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How To Improve Your Brain Function

Your brain is like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it. Just like your muscles, certain foods, herbs, and nutrients can help boost brain function.  Read more of this post

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How Can Music Benefit The Development of The Adolescent Brain?

It’s like an old mantra; “Music aids in brain development in children…” We are constantly bombard with this statement as if we were a being vocally blasted by a victorian school teacher. At this point we turn the other way and say, “I know I know.” But do we know? Read more of this post

The Self Cleaning Brain

Evolutionary psychiatry, as a practical matter, is a way of applying evolutionary theory to the practice of medicine in order to elucidate low-risk, holistic, and effective ways to improve and prevent common modern mental health conditions. Though we are born with certain genes, temperaments, and can’t always prevent neglect, abuse, and trauma as we develop, there are many ways in which we can alter our environments and habits to more closely emulate the evolutionary past. One of the most important interventions I use as a practicing psychiatrist is to try to improve sleep quality. Read more of this post

Brain Files: Why Meditation Feels Sooo Good

The brain is a magical tool that enables us to access different parts of our psyche, different states of consciousness, and experience the world around us. In any given moment (waking) our brains are processing thousands and thousands of elements in our environment. This constant processing lends our brains to an immense amount of stress. But through meditation we can resolve this stress allowing for this processing to increase agility.

Your brain functions on four different wave frequencies, they are:

This means that we have several levels of functioning outside of the normal Beta state, which is how most people think of our brain as a whole. Furthermore, we can be conscious during each stage of these brain wave changes. This is done through meditational practice and sleep studies.

Buddhist monks have meditated for thousands of years, exploring these subtle realms of the brain. They’re extremely familiar with positive effect of meditation, including the way it works to instill the inner strength and insight needed for spiritual practices; meditation, or “sitting,” is to a Buddhist monk as to what prayer is to Christians, or even pre-game is to a football player. But instead of trying to self talk your way into a peaceful state of being, monks know the value of just letting things be as they are. This is the first key in achieving conscious awareness during one of these states. You must let your ego (sense of self) and other thoughts fade into silence. What happens next might surprise you.

Neuroscientists observing MRI scans have learned that with a meditation practice strength in the brain is achieved by reinforcing the connections between brain cells. In a recent 2012 study showed that people who meditate exhibit higher levels of gyrification — the “folding” of the cerebral cortex as a result of growth. The scientists suspect that gyrification is responsible for making the brain better at processing information, making decisions, forming memories, and improving attention. What this also does is confirm the argument regarding that meditation aids in the individuals ability to cope with stressors. Excitingly, science has now proven the validity of mediation in neuroplasticity.

When relating to the actual activity of brain wave function during meditation, study results have been linked to dramatic and positive changes in electrical brain activity, namely increased Theta and Alpha EEG activity, which is associated with wakeful and relaxed attention. These two states are most desired but the hardest to achieve due to our over-chattering of internal mental noise. In order to achieve levels of conscious Theta waves we must first learn how to navigate in silence. This doesn’t mean in the absence of noise, but rather that there is internal mental stillness. Once we have mastered in entry point and technique that helps us to achieve stillness, we can then venture in deeper to deeper Theta and Delta waves.

A very interesting  study from earlier this year showcased that meditators have a different expression of brain metabolites than healthy non-meditators, specifically those metabolites linked to anxiety and depression. This is very interesting considering how often we actually take time to sit in silence. The drug industry would be in trouble if we all starting sitting in silence for 30 minutes every morning – is it that simple?  Yes, it is that simple. As you sit in silence, your brain activity will start to calm. As it calms your level of operating brain wave will shift lower and lower, depending on your level of skill. And your level of shill is based on your ability to descend into stillness itself.

When you lower your brain waves via meditation you feel more relaxed and centered. This keeps us on track and refreshed. In fact, many have said that after a meditation session they feel as though they have slept for 8 hours. This is why meditation feels SOOO good! It’s because have let ourselves go into the vastness of stillness, allowing our brain to function on lower fluctuating wave frequencies, i.e. your brain relaxes.

Take time each day to try to reach the state of Alpha brain wave. You will know you have reached it when the wondering of your mind has ceased. Don’t try to force it, just let your thought be as they are. For the more you try to push them away the more they will solidify. Allow your thoughts to come and go, establishing a firm root in stillness. Look and “Listen” for silence. That will help your mind quiet. As they say, “seek and you will find…”

Who Are You to Say What Smart Is?

I’ll admit that I am horrible at judging how smart people are. In High School or even College I would get intimidated when the dork in the front row with his perfect posture would raise his hand and answer the craziest questions with the most specific answers. I immediately would think to myself “How the fuck did he know that?” or even “What the hell do those words mean?”

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Desire

Desire is a TRAP.

Desire-lessness is liberation.

Desire is the creator.

Desire is the destroyer.

Desire is the universe.

And: That applies to the physical plane, the astral plane, and the casual plane.

Heaven, Hell, Demons: Are all the creations of desire!

All the manifestations of the divine mother are creations of desire!

That’s why Naga (the naked ascetic), worked on getting Ramakrishna to go beyond his love for Kali.

Give up even the desire to be experiencing the bliss of being it all, of being with the divine mother.

-Be Here Now.

Become So Organized it Disgusts People

Just Like The Shirt Says!

One of the biggest things you can do right now to immediately improve your life and productivity is to GET ORGANIZED.

Organization makes doing things a lot easier. You will know exactly where everything is and you can work more efficiently and effectively.

Put it this way, if you already think you are organized, there is someone out there who is more organized.

Get organized to the point where people are actually disgusted and repulsed at how organized you are.

Once you reach that stage, you know you are going to be able to work at 100% of your potential.

Being organized is not just moving a few things around on your desk. It involves organizing EVERY ASPECT of your life. If you find yourself constantly searching for things and locating where you left something, you are wasting time that can be dedicated to improving your own success.

Think of all the time you waste looking for where your keys are, where you put that last thing you bought, and where the fuck you left the remote.

How much time would you save if you organized everything to the point where you knew EXACTLY where to look for it instantly without hesitation?

It really isn’t hard.

Create a system of organization for yourself based on your personal lifestyle.

Everyone is different.

What works for one person will be totally different for another.

The best step to stop forgetting where things are initially is to WRITE THINGS DOWN.

When you write something down, you can never forget it. Unless of course, you forget where you left the piece of paper. Sucks to be you and that unorganized.

Start working at it!

It really isn’t that hard to get organized and requires minimal time to organize a few things. After you organize certain aspects of your life, you will want to organize everything else because you will realize how much time it is saving you during the workday.

Being Unorgazined Creates Stress!

To sum it up, being organized:

1. Reduces stress of not realizing where you left things

2. Makes you more efficient

3. Makes you more productive

4. Makes it easier to manage your time

5. Creates a clean work environment that is comfortable to work in

I think #5 is of utmost importance to me.

I love being in a comfortable environment. It makes it so much easier to work and get things done when I am relaxed.

If you have ever met me personally, you already know how I operate. I know EXACTLY where everything is that I need instantly and my room and work station area is SPARKLING CLEAN.

I can’t operate in any other environment anymore until I make it so disgustingly organized that people are repulsed by my work ethic and organization skills! 🙂

 

Panic Attacks: Stop Scaring Yourself!

WHAT IS A PANIC ATTACK?

Panic Attack!

A panic attack is a period of intense fear and worry that a person experiences with or with out an identified trigger that appears to come out of nowhere.

A panic attack usually does not last for more than 10 minutes.

People who have experienced a panic attack at some point in their lives have described it as the most terrifying and uncomfortable situation they have ever been in, especially if the person was having a panic attack in a public/social situation.

More times than not, panic attacks are mistaken for heart attacks and many people rush to the ER for medical attention. People usually are diagnosed with panic attacks when the doctors find absolutely nothing wrong with them. It takes a lot of time for most people to accept that what they experienced was “just” a panic attack because of how intense the feeling could be.

A panic attack can be seen as some kind of a “glitch” in our autonomic nervous system which is responsible to send a general “alarm” to our bodies to either “fight or flight” when we are in a dangerous situation. People who experience panic attacks may have an over sensitive or hyper-reactive autonomic nervous system.

TWO TYPES OF FEARS:

During a panic attack a person will experience two types of fears.

The primary fear is the initial and physical experience of pure panic; racing heart, interrupted breathing, sweating, etc.

SYMPTOMS THAT COMMONLY OCCUR DURING A PANIC ATTACK:

1.) Numbness/tingling sensations

2.) Dizziness,faintness, difficulty balancing

3.) Racing and/or Pounding heart

4.) Chest Tightness

5.) Sweating

6.) Shaking

7.) Hot Flashes

8.) Feeling unreal or as if you’re in a dream

9.) Nausea or abdominal discomfort

10.) Shortness of breath

11.) Fear of dying

12.) Fear of “losing it”

13.) Fear of losing control

14.) Intense need to flee or escape

The secondary fear are the thoughts that follow these physical sensations a person experiences during a panic attack.

THE CYCLE:

Treating individuals who experience panic attacks and a variety of different anxiety disorders, I’ve come to learn that addressing the secondary fears (thoughts) first have been extremely helpful in decreasing the intensity of the attacks. Let’s take a look at some of the very common false beliefs and thoughts that most people have during panic attacks.

“I’m going to stop breathing”

“I’m going to pass out”

“I’m going crazy”

“I’m going to embarrass myself”

“I’m going to fall”

I’m going to have a heart attack”

“I’m going to die”

These thoughts and internal dialogue will only intensify your panic attack, so cut it out!

Not so easy right?

Well here are some facts about panic attacks that may help you negate these thoughts and help you kick panic attacks in the ass.

MYTH BUSTING!

Busted!

You will NOT suffocate because of a panic attack:

When distressed, your body tends to tighten the muscles, and that includes your neck and chest muscles which reduces the extent of your respiratory function. This does not mean there is anything wrong with your lungs or breathing at all. If you are not taking in enough oxygen, your brain will utilize it’s built in mechanism to force you to take deeper breaths or gasp. Yes, the feeling of suffocating IS NOT PLEASANT, but trust that you will not actually suffocate. There are no recorded deaths of suffocation during panic attacks 🙂

You will NOT faint because of a panic attack- Due to hyperventilation, (fast,fast breathing) during a panic attack, you may feel light headed which may give off the impression that you are going to faint. NO! Your blood circulation to your brain has slightly decreased. This is far from deadly. Allow the light-headed feelings to diminish, they will with time, along with slowed breathing.

Guess what!!? During a panic attack your heart is beating a little quicker; people usually faint when their hearts slow down.

So Much Panic!

You will NOT fall during a panic attack:

Sometimes you may feel as if your legs are too weak to hold your body which triggers the thoughts “I’m going to fall”, which then leads to “I’m going to embarrass myself or get hurt”.

Adrenaline is released during a panic attack which sometimes causes dilation in blood vessels in your legs. This feeling is JUST a feeling. Your legs are not actually weaker, they are just as strong as they were before the panic attack.

You will NOT go CRAZY during a panic attack:

A common reaction to rapid breathing is the sensation of feeling “not in reality”. Again, this is JUST a sensation. If you experience a feeling of disorientation or “dream like”, tell yourself that this is just a reaction to a change in your breathing. People do not go crazy from a panic attack. Mental illnesses are complex and usually progress slowly over time. There are no recorded “psychosis” due to a panic attack.

Stay Strong!

You will NOT have a heart attack during a panic attack- A healthy and strong heart can beat 200 beats per minute for as long as several weeks without a problem! Your heart can withstand a lot more than you think it can. There is a MAJOR difference between what your heart feels like during a panic attack and during a true heart attack.

THE DIFFERENCES:

During a panic attack your heart may pound and beat more rapidly and sometimes people complain of some pain. This pain quickly subsides.

During a true heart attack, there is much more consistent pain involved and intense pressure against the chest. This pain gets worse and worse.

EKG research indicates that during a panic attack, there are no abnormalities in the heart other than rapid beating. EKG tests indicates quite a few abnormalities in the heart during a heart attack.

APPLYING IT:

Now that you have learned a little more about the realities of panic attacks, try to replace your catastrophic thoughts with your knew FACTUAL knowledge. You are not going to die from a panic attack. Yes, they are scary, traumatic, and serve as interruptions in the lives of many, but don’t give them THAT much credit.

You may tell yourself, even after learning and knowing all of this, that during your next panic attack, that this one is different. you may tell yourself, “This time it’s really a heart attack.”

Well now you will know that that is one of the most common thoughts people have during panic attacks.

A last piece of advice- Embrace the symptoms. The more you try to avoid these symptoms,  such as isolating yourself, constantly seeking medical attention, avoiding walking,talking and just being during a panic attack, the more you will reinforce your false beliefs that they are dangerous. You are stronger than a panic attack. Laugh at it. Millions of people experience panic attacks.

THERE ARE NO RECORDED DEATHS DUE TO PANIC ATTACKS!

You will NOT go CRAZY during a panic attack:

A common reaction to rapid breathing is the sensation of feeling “not in reality”.

Again, this is JUST a sensation. If you experience a feeling of disorientation or “dream like”, tell yourself that this is just a reaction to a change in your breathing. People do not go crazy from a panic attack. Mental illnesses are complex and usually progress slowly over time. There are no recorded “psychosis cases” due to a panic attack.

You will NOT have a heart attack during a panic attack- A healthy and strong heart can beat 200 beats per minute for as long as several weeks without a problem! Your heart can withstand a lot more than you think it can. There is a MAJOR difference between what your heart feels like during a panic attack and during a true heart attack.

ATHLETES WOULD BE DROPPING DEAD:

If our hearts could not sustain some rapid beating once in a while, don’t you think athletes would be dropping to the floor left and right?

You may tell yourself, even after learning and knowing all of this, that during your next panic attack, that this one is different. you may tell yourself, “This time it’s really a heart attack”. Well now you will know that that is one of the most common thoughts people have during panic attacks.

A last piece of advice- Embrace the symptoms. The more you try to avoid these symptoms,  such as isolating yourself, constantly seeking medical attention, avoiding walking,talking and just being during a panic attack, the more you will reinforce your false beliefs that they are dangerous. You are stronger than a panic attack. Laugh at it. Millions of people experience panic attacks every day.

No One Dies From Panic Attacks!

THERE ARE NO RECORDED DEATHS DUE TO PANIC ATTACKS.

Online Gamers Solve Decade-Old HIV Puzzle In Three Weeks

In just three weeks, online gamers deciphered the structure of a retrovirus protein that has stumped scientists for over a decade, and a study out Sunday says their breakthrough opens doors for a new AIDS drug design.

The protein, called a protease, plays a critical role in how some viruses, including HIV, multiply. Intensive research has been underway to find AIDS drugs that can deactivate proteases, but scientists were hampered by their inability to crack the enzyme’s structure.

Looking for a solution, researchers at the University of Washington turned to Foldit, a program created by the university a few years ago that transforms problems of science into competitive computer games, and challenged players to use their three-dimensional problem-solving skills to build accurate models of the protein.

Within days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme’s structure. What’s more, the scientists identified parts of the molecule that are likely targets for drugs to block the enzyme.

Within days, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine into an accurate portrayal of the enzyme's structure.

“We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” said Firas Khatib, a lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

The researchers were hopeful that their finding would open further possibilities of crowd-sourcing and online game-playing in scientific discovery.

“The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems,” Khatib said.

Seth Cooper, a co-creator of Foldit, added, “People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at. Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before.”

source: io9.com

First Step Towards A Truly Immersive Virtual Reality

Monkeys can now feel virtual objects using a brain implant.

This could be the first step towards virtual reality where you can feel the computer-generated world around you.

An international team of neuroengineers has developed a  bi-directional brain-machine interface. That means the monkeys can use this brain implant not only to control a virtual hand, but also to get feedback that tricks their brains into “feeling” the texture of virtual objects.

"Feeling" the texture of virtual objects.

How it works:

When you’re wearing a pair of big bulky gloves, the sensory information usually provided to your brain by your fingers is deadened by the barrier between your hand and your keys. The result is a one-way interface; your brain can tell your fingers what to do with the keys, but communication from your fingers back to your brain is effectively cut off. As a result, you have to rely on another sense — usually vision — to tell if you’re currently pinching one key, three keys, or no keys at all.

To really make the most of your fingertips, there needs to be a two-way interface between your brain and your hands. When your brain can receive tactile information from your hands about, say, the texture of the key you’re handling, it can make near-instantaneous adjustments that give you better dexterity, or help you choose the right key.

Brain-machine interfaces have come a long way in recent years, but, with few exceptions, these systems have depended pretty much exclusively on one-way interfaces.

To demonstrate the power of a two-way interface, a team of neuroengineers at Duke University designed a brain-machine-brain interface (BMBI) to test on monkeys.

“This is the first demonstration of a brain-machine-brain interface that establishes a direct, bidirectional link between a brain and a virtual body,” said Miguel Nicolelis, who led the study. “In this BMBI, the virtual body is controlled directly by the animal’s brain activity, while its virtual hand generates tactile feedback information that is signaled via direct electrical microstimulation of another region of the animal’s cortex.”

Here’s how it all works: the BMBI takes movement commands from 50—200 neurons in the monkey’s motor cortex and uses them to control the operation of a virtual, “avatar” hand, not unlike a classical one-way interface. But the new interface also implements a feedback mechanism, wherein information about a virtual object’s texture is delivered directly to the brain via something known as intracortical microstimulation, or “ICMS” for short. When a monkey receives feedback in the form of ICMS, thousands of neurons in its brain (neurons that actually correspond to tactile feedback in the hands) receive electrical stimulation via carefully placed electrodes.

This two-way interface allows for the monkeys to engage in what the researchers call “active tactile exploration” of a virtual set of objects. Using only their brains, monkeys were able to direct their avatar hand over the surfaces of several virtual objects and differentiate between their textures.

To prove that the monkeys could pick out specific objects based on tactile feedback, the researchers would reward monkeys for selecting objects with a specific texture. When they held their virtual hand over the correct object, they were given a reward. The study looked at the performance of this task by two monkeys. It took one monkey just four attempts to learn how to select the correct object during each trial; the second, only nine.

Source: www.io9.com

Reasons Why People Don’t “Succeed”

Success is a key to happiness, and happiness is a key to success.

A key on a table

Key to Success

In reality, without each other, a person is neither truly happy or successful, but it all depends on how you define the term successful.

There are many cases where very successful people become depressed, sick, or badly injured, and their success in life is easily forgotten about and does not make them feel “good” anymore. This is why happiness, along with positivity is essential to becoming succesful.

When most people think of success, they think of becoming a millionaire right away. Yes, this is in fact “success,” and one should be proud of it, but I see success as something way before becoming that millionaire.

Success was the point in time when you decided that you can and will become that millionaire you are today. Success is when you beat all of the negative thoughts telling you that you cannot do something, because once you beat negativity, the path to success should be much easier and almost automatic.

Negativity is such a powerful energy that most people in the world let control their minds.

The more negatively you think, the worse the outcome will be. This is the case in every situation that you can think of.

If you think about it, you can do anything that you want at any given time. When you wake up tomorrow, there will be many possibilities for you to become that millionaire, but your mind does not allow you to achieve this. Our brains act as a barrier telling us that this is impossible and it can’t be done.

I use myself as an example. Years ago when I was entering high school, I was a very talented baseball player. I was gifted with the ability to throw left-handed which gave me an automatic spot on the team. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my mind was full of too many negative thoughts. I always thought I was the worst, and I was always worried about getting cut. These negative thoughts eventually became the reason why I stopped playing baseball.

Now I think to myself, what if I beat these negative thoughts at that young age?

What if I “succeeded” in overcoming the negative energy that surrounded me?

This would have led to me working harder,caring more, and using all of my abilities to possibly becoming a professional baseball player. It may seem crazy, but anyone can become anything that they truly want to be, as long as they train their minds to allow them to reach that point.

If you work on this slowly, you can train your mind to allow you to take advantage of all the possibilities around you.

Anything can be done, and it starts with the energy that surrounds you. Now that you understand my meaning of success, I have come up with 3 main reasons why people do not reach their definition of “success.”

Positive energy will lead you to success

1. Excuses are Negative Energy

Saying ” I have no time”, “I cannot do it”, “no one is supporting me”, “I’m not smart enough” etc,  are all excuses that need to be thrown away in order to be successful. Telling yourself that you cannot do something or that you are not smart enough are signs that you let negative energy get the best of you.

Like I said before, the first step in being successful, is overcoming negative energy, which many people learn the hard way. This should be taught to all teenagers approaching high school. I honestly find it more important than some of these irrelevant classes that they have the students sit through.

2. Fear of Failure: Fear is Negative Energy

Embracing Failure is a main key to success. You should not fear failure, but take it in, as it happens to many people. If you fail, this is not the end of what you were trying to do. Get back up and use your failing experience to better yourself.

Yes, when it comes down to it, you are trying to succeed, but when you live your life fearing failure, you will never achieve any of your goals. Fear of failure will stop you from making attempts. The only way you will turn your thoughts and ideas into reality is if you attempt them, but failure restricts many people from doing so. Do not allow this to control your future.

3. Not Taking Action

It may sound repetitive, but this is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t reach their “success.” I explained the first stages of success as the point in time when you beat all of your negative thoughts that restrict you from taking action. I did not get into detail of all of the stages of success, but the most important thing that everyone should know is that the only way you will succeed is if you attempt.

Many people have had million dollar ideas, but were to scared of failure and they never took action. They just watched other people come up with the same idea and turn it into their own reality.

This negative energy led to the person not attempting to make their ideas into a reality. If you think about it, everything around you was once just an idea of somebody elses imagination. It was eventually created because they believed they can do it, and they overcame all of the negativity telling them that they can’t. It may sound stupid, but the scene you may see in movies when there are two little people standing on a persons shoulders trying to influence them in making a decision happens in everyone’s life.

One is positive energy, and the other is negative energy.

All that you have to do is learn how to take in the positive energy and ignore the negative energy.

Recently, I have become a firm believer of the law of attraction, and I believe that this theory can change anyones life.

I do wish that I learned all of this at an earlier stage in my life, but now that I have started to overcome negative energy, I am using it to better myself.

The Universal Mathematics

The Universal Mathematics(UM) started off as a thought in my mind and manifested itself into existence. I’m not going to lie, marijuana & LSD played a very big role in the creation of the UM. I love chilling out and smoking a joint or two with some of my buddies, who doesn’t?

Meditation was also a big factor in creating UM. When I would smoke, the ideas would come to me, and when I would meditate the vision would become clearer and clearer.

Universal Mathematics: Everything in existence has a definite answer.

Everything can eventually be explained.

As we advance through time the answers to the universe will be unlocked by human brain power. Now, I also believe that there are some things that the human brain cannot understand because of the fact that it is just a human mind. Who’s to say there aren’t different levels of consciousness unable to be reached by humans? Maybe some different life form 500 billion light years away is living a crazier, weirder, life than we are living.

So, simply put, Universal Mathematics is not a theory, it simply just is. Any question based on truth will have a definite answer. It’s oneness. Oneness meaning that everything and anything in the universe is connected in one way or another. It’s beautiful when you think about it really…

Anyway, One of my best friends, who you know as DIESEL, at the time was working on his own poker strategy blog and deep into spirituality while away at school. We would always talk to one another about our ideas and visions we had for those ideas. I guess you can say we are visionaries. Diesel and I actually created an older blog called UniversalMathematics.com on Blogspot in the summer of 2011. We were dedicated and very into it but, we never really had an audience there. Diesel quickly figured out that WordPress is the place to be to start up a blog site. So now we’re here with a great team of interesting, dedicated writers and I can’t wait to see where this thing goes. I don’t know where we will end up, but I can promise you that everything on this site comes from dedication, hard work, and the heart. We’re here to gain and spread truth.

Through Higher Consciousness we will obtain and spread universal peace, love, and happiness everywhere and to all life forms throughout the universe.

Naturally Tripping

“You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours — civilized people. So I certainly don’t want everyone just to admire it or approve of it without knowing why.” Van Gogh 1885.

Schizophrenia

Imagine a life where everything seemed as if it was an oil painting. Objects, people, animals, flowers, trees, faces, waters, skies, starry nights, your mother, your hands, were all distorted. Imagine them melting, extra vibrantly colored and skewed images of what Van Gogh called his own reality.

This experience is a symptom of a mental illness we label today as Schizophrenia, a brain disease in which Van Gogh most definitely struggled with in the latter years of his life. Van Gogh painted his realities just as he saw them, melting images and all.

As a mental health professional working in an out-patient clinic, I see individuals who unfortunately live their lives more or less every day with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is one term that applies so differently to the individual and can look so drastically different from one person to the next with various sub-types and symptoms. There are some schizophrenic individuals who see people and/or objects that are not there; some complain of apparitions, talking animals, and flashing lights as no one else sees what they do.

Other individuals who experience auditory hallucinations may experience gentle whispers repeating to them that they are no good, some voices may have a higher volume telling silly jokes and others  may experience something called command hallucinations.

Now, those are out patients who may meet the “high risk” list criteria; people we need to keep an extra eye on. Someone who experiences command hallucinations may hear a voice that tells them to hurt others or themselves.( David Berkowitz’ dog told him to kill people.)

Van Gogh had an intense heightening of senses during his psychotic episodes;another form of visual hallucinations. Imagine a life where everything seemed as if you were walking in a dream. Liquefying tree tops, sparkling skies of blue and purple, animated flowers, and stretched,pulled,exaggerated faces of others..something similar to “tripping.”

Van Gogh did not need shrooms or acid for this. His brain naturally tripped.

As mentioned earlier, Van Gogh most definitely suffered from positive symptoms of schizophrenia, and by all means positive does NOT mean good or happy in any way. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are known as the more active symptoms which include, visual (sight), auditory (hearing), tactile (touch), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) hallucinations. Although he suffered greatly from this disease which caused others to stigmatize him, caused him to be in a constant state of anxiety and depression, and was disorganized in thought,  he was still able to make beautiful use out of his sufferings…his art.

Everything Van Gogh painted was exactly how he experienced and perceived the world. His art did not only involve innate talent, technique and the skill to mix color, but mostly it was his disease that encouraged him to show us his world. I’m sure Van Gogh believed he honestly earned his “food” just like the potato eaters he painted in 1885.

Part of treatment for a schizophrenic is by far most importantly medication therapy.

Schizophrenics are usually prescribed antipsychotic medication which decreases the amount of Dopamine activity in the brain. Dopamine is an awesome neurotransmitter because it’s main purpose is to recognize behaviors that lead to rewards and pleasure. Too much of this leads to psychosis, and too little of it leads to Parkinson’s disease because dopamine is also responsible for the control of voluntary movement.

Anti-psychotic medication comes with many severe side effects.

One very commonly experienced side effect is the development of Parkinson’s disease like symptoms. This medication decreases dopamine activity in the brain, and remember too little dopamine is the cause of Parkinson’s. The schizophrenic has to decide between the two evils, and many choose no meds!

We call that “non compliance”, they call it “not worth it”.

Though there are many “non compliance with meds” patients, antipsychotic medication is shown to be extremely effective with decreasing psychotic symptoms.

Van Gogh definitely did a “little” self medicating with the illuminating, ghostbuster green colored potion..

ABSINTHE!

Van Gogh really liked that stuff and I can’t blame him. Absinthe is known to actually increase cognitive functioning in the areas of the brain where thought organization, abstract thinking and creativity takes place. Doctors told him he had to stop taking “his medication” because of the other ill effects it had on his body. Poor guy 🙁

Medicine

Another part of treating schizophrenia is helping the individual to build on their strengths, educate them on the disease, and validate their experiences. They also have to involve their families and to teach them distraction techniques.

It seems as if Van Gogh had a great distraction technique/coping skill. Not everyone is as fortunate to have such a powerful outlet as did he.

I had one schizophrenic patient whose outlet was chess. Man was she good! She was a pro, and she knew every trick. After the very first few moves of the game, she was able to predict how the entire rest of the game was going to work out.

She was a lunatic who thought Whitney Huston was her best friend, hallucinated that her own reflection would stand right before her, could not hold an organized and appropriately reciprocated conversation with anyone, but damn could she play chess. That was her outlet; the only sense of normalcy and self-expression she had.

Positive Symptoms

 

Most individuals with schizophrenia also experience symptoms known as negative symptoms.

Negative symptoms can be described as a deficit or lacking things. Such symptoms include the loss of the ability to feel emotions known as blunted or flat affect, lack of motivation and no desire to act on a task known as “avolition”, poverty of speech known as “alogia”, the lack of desire to form relationships known as “asociality” and the inability to experience any kind of pleasure known as “anhedonia”.

If you look through the beautiful and expressionistic gallery of Van Gogh’s work, you can see the different representations of positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

For instance, “Starry night” is a clear representation of visual hallucinations as he included melting colors and skewed perceptions of his realities.

Negative Symptoms

If you take a look at a painting known as “cottages” you can see the “FLATNESS” of the painting , the poverty of his speech, the lack of desire to include people in his life and the dark,depressing un-pleasurable life he may have been experiencing; a very still painting, with little desire to move..still says so much though.

The Importance Of Sleep

Mechanics of sleep:

Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance tasks that keep you running in top condition and prepare you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you’re like a car in need of an oil change. You won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.

It’s not just the number of hours in bed that is important—it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep—especially deep sleep and REM sleep. By understanding how the sleep cycles work and the factors that can lead to those cycles being disrupted, you’ll be able to start getting both the quantity and the quality of sleep you need.

The sleep-wake cycle:

sleep cycle

Your internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as biological clock or circadian rhythm, is regulated by processes in the brain that respond to how long you’ve been awake and the changes between light and dark. At night, your body responds to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so you feel awake and alert.

This sleep-wake cycle can be disrupted by factors such as night shift work, traveling across time zones, or irregular sleeping patterns, leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times. The production of melatonin can also be thrown off when you’re deprived of sunlight during the day or exposed to too much artificial light at night, disrupting the sleep-wake cycle and preventing you from getting the sleep you need.

 Average sleeps needs per age group:

Average Sleep Needs
Age Hours
Newborns (0-2 months) 12 – 18
Infants (3 months to 1 year) 14 – 15
Toddlers (1 to 3 years) 12 – 14
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) 11 – 13
School-aged children (5 to 12 years) 10 – 11
Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years) 8.5 – 10
Adults (18+) 7.5 – 9

Myth that six hours of sleep is enough:

It’s true that some people are born with a gene that allows them to have a quality and refreshing sleep in just 6 hours. The only problem is that this gene is so rare that is it prevalent in a mere 3% of the population. So 97% of the population do indeed require a significant amount of sleep.

Signs of being sleep deprived:

  • Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
  • Rely on the snooze button
  • Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning                                                                                                  sleep deprivation
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
  • Need to nap to get through the day
  • Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
  • Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
  • Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed

Effects of sleep deprivation and chronic lack of sleep:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infections
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems

How too little sleep affects your daily or weekly performance:

Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.

All sleep is not created equal. Sleep unfolds in a series of recurring sleep stages that are very different from one another in terms of what’s happening beneath the surface. From deep sleep to dreaming sleep, they are all vital for your body and mind. Each stage of sleep plays a different part in preparing you for the day ahead.

  • Non-REM (NREM) sleep- consists of four stages of sleep, each deeper than the last.
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep- when you do most active dreaming. Your eyes actually move back and forth during this stage, which is why it is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep.
The Stages of Sleep
Non-REM sleep
Stage N1 (Transition to sleep) – This stage lasts about five minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.
Stage N2 (Light sleep) – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasting from 10 to 25 minutes. Eye movement stops, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.
Stage N3 (Deep sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. In this deepest stage of sleep, brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from the brain and towards the muscles, restoring physical energy.
REM sleep (Dream sleep) – About 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Eyes move rapidly. Breathing is shallow. Heart rate and blood pressure increase. Arm and leg muscles are paralyzed.The sleep cycle: Understanding the architecture of sleep

sleep cycle

Conclusively, adults should be getting around 7.5 to 8 hours of deep, quality sleep per night. This helps in maintaining mental stability and ambiguity throughout not only the next day but potentially the rest of your life.

sleep

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