Joy and Sorrow: Riding the Carousel

Joy and Sorrow: Riding the Carousel

Ups and Downs

This week we’d like to take some time to examine joy and sorrow. These two feelings seem to lie on either end of the emotional spectrum. They go by other names, too: manic depression, bipolar disorder, or the downplayed colloquialism, ups and downs. We all have joyous days and sorrowful days but if we oscillate between joy and sorrow too quickly and too often, it is often considered an issue. An issue that has a special name and medical code. An issue to be considered. But how?

A Badge of (Dubious) Honor

Joy is easy to experience. So is the mania for the most part. “Busy, busy, busy” is almost a badge of honor in this culture. To not be busy would imply laziness or disinterest. Ask someone how they are doing today and you will more often than not hear the breathless reply, “busy!” This is either a polite way to say that chit-chatting with me is a waste of your time or you want me to know you are an ambitious, go-getter. Either way, I think I’ll pass. High time we embraced depression and sadness, and those languid, lovely summer afternoons with nothing to do.

An Opportunity to Learn

I often think about how Lao Tzu would respond to the question, “How are you today?” Likely by pointing to the spot in the sky where the moon will soon be. Or perhaps he would give a ubiquitous “Oh fair to middlin’!” He most certainly would not say “busy busy busy.” Alas, we digress and wander off the path. Folks generally have no issue with manically joyous behaviors and feelings. It is the polar opposite that troubles them. However, is anything truly gained or discovered when we are happy? To be honest, depression and sorrow have taught me more about myself, compassion, and the suffering of others far more than joy has revealed. Being present at the moment with joy is as easy as falling off a log. Takes no effort at all. But sadness? Yikes, that is brutal. Being sad immediately makes one think “I need to stop being sad!”. Alas, rejecting the present moment, with all its clues and cries, is unwise.

The Human Condition

The math is simple. High highs = low lows. Higher highs = lower lows. At some point, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to ride the carousel or the roller coaster?” This week we will delve into our passions and depressions. The heat of joy and the cold chill of depression. We will practice being present and engaged with both. Feeling intense emotions is not a sickness or mental disorder. It is the human condition. Avoiding our intense emotions or worse, editing them, IS a mental disorder.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please give us a call today and start loving life again!

Transformation: Visions for a Better Future

Transformation: Visions for a Better Future

A Common Drive

Have you ever thought, I would like to be a little less crazy? Or, I would like to be a little more tolerant of ignorance. How about, I would like to stop drinking so much. Or, I wish I could make better choices so I could live a life I love instead of this inherited life that has me at the end of my rope. Why is it so damn hard to make these desires a reality? What is stopping us? The desire for transformation to improve one’s future seems a common drive for most people. Removing shortcomings and replacing them with our visions for a better future and a better self. To become something. Something more! Yet, despite these desires, here we sit, the same as always. We may think, all I have is this broken-down body and a mind that is as stubborn as a bull.

Manifesting Real Transformation

How can I manifest real transformation? Maybe we have a genetic predisposition to drink too much. Maybe we were just born crazy and no matter what we do, the same nonsense happens to us. Or maybe I was abused and do not know how to form close bonds to others. How do I change that? How does one transform oneself into something else? Lean in close. It begins with thoughts. Yes, that is correct. Thoughts. They cost nothing. They are yours for the taking, require little training and are highly suggestible. Thoughts shape everything around you and give form to ideas. Put simply, thoughts make stuff real. But how? Recent scientific study into the human genome in the past 20 years has revealed something astonishing.  We can alter our genes with our minds. Did you hear what you just read? We can alter our genes with our minds!

Mind Over Matter

Ok, so what are genes again? Genes are the blueprints you inherited from your parents. Until recently, science suggested that you are stuck with whatever you get. However, this is incorrect. Even if you are “genetically predispositioned” for this and that, you can change all that by thinking. Not only that, but you can change it remarkably fast. Our minds and how we direct our minds can unlock genetic sequences we cannot even comprehend, yet. Research has proven the placebo effect. People with cancer or other afflictions think they received a cure even though in truth they have not. However, because of their strong conviction and belief, they cure themselves. People who walk on fire and do not burn. People who lift up cars to save children trapped underneath nd those who handle poisonous snakes and get bit yet do not die. These are astonishing examples of mind over matter.

A New Form of Genetics

Epigenetics is one way to view this process of transformation. This is a new form of genetics where we focus on altering genes through our thoughts and environment. Genes determine so much. But those genes only know what to do because you direct them. When you decide you are worthless and do not deserve happiness, some genes turn on and some genes turn off. As a result, all the proteins and building blocks for worthlessness and depression are produced. If you believe you are fat and will always be fat, certain genes are alerted and make that reality so. However, it works to your advantage as well. Using nothing more than thoughts, you can tell your genes exactly what you want. We conjure our lives from thought and our genetics respond making all that we think…a reality.

Transformation is a process of changing something. This week let’s identify what we want to change about ourselves. One or two things. Start small. By week’s end, we will see how much we have altered our genetic code. The proof will be in the quality of the reality we make for ourselves.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, give us a call today to speak with one of our admissions specialists.

Cravings and Desires, Mountains and Valleys

Cravings and Desires, Mountains and Valleys

Are cravings and desires synonyms?

To put it another way, are they two words for the same thing? Instead, maybe they are degrees of the same thing? Many times in life a simple desire like wanting to eat lunch can become more and more serious as the hours tick by and by. That same simple desire to eat can evolve into a craving for nourishment that is altogether physical, mental and emotional. Perhaps I desire a small drink to take the edge off, only to succumb gradually to the constant craving for alcohol that the alcoholic knows all too well.

Desires seem to be more manageable.

Cravings lend themselves to a more insidious and desperate appearance. Cravings seem to create more frustration in us than simple desires. That which we crave frustrates us. Desires seem to be more easily satisfied whereas cravings never seem to be satisfied. The original quote of the first Buddha was “Stop desiring what will not be obtained.” This is a highly intellectualized, yet painfully simple, approach to the problem of craving and addiction. If we continue to desire that which we cannot obtain, cravings begin to take root. So where does that leave us in dealing with cravings? The fact is we cannot be perpetually high. Even if by some miracle of science we could create a medication that would allow us to feel a constant undeterred state of joy and pleasure with every breath and step, it would backfire.

Perpetual joy without sorrow would become a living hell.

Always feeling good would become a blank feeling because we would have no variance. As we see in nature countless times over, peaks accompany valleys, highs come with lows, waves are followed by troughs. A perpetual mountain would be absurd. However, the nature of an addict, in the midst of a craving, is akin to this insurmountable obstacle of mountains after mountains. This week let’s look at the nature of cravings and how cravings lead to relapse. Let’s also explore how practicing mindfulness, “nowness” and present-mindedness combats feelings of craving.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please reach out today. Our admissions specialists are on-call to guide you through the process and get you ready to start loving life again.

The Center Can Hold: Regaining Our Balance

The Center Can Hold: Regaining Our Balance

Turning in the Widening Gyre

Balance and moderation get a lot of lip service in today’s society. Unfortunately, we talk about these things more than we really value them. With a majority of people carrying high powered computers in their pockets, employers expect us to be on call 24 hours a day. And it’s not enough to eat healthy anymore – we have to cut out one nutrient entirely one day, cut out another the next, and only eat between 2 and 4PM on Thursdays. The answer is always more, better, faster and at Barn Life Recovery, we see the consequences of this every day. Folks running from one must-have to the next must-do, losing their centers and themselves in the process. This week we’re focusing on finding that balance again and with that in mind, here are a few strategies for regaining your equilibrium.

Make a List

We mentioned this one in the “Three-Day Monk” blog a little while back and it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Life becomes a lot more manageable when your daily responsibilities are staring at you in black and white. Take some time one night to write out the things you want to get done the following day. Once you’ve got a decent-sized list, be realistic about your time and abilities and start to prioritize. Remember, this is about balance! Move the extra items to another day and block out larger projects into achievable checkpoints. You’ll wake up the next morning with a game plan and checking items off that list is seriously satisfying!

Take Care of Yourself

I know we all get busy and cooking is a major time sink but hitting Mickey D’s every day for lunch isn’t doing you any favors. You’re not going to achieve balance by eating garbage. Besides, do the math. Add up all the time you spend weekly traveling to and from a fast-food spot as well as the time spent waiting. I’m betting you’re left with a nice block of time in which to do some meal prep on some healthy lunches for the week. Your body runs much more efficiently and pleasantly on premium fuel and your health affects all aspects of your life.

Stay Positive

It sounds trite. It’s cliché. You’re sick of hearing it. Fair enough. But if you give it a try, I promise it can change your life. If you want balance and inner peace, you need to start removing the garbage from your life. And for many of us, that means starting with the junk that accumulates in our heads. What good is that negative self-talk doing us anyway? Practice some gratitude instead. Every night before you head to bed, take the time to write out five to ten different things you’re thankful for. Researchers found it helps to lower stress and gives a greater sense of calm at night. Give it a try and see how it works for you.

Get Your Head Right

If you haven’t started a daily meditation practice, do it now. If there’s any single thing I’d like for you readers to get out of these blogs, it’s the importance of meditation. It reduces stress and anxiety, promotes neuroplasticity and brain growth, sharpens focus, and improves sleep. And as you sit, learning to be comfortable in your own skin and the world around you, I guarantee balance will follow.

Barn Life Recovery is the first RETREATment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. Our blend of evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and individual and group counseling, and ancient healing techniques like meditation, tai chi, and yoga is designed to help our clients find their balance and live with a renewed sense of purpose and happiness. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, please give us a call today and learn to love life again!

Our Communities: The Next Stage Of Recovery

Our Communities: The Next Stage Of Recovery

Widening Our Scope

The journey of self-identity does not stop with our own self-knowledge and our own personal practices. In previous blogs, we have discussed raising awareness and implementing strategies to increase interpersonal competence. As we have said, self-mastery is the highest calling one can aspire to. But the time has come to start widening our scope. What is the point of putting in all this work bettering ourselves if we plan on living like a hermit in a mountain cave? Human beings are social animals and the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Furthermore, the acquisition of knowledge means nothing if we aren’t flexible and savvy enough to apply it to new situations. Now we look at how we take this personal self-knowledge and convert it into wisdom in order to take it to the next stage of recovery – our communities.

The Strength of Our Communities

What do we do within our own groups? How do we behave? And the biggest question of all is: how do we contribute? Communities and groups are part of our lives and are the playground in which we navigate life. They offer us the chance to become part of something larger than ourselves. Whether we’re overcoming depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental health issues, those of us in recovery cannot rely on willpower alone. We learn to rely on others who have gone through or are currently going through similar struggles. Our communities begin to grow and we become stronger. We learn to stand on our own two feet and, as we do, we begin to take closer notice of the newer members of our communities. We start seeing folks who are as we once were. And we realize that we can use our personal struggles to start helping others.

The Protégé Effect

In order for a full rehabilitation we must look at how we engage with the community now and for the future. How can we use what we’ve learned to help others? How can we contribute to back the world around us a better place? The twelve-step meetings often say that we can keep what we have only by giving it away. Psychologists describe something similar in a phenomenon known as the “protégé effect.” We learn, refine, and master the things we know by teaching other people. Teaching others can increase our metacognitive processes, our motivation to learn, and our feelings of competence and autonomy. We start to move through life confidently and with purpose. We look upon the communities we are a part of and that we’ve helped to build with pride and affection.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient, community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you are struggling with your mental health, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or just plain feeling overwhelmed, please give us a call today. Our admissions specialists are standing by to answer questions and to help you start loving life again.

Habits: Building Blocks of Positive Change

Habits: Building Blocks of Positive Change

Thoughts to Emotions to Attitudes to…

Habits start off innocently enough. Maybe a drink to calm rattled nerves or forgetting in order to blur out a traumatic past. A whole pizza when work was a nightmare. Exercise when stress rears its head. The way you drive to work. A normal day. Call them patterns. Automatic responses or triggered actions. They grow into hard patterns or ruts. It’s not easy to break a pattern. But what were they before they were habits? They likely begin as thoughts. These thoughts trigger emotions. Emotions stack up to build attitudes. Attitudes toward the world, people, yourself, etc. Attitudes are like temporary personalities. They are often situational, changing and varying across time. Attitudes become habits. And habits can be very, very dangerous or extremely good for you.

Replacing the Bad with Good

This week we will focus on how habits are formed. We will also study ways we can break bad habits and replace them with good ones. Often, people identify habits as bad and cease to engage in them. But they fail to replace them with something new. This often results in falling back into the same routines. Ceasing a habit and not replacing it leaves a void in us that is hard to fill. We will look at new scientific breakthroughs that can help guide us in forming new habits from the ashes of our old ones. One of psychotherapy’s chief aims is to help people alter the way they perceive things so that they may augment their behaviors and benefit from this change.

Time, Patience, and Practice

Some may even dare to suggest that patterns and habits may be what drives addiction and many mental disorders. For example, a small habit that may harm us may be to avoid conflict. Maybe standing up to tyranny makes you scared so you developed a response where you shrink and disappear when faced with conflict. Over time, this can manifest as depression and feelings of worthlessness or extreme rage. What would happen if you broke this pattern and stood your ground firm when pressured into conflict? What if you stood up to authority or oppression? It would affect your mental health in a positive way, I would wager. You certainly would not feel depressed as a result of rising to a conflict and meeting a challenge head-on. But learning this new habit takes time, patience and practice. It is a skill that is cultivated via repetition.

It Takes a Village…

This week Barn Life Recovery is helping our students to identify bad habits, as defined by them. We will aid them in rooting it out and replacing it with a self-defined good habit. During the week we can help remind students about their new desired patterns and help them get back into it if they falter. Habit formation takes time. And a community to reinforce it. We have both. Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient, community-based level. If you are depressed, anxious, or just plain overwhelmed, give us a call today and learn to love life again!