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Will exercise, meditation, or Reiki help you if you can’t find a healer?

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In mid-2021, a crisis with her husband, Lily Marshall, 40, from Boston prompted to find a couples therapist. Although she contacted more than 40 practitioners, she was unable to find anyone to advise them. She said she was in “absolute misery,” and tried to ease her mental anguish with daily walking, meditation, writing, drawing, and Reiki.

As more people seek advice, Americans struggling with pandemic stress are discovering that it is not easy to find a therapist.

“The pandemic has exploded demand for treatment,” said Seth Arkosh, a New Jersey psychotherapist who runs a multi-city center that integrates alternative therapies into mental health services. “People are on waiting lists. I don’t have new clients because all of my therapists are booked. So, I am hiring new therapists.”

This is not surprising given the reports suggesting that 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

In 2020, as the pandemic spreads, nearly a third of Americans showed signs of depression, clinical anxiety, or both. This is not normal

If you are waiting to connect with a therapist, what can you do in the meantime?

Arkush said, pointing to A form of meditation That makes people focus on what is there now without making judgments. You will not gain any good understanding of what is causing your feelings – that is what a therapist does. But you will increase your resilience.”

What does science say about mindfulness and other alternative practices? There seems to be good evidence that some can help; For others, not so much. These techniques are most effective for people with “mild to moderate” mental health symptoms, said James Lake, founding member and past president of the American Psychiatric Association’s Congregation on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Here’s a review of what the research has shown so far.

that it Benefits To improve mood and mental health symptoms have been cited in many studies. It is considered Especially useful in managing anxiety and for these suffer from depression.

Exercise boosts the brain — and mental health

“In short, there is no better mental health pill than exercise,” said Eli Puterman, associate professor of physical activity and health at the University of British Columbia. Exercise increases endorphins and serotonin endocannabinoids and brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF] Each provides a different neurological and mental benefit. For example, endocannabinoid increases have been linked to calmer moods, endorphins and serotonin to elevated moods, and BDNF to improved plasticity and memory formation. Taken together, they potentially create a better mood and cognitive state to address daily stressors and major life events.”

Jennifer Hayes, author of the book,Move the body, heal the mind: beat anxiety, depression, dementia, improve focus, creativity and sleepand director of the NeuroFit Laboratory at McMaster University in Canada.

Our research shows that Three average bouts of 30 minutes each “Exercise is sufficient to prevent stress-induced depression,” Hayes says, adding that Effects last For more than an hour after the exercise is over. Whether you walk, do yoga, or ride your bike, you feel better, Heisz said, because the body releases Neuropeptide Y after moderate to light exercise, and “protects the brain from trauma.”

You don’t have to do your best either. else Heisz . study It appears that the moderate exercisers fare better.

Meditation and deep breathing

These related techniques provide a simple way to treat symptoms, Arkoch said. However, it’s not a better “do it once and feel” exercise, and the effectiveness will depend on what you’re experiencing – depression, anxiety, or some other condition.

a Show meta-analysis Regular meditation slightly reduces symptoms of depression. Another study showed that continuous deep breathing practice can do just that Decreased secretion of the stress hormone cortisolwhich means that you may be able to better manage anxious situations.

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How does meditation compare to other “relaxation techniques”? a 2019 meta-analysis He concluded that meditation may be more effective than other relaxation methods for treating anxiety. Over time, meditation can Reducing the size of the amygdala, tAn area of ​​the brain activated by fear and stress, which may lead to improved mental health.

“Deep breathing is very calming because it activates the vagus nerve, which sends a message to the brain that it is time to rest and de-stress,” Hays said. “The science is really strong about that.”

designed for People who have experienced traumaTrauma-reporting yoga (TIY) aims to restore a sense of control to those who have lost their sense of control. “Trauma is stored in the body, and trauma is related to loss of voice, choice, agency and power, along with horror,” Arkoch said.

In traditional yoga, the teacher defines postures, breathing, rest, and speed, says Molly Boyder Harris, founder of the Breathing Network (TheBreatheNetwork.org), a group that works with survivors of sexual trauma. “In Informed Trauma Yoga, the teacher lets students know that they are in control of their experience and will provide greater flexibility—giving you choices about what you want to do, how deep you want to go and getting approval when it is touched.”

While some studies It showed improvement in depressive symptoms for those who practiced TIY, and randomized control trials did not demonstrate its benefits. newly dimensional analysis Matthew Vasquez, associate professor of social work at the University of Northern Iowa and one of the study’s authors, said it failed to support the method’s effectiveness, but research is still emerging.

Whatever the reasons, the studies looked at 12 weeks of TIY,” Vasquez said. “We need studies that look at what happens after six months or 12 months.”

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On her own, Vasquez added, TIY would not solve the trauma for those who have experienced it. “That’s not really the purpose. The goal is to redefine yourself with your body in a safe way.” He said.

James W. Pennebaker, professor of liberal arts at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of several books, including:Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Trauma Recovery and Emotional Strength. “

“Writing helps to organize, understand, and transcend experiences in some way,” he said. “The research on this is huge – there have been over 2,000 papers on expressive writing.”

If people write about an upsetting experience even multiple times, Pennebecker said, “it helps reduce rumination, and allows people to fall asleep and clear their minds.”

Focusing on your yes can offer mental health benefits for some people, said Joel Wong, professor of counseling psychology at the Indiana University School of Education.

In a study by WongIn the study, people with anxiety or depression were divided into three groups: one who received treatment only, another who received treatment plus three sessions to write about their thoughts and feelings about stressful experiences, and a third who got treatment plus three opportunities to write letters of gratitude to people who made a difference in their lives. their lives.

After three months, those who wrote letters of gratitude had the greatest mental health gains.

I was an unhappy person. Here’s how I started peeling off my layers of anger.

“Gratitude displaces negative emotions that we have,” Wong said. “When you turn your attention to those who have blessed you, it unleashes the toxic feelings we sometimes indulge in.” If you can’t write a full letter of gratitude to someone who helped you, Wong said, “A shorter note or text—just two or three sentences—could be meaningful.” Even writing two or three things you are grateful for each day in a journal can help, he says.

While Wong’s study is small and not definitive, others are small studies It showed promising results. But counting your yes may not work for everyone — or for very long.

“There is evidence that a gratitude intervention can have an effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety, but the effects are usually small,” said Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University.

With marijuana becoming more accessible across the country, many are turning to CBD products to alleviate mental health symptoms. but modern Lancet study I found “rare” evidence to support this practice. According to the study, CBD, which is derived from the cannabis plant but without THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes people feel “high,” did not reduce anxiety, depression, PTSD, or mental health symptoms.

Is the hype around CBD, or cannabidiol, real?

Thersilla Oberbarnscheidt, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Western Pittsburgh Psychiatric Hospital, holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience, which Conducted a comprehensive literature review On the subject, she said she found “the claim that [CBD] It’s actually useful for anxiety based on self-reports and public opinion and not yet based on scientific evidence.”

She said that because CBD products In a mysterious placeConsumers cannot be sure of what they are getting and at what dose. “I can’t say it doesn’t work at all, but to say it’s curative, we need more research studies that show it,” Oberbarnschaidt said.

Small needles are inserted into the scalp or along the ears “moderate evidence” To relieve mental health symptoms, Lake said, but he doesn’t classify it as a first-class approach to treating depression, anxiety, or other symptoms. There are a few studies that support acupuncture for that: The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) said acupuncture can help manage physical pain in certain conditions, but there isn’t enough evidence to show that it can help depression. .

“There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence for the use of acupuncture as the only treatment for depression,” said Sharon Jennings Rojas, chair of the department of acupuncture and herbal medicine at the University of Maryland for Integrative Health. But it may be worth trying while you wait for the therapist that works for you; She added, however, that acupuncture “in no way replaces” psychotherapy.

Reiki practitioners say they transmit energy through the body: Barely touching their subjects, Reiki masters are said to “direct energy” to the recipient, which supposedly allows them to take in what their body needs to heal, according to a description by NCCIH.

As for science – there is not much. According to the NCCIH, most Reiki studies have not been “high quality” and have produced inconsistent results. Some researchers argue that further testing of Reiki would be a waste of time because it is pseudoscience.

Reiki is moving into the mainstream: The practice of spiritual touch is now common in hospitals

However, some researchers said it may work as an alternative treatment just like a placebo which may help some who think it will.

Emily Anhalt, clinical psychologist and co-founder of Co, a mental health gym in San Francisco and New York. “Maybe there is something to be said for someone else who takes care of you, and is there for you. If it works for you, great.”

California psychiatrist James Lake said these approaches are most effective for people with “mild to moderate” mental health symptoms. But if you can’t function at work or school, or if your relationship is struggling, or you’re considering killing yourself or hurting someone else, seek help at the emergency room, Lake said.


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