10 Tips for a Mindful Home

Karen Maezen Miller
Wife, mother, Zen priest and author of Hand Wash Cold


The idea of mindfulness seems to be catching on. That’s good, but if we’re not careful, an idea is where it remains.

To be sure, mindfulness is a concept most of us like: to improve our lives with special contemplative consideration, a method for making saner choices and assuring better outcomes. To actually transform ourselves with the wisdom of mindfulness, we have to start with the lives we’re living from the moment we wake each day. We have to bring mindfulness out of our heads and into our homes. That’s where ideas become harder to handle.

Here are 10 simple and powerful ways to bring a day of mindful moments into your home.

Wake with the sun – There is no purer light than what we see when we open our eyes first thing in the morning. Resisting the morning’s first waking moment instantly adds stress to your day. Avoiding the sun, you commence a chase that lasts all day long: running short of time, balance, peace and productivity.

Sit – Mindfulness without meditation is just a word. The search for mindful living is always grounded in a meditation practice. Seated meditation is the easiest and fastest way to clear your mind of anxious, fearful and stressful thoughts. Meditation puts your overactive brain on a diet, so you have more attention to bring to the real life that appears before you. You will be far more productive in the ensuing hours if you begin the day by spending five minutes actively engaged in doing nothing at all.

Make your bed – The state of your bed is the state of your head. Enfold your day in dignity. The five minutes you spend making your bed slows you down from your frantic, morning scrambling and creates a calm retreat to welcome you home at night. Plus, making your bed means you’ve already achieved an even more challenging feat: getting out of it.

Empty the hampers – Do the laundry without resentment or commentary and have an intimate encounter with the very fabric of life. Doing laundry is a supreme act of personal responsibility. It requires maturity, attention and discipline, and it engenders happiness. Don’t believe me? See how you feel every time you reach the bottom of an empty hamper.

Wash your bowl – Rinse away self-importance and clean up your own kitchen mess. If you leave it undone, it will get sticky. An empty sink can be the single most gratifying sight of a long and tiring day.

Set a timer – If you’re distracted by the weight of what’s undone, set a kitchen timer and, like a monk in a monastery, devote yourself wholeheartedly to the task at hand before the bell rings. The time you’ll find hidden in a kitchen timer unleashes more of your attention to the things that matter most.

Rake the leaves – Take yourself outside to rake, weed or sweep. You’ll never finish for good, but you’ll learn the point of pointlessness. The repetitive motion is meditative; the fresh air is enlivening. Lose yourself in doing what needs to be done, without a thought of permanent outcome or gain. You’ll immediately alter your worldview.

Eat when hungry – Align your inexhaustible desires with the one true appetite. Coming clean about our food addictions and aversions is powerful and lasting medicine. Eating is so central to family life and culture that we can pass on our habits for generations to come. Mindless overeating feeds our sickness; mindful eating feeds the body’s intuitive, intelligent wisdom and nourishes life well past tonight’s empty plates.

Let the darkness come – Set a curfew on the Internet and TV and discover the natural balance between daylight and darkness, work and rest. Your taste for the quiet will naturally increase. When you end your day in accord with the earth’s perfect rhythm, you grant the whole world a moment of pure peace.

Sleep when tired – Nothing more to it.

Originally Posted on The Huffington Post: http://goo.gl/gHXv

The Gift of Change

by: Caroline Smith, MA, LPC, LSAC

Caroline Smith
Caroline Smith

Families often change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.  Hurt and anger are two frequent emotions experienced by families struggling to understand and assist a loved one with addiction.  The Pine Grove Family Program is designed to facilitate and support family systems healing.   By extending an invitation to family members, the identified patient is actually setting the stage for deep healing and curative systems change.

Family systems recovery is a process very much like the stages of grief.  Shock and denial are often the first stage followed by bargaining (trying to control), anger (sarcasm and passive aggressive behaviors), depression (overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness) and eventually (hopefully)… acceptance.  Recovering the sacred family bonds of respect, resilience, renewal, and intimacy require tenacity and courage. Breaking through denial, gaining awareness of the multiple faces of addiction, communicating with clarity and sincerity, and healthy experiencing and expression of emotions are all gifts awaiting those courageous patients and family members who make the choice to face their fears and change their lives.

It’s interesting to note that our word “addiction” comes from the Latin word “addictus” meaning… attached to something.  In a sincere effort to help the addict, many family members end up being over involved, feeling over responsible, and attaching to the false belief that they can somehow control or cure their loved one’s disease.  These ineffective attempts to control can result in a sense of powerlessness, high levels of frustration or pits of despair.

Well intended family members can actually “love their families to death.” I remember hearing a recovering addict describe how his mother did this very thing by years of enabling his alcoholic father. Sadly, this story is not unique to his family.  We encounter a version of this scenario almost every week.

There is true wisdom in the old saying, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” Most people instinctually resist change, but for those family members who make the commitment and find the courage, the gifts they exchange during their family week are life changing.  Our talented Family Care staff is excited to help patients and family members as they shift from old patterns of blame and shame into the gifts of acceptance and healing.

Visit http://www.pinegrovetreatment.com/ or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

What’s the Most Effective Depression Treatment for Children?

from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

For children, depression treatment may include psychotherapy either alone or in combination with antidepressant medication. Although opinions vary about which depression treatment should be tried first, a growing body of evidence indicates that the best approach for most children is a combination of both. Treatment is most often provided in an outpatient setting. Sometimes hospital care may be needed. The treatment plan must be tailored to the severity of the child’s symptoms and how they affect his or her development.

Many types of psychotherapy are available. For depression treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy may be especially effective. Children who are depressed often have an unhealthy, negative view of themselves and their experiences. With cognitive behavioral therapy, children learn to develop a healthier, more positive outlook — which can help relieve depression. Sometimes it’s helpful for families to be involved in therapy as well.

Antidepressant medication is another option for childhood depression treatment, especially when psychotherapy is unable to effectively treat mood symptoms. Untreated mood disorders in adolescents are associated with an increased risk of suicide. Some research also indicates a link between antidepressants and increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children being treated with these drugs, so it’s important for doctors to carefully weigh the risks and benefits before prescribing antidepressants to children. Still, for many kids, the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks.

Antidepressants may be particularly helpful for children who:

  • Have severe symptoms that likely won’t respond to therapy alone
  • Don’t have convenient or timely access to therapy
  • Have chronic or recurring depression
  • Have a family history of depression with good response to medication
  • Don’t have active substance abuse issues
  • Don’t have bipolar depression or an active psychotic illness

Even when symptoms of depression go away, continuing psychotherapy or antidepressants for a time reduces the risk that depression will recur.

Remember, depression is as common in children as it is in adults. Early detection and treatment of depression is important at any age — and family support is essential. If you suspect that your child is depressed, contact your child’s doctor or a mental health provider.

Article originally published by the Mayo Clinic at:

New Findings Pull Back Curtain on Relationship Between Iron and Alzheimer’s Disease

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers say they have determined how iron contributes to the production of brain-destroying plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients.

The team, whose study results appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, report that there is a very close link between elevated levels of iron in the brain and the enhanced production of the amyloid precursor protein, which in Alzheimer’s disease breaks down into a peptide that makes up the destructive plaques.

Dr. Jack T. Rogers, the head of the hospital’s neurochemistry lab who oversaw the team’s work, said the findings “lay the foundation for the development of new therapies that will slow or stop the negative effects of iron buildup” in patients with the progressive neurodegenerative disease, symptoms of which include memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation and personality changes.

While it had been known that an abundance of iron in brain cells somehow results in an abundance of amyloid precursor protein, or APP, and its destructive peptide offspring, Rogers’ team set out to open up new avenues for therapies by determining what goes on at the molecular level. In 2002, they identified the molecular location where APP and iron interact, a discovery that laid the groundwork for the work being reported now.

Today it is clear that, under healthy conditions, iron and APP keep each other in check: If there’s too much iron in a brain cell, more APP is made, and then APP and a partner molecule escort excess iron out. And, as the team reported last month in a related paper in the journal Cell, if there’s too little iron, fewer APP molecules are made available to help escort iron out. As a result, iron accumulates, and the process begins again in a feedback loop.

Rogers said the team’s work detailed in the two recent papers “seals the loop” in what has been understood about APP and iron and paves the way for the development of drugs that will beef up the ability of APP and its partner to eject iron and restore the iron balance when needed.

The researchers also identified, in the JBC paper, another important player in the system of checks and balances used to regulate iron in brain cells. Known as IRP1, which stands for iron-regulating protein 1, the special molecule attaches to the messenger RNA that holds the recipe for making APP. When there’s less iron in the brain cell, IRP1 is more likely to hook up with the RNA, which prevents the production of APP. When there’s abundant iron present, IRP1 doesn’t hook up with the RNA, and APP production becomes excessive.

The new information solidified the team’s hunch that the particular region where IRP1 binds to the messenger RNA is a potential drug target.

“With other research teams, we are investigating novel therapies that remove excessive iron, and we’re looking at the precise spot on the messenger RNA where IRP1 binds to screen for drugs that specifically prevent APP production,” said Dr. Catherine Cahill, one of the lead authors.

The team’s research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Institute for the Study of Aging. The resulting “Paper of the Week” will appear in the JBC’s Oct. 8 issue.

The other team members were Hyun Hee Cho, Charles R. Vanderburg of Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center, Clemens R. Scherzer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bin Wang of Marshall University and Xudong Huang.

Can Vigorous Exercise Curb Drug Abuse?

Can exercise reduce cravings for drugs? UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators are conducting a research study to find out.

A $15.7 million award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is allowing researchers to see whether consistent exercise will help people abstain from stimulant abuse.

“It’s a scientifically exciting question,” said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and principal investigator of the national study. “Exercise would give people who abuse drugs an alternative ritualistic activity that may help them disengage from their drug-related behaviors while also improving their health and quality of life.”

Exercise helps alleviate conditions as diverse as obesity, anxiety and depression. Evidence from animal studies suggests that exercise leads to improvements in brain function similar to what is seen when a brain recovers from drug abuse, Dr. Trivedi said.

The Stimulant Reduction Intervention using Dosed Exercise, or STRIDE, study will be the largest NIDA-funded trial on the issue to date. More than 300 people from at least 10 clinics throughout the country are expected to participate.

Dr. Trivedi was a principal investigator of the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study – the largest ever on the treatment of major depressive disorder and considered a benchmark in the field of depression research. The six-year, $35 million study initially included more than 4,000 patients from clinics across the country.

Dr. Trivedi also has published research on the effects of exercise on depression, with more work on the topic awaiting publication.

The STRIDE trial at UT Southwestern is already under way, but the second wave will begin in November. Each wave will last about 15 months.

Participants are patients in community-based residential treatment facilities, such as the Nexus Recovery Center, for abuse of or dependence on stimulants, such as cocaine, methamphetamines and amphetamines.

Participants have been randomized into two groups. One group is receiving usual care – 21 to 30 days of residential treatment followed by outpatient treatment – plus three supervised sessions of vigorous treadmill exercise per week for three months. Vigorous exercise is the equivalent of walking 4 mph for 30 minutes three times a week for a person weighing about 175 pounds. The other group is receiving usual care plus time spent getting information on health-related matters.

After three months, exercise will continue for six more months on treadmills or on the ground, and subjects will be monitored through heart rate monitors and step counters.

Researchers will use urine tests to monitor drug abstinence and relapse. In addition to improved drug abstinence and relapse rates, researchers hope that the participants who exercised will have decreased their use of other types of drugs and will experience improvement in sleep, weight, cognitive function, mood, and quality and enjoyment of life.

“If exercise is a successful treatment, then it could drastically change addiction interventions,” said Dr. Trivedi. “Exercise is relatively inexpensive and can be done by an individual without a huge therapeutic setting – people could start running on the streets.”

This trial is affiliated with NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (CTN) at UT Southwestern. The CTN comprises more than 15 academic centers and surrounding treatment programs nationally that conduct multisite trials to improve the quality of drug abuse treatment in the U.S.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

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