Srini Pillay, MD
Posts by Srini Pillay, MD
People who feel their life have meaning are less depressed and recover from illness more quickly. But that feeling of meaning can slip away when life hands you lemons. One of the best ways to reconnect with that sense of significance might just be stepping away from your routine and embracing spontaneity.
There is an explosion of books, tapes, podcasts, programs, and apps that claim to provide self-help. If you are considering any sort of self-help program, making the effort to evaluate its merits (underlying research, if any; reputation and qualifications of its source; whether or not the program is a good match for your needs) will increase the odds you find something appropriate and effective.
Remaining focused for extended periods of time is difficult, but researchers believe that doodling gives a break to parts of the brain, making it possible to absorb and retain more information overall. While this phenomenon is not well understood, neuroscience is starting to learn how doodling might help boost attention and and focus.
The wandering mind can get stuck on negative thoughts and start to “react” to a perceived threat that feels very real–and makes you feel anxious. Naming the negative feeling associated with that thought and then helping your mind wander in a more positive direction can help.
Many people struggle with self-acceptance. A lack of self-acceptance can do more than impact your self-esteem: it can actually reduce the amount of gray matter your brain has available to work with. Fortunately, there are several different ways to increase your self-acceptance and, in the process, make real, physical changes in the way your brain works. Give it a try!
Phrases like “I almost died of fright” aren’t just hyperbole. The heart and brain are actually intimately connected, and emotions that are strong enough to disrupt the brain’s function can also take a measurable physical toll on the heart. Of course, this means that if you can change your brain’s responses to these emotions, you can get a healthier heart in the process, too. We’ve listed some ways you can get started.
Some aspects of chronic back pain really are “in your head” — but that doesn’t mean you’re making it up. Rather, research has shown that when pain is chronic, the brain processes it not via the usual “pain” circuits, but via the “emotion” circuits. This means that you can actually reduce chronic pain by changing your psychological and emotional response to it. We’ve listed several techniques that have been proven to reduce chronic back pain.
The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. This means that how you feel affects how you move — and that the opposite is true, too. Here, we’ve assembled plenty of evidence that movement — whether it’s aerobic exercise in a gym or a simple meditative walk — is incredibly effective not only for boosting your mood, but for reducing symptoms of many common mental disorders, too.
Ask anyone who’s ever tried to make a healthy change — after a while, the motivation to keep at it just stops. Indeed, it can be incredibly hard to break old habits, or make new ones. But research has revealed that there are actually two different types of rewards in the brain — and that focusing on the less commonly pursued of the two can help you make lasting changes.
Even when we’re determined to make healthy changes for the better, our brains can sometimes undermine us. But there are three things we can do — namely, decreasing stress, making our goals a priority, and being more specific — that will help our brains avoid old habits and make a positive change.