Friday, February 27, 2009

One Way to Beat the Winter Blues

That's right, head up to Alta after 3 pm when the skiing is totally FREE! Yep! Greg and I headed up on Wednesday to see what the slopes were like. Truthfully, I hadn't been skiing in awhile, since 2007, because, well, I don't know why. But I was a little bit nervous going down my first time. I respect speed and heights, especially the first time down. And I'm certainly no expert--no Black Diamond runs for me thanks! As a matter of fact, I just did the easy run. But it really was great--and fun just to get into those mountains and feel the exhilerating coolness and see the beautiful trees and snow. I came off the slopes feeling so happy--a notch above when I first arrived at Alta. I want to do this a few more times before Spring. Greg is wonderful to take me. He's such a great skier and could be all over the place. He stuck with me this time because it had been so long. He actually took our nephews skiing this last Saturday. He had so much fun with them. I didn't go because I'm not an all-day skier. Just give me a few runs and I'm good.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Depression Seminar Session 4

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Change The Way You Think, Change The Way You Feel

The stereotypical depressed person looks like this sad cookie,

mopes around in pajamas all day and eats a lot while watching daytime TV or napping. But there are so many other images of what depression looks like. The depressed person is more prone to gossip, having bad feelings about others--even hostility, a range of cognitive disorders, inefficiencies, anti-social tendencies and poor decision-making among other things.

By far the most common thing to do and the "easy way" is to take anti-depressant drugs. The problem is that drugs don't cure the underlying problem but, instead, tend to create a whole new range of side effects. So, while 70% of patients who opt to take the prozac-like drugs for depression do improve their overall mood, less than 20% of those same patients feel they are cured. Also, 25 - 30% of patients don't improve at all with the drugs. Furthermore 50% of patients report troubling side-effects, so that 1/2 of patients quit taking the drug, 2/3 are not satisfied and 3/4 feel that overall the medications are not effective. Another drawback to taking the medications is that there is a high relapse rate after quitting. So if there is any improvement at all, that improvement is lost when the medications are stopped.

Having said that, medicatons do have a place and that place is when they are reserved only for those with moderately high to severe depression. These should not be used as the only treatment for someone with depression and medications should be used in combination with proven treatments for depression, one of which will be discussed here.

Some of the most common symptoms of the prozac-like medications: improved mood, decrease in crying and in ability to grieve, decrease in hostility, increase in sociability, increase in impulsiveness, may increase 'I don't care' attitude, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and gastro-intestinal disorders.

The 2nd most common treatment for Depression after medication is counseling. This may not be a good alternative, depending on what method of counseling is used. Often, through counseling, a patient can often get worse because the counselor can manipulate the social situation and bring up past experiences, causing unnecessary recollection of a painful event. So rather than helping the patient heal, these recollections of past experience only make the patient feel worse because it brings these memories to the surface where they can again be hashed out and lived all over again. Studies show that this type of technique is no better than a placebo, in terms of healing.

There is, however, a counseling method that is shown to have an improvement rate at least as great as the paxil-like drugs. The method is known as Cognative Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBT), pioneered by Dr. Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. Furthermore there are no side-effects, less likely that relapse after completion of therapy would occur, and there is an actual chemical change in the brain with CBT. We were referred to a study wherein the subjects had been chronically depressed for at least 20 years and had tried everything except for CBT. For the study, they were put on medication and intensive CBT psychotherapy. After the trial study, 85% of these patients improved and some very significantly.

Depression is not the only disorder that CBT can help. It treats a number of anxiety disorders, including Anerexia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

CBT starts from the premise that a cognition, thought or perception has a direct impact on how you feel. Feelings result from messages that you give yourself. So your thoughts have much more to do with how you feel, rather than what is actually happening in your life. If you learn to recognize and control those thoughts which may be distortions or untruths and replace them with positive and self-building kinds of thoughts, you can actually change the chemical makeup of the frontal lobe of the brain, which is the major center for feelings.

Here are the ABC's of CBT:
A - Activating Event
B - Your Beliefs
C - Emotional Consequences

A correct sequence of thought would be A to B to C in that order. Example: Something happens that could shake you. You apply your belief system to what happened. Because of your belief system and correct self-talk the emotional consequences are not serious and they do not hurt your emotional psyche. Unfortunately many people jump from A to C, not utilizing the belief system, either because they have no belief system or the belief system they have is failing them and taking them into undesirable emotional waters.

Here are some examples of cognitive distortions that if plugged into step B, could really damage ones emotional outcome and contribute to depression and other yukky, undesirable symptoms. The examples are true incidents.

  • 1. All or Nothing--Examples: A man ran for a community office and lost. Now he feels that he is a big nobody and that no one likes him. A very intelligent college student who gets all A's got a B. The student is now of the belief that she is a total failure.
  • 2. Overgeneralization--Example: A very shy guy finally got enough courage to ask out a girl he really likes. Unfortunately, she turned him down. He knows that nobody will ever date him.
  • 3. Mental Filler--When a person takes one or two negative thoughts and obsesses over these to the point that it blows everything else out of proportion.
  • 4. Disqualifying the Positive--Not only emphasizing the negative, but disqualifying everything else that is positive. Example: A patient in a psychiatric ward being treated for depression says "no one in this world cares a whip stitch about me," and believes it. When told that the staff on the floor she is on has really grown to like her, she says that it's only because they have to pretend they like her. When told that her family loves and misses her, she says that they don't know the real person that she is.
  • 5. Jumping to Conclusions--There are various ways that you can quickly make erroneous judgments because the conclusion is often made based on your negative feelings rather than fact.
  • Mind-reading - "He didn't say hello to me because he has a problem with me."
  • Fortune teller error - "I won't call back because I already called once and she didn't answer so if I call again she will think I'm stalking her."
  • Magnification or minimalization of facts - It's important to have as much information as possible about the situation to get an accurate conclusion.
  • Emotional Reasoning - "I feel like a jerk, therefore I am a jerk.", "I feel mad at you, therefore you are doing things to make me mad at you.", "I feel inadequate, therefore I am worthless."
  • Labeling and Mislabeling - Labeling someone in general is harmful because it creates distortions about that person. Labels such as "irritable idiot", or an "insensitive chauvanist", or a "selfish know-it-all" are damaging for you and the other person.
  • Personalization - Example: A mother feels like a failure because her child is doing poorly in school.
CBT helps people identify what kinds of Cognitive Distortions may be happening in their own minds and then gives tools to help them overcome these thoughts and replace them with more positive and truthful thoughts. This can actually change your belief system and create a whole new reality for you, making you a much more balanced and happy individual. There are quite a number of books on CBT. Some authors and therapists approach CBT from a secular point of view and others approach the therapy from a christian or spiritual point of view.

'Feeling Good - The New Mood Therapy' by Dr. David Burns (Also comes with a workbook called 'The Feeling Good Handbook') Written from a secular viewpoint
'Learning To Tell Myself The Truth' by Dr. William Backus This book is from a Christian point of view
'Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings and Behaviors' by Albert Ellis
'Cognitive Therapy of Depression' by Aaron Beck
'Depression - The Way Out' by Neil Nedley
'Bonds That Make Us Free' by Terry Warner
'Be Still' by Victoria Anderson

The scriptures emphasize correct thinking as a way of becoming like our Heavenly Father. The 13th Article of Faith teaches that "if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." And Proverbs 23:7 states "for as a man thinketh, so is he."

There were many more things taught about how our thoughts can imprison us and also how they can set us free and that if we have the correct tools, we can use our thoughts as great instruments of power to make us well and happy. It is very exciting to know that even though we may have some distorted thinking now, there are ways to change it and ways to help us be the best we can be. So although truth therapy is initially hard work because we are changing the thought patterns we have relied on for all of our lives, it is very simple. We just need to get into the habit of listening to our thoughts, analyzing them and replacing the distorted belief with truth.

I know I have had at least one pattern of distorted thinking. You see, I wasn't able to take a compliment. I was like the lady in the pshyco ward--if someone complimented me, I just knew there was something that was wrong with that. So my poor husband--he tried to compliment me and many times I wouldn't even accept it. I'd get mad at him for having an agenda. Fortunately, I have started getting better with this and am able to simply say "thank you, I appreciate that", knowing that there must be at least one shred of truth to what was just said! Yay for progress!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Pics

The Ward Valentine Shin Dig

Since Greg is one of the Ward Activity Committee Members, it is a non-negotiable that we attend the Ward Valentine Party. We have attended this event ever since I can remember being in the ward. Some year's have been better than others. But this year, I must say, was one of the better times we've had, and I think all those in attendance would probably say the same. It was really fun. What made the difference? It's hard to say. I know that a whole lot of people got involved in the thing, and that made it just start to roll. Before you knew it, practically everyone had a turn at the microphone and yes, some were better than others, but we all just enjoyed ourselves and had a great time. Kekau and Lei did a great job at hosting the event. They started it off and then encouraged everyone throughout the evening. Also, the Ward members were very supportive of everyone who got up and braved the karaoke machine. I thought I'd throw up a few pics of those who were in attendance and you can see how much fun they were having. By the way, our Bishop is quite the performer. He took the prize for the most memorable performance. He did the best Elvis song, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. I almost started screaming like it was Elvis. Of course my favorite was when Greg got up and sang a Tim McGraw rendition that was so fabulous! (I'm so lucky I get to hear him sing all the time, but it was great to hear him behind a microphone) The end was really fun too, when we all got up and sang 'We Are Family'. I know, it sounds corny right now, but when you're there and kind of punchy anyway, it's just good fun to be singing with everyone there in a big group. Here's some pics:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Depression Seminar Session 3

Nutrition: Better Food, Better Mood

This week's session was on the area of Nutrition. This is such a huge area! There are so many things that are affected by our diets and our philosophies of nutrition. For one thing, science is advancing all the time and new findings are constantly being extended. So what was considered good practice 10 years ago is no longer necessarily the best today. And what was considered Old Wives Lore 75 years ago is now the hottest thing out there to treat, prevent and enhance our health. However, what I learned is that if you are just in the dark as to what science is what or whether to believe, for instance, if supplementation is good or bad, what herbs react with which drug, how many mgs. of this or that vitamin provides optimal results and you just can't come out of the whole confusing mess without having a huge headache, just stick to moderation and get as many fruits and vegetables as you can. If you want to venture out a little more from that, it is totally your choice and just know that there are a lot of venture capitalists out there who want to take advantage of all the hype. I, personally, ventured out a little bit after listening to my heart and doing some research of my own and am very glad I did because there is a lot of incredible science out there to back up and enhance what just plain good common sense tells us. You just have to be careful!

Insufficient nutrition is possibly the most overlooked cause of depression. But once nutritional correction starts to take place in the depressed individual, the effects start to manifest within 7 - 10 days. The improvement will steadily continue until 3 - 6 months out and then there will be a peak and then a plateau.

You could have a Nutritional hit for Depression if:
  • You are addicted to junk food
  • You crave sugar
  • You have been on a high-protein, low-carb diet in the last year or so.
  • You are deficient in certain Vitamins and Minerals, namely B12 or Folate.
  • You have insufficient dietary Trpytophan. The brain cannot make seratonin if there is a deficiency of this nutrient.
  • You have a low Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
  • You have marked anorexia or weight loss.
  • You are more than 30 pounds overweight.
There are often no obvious clues for a nutritional hit for depression, so to start with, you would look at identifying the other possible causes for depression and if you still don't have the minimum 4 hits that are used to identify a depressed individual then the nutrition hit is automatically what you would look at. Also, just to be smart, even if you do have 4 additional depression hits, still never neglect nutritional wisdom. You can't go wrong.

Let's look at some good sources for the above mentioned nutrients. Tryptophan can be found in turkey, almonds and tofu. Tryptophan has been shown to be amazingly helpful for anorexic patients who also struggle with depression. Here is one example of what you can do with Tofu:

Strawberry Banana Tofu Smoothie


  • 1⁄2 cup apple juice
  • 1⁄2 cup frozen vanilla nonfat yogurt, peach sorbet, or desired flavor sorbet
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) soft tofu, drained
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen sliced strawberries or peaches
  • 1 banana, broken into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1⁄2 cup ice cubes

Fresh whole berries for garnish (optional)

  1. Place the apple juice, sorbet, tofu, strawberries or peaches, banana and honey in a blender. Cover and process until well blended.
  2. With blender still running, drop ice cubes, one at a time, through the hole in the lid until smooth.
  3. Pour into tall glasses; garnish with a few fresh berries, if desired. Makes 2 -3 servings
Omega-3 fatty acid intake is so important and so many people are low in this area. Most of the oils we consume are Omega-6 and these two oils need to be in a balanced ratio. Omega-3 works so well at treating Bi-polar patients that it is classified as a very effective treatment for this illness and is actually classified as a drug. Sources of Omg-3 are cold water ocean fish (now a high source of mercury as well), flaxseed,walnuts and canned spinach. Here is a great recipe for a flaxseed sprinkle. Put this on cereal, toast or anything else you can sneak it into. The taste is pleasantly minimal to non-existent:

1/4 c. ground walnuts
1/4 c. ground flaxseed (get the whole flaxseed and grind yourself for optimal nutrition)
1 Tbsp. dates or brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator

B-12 is a vitamin and folate is a mineral. They are both essential and often low in depressed people. Some good sources of folate are 5.5 oz. of steak, navy beans, okra, raw spinach, lentils, fresh orange juice and black-eyed peas. Another thing to be aware of is that people who are folate-deprived do not respond to medication. Vitamin B-12 is mainly derived from animal sources. Some good sources of B-12 are calf's liver (yum!), Snapper, venison, chinook salmon, beef tenderloin, scallops, shrimp, halibut, and some yogurts. Depression is a symptom of someone who is low in Vitamin B-12.

A huge issue in today's fast food and convenience store shopping has been the development of atherosclorosis in middle aged people, which is not only responsible for coronary disease but a contributor to depression. The greek meaning -- athero (mushy) sclorosis (hard). Basically by eating things that are mushy, you end up with hardening. Mushy means something very specific. We were referred to the findings of a Dr. Bruce Taylor from New York, who fed monkeys and rabbits oxidized cholesterol. They were found with arteries that were hardening within a very short time. He did the same thing with pure cholesterol and the difference was amazing. This time nothing happened, no bad effect. Now, in the news, we are not seeing this atherosclorosis in just middle-aged people. We are seeing very young children with this build-up of plaque in the arteries. The culprit is oxidized lard. The most harmful of these foods are the custard groups (including ice cream), pancake mixes and parmesan cheese (pizza!) Beware of foods that are too convenient. It will conveniently rob you of your good health as well.

We also talked little bit about the Toxic Hit for Depression. Basically, keep away from the toxic stuff like lead (found in dirt--don't eat too much dirt, some drinking water with lead pipes, some old paint, etc.), mercury (some herbs and vitamins from China, even some cosmetics, etc.), bisma (don't gorge on Pepto Bismal) and harmful household cleaners that have ammonia, bleach and nerve agents in them. If you would like info on chemical free cleaning and personal care products, I can get you information on that as well.

This was a great session and it gave us all pause for thought about how we might better improve the nutritional area in our lives. Just a few little things could make all the difference! There will not be another session until Monday, February 23rd. So the next Depression Seminar post will probably be after that--like the 28th. But hey, that gives us time to implement what we have learned thus far! Take care!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Depression Seminar Session 2

Lifestyle Treatments For Depression

It has been really fun attending this seminar because there have been so many great pointers on how to keep our lives happy and moving forward. I believe that if I implement just one pointer each week into my routine, I will be not just happy, I'll be walking around practically giddy all the time! I find that I do a lot of self-defeating things, not big, just enough to drain me of much-needed cheeriness.

This week was about Life-Style. Right away, Dr. Nedley made a strong statement about physical exercise. He said that if you are not on a regular daily (at least 6 days a week) exercise program, that condition would automatically qualify as a hit. (See Session 1 for the 10 hits of Depression). An optimal combination would be to do exercising outdoors in fresh air and sunlight. The best kind of exercise is aerobic, the best aerobic is good old-fashioned walking. It is actually better than running. Walks should be an hour long for best results. It takes about 7 days of walking outdoors for 1 hour preferrably in sunlight to notice improvement. It takes 3-4 months of regular walking to see a dramatic effect. Only one other exercise was slightly more effective. Statistics show that vigorous gardening is the most effective exercise to alleviate depression. So garden away. Apparently it yields more than fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables!

Interval Training is a very effective way to build up your endurance and fitness to a more advanced level with minimal muscle soreness as an added advantage. Also thyroid function improves with interval training. The simple formula for your maximum heart rate to work at your maximum level is: 220-your age x .8. Dr. Nedley emphasized that you need to force yourself at first to do this. It most certainly isn't at one's comfort level but the benefits are worth it. You can definitely do interval training with walking, as well as many other exercises. Basically, work to your maximum heartrate for 1-3 minutes, then drop back and rest for 2 or so minutes and then back up to your maximum heartrate. Continue for as long as you can.

Bright Light Therapy is important for seratonin and Vitamin D production, both of which help with mood and brain function. It is best to get light directly from the sunlight for at least an hour a day without sunscreen and within 10 minutes of waking. The best sunlight is between 10 am and 2 pm. It works especially well for those who are sleep-disordered, those who suffer from postpartum depression, and those who suffer from Seasonal Depression. In winter months it may be very helpful to get a light therapy lamp. Two references given were and Apollo Light, a company based out of Orem, UT.

Breathing Techniques help to get adequate supplies of oxegen to the brain. Most people breathe shallowly from the upper chest. To get enough oxygen to supply blood to the brain, breathing needs to be from deep in the stomach working up to the chest. Low blood oxygen impairs many things, including mood. You can practice breathing deeply by counting slowly to 8, filling up your stomach, chest and lungs and holding for 4 slow counts. Release slowly for 8 counts. Repeat 4 times.

Circadian Rhythm Hits. Sleep disorders are either getting too much or too little sleep. Even the most energetic and agressive person in the world cannot continually function on less than 6 hours per day. And by the same token, an adult person should not need more than 9 hours of sleep per day.

Many things disturb the natural sleep patterns so necessary for optimal health. Some huge sleep robbers are irregular work hours, shift work, moms with small children whose sleep patterns are irregular, and over-stimulating nighttime activities which make it difficult to wind down.

Work to have regular hours not only for sleeping but for eating and exercise.

While it is true that depression seems to lessen during the later PM hours, thus partially explaining why there are so many night owls who suffer from depression, it certainly doesn't make depression go away and paradixically it comes back twice as bad in the daylight hours. So staying up late actually significantly contributes to ongoing symptoms. It is important to be exposed to bright light within 10 minutes of awakening, either with a lamp or the sun. Maybe have some kind of alarm clock hooked up to a light that comes on gradually....(you can actually get that kind of system). The point is that it needs to be regular and on-going and you will probably have to force yourself at first.

Getting To sleep is just as important as waking up. Sleep's three factor's are: No noise, be still for 15-20 minutes, and sleep in darkness. Do whatever is necessary to create this ideal sleep environment.

Another really important thing to do that probably no one does is to do good things leading up to good sleep. Light from television screens and other bright lights can contribute to sleeplessness. So rather than watch TV, work on computers or play video games, try reading, working on a hobby or journeling. It is much more relaxing.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

A study at Ohio University found that people who looked at things primarily with pessimism had a predictable rise in anxiety-perceived stress and a rise in physical disease.

Those who looked at things through the mythical rose-colored glasses, interestingly enough, had no predictable outcomes.

Those individuals who looked at things realistically--in other words, not being either overly negative or unrealistically positive but just were honest about themselves, others and potential opportunities--had the most positive outcomes in general.

It is very important to be as realistic in as positive way as possible. An exercise to do is to choose 3 different positive things to think about or re-direct yourself to when you find yourself thinking negatively.

Assignment: For 14 consecutive days, don't say anything critical about anyone or anything (that includes even "constructive" criticism). If you mess up, start over again for 14 more days. Having these kinds of real yet positive thoughts will increase the seratonin and dopamin levels in the brain which will, you guessed it, alleviate depression! "Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of mind than does a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness." -Ellen G. White

Additional tips: Laughter is healing to body and spirit--find some; physical touch is great - hugs, massage, hand holding, a pet--find a way; hot/cold showers--some people do really well with this.

By the way, I started out with the 14-day, say nothing negative challenge, with high hopes. I've started over every single day since Monday the 2nd. So I'm starting again for 14 days. Wish me luck! I need my dopamine levels to go up! And good luck in your quest for a Happy Life!