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.

Mental health: A look at mild, moderate and severe depression

What is depression? Everyone has days that are not so great. We all have those cloudy days. We might say we are having the blues, but a depressive disorder is actually something different..

There are many types of depression, including: major depressive disorder, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, endogenous depression and catatonic depression.

Mild depression could be a short period of low spirits. Depression that lasts for many days is considered more severe, and in its most severe forms, can make people feel suicidal.

So let’s take a look at mild, moderate and severe depression.

Mild depression

Mild depression is more than just a blue day. It means symptoms can go on for days and can interfere with your routine. It involves one or more of these things: feelings of anger, hopelessness, guilt, despair, loss of interest in activities, lack of motivation, disinterest in socializing, physical aches and pains, sleepiness or fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes and reckless behaviors.

Lifestyle changes can help quite a bit at this level: such as exercise, better sleep, a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits, yoga or mediation and activities that reduce stress, such as reading or listening to music.

Moderate depression

Mild and moderate depression share symptoms but involve more severity. Look for problems with concentration, reduced productivity, low self-worth, increased sensitivities and excessive worrying.

At this level, it is important to consider professional help. Consultation allows an opportunity to take a fuller look at the symptoms. Consultation with a primary doctor is one consideration. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be one solution, as well as medication, which generally takes about six weeks to bring results.

Severe depression

With severe depression, the signs are generally noticeable to friends and family. The symptoms for severe depression can last for months – an average of six months or longer. Although not common, people with major depression can also experience hallucinations, delusions and suicidal thoughts.

As with moderate depression, medications may be prescribed long with CBT and lifestyle changes.

Take action

As we teach in our Mental Health First Aid courses, early intervention is very important. Why? Because anyone who has one episode of depression is prone to subsequent episodes, which makes it very important to intervene to reduce the chances of repeated episodes.

If you or someone you know seems to be experiencing signs or symptoms of depression, it is time to consider seeking care. Remember, if you have questions about our mental health services, 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.

Come rain or shine, improve your mental health

In Colorado we revel in the outdoors – blessed with about 300 sunny and partially sunny days every year. But we do have a fair amount of rain through April, and we actually want lots of rain because we know the dangers of drought. So how do we match up our desires to improve our mental health and general health with the varied weather that Mother Nature delivers?

When it rains, it’s a good time for mental stimulation such as puzzles, and working up some new recipes. When it shines, the benefits of enjoying the outdoors and seeing new sights are outstanding. And let’s put all-important exercise under both categories of rain and shine.

Here comes that rainy day

Children love snow days and rainy days. Why? Because it’s a timeout from routines and presents a wide open day to do other things – most often fun spontaneous things. Rainy days on weekends can have the same effect for adults.

Puzzles: Different regions of the brain benefit from puzzles. Crossword puzzles challenge language and memory skills. And as you become proficient with a puzzle, you improve memory skills, which is helpful in solving problems. You gain clarity of mind. And the act of doing puzzles slows the heart rate and can be somewhat like meditation, in which the body and mind relax and tune out the surrounding world. And meditation is one of the key self-help recommendations in our Mental Health Frist Aid courses provided at Community Reach Center.

And perhaps music to teens’ ears, go ahead, play a video game. These games can provide the calming benefits mentioned above plus the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination. While the risks of excessive video gaming are in the news often, so are the benefits of playing a video game for say 30 minutes a day to help alleviate depression and anxiety. Whether it’s cards, board games or screen time, it’s all about moderation.

Diet: A slow rainy day is also a good time to read up on diets. When people eat the right foods, they often feel better physically. When a person feels better physically, they feel better mentally and emotionally.

Whether it’s chicken noodle or something else, soups have a deserved reputation for easing the mind. There are countless choices on the internet from pea and mint soup to at polenta sweet corn soup dubbed appropriately Mental Health Soup. So try one out.

And if you want to cook with whatever is in your house, give the Chef Watson app a chance. The app asks you to list what you have in your kitchen, then enter a main ingredient and several optional ingredients, and it will drum up a recipe. Just choose a style, whether it is soup or one of other numerous other choices.

And finally, when you have a rainy day, think about how to make comfort food that is not so high in sugar. Perhaps go lighter on the cookies, ice cream and hot chocolate.

Exercise: don’t let the rain stop you from exercising. If the gym is out, find a place to exercise. Perhaps doing some aerobics in front of the TV screen or some other activity will do the trick. Aerobic exercise produces the endorphins, which makes for positive moods. And we know that exercise improves cardiovascular exercise and in turn, blood flow to the brain. Move some furniture if necessary, but make it happen.

When it shines

When the sun shines, the parks and trail systems in our region are among the best. It’s so easy, no excuses. Take time to walk, run or ride.

Exercise: If you are not in a club, think about joining one. We know joining a support group is a common self-help tip for better mental health due to the experience of sharing time, relating stories and gaining knowledge. So if you think about it, bike clubs and exercise groups have elements of support groups combined with exercise. It’s a win-win in mental health.

Sightseeing and enjoying the outdoors: Camping provides endless sight-seeing opportunities to capture the entire sunrise to sunset experience. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are good for the body and mind. When you sightsee be sure to get out of the vehicle and get in a good number of steps. Colorado trails are amazing. Just remember to keep the sunscreen coming, especially at higher altitudes.

We all need reminders about the mind-body connection and to take steps to care for our mental, emotional and physical health. If you have questions about our mental health services, 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.

An Overview of Neurotransmitters and Mental Health During Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week is March 12-18. The annual event focuses attention on the importance of the brain and the work of partner organizations around the world. Activities run the gamut from exhibitions about the brain to brain-themed lectures to open house events at neuroscience labs. There are also special displays at libraries and community gathering places, classroom workshops and other events. The goal is to engage people of all ages and provide information on this most important of organs and one we too often take for granted. It’s also an excellent time for providers of mental health services to share insights on how the workings of the brain affect mental health.

March is also National Nutrition Month. Organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the focus of this observance is nutrition education that helps people make informed food choices and develop positive eating and exercise habits. The 2018 theme is "Go Further with Food." For mental health services providers, the coinciding of these two celebrations leads naturally into a conversation about how physical health—in particular brain neurotransmitters—comes into play with mental illness.

What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are released when a nerve impulse reaches the end of a nerve fiber. The substance then makes its way across a gap called a synapse to another nerve, continuing the propagation of the impulse. This mechanism is used throughout the body, including in the brain. There are many different kinds of neurotransmitters. Some of the most important in brain and body functioning include:

  • Serotonin. This chemical affects many functions including, sleep, appetite and mood. People with depression often have lower than normal levels of serotonin. Some depression medications work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, leaving more of it in the synapse to promote mood elevation.
  • Glutamate. This is the most common neurotransmitter. It “primes” neurons to fire when appropriate. Disorders like depression, schizophrenia, autism and obsessive compulsive disorder may be the result of problems with the production or use of glutamate.
  • Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is used to manage the flow of impulses occurring in the front of the brain where movement is controlled. That area also plays a role in emotion and thought. Some research suggests that a dopamine deficiency can play a part in conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia.

Problems with neurotransmitter production or use are conditions that a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker can help you identify. At that point, there are different forms of treatment, including counseling or “talk therapy” and medication, that can be used to help minimize the symptoms of the condition. These treatments can be highly effective.

Give Some Thought to Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week and National Nutrition Month are excellent reminders to pay attention to the mind/body connection and to take steps to care for your mental, emotional and physical health. If you have questions about our mental health services, 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.

How Yoga Can Help You Stay Centered

Yoga mat

Being “centered” is the idea of having a positive mental and emotional reference point to come back to when the world gets chaotic and stressful. When people hear the term, they often think of meditation, which certainly is an excellent way to bring your life and outlook back into balance. But, meditation isn’t the only way to do so. Another proven technique is yoga. Yoga is a centuries-old practice that we frequently recommend to clients at our mental health clinic.

The Many Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice

Regular yoga practice is known to improve flexibility, balance and core strength to name just a few of the physical benefits. But, the mental and emotional changes that result from ongoing yoga sessions are equally impressive. For example, yoga can:

  • Calm your nervous system. Yoga’s emphasis on slow, restorative breathing and keeping your mind in the present moment helps you move out of “fight-or-flight” mode and into a calm, relaxed state of mind.
  • Improve self-esteem. Anyone who has taken a yoga class or even just attempted yoga poses in a living room understands that it is not an easy practice. As your ability to get into, and hold, more difficult poses grows, so does your confidence and the feeling that you have the power to change your life.
  • Increase focus. Mastering yoga poses requires that you be fully aware of your breathing, the position of your limbs, your center of gravity, etc. And, rather than an intense awareness, it’s a powerful but soft focus that you can return to whenever you are stressed.
  • Increase happiness. Research suggests that yoga can produce positive changes in the hormones that affect our state of well-being, thereby decreasing the symptoms of depression and increasing happiness.
  • Improve sleep. Regular yoga practitioners may find that the state of calm it produces during the day translates to better sleep at night. 
  • Lead to better self-care. People who practice yoga frequently discover that it creates a positive trajectory for their health in general, and they start eating better, getting aerobic exercise, etc.
  • Create better impulse control. Sudden or erratic movements are no friend to yoga practitioners, who can quickly find themselves in a heap on the mat if they are not cautious. The restraint to move slowly and with forethought has as much benefit in our interactions with others as it does our interaction with gravity. 
  • Connect you to other like-minded people. Whether you take a yoga class or practice on your own, your knowledge of the benefits that come from challenging your body is something you share with an enormous yoga community around the world.

Yoga as a Free Refuge from Life’s Storms

As we tell people at our Denver-area mental health clinic, yoga is a powerful tool for helping you stay grounded in the face of adversity. And with instruction readily available on the internet, it is a tool that is essentially free of charge. If you have questions about mental health services at Community Reach Center, 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.

Mental health: Alcohol in moderation

If you are going to drink alcohol, the universal advice is to drink in moderation.  Why? Because too much alcohol can damage the liver, heart and brain, and elevate blood pressure. Of course the body and the mind work together as we have noted multiple times in our blogs. And alcohol is one of the common agents related to Substance Use Disorders (SUD), as well as opioids, sedatives, cocaine and amphetamines.  

So what does “moderate drinking” look like?   For women, that means no more than three drinks per day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, this means no more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. Standard drink measurements are: 12 ounces, beer; 8-9 ounces, malt liquor; 5 ounces, table wine; 1.5 ounces, spirits such as gin, vodka, and whiskey.

Since our bodies change as we age, it’s recommended that we reduce our alcohol intake.

Reducing anxiety

The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) manual used in Community Reach Center MHFA courses recognizes that some people use alcohol to reduce anxiety. In small quantities, alcohol can help people to relax and reduce inhibitions.  But it’s better to find other remedies because on the flip side, there are a range of potential short- and long-term problems with alcohol use to reduce anxiety. Short-term problems can include physical injuries, aggression and antisocial behavior, sexual risk taking and self-injury. Long-term problems can include alcohol use disorders, depression and anxiety, social problems and physical health problems.

Self-assessment

If you feel your habits are beyond moderation and could be affecting your mental health, think about seeking professional help at a mental health clinic. Additionally take a look at the RAPS4 . self-assessment tool. The process involves several questions that ask you to honestly assess how alcohol use is impacting your life and those around you. If the answer is “yes” to any of the four questions suggests, it indicates that the person’s drinking could be harmful to their health and well-being.

As time goes by

Physiology dictates that as we age, we must reduce the amount of alcohol consumed to retain moderation. Further, the isolation seniors experience with perhaps the loss of a spouse, or lack of mobility, the effect of medications and alcohol together, and the natural impacts of aging on the brain are just a few considerations for people as they grow older. The National Institute on Aging has an excellent report we recommend that summarizes a number of concerns about alcohol as we age. And remember drinking is shown to increase falling episodes, which is of course is a danger most seniors face.

But please remember there are numerous wellness programs available for seniors that focus on wellness and quality of life.

So if you have concerns about your mental health or a loved one, whether impacted by alcohol or not, please don’t hesitate to call us at Community Reach Center. At Community Reach Center, our goal is to enhance the health of our community. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our treatment programs. Remember we also provide family counseling. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

Mental health: Be a savvy consumer

Let’s face it – going in for a basic check-up, having an appointment with a therapist or other mental health professional is not an everyday occurrence for many of us. So let’s take advantage of February’s National Wise Health Care Consumer Month to talk about how to be ready when you have a health care appointment.

Overall, the purpose of National Wise Health Care Consumer Month is to inform people about making smart choices with their health care.

 

So here is a selection of tips, which are oriented toward general health care but relate to mental health consumers as well:

  • Take a time to select a doctor or therapist. And ask questions, do some research.
  • Think about questions you want to ask the therapist, write them down and bring the list with you to your first appointment.
  • Bring a list of your medications and physicians to your first appointment, as it is very important for your therapist to have a comprehensive understanding of your overall health.
  • When you don’t feel well, don’t let the symptoms linger too long. Of course, it is tempting to treat the symptoms on your own, but when you see very little improvement, please seek medical assistance.
  • Remember to get regular physical exams. Detecting health issues early avoids more serious medical issues later. And keep a list of your doctors handy for quick reference as health issues come and go.
  • Take time to learn about your medications, and discuss with your doctor how non-prescription medications or herbal supplements may impact your prescribed medicines.
  • It’s okay to be pennywise. When you obtain a prescription, ask whether a generic version is available and whether your doctor thinks a generic version is appropriate to treat your condition.
  • Know your health insurance plan. It is best to have an understanding of co-pay expectations and other out-of-pocket expenses ahead of time.
  • Ask questions if you do not understand something, and follow your doctor’s instructions.

We can all do better by following the tips above. At Community Reach Center, our goal is to enhance the health of our community. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our treatment programs. Remember we also provide family counseling. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

International Friendship Week is February 18-24, 2018

Two friends having coffee

International Friendship Week 2018 will be Feb. 18-24. The observance was created to emphasize the importance of friendship in helping people lead happy lives where they feel connected to others in their area and around the world. It also encourages us to be mindful of cultural differences and how they enrich our lives.

If you are affected by anxiety and depression, International Friendship Week serves as a reminder that it is important to build and maintain a strong support system. Having friends you can lean on when your condition is at its worst can help you weather the storm more effectively.

Support Groups Come in Many Forms

The term “support group” has multiple meanings. In its more formal sense, it can mean an organized group of people, often between five and 15 members, who gather on a regular basis to talk about the challenges they are facing and to provide encouragement to one another. A support group might also be a less formal collection of friends that you connect with individually or in smaller numbers more randomly to talk about life.

In many cases, a group from which you receive support wasn’t really formed for that purpose. For example, if you exercise regularly with a group of friends, simply spending time with those people who share your interest in fitness provides an important connection that can give you strength when anxiety and depression strike. Spiritual groups are another example of a collection of like-minded people from which you may derive a sense of support. Whether a support group is formal or informal, the benefits can be equally powerful.

Support Groups and Other Self-Help Resources

Support groups are a type of self-help you can use as an aid in managing your mental health. Other forms of self-help include books on topics like relationships and personal transformation, wellness apps, relaxation techniques and exercise. While professional counseling can be an essential tool in achieving better mental and emotional health, augmenting that guidance with a support group and other self-help techniques can be very effective.

Tips for Getting Involved in a Support Group

If you are considering joining a support group, there are some things to keep in mind. First, if you are receiving counseling, your therapist can be a great resource for helping you find a group that meets your needs. However, remember that you are not required to remain in a group if after a few sessions you don’t feel like you are clicking with the other members or getting any benefit from attending. It’s critical to find the right fit.

It’s also important to consider how much you want to discuss with a support group. While being open about your struggles can be very cathartic, know that unlike your therapist who has a legal obligation to keep your conversations confidential, support group members are not similarly bound. Often there is a stated agreement that “what is said in the room stays in the room,” but keep in mind that that is not as secure as conversations with therapists. That said, it is also true that you get out of a support group what you put into it. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings and provide positive feedback when others do the same, as that is what a support group is all about.

If you are interested in learning more about our counseling services, 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.

Counseling Starts With Listening Without Judgement

Judging is a natural tendency in interpersonal communication. We tend to judge everything from the truthfulness of what is being said to the way in which it is being said in order to “measure” the person with whom we’re having a conversation. Unfortunately, while judging may be an innate trait, it can’t be described as a helpful one in many situations. When providing family counseling services, we encourage people to develop the ability to listen without judgement. That skill can produce more productive conversations and help create stronger relationships.

Benefits of Listening Without Judgement

It takes time and practice to move away from judging and toward more attentive, non-judgmental listening. But the effort pays off in many ways, including:

Fewer misunderstandings

When we are judging what someone says, our thoughts become consumed with trying to assign value to statements. Consequently, we may miss the meaning the person wants to convey. By listening without judgement we remove that distraction and can better understand the message.

Greater openness from the speaker

When we perceive that we are being judged, in family counseling or any setting, we tend to hold back information. When a speaker determines that her words are not being judged, she feels more comfortable openly sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Reduced conflict

Speakers who get “pushback” from a listener (whether expressed or suppressed) tend to try harder to make their point, which can quickly turn a healthy conversation into an uncomfortable confrontation. By simply allowing a person to “say their piece” without evaluating their statements, you can help defuse a potentially contentious interaction.

Easier identification of areas of agreement

When a listener judges a speaker, areas of agreement between them can be easily overlooked in the heated debate that ensues. More mindful listening allows both parties to find agreement in opinions and outlooks. And those places of common ground can serve as a foundation to build a stronger and healthier relationship.

Increased receptiveness to new ideas

The most productive conversations involve give and take on both sides. By listening without judgement, a person increases the chances that the speaker will respond in kind and be more open to consider a different point of view.

Tips for Better Listening

In addition to listening without judgement, there are other ways you can help make conversations more positive and productive. For example, do your best to enter a conversation without preconceived ideas about the outcome. Instead, tell yourself that you will assess what has been said after the fact.

Maintain eye contact so the other person knows you are interested and engaged. Find a good place to converse without interruption. Also, set aside ample time for the discussion, and allow for pauses during which the other person can collect their thoughts. And, restate what you hear from the other person so they can confirm or correct your understanding.

Family Counseling Based on Attentive Listening

Listening without judgement is an important skill for all, and is included in our Mental Health First Aid courses. And it is certainly at the core of our family counseling services. If you and your family are looking for guidance in resolving relationship issues, 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.