Relationship Therapy You Can Do on Your Own

While most relationships have their share of ups and downs, very few couples are willing or able to invest the time and/or money that traditional relationship therapy would cost.

This doesn’t mean that they’re more or less committed to the success of their relationship than other couples – only that they have different limits as to what they find an acceptable intrusion into their private lives (particularly when it comes to a third party such as a therapist).

The good news for those that find themselves in this particular situation – or even when one partner simply isn’t willing to go into therapy – is that there are things you can do that can lead to self healing and repairing a relationship that may be damaged.

You can do this as one partner or as a couple, although it’s much more effective when both people participate.   We’ve become a society of do-it-yourselfers, so it only makes sense that we’re bringing this idea into the more personal aspects of our lives rather than the simple home improvement projects.

Positive thinking is a great place to start. Whenever the roads of romance become a little too rocky for comfortable travel, it’s time to take a step back and remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.

Make a list, write a letter, write a poem, or take a few minutes to hold each other and dance. Remind each other of the wonderful person you are when unencumbered with the worries of the world, children, finances, and the world outside the circle of your arms.

There are many different styles of self-therapy that you can use. You may want to check out some books on the various styles and read them together for advice, guidance, and perhaps a little insight as to where your specific problems may lie and the best path to take in the future.

One highly recommended style of relationship therapy is known as the Imago, which is Latin for ‘match’ style. You can find many books on this topic either online or at your local library. The important thing is that you take as many steps as possible together.

Role-playing is another great way to obtain valuable insight as to how you perceive your partner as well as how he or she sees you. You may learn a lot about how the English language is woefully inadequate at conveying precise messages.   You may intend to say one thing and your partner may hear something else entirely. It’s important to learn how to communicate with one another positively and accurately. Working together through self-therapy and role-playing can help you achieve that.



How Seniors Can Improve Their Driving Through Brain Training

Studies show that as we age our memory and mental clarity are not as sharp as they once were. And that concept applies to driving cars as well.

Jon Antin, a research scientist with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, notes that on average, drivers over the age of 65 perceive 30 percent less information from a glance at a scene than do younger drivers. As age increases, perception decreases even more.

However, there is an enormous sense of independence that comes with being able to drive a car, and because seniors seldom consider themselves “old people,” they’re not likely to give up driving until it becomes absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, for many older Americans, waiting too long to take action can result in dangerous car accidents.

So what’s the solution?

Neuroscientists have determined that if we exercise our brains we can significantly improve our basic cognitive functions. Now that discovery is going one step further, as scientists like Antin suggest helping these seniors maintain their skills through brain training.

Karlene Ball of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, conducted a study that showed how brain training can reduce the incidence of crashes among older drivers. Now Antin is hoping to verify that information and learn what kind of training works best.

Antin’s project will provide older drivers with brain-training tools, then place them on the road in a car outfitted with sensors and cameras. This will hopefully identify and verify the driving safety benefits. A third of the test subjects will use computerized brain training drills, another third will train using a specially equipped car, and the remaining third will get no brain training at all. Antin will test the participants immediately after their initial brain training, six months later, and then a year later to see if the training had long, short, or no impact at all.

While the results are not yet in, this research could help seniors maintain their independence while keeping everyone on the road a little bit safer.


Study Says Meditation Alone Doesn’t Lower Blood Pressure

By Kathleen Raven

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Stress reduction exercises have been linked to many health benefits, but lower blood pressure may not be one of them.

A new study found eight weeks of mindfulness meditation had no effect on people with slightly elevated blood pressure who were not yet taking medication.

“This doesn’t mean that meditation is bad. It just simply doesn’t lower blood pressure,” senior author Dr. Sheldon Tobe of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, said.

He said he was expecting to see an effect on blood pressure based on past studies showing benefits with mindfulness meditation. But when he looked back over those earlier trials, Tobe found the majority of participants had been taking blood pressure-lowering drugs.

In those studies, mindfulness therapy could have worked by helping people take their medicine more consistently, Tobe explained.

“Few interventions are as powerful as medication,” he told Reuters Health. “You can reduce salt intake or lose weight and help lower blood pressure, but high blood pressure medication has a more powerful effect.” One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute considers 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and above to be high blood pressure.

The 101 participants in the new study had an average blood pressure of 135/82 mm Hg, which is considered above normal but not yet classified as high blood pressure.

Half of them were assigned to start the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy right away and the rest were wait-listed to take the class at a later time.

Mindfulness participants went to eight weekly group sessions and attended a day-long silent retreat. Each person was also asked to practice stress reduction for 45 minutes daily.

The study participants, aged 20 to 75, were all counseled with standard high blood pressure advice: eat less salt, quit smoking and exercise more.

At the end of the study period, both people who had gone through the mindfulness program and those on the wait list saw virtually no change in their blood pressure, according to findings published in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Physical therapy researcher Marshall Hagins of Long Island University in Brooklyn said he was disappointed with the results, but only because he wanted the program to show benefits.

“MBSR does lots of positive things, however, if you are an individual with stage one hypertension not currently on medication, and lowering your blood pressure is your goal, then MBSR may not be the optimal program,” Hagins said.

“It’s important to remember that this study was limited to a highly standardized stress reduction program, and the results do not apply to other techniques,” he told Reuters Health. Some examples include Tai Chi and Transcendental Meditation.

A 2007 summary report published by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found Zen Buddhistmeditation and Qi Gong significantly reduced blood pressure.

But Tobe said in his mind, the study results could be the final answer to the question regarding this particular population and method of stress reduction.

Stress reduction exercises like gentle stretching, mindful breathing and walking do not pose any harm to people with early-stage hypertension, he noted.

Within the study, a minority of participants reported dissatisfaction with the mindfulness meditation classes and exercises. Most reported that they felt better.

“If quality of life is improved by mindfulness meditation – that’s fabulous,” Tobe said.

He stressed that people who are worried about their blood pressure should see their family doctor.

SOURCE: American Journal of Hypertension, online September 14, 2013.


How to Conquer a Fear of Flying

For millions of Americans the idea of getting on a plane and flying is one of the most scary imaginable. People all over the world struggle with this fear, which recent studies ranked number three on the list of the top ten phobias.

Statistically speaking, flying is 29 times safer than traveling in a car. Thousands of flights safely and routinely take off and land at airports around the globe every day. Yet fear of flying still strikes millions.

There are many homemade remedies that frightened travelers have concocted to help them survive a flight.

Most include either alcohol or over the counter sleep aids that allow the traveler to sleep their way through the anxiety of a trip. There is a better way to conquer your fear of flying.  Psychologists have identified the four most common thought patterns in people who fear flying, and provided some techniques to combat them:

Rumination: This is when you obsess about how bad the situation is, dwelling on your fears. Psychologists say the best way to combat this type of thinking is to find something positive about the experience, no matter how small, and refocus your thinking on that thing. It could be the nice view out your window or the movie being shown. Whatever it is, moving your thoughts outside the situation can help calm your anxiety.

Self-blame: This is when the person focuses on their failures and allows them to feed into their fear. In this case, it might involve chastising one’s self for being afraid of flying. The best way to combat self-blame? Remind yourself that you are achieving an incredible breakthrough by taking the trip, and that progress is a slow and steady process.

Resignation: This is when a person allows themselves to feel hopelessly out of control of the environment around them. This creates a mindset where the person can feel paralyzed with fear, unable to relax. The best way to combat this type of fear is to re-affirm that you do have control of the situation. You can control things like your breathing and use muscular relaxation techniques to relieve stress.

Catastrophizing: This term refers to fear that causes a person to envision how bad the situation is or could become. Those who are afraid to fly often say this is the most common type of thought, imagining a disaster that is statistically almost impossible. The best way to combat this type of fear is acknowledge your fear and challenge it. Remind yourself of another time where you faced up to something that scared you or stood tall in the face of a problem.  Challenge yourself to conquer this fear just as you did another before it.

Flying is statistically the safest means of travel, so don’t let your fears stand in the way of your life and getting where you want to go.