Is Your Sweetener Messing With Your Brain? The Link Between Aspartame and Depression

Monday, June 02, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

Think artificial sweeteners are safe? Think again. Because in a serotonin and aspartame smack-down, aspartame will win every time.

It isn’t that serotonin is a weakling. Aspartame has a three-on-one advantage that destroys neurotransmitters and alters the way brain cells respond to one another. It’s like serotonin--one of the brain's happy chemicals--has to fight blindfolded with one arm behind his back, and we get depression, irritation, aggression or trouble sleeping as a reliable byproduct of this exchange. 

In short, aspartame is a cheating, ear biting asshole.

Don’t believe me? Let’s check out the research....  continue reading

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Using Humor to Combat Stress, Reduce Phobias and Decrease Intrusive Thoughts

Friday, May 23, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Treatment Techniques

Laughter. It’s kind of a big deal. 

I, to my benefit or my peril, have the uncanny ability to turn almost anything into a ridiculous, sarcasm-filled fantasy. If this sounds fun to you, humor may be just the ticket out of scary thoughts

The Psychological Benefit of Laughter

Humor may be just as effective at reducing fear as desensitization, a type of exposure therapy1. Even the simple act of smiling has the ability to improve mood according to David Eagleman author of Incognito8

But why would this be?...  continue reading

Why Are You Jealous of Your Friend's Friend? BFFs, Ruthlessness and Vulnerability

Monday, May 19, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Evolutionary Psychology

Friendships were critical in our evolutionary history due to the fact that we usually raised our children together, sharing all responsibilities among close members of a group. Women even evolved a special "tend and befriend" panic response to ensure we stuck together when things got stressful. I assume this meant that fewer early women wanted to run off and join the circus on the regular. 

Built in assistance? Yes, please. 

Our emotional closeness to each other was the biggest facilitator of this arrangement by allowing us to create long-term friendships with other women. Today we don't rely on each other as much, but this certainly doesn't mean that our brains have forgotten all about those early days of critical connection....  continue reading

Using Your Workout To Fight Depression: The Benefits of "Green Exercise" and Avoiding Creepy Dudes

Friday, May 16, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Physical Health and Emotion

Numerous studies link exercise to mental health improvement, possibly due to the release of endorphins or assistance in regulating stress response systems.

But I have a confession to make: I hate going to the gym. 

There, I said it. It's not the actual exercise part, not really. It's more that I always get stuck on a stair climber next to those people who barely sweat in their unwrinkled workout clothes, while I huff away in my yoga pants and three-day-old socks. 

Then, there's always that creepy dude in the corner who seems intent on watching the people on the stair climbers, regardless of their sock situation. 

"Hey, baby. I've got something you can climb..." 

Pass, creepy dude. 

Luckily, there might be a better way to exercise, one that leads to higher rates of emotional benefits....  continue reading

"You're Not Pretty (Enough)": The Media, Low Self Esteem, Porn and Rush Limbaugh

Monday, May 12, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Sexuality/Relationships

The subconscious mind is one sneaky bastard.

Advertisers are well aware of this fact, spending obscene amounts of money on ad campaigns devoted to encouraging viewers to buy their products. Even restaurants embrace certain color schemes that subconsciously trigger hunger responses.

All of this pandering is very effective. Our brain is able to trick us into all kinds of things, especially when we don't know what it is we're responding to. 

But, it is more than just a drive to purchase. The way we see our world, and those around us, may change the way we think about ourselves....  continue reading

How To Deal With Fears, Phobias and Intrusive Thoughts: Exposure Therapy

Friday, May 09, 2014 by Meg   •   Filed under Treatment Techniques

This is my mother's all-time favorite joke:

Q: "Why don't cannibals eat clowns?"
A: "Because they taste funny!" 

Here's how it would go for someone with coulrophobia:
Q: "Why don't cannibals eat clowns?"
A: "Because clowns are fucking terrifying!" 

Clowns are one of the more common phobias, and it's easy to see why....  continue reading