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Archive for September, 2019

Currently Reading: Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (Evolutionary Psychiatry)

A founder of the field of evolutionary medicine uses his decades of experience as a psychiatrist to provide a much-needed new framework for making sense of mental illness.

Why do I feel bad? There is real power in understanding our bad feelings. With his classic Why We Get Sick, Dr. Randolph Nesse helped to establish the field of evolutionary medicine. Now he returns with a book that transforms our understanding of mental disorders by exploring a fundamentally new question. Instead of asking why certain people suffer from mental illness, Nesse asks why natural selection has left us all with fragile minds.

Drawing on revealing stories from his own clinical practice and insights from evolutionary biology, Nesse shows how negative emotions are useful in certain situations, yet can become overwhelming. Anxiety protects us from harm in the face of danger, but false alarms are inevitable. Low moods prevent us from wasting effort in pursuit of unreachable goals, but they often escalate into pathological depression. Other mental disorders, such as addiction and anorexia, result from the mismatch between modern environment and our ancient human past. And there are good evolutionary reasons for sexual disorders and for why genes for schizophrenia persist. Taken together, these and many more insights help to explain the pervasiveness of human suffering, and show us new paths for relieving it by understanding individuals as individuals.

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Mountain Biking South Mountain!

The best time of year is all year!

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Finished Reading: A Liberated Mind (ACT)

How to Pivot Toward What Matters

Life is not a problem to be solved. ACT shows how we can live full and meaningful lives by embracing our vulnerability and turning toward what hurts.

In this landmark book, the originator and pioneering researcher into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) lays out the psychological flexibility skills that make it one of the most powerful approaches research has yet to offer. These skills have been shown to help even where other approaches have failed. Science shows that they are useful in virtually every area–mental health (anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, PTSD); physical health (chronic pain, dealing with diabetes, facing cancer); social processes (relationship issues, prejudice, stigma, domestic violence); and performance (sports, business, diet, exercise).

How does psychological flexibility help? We struggle because the problem-solving mind tells us to run from what causes us fear and hurt. But we hurt where we care. If we run from a sense of vulnerability, we must also run from what we care about. By learning how to liberate ourselves, we can live with meaning and purpose, along with our pain when there is pain.

Although that is a simple idea, it resists our instincts and programming. The flexibility skills counter those ingrained tendencies. They include noticing our thoughts with curiosity, opening to our emotions, attending to what is in the present, learning the art of perspective taking, discovering our deepest values, and building habits based around what we deeply want.

Beginning with the epiphany Steven Hayes had during a panic attack, this book is a powerful narrative of scientific discovery filled with moving stories as well as advice for how we can put flexibility skills to work immediately. Hayes shows how allowing ourselves to feel fully and think freely moves us toward commitment to what truly matters to us. Finally, we can live lives that reflect the qualities we choose.

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