Lisa Turetsky, licensed psychotherapist

Counseling & therapy in Albany CA. Specialties include anxiety, relationship issues, dealing with grief and loss, trauma/PTSD, self-esteem issues.


I came across this recently looking at Linda Graham's always-informative newsletter, and decided to excerpt the main points for myself and my clients. Thought I'd share it here too. (These came via Linda from The Upward Spiral by UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb.) Though I know that gratitude is supposed to lead most directly to happiness, I'm currently finding that #2, making a decision, is easier to access...

1. Look for something to be grateful about. It doesn’t matter what you find; the search for something you are grateful for is enough.

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

2. Make a decision. Doesn’t have to be a big or a perfect decision, just a “good enough” decision.

Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals—all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety.

What kind of decisions should you make? A “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain and makes you feel out of control.

When you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, a feeling of control reduces stress. But deciding also boosts pleasure (dopamine and serotonin systems).

3. Label your negative emotions.

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.

4. Touch someone—preferably hug them.

One of the primary ways to release the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin (which decreases anxiety and increases empathy) is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.
A hug, especially a long one, releases oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala. So hug someone today. And do not accept little, quick hugs. No, no, no. Tell them your neuroscientist recommended long hugs!

[01/12/16]   "I am enough. I have enough. I give enough. I do enough." This beautiful mantra was offered by the lovely yoga teacher (and musician) Adrienne Mehri Shamszad, and it touched me so deeply, I immediately posted it next to my desk to remind me of its wise, kind message. I need to hear, see, and feel it over and over again. The reason it touched me so deeply was, of course, that I am much more prone to believe its opposite: that I don't have, give, or do enough, that I am not, in some fundamental way, enough. Not as a conscious belief, but as a (much more insidious) unconscious assumption. What would you be like (and what would the world be like?) if your underlying assumption were that you ARE enough? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

Ego Depletion, Motivation and Attention: A New Model of Self-Control | Big Think

Why is it harder to do something challenging (resist a temptation or do a difficult task) when we've just been doing other things that require willpower? Or conversely (this is true for me a lot), why is it easier to do something challenging after resting, doing something fun, or in some way taking care of yourself? It turns out we can experience something called "willpower depletion." Willpower is like a mental/emotional "fund" that we can run low on when we've been using a lot of it. I loved hearing about this, as it made sense what I've long practiced and encouraged clients to do: be especially nice to yourself, rest and nourish yourself before (and after!) a difficult decision, a challenging task, or any situation where you have to use willpower or self-control. This article goes into more detail: Willpower is a limited resource easily drained by everyday activity.

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1035 San Pablo Ave, Ste 9
Albany, CA
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