The Elderly – Wisdom or Burden

Do you have or ever had grandparents? Good. This blog is only for those of you who have had grandparents. The rest of you can ignore it and go to something else.

 

Mike (the name has been changed for privacy reasons) was 15, the youngest of 6 children, when he and his family were picked up by the Nazis in 1942. His mother, grandmother and oldest sister were sent to be exterminated. His father was sent to a Labor camp, never to be seen of again either. He and his 2 brothers were sent to a camp together. He spent a year in the camp. He eventually became separated from his brothers and was one of many people who was put into a dump truck to be sent to Auschwitz, where he stayed for 18 months. He told me stories of what the conditions were like in the camp. They were so unbearable that many of them wanted to die. They would willingly grab the electric barbed wire to end their misery. He was one of the lucky ones who was liberated by the American army in 1945.

This is a true story of my patient, who is alive today in his 80’s, who has been through some pretty tough times in his life, wouldn’t you say? Listening to my older patients tell their experiences in life has made me a better human being. Of course, this story is not the norm. Not all of my older patients have stories like these. But they all have stories. All have had some experiences in life which demonstrate the strength of the human spirit under adverse circumstances, sometimes extreme ones.

Nowadays, most of us youngsters, and I include myself among them, do not have an appreciation for life. We have grown up in a society, where we stress about things that pale in comparison to the stresses our parents’ generation and their parents’ generation had. I remember a few years ago I saw a patient who was 99 years old then, and when asked about her family history, she proudly told me that her father was alive during Lincoln’s time. Imagine that! To have someone in my office whose father was alive when Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address.

Why am I telling you all these stories? I see that in this day and age, we do not really have any time for our elders. How many of you have spent any quality time with your grandparents, or even elderly parents for that matter? Do you get bored in their company? Do you remember when you were obligated to go visit your grandparents by your parents? And did you ever say, “Awww, do I have to?” After all, they were not the most exciting beings on the planet, were they? Especially when you are a teenager, the idea of spending time with your elders was the most boring thing you could think of, right?

Forgive me, I am going to say this right off the bat: this society is not for the elderly. There. I said it. Am I being too pessimistic? Is it really true? I am sure some of you may disagree, and I hope you are right. As a physician I see this all too often. I see my patients languishing in nursing homes with no one visiting them. What is the plight of the elderly in these nursing homes? I am saddened by the state of affairs of our nursing homes And, unfortunately, I see in my own family, in my own self. My own mother had to go to a nursing home because of developing advanced dementia.

How many of you have aging parents or grandparents living at home with you? It is a complex topic and there is no right or wrong answer. Back in India, and I suspect in other parts of the world, we grew up in extended families. In this society, nuclear families predominate. It’s not a question of one being better than the other. Rather, each has its positives and negatives. And my aim is not to discuss which system is better.

elderly people

I have made it a mission of mine to spend as much time as I can to learn from elders, whether they are my parents (when my father was alive and my mother was in better health), my patients, or other respected members of our society. Every one of them has something to teach us about how to live life, about how to live in the face of all the stresses we have. In a society where in the coming years, the fastest growing population is the elderly, we will have record numbers of older people, but we will be ill-equipped mentally to handle the aged.

Think about it. How much time do we spend with our elders? Whatever time we do spend, is it just because of obligation or do we look forward to it? Even if we do it because of obligation, it is better than not doing it at all. Our parents and grandparents gave us so much; the least we can do is spend some quality time with them. And we may be surprised as to what life lessons we learn from them.

Let me make a request: Just do it. Take some time and visit an elderly person. Ask them what life lessons they have learnt that they can impart to you? Learn from the wisdom of these folks. After all, one day we will become them.

And I would be very interested in hearing from you. Maybe you can share what you have learnt from them with me and my readers.

I have tried to take some of these lessons I have learnt from them and have created a seminar, titled Master My Stress. I am conducting a webinar on this topic. If you have some interest in learning these principles, click on this link to get more information.

Be Enlightened                                                                                                                                         Ravinder Singh, MD

 

pictures taken from: http://topnews.net.nz and http://www.firstbaptistglensfalls.org
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Road Rage – are you guilty of it?

Last week, I was driving with my wife in the carpool lane. As my exit was coming near, I signaled to exit the carpool lane when the double yellow lines ended. There was a lady driving her BMW in the left lane and would not let me change lanes. I must say I was getting a little upset, as my exit was coming and did not want to miss it. I started talking to her as if she was listening, “Hey lady, let me pass, OK?” (Don’t tell me you haven’t done that. I know you have. And I am sure you have used more colorful language, right?) So I kinda forced myself into the lane. And guess what she did? She started honking like there was no tomorrow. (Bet you already knew that, since you would have done the same, wouldn’t you?)And then I looked in the rear view mirror and I see her flipping the bird with both hands. I must say that I kept my cool, and just shook my head in resignation. I turned to my wife and said, “Looks like she must have had a fight with someone this morning.”

 

Later on the same day, (I guess it was one of those days, huh?)I got to an intersection just as the light was turning red, and I needed to make a right turn. So, just as I was giving the signal to make the right turn (mind you, I wasn’t turning yet, just giving the signal), another driver coming from my left, started honking just to make sure I did not cut in front of her (yes it was another woman), and gave me another finger as she zipped by.She was clearly pissed at something it seemed like. I am going,” what did I do today?” “Why are these women so fond of their middle fingers?” I took a deep breath, centered myself, and continued on my way to the hospital.

If it had been a few years ago, I probably would have become angry at these drivers, shook my fist at them, and probably sped up behind them to return the favor. But I learnt long ago to let it go. Ever since I started working on myself, on my own spiritual growth, I have tried not to let these things bother me. You want to know what went into my mind after the second incident? I was thinking, what a great topic for my next blog…LOL.

Seriously, though, I was a little sad. I was wondering whether this was a sign of the times when people are becoming so stressed that they are forgetting their humanity, or it was just a fluke. Or maybe I was reading too much into it, just because I was the brunt of their anger. Then yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine who related another incident that happened with him that made us both shake our heads in sadness. This was not an example of road rage but how people are becoming desensitized to the human condition. People have become so preoccupied with their own affairs that they look at someone struggling in front of them and just ignore them as if they couldn’t care less.

My friend, let’s call him Joe, relates that he was standing in line at a Chipotle restaurant. It was a long line, and as he happened to glance at the front of the line, he saw a heavy set woman who probably weighed more than 200 lbs, ordering a meal that was, shall we say, not very healthy. In addition, she appeared to be from a “lower” socio-economic class than the others. And she was trying to balance her tray with one hand while pushing a cart with the other hand. The tray appeared as if it would fall any minute. My friend looked at the people in line and saw that they were all looking at the woman, with varying degrees of disgust and amusement, but none of them did anything to help her. It was as if she was too beneath them because she obviously did not take care of herself. And most of the people standing in line were young adults. Joe, who is in his 60’s, decided to do the right thing and went over to her. While saying to her, “Here, let me help you,” he gently took the tray out of her hands and helped her to her table. He was so disgusted with the cold response that this lady got, including the employees, that he asked for the manager. When he relayed the incident to her, all he got was, well we are too busy to worry about that. Do you see the long line? We can’t spare anyone.

Well, that may be true, but it doesn’t alter the fact that out of a crowd of 20 plus people, only a person from the older generation had the heart to help out a neighbor in need. What does that say about the current generation? Isn’t that an indictment against this generation that such acts of selflessness are so rare that they stand out? Have we become so selfish that we don’t even care what happens to our fellow men and women?

A friend of mine, Rosleen, shared a video on her Facebook page the other day that brought tears to my eyes. I liked it so much that I shared it on my page. If you haven’t seen the video, check out my FB page or the video below. I don’t usually post a lot of stuff, so it should not be too hard to find. It is titled, Stop and Think. If it doesn’t touch your emotions, then you sure are inured to the human condition. Check your pulse, you may be a robot. You can only think of yourselves.

But I am an optimist. I don’t think people are inherently insensitive. Life is a test. A test of your convictions, of your humanity, of your beliefs, and above all, a test of your courage. People are not robots, without any feeling or emotions. Their emotions and feelings may have been suppressed because of the conditions of our times, but when exposed to their true nature, their humanity shines through. It may take a little bit of uncovering, like the layers of an artichoke, to unmask their true selves, but I believe people can change. That’s why I do what I do. There is a lot of stress in this world, and it does not seem to be getting any less. When you are exhausted, burnt-out and running on empty, it is hard to become sensitive to the sufferings of others.

I hope next time you are on the road, if someone cuts you off or gives you the finger, rather than screaming obscenities, you may want to send thoughts of positive energy towards them. They are probably stressed out and cannot help themselves. Instead of using the middle finger technique, use the 2-finger technique: put the tips of your index finger and your thumb together, and send a thought of positivity and gratitude towards them. If nothing else, it will help to keep you cool.

Let me help you save the bird. Click on this link.

Until next time

Be enlightened.

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How to lose friends, one by one!!!

Do you have many friends? Do you want to have more friends? “Real” friends, mind you, not just casual acquaintances. Have you lost some friends, and maybe don’t know why? What qualities do you look for in friends? While there are many answers to these questions, today I am going to focus on one aspect only.

Just the other day I ran into a friend of mine, who was so excited because he was going on a week-long vacation to Hawaii. “Vacation?” I replied sarcastically (I have been known to become sarcastic once in a while…I know it is hard to believe, me..the stress guru, sarcastic?) “What’s a vacation?” I continued in my mock-serious tone.

Obviously he knew I was joking. However, if I had continued to elaborate on my comment by providing some over-the-top reason for not taking a vacation, for example, something like, “I am so busy at the hospital, and writing a book, AND writing this dang newsletter, AND watching the next Food Network Star that I have not been able to take any time off,” it would cross the line and become an example of, what is called one-upping. Of course, what I said does not qualify as one-upmanship, because…well, because I said so.

So, what is one-upmanship, and are you a one-upper? One-upmanship is when you try to outdo someone else by showing that you are better/bigger/smarter/sexier/more athletic than they are. You have more gizmos than they have. Your experiences are better than theirs.

There are 3 essential criteria for one-upmanship:

  1. You are telling a story about something good that you did or bought or happened to you, and
  2. The other person has a better story or experience or a bigger object they bought, and
  3. They have to tell you about it when you are telling your story.

I am sure you can think of at least one person, who is always trying to prove that they have done better than you. You went out with a beautiful girl, he went out with a supermodel. You bought a new Toyota, and guess what she bought? The “ultimate driving machine,” of course (for those of you who skip ads, that’s a BMW). You drink a fresh squeezed orange juice, he drinks a smoothie made on his own Vitamix from 12 different fruits and vegetables (hey, gimme a break, my smoothie only contains 10, ok?).You may be excited that your kid finished at the top of her class, and their kid not only was at the top of his class but he is so handsome that he has gone out with the entire cheerleading squad. And even if you may not say it or show it, in your mind you are showing them your middle finger.

To my chagrin, I realized some time ago that I myself have been guilty of one-upmanship (yes, I know…it’s hard to believe). But that was in my less disciplined days, many many….many moons ago (although my current self-proclaimed discipline is up for debate). I remember when I met a medical resident and he would tell me what a tough day he had because he was up all night admitting patients while he was on call. I would relish in reminding him that back when “men were men” we would be on call for 36 hrs straight, not just the measly 24 hrs these days, taking call every 3rd night and would still have to present our cases to attendings who would grill us to the nth degree and expect us to know all the details of all the patients we admitted regardless of whether we had had a chance to experience anything close to the horizontal position in those 36 hrs. Well, this is an example of one-upmanship.

But one-upmanship is actually not just about positive things. It can also be about negative things, such as, if you are sick, then they have been sicker. If you are having a bad day, their day was much worse than yours. (Actually, this should not be called a one-upmanship, it should be one-downship or one-downer. But somehow that doesn’t sound as sexy). The bottom line is that these people will try to outdo your story, no matter what it is.

Well, I have news for them. No one likes a one-upper….or a one-downer. Think people become impressed when you one-up them? Think again. If you are a one-upper…STOP. You were wondering why you don’t have as many friends, weren’t you? Well, now you know. The more you try to impress people, the less impressed they get.

The next time someone tries to one-up you, agree with them. Tell them they are right. Their life is much better than yours. Or if they are a one-downer, agree with them that their life is much crappier than yours. In fact, their life couldn’t be crappier. Then excuse yourself and go find some better friends.

This is how one-uppers lose their friends one by one. They have lost their focus. A friend of mine recently gave me the perfect analogy. Just like a bug-repellant creates a barrier and keeps away flies, their one-upping actually builds barriers and keeps people from coming close to them.

I take this one step further. One-upping is not just in speech, but also in action. If you are trying to impress someone with how you dress, what car you drive, what purse you carry. Now, don’t get me wrong! There is nothing wrong with wearing nice clothes, having a nice house, driving a nice car and all the other things. It is about how you do it. It’s about how confident you are in who you are as a person. Do you look down upon people who have less than you? Are you trying to impress others?

Just stop for a moment and think about it. How do you treat people who may not be at your social level or status in life? Do you make friends with the janitor? With your employees? With your butler? When you are staying at a hotel, how do you treat the cleaning staff? If you suddenly lost it all, would that affect your self-esteem? Would you think you have failed in life?

It all comes down to self-esteem. When you are confident in who you are, you don’t need to try to impress people with your bigger and better stories, bigger and better houses and cars, nicer and fancier clothes. You treat everyone equally. You may have friends in high places, but you also have them in “low places.” This is what real success is about. In fact, real successful people don’t get offended by one-uppers, but use that experience as motivation to do and be better. Their success is actually even more visible because they don’t try to show it off.

There is one other aspect of one-upping. If someone is one-upping you, the reason they are trying to impress you is that they think you are some hot s#%t. They want to be like you, and want you to know, in their own perverse way, that they admire you. They think you are worthy of impressing. After all, have you ever seen any one-upper going up to a homeless guy, or the one standing at the intersection asking for food, saying, “Yeah, you don’t have food to eat? Well, let me tell you I haven’t had steak in such a long time, it’s not even funny.”

You become worthy of impressing by not trying to impress anyone. Real successful people are confident in who they are, without having to show it off. They are humble even at the peak of their success, because they truly have achieved wisdom. They exude a warmth and serenity around them that draws people in. They are not bothered by one-upmanship, and don’t get offended easily by one-uppers. They understand that success also brings its own set of responsibilities, because their success touches many people’s lives.

 

 

If you stay true to your focus, you will attract like-minded successful individuals, who will end up becoming your friends. But it will also attract others who lack these qualities and who are trying to become successful, but don’t really know how. They try to impress you with their one-upmanship. But if you look past their one-upmanship, you will see the real person behind the facade, with their insecurities and anxieties. You have the ability to touch them and transform them, because your openness, wisdom, simplicity and serenity allow them to express their insecurities to you.

The next time someone tries to one-up you, realize that they are doing so because they don’t have self-esteem. So be gentle with them. They just want you to like them. Instead of mentally showing them the middle finger, use that as motivation for your own personal improvement. They are seeing something in you that perhaps you yourself are not.

If YOU are a one-upper…….call me, let’s do some intervention before it is too late.

Until next time

Be Enlightened.

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Why do you bathe daily?

I am serious. I want you to answer that question. Now, some of you may not bathe daily. But I am sure you will probably not admit to that in mixed company. But for the vast majority of you who do, I want you to really think about this question. Just for the fun of it, I decided to do a google search on this very topic. You’d be surprised to know that there is a growing trend of people who don’t think it is necessary to shower daily. Be that as it may, that does not obviate the question.

Is it because you need to feel refreshed daily? To feel clean? Is it personal hygiene? Get rid of harmful bacteria on your skin? Is it your body odor? Although, some of you may like this sort of odor. It is said that when Napoleon would come back from winning his various wars, he would send a message to his wife or concubine, or whoever he was “consorting” with, to not bathe for a few days. The scent of his woman who hadn’t bathed for a few days….well, I will leave the rest to your imagination.

What happens if you don’t bathe regularly? Do you feel refreshed? Do you feel clean? If you have to go to work or a social function, would you be concerned about your body odor? I have a friend who does not like to shower and will try to cover up the smell with generous amounts of cologne. (I guess if he is reading this, I may have lost his friendship…lol) How many of you can see through that? (or more accurately smell through it?)

So, why am I spending so much time talking about this? So far, I have been discussing the concept of bathing the body. And regardless of the reason, most of you will agree that regular bathing is critical for our social success. But what about our mind? And our spirit? Have you ever considered that our inner self may also need regular cleansing just like the outer self? If so, how do you “bathe” your inner self? What “soap” do you use? What “water” do you need to cleanse your mind?

It is easy to see what makes our bodies dirty. But what makes our mind “dirty?” And what about our spirit? Ok, for all you smart alecks out there….get your mind out of the gutter, I am not talking about a dirty mind in the terms you may be thinking about. Although, come to think of it, that type of dirty is also part of what I am calling a “dirty” mind.

So, let’s talk about your mind? Where is your mind spending most of its time? What is the environment in which your mind lives? Who does it spend most of its time with? Who are its friends, acquaintances, relatives? Who does it aspire to be?

There is one big difference between mind and body. When it comes to the body, you may be able to cover up your grime by all the accoutrements you have at your disposal, to hide certain flaws or signs of aging, to look desirable. But when it comes to your mind, there is no fooling. Who are you going to fool when your mind’s society is your own thoughts? You may say that you want to spend time with someone you admire, but what is your mind really thinking about?

Is your mind thinking of all the exciting possibilities available to you or is it shrinking in fear? Are your thoughts generally positive or generally negative? What are your thoughts primarily concerned with? Joy and excitement or resentment and anger? Are they optimistic or pessimistic? Or do you think they are “realistic?” Is your mind welcoming “guests” who increase stress or are they bringing in peace?

Let’s do an exercise, shall we? I am sure most of you have had an argument with someone recently. Think of the argument. Were you right in the argument? As you relive the argument in your mind, who is winning the argument? You can’t believe he or she acted the way they did, right? Why couldn’t they have listened to you and did what you wanted them to do? As you relive the argument, are your thoughts calm? Are you enjoying your thoughts? Actually, you may be, because in your mind, you are winning the argument and the other person is “wrong,” so it may be giving you some perverse pleasure of being right. But are you relaxed?

Now think of a different situation where you are enjoying someone’s company. And examine your thoughts.

Now, let me ask you another question. What types of thoughts is your mind thinking of most of the time? How many of you had to think twice as hard to come up with a pleasing conversation as an argument? What is the environment that your mind is spending most of its time in? What types of thoughts are its friends?

“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Back to the question of bathing. So if our mind is spending most of its time in a murky, dirty environment, wouldn’t it behoove us to bathe the mind in pure, clean water at least once in a while? So, how do you do that?

Well, there are many answers depending on your priorities. It could be listening to inspirational music. Or inspirational speakers. For some, it might be going to church/synagogue, but not just in the physical body, but really listening to the sermons and the messages from the spiritual texts. Or it may be reading motivational books. I recently heard one person say that he was disillusioned by going to a motivational seminar. He said that while he was there, it was very exciting. The atmosphere was great, the energy was awesome. But when he came back, all that enthusiasm disappeared shortly, when he came back to the “real world.”

So, I asked him if he took a shower every day. He looked me questioningly and said, yes of course, what type of a question is that? I said, don’t you think taking a shower once should be enough to clean your body at least for a few weeks or months? Why do you have to do it every day? He thought I had gone crazy. I said, do you expect that one sermon or lecture of a positive nature is going to completely get rid of all the negative thoughts you have accumulated over the years?

You have to keep immersing yourself in positive thoughts and ideas regularly, as you know that the default mechanism for most of us is to constantly think of the negative aspect of things. We are bombarded with 11 times more negative thoughts, ideas and conversations than positive ones when we are growing up. To counter the cumulative effect of all these negative thoughts, one has to bathe regularly in some type of positive experiences, thoughts, emotions and ideas.

When we bathe our mind on a daily basis, it will become a habit, just like bathing your body has become one. You don’t have to think about bathing, you just do it. Just making a habit of reading a few pages of a non-fiction inspirational book for 15 minutes every night before you go to bed will get you ahead of the game. How you bathe your mind is as critical, if not more so, than how you bathe your body. Bathe your minds with books and programs of people who you admire. If you need some ideas, read Napoleon Hill, Stephen Covey, Wayne Dyer, and others.

As Jeff Olson said in his book, The Sight Edge, if you read 10 pages of a good book every day, over the course of a year, you would have read 3,650 pages – the equivalent of one or two dozen books of life-transforming material. Will your life change? Absolutely!

So, will you bathe your mind every day?

You decide.

Until next time.

Be enlightened.

Posted in Health Tips By BHHI | 2 Comments

What Do You and A Dog Have in Common?

Think of your favorite food. Is it chocolate soufflé? Lobster? Gol gappe? Does that make you salivate? Are you salivating now? Now why did that happen? In the late 1800’s, a famous Russian scientist did some experiments which are taught in every Psychology class to this day. The scientist’s name was Ivan Pavlov, and he did his famous experiments on the production of saliva in dogs, in response to food.

Chocolate-SouffleLobster Picture by ART PRICESGALLERY GUIDE

gol-gappe

I am sure most of you are familiar with his experiments. The dog would salivate when he was given a piece of meat. He would ring a bell before giving the meat to the dog, and after a while he noticed that the dog would start salivating at the sound of the bell, even when there was no food, because the dog had learnt to associate a neutral stimulus, the sound of the bell, with the arrival of meat. This is known as Classical conditioning.

Ivan Pavlov

What he had shown was that the body reacted the same way to the thought of the food, as it did when food was actually given. In other words, after an association has been made, just thinking about something or someone has a physiologic effect on the function of the body.

What implication does that have in our life? Obviously, there is much more to human behavior than just a conditioned response. Even though we are much different from dogs, the same behaviors also occur in humans. If a certain neutral stimulus has been associated with something good or bad, then the same stimulus will provide the same good or bad feelings. For example, if you associate a certain baking smell with your grandma’s cooking, whenever you are exposed to the same smell, it reminds you of grandma, even though she may be long gone.

Another example is how kids react when they go to a doctor. Just because a doctor may have given an injection once, the child now equates going to the doctor with experiencing pain, and becomes afraid and starts crying every time he/she goes to the doctor. The doctor has become the “bell.”

How many of you eat popcorn and drink soda when you go to the movies? What does watching a movie in the theater have to do with eating popcorn? Yet, a lot us do (yes, I admit it, I do too!). Who invented this “movie going experience?” It is an example of classical conditioning that advertisers have learnt all too well, and can manipulate our responses almost without our being consciously aware of the response.

Dog Bell TheoryNow, let’s take it a step further into your life. How do you exhibit the effects of classical conditioning? How many “bells” do you respond to? Are there certain stimuli in your environment that you have become conditioned to respond in a certain way? Has someone ever “pushed your button?” Now, consider whether this is a conditioned response or not. When someone is pushing your buttons, you are responding exactly like the dog salivating at the sound of the bell.

Generally speaking, most of our conditioned responses have to do with our feelings and emotions. And more often, these emotions are the fear-based emotions of anger, disappointment, anxiety, worry, depression etc. And how do we deal with these emotions? Think about how you respond. Do you react or do you choose your response? Our conditioned responses have become habits, and we do them unconsciously.

Well, its time to get control back into our lives and examine where we are operating because of this classical conditioning. Let’s see how we can stop reacting unconsciously to circumstances.

There is one other important aspect of classical conditioning. And that is known as Extinction. Pavlov showed that if after
having learnt the conditioned response, if you ring the bell enough times without producing food, the dog would eventually stop producing saliva in response to the bell. In other words, the dog “unlearnt” what he had been conditioned with, and stopped reacting to the bell. In the same way, we can unlearn some responses by willfully causing extinction.

One of the easiest ways of causing extinction is to slow down and delay your response. In my seminars I discuss what happens in the brain when emotions run high. Whenever we respond in a knee-jerk fashion, our response is usually not the best response. We end up responding in a way that we almost always regret afterwards. So, the easiest way to respond properly is to just delay your response. This causes extinction of the conditioned response.

This is especially true if the automatic conditioned response was going to be of anger. Let’s say someone accuses you of lying or stealing. What is your conditioned, automatic response? When you get angry, your muscles also become tense. In fact, it is impossible to feel angry without tightening of your muscles. Next time you get angry, just observe yourself (IF you have the presence of mind to remember this when you are angry, which is in itself doubtful). So, if you breathe for a few seconds and relax your muscles, you will avoid getting angry as a conditioned reflex.
This is a very important point that it is worth repeating. You cannot “feel” angry, anxious or fearful, if your muscles are completely relaxed. The tension in the muscles is due to the body getting ready to respond. It is preparing the muscles to respond. So, if you can completely relax the muscles, and breathe deeply, you can eliminate the automatic response. In effect, relaxation is the body’s own tranquilizer.
Most meditative practices begin with physical relaxation, because it is almost impossible for beginners to achieve mental relaxation without first relaxing your body. Breathing properly and relaxing your body are prerequisites to a calm and peaceful mind. All the things that take away the calm, be it fear, anger, anxiety, worry, despair, are all conditioned responses which can be unlearned or made extinct, by choosing how we respond. Stop listening to these bells, and you will automatically start gravitating towards centeredness. The outside circumstances affect us because we let them.
Its important to realize that whether you are calm and tranquil, or angry and upset, it is not because of the external stimulus, but your own response to the stimulus. It is your own response that makes you upset or angry.
Next time someone pushes your buttons…….think of the bell……..and the dog salivating. Then choose your response.
Enough said.
Until next time.
Be enlightened.

Pictures taken from:http://oddlovescompany.com, http://www.blouinartinfo.com, http://www.freeinfosociety.com, http://animals.howstuffworks.com

 

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Are You a Stutterer? You May be Surprised by the Answer

Recently a middle-aged woman came to see me in my office because of a chronic problem that she had been suffering from for many years. During my evaluation, I noticed that she started stuttering. After the patient left my office, it got me thinking. Why do people stutter? But, more importantly, do people stutter in other aspects of their life too? As you may know by now, my aim is to understand human behavior and I am always questioning why people do what they do.

So, let me ask you a question: are you a stutterer? But before you answer this question, ponder it carefully. We all have seen a person who stumbles over his words when trying to speak. And I am sure that most of you think that you do not have this condition. Merriam-Webster defines stuttering as,to speak with involuntary disruption or blocking of speech.” Let’s keep these words in mind: “disruption of thought” and “blocking of speech.”

In the neurological sciences, as in many others, there is a concept called negative feedback. For example, when a hormone is released, it “feeds back” to the gland that produces it, letting it know that there is enough of the hormone, so the gland stops making it.

When we speak, we get feedback through our ears by listening to what we are saying. We know whether we are shouting, whispering or speaking in a normal voice, or whether the content of our speech is appropriate or not. This negative feedback allows us to modify our speech, and enables us to speak correctly. Negative feedback tells us to stop what we are saying or doing, and to do something else. It modifies our response. But if the feedback is too critical, if someone laughs at us, or if we are too sensitive to criticism, it can result in having the opposite effect: it can worsen our speech. In fact, it can stop any response.

 

Stuttering is an example of how excessive negative feedback can inhibit an appropriate response. So, how can we test this theory, and at the same time, find a treatment for this condition? Since stuttering is caused by excessive negative feedback provided by our ears, what if we were to eliminate the sound of our own voice, so we could not hear it? That experiment was done years ago, where people with severe stuttering were given earphones through which a loud tone was heard to drown out the sound of their own voice. They were then asked to read aloud from a prepared text. The improvement was remarkable. This proved that when excessive negative feedback is eliminated, performance can improve.

Read that last sentence carefully: When excessive feedback is eliminated, performance can improve. Besides your speech, in what other aspects of your life can that statement apply? Well, let’s see. Let me ask you a different question:

  • Have you ever noticed that if you can’t remember something, the more you try to remember, the more frustrated you get, and the answer still does not come? And then, when you are doing something totally unrelated, the answer comes to you unbidden?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you are suddenly asked to speak in front of a group, or sing a song, and suddenly you become tongue-tied. You literally start to stutter?
  • Have you ever tried to pour water into a bottle with a very narrow neck? What happens? Does your hand start to shake?

In other words, when you do not have a purpose or it is ill-defined, there seems to be no problem. When you are pouring water into a wide container, you can pour it without any problem. But when the purpose becomes more focused, your hand starts to tremble. When you are existing without a purpose, life is “easy.” It is easy to take the easy way out, because going for something that has a purpose can seem to be too hard.

When you do find a purpose, you start to stutter. Because there is excessive negative feedback: you try “too hard”, you are “too careful” not to make an error. And in doing so, you actually amplify the error.

So what is the solution? Not to try too hard to avoid failure? Excessive carefulness is a form of excessive negative feedback. It results in deterioration of performance. Excessive anxiety is exactly the same. It is concerned too much with possible failure. In stutterers, too much negative feedback can cause thought blocking. In “normal” people, too much negative feedback, or fear of failure, it can cause “action blocking,” it can stop us from taking any action.

Self-consciousness is another example of excessive negative feedback. The term “self-consciousness” is a misnomer. We are not really concerned about our self, but about what others are saying about our self. So, it is actually “other-consciousness.” When we become too conscious of what other people think, it stops us from what we want to do.

This is the great irony: If we want to make an impression on other people, we should never consciously “try” to make an impression. The more we want to be successful, the less we should “try” to be successful. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we should not strive to be successful. Just like I am not saying that stutterers should stop talking. It is a delicate balance between using negative feedback to improve ourselves and excessive negative feedback that stops us from acting.

So there are 3 possible scenarios:

  1. You exist in life, never accomplishing much, but just skating by. You never go for the big dream, because its easy to come home and just sit in front of the TV to relax and “escape.” All the activities you do are low risk, and you don’t stutter because you never allow yourself to be in a position that may make you stutter.
  2. You go for the big dream, but excessive negative feedback either stops you in your tracks, or you stutter and decide it is too hard. You modify your dream by “settling” for a lesser one. You become “good” but not “great.”
  3. You learn how to overcome your stuttering. You actually control the negative feedback, never allowing it to become excessive. You overcome “self-consciousness” by becoming more conscious of your own self, of who you are, without regard for how others might feel about you. You play your own game, you dance to your own tune, and you go after your own dream.

Which scenario are you in? Which scenario do you want to be in? You decide.

Until next time

Be enlightened.

Posted in Beverly Hills Headache Institute, Health Tips By BHHI | 2 Comments

I have this disease. Do you?

I have known for a long time that I suffer from a common malady. No matter how much I want to accomplish, whatever lofty ideals I may have, how many projects I may want to do, this condition rears its ugly head all too often. And I know the treatment too; after all, I am a doctor, right? But I keep putting it off. Because the problem is that there is no pill that I can take for it. I can’t reach into my medicine cabinet for the treatment. Acupuncture does not help. Homeopathic remedies do not have a cure for it. But I have the cure within me if only I would pay attention to it.

And I see that far too many people also suffer from it. I see it all around me. However, even though the symptoms are easy, they are difficult to spot, because the cause is insidious, and we don’t recognize it while we are doing it. Yet, I also see others who have overcome it.

So, what condition is this? What symptoms does it have? How do you diagnose it? What is the treatment for it?

It is a disease called “procrastination.”

Let me start with its symptoms. Let’s say that I have to write this blog. e I created this goal for myself that I would write it every week. But then I “remembered” that I am a busy physician, so I gave myself an out. I will “try” to write it every week, because I am such a “busy” guy. After all, I am a neurologist with a busy practice, I run a headache center, I am on call for acute stroke at a busy hospital, and blah, blah, blah. All that may be true, but are these the reasons that are causing me to procrastinate?

Procrastination.001

Well, let’s see. I sit in front of my computer to write, but then I get a phone call. I answer the phone (of course I “have to” answer every phone, lest it be important….after all, it could be from the hospital). But many times it is not the hospital. And then I get a text from a friend and I get distracted. He sends me a joke and of course I have to respond. He tells me of a new game he found on his iphone and tells me about it. So of course I have to download it too.

And then I tell myself, “Ok, just one more game and then I will get back to my blog.” So I start playing the game “2048.” Of course, one game turns into “one more game.” Then it’s time for dinner. And I promise myself, I will get back to the blog after dinner. And of course I have to watch a little TV while eating.

I know you are not supposed to watch TV while eating. But I justify it because I am such a busy guy after all, and don’t want to waste much time. So I “multi-task.” But this episode of Person of Interest is so absorbing. And then while flipping through my DVR, I see The Lord of the Rings. Oh, I so love this movie. So I tell myself, I will just watch a little bit. It doesn’t matter that I have already seen it, oh I don’t know, maybe a dozen times that I can remember. Gandalf is such a cool wizard…isn’t he? And that Aragorn, son of Arathorn….such awesome fighting skills. And Legolas! There hasn’t been an elf on this earth with his marksmanship with his bow…sliding down the big elephant-like creature’s tusk as if it was a water slide in Disneyland. You know, maybe I should go take some lessons in archery. It will be sop cool to be able to see those arrows fly to the target. I’ll just take a moment and google any archery schools nearby….I know I don’t have time but…it would be so cool to learn archery, don’t you think?……Oh wait, I have to get to my blog, darn it.

And what do you know….it is already 11PM. Really? And then I get a “code brain” call. Sigh. I promise I’ll get to it tomorrow for sure.

The problem is that there is no penalty for not doing things when you are your own boss. Remember when you were in school and had to write papers or study for an exam? Somehow the distractions were not that important when the deadline was “tomorrow,” or the exam was “tomorrow.”

What are these distractions? And why do we fall prey to them so easily? These are the enemy of achievement. If you want to achieve anything, you have to get over these distractions. But why are these distractions so powerful that they can subvert the best of intentions? It is because of Instant Gratification.

Focus Slides.001

Our culture is the culture of instant gratification. We want things to be done NOW. Watching TV gives instant satisfaction. Checking email for the umpteenth time in one hour gives instant satisfaction. It doesn’t matter that all I do is delete junk mail. Writing a blog is more work. Focusing on any worthwhile activity does not necessarily provide instant awards. Someone aptly called this the monkey of instant gratification. It is so quick on its feet, it takes you so quickly and so smoothly into its own slippery world, that you don’t realize it until you are stuck waist-deep into it. And then you wonder where all the time went and why you didn’t accomplish anything.

Whenever you want to do something worthwhile, this monkey is right there to subvert your best of intentions. And its not that you cannot control it. When the pressure is high, a deadline is looming, or the consequences are dire, you forget all about instant gratification. But it usually only happens when there is some type of fear or dread involved, or when the task requires full concentration and attention. When you are panicking, you are not thinking about surfing the net, or answering your emails.

When I am preparing for a lecture that I have to give the next day, I am not worrying about whether Gollum is going to double-cross Frodo Baggins (everyone knows he is going to do it, he is just biding his time). I am concerned about not making a fool of myself while I am talking about the 3 deadly mistakes people make about stress. I am concerned about giving value-packed information.

But wouldn’t it be good if we could have the same focus and attention to accomplish worthy tasks daily without having to worry about the monkey? To have single-minded focus on any worthwhile task, without having to deal with distractions? The answer is not complicated, but requires some forethought before you attempt any task that needs to be accomplished. Effective planning is critical.

So, how many of you procrastinate? The first thing you need to do is to critically examine your daily activities. How much time are you spending on worthwhile tasks and how much on instant gratification activities? The first key to any change is awareness.

I have a simple exercise for you, although I know that most of you will not do it, even though you will think it is worthy, because you will procrastinate. For the next week, examine how much time you spend doing worthwhile activities and how much on distractions.

Tell the monkey to go climb a tree. Better yet, tie him to the trunk and do this task. Drop me a line and tell me how many minutes you spend on average on distractions, and what plans you have to deal with them.

Until next time

Be enlightened.

Posted in Beverly Hills Headache Institute, Health Tips By BHHI | 3 Comments

What part of “No” don’t you understand?

Jack had a steady job. He was a gentle and kind person and everybody loved him. He had a shy smile, but when he first came to me, he was not smiling. The first day I saw him in my office, he was under so much stress that he could hardly catch his breath. He worked at a school for boys and his conscientious work granted him a plaque on the wall as one of the top teachers.

Then one day, it all changed. His school got a new administrator, which triggered a cascade of events that changed his life. Suddenly he was re-assigned to a different class and given the responsibility to teach subjects he was unfamiliar with, along with larger classes, bigger workload and longer hours. He tried to keep up, but after months of working hard, he felt emotionally, spiritually and physically drained. The gentle, calm and caring nature was replaced with anxiety, worry, and constant fear.

His home life was no better. His wife had her own challenges and was unavailable to him. They still loved each other but because of their own individual stresses, their relationship had become platonic in nature. He felt more tired than usual, he was having difficulty with multi-tasking, his concentration suffered and he started having memory difficulties. He developed an episode of loss of vision in one eye, which resolved after a few weeks. An MRI obtained showed the typical lesions. Jack had multiple sclerosis (MS).

So, why am I telling you this story? When we think of chronic diseases, we focus on the physical treatments. And rightfully so. But most people do not understand that there is a psychological basis as well.

As far back as the nineteenth century, the neurologist who first gave a full description of MS, Jean-Martin Charcot, noted this association of “long continued grief” with the onset of symptoms. And it is not only MS, but many other diseases that have an association with emotional stress in their genesis, including Alzheimer’s disease, various types of cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions. In this case, it is the inability to say no.

Further exploration into his history revealed that Jack was always a people pleaser. He was always there for anybody who needed help. He never said no to anyone, even if it meant going out of his way. In fact, if he ever said no, he would feel bad afterwards.

 

April is Stress Awareness Month, and I wanted to discuss this topic from a different perspective, If you look online, there are many blogs and articles on people providing all types of tips to manage stress. Most of these tips have a lot of merit….for the right person. For example, I read somewhere that taking your pet to your work has been shown to decrease your cortisol levels. And that may be true…if you are a pet lover.

StressAwareness.001

The same study showed that people who did not bring their pets to work had a higher level of stress, as did people who did not have pets. I can understand where people who had pets and did not bring them to their work can increase their stress. But what about people who do not like pets? Are they stressed because they don’t have pets or because the presence of animals in the office increased their stress? In my case, though, it would probably be the animals which increase my stress…lol.

Be that as it may, I am more interested in finding the cause of stress. We can divide them into internal and external causes. If you have a bad boss, you can learn some techniques to manage your stress temporarily. But I doubt you can change him to become a better boss and not cause you stress. It is an external cause that you don’t have much control over.

But there are internal causes as well. Such things as how you react to other people and life’s circumstances, how you spend your time, what types of people you hang out or associate with, etc. Are you a people pleaser? Can you say “no”?

I do want you to learn some of these stress-management strategies. If you like yoga, go for it. If you need to learn how to meditate, find an instructor or a school or a course where you can do that. If you need to get some aggression out, because someone caused you to become angry, I advise you to go to the gym and take out your aggression by doing something physical. But at the same time, look at how you react to circumstances. Learn how to say “no” when you don’t feel like saying “yes”. There are certain obligations you cannot avoid, but there are many that you can. You just have to learn how.

Just like Jack did. Luckily, he came to me when he was still unable to say no. He listened to me and followed what I told him, and slowly started to improve his life. When he got out of his own way, he was able to find a solution at work that decreased his stress level. He was able to convince his wife to go to a marriage counselor and they have come a long way.

What about you? Have you repressed your emotions? Do you difficulty saying “no”?

Until Next Time

Be Enlightened.

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Do you get bored easily?

One of my friends asked me this question recently, knowing full well what the answer was going to be. In fact, I have been asking this question of my patients and also in my seminars. It is an important question to ponder over, because it gets to the root of who you are. If you want life to be good, ask yourself this question: do you get bored easily?

Let’s first define what boredom is. It is a desire for stimulation and distraction. It implies that we are not comfortable with our thoughts and we have to have an external stimulus to distract us from our thoughts. Boredom is the result of trying to find the quick-fix: instead of addressing the cause of the boredom, we address the results, the superficial symptoms.

 

One of the things I have found in my experience is that our fast pace of life is increasingly contributing to the boredom disease. We are glued to technology pretty much all of our waking hours. Whenever we feel we are getting bored, we can easily whip out our versatile cell phones to ward off our boredom. I had discussed the problem of technology overload syndrome in a previous blog (In case you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.), which is an important contributor to this condition. How many of you have actually experienced a dull moment? Or do you instantly cure that dull moment by turning on an electronic device?

It used to be that when people would get bored, they would seek out social activities, and become creative with their brains. In this day and age, the ever present technology actually dumbs down our thinking. Have you ever noticed that your creative thoughts come usually when you are away from your computer, ipad, iphone, droid or other technology?  At least I have. Some of my most creative thoughts come when I am driving without any music or other external stimulation, or when I am meditating, relaxing, taking a shower etc, when my mind can actually take a break from the constant bombardment of information. I remember reading somewhere that it is virtually impossible to have a really creative thought when you are constantly bombarded with information. Someone has aptly called this the crisis of attention.

People who get bored easily also tend to gravitate towards more risky behavior. Chronic boredom leads people to start abusing drugs, participating in activities that increase the adrenaline rush. These people thrive on the excitement these activities provide and when they cannot get the excitement, they get bored. Daily life becomes too dull and boring. Moreover, people who get easily bored have a difficult time keeping themselves entertained, leading to the need for outside stimulation such as provided by drugs.

A lot of us multi-task because doing one activity only is too boring. We have actually filled our life with so many activities that we have no choice but to multi-task. I myself am no exception. But what exactly happens when you multi-task? Do you think you can do more than one thing at a time? The answer is actually no. No human can multi-task in the true sense of the word, meaning paying attention to more than one thing at the same time. The brain cannot do that. What it does do is that it rapidly shifts focus from one task to the other.

And this is exactly what we try do when we multi-task. However, the more you shift focus from one task to another, the less attention you pay to each task. In fact, it has been shown that you actually do become dumber: studies have shown that you lose 10% of your IQ because of continuously shifting focus from one activity to another rapidly. You are 40% less effective in whatever work you were doing.

In essence, trying to overcome boredom by keeping your mind constantly stimulated by outside stimuli is causing you to become a less effective person. 

Life becomes boring when you cannot even solve the problem of how to fill your empty time. Boredom comes because your little voice inside your head, the voice that is critical of things around you, does not like meaningful activities. It wants to be constantly entertained. Any activity that is associated with growth requires focused attention. And any focused attention will invite boredom.

How meaningful is your life? How bored do you get with your life, and what activities bore you? If you examine carefully, you will see that most of the activities that cause you to be bored are activities critical to accomplishing a worthy task. One of the main reasons people get stressed and look forward to the weekend or vacations is that daily activities do not provide enough stimulation; they are forced by circumstances to do them. How much time do you actually spend, of your own free will, to doing or participating in activities that will cause you to grow? Any worthy activity requires sustained attention and enthusiasm, which is sadly lacking in many of us, because we get too bored too easily.

This is the difference between activities that are instantly entertaining rather than producing some transformation in your life. Even a small transformation, such as learning a new skill, causes boredom. In fact, that is one of the best clues that an activity is going to transform your life – you become easily bored with it.

So next time you get bored, don’t fight it. A healthy dose of boredom is good for you. Let your creative mind take over.

Until next time.                                                                                                                                     Be enlightened.

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Is making New Year’s resolutions wrong, or did you make the wrong resolutions?

Now that its February, I wanted to discuss your New Years’ Resolutions. Did you make any this year? Or did you decide that since most resolutions of such a nature fail, it is pointless to make them? You know my view on resolutions. In the beginning of January, I sent you a poem that I wrote, titled,

“Resolutions for the new Year, Will they last or disappear.”

If you missed the poem, you can check it out here.

Today’s topic continues with that theme. Just because resolutions fail, does not mean that you should not make them. The problem is not that making resolutions is wrong. It’s how you make them that either guarantees success or causes you to fail. Let’s examine why we make resolutions in the first place. It’s because we feel that something in our life needs to be improved upon, that a positive change needs to be made. Whether you are overweight, are not exercising, are not happy with your job, want to quit some bad habits, such as smoking etc, you recognize that some aspect of your life needs to be changed.

But think about why you made that resolution in the first place. A resolution is basically a goal, isn’t it? The reason why you are making the goal is very important. Many of you set goals, specifically during the time of the beginning of the year, without any particular thought as to why you are setting those goals. You may have a vague idea, but how strong is your “why”? Why do you have that particular resolution or goal?

One important question to ask yourself before you decide on a particular goal:

What prompted you to strive to make that change?

Did it come from within you or was it due to an external influence? A lot of us are making goals we don’t really want, that are not motivating. They don’t come from within us. If the reason for the goal is some outside influence such as your boss, who may, for example, state that you have to increase your productivity, it will be difficult for you to achieve it unless it becomes an important goal for you too.

Goals for 2014.001

However, an external influence is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you are overweight and are suffering from the consequences of your weight. As a result of not making your health a priority, you have allowed your weight to rise. Maybe, as a result, you have developed diabetes. So, even if you don’t really want to, circumstances are forcing you to confront your reality.

But regardless of whether you want to or not, if you really want to make it a goal of losing those 10 lbs, you first have to own it. This means you have to make that goal important enough to you personally. When you say, “I have to lose weight because my doctor says I should,” you are not owning it. It is not important enough to you, yet. If you take on a goal just to please someone else, you will not achieve it. Or even if you achieve it, it will be temporary at best. It will be an uphill battle.

This is the main reason why New Year’s Resolutions generally fail. The reason for making them is not empowering to you. Do you feel any excitement when you say them out loud? If not, that should be a clue to you that the chances of success in achieving that goal are not very good.

So the first ingredient is to Own It:

  • It has to come from within.
  • Make the decision that you want a particular goal.
  • Make it an authentic goal.

Everyone wants to change, but the more they take on goals that they don’t really want to do, the more they will fail. And one failure begets another failure. You will now have a track record in your mind of a failure, and that sets you up for the next failure. No wonder you keep making resolutions every year, promising that this time, it will be different. And when it is not, you eventually become disillusioned about the whole process, stating that resolutions do not work. Yes, they do not work because you have not being doing them properly.

So, let’s start by examining your resolutions or goals from the perspective of how important they are to you. Think of at least one goal that you want to achieve. Start by examining it to see if it is a goal that is important to you or was it dictated by something or someone else. You may also want to go back in your mind to your previous goals that you have not met and look at them with a fresh pair of eyes, and see what made them unreachable. And then look at some goal or goals that you did meet, what was it that made the achievement of that goal possible?

There is much more to goal setting than just making a decision and owning it, but without this key ingredient, the process will be doomed from the start. So, let’s begin with the right intention and reason. Let’s begin with a big “Why” and achieve our goals.

What one goal do you have? What is the “why?”

Until next time

Be enlightened.

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