Considering Alternative Paths Toward Mental Health

Considering Alternative Paths Towards Mental Health 

By Jane Sandwood

It is interesting to see conventional science turn increasingly to ‘mind-body’ pursuits such as yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation, to enhance mental health. It might have something to do with the fact that research over the past decade has been so conclusive; these activities have been found to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, leading them to be recommended in various settings, including cancer recovery, substance abuse rehabilitation, and even treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this post, we take our cue from doctors who are increasingly opening the doors to spiritual pursuits, in an attempt to highlight the connection between spirituality and mental health.

Spirituality: The Missing Link in Mental Wellbeing

Various studies have been carried out on the link between spirituality and happiness. One 2009 study suggested that spirituality (rather than religious practices) determined how happy children were. Another groundbreaking 2010 study, meanwhile, found that there is a ‘secret ingredient’ in spirituality that makes us generally happier. The key, it seems, is stress relief, as well as the support we often receive from fellow believers.

It is vital to differentiate spirituality from religion. In essence, spirituality involves believing in a powerful life force that unites all sentient things and does not necessarily involved organized belief systems.

There are many ways to deepen spirituality: one is through nature, which psychologists like Jung believed to be crucial to making human beings understand our essential need to believe in something deeper.

Practises such as tarot readings can boost our mental health as well, not because they are meant to help us discover future events, but rather, because they boost introspection: the ability to better understand our own beliefs, desires, and actions. Tarot and other ‘energetically based’ techniques such as Reiki also encourage us to use our own intuition, which many practitioners believe is like a muscle that needs to be used often to be enhanced.

Finally, yoga, which is a deeply spiritual pursuit, has been found to lower symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, leading it to become the ‘it’ activity for stressed-out executives and employees alike.

Art Therapy

This therapy is used particularly in settings in which communication and self-awareness needs to be enhanced, such as is the case in substance abuse rehabilitation. One of the most powerful features of art is its ability to be interpreted in many ways. Therapists often use works created by patients to point out their ambiguous feelings about quitting the use of substances. Often, it is not a clear-cut decision, and it is important to address the negative feelings people can have about taking this important step.


Through this therapy, clients/patients enter into a heightened state of awareness and deep relaxation. The uses of hypnotherapy extend beyond stress reduction. They include battling phobias, quitting smoking and other addictive habits, and making other important lifestyle changes.

Music Therapy

Listening and playing music reduces stress, helps us access our creativity and emotions, improves our memory and boosts our cognitive abilities in many ways. Psychological and neuroscientific research has pointed to a link between musical training in childhood and the enhancement of verbal abilities and general reasoning skills, but it never is too late to avail of its benefits.

Research on older adults, for instance, found that music can promote better mood, offer opportunities for social interaction, increase communication in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and reduce stress and anxiety. Benefits arise even when we just listen to music, so make sure to enjoy a few minutes of your favorite sounds a day.

So-called ‘alternative’ means to better mental health are increasingly gaining ground in conventional settings. It is vital to embrace the benefits of these practises as well on an individual basis, so we can help keep stress-related illness such as depression and anxiety at bay.


4 Exercises that Will Blow Away the Winter Blues

By Jane Sandwood

As the leaves fall down and the air grows colder, do you feel yourself becoming sluggish and blue? Well, this might be because you’re experiencing the winter blues. As a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the winter blues is characterized as low mood, depression, and exhaustion associated with the lack of sunlight during winter months. It affects 14 percent of the United States and can put a real downer on your holiday season.


However, you don’t have to be consumed by the winter blues. Instead, you can beat it with daily exercise. Check out these four workouts that are sure to help you feeling happier this winter.

1.  Run a Marathon

Exercise promotes positive mental health and running is one of the best ways to harness this positivity. Running outside provides you with much needed Vitamin D to increase your body’s energy level. However, if you’re like most of the world, it can be hard to motivate yourself to run outside in the cold. Therefore, you should sign up for a marathon to motivate you to train. The best way of getting over the blues is to not let it bring you down. So, by spending more time outside, your brain will reinforce the idea that you’re going to embrace all of the seasons. 

2.  Swimming

A great way to beat the winter blues is to take up an activity that isn’t affected by the weather outside. By swimming in an indoor pool, you’re working your whole body which can increase energy and reduce low mood. After your session, head to the steam room or Jacuzzi to get some warmth to stimulate the summer season.

3.  Sign Up for a Dance Class

According to Psychology Today, dancing improves brain functions, forces concentration, and promotes cognitive learning. By signing up for a class you’re also getting out of your home and meeting new people. Dancing in social settings can release endorphins that reduce stress, pain and the winter blues.

4.  Ski or Snowboard

Embracing the change in temperature and climate can do wonders for your mood. So, take advantage of the snow and head to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding will make you feel as though you conquered the season and have been scientifically proven to reduce chemicals that fuel symptoms of depression. Snow sports also combine aerobic activity and strength building, which is known to improve mental clarity and help you think.

You don’t have to be cooped up inside your home this winter. Instead, embrace the cold season and beat those blues.


Social Media & Technology: The Impact on Mental Health

Social Media & Technology: The Impact on Mental Health
By Jane Sandwood

Thinking about a healthy lifestyle to aid mental health often focuses on diet, exercise, and sleep – and with good reason. All these factors have been proven many times over to impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing, as well as their physical health. 

However, it is also important to look at behavioural factors. The enormous growth of technology, smartphones, and social media in recent years has also been proven to have an impact on mental health, with studies finding positive correlations between high ‘smartphone addiction’ scores and depression levels, anxiety, and sleep quality. 

Technology in your day

Be mindful about your technology usage and think about how you can manage it better. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to go off-grid and shun everything powered by electricity, but you can achieve a healthy balanced lifestyle by doing things in moderation. Think critically about your technology usage during the day and what you can do to make less stressful.

  • You might not be able to avoid technology at work, so be sure to schedule in regular breaks away from your desk for a short walk or chat with a co-worker.
  • Reduce email stress by setting aside blocks of time to deal with them, rather than responding to each one as it comes in.
  • Try switching off your phone – work or personal – for a few hours in the evening or at weekends, to reduce the temptation to be constantly checking it.

There are several different programmes which you can add to computers or smart devices which monitor and restrict your usage of other apps, helping you to disconnect more fully. 

Sociable or stressful

Social media is a particular facet of modern technology which can have a big impact on mental health. While great for connecting friends and family around the world and enabling sharing of photos and videos on a huge scale, it can come with a price. A study carried out on undergraduates in Utah reported that Facebook use is linked to participants’ impression that other users are happier and more content about life. 

Becoming fixated on the physical appearance, material possessions, or life experiences of others in comparison to oneself can exacerbate many mental issues including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should deactivate all your accounts, as the ease of contacting friends and family for support is a great tool. Instead, reflect on your usage of different platforms and maybe take a break from actively posting, liking, or commenting, and use direct message functions instead for a while.

Effectively combatting mental difficulties is a different process for everyone. Adopting a holistic approach and reviewing diet, exercise, and sleep patterns is a good place to start – and while technology and social media are unlikely to single-handedly cause mental issues they can certainly exacerbate the problem, so being mindful about your usage of those platforms is also advised.


Psychiatric “Diagnosis”? Or Psychiatric Diagnosis.

Psychiatric “Diagnosis”? Or Psychiatric Diagnosis.
By Dr. Daniel Pistone

Of course the quotes are there for a reason. And it is: who is qualified to make a psychiatric diagnosis?

I say this because it is so very common for patients with emotional problems to be “diagnosed” by non psychiatrist mental health professionals.

And yet: let’s make it clear: Psychiatry is a medical specialty, just like Dermatology, Gynaecology, Oncology, Radiology…

So what does that mean in terms of diagnosis? That psychiatric diagnosis is a Medical diagnosis.

Unfortunately, many professionals who work with patients with emotional and behavioral problems are obligated to give a “diagnosis” by insurance companies for reimbursement purposes. But that is another story. The issue we are discussing here is: are they qualified? And: what about accuracy? My 20 years of active psychiatric practice tell me the numbers are low at best.

There are no, as yet, biological “tests” to make psychiatric diagnoses. The reality is there will not be any for the time to come. So how is a psychiatrist equipped to make diagnosis as a physician whereas other non psychiatrist/physicians mental health clinicians are not? First of all, a Psychiatrist is a graduate from a medical school and an accredited Psychiatric Residency Program. So just like the Neurologist is best equipped to diagnose types of headaches: there is no diagnostic “tests” for headache by the way. But the Neurologist KNOWS headaches so well that he knows how to listen first (the “Chief Complaint”), what questions to ask and how to interpret responses, etc. He can then pin point the type of headache in order to prescribe the treatment; of course he may order especially brain imaging studies, but not to make a diagnosis of headache but in order to rule out, say, a brain mass.

So with the psychiatrist: he knows psychiatric illnesses so well that he knows what to pay attention to, what to ask, what to make of the responses (most of the times); he knows Medical illnesses that can present with emotional and/or behavioral problems. Same for medications that can cause psychiatric problems. He may even run a focused physical and/or neurological examination, order pertinent labs, or imaging studies, and know when to refer to the right specialty

Non psychiatrist mental health professionals have a major role to play in treatment of psychiatric illnesses. I refer many of my patients to therapists/psychologists for treatment before considering medication (depending on the condition and other things).

But when it comes to Psychiatric Diagnosis, make no mistake. Those are Medical Diagnosis.

BTW: check out:

Dr. Daniel Pistone, MD,

Dr. Daniel Pistone has been practicing psychiatry for over 20 years. He has worked as a Diplomat for the Argentine Boards of Internal Medicine and Critical Care Medicine and for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology . Moreover, he has worked with CMCH, Roseville, CA, Pee Dee Mental Health, Florence, SC(Locum) and Neurology Consultants of the Carolians Research, Charlotte, NC. Recently, he has associated with Savant Care (, a team of mental health professionals, psychiatrists and therapists to help patients recover from their mental disorders and lead a happy life.


Is it “Depression” or is it “Bipolar”?

Is It “Depression” or is it “Bipolar”?
By Dr. Daniel Pistone

I have put both in quotes because the story is complicated; and I am not—for your sake, reader—entering that discussion here.

But I will keep the unscientific dichotomy in order to avoid confusing you, and because the points I will try to make for your benefit can be done anyway. So, I am interested in telling you here the dangers of a diagnosis of “depression” and the indiscriminate use of antidepressants.

First of all, not everyone who feels depressed warrants a diagnosis of “depression;” there are other considerations.

Secondly, “depression” is not one illness. In short, and in order to warn you, certain types of depression do not benefit from antidepressants. Far more serious yet, certain forms of “depression” can and are made worse by the use of antidepressants, both in the short and long run.

This is true for depression with mixed features (too often misdiagnosed as “depression with anxiety”).

Most importantly, bipolar depression; antidepressants don’t only fail in these cases, they make matters worse. If we consider only the short term, the effects aren’t as grave. But the long term is what matters most, even when antidepressants are discontinued. As a piece of information to take into account, years of follow up on thousands upon thousands of patients diagnosed with depression have shown that at the very least 40% of them wound up developing a manic episode (the obvious: they actually had bipolar, usually treated with a number of antidepressants to no avail). In fact, bipolar illness most often starts with a depressive episode, accounting for such drastic numbers of misdiagnoses. Statistics show that it takes an average of 10 years before bipolar illness is diagnosed correctly (most often initially considered “depression”).

So, a few tips for you to consider and assess if your “depression” might actually be the bipolar type:

If you have depression and a well established family history of bipolar or “manic depressive illness,” then your depression is likely a phase of bipolar illness and you should not be exposed to antidepressants.

If your depression had its onset before age 25, or if it has a post-partum onset, you should avoid antidepressants.

About 15 other “red flags” exist that could point to bipolar illness in “depression,” one of them being the characteristics of the depression. Only psychiatrists check for these; others in the medical field are most often not even aware of them.

Finally, I cannot overemphasize enough the advice that you seek a psychiatrist to diagnose and treat your possible depression. After all, would you seek a psychiatrist for abdominal pain, hypertension, goiter, etc.? Or a surgeon to treat your cold?

Unfortunately, too many mental health workers “diagnose” “depression” all the time (mostly misdiagnose).

This is not surprising. After all, why would someone be required to graduate from medical school and then complete an accredited psychiatric residency to become a psychiatrist?

We haven’t talked about “short and long term” consequences, but I hope the above suffices for you, reader, to get the idea: trust your psychiatric problems to a psychiatric graduate, a physician like any other medical specialty.

PS: In order to understand the “unipolar-bipolar” issue, I highly recommend you go to The Psychiatry Letter and read “Understanding Manic-Depressive Illness.” I hope you never need psychiatric care, but I hope the above will help you think twice before you make a decision if you ever do.

(Dr. Daniel Pistone, MD ( has been practicing psychiatry for over 20 years. He has worked as a Diplomat for the Argentine Boards of Internal Medicine and Critical Care Medicine and for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology . Moreover, he has worked with CMCH, Roseville, CA, Pee Dee Mental Health, Florence, SC(Locum) and Neurology Consultants of the Carolians Research, Charlotte, NC. Recently, he has associated with Savant Care (, a team of mental health professionals, psychiatrists and therapists to help patients recover from their mental disorders and lead a happy life.)


6 Surprising Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health

6 Surprising Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Mental Health
By Jane Sandwood

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you’re depressed? You probably don’t think, “Hey, I should go for a run!” This is especially true if getting motivated to do physical exercise is difficult for you. Yet, this is precisely the habit you need to get into if you want to improve your mental health. Here are six reasons why that is.

Free Your Mind of Negativity

Exercise will take your mind off the nonstop flood of thoughts in your head and get you out of the house. Your thoughts have the potential to turn negative when you have unstructured time. You can redirect your thinking in a more mindful and positive direction by filling your time with physical activity.

Enjoy More Energy

Do you hit that afternoon bump of sluggishness? You can boost your endurance and strengthen your muscles by engaging in regular physical activity. Exercise allows your cardiovascular system to run more efficiently while delivering more nutrients and oxygen to your tissues. During the day, you get more energy when your lungs and heart work better. So, you put more pep in your step when you get your body in motion.

Get a Mood Boost

Drinking a glass of wine is one of the worst ways to relax after a hard day. You can do much more to improve your mood with physical exercise. Plus, you can experience these benefits without intense exercise. Research shows that several chemicals in your brain are stimulated by any physical activity.

Shed Some Pounds

The most well-known benefit of physical activity is that it helps you lose weight. You will naturally feel better when you have a positive body image. You will then be motivated to regularly exercise as you are happy with how you look. This in turn will improve your self-esteem and boost your confidence.

Release Endorphins

Research shows that you can reduce symptoms of depression when you release endorphins through exercise. Immune system chemicals that worsen depression are reduced when endorphins are release. Also, your body temperature increases, which is calming.

Get Better Sleep

If you have a hard time sleeping at night, regular exercise can assist you by deepening your sleep and helping you fall asleep in the first place. In turn, your mood will improve. After all, when we fail to get our eight or so hours of sleep each night, we tend to get cranky!


Best Food for Good Mental Health

By Tushar Grover

In this fast moving world where our mind is so much drenched in the rat race to earn more and live a better life we forget about the basis necessity of our life i.e. better health. For better mental and physical health we need to eat nutrient rich food regularly which supplies energy to do work with full efficiency besides that you need to also workout daily like running in park, riding an indoor cycle, doing yoga etc. to keep our mind and body healthy and stress free.

If we don’t eat good food which is required by our brain for proper working it may lead to frequent stress, anxiety, depression, lack of focus and other problems which could potentially ruin our lives. So for better mental health we need to eat less junk food and more healthy food which is rich in elements like omega 3, amino acids, vitamin D, vitamins, minerals which are required by our brains for development and proper working. Some of the general food items which contains all the nutrients required by our brains includes nuts, green veggies, dairy products, grass fed meat, fruits etc.

Here we have shared some nutrient rich food which is good for your mental health given right below to make your mind active and stress free forever.

  1. Almonds

Almonds are rich source of energy and helps to restore your body metabolism very fast. It contains proteins, vitamin B6 and zinc which is good for overall body growth and the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid presence in almonds helps to enhance your brain power, learning and retaining capabilities besides that magnesium in almonds helps in building the nerve system of brain for better focus and alertness of mind.

  1. Tuna

Tuna is a rich source of proteins and omega 3 which keeps our brain cells and nerves active all time which prevents any depression feelings, besides that presence of niacin and vitamin B also prevents problems like Alzheimer’s and mental aliments to keep your brain healthy and working. Always eat cooked tuna in grill or oven because raw tuna is not good in taste and also hard to digest.

  1. Oysters

Oysters are good source of vitamins B12, potassium and calcium which helps brain cell to grow. Besides that 1 Oz. of oyster contains 5 times more zinc than your daily body requirement and zinc being a very important mental health element its high recommended that you consume oysters once in a while if not daily to keep your brain active and agile.

  1. Spinach

Leafy veggies like spinach and its other family members including kale, collards ,chards, beet greens etc. are rich source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A ,folate and many other useful elements which are necessary for mental growth .The beauty of green leafy vegetables is that you can use them in many ways in your diet like in salads served with main course, in soup bowls, in smoothies, grilled and served with appetizers like whole bread sandwich to get benefits in your health and have good tasty food at same time.

  1. Broccoli

Broccoli is excellent source of fibres, folate, potassium and vitamin c. It tastes good when served grilled as salad or you can make broccoli soup also with little salt and pepper to have good taste. Not to forget that it also comes with benefits in digestion due to the presence of prebiotic should eat broccoli at least 2-3 times a week for better mental health and body fitness.

  1. Salmon

Salmon seems to be an excellent source of vitamin B12, proteins, potassium and vitamin also contains tryptophan which gets transformed into serotonin which helps to keep you in good mood and prevents any random mood swings and mind diversions. Salmon when grilled on your best grill and served with some salad, add flavour to it which satisfy your taste buds besides providing health benefits for your brain and body.

  1. Berries

All kinds of berries including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc. are rich source of vitamin C and contains lot of anti-oxidants to keep your brains active. Besides that they are also rich in fibres and some digestive enzymes. They taste good when served with yogurt, grilled, with cereals or in fruit salads

  1. Chia seeds

Chis seeds contains lot of essential elements required by our body and contains 11grams of fibres in one once of seeds (28 grams).besides that it also comes with lots of potassium, magnesium and calcium in them and not to forget that it also have enormous amount of brain food in it i.e. omega 3. Its one tablespoon contains nearly 1769 mg of omega 3 which almost fulfils our daily omega 3 body requirement which seems to be in 1000-3000 mg.

Healthy food of any kind helps to increase the immunity of our body which leads to longer life free from any if you start eating the food from our suggestions above daily in your diet then your brain will become powerful and focused, you will be able to make decisions much more quickly and your mood will always in calm. Moreover you overall body productivity and efficiency will increase many folds.

If you liked our collection of food items to improve your brain health than don’t forget to share this with your friends and family to help them get better and have healthy mind and body.


Hate: A deep rooted American crisis

Our nation is in crisis in my opinion. A crisis fueled by hate, lack of acceptance and tolerance. Following the Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, I am in shock. My understanding of what transpired caused me concern, and I want to look at what hate is. To look at what causes a person to hate a group of people for no real reason. White nationalists, the KKK, and the Neo-Nazi movements do this. What about hate at its core? It is a feeling and I want to know why it exists. I also want to look at how hate affects those with mental illnesses. I know from my own experience that stigma can turn to something less than pleasant. 



Video Games: An undeniable Scapegoat?

Video game poster
One of the most notorious games for violence.

Music, television, movies, and video games. All four of them are common now and a good number of people have access to them in the United States. Video games have the most negative coverage from the media out of the four. This is either a good or bad thing. Depending on how you look at it. To me, negative coverage and using video games as a scapegoat is not good. Video games are forms of art.  Are they scapegoats? Of are they art? I am going to give you the facts, and let you decide for yourself.



Depression, the continued battle

I suffer from chronic depression. A lot of people do. What we do about it when we have it is different for a lot of people as well. What I want to look at today is the core of depression. I will use myself as an example for this, and I intend to craft a story for you. the reader, on how I dealt with and continue to deal with depression.