that unlocks all stores of wisdom, of truth and of spirituality. Self-discipline, researchers found, was more important than IQ in predicting academic success. They found self-control scores correlated with higher grade-point averages, higher self-esteem, less binge eating and alcohol abuse, and better relationship skills. individuals with high self-control in childhood (as reported by teachers, parents and the children themselves) grew into adults with greater physical and mental health, fewer substance-abuse problems and criminal convictions, and better savings behavior and financial security.

According to most psychological scientists, willpower can be defined as:

  • The ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.
  • The capacity to override an unwanted thought, feeling or impulse.
  • The ability to employ a “cool” cognitive system of behavior rather than a “hot” emotional system.
  • Conscious, effortful regulation of the self by the self.
  • A limited resource capable of being depleted.

 Will Power

Think of Will Power like religion, any religion, this is the inner experience of the individual.

To get to that experience, you must leave the outer world, in thought at least, and go within yourself.  Willpower is another word for meditation.

How does one go inside?

By detaching from the outer or sense world and withdrawing your attention upon something inside your mind.

This appears simple enough, and is the method of acquiring all willpower training and religious experiences—leaving the outer world and entering the inner world of consciousness.

Concentrating the attention upon something inside of one self is the way to all willpower development and spiritual experiences.

Methods differ—so will the experiences differ.  I learned not to get caught by the duality of opposites being so happy or sad. Stay in the Middle Way and

Be Here Now not tomorrow or yesterday. Being Still and Know That I Am God works to be in the Present. Once there Thank you for giving me this chance to say Thank you. Walk On.



willpower dog

Good Job Willpow

The mind is a slave of the senses and sensual pleasures.  Concentrate your attention, to keep the mind steady in between your eyes and brain and not let it come down.

The purpose is attaching yourself to your inner sound (a gift of your mind).

This sound keeps your mind detached from your senses and where willpower develops.

Now the mind is dominating the soul, and the mind itself is dominated by the senses (sight, feeling, touch, taste, hearing and sensual pleasures).

With the practice of concentrative attention we have to reverse the whole process, so that the soul dominates the mind, and the mind dominates the senses.

Check out this post for more methods ……   http://wellnesswillpower.com/yoga/

Walk On.


willpower muscle

Jan 272018

A Different Grief – A Man’s Grief

      Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Everyone goes through a natural grieving process when a death occurs. We each behave and express feelings according to the way we’ve been taught and as modeled by our society, our culture, our family, our peers and other influences. A belief system is created that affects the way that we perceive life, death and grief.

Although men and women both feel pain and grieve when they suffer a loss, the way they deal with grief is where the differences in their grieving become apparent. The differences we see in “his” and “her” grief responses are due to our different styles of coping with pain and loss.

There are many factors that cause these differences in coping… and most often we were carefully “taught.”

depressed man

From childhood, we are taught different gender roles. Little girls are taught and encouraged to share feelings, express needs and receive support from others. This support system is acquired over a lifetime.

Boys are treated quite differently and are often told, “Big boys don’t cry,” and “You have to be strong.” Men often have minimal social support systems outside of the immediate family and will often say that their wife is their best friend. She is the one with whom he shares his thoughts and feelings.

In our society, men are disproportionately unprepared to express distressed feelings and loneliness because of the way they are expected to behave and cope. Men are “expected” to be strong, to deal with problems, to be assertive (and sometimes aggressive), to take charge, to accomplish tasks, to achieve goals, to bear pain, be able to fix things (not just mechanical!), to be sexually potent, to endure stress without giving up or giving in and to care for, protect and support his family. Whew! It is no wonder that men are reluctant, and often cautious, to express the painful emotions of grief after the death of a loved one and choose instead to “go it alone” or reconnect quickly with a new partner.

Men are often isolated during grief and loss, with no one to talk to about their feelings. When societal messages about men being strong come into play, a grieving male may repress emotions so as not to appear weak or vulnerable. They are “expected” to be self-sufficient and independent, able to rely on their own strength. They are expected to accept difficulties with a certain non-emotional response. They are expected to “take things like a man,” which means “don’t show us your tears or your weaknesses.” When men lose a loved one, they often isolate to protect themselves and to avoid feeling embarrassed by overwhelming emotions.

In times of loss and grief, a man may be unable to express feelings because of a fear that he may “break down” and be viewed as weak and impotent. At the same time men may need support the most but they were trained not to reach out for it. They see their loss as something they must endure alone because they have been taught to be self-sufficient. Often men feel the need to “disconnect” even more in order to handle the intensity of the emotions they feel alone, where no one will see them or judge them. It is difficult (and often perceived as unacceptable) for a man to feel helpless and out of control.

Because men are expected to be the “strong ones” they are less likely to talk about, cry about, share thoughts about the loss or seek outside support. Men may use aggression, anger or violence, a new love relationship and substance abuse as grief substitutes (just to name a few). They may find ways to handle upsetting feelings without disclosing them to others, such as: going to the cemetery alone (to engage in solitary mourning); taking physical or legal action; or becoming immersed in activity, a new relationship or possibly even exhibiting addictive behavior(s).

While these demanding and unrealistic expectations may make daily survival possible for men, they make the successful resolution of a loss very difficult and, in many cases, impossible.

There are helpful and concrete ways to show support to a man in grief:

  • Acknowledge the death: It’s important for expressions of sympathy to be honest and heartfelt. Acknowledge his pain without expecting a response about feelings
  • Express genuine interest in feelings, concerns and conditions of loss: Accept the survivor’s expressions which are reflections of conflict and mixed emotions.
  • Be a safe place: Hold the griever’s sharing in confidentiality; otherwise, it’s not safe to share. Be willing to say, “I can assure you that this will remain between the two of us.”
  • Accept and encourage tears: When a man is struggling to hold back tears, he may be relieved to hear a quiet, “You don’t have to keep it in. It’s okay to feel.”
  • Share silence: Sometimes much is said in silence, nonverbally. Silence builds trust. Sometimes a simple nod, a touch, a pat or certain look conveys everything the other person needs to know.
  • Perform incidental acts of compassion: Be willing to help. Don’t ask what he needs. Ask if you can help with a particular task. Taking over a task quietly and efficiently can be effective.

Keep in mind that male gender conditioning acts strongly and in direct opposition to the requirements necessary to grieve a loss successfully. The majority of men react to the death of a loved one by keeping their thoughts and emotional pain to themselves; not saying anything helps protect against vulnerability, and silence is socially encouraged in American culture.

Due to the lack of support and outlets for expression of their grief, men are more at risk for illness and death than women after a significant loss of a loved one.  When we offer support to the bereaved man, try to keep in mind that just because he doesn’t react the way you think he should doesn’t mean that he isn’t grieving or hurting; it just means that he has his own way of doing it. You can be most helpful by being sensitive to this difference when you show up to walk beside him during a most painful journey and transition.

Men feel the need to be strong.

Even in the face of tragic loss, many men in our society still feel the need to be self-contained, stoic and to express little or no outward emotion. It is very much in vogue today to encourage men to openly express their feelings, but in practice few men do so. The outward expression of grief is called mourning. All men grieve when someone they love dies, but if they are to heal, they must also mourn.

You can help by offering a “safe place” for your friend to mourn. Tell him you’d like to help. Offer to listen whenever he wants to talk. Don’t worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on the words that are being shared with you. Let him know that in your presence at least, it’s OK for him to express whatever feelings he might have-sadness, anger, guilt, fear. Around you, he doesn’t have to be strong because you will offer support without judgment.

Men feel the need to be active.

The grief experience naturally creates a turning inward and slowing down on the part of the mourner, a temporary self-focus that is vital to the ultimate healing process. Yet for many men this is threatening. Masculinity is equated with striving, moving and activity. Many grieving men throw themselves into their work in an attempt to distract themselves from their painful feelings.

Maybe you can offer your friend both activity and time for reflection. Ask him to shoot hoops or play golf. Go for a hike or fishing with your friend. Let him know that you really want to hear how he’s doing, how he’s feeling. In the context of these activities he just might share some of his innermost thoughts.

Active problem-solving is another common male response to grief. If a father’s child dies of SIDS, for example, the father may become actively involved in fundraising for SIDS research. A husband whose wife is killed may focus on the legal circumstances surrounding the death. Such activities can be healing for grieving men and should be encouraged.

Men feel the need to be protectors.

Men are generally thought of as the “protectors” of the family. They typically work to provide their spouses and children with a warm, safe home, safe transportation and good medical care. So when a member of his family dies, the “man of the house” may feel guilty. No matter how out of his control the death was, the man may feel deep down that he has failed at protecting the people in his care.

If your friend expresses such thoughts, you will probably feel the need to reassure him that the death was not his fault. Actually, you may help your friend more by just listening and trying to understand. By allowing him to talk about his feelings of failure, you are helping him to work through these feelings in his own way and his own time.

It’s OK for men to grieve differently.

We’ve said that men feel the need to be strong and active in the face of grief. Such responses are OK as long as your friend isn’t avoiding his feelings altogether. It’s also OK for men to feel and express rage, to be more cognitive or analytical about the death, to not cry. All of these typically masculine responses to grief may help your friend heal; there is no one “right” way to mourn a death.

Avoid clichés.

Sometimes words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for mourners. Clichés are trite comments often intended to provide simple solutions to difficult realities. Men are often told “You’ll get over this” or “Don’t worry, you and Susie (can) have another child” or “Think about the good times.” Comments like these are not constructive. Instead, they hurt because they diminish a very real and very painful loss.

Make contact.

Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support your grieving friend. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye or even a hug communicates more than words could ever say.

But don’t just attend the funeral then disappear. Remain available afterwards as well. Grief is a process, and it may take your friend years to reconcile himself to his new life. Remember that your grieving friend may need you more in the weeks and months after the funeral than at the time of the death.

Be aware of holidays and other significant days.

Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and other significant days, such as the birthday of the person who died and the anniversary of the death. These events emphasize the person’s absence. Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process.

These are appropriate times to visit your friend or write a note or simply give him a quick phone call. Your ongoing support will be appreciated and healing.

Watch for warning signs.

Men who deny and repress their real feelings of grief may suffer serious long-term problems. Among these are:

  • chronic depression, withdrawal and low self-esteem
  • deterioration in relationships with friends and family
  • physical complaints such as headaches, fatigue and backaches
  • chronic anxiety, agitation and restlessness
  • chemical abuse or dependence
  • indifference toward others, insensitivity and workaholism

If you see any of these symptoms in your friend, talk to him about your concern. Find helping resources for him in his community, such as support groups and grief counselors. You can’t force your friend to seek help but you can make it easier for him to seek help.

Understand the importance of the loss.

Always remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend’s life is under reconstruction. Consider the significance of the loss and be compassionate and available in the weeks and months to come.

“Helping a friend in grief is a difficult task. Helping a man in grief can be especially difficult, so few friends follow through in their desire to help. I encourage you to stand by your friend during this painful time. Your ongoing presence, patience and support will help him more than you will ever know.”

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Nov 232017

How to Increase Your Sense of Gratitude

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Grateful Today

Thanksgiving — celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November — is perhaps one of the most cherished of American holidays; it’s a time when family and friends gather over ample amounts of food and give thanks for the blessings in life, including each other. As explained by University of California psychology professor Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts on gratitude and author of several books on the topic, gratitude involves two key components:

  1. It’s “an affirmation of goodness;” when you feel gratitude, you affirm that you live in a benevolent world
  2. It’s a recognition that the source of this goodness comes from outside of yourself; that other people (or higher powers, if you prefer) have provided you with “gifts” that improve your life in some way

An Attitude of Gratitude Fosters Health and Happiness

The practice of openly sharing what we’re grateful for is by many accounts one of the healthiest aspects of our annual Thanksgiving festivity. According to psychologists, it’s a ritual that fosters both happiness and health. It’s unfortunate that most people reserve this gratitude ritual for Thanksgiving Day only. While giving thanks once a year is beneficial, doing it more often could be life changing. At least that’s what science suggests.

Studies have actually shown that the psychological state of gratitude has beneficial implications for every major organ system in your body. So, if you’re serious about your well-being you’d be wise to increase the frequency at which you feel and express gratitude. Adopting the ritual of saying grace at every meal, for example, is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis, and will also foster a deeper connection to your food.

When you reflect on all the things that went into its creation, from the sowing of the seed, to the harvest and the cooking, you’ll realize just how much work — by both nature and man — went into creating the meal before you that will now provide you with nourishment. Considering a breakdown anywhere along that chain would result in scarcity and hunger, there’s a lot to be thankful for in each plate of food.

The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is celebrated in remembrance of the first recorded feast between the British pilgrims and Native Americans in Plymouth. The year was 1621, and the pilgrims had just reaped their first successful harvest in the New World. While the history of this first Thanksgiving celebration is sketchy, eyewitness accounts claim:

  • The feast was attended by at least 50 English pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, the latter of which walked for two days to attend. In addition to food, marksmanship games and running races were also enjoyed.
  • The celebration lasted three days.
  • Venison was the highlight of the meal, brought by the Wampanoag tribesmen. Other meal selections included fish and fowls (wild turkeys, ducks and geese).

At the time, the get-together was not called Thanksgiving,” and it did not become an annual, national holiday until 1863, nearly a century and a half later. In fact, the feast in 1621 appears to have been a singular event. Unfortunately, the peace between pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe was short-lived, and Thanksgiving is for many Native Americans a controversial holiday tainted by ancestral pain. According to Time:

“Early European colonizers and Native Americans lived in peace through a symbiotic relationship for about 10 years until thousands of additional settlers arrived … Up to 25,000 Englishmen landed in the New World between 1630 and 1642, after a plague drastically cut the native population by what’s believed to be more than half … The arrival of new settlers prompted a fight for land and rising animosity. War exploded in 1675 …

Many Native Americans have long marked Thanksgiving as a day of somber remembrance. Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux … observes Thanksgiving with her family but doesn’t think of it as a national holiday … ‘Thanksgiving tells a story that is convenient for Americans. [But] it’s a celebration of our survival. I recognize it as a chance for my family to come together as survivors, pretty much in defiance.'”

Be Sure to Keep the ‘Thanks’ in Thanksgiving

Depending on the kind of year you’ve had, you may or may not feel like you have a whole lot to feel thankful for. Whether or not you should express thanks if you feel you have nothing to be thankful for is addressed in a previous New York Times article. In it, Arthur C. Brooks writes:

“It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful …

Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness … If you want a truly happy holiday, choose to keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, whether you feel like it or not.”

One way to flex your gratitude muscle when life events leave you uninspired is to identify and express gratitude for seemingly “useless” or insignificant things. It could be a certain smell in the air, the color of a flower, your child’s freckles or the curvature of a stone. Over time, you’ll find that doing this will really hone your ability to identify “good” things in your life. In fact, you may eventually find that “bliss” is closer than you imagined.

Health Benefits of Gratitude

Aside from making you feel better about your life, feeling and expressing gratitude has been found to have a wide range of beneficial health effects, including:

Stimulating your hypothalamus (an area of your brain involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain’s “reward circuitry,” an area that produces pleasurable feelings)
Improving your sleep (especially if your mind has a tendency to go into overdrive with negative thoughts and worries at bedtime)
Raising the likelihood you’ll engage in healthy activities such as exercise
Raising your relationship satisfaction
Raising your work performance (in one study, managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees’ performance)
Reducing your stress
Enhancing your sense of general well-being
Improving your heart health, reducing the likelihood of sudden death in patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
Producing measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine (involved in mood regulation), inflammatory cytokines, reproductive hormones, the stress hormone cortisol, the social bonding hormone oxytoxin, blood pressure, cardiac and EEG rhythms, and blood sugar levels

10 Practical Strategies to Build and Strengthen Gratitude

Like a muscle, your sense of gratitude can be built and strengthened with practice.

Here are 10 gratitude practices you can experiment with:

Keep a daily gratitude journal

This can be done in a paper journal, you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.

In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and had fewer

visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Write thank you notes or a thank you letter

Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being

in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank you

letters or notes can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.

Nonverbal actions

This includes smiles and hugs, both of which can express a wide array of messages, from

encouragement and excitement to empathy and support.

Be sincere, and choose your words wisely

While it’s easy to say words like “please” and “thank you” in passing, these courtesies can

become potent acknowledgments of gratitude when combined with eye contact and sincerity.

In other words, say it like you mean it.

Research also shows that using “other-praising” phrases are far more effective than

“self-beneficial” phrases. For example, praising a partner saying,

“thank you for going out of your way to do this,” is better than a compliment framed in terms

of how you benefited, such as “it makes me happy when you do that.”

The former resulted in the partner feeling happier

and more loving toward the person giving the praise.

Focus on the benevolence of other people instead of being so self-centered

Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease  anxieties.

Cherishing the kindness of others also means you’re less likely to take them for granted.

Avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages

Doing so will only erode your sense of security. As Emmons notes in his book,

“The Little Book of Gratitude,”

“Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness.

A healthier comparison is to contemplate

what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy … Gratitude buffers

you from emotions that drive anxiety. You cannot be grateful and envious,

or grateful while harboring regrets.”

Prayer and/or mindfulness meditation

Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude.

Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment

you’re in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus,

but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for,

such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.

Create a nightly gratitude ritual

This suggestion was given by Dr. Alison Chen in a Huffington Post article.

“My colleague has a bedtime routine with her [3-year-old] and it includes recognizing

what you are grateful for. When this part of the night comes, you can’t shut him up,

” Chen writes.”There are so many things that we take for granted and when you listen

to the long list that a child can come up with you realize the possibilities for

gratefulness are limitless! Take a couple of minutes each day to stop and reflect;

taking regular pause is an excellent way to bring about more feelings

of gratefulness in your life.” One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar,

into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis.

Any jar or container will do.

Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar.

Some make an annual (or bi-annual or even monthly)

event out of going through the whole jar, reading each slip out loud.

Spend money on activities instead of things

According to recent research, spending money on experiences not only generates more

feelings of gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity.

As noted by co-author Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago,

“People feel fortunate, and because it’s a diffuse, UN-targeted type of gratitude,

they’re motivated to give back to people in general.”Interestingly, generosity

has also been linked to happiness, which may seem counter-intuitive since giving to others

means sacrificing some of your own physical or emotional resources.

This experience has now been validated by science showing that generosity and happiness

are actually wired together in your brain.

Tap forth gratitude

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a helpful tool.

EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the energy meridians

used in acupuncture that can quickly restore inner balance and healing,

and helps rid your mind of negative thoughts and emotions.

In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for gratitude.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude Year-Round

Your future health and happiness depends largely on the thoughts you think today. It’s worth remembering that each moment of every day is an opportunity to feel and express gratitude. Doing so will, over time, help you feel happier, strengthen your relationships and support your health. By focusing on what’s good right now, in the present moment, you become more open to receive greater abundance in the future.

So, remember to say “thank you” — to yourself, the universe, and others.

Thank you for giving me this chance to say Thank you

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WellnessWillpower thanks Dr. Joseph Mercola and the class of 72


Oct 302017



Nearly twenty-five million Americans are currently suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the disorder, but children can also be affected.

One-third of people who experience severe, prolonged trauma, such as military combat, severe neglect, or prolonged sexual assault, will develop the disorder. An estimated two-thirds of people who are exposed to mass violence will develop the disorder. PTSD can also surface after acutely distressing or frightening experiences, such as violent assaults, serious auto accidents, natural disasters, or the death or illness of a close friend or family member. Previous exposure to trauma increases an individual’s risk of developing PTSD. PTSD is not typically associated with divorce or job loss.

It is estimated that 8% of Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives.

The symptoms of PTSD

PTSD is expressed by a variety of symptoms, all of which can make it difficult to live life and participate in typical daily activities. Sufferers of PTSD exhibit symptoms that fall into three categories: re-experience symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and arousal symptoms.

Re-experience symptoms occur when sufferers of PTSD have flashbacks, and relive the trauma they experienced over and over again, even when they are attempting to focus on other things. This can include symptoms like:

  • Irregular but repeated flashbacks, accompanied by feelings of fear, horror, and stress that accompanied the initial traumatic event.
  • Feeling as though the event is happening all over again.
  • Hearing, seeing, or smelling things that remind the survivor of the event and causing them to remember the traumatic event. These particular symptoms are called triggers, and can include things like the smell of a barbeque, a dark hallway, or a certain touch.

Avoidance symptoms occur when PTSD sufferers feel numbness and detachment, and isolate themselves from people and places that might trigger old memories or reminders, often to the detriment of their physical and emotional health. This can include behaviors like:

  • Avoiding crowds because they seem threatening or dangerous.
  • Avoiding driving because the trauma was experienced in a car, or military convoy.
  • Avoiding certain movies, television shows, or news coverage that takes place or talks about the area the trauma was experienced.
  • Avoiding help by keeping busy in order to dissociate from the event in an attempt to forget it.

Arousal symptoms are categorized by feelings of irritability, edginess, as well as nightmares and difficulty sleeping. This can include symptoms like:

  • Feeling jittery and paranoid, constantly on the lookout for potential signs of danger.
  • Having difficulty relaxing or falling asleep.
  • Having difficulty concentrating and feeling easily startled by quick movements or loud noises.
  • Wanting to remain in the corners of rooms or restaurants in order to be on the lookout for potential threats; always remaining near the exits in a building or shopping mall.

Additionally, people suffering from PTSD might experience changes in long held feelings and beliefs, and changes in the way they think about themselves, or others in their life. They may have difficulty developing or maintaining positive feelings towards other people in their life, and their relationships will suffer as a result. Some people suffering from PTSD attempt to block out the traumatic event entirely, and are unable to talk or communicate about their experience at all. This is particularly dangerous, as these memories need to be addressed and de-traumatized before healing can occur.

How is PTSD diagnosed?

PTSD symptoms can begin immediately following a traumatic event. Most people who survive a significant trauma will recover, given time; however, stress-induced reactions to trauma that persist over time, or get worse as time goes by, may ultimately be diagnosed as PTSD.

There are three categories of PTSD:

  • Acute PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last between one and three months following the trauma.
  • Chronic PTSD occurs when symptoms persist for three months or longer.
  • Individuals suffering from delayed PTSD do not exhibit symptoms for at least 6 months following trauma. This form of PTSD is often found in adults who have experienced childhood trauma.

PTSD is not officially diagnosed until a person’s symptoms persist for at least one month and continue to cause extreme distress, including severe interference with work and home life.

Before diagnosing PTSD, a doctor will perform a physical exam in order to confirm there are no other medical problems that are contributing to a patient’s symptoms. A psychological exam will follow, in which a patient’s symptoms are discussed along with the event or events that preceded them. The American Psychiatric Association uses criteria defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to confirm a patient’s diagnosis.  This manual requires an individual to have been exposed to a traumatic  event that involved the actual or possible threat of death, violence, or serious bodily harm. Exposure can occur in a number of ways, including direct exposure, witnessing an experience that happens to someone else, learning a close friend or family member has experienced a dramatic event, or by repeated exposure to multiple traumatic events.

The science behind PTSD

The brain is, arguably, the most important organ in the human body. When impacted by illness or injury, it can have life-altering effects. In very rare cases, brain injuries can unlock new skills, turning an ordinary person into a savant, but more frequently the effects are devastating.

In order to treat brain injuries, it is absolutely critical to understand the underlying problem and contributing factors. With PTSD, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways and over long periods of time, this is particularly true.

Three areas of the brain are particularly important when considering PTSD: the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex.

The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for responding, automatically, to stress and fear. It works continuously the evaluate the environment and respond accordingly. The amygdala also plays a key role in memory consolidation, and the more emotionally significant a memory is, the more active the amygdala is in coding its memory storage. In this way, the amygdala categorizes certain memories as points of reference for future reactions. Ultimately, when the amygdala recognizes danger signals, it triggers the fight-or-flight response.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for storing and retrieving memories. It works much like the hard drive of a computer. Sights, sounds, and smells associated with dangerous or frightening memories are stored here, along with more mundane information such as your home address and the color of your first car. The memory storage of the hippocampus is independent of the amygdala, but the two systems interact when emotion and memory meet.


The prefrontal cortex is the large section of your brain that sits right behind your forehead. This region of the brain is responsible for personality, cognition, rational thought, and decision making.cognition,rational thought, and decision making.http://image.slidesharecdn.com/generalanatomy19b-140506222241-phpapp01/95/general-anatomy-19-b-25-638.jpg?cb=1399431739

In the instance of a trauma, the hippocampus works quickly to calm the amygdala alarm bells. When activated, this alarm circuit triggers the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, named for the three glands that control many processes within the body, including the digestion, energy storage, immune system response, and more. When the hippocampus can’t calm the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex takes over. Under conditions of chronic stress, the prefrontal cortex can experience dendrite atrophy and fatigue, which can lead to increased anxiety and PTSD-like behaviors.

When a person is suffering from PTSD, the circuits connecting the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are not working as they should. When the override system experiences chronic stress it comes depleted and is more likely to experience malfunctions. Malfunctions can result in the hippocampus being unable to store memories correctly, and can leave the amygdala in a state of constant fear and stress.

Because symptoms of PTSD must occur for a month or longer before someone is diagnosed, a person who has very recently experienced a traumatic event may re-experience their trauma a number of times before getting help. These recurrences can occur through racing thoughts and flashbacks, but also through nightmares. This occurs because the amygdala is essentially always signaling imminent danger. Recent trauma survivors might also exhibit arousal symptoms such as irritability, hypervigilance, and jumpiness for the same reason.

While a diagnosis of PTSD indicates that an individual has experienced a severe and devastating trauma, it is possible for the brain to heal. Working with a trained medical professional to address the traumatic memories in a safe environment will begin to heal the circuits and pathways connecting the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. It is incredibly difficult to recover from PTSD alone. Support from the community, family, and friends will go a long way towards helping an individual suffering from PTSD to recover.

Why do people with PTSD have sleep problems?

While many people have occasional trouble sleeping, those suffering from PTSD can experience increased anxiety and nightmares that making sleeping extremely difficult.

When a person is constantly on alert, it is difficult to have a restful night of sleep. When a person is easily startled by noise or movement, it can be nearly impossible to fall asleep in the first place. Combining these symptoms with worries over getting enough can produce a devastating cycle that leaves PTSD sufferers awake for hours on end. In addition to trouble falling asleep, nightmares are a very common symptom of PTSD. Nightmares can become so bad that they cause a PTSD sufferer to wake-up during the night, or make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place from fear of having a nightmare.

Individuals suffering from PTSD are also more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol. They may use these substances as coping mechanisms to deal with their symptoms, but drugs and alcohol can have detrimental effects on the sleep of a healthy person, let alone someone suffering from PTSD. Alcohol, in particular, modulates sleep cycles and increases the likelihood that an individual will wake up during the night, ultimately resulting in lower quality sleep.

Lastly, PTSD sufferers are frequently dealing with other medical problems in conjunction with their PTSD, including chronic pain or digestion issues. Physical ailments like these can also make sleep difficult.

Common sleep disorders for people suffering from PTSD

Sleep disorders, when compounded by PTSD, present differently when compared to the same sleep disorders experienced by the general population. For example, while people suffering from primary insomnia have difficulties falling asleep, they still are able to achieve sufficient sleep compared to those suffering from insomnia and PTSD related sleep loss. Generally, people suffering from PTSD have more inconsistent and erratic sleep patterns compared to a general population of individuals suffering from sleep disorders.

New research also correlates severe PTSD resulting from military service overseas to an increased risk of sleep apnea. The same research showed the risk of sleep apnea was significantly lower in service members who did not deploy. While the link between PTSD and sleep apnea remains unclear from this research, both of these disorders are responsible for a decreased quality of life.

Sleep help for people suffering from PTSD

By making minor changes to their bedroom or sleeping area, a person suffering from PTSD can increase the likelihood that they will sleep well. Attempting to sleep in an environment with a lot of noise, light, or activity will be detrimental to anyone’s ability to get restful sleep, this is particularly compounded from someone suffering from PTSD.

Some simple changes that can make a bedroom amenable to sleep include:

  • Removing the TV, radio, and phone charging station out of the bedroom. It is especially critical to remove artificial blue light (tablets, laptops, cell phones).
  • Using the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  • Using curtains to block out the light, and keep the room otherwise cool and quiet.
  • For some people, a white noise machine can help induce sleep.

To establish a regular sleeping pattern, critical to good and restful sleep, the following healthy sleep habits should be observed:

  • Establish a sleep schedule by setting a routine bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Create a set of customary practices around bedtime to help with relaxation. Some examples include taking a warm bath, drinking a cup of caffeine-free tea, reading a book, or listening to some soft music.
  • If night and noise are a problem, consider using a sleep mask or earplugs to block out light and sound.
  • Rise at the established wake-up time everyday, even if feelings of tiredness remain. Over time, this routine will help a person fall asleep quicker and wake up without an alarm.
  • On the weekends, sleep no longer than one hour past the standard wake-up time.

Certain daytime activities can help or hinder a nightly sleep cycle.  For example, drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages during the course of the day can keep a person up at night. Drinking alcohol before bedtime can also inhibit good sleep, causing the sleeper to wake up more frequently during the night. Here are some other tips for how to spend the waking hours:

  • Exercise during the day, but not within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Spend time outside in the sun. Sunlight helps regulate the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles.
  • Avoid napping, especially in the evening.
  • Avoid taking medicines that have an excitatory effect in the evening and instead take them earlier in the day (when possible according to the doctor who prescribed them).


People suffering from PTSD and having trouble sleeping because of anxiety, or frequently nightmares, might also talk to their doctor about prescribing a medication that might help reduce nightmares and other sleep problems by blocking the adrenaline hormone.

There are also many homeopathic remedies that might help some people suffering from PTSD, but in general, more evidence is needed to determine the effectiveness of these remedies. For example, the herb stramonium, which is thought to help individuals suffering from nightmares, has never been tested in a clinical trial setting.

Additional Online PTSD Resources


Are you concerned you may be suffering from PTSD? Take this quiz to learn if you may benefit from seeking professional help for PTSD.

Research Studies

The National Center for PTSD, located in Washington D.C. and funded by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, funds research directed at helping individuals suffering from PTSD. These research projects often seek out sufferers of PTSD and provide financial incentive to participants. In some cases, projects seek volunteers without PTSD to serve as controls.

Some current research opportunities funded by the National Center for PTSD include the following:

  1. A study of tobacco treatment as augmentation to Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD, located in Boston, MA. This study seeks to understand how tobacco use affects PTSD recovery, and is ongoing until March 2019.
  1. A study of Neurobiological and Psychological Benefits of Exercise in Chronic Pain and PTSD, located in Boston, Ma. This study seeks to understand the benefits of exercise to individuals suffering from chronic pain and PTSD, and is ongoing until October 2017.
  1. A study of Structural and Spectroscopy Pharmaco-Imaging Paradigm to Investigate the Effect of Riluzole in Patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), located in West Haven, CT. This study seeks to determine the efficacy of a pharmacologic, Riluzole, in improving PTSD symptoms, and is ongoing until 2018.

To learn more about these and other trials, check your eligibility, or join a trial, follow the link here.

Online Forums

There are many forums and support groups online that engage individuals and families who are recovering from trauma or suffering from PTSD. Here are a few that might be useful:


While PTSD is often associated with military service, it can surface following any number of traumatic events. In conjunction with a solid support system and good medical care, the following blogs may provide additional perspective and coping mechanisms for dealing with and healing from PTSD:

For Veterans

  1. Healing Combat Trauma is designed for veterans but will be useful for anyone suffering from PTSD.
  2. The Wounded Times is dedicated to combat veterans suffering from PTSD, and publishes contributions from around the globe.
  3. The Family of a Vet addresses the confluence of PTSD and TBIs (traumatic brain injuries), and is written by veterans in conjunction with their family and close friends.

For Veterans and Non-Veterans

  1. PTSD Survival is written by a PTSD survivor who advocates for self-care and offers strategies for reclaiming your life after trauma.
  2. Heal My PTSD offers advice and strategies for dealing with the symptoms associated with PTSD and includes many personal stories from PTSD survivors.
  3. The Center for Mind-Body Medicine publishes contributions from dozens of experts in several fields including medicine, nutrition, and self-care, and offers a holistic approach to treating PTSD.
  4. https://www.medicaljane.com/   medical cannabis education and resources to suffering patients who deserve a better quality of life.

Twitter Accounts

Twitter can be an excellent resource for connecting with people around the world. Here are a few twitter accounts that address PTSD from perspectives of healing and education:


For many individuals suffering from PTSD, working through their trauma is first step towards healing. The PTSD Workbook was written by specialists in complex trauma and is critically acclaimed. The Complex PTSD Workbook is another option for those suffering from Complex PTSD. Lastly, The Body Keeps Score has over one thousand five star reviews on Amazon and is the #1 seller in several categories of mental health scholarship, including PTSD, Psychopathology, and Psychiatry.

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Oct 092017

The Neuroscience Of Drumming: Researchers Discover The Secrets Of Drumming & The Human Brain

By Josh Jones  via The Mind Unleashed

(Open Culture) An old musician’s joke goes “there are three kinds of drummers in the world—those who can count and those who can’t.” But perhaps there is an even more global divide. Perhaps there are three kinds of people in the world—those who can drum and those who can’t. Perhaps, as the promotional video below from GE suggests, drummers have fundamentally different brains than the rest of us. Today we highlight the scientific research into drummers’ brains, an expanding area of neuroscience and psychology that disproves a host of dumb drummer jokes.

“Drummers,” writes Jordan Taylor Sloan at Mic, “can actually be smarter than their less rhythmically-focused bandmates.” This according to the findings of a Swedish study (Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm) which shows “a link between intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving.” As Gary Cleland puts it in The Telegraph, drummers “might actually be natural intellectuals.”

Neuroscientist David Eagleman, a renaissance researcher The New Yorker calls“a man obsessed with time,” found this out in an experiment he conducted with various professional drummers at Brian Eno’s studio. It was Eno who theorized that drummers have a unique mental makeup, and it turns out “Eno was right: drummers do have different brains from the rest.” Eagleman’s test showed “a huge statistical difference between the drummers’ timing and that of test subjects.” Says Eagleman, “Now we know that there is something anatomically different about them.” Their ability to keep time gives them an intuitive understanding of the rhythmic patterns they perceive all around them.

That difference can be annoying—like the pain of having perfect pitch in a perpetually off-key world. But drumming ultimately has therapeutic value, providing the emotional and physical benefits collectively known as “drummer’s high,” an endorphin rush that can only be stimulated by playing music, not simply listening to it. In addition to increasing people’s pain thresholds, Oxford psychologists found, the endorphin-filled act of drumming increases positive emotions and leads people to work together in a more cooperative fashion.
Clash drummer 

Topper Headon discusses the therapeutic aspect of drumming in a short BBC interview above. He also calls drumming a “primeval” and distinctly, universally human activity. Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley have high hopes for the science of rhythm. Hart, who has powered a light show with his brainwaves in concerts with his own band, discusses the “power” of rhythm to move crowds and bring Alzheimer’s patients back into the present moment.Whether we can train ourselves to think and feel like drummers may be debatable. But as for whether drummers really do think in ways non-drummers can’t, consider the neuroscience of Stewart Copeland’s polyrhythmic beats, and the work of Terry Bozzio (below) playing the largest drumkit you’ve ever seen.

Sep 182017

For thousands of years the practice of Yoga has enhanced lives.

Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Within Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal toward which that school directs its practices. In Jainism yoga is the sum total of all activities—mental, verbal and physical.

Maharaj Charan Singh Ji

Hatha Yoga

Ha and tha, the sun and moon, refer to the two opposite currents that regulate all processes in our body. There is nothing mysterious about it because anything in our universe exists because of a positive and negative charge. Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kriya Yoga are specifically dealing with the intention of gaining control over the flow of these life-currents.
Hatha Yoga is known for the asanas or postures. It is thought that by perfecting the body, creating a healthy physical condition, and raising Kundalini (dormant energy) upwards along the spine, the body becomes better prepared for yogic awakening. The first effects felt are usually improved health and strengthened nervous system. Some Hatha Yogis may even demonstrate control over internal organs, blood flow, and breathing. The ability of some Yogis to even stop the breathing and heart beat completely for a period of time has been demonstrated under laboratory settings.

Traditional Hatha Yoga consists of:
1. Asanas (postures);
2. Shat Karmas (six cleansing techniques, also known as Shat Kriyas);
3. Pranayama (control of breathing with retention);
4. Bandhas (locks) and Mudras (seals) for the regulation of Prana (life-force) and Kundalini; and
5. Samadhi (Union with God, realization of the Self, ecstasy, nirvana).

There are many good books available on this subject and one is wise to have a copy handy that also includes pictures of the various asanas and mudras.

Further Reading: Health Benefits of a regular Hatha Yoga practice


Raja Yoga / Radja Yoga

Raja Yoga means royal and is sometimes called the crown of Hatha Yoga. Raja adds concentration after body and mind are cleaned and trained to stay calm and attentive. The improvement in our power of concentration, as a result of Raja Yoga, moves all of our attention towards the source of our Being in order to become that Being. Raja Yoga is a complete system, also refered to as Ashtanga Yoga because of the eight (ashta) limbs (anga) the system rests on.

The Eight Limbs (Ashta-anga) are:
1. Restraints (yamas: harmlessness, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of senses)
2. Disciplines (niyamas: cleanliness, purification of body, mind and nervous system, study of metaphysical principles, contemplation on God)
3. Postures (asanas)
4. Control of breathing and life-currents (pranayama)
5. Turning the attention within (pratyahara)
6. Concentration (dharana)
7. Meditation (dhyana: prolonged periods of perfect concentration and contemplation)
8. Holy Trance (Samadhi)

Bhakti Yoga (Union through Devotion and Love)

Bhakti Yoga is the Yoga of selfless love, compassion, humility, purity and the desire and serious intention to merge with God. It is nothing else than to follow the ‘First Commandment’: “to love God with all your heart, mind and soul.”

The following persons are known as outstanding examples of Bhakti Yogis:
·  Daya Mata (1914-2010)
·  Shree Maa
·  Anandamayi Ma (1896 – 1982)
·  Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997)
·  Ma Yoga Shakti
·  Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi)

Bhakti Yoga Meditation – a complete guide for understanding the philosophy and practice of bhakti for practitioners at any level. Following the teachings of Jagadguru Shri Kripaluji Maharaj, we offer online meditation instructions, mp3 downloads of meditation kirtan, lectures and other helpful accessories, tips and suggestions for you to progress in your bhakti meditation.

Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge)

Jnana Yoga is practical Philosophy/Metaphysics. It is both theory and practice. Jnana Yoga uses the intellect as a tool to understand that our true Self is behind and beyond our mind. It is a Quest for the Self by direct inquiry into “who we are.” It is, however, a mistake to think that the Source could be found with the intellect alone.

For the purpose of Self-discovery, Jnana Yoga probes the nature of the Self through the question: Who am I? Through persistent probing, fixing our attention on the source of our Being, we regain our real Self. We remember who we are. The inquiry, as the result of practising Jnana Yoga, leads us towards clear Awareness by removing our attention from that which we are not. Along with Bhakti Yoga (Devotion), Jnana is listed among the best approaches for becoming aware of the eternal Self (God).

Shankara and Ramana Maharshi are the classic authorities concerning Jnana Yoga. Like Hatha and Raja Yogis, Jnana Yogis also acknowledge the relationship between breathing and thinking. They found that breathing slows automatically through concentration on the “I-AM.”

For more in-depth information, please see extended article: Jnana Yoga

Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga refers to actions designed to rid the body and mind of obstructions. Kriya Yoga is a complete system including mantras, meditation, and other techniques towards controlling the life-force and bringing calmness and control over body and mind. The goal is to unite with pure Awareness (God). Since pure Awareness is our original condition, it is also referred to as Self-awareness.

The following organizations are known to be genuine sources for the original techniques:
·  Ananda Church of Self-Realization
·  Center for Spiritual Awareness (CSA)
·  Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)
·  Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas
·  Temple of Kriya Yoga

For more in-depth information, please see our extended article: Kriya Yoga

Karma Yoga (Self-less work for our fellow neighbour)

Karma is the total sum of all our actions (mental and physical), in this life and before. Karma Yoga is the yoga of Service or self-transcending Action, whereby the yogi directs all actions towards God. By serving God and humanity (without selfishness, egoism, and attachment) the heart becomes pure, the ego fades and, over time, or even over many lifetimes, one becomes increasingly in tune and unified with God. Enlightenment (Samadhi, nirvana, union with God) is naturally realized through Karma yoga.

Surat Shabd  Yoga:

The practice of joining the Soul (surat) with the Word (shabd) and merging (yoga) with it; once the soul merges into the Shabd(inner sound- the Audible Life Stream), it is carried by the Shabd to its source, the Lord.

This form of yoga connects the soul to the universal consciousness through the use of meditation and inner sound (Shabd Dhun) ‘The music of the word’; the Shabd, the Audible Life Stream, The ‘Word’; Spiritual Sound; Sound Current. The creative power, the source of all creation, which manifests as sound and light in the spiritual regions. As the soul manifests in the body as consciousnesses, The Word of God manifests itself as inner spiritual Sound. It is the Word or Logos of the Bible; Kalma, Isme-i-Azam, Bang-i-Asmani, or Kalma-i-Ilahi of the Quran. It is the Nad of the Vedas; Nam, Ram Nam, Gurbani, Bani, and Dhun of the Adi Granth. It is called the Tao by the Chinese; Vadan and Saut-i-Surmad by the Sufis. The Zoroastrians call it Sharaosha, and it is known by many other names. In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word is God.

The secret of hearing the Shabd within oneself can be imparted only by a (Sat Guru) True Master. Maharaj Charan Singh Ji

True Master (Sat Guru) (light giver) is the chief instrument of the Supreme Ruler to contact this world of humanity… The ‘Word’ made flesh.

There are many Masters (Man/Woman) in each life time.   (Living Master)     (The Word made Flesh)


A Book that changed my life by answering all my spiritual questions…. THE PATH OF THE MASTERS by Julian Johnson

Die to Live….. A book of questions and answered by Maharaj Charan Singh Ji


Truest Religion…. How you focus on your 24 hour day.

Truest Prayer….. Asking for strength to go through your daily destiny.

The True Master….. informing you to love the lord with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.

True Teachings of the Saints (Sant Mat)   ( Sat Guru- Sat Sang- Sat Nam ) True Teacher-True Communication-True Union

WellnessWillpower  Mantra …..    ThankyouforgivingmethischancetosayThankyou.  Repeat this throughout the day.

Like a muscle, your sense of gratitude can be built and strengthened with practice.

Please see the list of Yoga Organizations for excellent sources of various Yoga disciplines.

A full 42 minute yoga class with Sarah Holmes:


And a little comic relief:





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Jul 242017


References for Addictions and Mental Health

By Jackie Cortez


(Recent action taken by the FDA)  reassures those who have fallen victim to substance abuse that they’re not alone.


What Science Says To Do If Your Loved One Has An Opioid Addiction

Addiction Is a Mental Illness – Treat It That Way

Is Your Home an Accomplice for Your Rebellious Teen?

Unconventional Grief: Grieving Someone Alive


Addiction And Infidelity: Understanding And Finding Ways To Heal After An Addicted Partner Is Unfaithful

Careers in Addiction

Holistic Approach to the Addiction Recovery Process

Child Safety: How to Ensure Your Grown-Up Belongings Stay Out of the Hands of Kids


wellnesswillpower thanks….

Jackie Cortez | thepreventioncoalition.org | jcortez@thepreventioncoalition.org

340 S Lemon Ave #5780 | Walnut, CA 91789

May 302017

Public Health Library


While more people are embracing a healthy lifestyle, there are still plenty of people who feel confused or get mixed messages on what constitutes healthy living and healthy eating. Not to mention that eating healthy doesn’t seem like it’s easy on the pocketbook. At Public Health Library, we want to pull back the curtain and show that healthy living is accessible to everyone.


We can’t express enough the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and nutrition is such an important part of health — it keeps our bodies running smoothly, improves our mood, and can even help cut down on medical bills and insurance rates.


Because we want everyone to have access to the best information on healthy living, I have put together a collection of valuable resources. I hope you find them useful and you will consider sharing them.


Healthy eating pyramid


How Nutrition in Addiction Treatment Speeds Recovery


Healthy Eating: Simple Ways to Plan, Enjoy and Stick to a Healthy Diet


Diet May Be as Important to Mental Health as It is to Physical Health


How to Optimize Your Home for Healthy, Stress-free Living


Eating Real Food on a Budget


The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Home’s Yard into a Community Garden


Thank you for your time.


In good health, wellnesswillpower thanks

Steve Johnson



Dec 292016

Your Baby’s Brain on Music… It’s not Sci-Fi

Music is sound. Sound is heard. But music is so much more.

Music ignites the brain, orchestrating a neural symphony between the ears. A melody drifts into the ear, spirals down the cochlea, drops individual tones onto waiting receptors. Tones are deconstructed and launched out on a variety of trajectories, simultaneously activating multiple regions of the brain to process the wealth of information embedded in the music. Consider listening to your favorite song; memories and emotions are triggered, the beat plays out in your head, you smile or cry, your body dances in time. Surely experience shapes these perceptions, assigning meaning and emotion to songs. But is the neuronal encoding for musical information actually formed by these experiences or is it an intrinsic property of merely being human?
The adult auditory system is asymmetrical, the right side associated with music and the left with speech. In 2010 researchers in the field of cognition asked if the neural correlates for asymmetrical sound processing were already in place at birth (Perani et al., 2010). To answer this question, they imaged the brains of peacefully sleeping swaddled newborns, only 1 to 3 days from the womb, while playing piano excerpts from top composers of the Baroque and Classical eras. Next, they challenged the babies’ brains by shifting the key of the music, effectively altering the music’s tonal context while maintaining its musical integrity. This allowed the researchers to not only ask how music is perceived outside of rich contextual landscape of experience but also how this perception could be altered by structural changes to the melody.

Surveying Sound: Your Baby’s First Critical Window
Music entered the babies’ brains and traveled to the most likely of places, the right (musical) auditory cortex. The auditory cortex is subdivided into hierarchal layers – the primary, secondary, and tertiary cortices. After the initial receipt of musical tones in the primary cortex the other two regions are typically recruited for decoding of complex melodic structures and to initiate motor responses (i.e. tapping and dancing to the beat). At only three days of age the babies’ brains were already engaging all three auditory cortices in an asymmetrical manner. But the music did not stop there; it traveled into the emotional processing centers of the right brain as well. This suggests that the babies were not only perceiving and processing the music but they were also ‘feeling it’.
So what happened when the music tones were altered? When the researchers played the same music but with shifted tonal structure the babies’ brains lit up in both the right and left auditory cortices and emotional processing centers. Why, if the altered music maintained a musical quality, did the left (speech) auditory cortex get involved? In adults we see this left-sided pattern of brain activation when trying to discern irregularities in sound patterns. Perhaps, then, the unexpected nature of the altered tones spiked the little ones’ curiosity, causing them to send the music to the left side of their brains to figure it out. Given that the altered music was still musical in nature this left-side switch likely was the result of surprise associated with the tonal shift instead of failure to recognize the music as, well, music.
Instinctively we know that music can soothe and engage our babies but the degree and effect of this engagement has remained elusive. Overall, this study showed that babies are born into this world with a neural asymmetry for sound processing and a neural-based sensitivity to the structure of sound. Likely this framework was established before birth, even as early as the onset of hearing at only 16 weeks’ gestation. These results are particularly intriguing in the context of the prevailing “use it or lose it” hypothesis in the field of cognitive neuroscience. This hypothesis states that the more a neural circuit is engaged early in life the stronger it becomes, forming a neural scaffold on which learning is built. Conversely, circuits that are not engaged lose strength and disappear from the neural framework. Use it or lose it. This research suggests that music can be used in a new and unexpected way to differentially induce and reinforce neural pathways that may not be activated by traditional music in a newborn baby’s brain.

Perani, D., Saccuman, M. C., Scifo, P., Spada, D., Andreolli, G., Rovelli, R., . . . Koelsch, S. (2010). Functional specializations for music processing in the human newborn brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(10), 4758-4763.

Social Interaction: The Missing Link in Your Baby’s Learning

The power of song to both soothe and stimulate babies is a universally known truth. Mothers instinctively respond to their baby’s cries by rocking them gently while singing sweet melodic songs, inducing a sense of calm and peace. As babies grow and begin to explore their world song is used to stimulate learning. Consider the classic learning song “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, this is a fun, engaging way to learn the parts of our bodies which, otherwise, might be all together uninteresting.
Using music to promote emotional calm and enhance learning is far from novel, but how and why does it work? Over the past two decades neuroscientists have sought to understand underlying mechanisms and outcomes of music engagement in promoting infant cognitive, emotional, and social development.
In 2012, researchers from McMaster University asked if music exposure could positively impact brain cognition and development in babies during brief but critical window of time, from 6 – 12 months of age. During this time babies transition from being able to recognize all possible sounds to only focusing on the sounds they actively hear, i.e they become culture-bound listeners. Scientists have dubbed this the “use it or lose it” hypothesis; if babies do not hear specific sounds during this time then they lose their ability to accurately perceive them by one year of age [see Surveying Sound: Your Baby’s First Critical Window].
This study compared the effects of two different types of music exposure – Active and Passive – with no musical interventions in babies starting at 6 months of age, at the opening of this critical window. In the Active group, babies actively engaged in music playing and listening with their parent. In the Passive group, babies engaged in normal everyday play while Baby Einstein™ CD’s played in the background. The main differences between these groups was that the Active group reinforced learning through repetition, used positive social interaction to enhance learning, and emphasized music quality.
After six months the researchers tested their little subjects on their preference for Western tones, their ability to discriminate novel sounds, their emotional response to novel sounds, and their overall ability to communicate. In each parameter tested, the babies who had Active music exposure scored significantly higher than the other two groups. There was little difference between the Passive group and babies receiving no music interventions. Thus, this study concluded music enhances cognitive, emotional, and social development only when exposure is in the context of active learning and social interaction (Gerry, Unrau, & Trainor, 2012).
This need for social interaction in infant learning is echoed in research on language acquisition. Researchers have found that babies are only perceptive to foreign language sounds when they directly interact with another human ; babies exposed to foreign language through passive exposure such as watching a foreign speaker on tv (Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu, 2003) or watching Baby Einstein™ CD’s (DeLoache et al., 2010) do not learn the foreign language sounds.
All caretakers can likely attest that infants are social learners; If imitation is truly the highest form of flattery, then infants surely are the greatest charmers. However, the absolute need for this interaction to improve cognitive outcomes from learning experiences was unknown. These studies highlight a currently overlooked yet critical component of learning that is absent from most educational baby products on the market – the need for human interaction during the process of learning.

DeLoache, J. S., Chiong, C., Sherman, K., Islam, N., Vanderborght, M., Troseth, G. L., . . . O’Doherty, K. (2010). Do babies learn from baby media? Psychological Science.
Gerry, D., Unrau, A., & Trainor, L. J. (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental science, 15(3), 398-407.
Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F.-M., & Liu, H.-M. (2003). Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(15), 9096-9101.

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Dec 192016

Some Say Kratom Is A Solution To Opioid Addiction. Not If Drug Warriors Ban It First.

Prohibition is a short-sighted, ineffective policy, but that’s not standing in their way.

03/03/2016 08:38 am ET | Updated Sep 07, 2016

go-pong via Getty Images
A Mitragyna speciosa korth plant, also known as kratom. A number of states are trying to ban it in response to concerns about drug abuse.

America’s drug war is changing. Marijuana, long demonized without evidence as one of the world’s most dangerous drugs, is now legal, at least for medical use, in 23 states and Washington, D.C. The president has said that treatment ― not incarceration ― is the best way to combat the opioid addiction epidemic.

But even as the nation comes to terms with the overwhelming failures of the drug war, lawmakers around the country are pushing to open a new front.

Right now, politicians in at least six states are pushing to ban kratom, an herbal drug made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciosa, a Southeast Asian tree. The natural substance, usually consumed as a tea or powder extract, contains mitragynine and a related compound, 7-hydroxymitragynine, which appear to activate opioid receptors in the brain and reduce pain. While most opioids have sedative qualities, low to moderate doses of kratom serve as a mild stimulant.

As kratom gets a modern makeover, popping up in new products like energy shots and bright, gaudy packages sold in head shops, the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration are raising concerns about it.

State lawmakers, encouraged by sensationalist news stories and isolated reports of abuse, are treating it like a dangerous recreational substance that must be outlawed. Kratom bans are already in place in Indiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vermont and most recently, Arkansas. Legislation is now pending in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York, with more states jumping aboard the effort each session. People involved in abstinence-only drug rehab have spoken out against kratom, arguing that the drug is easy to abuse and can interfere with recovery from opioid addiction.

Despite the crackdown, there isn’t a scientific consensus on kratom’s full range of potential benefits and dangers. People in Southeast Asia have been using kratom for centuries, if not longer, and thousands of Americans now tout it as a promising therapy for opiate withdrawal and an alternative to certain prescription drugs, including narcotic painkillers. But if the drug warriors get their way, none of that will matter ― and kratom will be illegal.

Alissa Scheller
An assortment of products made from kratom, which lawmakers are now trying to ban.

Susan Ash’s path to kratom began around a decade ago in an old-growth forest in Oregon. Ash, then in her mid-30s, was working on a conservation project that often took her on treks through the towering redwoods, Douglas firs and Sitka spruce.

When she started feeling intense joint pain and debilitating fatigue, Ash didn’t think to consider Lyme disease. Nor did any of the many doctors she saw over the next few years. Though they couldn’t make an accurate diagnosis, the doctors did what they could to treat Ash’s worsening symptoms. That meant prescription drugs ― and lots of them.

“I was on every controlled substance under the sun,” Ash said.

Doctors were soon prescribing her pills just to treat the side effects of her other medications.

“I was on morphine, and because of the morphine, it was making me so fatigued that I wasn’t able to keep my job at the time, and so they put me on Adderall so that I could perform my work,” Ash said. “With the Adderall, my previous struggles with depression and anxiety got worse. They added on the Xanax. At one point I was on all three ― the benzodiazepines, the narcotics and the stimulants ― in addition to Seroquel [an antidepressant sometimes used for sleep], Lyrica [a pain medication used to treat fibromyalgia], Flexeril, a muscle relaxant.”

“I could go on,” Ash continued.

Despite being prescribed a cocktail of as many as 10 different pills, Ash’s condition only deteriorated. In 2010, after years of suffering, she began experiencing temporary paralysis and disturbing neurological effects. She was getting lost in her own neighborhood. She’d sometimes wake up unable to move her limbs until someone could pry them out of their torpor.

Finally, a pain specialist asked Ash if she’d been checked for Lyme disease. The test came back positive, and she began a 10-month course of antibiotics, pumped through a port installed in her chest.

Susan Ash
Susan Ash holds up an IV bag while receiving treatment for Lyme disease in 2011.

But while Ash’s Lyme disease symptoms began to subside, the years-long regimen of increasingly powerful painkillers had awakened another disease. As Ash’s opioid tolerance grew, so did the strength of the drugs doctors prescribed her, and by 2011, she says she was addicted to pain pills.

Millions of Americans caught in the nation’s surging opioid epidemic have followed a similar trajectory. In 2013, doctors wrote nearly 207 million prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, up from around 76 million in 1991, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Much of this was due to the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying and PR campaign, led by Purdue Pharmaceutical, to boost the use of narcotics. (Purdue would ultimately plead guilty to misleading the public about the addiction risk posed by the painkiller OxyContin, and pay a $634.5 million fine.)

The United States is far and away the largest global consumer of these drugs, making up almost 100 percent of the world total for consumption of hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (also known as Percocet) in 2013 — all of which brings in billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the pills.

In some cases, dependence on prescription opioids for pain management leads to something more harmful. In 2014, 1.9 million Americans ages 12 or older had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. More than 18,000 people died after overdosing on prescription opioids that year. Another 10,574 died of heroin overdoses, a death toll that has continued to spike as people who get cut off from narcotic painkillers turn to harder, cheaper and easier-to-access drugs.

Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. That number fell slightly in 2013.

But like many people who get addicted, Ash wasn’t aware of her problem. She had a legitimate need for the pills, and didn’t realize what they were doing to her until it was too late.

“My family would look back on how I was then and say I was living my life with morphine glasses on,” said Ash. “I was not caring about my actual living environment. It was dirty and nasty and I wasn’t cleaning it up, and I didn’t even notice.”

Ash entered treatment in 2011. She successfully detoxed, and for a number of years continued in recovery with the help of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction. It worked, Ash says, but she still felt chained to pills, as if she couldn’t live free from narcotics. That’s when Ash discovered kratom, first as a way to help deal with the symptoms of withdrawal, and then as a replacement for other medications.

“Life couldn’t have been much worse at that point. I was not leaving the house at all. I was only leaving the house to see doctors,” she said. “In a matter of two weeks, I had the energy, I had the pain relief and I had the depression and anxiety relief I needed to become a productive member of society again. It was such a stark difference and such an immediate change in my life.”

Uncle Sam vs. Kratom

Kratom has long been known as an effective way to alleviate opiate withdrawals. In the 1940s, the Thai government banned it in what some historians believe was an effort to eliminate a threat to opium, which was bringing in substantial tax revenue at the time. Without an alternative drug or legal means to combat withdrawals, many users were likely driven back into opium dens, where the state could benefit financially from their addiction.

The U.S. government hasn’t gone that far — yet. Kratom is on the DEA’s list of “drugs of concern,” which means federal drug warriors are eyeing a more heavy-handed approach. The FDA has also identified kratom as a botanical substance that could pose a risk to public health and could potentially be abused, which has prompted large-scale seizures at the agency’s behest.

Much of this anxiety has been driven by fatalities supposedly linked to kratom. But in almost all of the cited cases, toxicology reports showed that kratom users who died also showed signs of polydrug abuse or pre-existing health conditions. In a number of instances, they appeared to have taken deceptively marketed products that contained not only kratom, but more dangerous synthetic drugs — a concern for people on either side of the kratom issue.

Is It Really Dangerous?

But focusing on reports like these mischaracterizes the potential risks of the plant, says Walter C. Prozialeck, a professor of pharmacology at Midwestern University who wrote a comprehensive literature review on kratom for the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

“After researching the literature, I found that were more positive aspects to kratom than there were negative,” he said. “Additional studies are needed to explore potential benefits of kratom. Also, work is needed to look at toxicity, though. How would kratom interact with prescription drugs or nutritional supplements that a person might be using?”

Prozialeck described kratom itself as largely benign, and said it doesn’t produce much in the way of psychoactive high in low-to-moderate doses. That means it doesn’t have a particularly high potential for recreational use.

“With anything, there are dangers of using too much,” Prozialeck said. “But the amount that a person has to take in to get any severe effects is ridiculously high. You’re talking 10 to 15 grams of raw leaf. Most people who are using kratom for pain management don’t take that much. Most people can’t take that much.”

In online forums like Erowid and Sage Wisdom, users report that higher doses lead to sedative effects, and that taking too much kratom can cause gastrointestinal issues — stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. This isn’t fun, most of them suggest, and it’s certainly a stupid way to use any drug.

Others say kratom must be banned because its promise as a therapy that relies on a less harmful opioid substitute is complicating the addiction recovery process. But the loudest critics have so far been the ones who believe abstinence is the only way to overcome addiction, a position that has come under intense scientific scrutiny in recent years.

In January, The New York Times reported on a Florida woman who’d turned to kratom during her time in a recovery facility for heroin addiction. She was getting regular drug tests, and said she began buying kratom beverages at a kava bar — an establishment that sells a variety of mildly intoxicating drinks, often at an obscene markup — because it didn’t interfere with her screening. She eventually got addicted, she said, and spent hundreds of dollars a week before eventually returning to heroin. The woman said kratom was “causing a lot of relapses” among people who are addicted. The article concluded that the plant was essentially analogous to other opiates, and in some cases, equally as risky.

That thinking isn’t uncommon.

Gloria Anderson, supervisor of addiction programming at the Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic, a 12-step facility in New York City, recently told TV station PIX11 that 20 percent of her patients reported using the drug as “a Band-Aid when they are unable to get ahold of opiates such as painkillers and heroin.”

Anderson and others argue that lawmakers should respond by making kratom a Schedule I substance alongside heroin itself, classifying it as one of the most dangerous drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

“After researching the literature, I found that were more positive aspects to kratom than there were negative.” Walter C. Prozialeck, professor of pharmacology at Midwestern University.

Initial studies have suggested kratom does have some addictive potential. And this is perhaps more likely to be true among people who have existing opioid abuse disorders and who may be in mandatory, abstinence-only drug treatment, where they may be going through painful withdrawals without the help of medication.

All of this speaks to the need for better education on kratom to encourage responsible use and minimize potential harm.

Considering the research he’s reviewed, however, Prozialeck says it’s a stretch to compare kratom to heroin and other opiates.

“I would respectfully disagree with the idea that kratom poses as much risk as other opiates,” he said. “I think kratom is probably less dangerous in terms of long-term dependence and addiction. People who turn to kratom are probably desperate for an alternative.”

Jag Davies, director of communications strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance, says he’s skeptical of the desire to ban kratom. He sees it as a function of the “treatment industrial complex,” which he says is profiting from treatment-instead-of-incarceration policies that funnel clients from the criminal justice system into programs that aren’t based on science, such as abstinence-only and 12-step. Davies said there’s a better way to approach the problem.

“A health-centered approach to drug use assesses improvement by many measures, not simply by someone’s drug use level, but also by their overall health, their employment status, their social relationships and their general well-being,” said Davies. “Determining success by boiling it down to this single measure of abstinence to this arbitrary group of certain drugs isn’t realistic or effective.”

If we were more willing to judge the success of treatment and recovery by other metrics, Davies says, people wouldn’t be so dismissive of the idea that a recovering addict could use kratom and be a productive member of society, while causing less harm to themselves than they did with heroin. In fact, from a treatment provider’s perspective, that should be seen as a victory.

Where Are We Headed?

But that would appear to be asking a lot in the current debate over kratom.

In Florida, a bill to ban kratom advanced through an initial committee vote last month, despite opposition from some members.

“They provided zero reasons for supporting it,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) said of the legislation’s supporters. “Honestly, this was the least intellectual rigor I have seen in the Florida legislature — on this bill and on banning a product. There was literally zero testimony as to why this product should have been banned.”

Brandes voted against the bill, but he’s not so sure his colleagues will view the effort with the same skepticism as it progresses through the state Senate.

“It shows the utter conflict in drug policy,” he said. “I think it’s just a knee-jerk reaction to someone saying, ‘Oh, this is dangerous,’ but then providing no data to support their position.”

The stakes are high for advocates of kratom, and they’re now working to combat the sensationalism and misinformation that has historically dominated political debates about drugs.

Big Kratom Fights Back

In 2014, Ash formed the American Kratom Association, a consumer-based nonprofit that now has hundreds of dues-paying members and around 2,500 active contributors who share their experiences with kratom in an online forum. The AKA recently announced that Paul Pelosi Jr., son of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), would serve as the group’s executive director.

Advocates have been busy trying to convince lawmakers that banning kratom would deprive the public of a promising treatment that has already helped many people who struggle not just with opioid addiction, but with other ailments treated with heavier prescription drugs. And while Ash says kratom has worked for her and thousands of others, she adds that the drug affects everybody differently. As with any drug, prospective users should approach it with caution.

Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images
Paul Pelosi Jr., right, with his parents Paul Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi Jr. was recently named executive director of the American Kratom Association, a group fighting to keep kratom legal.

There are also some legitimate concerns surrounding kratom, Ash admits, but points out they tend to get lost in the hysteria of total ban legislation. There is plenty of room, she says, for further regulation of kratom to ensure proper consumer protections are in place.

Much of the bad press has revolved around unscrupulous manufacturers that have sold adulterated products, or have marketed their products deceptively, leading to confusion about what kratom actually is. It doesn’t help that it’s regularly found in head shops, alongside shady synthetic drugs that have attracted their own share of negative headlines, in many cases for good reason.

“The industry needs to come together to self-regulate and self-police one another and get rid of some of the bad apples out there,” said Ash.

The AKA supports placing an age restriction on kratom for consumers who are 18 or older. The organization also believes that stricter labeling guidelines are necessary. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t use kratom, for example, and anyone with a medical condition or who is taking prescription medications should consult their doctor before trying kratom. Perhaps most importantly, the AKA wants to make sure that products aren’t being deliberately marketed toward younger consumers, or with the intent of comparing its effects to other drugs, like actual opiates.

Ash says that although she hopes the FDA will stop cracking down on kratom, she doesn’t see a path toward more mainstream medical acceptance. Clinical testing and FDA trials require huge financial investments, and considering the product in question is a plant that’s likely been around for millions of years, pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t see any way to make money from it. In fact, broader use of the plant as an alternative treatment would presumably take away from their bottom line.

But the pharmaceutical industry does factor in to what the AKA says are its broader hopes that it can help foster a smarter, more robust approach to treating addiction, chronic pain and other conditions that currently leave people with few options beyond prescription drugs. The organization would like to see better programs to manage and monitor the prescribing of opioids, while ensuring they’re accessible to those who need them, says Ash. The AKA also believes lawmakers need to invest more resources into recovery and reduce reliance on abstinence-only programs that, according to Ash, have shown “a dismal success rate.”

“Rather than put all of this effort and sensational attention onto this plant that could be part of the solution, why not focus on making better programs and evidence-based programs on recovery and putting more attention on mental health and addiction,” she said.

That may sound like common sense to the growing number of people who believe in a health-based approach to drug policy. But the campaign to ban kratom — which has shown therapeutic promise, but would benefit from further scientific research — shows we still have a ways to go in order to truly reorient the political conversation around drugs.

“We’re at a really contradictory moment in drug policy in some ways, where there seems to be this consensus for a new approach, but then at the same time, there’s still these knee-jerk, punitive responses whenever a new drug comes up,” said Davies, of the Drug Policy Alliance. “People are very easily fooled by new drugs, and it’s still very easy to push through bad legislation.”