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Self Harm Social Media and Social Contagion

Parent Alert – What do smart phones have to do with self-harm? An epidemic among our middle school students – YES!!!!

We all know that the Internet has dramatically changed the lives of humans all over the world. While majority of it is positive, the dark sides of it walk into our therapy offices all day long. I write this article as an appeal to parents of 5th through 11th grade students. PLEASE, please, please think twice before you give your “child” free access to a playground that has no monitors.

As a Psychologist who has been treating teens here in San Diego for almost 30 years, I am blown away by the hoards of teens who are self harming in the last 1 to 2 years.

Cutting is a behavior that traditionally has had roots in trauma, mood instability and often girls or boys who are not able to “find” feelings or name “feelings.” As mental health providers, our work tends to be in the arena of working through the traumatic events, finding ways to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that can be present with the teen brain and identifying feelings and learning how to cope with negative emotional states.

How does one connect smart phones to cutting and self-harm?  Celebrities use social media to spread the virus through sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. When we have Demi Lavato, Myle Cyrus, Brittney Spears, Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga openly talking about their “recovery” from self-harm, girls who worship them begin to see this as normal behavior. Some of these celebrities are well intentioned, in that they are trying to prevent other girls from going to these behaviors.

This mimicry is called social contagion. In very simple words – contamination! The epidemic of self-harm is completely being transmitted virally via social media and the Internet. There are hundreds of blogs in the Internet that glorify self-harm. Middle school girls feel an enhanced sense of belongingness when they are part of “the” club that cutsL Other blogs glamorize the “thigh gap” and yet others glamorize anorexia and bulimia.

To understand social contagion, we have to understand some brain science. We are all born with mirror neurons, which give us empathy and connection. These mirror neurons are responsible for the “copying” behaviors that we all do. Most teens will say they do not want to be like everyone else, yet they are constantly trying to fit in, and be in a group. Teen angst is all about finding your self, and looking for people to emulate and inspire you. The teen brain is under construction and will not be fully developed till age 25. When Demi Lavato who is so strong, powerful, vibrant and rocks the preteen and teen world speaks, they ALL listen.

If someone has the flu and you are nursing them, chances are you may develop the symptoms in a few days since you got exposed to the virus. The PROXIMITY put you at risk for the flu. Social media “contaminates” millions of girls and boys across the globe. Cutting is a maladaptive behavior, and this social acceptance makes it an adaptive, socially accepted, even approved behavior.

The most protective factor a parents can create is to not have your child/teen have a smart phone till they are 17 or older, keep the computer and ipads out in the open in the family, have discussions about which social media their kids are on, and who do they follow? If the bird flu were going around what protective factors would you create around your teen? Be a parent please?

Posted on 6/23/2014

How Laughter Impacts the Brain

Laughter, such a joyful, intense emotion yet very poorly understood from a brain perspective.

As a Psychologist I work to cultivate resiliency in my clients, with one of the prominent factors of resiliency being a sense of humor. We all intuitively know that a sense of humor is a precious commodity and yet we do not “invest” in as heavily as we probably could!

Within the field of neuroscience, we have become increasingly excited about the range of new tools we have to measure various regions of the brain as they get activated by experiences and emotions. Functional MRI’s and qEEG maps are new brain mapping techniques that are giving us a peek into some regions of the brain we had not previously explored.

Laughter is definitely a WHOLE brain activity that bathes the brain with wonderful neurochemicals that boost a person’s immune system, heal “broken neurons” and most importantly regulate the brain.

Scientists that have studied the brain notice that the entire cerebral cortex lights up when a person laughs. There are specific regions of the brain that are involved when one laughs. Each region regulates a specific biological function in the body, which is why laughter has such a positive effect on the overall health of a person.

Here is an article that gives the exact regions of the brain that are activated with laughter:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/laughter3.htm

The following are articles that are research based and these can be cited in my appearance:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2249748/

What is most exciting in Neuropsychology and Brain research are treatment modalities that are being utilized much more in balancing the brain. One such treatment modality is Neurofeedback, which is one of the primary treatment modalities we utilize at Healthy Within Brain Institute. Neurofeedback regulates the positive and negative charges in the brain which result in an identical response as one has with laughter!!

This is exciting because it means we can actually treat the brain and cultivate a sense of humor through Neurofeedback. This then results in more heightened resiliency, better stress response, better health and cheaper medical costs! Perhaps we can use laughter to overhaul the medical system!!!

Brain Fitness – Healthy Mind, Healthy Aging

As we look over the horizon of a sea of faces and people, certainly there are some “beings” that just seem to radiate contentment, joy, peace and satiety… We have all met women in their 50’s and beyond who are inspirational, seem to have boundless energy and highly infectious with their optimism.

A key factor that can help us age well as women is our attitude about aging.

For those of us who dread aging we are more likely to focus on the tiniest of wrinkles and sagging of skin or reduction of energy. The word menopause is seen as such a horrible word and just as preteens seems to dread start of the menstrual cycle, women in their 40’s seems to dread the beginnings of perimenopause. Keep in mind that the word actually symbolizes the pause that is naturally built in to our psyches to transition from child bearing to child caring to now caring for self.

[quote]I am young, curious and infinitely inquisitive.[/quote]Successful aging embodies a mental health attitude that says that “I am young, curious and infinitely inquisitive.”

Skepticism, negativity and cynicism will be your enemies as you age.

When one is able to look at wrinkles and the obvious slowing down as a time for creativity and generativity, then you are going to have an amazingly positive transition in this new chapter in your life! The rephrasing of the joy of aging will not be available in any popular media since the job of the mass media will be to have you feel insecure about your aging process so that you can continue to consume anti-wrinkle creams, plastic surgery and botox.

Tips on keeping up your mental health as you age:

  • Daily dose of gratitude for the abundance you have
  • Meditate (even if it is for 5 minutes everyday)
  • Keep a positive, humor filled attitude especially when obstacles come your way
  • Share your deepest fears with your support circle of safe people. You will not feel alone and isolated
  • Take emotional risks
  • Discover new hobbies and get involved in them with gusto
  • Don’t be afraid to look stupid and embrace not knowing!
  • Do tons of brain exercises such as crosswords, suduko, brain games on the internet
  •  Other things one can do to improve cognition is to take classes at a local college, learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, play cards, chess
  • Take up Yoga
  • Take art classes, dancing lessons, learn to juggle
  • Neurofeedback helps regulate the brain to a happy place
  • Exercise regularly, it builds the hippocampus which is the brain center for memory
  • Cultivate excitement and newness by trying new activities

The best way you will be able to maintain great mental health as you age is to cultivate a balance of nurturing your body, mind and soul with a daily dose of positive, optimistic thoughts, spirituality, loads of healthy, fresh, non packaged foods, fun vigorous exercise that makes you happy, new activities that grow neurons in your brain, tons of brain exercises to feed the mind and most importantly, a HUGE dose of daily gratitude. This is what the doctor prescribes!!!

Healthy Within Brain Health Institute Launches Summer Brain Training Program

Sessions begin May 15th and assist children with ADHD regain focus for new school year

(San Diego, CA – May 1, 2013) – According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, roughly 10% of all school-aged children in the United States, totaling over 5 million, have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.  Recent studies have confirmed that the use of Neurofeedback, or Brain Training, is the most successful, non-invasive treatment option for children with ADHD.

San Diego-based Healthy Within Brain Health Institute is pleased to announce its Summer Brain Training Program designed to increase a child’s focus, productivity, organizational skills, and social independence.  Beginning May 15, 2013, children suffering with ADHD can attend weekly interactive and individualized brain training sessions to engage their brain’s natural abilities and increase retention and confidence.  The tools utilized are non-invasive and mimic that seen in educational video games designed to engage the brain’s natural functions.

“Neurofeedback Brain Training is ground-breaking for the treatment of ADHD as well as dozens of other disorders attributed to brain function,” said Divya Kakaiya, PhD, Program Director for Healthy Within Psychological and Brain Health Institute.  “Healthy Within’s ADHD Brain Training Program focuses on the individual needs of each child and is an ideal treatment model to assist them in regaining their focus and productivity – enabling each child to begin a new school year with restored hope and brain health.”

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive brain based method of treatment that re-trains the brain to function and regulate itself in a more effective way. It teaches the brain to become more effective, adaptive, efficient and effective. Through the use of EEG brainwave recordings and audio, visual and tactile signals, the Neurofeedback system monitors the brain waves and re-trains it through auditory and visual stimulation. It is pain free and non-invasive.

To enroll in Health Within’s ADHD Brain Training Program, call 858.622.0221 or log on to healthywithin.com. Deadline to register is May 14, 2013.

About Healthy Within – Restoring Hope through Brain Health

Founded by Dr. Divya Kakaiya, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who has been treating all ranges of Psychological conditions since 1985, Healthy Within Brain Health Institute and Psychological Center offer the latest, cutting edge therapies that provide effective and life changing treatments options for children, teens, adults, seniors, military men and women through Neurofeedback Brain Training, individual psychotherapy, family therapy, couples therapy and group therapy.  For more information, visit healthywithin.com

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