Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Foundation of Personal Boundaries - Feelings, Thoughts, Attitude, Behavior, Environment

What forms the foundation of your boundaries?

Feelings -- You must be aware of your feelings to master them. Feelings must be acknowledged and then let go. Think of yourself as a net through which appropriate negative feelings pass through. The net catches the good feelings. Feelings come from the heart and can guide you as to the state of your relationships. Heed them. Listen to them and channel them appropriately. Feelings are YOUR responsibility. No one else. Feelings cannot be wrong. They simply are. Frequently, feelings go hand in hand with thoughts…

Thoughts -- Thoughts are founded on attitudes and beliefs. Attitudes are your stance towards particular issues. Beliefs are anything you consider to be true. At some point in your life, you must question every one of your attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs because we are all plagued by Gremlin thinking. And many of these Gremlins began at a very young age for us. As we learn many of our attitudes in early life, we must question their basis and their truth. People with boundary problems often have distorted thoughts about who is responsible for what. Distorted thoughts must be recognized and improved. We must OWN our thoughts. They are ours. We are the only ones who can change them. Master your thoughts and feelings and you master life.
Values. Values support your boundaries but only when you are clear what your personal values are. Values are what you live for and are willing to die for. For ex., my top values are God, family, hard work for appropriate compensation, lifelong learning and serving others. When I come into conflict over what I should be doing or how to prioritize engagements and tasks, I refer back to my values to guide my decisions.

Behaviors – Your behaviors have consequences. For example, irresponsibility or laziness can lead to poverty and failure. Be aware of the consequences of the behaviors of yourself and those around you. Stop spending time with those individuals who encourage your bad habits. Start spending more time with those who encourage your positive behaviors.

Attitude -- Research has shown that having an optimistic outlook is beneficial on a number of levels – stronger immune system, longer lifespan, better quality of life. You can’t control WHAT happens, but you CAN control how you interpret what happens. The KEY is to learn to see a situation for what it is and not give it more power than it should have. The best was to do this is to step back, look at situation and ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” If No, you know not to give it much weight. If yes, look for constructive solution. Once you learn to have a more optimistic attitude, all of your boundaries will shift slightly. Less will bother you. And as you grow in your emotional balance, your even-mindedness, you will be able to assert yourself and define your boundaries more clearly and more consistently.

Environment -- CHOOSE YOUR ENVIRONMENT CAREFULLY. For example, alcoholics need to avoid bars. Bars are a trigger for them which renew their cycle of craving. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are tempted to do that which you know is wrong. In addition to the right surroundings, you need the right people around you in the right surroundings. It is essential to have supportive people around you to help pick you up when you fall. Steer your mind and your body away from those people and situations which are likely to tempt you into destructive behaviors.

When you fall down, remember to always keep trying. Never, never, never give up.

Awhile back, I had gotten into a bad habit of saving my wife, Kristin, from my boy’s disrespectful talk. I would step in and get stern with them when they were disrespectful to their mother. Yet, that behavior on my part doesn’t help my wife to gain their respect. She has to do that herself.

So first I had to realize that I was “saving” her. Then, I had to talk with my wife to address the situation. Next, I had to stop myself from saving her by stepping in. So I had to control my impulse to act in the moment. And she had to learn to enforce her own boundaries which are different from mine. Whereas she used to allow the boys go a little further than I would have, she now makes them tow a respectable line. It takes some time, but it’s worth it. I had to get comfortable with that.

Exercises To Help Build Appropriate Boundaries:

1) Practice saying “No” in a caring yet firm manner twice a day.
2) Take one risk per day.
3) Look honestly at what it is you are tolerating in your life.
4) Chart the number of times you feel afraid or anxious each day.

Remember, a loving, caring person DOES enforce their boundaries. It is one of the best ways that you can show your love for your famil and friends.

All my love,

Dr. John
Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who You Are Makes a Difference - Inspirational Story

I am working on the proposal for my book, "Meaning: The Way to a Profoundly Happy and Purposeful Life" and I thought I'd share this story from it with you.

Inspirational Story: Who You are Makes a Difference

A High School teacher wanted to honor each of her senior students by telling them the difference each of them had made to her. She called each student to the front of the room, one at a time. She told each of them how they had made a difference to her and their classmates. Then she gave each one a blue ribbon, embossed with gold letters, which stated, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."

Afterwards, the teacher assigned a class project to see what kind of effect such recognition would have on the community. She handed three more blue ribbons to each student and instructed them to go out and pay it forward to others in their community. The students were told to follow up on the results, see who was received the ribbons, and report back to the class in two weeks.

One of the students went to a manager in a nearby software firm, and recognized the manager for helping him with his career planning. He presented him with the blue ribbon and pinned it on his shirt. Then, he gave the manager two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on appreciation, and we'd like for you to find one other person to honor, give them their blue ribbon. Then give them the extra ribbon so they can recognize a third person, to continue our recognition project.” He then asked the manager to report back to him afterwards so he could share it with the class.

Later that same day, the manager went in to see his superior, who was generally regarded as a negative and grouchy person. The manager told his superior that he respected him tremendously for his creative ingenuity. The superior appeared quite surprised. The manager asked his boss if he would accept the blue ribbon. His surprised boss said, "Well, okay." The manager pinned the blue ribbon right on his boss's sports jacket, near his heart.
As he gave him the final extra ribbon, he asked, "Would you take this last ribbon, and pay it forward by honoring somebody else. The student who initially gave me these ribbons is doing a project for class, and we want to keep this appreciation project going to find out how it affects others."

That evening, the boss came home to his 15-year-old son, and sat down with him. He told his son, "The most amazing thing happened to me at work today. I was sitting in my office, and one of the mid-level managers came in. He told me he admired me and presented me with a blue ribbon for being so creative. Who would have thought?! He thinks I'm incredibly creative! Then he put this blue ribbon on my jacket that says, "Who I Am Makes a Difference." He gave me one additional ribbon and asked me to find someone else to honor with it. While I was coming home tonight, I began thinking about who to honor with this ribbon, and I thought about you. I want to show my admiration for you. My days are really busy and I get very tired and when I come home, I know I don't pay much attention to you. Sometimes I yell at you for not doing your homework and for messing up your bedroom. But for some reason, this evening I just wanted to let you know that you do make a difference to me. Along with your mother, you are the most important two people in my life. My life would be meaningless without you. And I want you to know that I think you are a wonderful person, and I love you!"

The startled teenager broke out in tears and began to sob. His whole body trembled with sadness. He gazed up at his father and mumbled through his tears, "Dad, earlier today I wrote a letter to you and Mom, telling you why I had killed myself, and asking for your forgiveness and understanding. I was going to kill myself tonight with your gun after you fell asleep. I didn't think that you cared about me. The letter is upstairs. I don't think I need it after all." His father went upstairs into his son’s bedroom and found a heartfelt letter full of anger, sadness and pain.

The boss went back to work a changed man. He was no longer a grouch. He made sure to tell all his employees that they made a difference to him. The manager helped many other high school students with their career planning, and always remembered to let them know what a difference they made in his life. And the student and his classmates learned a valuable lesson, "Who you are does make a difference."

And who you are is determined largely by how well your brain is working. The brain affects everything you are and everything you do - your emotional well-being, your relationships, work, parenting, marriage, and even your relationship with a higher power. To understand yourself and those around you, you must understand your brain. If your brain is working right, then you are working right.[i]

[i] Amen, D. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. 1999. Three Rivers Press.

Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Mental energy - What drains it and what renews it

Mental energy is your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. It is the self-talk that runs through your head when you silently converse with yourself. A full reservoir of mental energy leads to greater clarity of thought, greater creativity, better performance, stronger focus, a greater ratio of successes to failures, more flexibility of thought, and realistic optimism grounded in your past successes.

You use up your mental energy by thinking negative thoughts, focusing on the same task for more than 1 ½ hours, shallow breathing, and being overwhelmed by stress.

You gain mental energy by becoming aware of your Gremlin thoughts and rewriting them as positive and supportive. You create more cognitive energy by consciously redirecting your attention from negative thoughts towards positive thoughts. Your mental energy grows though the use of your imagination and visualization exercises that will be discussed later in this chapter. Mental energy is replenished through deep breathing, relaxation exercises, stretching and exercise.

Mental energy is made up of those functions which take place in the brain and the mind – your cognitive processes. While the emotional brain (the right side of the brain) works in an associative manner, the thinking brain (the left side) works in a linear and logical manner. The primary functions of the thinking brain are to analyze, plan, reflect upon, memorize, prioritize, compare and sort incoming data from our senses and prior experiences and arrange that data into meaningful chunks, such as perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. The brain helps us to make sense of past, current and future situations by using data from our past experiences as well as sensory data. Of course, the brain also regulates many of our bodily functions.

The brain is the most complex system known to humankind. It contains over one hundred billion neurons, or brain cells. When put together end-to-end, there are more than 2 miles of brain cells in your head. Each brain cell has an average of ten thousand connections to other brain cells. That means that there are more connections in your brain than there are stars in the universe.

The simple fact that there is more of anything in my head and that it works even remotely correctly is absolutely awe-inspiring to me. The fact that I can communicate with you by writing or speaking and you can understand what I am conveying is amazing. To me, this is perhaps the greatest proof of a higher power – that there are more connections in my brain than there are stars in the universe and that I can move my body, laugh, run, and speak is truly a miracle and a gift.

However, the brain does not work perfectly. The brain artificially pieces together a respectable version of reality by analyzing and reconstructing millions of pieces of partial truths and incomplete sensory data. Given the complexity of the task, the brain does an admirable job of creating a somewhat cohesive representation of reality. Yet, it’s not perfect. Our perception of reality is not 100% accurate. There is a great deal of room for operator error and individual interpretation.

Your senses take in over 4 million bits of information per second. You are aware of only 2,000 of those 4 million bits. These 2,000 tiny pieces of information are filtered and selected based upon your preconceived notions, judgments, emotions, and thoughts.

Think about that for a moment. You are aware of less than 1 percent of the total information that comes in through your senses. So what you pay attention to matters enormously in terms of how you view the reality around you. Another way of looking at this is that you create your own reality by what you attend to, how well you manage your emotions, and the content of your thoughts.

By focusing on certain situational elements (e.g., “I’m running late.”), cultivating a particular outlook (e.g., “People are out to get me.”) and holding on to old ways of thinking (e.g., “Life is meaningless.”), you create one reality. This is probably the reality that you are in right now. However, this is only one version of reality out of many.

By changing your outlook (e.g., from pessimistic to optimistic), or by discovering more optimistic ways of thinking (e.g., meaning exists in every situation), or by focusing on situations in a new way, you can literally change the world around you. For instance, you are waiting in line at the bank and the line is moving painfully slowly. You can choose to focus your thinking on elements that will worsen or improve your emotional state. Thoughts that typically will worsen your emotional state include the following:

“This always happens to me.”
“I am going to be late for my meeting.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“I am not putting up with this anymore. I am changing banks.”

On the other hand, here are some thoughts that will improve your emotional state while waiting in line:

“This line isn’t a big deal. I can wait.”
“I’ll take this time to focus on my breathing.”
“I’m sure the bank teller is working as quickly as he can.”
“If I’m a few minutes late for the meeting, it won’t be the end of the world.”

By changing your thoughts, you can create new versions of reality for yourself. You can cultivate optimism, remind yourself to slow down and breathe, calm yourself, and negate catastrophic thoughts.

There is not one objective reality. There are actually billions of different realities because each one of us creates our own version based on our unique set of prior experiences and tendencies. The experiences, feelings and attitudes which we bring to the situation shape and filter our view of reality.

If you'd like to hear more about the power of negative and positive thinking, please take a look at the top-selling Guide To Self radio shows at

Have a wonderful day!

Dr. John
Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

YOU are the GOOD worth fighting for. Fight for it every moment of every day.

I don't know if you've seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies or read the books. You should.

It came to my attention recently that J.R. Tolkein was a Christian. And Christian symbolism is littered throughout the movies and books.And there is one part that struck me as particularly powerful in the second movie, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

At the point of complete and utter hopelessness towards the end of the The Two Towers, Frodo, the ring bearer, has given up hope. After a desperate battle, Frodo and Sam sit dejected and demoralized. At that moment, Frodo is ready to give up on his epic quest…
Then Sam says to Frodo,

“By all rights we shouldn’t even be here…but we are. It’s like the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered, full of darkness and danger they were, and sometime you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy, how could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass, a new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. And those are the stories that mattered. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now, folks in those stories had lots of chances to turn back, only they didn’t, they kept going, because they were holding on to something. … that there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

And I’m here to remind you of that good and to remind you to keep fighting for it, every moment of every day that you breathe. Because if you do that, you will be fulfilling your purpose, your destiny, your life will have meaning, and you will be happy.

At that point, you will live without regret, without worry of lies or exaggerations tripping you up, without fear of death even, because you WILL know, at the end of the day, that you have given everything you have, you’ve given it your all. When you live your life to its potential, when you act according to you dearest values, when you manage your emotions, steer your thoughts, and speak to God, then YOU become the good worth fighting for.

That’s what I’m trying to inspire you to do – I need you to wake up to life; stop waiting to die and start wanting to live. Don’t settle for mediocrity and normalcy. Strive for greatness. Don’t stop until you’re living an exemplary life.

Realize that YOU set the bar for others. Set it high on every level – physical, ethical, emotional, mental and spiritual. You ARE the example for others. If not you, who?

So how do you go about doing that?

Odds are that you are already doing much of it if you’re listening to this show.

The burning question is “Are you doing ALL of it? Are you pushing the envelope in each of these six areas?

Do you know what your top values are?
Are you in great physical shape?
How well can you manage your emotions?
Do you know how to keep your thinking positive amidst trouble?
Are you surrounded by supportive, nonjudgmental people?
Just how strong is your relationship to God?
Because a weakness in one of these foundational areas can cause a whole life to collapse onto itself.

And I’ll give you an example…

Ted is a strong Christian man who speaks daily to God through prayer. He is physically fit, running five miles daily. He knows what his top values are and lives according to them. Yet, he is weak in one area – managing his own emotions. When his children misbehave, his anger erupts. He yells at them, making his children believe they are bad people, undermining their self-confidence and causing fear and anxiety to take root in them. His children will grow up to resent and reject God because of the behavior of their father. Ted’s wife fears his unpredictable moods – irritation, withdrawal, sadness, anger, and impatience fill most of his days. Due to his poor emotional control, Ted risks undermining his values which include treating others with respect and love. He risks an unbalanced spiritual life by setting a poor example for his loved ones, an example that is in direct contradiction of the behaviors modeled by Jesus. Ted’s negative emotions also eat away at his physical health for we now know that anger and irritation are directly related to greater risk of stroke, heart attacks, low self-esteem, migraines, ulcers, substance abuse problems. Finally, Ted’s difficulty with anger has been shown to lead to troubled relationships at work and with friends and family. It also will interfere with his financial situation because it’s likely to lead to frequent job loss.

As it goes with the management of your emotions, so it goes with each of the other critical areas – physical health, relationship with God, mental health, awareness of values and supportive relationships. You cannot lead an exemplary life by excelling in only one or two of these.

Focusing on one or two of these areas is not sufficient for an extraordinary life. Because weakness in any one of these areas is enough to destroy a lifetime of hard work. Each of these areas interacts with and has an effect on every other area. They are interconnected. So you can’t simply ignore one and hope it goes away. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
You have to focus on strengthening and becoming more aware of each of these areas to create your extraordinary life.

Remember, YOU are the good worth fighting for. As Gandhi said, You must be the change you wish to see in the world. You must begin with yourself. Only then can you truly help others

Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Help for Hurricane Katrina Survivor

The show on Monday focused on the story of Bernard Johnson, a lifelong native of New Orleans, who walked four miles through high waters to escape the flooding after the levees broke. You can listen to his tale at We at Guide To Self are trying to help raise money to pay for a new set of dentures for Bernard. In his haste to leave his home, he forgot them. My father, Dr. Don Schinnerer, DDS, has graciously volunteered his time to make Bernard a new set. Yet we need to pay the lab bill (a separate company) for materials which will run roughly $600. For those of you who are able to make donation, please send your check or money order to:

KDIA, c/o Dr. John
3260 Blume Drive, Suite 520
Richmond CA 94806.

This is not set up as a non-profit or a tax deductible donation. It's just plain folks trying to help out one family who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

Many thanks for your contributions!

All my best,

John Schinnerer, PhD

Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Even more help for your brain!

Many thanks to those of you who have been listening to the Guide To Self radio show on KDIA, 1640 AM at 5 pm in the SF Bay Area! It's been a fun ride for the first three months. And I think I'm improving every time out. Regardless of my delivery (which varies in it's quality!), the content is always compelling if you are interested in learning something new about your self, your life, your relationships, your relationship with God, or your parenting skills. It's all there. Tune in and have a listen!

I'm writing today about EVEN MORE supplements and top secret ways to keep your brain chugging along. I spent three 1/2 hour shows talking about all the tips I've discovered to improve the functioning of your brain - better memory, happier mood, less irritability, greater clarity of thought, reduced risk of Alzheimer's and much, much more.

So here are additional tips on how to keep your brain strong and buffed!

Folate Cuts Risk of Alzheimer’s by 55%

As we age, our bodies absorb folate less efficiently from food. However, adequate folate is essential for human health in a number of ways. In particular, it’s been shown to be helpful to the heart as well as for healthy brain function. A blood test to check levels of folate should be routine for people over age 60 who have memory problems. If it's low, you may want to consider taking supplements.

One recent study also shows that older adults who meet the recommended daily allowance of folate cut their risk of Alzheimer’s in half compared with those whose diets contained less that the RDA.

Folate has been shown to reduce the levels of homocysteine in the blood which helps reduce your risk of heart disease. High homocysteine levels have been related to a greater likelihood of stroke and AD. Homocysteine is one of the bad guys in your body who causes tiny scrapes and cuts inside the walls of your arteries. This is because homocysteine is made of sharp little crystals which run through your arteries.

Recommended daily dose: You can reduce your homocysteine levels by taking between 800 mcg of folate. I take 800 mcg of folate per day. Warning: do NOT exceed 1,000 mcg per day of folate. You don’t want to over do it. According to “You: The Owner’s Manual,” taking 800 mcg of folate per day makes you roughly six years younger.

Drink a Cup of Joe a Day for Better Brain Activity

Several recent studies have shown that drinking one cup of coffee per day has a beneficial effect on your brain. It seems that caffeine has a positive impact on the neurotransmitters, the messengers or postal service, in your brain. One cup of Joe per day has been shown to reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease by 40% and the risk of Alzheimer’s by 20%. The effect of caffeine is significant (regardless of whether it’s in coffee, tea or soda.). What’s more, recent research shows that roasted coffee residues are high in antioxidants. I would stay away from the sodas however. They are liquid sugar and are filled with artificial preservatives, coloring and sweeteners. Also, caffeine causes some people to become more nervous and agitated. It may cause irregular heartbeats, problems with diabetes, and migraines. And of course, too much caffeine may cause trouble with your sleep and increase your heart rate and blood pressure if you’re sensitive to it. So as always proceed with caution and good sense.

Get some ALA ASAP to reduce AD!

Let me explain. ALA stands for alpha-lipoic acid (ALFA lih-POE-ic as-sid) while AD stands for Alzheimer’s disease. One of the best supplements to hit the shelves is alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA. This is a well-researched amino acid that is essential for our body to work properly but is not made in the body.

ALA works as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are a way to “rust proof” your body. When my kids leave their bikes out in front in the winter, I remind them that the rain will cause the bikes to rust and not work very well. When you leave a salad out on the counter, the lettuce turns brown and wilts. These changes are due to the combination of oxygen with the exposed molecules resulting in a process called oxidation.

We can’t live without oxygen. Yet oxygen, in the form of free radicals, is at the core of much of the aging process. Free radicals are created constantly within cells as oxygen is burned to make energy from nutrients. Free radicals are the unstable oxygen molecules which damage our bodies on a cellular level. Antioxidants work to protect our body from harmful free radicals. So think of free radicals as another group of bad guys in the body.

Bruce Ames at UC Berkeley has done some incredible work with ALA. ALA is capable of reaching tissues made up primarily of fat (e.g., the brain and nervous system) and those made up mainly from water, such as the heart. It also boosts the power of other traditional antioxidants such as vitamins E and C.

But that’s NOT the best part. Dr. Ames has shown that ALA can reverse age-related decline in brain function. ALA is currently used in hospitals in cases of poisoning, in particular heavy metal poisoning which I’ve talked about in the past in relation to autism, ADHD, and more. ALA helps the liver to purge toxins from the body. It also acts to shield the liver from disorders such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

ALA has even been seen to increase blood flow to nerves. And that’s not all! ALA actually helps regulate blood sugar levels by helping to remove glucose from the blood. When your blood sugar is not well regulated it leads to all sorts of problems, such as moodiness, irritability, diabetes, and heart disease.

Minute amounts of Alpha-Lipoic Acid are found in foods such as spinach, liver and yeast. Yet, supplements are necessary if you want to take advantage of these massive benefits that I’ve just gone over. Because the uses of ALA are so varied and the studies are ongoing, the perfect dosage of ALA varies.

Best dosage: As an antioxidant, a typical range is 25 mg to 200 mg per day. It can be given in dosages as high as 600 mg per day for diabetics. But I want you to be cautious with this one.

While incredibly promising, there is not yet complete information on side effects or long-term effects of ALA usage at "normal" doses. While you should work in concert with your doctor to track usage, be aware that few doctors have much, if any, experience with ALA at this point in time. According to Dr. Ames, side effects are very rare -- primarily a slight rash occurs in one out of every 300 people. The most important interaction is with the dosage of diabetes medications.

At this point a safe range seems to be 25 to 200 mg per day. The benefits at this point seem to outweigh any adverse affects. I take 200 mg per day.

L-Carnitine for happier mood and better focus

L-Carnitine (LC) is an amino acid, a naturally occurring substance in the body, that aids the transportation of fatty acids so they can be burned for fuel in the brain. L-carnitine helps in the breakdown of fat in the cells so you can produce more energy. LC works well to improve your mood, concentration as well as protects against the normal effects of aging by slowing down damage down by free radicals. It also reduces inflammation of brain tissue.

Best dose: 500 to 1500 mg twice per day.

Think Positively

Think happy and positive thoughts. Philippians 4:8 puts it very well, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious ... think about these things."

Work on correcting your Gremlin thinking. Gremlins are your automatic, negative thoughts. These thoughts race through your mind quickly and quietly. Realize that your thoughts can lie to you. So it’s essential that you learn to talk back to and challenge your thoughts. Don’t merely accept your thoughts without questioning them.

Examples of Gremlins:

• ‘All or nothing’ Gremlin – Black or white thinking
• ‘Always’ or ‘never’ Gremlin – Using the terms ‘always’ or ‘never’ in your thoughts. Paradoxically, ‘always’ and ‘never’ are never correct.
• The Negative Gremlin – He focuses on the negative in the situation and ignores the positive.
• Fortune Telling Gremlin – This Gremlin predicts bad outcome before they happen.
• Guilt Gremlin – This Gremlin starts phrases with ‘I should have…’ or ‘I ought to…’ Guilt doesn’t serve a purpose unless it drives you to appropriate and constructive action.
• Blame Gremlin – This goblin loves to point the finger at other people when things go wrong.

All in all there are 12 types of Gremlin thinking which seek to convince you that the worst case scenario is the most likely scenario. It’s not true. Don’t fall for it. Learn to talk back to your thoughts.

As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right."

Here is how the brain works: You have a thought. Your brain releases chemicals. An electrical transmission goes across your brain, and you become aware of what you are thinking. Every time you have a negative thought, your brain releases negative chemicals that make your body feel bad. When you get mad, for ex., your muscles tense, your heart beats faster, your hands start to sweat, and your brain freezes. Your body reacts to every positive and negative thought you have. You can see this in a polygraph or biofeedback.

Beliefs drive behavior. For example, some may believe they are doomed to have poor interpersonal relationships, because that is what happened prior to their changing old patterns. The goal here is to change the negative beliefs to positive ones and to reduce the associated anxiety. Coaching can be very powerful in helping individuals to set appropriate goals, improve organization, planning and consistent performance.

Research by Mark George, MD and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that happy, hopeful thoughts had an overall calming effect on the brain, while negative thoughts activated areas of the brain which are involved with depression and anxiety. Your thoughts matter. Your thoughts are real. Every thought you have causes a physiological, a bodily, reaction. Watch your thoughts!

Deep Breathing Fuels the Brain

Learn to remind yourself to breathe deeply all day long.

• Diaphragmatic breathing.

• Increases oxygen to the brain and body, lessens temper flare-ups, reduces impulsivity and increases the ability to think clearly.

• Slight changes in oxygen content in the brain can alter the way a person feels and behaves.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a method of deep breathing where you breathe into the stomach or diaphragm. The emphasis is on exhaling all of the air in your lungs with each breath.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a method of administering pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to a patient in order to improve or correct conditions. Providing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber we are able to deliver 10-15 times more oxygen then if delivered at sea level or at normal atmospheric levels. Increased blood flow to all areas of the brain was evident on brain scans after 28 treatments in the hyperbaric chamber treatment. Benefits of the treatment were evident three months later. The point here is not to urge you to seek our hyperbaric oxygen treatment but to demonstrate the importance of breathing deeply throughout the day.

Another dramatic illustration of the importance of breathing is seen in the following statistic. Eighty percent of people with some sort of chronic breathing disorder also suffer from anxiety and/or depression. This is an incredibly strong relationship and shows the power of breath to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Smile Throughout the Day Regardless of Your Mood

Smile. Forcing yourself to smile is a way to “trick” your mind into thinking that you are happy. It is critical to smile, especially when you don’t feel like it!

When we are happy we smile and when we smile, we feel happier.

Feedback between levels of the brain is bi-directional. Information goes both ways.

Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, can improve your mood. One of the most significant emerging principles in the neurology field in the 1990’s is the idea that the feedback between levels of the brain is bi-directional. In other words, messages travel both ways between various levels within the brain. So if you activate a higher level, such as the cortex, you will be priming a lower level, such as the cerebellum. And vice-versa. Thus, smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, can improve your mood!

Socialize With Others

Surround yourself with intelligent and interesting people.

• One of the best ways to keep expanding the networks in your brain, in your social life and in the business world.
• Verbal interaction with other capable individuals causes your brain to create new connections and pathways.

Research has shown that the human brain continues to learn, change and create new pathways no matter your age. The brain needs exercise as much as any muscle in your body.

Challenge Your Brain Daily

Your brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more you can use it. Every time you learn something new your brain makes a new connection. Learning enhances blood flow and activity in the brain. If you go for long periods without learning something new you start to lose some of the connections in the brain and you begin to struggle more with memory and learning.
Do vocabulary exercises, quizzes, puzzles, crosswords, debates, anagrams and brainteasers. Attend current events seminars. Write in a journal. Volunteer your time. Learn a new skill, language or subject.

As you continue to stretch your brain, pathways in your brain, which would normally shrink with age, branch out and make new connections. The intellectual stimulation creates alternate pathways by which chemical messengers can communicate. Thus, if old pathways are damaged, the brain can reroute the necessary messages to essential parts of the brain.

Anatomist Marian Diamond, PhD, from the University of California at Berkeley studied aging in rats. Those rats who were allowed an easy life without any new challenges or learning had less brain weight than those rats that were challenged and forced to learn new information in order to be fed. New learning actually caused increased brain density and weight. Strive to learn something new everyday, even if it is just for a short period of time. Einstein said that if a person studies a subject for just 15 minutes a day in a year he will be an expert, and in five years he may be a national expert.

Get Your Sleep

Early to bed, early to rise…

• You need at least 7 hours per night to optimize brain functioning.

• Sleep deprivation decreases brain activity and limits access to learning, memory, and concentration.

• A recent study showed that those who are sleep deprived had less overall brain activity than those who are not.

Keep Your Stress Manageable

Stress hormones have been shown in animals to be toxic to memory centers.

• Brain cells can die with prolonged stress.
• Managing stress effectively is essential to good brain function.

Make love with your spouse frequently!

Sexual contact with a partner at least once a week led to delayed menopause, increased estrogen levels, and delayed aging.

Brain imaging studies at UCLA have shown that decreased estrogen levels are associated with overall decreased brain activity and poor memory. Enhancing estrogen levels for women through regular sexual activity enhances overall brain activity and improves memory.

Intimacy and emotional bonding may be the most influential factors in the positive aspects of sex (sex with a partner is more important than simply an orgasm). Appropriate sex is one of the keys to the brain's fountain of youth.

In a series of studies by Winnifred B. Cutler, PhD at Stanford University it was found that regular sexual contact had an important impact on physical and emotional well being of women. Sexual contact with a partner at least once a week led to more fertile, regular menstrual cycles, shorter menses, delayed menopause, increased estrogen levels, and delayed aging. Brain imaging studies at UCLA have shown that decreased estrogen levels are associated with overall decreased brain activity and poor memory.

Enhancing estrogen levels for women through regular sexual activity enhances overall brain activity and improves memory.

In Dr. Cutler's study the occurrence of orgasm was not as important as the fact that sex was with another person. Intimacy and emotional bonding may be the most influential factors in the positive aspects of sex. Appropriate sex is one of the keys to the brain's fountain of youth.

Listen to the right music to accomplish your goals

Use music to help develop concentration skills. In a famous study at the University of California at Irvine, students who listened to Mozart's Sonata for 2 Pianos increased visual-spatial intelligence by about 10 percent.

Another recent study demonstrated that students who play a musical instrument scored higher on average on the SAT than children who did not play music.

Music can either help or hurt concentration. In a recent study from my clinic, we had 12 teenagers play the game Memory while they listened to different types of music: rock, rap, classical, and no music. Rap was associated with the worst performance. The rock group also scored poorly. Interestingly, the group did slightly better with classical and jazz music than no music at all.

If you are interested in the full 38-page white paper on Top Tips to Optimize Your Brain, go to for a complimentary copy.

Past shows of Guide To Self are available at

I hope you are healthy and happy!

All my love,

Dr. John
Guide To Self(C) 2005.

Monday, September 05, 2005

More Supplements to Keep Your Brain Buffed!

Here are three more proven natural supplements. Each has been proven effective in double blind studies (the gold standard of scientific research).

Choline for More Memory

Some of us are concerned about declines in memory. Personally, I know that my memory can never be strong enough. Research has shown that the level of phosphatidylcholine (PC) declines in the brain as we age. Choline helps form PC. Choline is found in eggs, fish, nuts, meats and vegetables.

Most people get roughly 300 to 900 mg per day from their diet. If you have a normal diet with adequate representation from all the food groups, you probably do not need a choline supplement.

Recommended daily dose: You should be getting enough from your diet. If you are not getting enough, or if you want to try a supplement, 250 mg per day is a good dose to start at. You can work your way up to 500 mg with a goal to increase mental clarity and memory. Potential side effects include gastrointestinal distress, nausea, sweating and loss of appetite.

St. Johns Wort

This herbal extract has been around for a long time. In a study published in 2005 in the British Medical Journal, it was shown to be as effective as a common antidepressant in dealing with depression. Patients were given a dose of 900 mg per day of St. Johns Wort (hypericum extract) for 6 weeks. 71% of these patients showed significant improvement in their symptoms. It is typically much better tolerated than the traditional prescription drugs commonly prescribed for depression.


In patients who had NO response to a prescription antidepressant, SAM-e helped reduce the symptoms of depression by 50% in half of the participants at a study at Massachusetts General Hospital. It?s thought that SAM-e may help to produce the chemical messengers that reduce depression. If a prescription antidepressant is NOT helping your depression, ask your doctor about the possibility of adding SAM-e to your list of meds.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

All my best,

Dr. John

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Supplements for Your Brain - Keep Your Brain Young!

There are five parts to an exemplary life
1. a personal relationship with God
2. outstanding mastery of your feelings
3. top-notch physical health
4. loving and supportive relationships and
5. positive thinking.

As you know, your brain plays a major role in each of these areas.

In this piece, I will share with you the latest and greatest ways to optimize your brain:
to combat anxiety
to stave off Alzheimers
to improve your overall mood
to relieve your depression
to keep your brain healthy and young
to boost your sex drive
to save your memory and much, much more.

Let me go over some of the main ideas to keep in mind when discussing brain enhancing supplements.

First, the approach to providing proper nutrients to the human brain is not a matter of swallowing a large dose of one nutrient, rather it depends upon our ability to combine a healthy lifestyle with the right mixture of nutrients and in the proper dosages. The brain requires a number of supplements in small dosages as opposed to one supplement in a large dose.

Second, each nutrient we talk about today has an ideal dosage. If you take too much, it may lead to a negative effect.

You want to be cautious when taking two or more supplements together because their effects might be additive and build upon one another. For instance, caffeine has a cumulative effect when added to other nutrients that are stimulants and could result in anxiety or irritability.

Third, always start with a low dose and gradually increase it over time, days or weeks. Do not assume that you want to match the dosages being given in studies as researchers are looking at high dosages to cause a measurable response. By starting low and building slowly, you can avert potential side effects and discover your ideal dose.

Fourth, the time of day at which you take any medication or supplement is critical. A new branch of medicine, chronotherapy, is based upon the principle that our body functioning is rhythmic and it is important to take these rhythms into account when looking at any number of areas: blood pressure, sleep, mental alertness, and more. Most of the supplements we?ll be discussing help you to be alert and improve your mood and are best taken in the morning.

Fifth, some natural supplements have not been adequately tested. In 1994, the United States Congress eased the dietary supplement laws allowing a wide variety of nutrients and herbal extracts onto the market. Do not assume that just because it is available on the shelf that it is effective or safe.

Finally, always consult your doctor before starting any regimen that includes supplements. Your general doctor should have access to a database, such as epocrates, that contains interaction effects between any prescription medications you may be taking and natural supplements.

Try Aspirin Therapy

Another step you can take is taking 162 mg of aspirin each day if you are over forty years of age to keep your arteries from getting inflamed and your blood from clotting. The latest research on aspirin use shows a decrease in the number of strokes, and reduced dementia and Alzheimers. It helps the body create more blood vessels. And it helps blood and oxygen get to the brain more easily. It also helps keep your arteries healthy. It?s recommended that you drink � glass of water before and after taking the aspirin to reduce wear and tear on the stomach lining.

Natural supplements can help you fight off the effects of aging, anxiety, depression, memory loss and more. Here are the latest recommendations along with dosages, frequencies and known side effects.

Vitamin E to Stave Off Alzheimers

Vitamin E has been shown in some studies to help fight off Alzheimers. In one study, people who ate more than 23 IU (international units) of vitamin E had a 43% reduction in their risk of Alzheimers. In addition, ask your doctor about taking 400 international units (IU) to 1,000 IU of vitamin E daily for extra brain protection.

Now there is an elaborate link between the brain and the body. Chemical messengers that help the brain cells ?talk? to one another are called neurotransmitters. They are like the postal service of the brain. They carry messages between brain cells.

While we are on the topic of Alzheimers, I want to point out that your risk of Alzheimers increases by 30% for each hour of TV that you watch daily. While watching TV doesn?t cause Alzheimers, it does represent an inactive or sedentary lifestyle which contributes to the disease. Staying mentally and physically active will enhance the health of your brain as well as help prevent age-related diseases.

Get Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Better Health

Ever since 1945, the rates of depression have increased worldwide and the age of onset is moving downward ? younger people are affected by it. This was noted by Dr. Gerald Klerman who found that each generation of individuals born since WWII appears to have a higher incidence and earlier age of onset of major depression and bipolar disorder. There are many theories for this. However, one of them points to the increase in our diets of sources of omega-6 oils (e.g. from corn and soy) and a decrease in Omega-3 fats. (This has not been proven however).

Rates of depression have been found to be much lower in countries that eat a great deal of fish. In fact, the relationship is so strong, the rates of depression can actually be predicted based on per capita fish consumption!

Dr. Andrew Stoll (author of the Omega Connection) published a double-blind placebo study looking at the effects of Omega 3 fats with bipolar patients (supplementing their current meds). There were 2 groups. 1 group received a placebo (or sugar pill with no physiological effect). 1 group received 9 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids daily. In less than 9 months, the omega 3 group experienced dramatic improvement. The control group relapsed or failed to improve.

Why? When a neurotransmitter binds to a receptor (in the brain) the receptor sets in motion within the cell a series of chemical processes known as signal transduction, amplifying the original signal. Mood stabilizers inhibit or dampen that amplification. It?s similar to building a dam across a raging river which quiets the downstream waters.

One of the most studied nutrient, is the Omega-3 fatty acids. About 60% of the brain is made up of fats (lipids) that make up the lining of every brain cell. Omega-3s are required by the brain to an extraordinary degree. They cannot be produced by our bodies but must be ingested via diet or pills. They are found in large, fatty, cold water fish, many types of nuts such as walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and canola oil.

Omega 3s help turn down the ?volume? of communications between brain cells (similar to the action of a mood stabilizer). Documented benefits of Omega-3 oils include improved mood, clearer thinking, more serenity, better concentration and focus, and better vision. While still under exploration, it is believed that omega 3s can help combat normal age related deterioration of the brain, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and addictions. It?s been linked to pain relief, cancer prevention, lower blood pressure, and reduced asthma risk.

Many Americans only get as little as 200 mg per day of fish oils while Eskimos or Japanese people go as high as 10,000 mg per day due to their fish intake. The recommended daily dose is 2 to 5 g daily of a combination of the 2 key fatty acids in Omega 3s: EPA and DHA. Take 1 to 2 g with each meal. Little extra benefit has been found at dosages over 5 grams per day. Do not worry too much about the particular break down or combination of amounts of EPA vs. that of DHA. Any combination of the two is fine. Future research may indicate that DHA is more beneficial, but we have not found that out yet, and supplements that contain DHA, by itself, tend to be more expensive.

Now, some people do not like the fishy aftertaste you get from the fish oil supplements, so they take flaxseed oil instead. However, there is an important difference between fish oil and flaxseed oil. Fish oil contains the preformed omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, has ALA, or alpha linolenic acid, which is the precursor to omega 3 fatty acids that are in fish. Our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA but the amount converted is minimal. So while flaxseed oil is good for you and thought to be heart healthy, it is not a true substitute for fish oils.

The only 2 ways to bump up your daily fish oil intake is to eat fish or take fish oil supplements. As fish oil appears to substantially reduce the levels of triglycerides (dangerous blood fats) in your blood as well as get the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA. Fish oil at a daily dose of 2 to 5 grams has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels by 20 to 50%. So research suggests that fish oil is helpful to your heart as well as your brain, cutting your risk of heart disease. I cannot say enough about fish oil. It has been related to a lower the heart rate, fights arterial inflammation, reduce blood clot formation, and slows the buildup of plaque in arteries which leads to blockages, heart attacks, and strokes.

I personally take 4,000 mg per day of fish oil supplements and 2,000 mg per day of flaxseed oil.
One word of caution is that fish oil supplements of more than 3 g per day can thin the blood. When combined with blood thinners such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, Vitamin E, ginkgo, garlic, phosphatidylserine (or PS), and prescription blood thinners, it could increase the risk of too much bleeding.

Be careful where you get your fish oil supplements. Make sure they screen out the mercury, a known neurotoxin, which means it kills brain cells. When eating fish, you may want to be aware of which fish are more likely to contain high levels of mercury. You can get the latest information on healthy fish at

A difference should be noticeable after approximately 3 weeks.

Recommended daily dose: 3 to 4 grams daily. Take an antioxidant with your fish oil to clean up any left over free radicals. Take 1 gram with each meal. Fish oils are one of the most critical components of optimizing your brain.

Stay tuned for more brain supplements to come as well as new ways to keep your brain healthy and young!