Monthly Archives: November 2013

007 Can gratitude save your life?

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Hand writes the word thank you“90% your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.”  Dr. Shawn Achor, “The Happy Secret to Better Work” TEDx 2011

In today’s episode we:

  • Explore the power of gratitude
  • Consider what we can do to make use of gratitude
  • Discuss how science is trying to reshape memories.

Gratitude/Thankfulness  

  • Can gratitude save your…job, relationship, life?
  • What about medication?   What if after doing all the right things our brain still do not cooperate and gratitude seems out of reach?
  • Seeing the good, not ignoring the bad.  Gratitude does not deny the bad.
  • Can we change the wiring in our brain?
  • Can an attitude of gratitude help us with PTSD recovery?  It can.  As we adopt a mindset shaped by being able to see what is truly good in ourselves, others, and the world we are in a better position to deal with our traumatic experiences.

Reshaping Memories with Genetics… (see the post on Reshaping Memories)

Gratitude Experiments:

  1. 3 Gratitude Each Day for 21 Days
  2. Journaling One Positive Event Each Day
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditation
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: E-mail/send a positive note

I will be doing #1.

What one or two will you be doing?  What other ways have helped you maintain an attitude of gratitude?

Resources and References:

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Stressed? How about a cup of tea?

Coffee cupWhen we feel stress we are experiencing the effect of the chemicals in our bodies involved in the stress response.  Cortisol is one of the key chemical hormones involved in our body’s response to stress.  It also plays an important role in the normal function of many systems in our body’s.  The levels normally fluctuate through the day.  When stress occurs our body releases a large amount to aid in the fight/flight response.

Cortisol is an important part of a stress response.  It helps our hearts beet faster, our blood vessels constricting (higher blood pressure), helps reduce inflammation, sugars (energy) to be released by the liver, and many more positive roles.  All this is useful when you need to react to a fight or flight situation.

However, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on the body.  We do not always need our blood pressure raised.  It can interfere with our immune system and the function of insulin.  It can also interfere with our ability to recall memories.  Oh, did I mention, it is also credited with weight gain.

We need cortisol.  We may not want to decrease its levels when we need it during a stressful task.  It has an important role in keeping us safe and functioning at our best under difficult circumstances.

Research indicates that our health can benefit by lower (normal) cortisol levels when we are not facing danger.  So, what can we do to help keep healthy, normal, cortisol levels throughout the day and help them return to normal after a stressful situation?

Scientists at University College London (2005) studied drinkers of black tea.  They found that the cortisol levels of those who drank black tea decreased more quickly after a stressful activity then non-tea drinkers.  There levels during the activity was not change.  However, the black tea drinkers had a 47% decrease in cortisol 50 minutes after the activity—as opposed to a 27% decrease in non-tea drinkers.

A cup of black tea just may help us calm down after a stressful day or situation.  I have friends who would agree.

Question: Have you tried tea to help you relax after a stressful situation?  If so, what are your observations?

Additional resources:

Stop Double Victimizing: once is already too much

“If it bleeds it leads.”  This is too often true in regards to the press.  Some have the impression, from the media coverage, that most returning combat veterans will suffer from lifelong PTSD.  This is just not true.  

In a very real sense we sometimes double victimize those who have experienced trauma.  The original event and by perpetuating the perspective that recovery from PTSD is unlikely, or even not possible. 

PTSD can be difficult to deal with; but it is treatable!  We should expect recovery from our selves (those dealing with PTSD) and from our loved ones.  Dave Grossman comments on this perception:

“Too few mental health professionals communicate to their patients that 1) they can recover quickly from PTSD and that 2) they will become stronger from the experience.”

Grossman, Dave; Christensen, Loren W.  On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace Kindle Edition.

Question:  Do you think your attitude about PTSD recovery makes a difference?

006 – Devastation or Transformation?

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Can a seemingly devastating event lead to positive transformation?  Life will throw us many difficulties.  We can build a solid foundation to face whatever may come.  We can also build with whatever we have experienced.

In this episode we will discuss:

  • Devastating events
  • I share a little of my own Iraq story.
  • We look at another real life story: Joni Earechson Tada
  • Mind Set
  • How we can START to make a difference.

Mind Set

We bring all of who we are, good and bad, to the moment of any difficult event.

Is a quick fix always good for us?  Consider some research on lottery winners…

How we can START to make a difference?

  • Set Goal: Specific, measurable, time sensitive, written (outcome and performance goals)
  • Tools: people, training, resources, equipment and techniques
  • Action Plan: who, what, when, and where
  • Run: Just do it!
  • Test: Am I getter closer to achieving my goal? And is this goal getting me closer to achieving my objectives?

See my three recent blog posts on Change: part 1; part 2; part 3

Joni’s Video story – http://www.joniandfriends.org/television/id-rather-be-wheelchair-knowing-him/

Welcome to our Stitcher Radio listeners!

Leave us a comment:

What have you overcome?  What are you still trying to overcome?  Of contact me directly at david@HealingTheWoundsOfWar.com

Change: (Part 3 of 3) START a Path toward Transformation

Transformation begin with small changes!  To fulfill big desires we need to start with small goals.

Not long ago I made a new friend.  A young man of 70+ years.  During his last check-up the doctor chided him for his high blood pressure.  The doctor wanted to put him on blood pressure medication.  My friend, however, wanted an opportunity to see if he could make an impact on his blood pressure on his own.  So he set a goal!

He recognized a problem (See part 1).  Then, with his doctor, he evaluated the problem.  He did not stop there.  He began to START to do something to change his life.

He set a goal.  A measurable, time sensitive and shared goal.  For him, it was to walk 20 miles every week.  With a follow-on goal of turning the 20 miles into power walking.  He shared his goal with his family.

Now that he has his goal set, he gathered the tools.  These tools included proper foot ware, wet weather clothe (he lives in the North West of the U.S.).  It also included reading about power walking and watching some videos about proper technique.

That covers a review of the S and T of START (See Part 2).  Now on to the -ART:

Acton Plan

On our path from turning desires into realties we need to recognize, evaluates, set a goal, and gather tools.  We then need to take these things and make an Action Plan. 

These Action Plans ask and answer: Who, What, When, Where we will accomplish our goal.

  • Who needs to be involved?  We may only need ourselves.  To whom will you be accountable? Sometimes we will need, or should involve others.  Such as a doctor, therapist, nutritionist, trainer, friend, coworker, family member or coach.
  • What tools will you utilize?  This includes, but is much more than, equipment.  Most goals will involve some kind of technique that we can learn.  Another friend of mine was having panic attacks.  A breathing technique was one of the tools utilized to accomplish their goal of dealing with panic attacks.
  • When will you work on the goal?  How many days per week?  How much time per day?
  • Where will you work on your goal?

Run with the plan

Once we have our plan—preferably in writing—we need to run with the plan.  It does us little good to set goals, gather tools and learn techniques if we stop at that point.  We need to put all the prep work into actions.  Run with your plan in confidence!

Test your plan

It is important to know if our plan is helping us achieve our goal and if our goal is leading us toward accomplishing our desired objective.  It is not a matter a plan failing.  Failure only occurs when you give up completely.  It is helpful to be objective when assessing if a plan is working or not working.  This we can tune and adjust the plan or changed the focus of our goal. 

Two important test questions concerning your current plan:

  1. Am I getting closer to achieving my goal?
  2. Is this goal getting me closer to achieving my objective?

Honesty is key!  We can always learn new techniques, change equipment or modify our plan.

By setting appropriate goals we can change our lives, achieve our desires and impact the lives of those around us.  If you feel stuck in the goal process let me know.  I would me happy to do what I can to help you achieve victory. (david@HealingTheWoundsOfWar.com)

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Reshaping Memories: Science Fiction or Our Future?

TranslucentBrainIs the day approaching when we can take a pill to change our brains perception of traumatic events?  Researchers at MIT have accomplished this in mice.

They have been able to activate genes involved in what they call “memory extinction”.  The process does not so much erase the memory as allow new experiences to somehow overwrite the perception experience of the memory.

When they activated certain genes, Tet1, in the mice they were able to add new experiences to the old memories.  This resulted in the old memories being washed out—at least from their emotional impact.

Mice were conditioned to fear a specific cage via electric shock.  When they were put back in to the same cage without the electric shock some mice still exhibited fear.  Other mice put back into the cage quickly learned that the cage was safe and stopped showing fear. 

What was the difference?  The mice that contained to show fear—even though the cage was now safe—lacked Tet1 gene activation.  The mice that adapted to the situation had the Tet1 gene activated.

There is still a long way to go before human trials.  Yet this raises some interesting questions and even more interesting potentials.

Do you think we should mess with memory gene activation?  What are some potential benefits of this kind of treatment?  What are some risks?  What would a future look like if people could take a pill to alter all of their unpleasant memories?

Join the discussion…

Further reading…

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Change: (Part 2 of 3) How can you START the process?

In part 1 of 3 on Change we discussed the possibility of change occurring in our life.  Recognizing the need for change is a start.  We must also believe that change is possible.

Today we begin to START the forward action part of the change process.  Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step.  Some evaluation of the situation can be helpful.  If you stop there then you have only become a proficient navel gazer.  It is at this post that we need to START to move in a new direction. (See zzca for an overview of START)

Let’s take the first two letter and START:

Set Goals:

It is easy to confuse goals with desires.  I recently read a post where people were asked to share their goals.  Some replies were like: “I want to lose 150 pounds.” Or “To stop having panic attacks at a crowded store.”  Both of these would be great accomplishments.  They are both worthy objectives.  But as a starting point they are desires.  They are huge feats that require many small changes.

For best success goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Time sensitive
  • Written and Shared

Research shows the writing and sharing goals significantly increased the likelihood of success.  Writing a clear, specific, measurable, time sensitive goal and sharing it with someone for accountability will help bring the desire into reality.

Goals can either be outcome or performance based.  An example of an outcome based goal is: I will lose 5 pounds in 5 weeks.  Whereas a performance based goal is: I will walk 10,000 steps 5 days a week for the next 5 weeks. They are both measurable and time sensitive.

Outcome and performance based goals each have their place in bringing about change.  Ultimately we need to achieve the desired outcome.  Nevertheless, performance based goals are a great tool to help lead us toward accomplishing whatever objective we need.

Consider the desire to stop having panic attacks in crowded stores.  There may be many obstacles to overcome.  Many outcome and performance goals and tools many be needed.

Tools:

Without the right tools we will not be able to accomplish our goals.  Once we started turning desires into specific and measurable we need to gather the appropriate tools.  Tools are the techniques, equipment, resources, and people we need to accomplish our goals and reach our objectives.

Books, training DVDs, equipment, technique, seminars, doctors, councilors, medication, friends, teachers and coaches are just a few examples of resources.  It can be tempting to allow the lack of resources to derail our goals.  Many resources require little to no money.  Be frugal; but be willing to invest what you have too!

What do you desire?  Can you turn that into a specific, measurable, time sensitive, written goal?  If so, what resources do you need to accomplish that goal?

On the surface this may sound easy.  The process may not be complicated.  That, however, does not mean it is easy.  Write me (david@HealingTheWoundsOfWar.com) if you want help defining your goals and locating resources.  Perhaps together we can move forward.

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Change: (Part 1 of 3) Is it really possible to change?

For the small things in life the answer seems to be an easy, “yes.”  This even extends to difficult changes like quitting smoking, excessive drinking, drugs or overeating.  Some of these changes may be difficult; but they are possible.  Most of us accept that change can take place-even permanent change.  I know many who have permanently quit smoking and lost weight.

What about those things that seem to be deeply ingrained into our nature, mind and even our soul?  Can change occur in these deep character areas?

The theological side of me says a resounding, yes!  Is it that easy?  Can one say, “Just give it up to God.” or “Jesus will take care of it.”  Maybe, sometimes this is the case.  And I think this is an important part for wholeness.

However these deep seeded core characteristics are complex and a simplistic answer—in the physical, psychological or spiritual—is probably not a reality.  Perhaps it starts with how we see the problem.

Do we see it as an all or nothing situation?  Does it all have to change in order for it to be anything meaningful?  For some things the answer to these questions is, yes.  But for most things, even big things, I think the answer is, no.  It is not usually an all or nothing situation.

When we recognize (the first R in the RESTORE process) that something is amiss in our life or relationship—big or small.  Then we can evaluate (E) the situation—not to dwell on it, but rather just enough to get to the S of RESTORE.  We can then proceed to START to take some action.

In this series of posts, and next week’s podcast, we will explore a practical process leading to meaningful change.  We will investigate how to START to make a difference:

  • Set Goals: reasonable, responsible and measurable
  • Tools: Gather the necessary tools and resources
  • Action Plan: Put a practical action plan in place: who, what, when, where and how
  • Run with it: Up till now we have assessed, learned and planned.  Now it is time to run with the plan with confidence!
  • Test: Are the tools and the plan leading toward the goal.  If not, what needs to be changed or gained?

Join is in parts two and three (and the podcast on Thursday, November 22) when we explore this process that can be part of bringing change—big and small.  We will also consider why we sometimes do not accomplish our goals.

How do you see your problems?  Do you recognize any hope for change?

[You may benefit from listing to episode 002 – RESTORE.]

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005 Suicide & 4 Practical Parts to Becoming Part of the Solution

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If you believe someone is considering suicide, is it OK to ask: “Are you thinking about committing suicide?” or other direct questions? This is one of the questions addressed in this episode.

Hopelessness seems to be overtaking an increasing number of people–veterans and civilians alike.  This is showing up in an ever increasing suicide rate.  We will discuss this difficult topic and look at some practical ways of addressing this issue.  There is hope!  We can take action.

Let’s get right into today’s topic: Suicide

– About 12 (to 14) per 100,000 death are from Suicide in the U.S. (CDC report from 2009)

– For the Veteran population it is more than double at 30 per 100,000  http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/08/30/13292/suicide-rate-veterans-far-exceeds-civilian-population

  •                49,000 Veteran suicides between 2005 and 2011
  •                2012 VA study reports 8030 in the year 2010 (22 per day)
  •                Up from a previous study of 19 per day
  •                Suicide and PTSD

– The BBC reported that British Soldier suicide outpaced combat death in Afghanistan in 2012

               50 suicides (active + veterans) and 40 KIA

Civilian

  • Increase in the number of suicides from 1999-2010 affects all ages, genders and ethnic groups
  • In U.S. the number 10 leading cause of death among all age group, genders and ethnicities
  • 50 to 59 years old increased by about 49%

The loss from any to suicide is tragic.  However in the U.S. more men than women and more whites than any other ethnic group commit suicide.

White males most affected – Second leading cause of death ages 10-24.  The largest single teen group affected, 19 out of every 100 death, boys (white) ages 15-19.

People from all ethnicities, genders and age groups are increasingly losing hope and increasingly deciding to end their own lives.  Why the increase?  Let us know what you think in the comments section or leave us a voice message.

4 practical arts to become part of the solution…

Learn:

  •                Attend a seminar or class on suicide intervention such as:
  •                ASIST
  •                SafeTALK

 Some warning signs:

  • Increase/decreased sleep, eating, aggression (sings of depression)
  • Withdrawing for relationships and society
  •  Drug/Alcohol abuse
  • Talking about giving up, ending it all, never returning
  •  Possibly giving away possessions
  • Express a hopeless view of the future
  • Express feelings of worthlessness
  • Significant Loss: Relationship, Job, Identity, Ability

Look: for any of the warring sings (and many others) listed above.  Has your friend, coworker, child, spouse, gone through a major change?  Not every one that is depress or gone through a loss will commit suicide.

Listen: Listen for any warning sings.  Are they talking about death, dying, “going away” or any permanent change that raises any red flag?

Lead then to safety and to help.

  •                Doctor, psychologist, ER, ASIST trained cooworker, police, first responders,…
  •                Don’t ignore or dismiss the sings
  •                Don’t leave them alone
  •                Don’t be afraid to ask the question: “Are you planning/or going to commit suicide?”

In the U.S.

NationalSuicidePreventionLogo

 

 

 

 

Need help!  This is a list of crisis lines for several countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

Share your thoughts with us!  Ideas, experiences…  What is your school, community, church, company or organization doing to help people in crisis?

Below is the Mayo Clinic Teen Suicide Prevention video.  It provides practical advice for any age group.

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8,030 people dead!

No, they were not killed by a terrible natural disaster.  They were not killed in tragic accidents.  They were not killed in combat or in the line of duty.  They were veterans that took their own lives!

According to a 2012 Veterans Administration report 22 veterans committed suicide each day.  This is an alarming number of suicides considering the small segment of the population.  This number is almost double that for all U.S. military killed in Iraq, 4,486 (2003-2012).

Active duty service members are also taking their own lives in alarming numbers.  This despite the ever increasing mental health resources deployed and available throughout the services.

U.S. veterans are not only at risk.  According to a BBC report, more British Soldiers took their own lives then were killed in combat in Afghanistan during the same time period.

The CDC reports that the U.S. civilian population suicide rate has steadily increased from 1999-2010.  The greatest increase is in the age range 50-64. (About a 49% increase).

The veteran population has a suicide rate roughly double that of the general population!  For Veterans 30 per 100,000 people; for the civilian population: 14 per 100,000.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the rates are increasing in both the civilian population and veterans.   Some researchers think that the breakdown in community and an increased sense of isolation—yes, even in this electronic age—is contributing to the increase. 

The Huffington post article points out in the 1980-90’s the military had a significantly lower rates in divorce, drug abuse and suicide then the civilian population.  At that time, the report says, military communities were much tighter.

During my service (2002-2010) I saw a significant decline in the social community of the military.  I am sure the war efforts contributed to this decline.  Perhaps people withdrawing and hiding behind technology contributed as well.

This decline in esprit de corps is not the key factor that has led to the alarming increase in suicide among service members, veterans and civilians.  It may play a role or be a symptom.  It is a complex topic that is affecting an increasing number of people.

In the military, most that commit suicide are already receiving care for mental health.  The military and VA have increased access to care significantly over the last decade—but the numbers keep climbing.  They are also climbing in the civilian world. 

There are mixed reports connecting PTSD and suicide.  But there seems to be a general consensus that this is a contributing factor.  In our next podcast we will address this specific issue.

What do you think?

What can we do to start reversing these numbers among civilian, military and veterans?

Join the conversation!

Need help!  This is a list of crisis lines for several countries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

Some other interesting articles and references to fuel the conversation: