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Happiness Isn-t Brain Surgery
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSM, LMHC, NCC
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Host, Counselor Toolbox
President, Recovery and Resilience International

Continuing Education (CE) credits for addiction and mental health counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists can be earned for this presentation at

– Learn about how the brain, body and how you feel are impacted by:
– Nutrition
– Sleep
– Stress
– Pain
– Sickness

– You have already learned that:
– The brain receives information from the senses.
– The brain interprets this information based on prior experiences and current data.
– The brain sends signals using neurotransmitters to command the body to react (fight or flee).
– Side effects of excess or continued stress are:
– Sleep problems
– Blood sugar issues
– Overall fatigue
– Muscle aches and tension and reduced immunity

The Feedback Loop
– Sleep problems
– Fatigue (Difficulty getting things done) –> stress
– Difficulty concentrating (frustration) –> stress
– Reduced immunity –> illness – frustration – stress
– Blood sugar issues
– Fatigue (Difficulty getting things done) –> stress
– Difficulty concentrating (frustration) –> stress
– Stress/comfort eating or lack of appetite –> blood sugar crashes
The Feedback Loop
– Overall fatigue
– Difficulty concentrating (frustration) –> stress
– Feelings of guilt/frustration from negative self-talk –> stress
– Muscle aches and tension
– Difficulty sleeping
– Fatigue
– Pain
– Reduced immunity
– Increased illnesses
– Increased allergies (as cortisol gets depleted)
Breaking the Cycle: Nutrition
– Good nutrition provides the building blocks to make neurotransmitters, rebuild and repair tissue and keep your immune system fully charged.
– Poor nutrition and dehydration contribute to:
– Fatigue
– Poor concentration
– Irritability, depression, anxiety
– Increased pain perception
Breaking the Cycle: Nutrition
– Making changes in your eating habits should:
– Be undertaken slowly (1 change per week)
– Be moderate (not eliminating anything*)
– Focus on progress not perfection
– Be modified so you are motivated to maintain the change
Breaking the Cycle: Nutrition
– Easy changes
– Replace sugary sodas with 80% diet soda.
– Find fruits you love to eat instead of candy.
– Add a little cheese to your veggies.
– Replace 50% of your instant coffee with equal amount of unsweetened cocoa powder.
– Drink 64-120 ounces of water daily. (Add a little lemon or citric acid to make it more palatable)
– Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.

Breaking the Cycle: Nutrition
– Easy changes
– Take what you want and put half back.
– Have 3 colors on your plate at each meal.
– Start weaning off sugary drinks and foods.
– Eat every 3-4 hours.
– Start using a food diary app to track which nutrients you may not be getting enough of.
– Reduce caffeine, especially 6 hours before bed.

See the booklet: Happiness is-Nutrition for an in-depth information, self assessments and resources for improving not only what you eat, but your relationship with food.
Breaking the Cycle: Sleep
– Sleep is when your body repairs, rebuilds and recharges.
– Quality is just as important as quantity.
– Your body breaks down serotonin to make melatonin to help you get sleepy.
– The body relies on circadian rhythms (light/dark) to regulate your sleep/wake cycles.
– Naps are okay as long as they do not exceed 40 minutes.
Breaking the Cycle: Sleep
– Easy changes:
– Create a sleep routine to cue your body to wind down.
– Keep your room as dark as possible.
– Eliminate blue-based lights after 6pm (including your phone).
– Dim the lights an hour before bed and don-t go into a bright room.
– Cool down.  Your body needs to be cool to sleep.
– Keep a notepad and pen with a red-light by your bed to jot down anything you -have to remember.-

See the booklet Happiness is-A Good Night-s Sleep for an in-depth look at why sleep is important, and resources to assess and improve your sleep quality.
Breaking the Cycle: Stressful Cognitions
– Stressful thoughts create physical stress.
– Reducing mental stress reduces physical stress.
– Easy fixes:
– Practice mindfulness at each meal.
– Practice positive self talk.
– Silence the hecklers.
– Ask yourself if -this- is worth your energy and helping you get closer to your goals.

See the booklet Happiness is-All in Your Head to learn more about how to develop more psychological flexibility and identify and change thoughts that are now unhelpful.

Breaking the Cycle: Stressful Environment
– What is a stressful environment differs for people.
– Key features to consider
– Noise level and type
– Frequency of unexpected noises
– Clutter level
– Temperature
– Light
– Safety/Relaxation
– Color
– Personalization

See the booklet Happiness is-A Walk in the Park to learn more about how triggers and stimuli in the environment can improve (or worsen) your health and happiness.
Breaking the Cycle: Pain
– Pain makes it hard to concentrate.
– Pain keeps your body on threat alert.
– Chronic pain can cause frustration which may intensify the perception of pain.
– Opiate medications used for pain can actually decrease your pain tolerance.

Breaking the Cycle: Pain
– Easy-ish Interventions
– Massage
– General
– Myofascial Release:
– TENS units:
– Alternate focus
– Guided imagery
– Progressive muscular relaxation
– Positive focus
– Heat or Ice
Breaking the Cycle: Illness
– Being sick con put anyone in a bad mood.
– Being sick when you already have too much to do can feel overwhelming.
– When you are excessively stressed your body is less able to fight off infections.
– Chronic sinus infections or bad allergies can make it almost impossible to focus or be in a good mood.
Breaking the Cycle: Illness
– Easy fixes
– Prevention
– Wash your hands
– Wipe down grocery carts
– Don-t bite your nails
– Wipe down your cell phone (purses too) daily
– Drink plenty of fluids
– Get plenty of rest

Breaking the Cycle: Illness
– Easy fixes
– Recuperation
– Figure out the minimum and do just that
– You cannot change it, and getting irritable will only prolong it.
– Eat healthfully including garlic, honey, ginger

Breaking the Cycle: Medication | Depressants
– Opiates, muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety medication are all depressants
– Depressants will:
– Make you feel tired
– Slow your breathing and heart rate
– Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects.
– Alcohol is also a depressant, so do not take it with other depressants.
Breaking the Cycle: Medication
– Antidepressants
– Work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters, namely norepinephrine and serotonin.
– As serotonin goes up, in generally, norepinephrine goes down.
– Norepinepherine (adrenaline)
– Gives you energy and helps you focus
– Too much can cause anxiety and, eventually, depression
– Too little can cause apathy and difficulty concentrating
Breaking the Cycle: Medication
– Serotonin
– Helps you feel happy and relaxed
– Mitigates pain
– Too little keeps you from being able to relax –> depression
– Too much may make you feel confused, apathetic
– Too much or too little also may impair libido
Breaking the Cycle: Medication | Hormones
– Estrogen, Testosterone and Cortisol all affect the availability of serotonin and GABA (calming, happy chemicals)
– Keeping a proper hormone balance requires:
– Eating a good diet
– Exercise
– Sunlight
– Managing stress
– Talking with your doctor

– Stress can cause you to
– Sleep Poorly
– Eat -comfort- foods instead of a well rounded diet
– Feel achy and have a lot of muscle tension
– Be fatigued
– All of these can lead to increased stress
– Pick an area to start breaking the cycle.
– Any positive change will have positive effects throughout the system.