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Kathy Marshack News

The Search for Happiness Begins with You

Friday, March 20, 2015


happiness begins with youAre you a happy person by nature? The real answer may surprise you. Your general disposition may tend toward happiness, yet science is discovering that people aren’t hardwired to be happy or not.

This is just one fascination fact you’ll learn from WebMD’s Happiness Quiz. Here are some other things you’ll learn:

  • What’s the happiest country in the world based on life satisfaction and work-life balance? (Hint: It’s not the U.S.)
  • Which has more power – negative or positive emotions?
  • What personality traits contribute toward more happiness?
  • What age group is the happiest?
  • What brain chemicals affect your happiness level and how do you activate them?
  • Should you always keep a stiff upper lip in order to become a happy person?
  • Which creates longer lasting happiness – pleasure or gratitude?
  • Is your health and happiness affected by the movies you watch?

I encourage you to have some fun today and take this quiz. If you want more information on happiness, I’ve compiled a list of some of my past articles for your convenience.

Happiness Is Up To YOU!
The Two Types of Happiness and How They Affect You
What 40 Years of Science Reveals About Happiness
In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media
If You Want to Be Happy Take a Risk
Are You Happy with the Money You Earn?
How to Be a Happier Person - Watch Less Television
How to Create an Inner Joy that Lasts Despite Upsetting Circumstances
Tips to Experiencing Happiness on a Daily Basis
Three Ways to Avoid Toxic Life Choices

Everyone wants happiness, yet it’s so elusive for many in the U.S. Here in Oregon and Washington, we have dreary, rainy days that contribute towards depression. Economic struggles, family strife, and other external factors add to unhappiness. Yet you can learn techniques to successfully deal with all of these challenges as you remain hopeful and positive. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment. It’s time to feel happy again.

Take the WebMD Happiness Quiz. It will stretch your understanding of happiness. I didn’t even get 100%. When you’re done, come over to my Facebook page and tell us how you did.

Is Your Teen Being Held Captive by an Eating Disorder?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


is your teen being held captive by an eating disorderHave you heard about the young woman who was held captive and starved to death? We are horrified by this brutal and inhumane treatment. And no, I’m not referring to any one woman in particular. I’m talking about the thousands of beautiful young women and men in our communities here in Oregon and Washington who are punishing themselves with this cruel behavior! Across the nation there are millions of people who are afflicted with insidious eating disorders. The exact number is impossible to ascertain because this problem is surrounded by secrecy and shame.

Eating Disorders take many shapes. Most of them are connected to poor body or self-image and feelings of being out of control, guilty and ashamed. The good news is – they are treatable. February is Eating Disorder Awareness month, so let’s become more aware of the following eating disorders:

Anorexia nervosa – Because people have an intense fear of being fat, even when they’re not, they starve and exercise themselves to death.

Bulimia nervosa – People uncontrollably eat a large quantity of food and then purge themselves by vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or enemas or go on extreme diets and extreme exercise routines. Because they are trying to hide what they’re doing, they may maintain their weight, so there are no easily apparent signs of the eating disorder.

Binge Eating – People make a practice of rapidly consume a large amount of food at one sitting, which leaves them feeling uncomfortably full, ashamed and depressed.

While the following are not officially classified as eating disorders they also need to be addressed.

Binge Drinking – consuming in one incident four or more drinks for females and five or more drinks for males, has been tied to liver damage, brain damage, risky sexual conduct, immune system suppression, dementia and so many more health hazards.

Obesity – affects at least one third of the US population. While there are medical reasons for obesity, there are also psychological reasons such as using it as an excuse not to achieve more, as a way to ward off sexual advances, and more.

Compulsive, emotional eating – may be used as a distraction to cope with stress and anxiety.

Parents, I urge you to eat together as a family, and if you notice a problem with your children, don’t think they’ll “outgrow this phase”. The longer this behavior goes untreated the more deeply ingrained it becomes. The sooner it’s treated the better the chances are for recovery.

Therapy is very effective for treating eating disorders as it addresses the complex interaction of social, biological and psychological factors involved. The important thing is get help now. Please contact a mental health professional near you today. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment to get on the road to recovery.

How Much Do You Know About Memory?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


how much do you know about memoryMemory is such an important part of our lives. It helps define who we are. It assists us in our relationships with others. And it definitely affects the decisions we make. So much of this is done without our even thinking about it. That is…until we start to lose our ability to remember. Then we wish we could do something to decrease memory loss. The good news is that there are things you can do to support your brain’s memory functions.

First, though, WebMD has a fun and interesting memory quiz to test how much you already know about how memory works and what affect our choices have on the quality of memory. You’ll learn the answers to the following questions:

Can sex trigger amnesia?
Does pregnancy cause “baby brain”?
How long do memory problems due to smoking marijuana last?
How does déjà vu work?
At what age do we start losing brain cells?
Why can you remember a song from your youth, but can’t remember someone’s name?
Why and how does – skipping breakfast, poor eyesight, working crosswords, drinking alcohol, taking statin drugs, antihistamines and sleeping pills – affect your memory?
Why does a sudden, high-stress event boost your memory?
Is the memory loss from perimenopause permanent?
Why does rest or sleep enhance memory?
What foods can boost memory?
Why do some diseases cause “brain fog”?

The function of the brain can be improved by holistic health choices that help you control memory-damaging stress, getting enough exercise, keeping your mind active and improving your concentration. A NET practitioner can help you not only protect your brain but even retrain your brain to cope with the brain fog caused by painful illnesses such as fibromyalgia. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an appointment.

Read more about memory on Psychology Today and PsychCentral.

Think Yourself Younger – Is It Possible?

Monday, December 22, 2014


our attitude toward aging Do you feel your biological age? Some days do you feel like your 18 again and others you could be 100? A recent CNN article discussed new research published by JAMA Internal Medicine online about our attitude toward aging and how it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Check out their slide show of 10 centenarians and their amazing accomplishments during “old age” like running a marathon and competing in the AU World Masters Games.) The way you perceive your health, limitations and wellbeing can greatly affect your mortality.

Researchers found that those who feel younger than their chronological age live longer than those who feel their age or feel older. While they don’t fully understand why, the researchers have noticed the following similar traits among the long-lived:

  • This “youthful” group keeps more active.
  • They maintain a healthy weight.
  • They nurture their happyinterest in life.
  • They engage in healthy behavior instead of risky behavior.
  • They feel more in control.
  • They have greater resilience.
  • They have good social relationships.
  • They keep a positive, optimistic attitude.
  • They are content with their lives.

The two main characteristics that seem to help people live a longer life are consciousness and optimism. While the findings of this latest research are not new, it does reinforce that our conscious choices shape our quality of life. So what does your future look like?

It’s never too late to start living a more meaningful and happy life. I had the privilege of having one of my essays published in a wonderful book entitled, Sixty Things To Do When You Turn Sixty. (You can purchase a copy of the book here.) The big 6-0 is just the beginning! Do you have any stories of people who have accomplished remarkable things in their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s? Please come to my Facebook page and share them with us.

Morning Person or Night Owl – Which Are You? Does It Matter?

Thursday, December 18, 2014


this woman is a night owl who is sleeping inHave you ever heard the word chronotype? It’s a way of classifying whether your internal circadian clock is set for you to be a night owl or a morning person. Our society is greatly shaped by the belief that early risers will be the movers and shakers and those who are night owls are the partiers and are more creative. We’ve all heard this sentiment in sayings such as “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” or “The early bird gets the worm”.

The Harvard Review carries an article by Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany on his study of morning people verses evening people and their role in job performance. He found that there’s a genetic predisposition to whether you’re a morning person or night owl. And those who wake up early are more likely to be productive. Morning people anticipate problems and try to minimize them. Evening people, on the other hand, tend to be more creative.

The Huffington Post has an article by Dr. Michael Breus, clinical psychologist and board certified sleep specialist, and he reports that the brain structure actually differs between night owls and early risers. “Compared to early risers and intermediates, night owls showed reduced integrity of white matter in several areas of the brain. White matter is fatty tissue in the brain that facilitates communication among nerve cells. Diminished integrity of the brain's white matter has been linked to depression and to disruptions of normal cognitive function.” The article also said night owls are prone to significant tobacco and alcohol use. They are inclined to eat more and have less healthful diets. On the positive side, they tend to be more analytical and have more stamina.

Can a person change from night owl to morning person? According to a recent CNN article, there are 19 ways to trick yourself into becoming a morning person. They involve creating a new routine and having a definite goal in mind. Some of them include:

  • Make the change in 15-minute increments.
  • Turn off the electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Use that hour to prepare for the next day.
  • Write out your to-do list and get those things off of your mind.
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep – darken the room, turn the temperature down to 65˚F.
  • Avoid eating or drinking a lot before going to bed.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button, but get up. Going back to sleep may put you into a deep sleep stage, which will make you really groggy.

A good sleep routine is crucial to optimum health, job performance, and quality of life. A night owl trying to fit into a morning person society may suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have serious long-term effects as it can escalate into psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. If you feel this is a problem for you, please contact a mental health care professional in your area. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

By proactively managing your sleep pattern, you could create an extra hour in your day. How would you use it? Please join me on my Facebook page and tell me about it.

Your Thoughts – Are They Making You Healthier or Making You Sicker?

Thursday, December 04, 2014


our thoughts can make us healthier or make us sickerWe know that our thoughts can change the way we feel. Have you ever been so stressed out you got a stomachache or a headache? Your thoughts did that to you. But can your thoughts actually change the brain’s physical make-up?

Scientists, who are studying the neuroplasticity of the brain, are discovering how much our thoughts really do shape our brain and our health. In an earlier article, I shared how different forms of meditation change the structure of the brain. This isn’t surprising because thoughts have physical properties. Every thought sends electrical signals through your brain, which in turn influences every cell of the body. Learning to control negative thinking is one of the most effective ways to have better health.

What health benefits may positive thinking provide?

  • Increase your life span
  • Lessen depression
  • Lessen distress
  • Gain a greater resistance to the common cold
  • Create better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Improve coping skills during times of stress

But why exactly does positive thinking cause these improvements? Science is still researching this question, yet we do know that there are a number of reasons…

  • Positive people take better care of themselves – they eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.
  • They avoid unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, and risky sex, which protects the body from debilitating diseases. 
  • An optimistic outlook lowers the level of cortisol associated with inflammation and raises the chemical that fosters communication between the two halves of the brain.
  • A can-do attitude generates a sense of empowerment and confidence in your abilities in contrast to the self-defeating I-can’t attitude.
  • The qualities of forgiveness, resilience, commitment, challenge, and control combat the harmful feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, resentment, anger and cynicism.
  • Optimistic people are more fun to be around, so they have better relationships with friends and family.

Positive thinking often starts with how you talk to yourself. The best advice is to only say things to yourself that you would say to a dear friend. When a negative thought enters your head, use positive affirmation to replace it. This will keep your brain chemistry in balance.

If you find you’re being controlled by habitually negative patterns of thinking, it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Healing everyday thought patterns is crucial to gaining optimum health.

New Gene Research Reveals Possibly Eight Different Types of Schizophrenia

Thursday, October 02, 2014


genetic research uncoding link to schizophreniaSchizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, affects about 1% of the population. Thankfully ongoing genetic research is unlocking the mysteries of complex diseases like schizophrenia. According to new findings from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis there may be eight different classes of schizophrenia. Other doctors, like Dr. Charles Raison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, say this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

The breakthrough came when they began looking for gene clusters rather than at individual genes. Dr. C. Robert Cloninger, one of the study's senior authors, explained, “Genes don't operate by themselves. They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they're working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact." And co-author Dr. Dragan Svrakic stated, "What was missing was the idea that these genes don't act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain's structure and function, and that results in the illness." As the researchers analyzed the DNA, they matched any gene variations they found in the DNA with individual symptoms.

It’s been known that the risk for schizophrenia is inherited. Now they are beginning to identify the gene clusters that are responsible for specific symptoms. They found that “some gene clusters were responsible for hallucinations and delusions, other gene clusters disorganized speech and behavior, while still other gene clusters affect lack of initiative, problems organizing thoughts or making the connection between emotions and thoughts.”

Why is this gene research so exciting?

Previous studies have linked genetic mutations in older fathers with mental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. The more they can identify the cause at the genetic level, the greater the chance of predicting who might get it and, more importantly, finding a highly targeted therapy and medication for treating each individual.

Today, psychotherapy is an effective means of treatment mental disorders. As a psychologist with 30 years of experience in counseling families, I also see how important it is for caretakers to get therapy when they have the ongoing stress of caring for someone who is seriously mentally ill. Please contact my Portland office and set up an appointment if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA.

For more information: Read CNN writer Jacque Wilson’s article, Study: Schizophrenia is 8 diseases.

Workaholics - Do You Have to be Desperate before Seeking Help?

Monday, September 29, 2014


you don't have to be sick to get better“I don’t have time to be sick!” If you’re like many today, especially entrepreneurial couples who are running a demanding business, you’ve probably said this yourself. As a result, you may put off going to a doctor until the symptoms progress to an extreme point, maybe even to the point of irreparable damage. We’ve all heard stories of how people could be alive today if they had only visited a doctor at the beginning of the symptoms of heart disease, cancer or diabetes.

The same can be said about mental health. At times, in our busy lives, the symptoms gradually creep up until it’s impossible to ignore the feelings of overwhelming anxiety or depression. Then a person is forced into dealing with crises rather than having the choice to live purposefully.

What are some symptoms that a mental health crisis is looming on your horizon? Do you find yourself thinking thoughts like these?

  • I’m so tired.
  • I don’t care.
  • I don’t enjoy doing the things I once did.
  • I’m not happy.
  • Nothing I do turns out right.
  • Why should I even try.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m bored.
  • I can’t focus or concentrate. I feel so disconnected.
  • I don’t want to think about it…I just want to stay busy.
  • My life isn’t as bad as that guy’s life, so I don’t deserve help.
  • Just suck it up and keep pushing through it.
  • It’s not my fault. You made me do it.

There are also physical symptoms that your mental health needs attention. While this list isn’t comprehensive, it illustrates the body’s reaction to mental distress:

  • Tight muscles - body pains
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • TMJ- Grinding your teeth
  • Clenched fists
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain/weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating palms
  • Self medicating with drugs or alcohol
  • Frequent anger and irritation
  • Throwing or breaking things
  • Road Rage
  • Mood swings

On the other hand, what can you gain by courageously committing to good mental health?

It improves your sense of personal well-being. When you catch problems early on, you recover more quickly, without lasting emotional and psychological scars. Utilizing the full range of your conscious and unconscious talents, unburdened by neurotic hang-ups, creates opportunities that you never knew were there before. A healthy mind also draws to you other healthy people. In a family business or any endeavor for that matter, having mentally healthy employees, coworkers and family members can only improve business functioning. It will keep your business competitive and successful.

People who regularly attend to their psychological health are not only stronger emotionally, but they require less physical health care, even reducing medical and surgical costs.

Don’t wait another day. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SICK TO GET BETTER. Just as many find that a physical fitness trainer is beneficial for keeping them on track; a mental health professional can provide the support and objective eye to help you achieve optimal mental health. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and would like to increase your sense of well being, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

Muse Headband – New Technology Could Help Us Stay on Top of Mental Health

Friday, September 26, 2014


new technology - muse headband- could help us stay on top of mental healthFor a number of years, people have been able to travel to brain scanning facilities and find out how their brains respond to stimulation in a clinical setting. It hasn’t been possible for everyone to see how the brain is really responding to situations in every day life. 

Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could monitor your brain activity at home, at work, or at the shopping center? If you found that something was bothering you more than you really expected, then you could focus on changing your responses and gain greater control of your life immediately. The idea of everyone being able to do this isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. 

Ariel Garten CEO of interaXon, was interviewed by CNN about a computer headband they’ve developed that tracks the brain’s electro-signals. It’s called Muse. She said,We're very interested in creating solutions that help you calm yourself; that can help you stay grounded, choose what to focus your attention on, and understanding and managing your own mind and response to the world so that people can be more productive in life.” 

While Muse isn’t a medical device, it has fantastic possibilities for controlling stress, helping those with ADHD to increase their abilities to focus, and providing cognitive recognition of negative thinking patterns so you can turn them into positive ones. It tracks your brain activity and then sends that information to your computer, smart phone or tablet, giving you real time feedback. 

While I haven’t tried this product out myself, I’m interested in the possibilities that a product like this could have for helping people gain greater control of their emotions, thoughts, and activities. I’m happy to keep you current on the latest technological advances that could contribute to greater physical and mental health. 

Being able to identify your self-condemning internal dialogue and self-defeating attitudes and actions in the instance of them occurring doesn’t give you the skill to automatically overcome them. It’s helpful to seek the guidance of a psychotherapist who can help you learn the skills to deal with the frustration and anger from years of unresolved emotions and to feel better about yourself. A psychotherapist can also build on the strengths you have so you can cope with daily problems and learn alternative ways to handle your emotions.

Are you ready to gain control of your life with the help of a trained psychotherapist? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office to make an appointment. 

For more information read on my website: Psychotherapy Options.

How Having a Child Changes Dad’s Brain

Friday, September 12, 2014


dad bonding with his daughter

There are a growing number of stay-at-home dads – up to 2 million in 2012. According to Pew Research Center 8% of homes have single fathers. Can a father bond with his child as strongly as the maternal bond at birth? And does it matter if the child is his biological child?


These questions were asked and answered in CNN’s story, Dads' brains are ready to bond with kids. It discusses the finding from the largest parental brain study to date. The scientists wanted to determine how male and female brains function differently as parents, and more specifically, how men's brains are changed by fatherhood. What did they discover?

The amygdala, which regulates emotional response and allows the maternal bond to occur quickly, became highly active in mothers after giving birth. The months of pregnancy accelerate this connection.

Secondary caregiving fathers' brains showed a strong response in the neural network that regulates social cognitive processing.
Primary caregiving fathers activated both of the above-mentioned areas of the brain after a short time.

Being the primary caregiving parent activated the most response. Professor of psychology and lead researcher, Ruth Feldman concluded, "There's something really strong that makes mothers bond with the infant right when they're born. Fathers need a little more work for that to happen."

Across the board, they found that fathers, whether primary and secondary caregivers, increased amygdala activation when they increased their time taking caring of the child. It didn’t matter if the child was biological or adopted.

Ever one of the five key areas of being a good parent takes time – listening, consistency, teaching, modeling, and loving. Now we have scientific proof that it takes time to change the brain in order to form that close bond with your child. If you don’t feel close to your children today, perhaps it would be good to ask yourself, “How much time am I spending with each child?”

Read more on my website: Adoptive Families and Parenting.



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