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The Importance of Community for Your Mental Health

Our mental health significantly impacts our quality of life, so it makes sense that we would want
to do all we can to improve it. This may include things like eating healthy foods, exercising, and
getting enough quality sleep each night.

But there is something else that greatly influences our mental health and that is a community and
a sense of belonging. Human beings are wired for connection. When we feel connected to others,
we feel loved and supported. Friends can often help alleviate the stress in our life because our
friends are there for us to lean on.

If you have been feeling alone and isolated, here are some ways you can find your own
community and begin to connect with others:

Go with What Interests You

What activities and hobbies do you have? You may want to join a book club or take a painting
lesson. If you’re athletic or used to playing a sport in school, maybe you could join a local team.
You’ll no doubt find it easier to connect with others who enjoy doing the same things you do.

Volunteer

Being of service to others is highly rewarding, and volunteering is also a great way to connect
with others who share similar values. What causes do you feel passionate about? What charities
do you support? Check out their website or give them a call to see what volunteering
opportunities they may have available.

Connect with Something Bigger Than Yourself

Do you have a particular religion or spiritual practice you connect with? Maybe it’s time to get
back to your church or try taking that meditation class you’ve been thinking about. Is there a
political cause that speaks to your heart? Helping others reach a meaningful goal can be a great
way to find purpose in your own life.

Humans are not meant to be alone. We need to socialize. If you have been feeling down, now’s
the time to go out and make some new connections.

And if you’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for some time and could use someone to
talk to, please give me a call.

Written by Sherline Herard, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

SOURCES:
 https://nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2019/The-Importance-of-Community-and-
Mental-Health
 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201606/the-health-
benefits-socializing

 https://dailylife.com/article/7-ways-your-friendships-improve-your-mental-health
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Believe Beyond What You See

Every negative has a positive if you are willing to seek beyond those things that stand in the way of your vision to be able to see clearly. Believing according to some standard definition means to accept something as true and in order for the acceptance to occur faith has to ignite it, which means that if you can believe the air you breath is oxygen without actually seeing it then you can have faith in yourself.

Today you get to choose to have faith in yourself and in the fact that you have a purpose even though you may not see it, just as you believe in oxygen and its purpose of being able to serve you without ever having seen it.

As a therapist I have been a witness to a common symptom that occurs in this field and that is the negative beliefs that many fall subject to and it is due to these negative core beliefs that dysfunction becomes a way of living causing it to be normalized. This is why being able to recognize your own cognitive distortions is imperative. The following are some tips on ways to recognize your own cognitive distortions to be able to pave the way for newer healthy ways of thinking.

  1. Acknowledge your thoughts by observing them rather than judging them
  2. Embrace the feeling that you may have that is associated with the thought
  3. Identify the feeling that you would like to have to replace the negative feelings that were triggered by having the thought
  4. Engage in activities, such as listening to music, to allow the new feeling to become your reality

By taking these steps you will have allowed your thought to remain as a thought instead of becoming your reality.

Written by Bria Young, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Gut Health & Mental Health: The Stomach as a Second Brain

The stomach is sometimes referred to, in mental health circles, as the “second brain.” A healthy gut has been linked, in recent research, to healthy brain function. According to an article from Clinics and Practice, “Healthy gut function has been linked to normal central nervous system (CNS) function. Hormones, neurotransmitters, and immunological factors released from the gut are known to send signals to the brain either directly or via autonomic neurons.” These neurons are at their best when levels of healthy bacteria are elevated in the stomach and intestines. Clinics and Practice also states that “studies have emerged focusing on variations in the microbiome and the effect on various central nervous system disorders, including, but not limited to anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and autism.” Disturbance in the gut biome correlates to the worsening of symptoms of mental health disorders. Combatting microbiome disturbances can be as simple as making minor lifestyle changes. These changes can include taking a probiotic supplement, eating healthy portions of live cultures, including yogurt, kefir, etc., and staying hydrated with sufficient water. Gut health may not be the sole cause or component of one’s mental health in its totality. However, there are clear impacts of a healthy diet, live cultures, and healthy bacteria in the body.

Written by: Victoria Baker, Mental Health Counseling Clinician

Supervisor: Dr. April Brown

 

Reference:

Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut

microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and Practice, 7(4), 987.

https://doi.org/10.4081/cp.2017.987

Speak Your Mind In Therapy

There are many issues that arise over a lifetime for which we may need assistance from a mental health counselor in working through. We are social creatures, but we can get lost or trapped in our own thoughts. This is when we need a trusted someone to help us see ourselves in a new way. Typically, we only share portions of our thinking, or depending on the listener, we share very edited versions of our thoughts. Depending on your situation, you feel your friends or loved ones don’t want or need to hear all that is going on in your head. This is where mental health counseling can help.

A mental health counselor assists others by listening and identifying areas of change. But something else is also happening during therapy sessions. You are speaking your mostly unedited thoughts aloud for someone else to better understand you. Focusing on yourself in therapy and without editing for the listener’s needs or wants allows you to better understand your own thoughts through this clarification process.

This happens with couples as well. In relationships, we may fall into communication styles that become frustrating cycles. These can become predictable enough for one person in the relationship to recite both sides of an entire argument routinely experienced with their significant other. The therapist can assist in recognizing and changing these cycles of communication. Here again, speaking these thoughts aloud is helpful because the couple works to identify how they are thinking and feeling in a clear way for themselves, for one another and for the therapist.

Families benefit from therapy through these same processes with the added benefit of shared insight within the family. When parents, separated or divorced co-parents, and/or stepparents and their children of all ages are included in sessions, there is opportunity for shared understanding and change. For example, parents may benefit from learning their fears or concerns for their children aren’t their children’s concerns. Children also see their parents making a healthy choice to seek assistance for issues that arise and watch as they model healthy coping skills for these issues within the family. What better way to change generational communication cycles that keep families stuck and repeating destructive patterns of behavior?

Whether you are interested in individual, couples, or family therapy seeking the services of a mental health counselor to discuss your needs provides an opportunity for sharing one’s most unedited thoughts and concerns. This new way of sharing and learning is the perfect opportunity to change yourself and your relationships.

Written by April Daniel

Toxic Has No Gender

Toxic Traits

A toxic relationship can leave you feeling mentally or physically exhausted and insecure. It is usually the topic that men are the toxic ones, but toxicity has no gender. Being the one in the toxic relationship makes it difficult to view the red flags. We get fixated on the months and years spent together and wanting to be the one to help heal your partner, but it takes a toll on our mental health. Family and friends are the first to see how negative a relationship can be to your health. A toxic partner can display the following traits:

  1. Gaslighting
  2. Manipulation
  3. Anger Issues
  4. Controlling
  5. Selfishness
  6. Arrogant

A toxic partner has actions and behaviors that will hurt, drain, and impact your life negatively. Constant pressure for perfection, it’ll feel as though nothing done is good enough. They will get angry when things don’t go their way, doesn’t matter if it is out of your control or not. You will slowly start changing, fall into depression, insecurities grow, anxiety, irritability, and experience irrational behavior. If you leave the relationship, you are left in shambles with self-loathing, self-doubt, and avoidance.

Detoxify

Acknowledging the toxic relationship is the first step, what follows after is up to you. Setting boundaries, asking for help, going to relationship/marriage counseling, or reinforcing positive social groups. It is important you find out what your boundaries are, what you want and don’t want in a relationship. A new life without them can be the answer to creating a better mental and physical state for yourself.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

Bringing Intimacy Back Podcast Becomes Non-Profit

Bringing Intimacy Back, a podcast that is dedicated to inspire, enlighten, and encourage intimate connections, is officially registered as a non-profit. Visit Bringing Intimacy Back for more information and watch previous shows or follow their social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, & Twitter).

Bringing Intimacy Back, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, has provided an engaging environment to discuss how to enhance intimacy in one’s personal relationships with significant others, families, friends, Spirit, and oneself. Bringing Intimacy Back is always the place where intimacy comes alive, where intimacy has no limits; it is Where Intimacy is Real.

Dr. April Brown is a Licensed Mental Health Christian Counselor (LMHC), Certified School Counselor (CSC), Certified Relationship and Sex Therapist, Board Certified TeleMental Health Counselor (BC-TMHC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and a Qualified Clinical Supervisor. Kanya Ford best known as Coach Kay is a clinical sexologist, master sexologist, Bedroom Kandi consultant, and owner of Love & Intimacy 101, LLC coaching practice.

Two strong, independent entrepreneur women with the education and dedication to educate and improve intimacy for viewers as a non-profit podcast. Hosts Dr. April Brown and Kanya Ford are on a mission to increase intimacy in a world that is so disconnected by asking the nitty, gritty questions you are all dying to ask. Bringing Intimacy Back is based on building intimate connections to empower us to live a more fulfilling, driven, and purposeful life. It is time we squash our fears and be comfortable with finding our true intimate selves and Bringing Intimacy Back is the podcast that does just that. Live shows every Thursday at 3:30 pm eastern time, new intimate topics alongside new guests, no topic is off-limits.

With the advancements in technology, staying communicated and reaching a lot more people has never been so easy, but it comes at a price. Technology has also caused distance, we are all guilty of staying glued to our phones, if we are being honest, any technology we can get our hands-on. Bringing Intimacy Back is here to close the gap, lack of intimacy is one of the top three reasons why relationships fail or face problems. The higher the intimacy level is, the lower there is of anxiety, depression, stress, relationships failing, and arguments within the relationship.

The podcast you didn’t know you needed, but you finally found. The first steps in building and establishing strong intimate connections start with you, what better place to do it than taking a plunge into Bringing Intimacy Back. The podcast with a purpose to inspire, educate, and encourage stronger intimate connections and now proudly so as a non-profit. Bringing Intimacy Back registered as a non-profit created for its viewers, reaching new heights and exploring intimacy. Tune in for LIVE shows every Thursday at 3:30 pm EST or visit Bringing Intimacy Back for more episodes.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

 

Divine Connection Starts with Family

A strong, close, trusting, stable, and loving relationship is the goal in life. Our first source of love comes from our own families. We learn what love is by watching our parents and we take what we learn with us in life. When we start dating to marriage, our learned traits come into play with these relationships. Our first memories of love were not watching it on the TV screen, it was right in front of us all along. How we view ourselves, how we approach situations, and how we view life are all being formed from a young age through the family. Have you ever wondered what makes you, you?

You are who you are in part because of family. It has shaped your person; keep in mind that family is the building block for emotional development. It is the reasoning behind how we cope with our emotions and how we are able to express ourselves. Family has always been there for us when we needed them the most; we can all remember a time when we turned to family for support and comfort during tough moments. That divine connection between you and family is irreplaceable, it is the greatest treasure that should be kept close to your heart.

“So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty.”- Haniel Long

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

There is Still Hope

“There is hope even when your brain tells you there isn’t” – John Green

Hope is a beautiful feeling; it is having expectations for something out of life or love. Our hope as kids was so much bigger, the world was our oyster. We were optimistic about life, we would dream of becoming president, a doctor, a lawyer, and a veterinarian. We dreamt of finding true love or finding happiness in life without worry. Our dreams dwindled as the years came and went and with each changing season, we grew older.

Do not let the spark in your eyes dwindle. Keep that hope for life and love alive. Try to find the positive in life even when it seems like life keeps knocking you down. It is okay to want positive outcomes out of horrible situations. When things are not going our way, we feel bad about ourselves, and we focus on the negative. We worry about the future and what could happen causing our bodies to go through stress and anxiety when it hasn’t happened yet so we either go through it twice or unnecessarily. Try focusing on the positive things in life, big or small. Remind yourself, the sun always comes out after a storm. Hope is everywhere, hope is not lost, hope is the last thing that is lost in life.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

The Little Girl Who Grew Up to Be You

I have been fascinated by this phrase – the little girl, or the little boy who grew up to be you. Think about that little kid, the one who ran around playing, going to school, trying to figure out how to get along in your family. That little child is still in you, still trying to figure out what happened, and how to negotiate the path before you. You carry that precious little person everywhere you go. The problem is, you don’t always take care of that child.

I used to meet with a small group of men on Thursday mornings. We met to talk about our inconsistencies, not the problems with the world, or with our wives, but the problems we brought into the mix. How can we be more true to our principles? — I remember telling them what I felt inside. I felt that I was a six-year-old boy in first grade, being hurt and confused, and trying just to get along, to meet expectations, to do well in a place where things were never quite clear. Guess what? They all nodded in agreement. We are all still trying to figure out what to do next, making mistakes, and hoping we won’t be punished or ignored.

Later, I would learn a technique that addresses the pain I feel every day. These were the pains of embarrassment, rejection, lack of self-confidence, and a hundred other things that keep me from having peace in my soul. This technique brings out the little boy who grew up to be me.

Take an average counseling session. Say that a woman is struggling with self-confidence at work. Her boss criticized her, a colleague puts her down in subtle ways, or she is nervous about a big assignment. Something happened last Tuesday that made her feel awful, either angry, afraid, or made her feel like giving up.

It takes 45 minutes to tell the story and begin to work through what happened and how it made her feel. This is how we talk therapy, what we call counseling. There is comfort in just getting it all out, and in finding validation. You are not crazy. It did happen, and it should not have. You are more than what they say you are. That is true.

And underneath all that, there is the little girl who grew up to be you. We can take what you felt last Tuesday, when you were put down by yourself, or by others — and we can find the moment in your childhood, the moment when you were put down and first felt so inadequate. In that moment you were astonished by how inadequate you were. Someone who was supposed to love you, they let you know that you were no good at all. It was crushing.

That little girl – the little girl who grew up to be you – she is still there inside. She has worked all her life to live up to expectations, to be good enough. And last Tuesday when someone criticized you, she was awakened, and she was hurt. She is right there, sad, and angry because she has tried so, so hard to meet expectations.

Let me ask you to do one thing. Be kind to that little girl. Love her. Pick her up and give her a hug. Smile at her. Look at her in the eyes and tell her out loud – “You are so pretty, so smart, so good. I love you.” You can do this with a teddy bear, any stuffed animal. Put your little girl out there and hold her close.

From this little boy who grew up to be me, to the little kid who grew up to be you – God bless your little heart. There is more to therapy than this. We can find not only validation for what you feel, but we can change how you feel in those hurting places. We can find meaning.

 

Written by David Hall, LMHC

-Retiring from emergency medicine, David Hall returns to his first love, counseling. His passion in life is to heal people from their trauma caused by life circumstances and from painful emotions.

Love is Communication

Let communication be the seed that you water with honesty and love. So that it may produce a happy, fulfilling, and successful relationship.”

-Stephan Labossiere

We should fuel positivity, peace, and love into our loved ones, especially to our partners. Stephan Labossiere quoted it beautifully, couples will experience arguments and disagreements, but how you approach the situation will set it apart from being toxic or unhealthy. Talking through the uncomfortable is how we grow as individuals and as a couple. Creating a safe environment where you both can speak on your feelings through the smallest to the most painful of topics sets the tone for you both to be open to conversation.

The following communication tips can help manage conflict in your relationship:

1. Always listen to your partner, do not listen just to answer.
2. Avoid using hurtful language.
3. Listen actively.
4. Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements to avoid making your partner feel attacked.
5. Speak to each other with respect and love.
6. Validate each other’s feelings.

Communication is key in a relationship to build a stronger and healthier bond for it to flourish and thrive. We all want to feel heard, not talked down or belittled. In a world that is already so cruel and harsh, be each other’s peace. Remember it is not you versus your partner, it is both of you versus the problem.

Speak from your heart to his heart instead of from your mind to his mind.”

– Rori Raye

Written by Rachel Gonzalez