Brain and Behavior Articles

Low Serotonin Levels Don’t Cause Depression

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

Low Serotonin Levels Don't Cause DepressionOne of the leading myths that unfortunately still circulates about clinical depression is that it’s caused by low serotonin levels in the brain (or a “biochemical imbalance”). This is a myth because countless scientific studies have specifically examined this theory and have come back universally rejecting it.

So let’s put it to rest once and for all — low levels of serotonin in the brain don’t cause depression.

Let’s find out why.

How Music Heightens Our Experiences

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

How Music Heightens Our ExperiencesThere’s a whimsical, charming scene in Begin Again, starring Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine, that showcases two of the characters strolling through the streets of New York City, bonding through music. The gold and silver lights of Times Square shimmer in the dark, and earbuds are plugged in as they absorb favorite songs and guilty pleasures off their playlists.

These snapshots were not only a beautiful love letter and ode to the city, but they paid homage to the power of music as well. Music was a vibrant color to a blank canvas; music lit up the night and made it sparkle; music smacked them awake.

Music has the capacity to heighten our daily experiences — to alter our emotional states, to enhance, transcend and inspire the present moment.

It’s the Little Things That Lead to Happiness

Friday, September 5th, 2014

let it go butterfly freeWhat’s the best part of your day?

For me, it’s waking up early and having coffee on my porch as I watch the sun rise. There’s just something calming about this little morning ritual. I never miss it, it’s truly one of the highlights of my day.

Of course there are other things that can brighten your mood during the course of your day that you might not think so much about.

The Psychology of Personal Space: Seat Reclining

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

The Psychology of Personal Space: Seat Reclining

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard more and more accounts of airline flights being diverted because of an argument over reclining seats. Reclining seats are obviously not the problem — they’ve been available on most airlines’ flights for the past five decades.

The problem is that as airlines seek to eek out every dollar of profit from your pocket, many have decided to reduce the space between seats, making your personal space up to an inch smaller than it was just a year or two ago. The person in front of you trying to recline their seat isn’t to blame — the airline you’ve chosen to purchase a ticket from is.

But all of this really a battle over personal space. And no battle may be more emotionally involving than this one.

We All Need to Take it Easy Sometimes

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Flickr Creative Commons / Vinoth ChandarThis past few weeks has been pretty chaotic for me.

Money has been an issue, I moved to a new city, my nephew was born, I got a new writing job, I had my 29th birthday, I had to housesit for a while and on top of everything else I’ve been working myself into a tizzy over a potential relationship which may or may not work out.

All said and done, I came to the realization last night that yes, I had done it, I had overwhelmed myself wholly and completely.

How the Brain Creates a Dependence On Opioids

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

How The Brain Creates A Dependence On OpioidsOpioids have been around for a very long time, and are used as painkillers to help patients cope with pain post-surgery. They have both helped and harmed people, alleviating chronic pain for people who have undergone invasive surgeries, but also being the source of dangerous addictions for those who have developed dependencies on the painkillers.

Derived from the poppy plant, it’s known for being able to induce sleep. And the use of opioids for medical reasons is widespread, which has contributed to the growth of opioid related addictions. The reason lies in the powerful effect opioids have on the brain.

How to Be Diligent in Your Recovery

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

3 Ways to Develop A Spiritual PracticeRecovery is a long process. It takes time and it takes patience to achieve a relative balance and to find a measure of health after you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness.

When I was diagnosed eight years ago with schizophrenia I was so riddled by delusions and paranoia that I could hardly step foot outside. I was constantly worried that people were thinking things about me, talking behind my back and conspiring against me. In the thick of it, it was me against this horrible evil world, and to say it broke me would be an understatement.

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in Psychosis

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in PsychosisIn the midst of a psychotic episode, whether the result of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the main motivating factors in our jilted decisions is the imagined symbolism in meaningless circumstances or objects.

I can remember when I was out on the streets of New York and Boston, deep in the midst of a major psychotic episode. I was convinced I had a mission to bring peace to the world, and though I was destitute, I wandered around following signs and colors and motions of passersby convinced there was some deeper symbolism or meaning in these insignificant things.

Therapists Get Anxious, Too

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Therapists Get Anxious, TooMy heart was pounding, my breathing restricted, my hands sweaty.

My instinct screamed at me, “You’re too young to die. Turn back now.”

My rational brain said, “That’s just your anxiety talking. You’re only going up the stairs of a lighthouse.”

My rational brain also said, “Lean forward as you climb the stairs, because if your panic makes you pass out, you don’t want to fall backward into the spiral of doom.”

9 Ways to Find Happiness

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

9 Ways to Find HappinessIt may seem self-serving to some to study happiness in a world full of misery. However, research findings support the theory that being happy motivates people to constructive action in the world. So cultivating happiness and well-being influence your energy and enthusiasm.

Happiness is not a static state or a finish line. Emotions provide important information; they direct action and interaction. Negative or painful emotions may be entirely appropriate to a situation and serve to inform intelligent actions. Opportunities for building happiness may be maximized, when appropriate, and often consist of incremental changes that become new habits over time.

The Paralysis of Analysis: On Overthinking

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

over-thinking-680x1024A friend told me the other day to stop overthinking.

“Bah ha ha ha!”

That’s like telling the pope not to get on his knees, my daughter to stop craving sweets, or a teenage boy not to think about sex.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who didn’t need a second longer with a menu. The truth is, I don’t even read the whole menu because I get so overwhelmed. I go to the salads section, where I only have to choose between five items. And I hope that it comes with dressing, because that decision could involve up to 10 candidates.

The Importance of Having a Friend to Talk You Down

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

take-friendship-next-level-honestyI’m stable. At least that’s how I usually am.

In the eight years I’ve lived with schizophrenia I’ve managed to find a pretty strong footing for my life. I take my meds and go to therapy and practice my social skills and hell, I even have a job, which is more than a lot of people with schizophrenia can handle.

That said, there are times where the stars align for madness and you lose yourself in being overwhelmed with feelings or thoughts that confuse and delude you.

This past week was one of those times for me.

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