Sounds of Self-help

The concept of self-help is a common topic in our blogs. Making time to relax, exercise and maintain a good diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit are central to self-help strategies. Our topic this week – listening to music – is one of the more subtle techniques for self-help and overall wellness.

Studies indicate that music can help manage stress and can be an important tool for recovery from depression and anxiety. And on a basic level, we know that music can be calming – as well as inspiring.

Nature and Music

The place to draw the line between music and the sounds of nature is debatable. Beautiful music is soothing, but so too are the sounds of nature. Smartphones and computers conveniently offer recordings of the shoreline waves, seagulls, rain, gentle breezes and so forth, such as Nature Sound. Of course, the sounds of birds in the spring are “music to our ears,” so for purposes of this article we’ll draw no line between sounds of nature and music.

Science and Music

Whether the sound of music brings a smile or makes people want to dance, research indicates during peak moments of music, the brain releases dopamine, a hormone linked to feelings of reward. So listening to songs, or extended classical pieces, can provide positive feelings as our bodies experience a physiological reaction to the music we love. Music can serve as a convenient, natural boost for positive feelings, so key to good mental health. Consider having some fun and making a handy playlist of favorites.

Making Music Together

Studies showing the scientific benefits of music are abundant, but another way that music syncs with self-help is in ensembles. Author Daniel Pink in his most recent book titled “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” recommends joining a choir. While he writes about timing and making music, he also points to research that choral singing calms heart rates and boosts endorphin levels. Actually, participation in any type of groups – faith groups, exercise groups, support groups related to specific conditions and so forth – can provide benefit for people experiencing anxiety and depression.

Self-help and Professional Help

Numerous other self-help strategies are highlighted in our Mental Health First Aid courses we offer to the community. And please be mindful to consider professional help for an identified mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association describes a mental disorder or mental illness as a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior, as well as disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out other daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships.

So with this definition in mind, please consider professional help if needed as well. Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be an important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Centered

There are many definitions of what it means to be “centered,” but most contain elements of feeling calm, relaxed and confident. In general, it is a very positive state that can help us get the most out of good times and better navigate challenging times. So that’s what the term means, but as we tell people at our mental health center, there are as many ways to achieve that state as there are ways to talk about. One that many people find particularly helpful is exercise.

Your Unique Workout

The first thing to point out in talking about the mental health benefits of exercise is that every person’s “workout” is different. The type and amount of exercise that someone in their 20s can perform is probably much different than someone in their 60s. The point is that you don’t have to run 10 miles to achieve a more centered state. As long as you are moving to whatever degree your age and fitness level allow, exercise will be helpful.

How a Good Workout Can Change Your Perspective

Everyone from psychologists to physicians to exercise physiologists have studied the effect that a good workout has on the body, and there is agreement across the board: exercise can help you keep both your positive and negative experiences in perspective. Here are just some of the ways:

Elevated mood

Being centered doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. But, taking steps (literally) to support a more positive mood can help keep negative emotions from throwing you off balance. And the benefit is fairly immediate. Often within 10 minutes after moderate exercise, you will feel a lift.

Improved cognitive function

It can feel very jarring to realize you’ve forgotten something important like an appointment, a person’s name, etc. Exercise has been shown to help keep the brain healthy by preventing or slowing degeneration. The resulting confidence can leave a person feeling grounded and resilient.

Decreased fight-or-flight sensitivity

The physiological and emotional changes that take place when what’s known as our “fight-or-flight” reaction is triggered are normal. They evolved to help us challenge or flee threats. Some people have a heightened sensitivity to those changes that produce fear and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce that sensitivity, allowing a person to be more alert as needed while still being calm and centered.

Increased self-esteem

The simple act of making a commitment to exercise regularly and then following through on that promise can be very rewarding. Whether you do a vigorous cross-training program or go for a daily walk around the block, sticking with it in good times and bad times can be a way of maintaining an important sense of control over your circumstances.

Take the First Step

One of the perplexing things about exercise is that even people who have experienced its many benefits can be reluctant to get started on any particular day. We know we’ll feel great when we finish a workout (and for hours or days after), but yet we drag our feet.

The best way—and sometimes the only way—to beat that sense of inertia is simply to start moving. For example, if you intend to go for a run, don’t envision the whole process, especially those first few minutes when your body is adjusting to the exertion. Just say to yourself, “I’m going to change into my running clothes right now.” Then, “I’m going to put on my shoes.” Before you know it, knocking off these easy initial steps has given you the momentum to head out the door.

Helping Denver-Area Residents Stay Centered

Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be another important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

70th Annual World Health Day is April 7; Benefits of Health Homes

The vision of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that “all people should be able to realize their right to the highest possible level of health.” That includes both physical health care from a hospital or doctor’s office and mental health care from a mental health clinic.

As part of its mission, WHO sponsors World Health Day annually on April 7 to increase awareness about important health topics. This year’s theme is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.” By organizing and coordinating international, regional and local events, WHO will be sharing information and promoting the slogan “Health For All” and the #HealthForAll hashtag.

Some of the eye-opening details from its Universal Health Coverage Fact Sheet that WHO will be making people aware of include:

  • At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services.
  • About 100 million people are still being pushed into “extreme poverty” (living on $1.90 or less a day) because they have to pay for health care.
  • Over 800 million people (almost 12 percent of the world’s population) spent at least 10 percent of their household budgets to pay for health care.
  • All UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

While many countries are making progress toward the goal of universal health care, it is important that all countries strive to increase the pace of change and also commit to maintaining improvements as they are made.

What is a Health Home?

One of the ways that healthcare can be improved is through the concept of what is called a “health home.” Not a location, a health home is a care model that emphasizes a holistic approach to health and wellness. The characteristics of a health home philosophy are that it is team-based, comprehensive, integrated across physical and mental healthcare disciplines, accessible and focused on safety and quality.

The health home philosophy is widely accepted and helps providers deliver excellent, comprehensive care that addresses all challenges that a person faces. In this way, situations are prevented where certain health issues are resolved but one or more lingering problems produces ongoing consequences and can even cause the return of issues previously resolved.

For example, consider a person who has both high blood pressure and anxiety. Having a physician treat the high blood pressure but leave the anxiety unchecked does not provide the best possible outcome. In fact, while treating the physical causes of the high blood pressure might resolve it somewhat, the untreated mental health issue can continue to promote hypertension. With the health home approach, both conditions are addressed, which tends to produce better outcomes in both cases.

CRC and the Health Home Model

Community Reach Center embraces the health home philosophy. In particular, the center has a health clinic inside the Commerce City mental health center. This makes it easier for patients to see the appropriate care providers if they face multiple physical and/or mental health challenges.

However, a health home model can be used even across facilities in different locations. For example, patients at our Mountainland Pediatrics office in Thornton can have their physical needs addressed at that location and integrate treatment for mental or emotional health issues at one of our other sites. The end result is the same: comprehensive and attentive whole-person care.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you have questions about our mental health clinic or our health home approach, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.