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Break This, News! No Fear!

You’ve probably heard the children’s tale of Chicken Little who worried continually and went around yelling, “The sky is falling” after an acorn fell on her head while she was walking in the woods. Well, the sky wasn’t imploding. However, Chicken Little’s continual spouting of her worries about the sky ended up leading to an untimely fate for himself and a few friends she met along the way during her trip in the woods in the paws of Foxey Loxey.

Welcome to the concept of fear-based psychology, which Chicken Little’s friends, Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky, fell prey to. While this seems like only a children’s tale, if you stop and think about it, we’re often influenced by fear-based psychology in today’s modern world. Just think about the television shows, websites and publications that are popular and available 24/7.
Many of these media outlets embrace some form of propaganda in order to boost their ratings. Just look at the headlines and lead paragraphs! Whether it’s the election cycle, the fear of terrorism, gun ownership or race relationship, many of these media outlets swear by the concept, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Media That Thrives on Creating Fear

These media outlets – whether print, online, television or radio and from all sides of the political spectrum — use several methods to grab viewer’s attention. These include the teaser (which taps into a person’s fear for their safety, health or financial well-being) and the crawl (which communicates “breaking news”).

Another tactic is the media’s reporting of stories that often don’t scratch the surface and avoid fact-checking when they are first aired or posted. “What occurs psychologically for the viewer is a fragmented sense of knowing what’s real, which sets off feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – experiences known to worsen depression,” wrote Dr. Deborah Serani in an article for Psychology Today. We also are seeing a similar approach being taken in some political candidates’ campaigns.

This media approach triggers the brains’ limbic system, which is responsible for fear, aggression and rage. The limbic system includes the part of the brain known as the lizard brain because it triggers the primitive survival instincts of flight or fight. The media and many political candidates know how to use fear to tap into this area of the brain, thus creating a vicious circle (and a lot of stress, panic and anger). This feedback loop between propaganda and the brain can quickly result in increased chronic stress, which can lead to major physical and mental issues, including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stepping Away from the Media

So how can you limit your exposure to this propaganda and lower your fear levels? Experts suggest several options:

– Step away on occasion from watching, listening or reading reports from media outlets.

– Try to take at least one day a week off from all electronic devices.

– Consider using print media instead of visual media so you’re not pulled in by emotionally charged pictures or videos.

– Acknowledge your fears.

– Think positive

– Manage stress

– Practice courageous acts.

– Practice mindfulness meditation.

Propaganda has been part of our world for a long time. However, the onset of 24/7 availability of media outlets keeps these stories in our faces on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis. Taking a step back to breathe and relax can help you negate the effect of propaganda. Perhaps we all should take a lesson from Chicken Little’s cautionary tale and realize that – despite what the media and candidates tell us – the sky really is not falling.

Written by Dorian Marin 

Conceptualized and Edited by Jennifer Buergermeister 

Primary Sources for This Blog:

Gregoire, C. (2013). The Science of Conquering Your Fears – and Living A More Courageous Life. The Huffington Post.

Rajmohan, V. & Mohandas, E. (2007). Indian Journal of Psychiatry.

Serani, D. (2011). If It Bleeds, It Leads: Understanding Fear-Based Media. Psychology Today.




From Melancholia to Magnificence – Latest Treatments in Depression


Treatment of depression has come a long way. Originally known as melancholia, this condition first surfaced around the second millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia. People with mental issues such as depression were considered to be possessed by demons. They were treated by priests because depression was considered a spiritual rather than a physical illness.

Over time researchers and practitioners have learned much about depression.  For instance, Dr. Aaron Beck and Dr. Keith Bredemeier recently offered a unified model of depression that suggests that depression is an adaptation to a person’s perceived loss of an essential resource  (such as a loss of a family member or romantic partner). This loss can be especially devastating for people who are at greater risk of severe depression due to genetic or environmental reasons. “Our model suggests that any intervention that targets several key predisposing, precipitating, or resilience factors can reduce risk or alleviate symptoms,” Beck and Bredemeier stated.

Conventional Approaches

As researchers have access to more sophisticated technology, new ways to treat depression are regularly being announced. Recently, there have been a number of breakthroughs in conventional approaches to treating depression, including:

  • A new blood test. Researchers out of Great Britain have developed a blood test that matches patients with depression to specific common antidepressants. The test looks at the level of blood inflammation; if the level of inflammation is over a certain level, the patient may be prescribed more intense drug cocktails that can keep depression from worsening. Researchers believe this test will allow a more tailored approach to medications, as opposed to the current trial-and-error approach.
  • Originally a hallucinogenic club drug in the 1960s, Ketamine is being described as a significant advancement in treating depression.  This drug has been found to start treating the symptoms of depression within hours and is effective in three-quarters of patients who are treated.
  • Medical marijuana. Researchers out of the University of Buffalo believe that medical cannabis may hold promise in treating depression. Their study found that administering marijuana cannabinoids to rats can help alleviate some depression symptoms. Medical marijuana is believed to work by restoring the brain’s levels of endocannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that affect an individual’s emotion, behavior and cognition.

Integrative approaches

Integrative therapies often take a holistic approach to treating mild to moderate depression. These approaches include:

  • Nutrition – A focus on improving nutrition (whether through diet or supplements) can help improve brain chemistry. While the best source of nutrition is from nutrient-dense organic foods, nutritional supplements can help balance the brain’s chemicals, thus easing depressive symptoms. The basic nutritional supplements include: a multivitamin with B6 and minerals; omega-3 fatty acids with EPA/DHA totaling 1,000-3,000 mg daily; vitamin D-3; and probiotics with two or more live cultures.
  • Mind-body practices – Meditation, hypnosis, relaxation training, imagery, yoga and Qigong have emerged in research as valid ways to help ease depression.
  • Botanical medicines – Some studies suggest that plant-based medicines such as St. John’s Wort, valerian and rhodiola can help quell depression.
  • Essential oils. Lavender, chamomile, basil and Frankincense have been found to be calming. In addition, bergamot and peppermint oil can also help with depression.
  • Nature-based therapies – Being outdoors or connected to nature in some way helps reduce depression.
  • Music therapy – Regularly listening to music can help ease depressive symptoms.
  • Animal-assisted therapies – Being around pets and Equine-Assisted therapy have been found to ease anxiety and depression.

Our understanding of depression has come a long way since those days in Mesopotamia. With many treatment options now available, people who suffer from depression should work closely with their doctors to determine what options work best for them. This personalized treatment plan can help an individual with depression lead a healthy, happy and fulfilled life.

Written by Dorian Martin; Assigned and Edited by Jennifer Buergermeister

Sources for This Sharepost:

Association for Psychological Science. (2016). Beck Proposes an Integrative Theory of Depression.

Crew, B. (2016). Ketamine Found to Have an ‘Unbelievable’ Effect in Treating Severe Depression. (2010). Integrative Approach to Depression?

Gregoire, C. (2015). New Study Finds Marijuana To Be Effective Against Depression. Huffington Post.

Lawson, K. & Towey, S. (ND). What Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices Might Help for Anxiety and Depression? University of Minnesota’s Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.

Nemade, B., Reiss, N. S., & Dombeck, M. (2007). Historical Understandings of Depression. (2016). Blood Test to Personalize Depression Treatment for the First Time.

One Lifetime May Not Be Enough…


So are we only on this earth once? Or do we keep coming back and living life again?  Some groups – such as Hindus – believe in the cyclical nature of the universe.  Hindus believe that the soul is eternal and returns for multiple lives, although the y can come back in a human, animal or plant form.

A Return to Hollywood

While some people may think of reincarnation as far-fetched, cases continue to emerge that cause wonder. Take a recent Today Show segment that featured a story about a 10-year old boy named Ryan who talked about living a previous life based in Hollywood, CA. He said he began to experience horrible nightmares when he was four years old. By the time he was five years old, he told his mom of his other identity.  He eventually was able to identify a photo of himself from his former life and offer 55 obscure facts that matched what happened in that previous life. Researchers collaborated each of the facts (which were never published on the internet).

Ryan’s memory of an earlier life is one of many that have been described. In fact, the University of Virginia has studied more than 2,500 cases of children who describe having a former life.  Dr. Jim Tucker, the Bonner-Lowry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, is one of the leading researchers in this field. “I think these cases contribute to the body of evidence that consciousness – at least, in certain circumstances – can survive the death of the body; that life after death isn’t necessarily just a fantasy or something to be considered on faith, but it can also be approached in an analytic way, and the idea can be judged on its merits,” Dr. Tucker told NPR.

Signs of a Previous Life

While many of those who describe a previous life in detail are children, glimpses still can show up in adulthood.  According to author Dr. Brian Weiss, the body gives signals that may provide hints of a previous experience or relationship. These include:

  1. A sense of déjà vu – you sense that you’ve met a person before, had a similar experience or visited a place that you haven’t been to in your life.
  2. Realistic dreams – As noted in the story about Ryan, dreams offer a window into a past-life memory. Look for symbols and metaphors that may offer a message.
  3. Aptitudes for other cultures and languages – Being able to quickly pick up a foreign language or having an interest in a specific historical time, culture, person or event may suggest a glimpse into a past life.
  4. Identifying soul companions – Soul groups are believed to be involved in helping souls learn lessons and deal with karma over various lives. Thus, an older relative may come back as a member of a younger generation to help a person work through the lesson. This does not necessarily mean life long partnerships.

Written by Dorian Martin, Article Requested and Edited by Jennifer Buergermeister, MA

Sources for This Blog: (ND). Hinduism. (2013). 4 Signs You May Have Had a Past Life.

Tanner, J. (2015). Proof of reincarnation? Boy Gives Incredible Details of Past Life as Hollywood Extra.

Whitman, J. & McFadden, C. (2015). ‘Return to Life’: How Some Children Have Memories of Reincarnation.

Why Meditate?

brain and meditation

Why Meditate?

By Jennifer Buergermeister, MA, RYT
Menninger Clinic Wellness Specialist

The brain is a fascinating organ that once was believed to be unchangeable. Research shows this previous assumption is wrong. Not only is it wrong but naively underestimates the power of the brain’s ability to evolve in a rather short period of time.

The brain has a gift. It’s called plasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability for the neurons to change patterns and shift into new connections, thereby increasing or decreasing the gray matter in various parts of the brain.

The brain’s neurons are the electrical units of the body. They follow intention and attention. Practice – for example talking, walking or playing sports – creates a skill set. If you practice something long enough, you’ll get better at it. Energy follows these neuro pathways in the neurological system. Whatever you focus on you will become. Research says it takes 10,000 hours to become an “expert” at anything. The question is what are you focusing on?

When we focus the mind in meditation into the space of the forehead, in a relaxed state, the energy moves into the area and increases the gray matter into the region of the pre-frontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is associated with self-awareness, altruism, compassion, and feeling connected to others and the universe or a higher power.

Another interesting point about focusing the mind is how meditation pulls energy out of the limbic system’s amygdala and decreases the gray matter in that region. The amygdala is associated with our stress response. The smaller the amygdala, the least likely we will respond and suffer from the effects of stress.

A daily practice in mindfulness, feeling the space of the forehead, will shift the brain out of the old brain, or hind brain, and limbic system and into a more evolved happy and altruistic brain. I believe most people inherently want to be happy and feel whole. Now the science proves exactly how we can achieve it!

In just 8 weeks with 10-15 minutes a day of practice, we can shift the brain to look more like a monk’s or a saint’s brain, someone enlightened on the path. The next question to ask ourselves is am I ready?

Anatomy of the Spirit in a Nutshell


Twenty years ago, Dr. Carolyn Myss offered the world what would become a classic text on energy medicine, Anatomy of Spirit. The premise of the book – that many illnesses are created when people go against their spirit – offered a different way of thinking about health. Myss based the book on her own experiences as a medical intuitive along with 15 years of research into energy medicine.

Anatomy of the Spirit uses the Hindu chakra system as a way to categorize different parts of the body. Myss then describes the attitudes, beliefs, emotional stresses and psychological stresses associated with each chakra. She also identifies illnesses that correspond with each chakra. “My particular insights…have shown me that emotional and spiritual stresses or dis-eases are the root causes of all physical illnesses,” Myss stated.

The author adds another important layer by integrating sacred concepts from Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism into her categorizations. “The universal jewel within the four major religions is that the Divine is locked into our biological system in seven stages of power that lead us to become more refined and transcendent in our personal power,” she wrote.

Myss dedicates a chapter to each chakra, which includes a description of the overarching theme, examples of health issues related to that particular area and questions for self-examination. The following offers a brief summary of each chakra, as described in Anatomy of the Spirit:

First Chakra = Tribal Power
This chakra parallels Baptism in Christianity and Shekhinah, Gaia and Creation in the Judaism tradition. Parts of the body associated with this chakra include the base of the spine, legs, bones, feet, rectum and immune system. This chakra is tied to the physical safety of the family and group, the ability to provide life’s necessities, a feeling of being at home, a sense of law and order and the ability to stand up for oneself. Physical issues that are linked to this chakra include chronic lower back pain, sciatica, varicose veins, rectal tumors, rectal cancer, depression and immune disorders.

Second Chakra = Power of Relationships
This chakra is comparable to communion in Christianity and Yesod in the Sefirah tradition. Body parts that are governed by this chakra include the sexual organs, the large intestine, lower vertebrae, pelvis, appendix, the bladder and the hip area. Issues tied to the second chakra include blame, guilt, money, sex, power, control, creativity, ethics and honor in relationships. Health issues related to this chakra include chronic lower back pain, sciatica, ob/gyn issues, pelvic pain, lower back pain, sexual potency and urinary problems.

Third Chakra = Personal Power
This chakra is associated with confirmation in Christianity and Hod and Nezah on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. This chakra governs the abdomen, stomach, upper intestines, liver, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, spleen and middle spine. Issues related to this chakra include trust, fear, intimidation, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, care of oneself, care of others, responsibility for making decisions, sensitivity to criticism and personal honor. Health issues include arthritis, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, colon issues, intestinal issues, pancreatitis, diabetes, indigestion, anorexia, bulimia, liver dysfunction, hepatitis and adrenal dysfunction.

Fourth Chakra = Emotional Power
This chakra is parallel to marriage in Christianity and Tif’eret on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. The fourth chakra is linked to the heart, circulatory system, lungs, shoulders, arms, ribs, breasts, diaphragm and thymus gland. Mental and emotional issues related to this chakra include love, hatred, resentment, bitterness, grief, anger, self-centeredness, loneliness, commitment, forgiveness, compassion, hope and trust. Physical issues that may emerge in this chakra include congestive heart failure, heart attack, mitral valve prolapse, cardiomegaly, asthma, allergies, lung cancer, bronchial pneumonia, upper back pain, shoulder pain and breast cancer.

Fifth Chakra = The Power of Will
This area is linked to confession in Christianity and Gevurah and Hesed on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. This chakra is tied to the throat, thyroid, trachea, neck vertebra, mouth, teeth, gums, esophagus, parathyroid and hypothalamus. Mental and emotional issues related to this chakra include choice, strength of will, personal expression, pursuing dreams, using one’s own personal power to create, addiction, judgment, criticism, faith, knowledge and decision-making capacity. The physical issues that can emerge with this chakra include a raspy throat, chronic sore throat, mouth ulcers, gum difficulties, temporomandibular joint issues, scoliosis, laryngitis, swollen glands and thyroid problems.

Sixth Chakra = Power of the Mind
This area corresponds to ordination in Christianity and Binah and Hokhmah on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. This chakra is associated with the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, nose, pineal gland and pituitary gland. The sixth chakra is linked to mental and emotional issues such as self-evaluation, truth, intellectual abilities, feelings of adequacy, openness to others’ ideas, ability to learn from one’s experiences and emotional intelligence. Physical health issues that are tied to this chakra include brain tumor, hemorrhage, stroke, neurological disturbances, blindness, deafness, full spinal difficulties, learning disabilities and seizures.

Seventh Chakra = Spiritual Connection
This chakra is tied to the Christian sacrament of extreme unction (final anointing as part of the last rites) and the crown of the Sephirot on the kabbalistic Tree of Life. The seventh chakra is linked to the muscular system, the skeletal system and the skin. Mental and emotional issues that are related to this chakra include the ability to trust life, values, ethics, courage, humanitarianism, selflessness, being able to see the larger pattern, faith, inspiration, spirituality and devotion. The physical dysfunctions associated with this chakra include energetic disorders, mystical depression, chronic exhaustion not tied to a physical disorder and extreme sensitivities to environmental factors.

Assigned and edited by Jennifer Buergermeister, written by Dorian Martin

Sources for This Post:
Publishers Weekly. (ND). Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing.
Myss, C. & Shealy, C.N. (1996). Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing.

Vagus Nerve Unveiled

When we think about staying healthy, we often think of muscles, ligaments, organs, joints and bones. However, we often don’t about keeping our nerves healthy. However, our nerves are critical to the healthy functioning of the body. In fact, one specific nerve – the vagus nerve – is central to the most basic of bodily functions that we often take for granted.  The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves and, as such, is the leader of the parasympathetic nervous system. This nerve, which begins at the base of the skull, spans the body and links the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems. The vagus nerve is responsible for regulating multiple critical bodily functions, including controlling the heart rate, monitoring breathing, preventing inflammation, linking the brain with the gut, triggering the relaxation response and supporting the formation of memories.

The state of the vagus nerve is linked to the quality of a person’s mental and physical health. People who have a high vagal tone are more resilient when faced with stress and can move more easily to a relaxed state. In comparison, people with a low vagal tone are more sensitive to stress and prone to diseases such as heart issues, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and epilepsy. These people often have weak digestion and increased heart rate.

Strengthening the Vagus Nerve

Just like muscles and tendons, the vagal tone can be improved through specific exercises and habits. For instance, in a 2013 Psychology Today post Christopher Bergland suggests adopting habits that improve vagal tone. These habits include:

– Develop a habit of positive thinking. Learned optimism helps the vagus nerve rewire the mind to adopt a more resilient stance under pressure.

– Be physically active. Strength training, aerobic exercise and yoga help build the nerve’s tone and harmonizes hormones and neurotransmitters. The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health also points to studies that suggest that yoga’s breathing techniques helps tone the vagus nerve.

– Avoid high-strung people. Because emotions are “contagious,” try to avoid spending significant amounts of time with high-strung, anxious or nervous people.

– Embrace positive emotions such as kindness. Positive emotions as well as positive social connections are tied to high vagal tone as well as overall physical health.

Diet also is an important component in creating nerve health. Fish, green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables offer nutrients that support healthy nerve function. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet can help control high blood sugar, which — if left unchecked — can damage the vagus nerve.

Assigned by Jennifer Buergermeister, written by Dorian Martin for Jennyoga. Edited by Jennifer Buergermeister

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Bergland, C. (2013). The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure. Psychology Today.

Garvin, C. (2013). Foods That Heal the Nervous System.

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. (ND). Why Yoga Works.

Rosenfeld, J. (2015). 9 Nervy Facts About the Vagus Nerve.

Weil. A. (2009). Natural Treatment for Gastroparesis. Dr.

The Transpersonal Way


Healthy Spirituality/Transpersonal Psychology by Dorian Martin for Jennyoga

Can spirituality be good for your health? The answer, according to many researchers, turns out to be, “Yes!”

Transpersonal Psychology, an approach that emerged in the late 1960s, suggests that nurturing and developing spirituality and awareness can help individuals develop greater physical and mental health as well as a deeper personal understanding of themselves. This type of psychology marries a number of approaches and disciplines, including cognitive psychology, humanistic psychology, behaviorism, Eastern philosophy, Western philosophy, mysticism, mindfulness and multiple elements from the world’s various religions.

A Path to Transformation

This psychological approach can help a person transform his/her life. Transpersonal psychology is rooted in the idea that people who are in any form of relationship have a space between them. That space includes a profound spiritual “something” that influences each person, thus causing changes in each party in the relationship.  Each person begins to dwell less on the day-to-day efforts to take care of basic human needs and instead adopts a transcendent approach that takes into account others as well as the universe as a whole. This form of psychology encourages inner peace, trust, a feeling of being fully alive, selfless service and compassion.

Practices such as prayer, meditation, yoga and Qigong can help individuals achieve this state of transcendence. Furthermore, incorporating these practices into a daily routine can lead to real health benefits. For instance, some researchers suggest that transpersonal experiences are tied to optimal mental health. Not surprisingly, this approach can help individuals who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and grief or who are considering suicide. Researchers also have found that these types of transpersonal practices can help people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

A Bond to Nature

A practice of transpersonal psychology often involves spending time in nature, which is considered a key factor for optimal health. One study found that prolonged wilderness trips that include natural history as well as solitary time can lead to peak or mystical experiences in both adults and adolescents. This immersion into nature helped many participants’ identify a different way of thinking about the world and their own surroundings. An analysis of these individuals’ journal entries suggested that they started to develop more satisfying responses to day-to-day opportunities and challenges after their experiences on these trips.

Primary Sources for This Blog:

Davis, J. (2004). Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences: An Outline of Research and Theory with Special Reference to Transpersonal Psychology. Naropa University and School of Lost Borders.

McKeown, P. (1996). Transpersonal Psychology Provides Health Benefits.

Tartakovsky, M. (2011). 6 Facts About Transpersonal Psychology. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2016, from