Healthy Minds for All! Top 10 Reasons for Seeking Clarity and Support

Mind Health, and what I call healthy mind practices, are about optimizing balance, resilience, and happiness. It’s about living with clarity, vibrancy, and a sense of peace–and being present for ourselves and our relationships. That’s how I see it. 

However, when it comes to mental health, we hear more about mental illness. We know that mental illness and seeking treatment are still stigmatized in our culture. For starters, insurance companies mind with butterfliesinsist on a diagnosis from a manual (DSM-5) that catalogs “mental disorders” and people who use mental health services are called “patients.” People who might benefit from seeing counselors or therapists have concerns about having a mental health diagnosis as part of their permanent medical record. Others fear opening “old wounds,” favor a “go it alone” approach, or follow a family pattern of reluctance to get support. I hear about this daily: 

-the grieving person who waited 10 years to speak of her guilt;

-the ideal employee who is so stressed and anxious he can’t focus–let alone sleep–any more;

-the distant or anxious spouse who will not come to counseling despite a chaotic, joyless, and/or sexless home life;

-the disapproving parent who believes talking to strangers about problems is for weak or crazy people.

And my clients, themselves, who believe that last message a little bit, but had the courage to contact me anyway.

Mental illness IS a serious problem and needs care and treatment of course. But then there is everyone else who is not mentally ill and who would benefit from and find greater happiness by seeking out professional help to support a healthy mind. 

In honor of everyone who is in this category and the people who love them, I put together the following Top 10 list.

Top 10 Reasons For Seeking Clarity and Support 

# 10 Like most people, you have a habit or way of reacting to things you want to change, but haven’t been successful so far on your own. It may be something you don’t talk about much.

# 9  Life is challenging! It is normal to be unprepared for situations or crises that arise.

# 8  Not everyone has an airtight support system.

# 7  You want to be in a relationship, but were not taught how to choose a partner and make it work.

# 6  Healthy mind practices build resilience and can help prevent problems in the future. There is no vaccination against mental illness.

# 5  Relationship troubles are not necessarily because someone is mentally ill, but you still may need and want unbiased guidance to clear hurdles faster.

# 4  Grief reactions mimic so-called mental illness symptoms. Grieving people are not mentally ill, but may need a guide to navigate the upheaval a loss can cause.

# 3  Stress is an epidemic and impacts mind, body, spirit, and relationships. Healthy mind practices counteract all of the cultural norms in place (job overload, technology, etc) for chronic stress.

# 2  Unlike previous generations, we know that stress can cause or aggravate health problems. If we don’t resolve stress, we become physically ill.

# 1  A healthy mind is the best predictor of a happy life!  A healthy mind brings a sense of vibrancy, clarity, and peace. It makes us present for ourselves and for relationships.

To find out more about mind health and healthy mind practices and what that could mean for you, check out my web-site and blog posts.



Yes, I AM Emotional

“We shouldn’t let emotion sway us,” or “You are too emotional!”

I hear these and their variations in many settings both personal and professional. The first is a directive to others to avoid feelings in favor of a singularly logical solution which is perceived as better.Yes I am Emotional

The second is often proffered as a criticism. Sometimes it is said in a tone of anger or even disgust. If you have ever been admonished in this way, you may know the sting of judgment and the shame such words can elicit.

How did we get to this place where we dismiss or degrade such important messengers? I say “messengers” because we feel emotions as a result of chemical messengers in the brain AND because emotions provide vital information.  Here are some simple messages and their emotions for example:

I love this! = Happy

I don’t want this! = Anger

This is dangerous! = Fear

Something terrible happened. = Sadness

We can’t forego these certainly. These messages help us make good choices. When we pick up these signals from another person, we get information about whether to move closer or move away.  These signals can actually keep us safe. In other situations, seeing the tears of another can impel us to feel that emotion empathically and we move in to help. This is successful socialization in action.

Emotion is difficult to define because it really is a process. It is a reaction to sensory information (a very broad spectrum) and internal processes like memory.  Neuroscience identifies the limbic system as the seat of emotions—this includes the amygdala, hippocampus, and thalamus. The limbic system takes up a significant amount of space in the central brain. In humans there is a great deal of activity between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex (PFR). The PFR is known for executive functioning and has many jobs including mediating emotions and calming fear.

In session, I often hear my clients say the internalized version of the admonition: “I shouldn’t be upset.” “But,” I say, “you are upset.  Let’s figure this out.” Are these emotions providing good information? If we aren’t curious and just try to shut them down—how can we learn anything about ourselves and this process?

Can emotion be too much? Yes, of course, particularly if it is a negative emotion that is hanging on too long or turning into a dark mood we can’t shake. Emotions running rampant over all reason (hijacking the PFR, you could say) can cause big problems. But emotions on their own pose no danger if we can ride them out, understand them, and derive the good information they offer.

Emotions also offer the opportunity for us to learn and practice mediating them effectively and to know from the inside out what we can handle and what is actually “too emotional” for us. No one else can tell us that.

If we avoid emotions:

  • We don’t get to practice meditating and integrating them effectively.
  • We don’t find out what we can handle in the present and for future reference to move forward with confidence.
  • We limit access to vital information about ourselves and others.

Finally, by avoiding or degrading emotions, we give up  the vitality they provide to energize a healthy mind and happy life.

So the next time someone tells you you are too emotional, tell them “Thanks! I got this.”

Benefits of a Mindful Mind

One trait of a healthy mind is the ability to pay attention and focus. When we are unable to focus and our mind is racing, we can feel overwhelmed, anxious, irritable, or even frozen. Meanwhile, we live in a culture that values busyness and multitasking. Our jobs are particularly demanding, and our electronic devices keep us hopping. How can we make this work? It’s simple– we can’t. It’s not sustainable because too much stress makes us sleepless, angry, unhappy, and eventually makes us ill. This is where mindfulness comes in.

Benefits of a Mindful Mind

Elise Gaul with Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness means paying attention moment to moment. Basically, it means being able to perform the healthy mind skill of focusing attention. However, the benefits go way, way beyond improving attention (thanks to neuroplasticity). Research has shown that mindfulness practice benefits include:

  • Reducing rumination
  • Stress reduction
  • Boosting working memory
  • Decreasing emotional reactivity
  • Increasing cognitive flexibility
  • Increasing relationship satisfaction