ADHD & More: Lesser Known Benefits of Cannabis Use

In 1996, California passed landmark legislation that legalized the use of medical marijuana, also known as cannabis. In 1998, a few more states followed suit; within ten years, 11 of the 50 states had legalized medical marijuana. Over 20 years later, as of 2019, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana use, with ten states plus the District of Columbia fully legalizing its use.

The legalizing of marijuana began as its startling effectiveness in alleviating a variety of medical conditions became popularized. While marijuana’s effectiveness in alleviating pain, nausea, seizures and increasing appetite are well known, here are a few lesser known benefits of cannabis that may surprise you.

Improves Lung Capacity

According to a 2016 study on the Effect of Cannabis Smoking On Lung Function and Respiratory Symptoms for the NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine Journal, marijuana smoking is associated with an increase in the lungs’ forced vital capacity. The cause for this is unclear, but may be due to inhaling and holding smoke in the lungs, as is commonly done by smokers of marijuana.

Increases Motivation

There is a growing number of people using cannabidiol (CBD) to manage symptoms of panic, anxiety, and depression. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has long been the most well-known cannabinoid in marijuana since it causes the infamous “high”. However CBD, another naturally-occurring cannabinoid in marijuana, doesn’t cause a “high” but does provide other positive effects to its users, including a decrease in symptoms of panic, anxiety, and depression, while providing an increase in motivation.

Helps Alleviate Symptoms of ADHD

For people with ADHD, it may be difficult to focus on tasks. People with ADHD may feel restless or have difficult sitting still. Marijuana use has been an effective treatment option for some sufferers of ADHD. The medications typically prescribed to people with ADHD helps correct the levels of dopamine in their brain, and marijuana is believed to have a similar impact on the brain as its prescription counterparts.

 

While there are a myriad of health benefits to potentially gain from the use of cannabinoids, nothing is risk-free. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Are you struggling with an ADHD diagnosis and looking for support and coping strategies? A licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

A Meditation Exercise You Can Do with Your Child

As a busy parent of a young child, you may find it challenging to find the time or space to meditate. One solution is to bring the two together, and have your child meditate with you.

Meditating with Young Children

For children five and under, it will be difficult for them to sit still for any length of time. Even a few seconds might be the most you can expect. Adjust your expectations and try to remain flexible in your approach. Most experts agree that by six years of age, children should be able to sit still for one minute per year of age, so age six would be one minute, age seven is two minutes and so forth.

Kids Will Be Kids

It’s important to be patient as you work on a meditation exercise with your child. It’s normal for children to have difficulty sitting still. They may not be able to keep their eyes closed, they may fidget or wiggle as they sit, and they might laugh or try to be funny because it’s awkward or difficult for them to remain still and quiet. This is completely normal, so maintain a sense of humor and take any challenges that arise in stride. It will take time to teach your child to meditate. If you’re overly strict or discipline your child too much, you will end up making this a negative interaction instead of a calming one.

Meditation Exercises for Children

You’ll want to start with a brief session and try to make it fun. A candle-gazing meditation is an easy way to start. For children, guided meditations are generally the best way to teach them to meditate. There are many guided meditations available for free online that are specifically for children. You can find them through a simple Google search or by searching on YouTube.

There are also apps you can use on your phone, tablet or smart TV that are also completely free. One example is Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame, an app intended for children under five which is available for the Android and iOS. Another example is Wellbeyond Meditation for Kids for iOS.

There are also classes available at some meditation centers that are specifically for children. Do a Google search for “meditation center [city, state]”, then check their online schedule or give them a call to find out if they have meditation classes for children.

 

Are you a parent looking for unique ways to cope with challenging parenting issues? A licensed therapist can provide the support and guidance you need. Give my office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

 

 

5 Benefits of a Weekly Game Night for Your Mental Health

Our daily lives can get so busy. Obligations to work and family, as well as taking time to care for ourselves, can often make us forget to have a little fun. If the hustle and bustle of modern life has caused you to neglect your playful side, a weekly game night may be just what you need.

A game night will not only bring you laughter and enjoyment, but it will help you spend quality time with your friends and loved ones. But with so many commitments and so little time, you might be wondering if it’s worthwhile to take time out of your busy schedule to play? If so, read on for five ways a weekly game night will benefit you and your mental health.

1. Improves Relationships

Playing games with people you care about will not only improve relationships because you’re spending quality time, but it will actually strengthen those relationships through biochemistry. As you spend time close to loved ones, your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of trust and intimacy, strengthening your relationships.

2. Relieves Stress

Playing games induces laughter, and as the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter is a very simple way to help your body produce endorphins, a neurotransmitter that will reduce your perception of pain and lead to feelings of euphoria, modulating stress and anxiety.

3. Relieves Anxiety and Depression

Spending time with friends or loved ones can make you feel significant and more important; this causes your serotonin to flow more. Serotonin will boost your mood, helping to regulate any anxiety or depression.

4. Improves Sleep

As you enjoy yourself with friends around the table, laughing and interacting with them, you will naturally reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, reducing stress and helping you sleep more soundly. You’ll also exert energy as you play, which will tire you out at the end of the day and help you fall asleep faster.

5. Makes You Happy

Having fun releases your natural “happy chemicals”, or hormones, that impact your mood. When you’re laughing and having fun, your body releases dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. These hormones will naturally make you feel happier, both in the moment and in the long-term.

 

As you plan out your week with teacher conferences, work meetings, and lunch dates, make sure you schedule in a little time for fun. You’ll be glad you did.

Are you looking for guidance and encouragement to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful? A licensed mental health counselor can help you make changes and work towards achieving your goals. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Is Your Food Delivery Habit Hurting Your Mental Health?

The modern world offers us many conveniences. Indoor plumbing and electricity make life far more sanitary and pleasant than what our ancestors had to deal with. Technology allows us to connect with people from around the world, and we can hop in our car and go wherever we want safely and relatively quickly (unless you live in a major city where traffic tends to be brutal).

But some of our modern-day conveniences may be doing us more harm than good. Take for instance food delivery. Who among us doesn’t love to have our pizza, Chinese or Indian food brought right to our door? It’s fantastic. But it may not be so good for our mental health. Here are a few reasons why:

Depression

It is estimated that over 16 million adults in the United States suffer from depression. Many end up looking for relief via prescription medications that often come with nasty side effects. But could their diet be the real culprit?

A study published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition revealed that people who ate takeout food were 51% more likely to struggle with depression compared to those who tended not to eat those foods.

That makes sense, because what we eat often determines how we feel, both physically and emotionally. Eating processed or fast food tends to load us up with sugar and refined carbohydrates that give us an initial high but quickly send our energy and mood plummeting.

Eating delivered or takeout food regularly also means we are not getting the nutrients our brains need to work optimally. Lacking vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats like Omega-3 has been shown to cause mood issues. For instance, a deficiency in folate, a B vitamin, has been shown to cause depression, apathy, and fatigue.

The bottom line is that a growing body of research is suggesting that what we eat is directly linked to our mental health.

Weight Gain

How we feel about ourselves is often associated with how we look in the mirror. When we eat takeout food, we tend to scarf it down in front of the TV or computer. Before we know it, we have consumed far too many calories. Do this over and over and after a few months, you can unintentionally put on a lot of weight without even realizing it. Then your self-esteem could take a hit and you begin to feel symptoms of depression. This in turn causes you to stay in more (instead of being social) and ordering more food so you can self-medicate by eating things that got you into trouble in the first place. Very quickly, you can find yourself caught in a vicious cycle.

Some Food is Addictive

Some researchers now believe certain junk foods may be addictive. Are you ordering in more and more for the convenience, or because you have formed a dependence on certain foods? Food addiction can be as difficult to break as other substances. In fact, some studies would indicate cutting sugar out of the diet is harder than quitting cigarettes.

 

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If you want to feel good, inside and out, be careful ordering in junk food and instead prepare wholesome and nutritious meals for yourself. Is it as convenient? No, but part of taking care of yourself is making the difficult everyday choices that you’ll be thankful for in the future.

Are you currently using food to self-medicate emotional pain or trauma? Are you interested in exploring treatment options? Please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/22/in-young-kids-junk-food-linked-to-mental-illness/58744.html

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/life-goals/2014/12/5-ways-fast-food-worsens-your-depression/

https://www.nchpad.org/606/2558/Food~and~Your~Mood~~Nutrition~and~Mental~Health

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140826-is-fast-food-making-us-depressed

5 Exercises & Tips to Lower Your Anxiety Before a Big Exam

For many of us, college was absolutely the best time in our lives. The freedom and friendships made those four years incredibly special. But college isn’t all sparkles and unicorns. For others, college is a completely different and often negative experience.

As fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, then use the following tips and exercises to help lower your anxiety before the next big exam you take:

1. Breathe Deeply

When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.

When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.

2. Change Your Perspective

Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us. The truth is, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.

The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well.

3. Start Strong

To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.

4. Be Realistic

What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m going to fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”

This likely won’t happen – or anything like it –  so try not to make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.

5. Exercise

Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind.

 

If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201502/test-anxiety-quick-tips

https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/20-effective-ways-to-calm-your-nerves-before-an-exam/