Creating a More Physical Lifestyle and Altering Your Attitude

In addition to doing wonders for your brain and body, physical movement can be a game-changer when it comes to your overall attitude. Exercise is the perfect tool for reprogramming a depressed prefrontal cortex. It can reprogram how you think and cope too. 

Here’s what else regular movement is going to do for you:

Increase your confidence. There’s a confidence that comes from having a body that is fit and healthy, and there is also confidence that comes from doing something every day that you know is good for you. Either way, regular physical movement empowers you to feel better about yourself.

Boost your creativity. Research conducted at Stanford University showed that something as simple as casual walking improves creativity by boosting convergent thinking (solving a problem) as well as divergent thinking (coming up with original ideas). [1]

Help you cope. We’ve already talked about the fact that the endorphins released while exercising serve as your body’s natural painkillers while helping to reduce anxiety and stress. That makes exercise the perfect go-to activity when you’re looking for a healthy coping strategy. Unhealthy coping techniques (such as misusing alcohol, overeating, and excessive TV viewing) may provide a temporary release or escape, but they are expedient at best and cause more harm than good in the end. Physical movement, however, is a coping strategy that not only provides relief at the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.

Increasing your activity level for one day is a great start, but the most powerful benefits will come from consistency. Once you get moving, how do you keep moving, day after day, week after week? 

Here are five ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active lifestyle:

  1. Keep a journal. Write down what your thoughts and feelings were like before, during, and after exercising. Write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions. 
  2. Be consistent. Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity. As you gain strength in your body and mind, you may naturally want to increase the intensity of your workouts. In the beginning, however, make consistency your number one goal, and the rest will follow.
  3. Ban all-or-nothing thoughts. Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen, but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
  4. Enlist the help of fitness apps. Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary (so don’t put off your fitness goals until you have one) but can be motivating for some people. If counting steps or reaching activity goals by using an app or tracker feels rewarding, do it!
  5. Create a favorite workout playlist. Music and movement are a powerful combination. Creating a playlist of lively tunes that make you want to move is always a great idea.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52, http://psycnet.apa.org/record /2014-14435-001.

Physical Activity Helps Us Eliminate Self-Defeating Attitudes

Some of my best ideas and most profound attitude adjustments come while I’m cycling or jogging.  While jogging, I can actually run the gamut from thinking negatively about a problem, to being open to new possibilities, to actually coming up with a positive solution to my concerns — all during a few miles of physical exertion.  

Perhaps you’ve had the same experience. Brisk walking, running, cycling, hiking — any kind of physical exercise that’s challenging for you — can help you see your problems with new eyes and, in fact, alter your attitude.  Let me give you an example.

As I was running the other day, I began thinking about challenges at the office. I love my work, and the rewards far outdistance the difficulties. But as with any business, not all aspects of it are pleasant. As I started my run, I was pretty down on a few individuals, and on myself for my reaction to some of the things they had said.

The first couple of miles, I heaped one negative thought on another. My usually buoyant spirit was fast dissipating under the weight of my wallowing in negative thinking. Here I was, a counselor committed to helping people work through the pain of their own emotional exhaustion, and I was demonstrating the same behavior as those I’m committed to helping.  

On the spot, I made the decision to change my attitude. I picked up my pace and got my heart rate up. Then I said a prayer, asking God to forgive me for indulging in an attitude of despair and complaint. I started to count my blessings — thanking God for my wonderful wife, who has been my partner for so many years. I thanked the Father for the beautiful Northwest where I’m privileged to live.  I started reciting the names of my friends who care about me and who had touched my life. I prayed for each of them, one by one, asking God to give them strength and courage and that they might always have the inner resolve to be the persons our heavenly Father designed them to be.  

By now I was cruising. I scarcely remember the scenery, the rocks on the road, the traffic, or anything else on my run.  Everything had suddenly come together for me — the physical, emotional, and spiritual — and it started by simply getting some exercise for my body.  

When I came home, I felt taller and stronger inside and out.  Gone were my earlier complaints — still to be dealt with but now with a different attitude — and in their place was a spirit of gratitude.  

We dare not underestimate the importance of physical activity in helping us to eliminate self-defeating attitudes.  Just getting up, getting out, and moving can be helpful.

There are now scores of studies that confirm that exercise can be a direct antidote to stress.  Whether a workout activates stress-destroying endorphins or simply provides for a relaxing pause in the action, we know something good happens.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide. For many of us, it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. But ignoring this serious issue will not help improve it.

By now, most of us are aware of the sobering increase in depression, anxiety and suicide rates in the United States. Depression will be the #1 health issue in the world in 2020 according the the World Health Organization. Suicide rates have increased about 30% in the United States in just the last 18 years. In many areas the numbers are much higher. Kansas, for example, has seen a 49% increase. Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

We must acknowledge that these are a result of a society and culture we have collectively created over generations. While it is important for us to have frank discussions on how we can adjust and improve in each of these areas, it is also important to understand that each of these areas is treatable.

How To Help Someone Who You Believe May Be Suicidal

It is normal to feel uncomfortable when speaking to someone for whom you believe may be considering suicide. Just remember, the goal is not to take on the person’s problem or to have all of the right answers. The goal is to show honest compassion. If you do not know how to approach someone, you can call a suicide prevention hotline or a treatment center and get advice from them. Please see resources at the end of this article

If you are truly concerned about someone, do not wait. It is better to approach your friend or family member with compassion and caring, than to hope that their pain goes away.

According to the American Counseling Association, here are some key points you can make when discussing with your friend or family member.

  • “We all go through tough or scary times.” It can be common for an individual to believe they are the only ones who struggle with life’s challenges. Reminding them that all of us, including you, struggle at different points in life, lets them know they are not alone in their feelings. Acknowledging their concerns are legitimate can reduce the stigma of reaching out for help.
  • “It’s OK to ask for help.” By saying this, you normalize the help-seeking process. You remind them that we all need help sometimes.
  • “I’m here for you.” It is important to let your friend or family member know you are available to LISTEN without judgment.

IMPORTANT: Avoid the temptation to give advice. Sometimes we all just need to feel heard. If they request advice, a good response can be, “I know I love you, and I want to make sure I help you you get through this. Let’s consider professional counseling or treatment.”

Are You Depressed?

Take this A Place of HOPE online evaluation and receive immediate feedback

A whole person approach to care has proven to be powerfully effective. It takes commitment, for sure. Treatment can involve weeks of work with trained professionals. But the results can be dramatic and beautiful. Treatment is effective for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and combinations of the three. 

Important Notes on Helping Those With Suicidal Thoughts

We often get asked whether a loved one should talk about suicide with the individual who may be suffering. We believe the answer is yes. Do not wait to see if it subsides. But importantly, start by being a good listener. Let them tell their story. Do not try to fix their situation with immediate feedback. Acknowledge their pain and express your sadness that they are not feeling well.

There are many things that should not be said. It is important not to try to minimize their pain, or make them feel guilty or “selfish”. Do not try to scare them away from suicide. Their pain is real, and they need understanding and love. Most importantly, they may need help to regain their strength, balance, and ultimately their happiness.

If you are concerned about someone, encourage them to get help. Encourage them to talk to a professional; you can even have an initial call yourself with a professional to learn how best to be helpful. Know that treatment can be very effective for those considering suicide.  

Resources

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800.273.8255
  2. Crisis Text Line – 741-741
  3. To learn about treatment programs for those suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, please call The Center • A Place of HOPE Admissions  – 888.771.5166

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

When Breakdowns Become Breakthroughs

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that addiction blinds people to the truth of consequences. Addiction causes people to misinterpret these negative impacts across a wide spectrum, including emotional consequences, intellectual consequences, physical consequences, and spiritual consequences. Because we treat the whole person at The Center, we see and work with these multiple impacts daily.

Brandon came to us professing to feel nothing. When Brandon was asked in group sessions how he felt about a story or concept, his stock response was to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” If asked to describe how he felt about a memory he shared, he would seem puzzled by the question. As we worked with Brandon, we soon suspected that when he said, “I don’t know,” he desperately was trying to achieve “I don’t care.” Brandon did care; he cared deeply. But caring, he’d learned, made you vulnerable and susceptible to pain.

I’ve found, for some people, addictions can act as emotional dams, holding back pain. The addictive behaviors create a structure behind which disturbing emotions are kept contained. The illusion is these emotions are being kept under control, but that is not the case. The floodwaters of pain continue to build and apply tremendous pressure to the structure of the addiction, requiring continual fortification.

Because of the perceived danger of any sort of release, these emotional dams hold back pleasure as well as pain. Happiness, gratitude, interest, empathy, desire, and delight are walled off too. In my line of work, a person who is emotionally damming is said to have a flat affect. The blank face of their emotional dam is, quite literally, their own face, which displays little or no emotion. That was certainly true in Brandon’s case.

Emotional content being held back will continue its destructive pressure unless that pressure is released. In an odd way, one of our jobs at The Center is to burst emotional dams. We act as professional spillways, allowing that pent-up emotional pressure to be expressed within a supportive environment.

Tears, therefore, in my business, can be incredibly cleansing. When Brandon finally broke, he did so with a torrent of tears. He kept apologizing, choking out that he couldn’t stop crying, as if that was somehow unacceptable. He seemed genuinely shocked at the intensity of what he called his “breakdown.” I suggested he jettison the word breakdown and consider his experience a breakthrough. Weathering that flood of emotion was difficult, but it allowed him to begin the slow process of learning how to “feel” again—apart from the emotional suffocation of his addiction.

Some people come to us suppressing all emotions, and they are a challenge to open. Others are just the opposite. They are a challenge to contain because they scatter their emotional states, which are almost always negative, indiscriminately in every conceivable direction.

Are you struggling with addictive behaviors and feeling depressed?  Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist.  Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy is attainable.

Allowing Food to Nourish You

Sally was overweight, unhappy, and on the brink of emotional exhaustion.  She had an unhealthy relationship with food, After numerous counseling sessions, this is what she decided to do:

One, I started eating a simple, healthy breakfast each morning.  This was my only guideline; that it had to be healthy.  No list of special foods, no restrictive diet, no calories to count, lie about or eat.  Nothing.  What surprised me was that I was being asked to make my own decisions, and not rely on someone else’s idea of what I should consume.  I was given complete freedom to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted.  It just had to be healthy.  Actually, this frightened me, because I wanted to be told what to do.” [1]

Sally was really frightened when I asked her to make her own decisions about food and about making food the right kind of friend.  Here’s the rest of Sally’s story:

So I chose to eat a large breakfast of whole grain cereal and lowfat milk and some fruit each morning.  It was bulky so it made me feel full.  It wasn’t sugary, so my insulin level did not increase.  I knew all about this theoretically, but it wasn’t easy to put into practice.  A big part of me (which was most of me) hated it.  I missed my usual two jelly donuts and three cups of coffee with lots of cream, followed in a few minutes by grazing in the fridge for a few leftovers from the night before.  But I’d made an agreement with Dr. Jantz to do this, and besides I was desperate.

The second thing was even more amazing to me.  I was asked not to weigh myself at all in between sessions.  I’d already sent my scale “on vacation,” so there was no way to weigh myself at home.  But I was not to weigh myself anywhere.  This was difficult.  How would I know if I was making any progress if I couldn’t weigh myself two or three times a day as I’d done most of my life?  I didn’t understand it, but I said I’d stick with the program and obey the rules. [2]

I’m happy to report that Sally is doing quite well, self-correcting along the way as she’s still tempted to return to her old way of thinking about food.  She’s rediscovering what food is all about — it’s there to nourish her body and is not a substance for abuse.

When recovering from emotional exhaustion, you quickly learn the benefits of decreasing the amount of fat and refined carbohydrates in your diet.  Additionally, when you start to take seriously the reports of increased risk of heart disease and cancer associated with these high levels of fat, I hope you will quickly choose to self-correct.

You will read food labels more carefully and seek to interpret the wealth of information they contain.  This is a far cry from the ineffective calorie counting and roller-coaster dieting you may have engaged in before.  You will also stop frying your foods and breading your meats.  You will learn that broiling and baking are better alternatives to cooking foods in fats and oil.  You will also begin to investigate food supplements that are specifically designed to help rebalance the body chemistry of those who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

Sally had to learn that dieting and bingeing were terrible obstacles to her stressed physical health and mental stability.  Each round of dieting caused increased hypertension and a rise in her blood pressure.  When she finally understood that dieting and bingeing were making her more prone to stress-related illnesses, heart and kidney disease, and stroke, she knew she had to make a change.  To do this, Sally had to start listening to her body.  She had actually forgotten what it was like to eat normally.

This all began with a commitment to a proven, effective program of permanent weight loss and a deep desire to join the 2 percent who succeed in losing weight permanently.

Can you relate to Sally?  Perhaps now is the time that you, too, need to learn to see food as healing you, making you strong, and filling you with vitality.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[1] Jantz, Losing Weight, 110.

[2] Ibid.