Martin Luther King Jr. on Dreams, Love, and Perseverance

MLK, a pastor, humanitarian, and leader in the 1960s American civil rights movement, famously employed a nonviolent approach in his battle for racial and economic justice. Fifty years after Dr. King’s untimely death at age 39 by the hand of an assassin, his significant impact on our country’s social, racial, and spiritual terrain lives on… and his words are as pertinent today as ever.

This principle could apply to people’s weight, height, gender, age, job, financial status, or other external features. Take stock of what's on the inside, and never consider yourself (or others) incapable of being useful. Dr. King also stated, "Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”


Stress, Brain Changes, and Depression

You probably already know at an intuitive level that after feeling anxious and stressed for awhile, your mood tends to dip a bit. Maybe you’re just mildly dejected, or perhaps you develop a full-fledged depression. Unfortunately, it can get worse, assuming that what holds true for mice holds true for humans -- if you've been traumatized, your brain can actually go through significant hormonal changes that can plummet you into a chemical depression for months -- leaving you to hang on to faith that you've eventually feel better, at a time when faith is probably the last thing you're likely to experience.

Researchers at the University of Washington have recently discovered that a neuropeptide called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which under normal conditions helps the brain to release dopamine, a hormone associated with pleasurable sensations, loses this ability under stressful conditions, for over three months. That’s a long time. 


How to Spot an Addiction and Get Help

There are few topics as loaded as addiction – especially if you’re talking with someone (perhaps yourself) who’s struggling with an unhealthy attachment to a substance (such as alcohol, drugs, or food) or behavior (gambling, sex, or shoplifting). We generally don’t like to feel as if we’re in the grips of a behavior that we can’t control.

Not to minimize the potentially devastating effect of addiction, but it’s possible that at times this term is tossed about too loosely in our society. People talk about being “addicted” to chocolate or exercise, for instance, when they may merely be referring to a preference of theirs that harms nobody and is perhaps beneficial – but how to know when one crosses the line?


Finding Balance During the Holidays

While the holidays can be a joyous time of year, they can often increase stress for many people. How do we enjoy a meaningful holiday season, rather than trying to meet other people’s or society’s expectations?

How do we cope with missing people and holiday rituals from past years that are no longer in our lives? How can we find peace during this season that is so often anything but peaceful?


What do the holidays mean to you?

What have been some of your most cherished holiday memories from past holiday seasons?

What are you most thankful for? 

What would you most like to remember, looking back on this holiday season?

In what small way can you move forward to creating such memories? In what ways are you already doing so?


Nelson Mandela’s Words of Wisdom about Resilience

Do you ever feel as if life has dealt you a bad hand? Do you feel trapped by seemingly insurmountable challenges? How do you pull yourself out of the mire and get back on your feet?

Imagine this: You have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Your jail cell is eight feet by seven feet in size. You are only allowed to write one letter and receive one visit from the outside world every six months. Such was the predicament in which Nelson Mandela found himself at age 46.

How did Mandela survive emotionally as well as physically and go on to become the first black president of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Although by the time he was 70 he had spent over one third of his life in prison for his anti-apartheid activities, he retained his friendly, polite, and relaxed demeanor while continuing his humanitarian efforts in the face of formidable opposition.

How was this possible? And how can we follow his example in our own life?


What To Do If You Don’t Feel Grateful

We all hear a lot about the benefits of giving thanks, especially during the holiday season. Indeed, people who express gratitude tend to be happier, healthier, and more able to cope with life in general.

However, sometimes we just don’t feel grateful, and all of the advice about giving thanks just irritates us. How do we cope?

It can help to realize that:

It’s okay not to always feel grateful. 


Short-Term Therapy for Insomnia Can Help Depression

Insomnia and depression have a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” sort of relationship. Most people who habitually struggle with sleep will acknowledge that this takes a toll on their mood. Indeed, insomnia can frequently predate an episode of depression.

On the other hand, one of the common symptoms of clinical depression is disturbed slumber – either tossing and turning throughout the night or sleeping excessively.

The trick is to stop this vicious cycle, and recent research suggests that a short course of talk therapy focused on treating insomnia can indeed do the trick.


The Healing Power of Self-Disclosure

Searching within ourselves and coming to terms with the issues and habits that have perhaps hindered us (and those that helped us) can be transformative. While it’s possible to do this introspective process on our own, there are a number of important reasons to divulge our secrets to someone else:

1. We may have a skewed view of ourselves, either minimizing, exaggerating, or misinterpreting our actions and attitudes. Another person who has our best interests at heart can gently point out where we may be rationalizing or where we may be beating ourselves up, either of which can block us from moving forward.

2. We may be too close to a situation to see it clearly. Another person can help us “back up” and see the bigger picture. For instance, reframing our past or current situation may reveal that where we’ve perceived ourselves as the victim or a terrible person, we were in fact a survivor or someone standing up for his or her rights.  We no longer have to be bound to our old and limited (and limiting) stories.


Finding Comfort In Difficult Times

Happiness. Anxiety. Delight. Frustration. Serenity. Impatience. In other words, emotions.

We all have them. And so far nobody has figured out a way to remove the uncomfortable feelings without also erasing exuberance and the other pleasurable emotions. So, our options are either to accept occasional emotional pain or relinquish feeling much of anything at all.

Feelings have important functions. Among other things, they signify that we care, that we are affected by what goes on around us, and that we aren’t inanimate robots or statues. Feelings also communicate to us and those around us what we want and need.

Our responses to our feelings can run the gamut, with one extreme being denial of our emotions and the other extreme being utter immersion and identification with our emotions. The healthy middle ground consists of our bearing witness to our feelings, without judgment, with warm regard, and the recognition that however painful, our feelings won’t last forever.


Things Your Brain Needs to Function Correctly

Having trouble concentrating lately? Are you walking into your kitchen or living room, only to forget the reason why? Has concern crept up that something may be “wrong” with your mind?

We all have times when we feel as if we’re not firing on all cylinders. This isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. However, the following tips can help to maximize your mental well-being: