morgan randall

Counselor Morgan Randall's blog, bookstore and more. A place to explore the paradigm shift to systems thinking that views body and mind as one

It may be all in your brain

Chronic pain is a feedback loop. The bottom line is that for some people, the physiological source of the pain is gone, but the pain persists. They, and too often even their docs, don’t realize their bodies have healed, but their brains still register the pain. Psychotherapy can help change behaviors to rewrite neuronal structures that hold phantom pain in place. If you are tired of the same old pain, you may wish to try a different approach to get a different result. You won’t know if your pain is only in your brain until you do.—MR

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September 24th, 2019 | Permalink

Put on a happy face!

This article is an example of how cognitive behavioral therapy works. Change your mind to change your life. Imagining happy outcomes makes them more likely and makes you happier! Look in the mirror every morning, smile and your day will go much better. If only from your point of view. But let’s face it. It’s the only point of view you have.—MR

Here’s a new reason to be an optimist: You’re likely to live longer

By Marisa Iati, Washington Post, August 29, 2019

In the tug-of-war between the world views of cheery optimists and dour pessimists, the happy people just got a big boost. Those who see the glass as half full, according to a new study, live longer.

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September 1st, 2019 | Permalink

So what do we know?

If we are talking about the effects of cannabis or vaping, not much. There’s only a single institution, a facility at the University of Mississippi, where it can be cultivated for scientific use because of the plant’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. This means not much research is happening. The research that has happened occurred in other countries and a few states where the feds are turning a blind eye because in these states the drug has recently become legal. Because of the way science proceeds, researchers research one aspect or component at a time necessarily ignoring other effects or components. Most researchers currently are looking for positive effects to help it become legal and sell the stuff. In plain English, they look for what they want to see. It will be decades before we have a full picture of the effects of cannabis or vaping because documented use is so new. We are just peaking under the hat at what is medically significant and what is downright dangerous. In grandma’s childhood, there were national ads touting “four out of five doctors recommend Camel cigarettes for increased lung capacity.” A lot of people suffered and died before the full awful truth came out. Ask yourself if your mother raised you to be a guinea pig.—MR

As vaping-related lung illnesses spike, investigators eye contaminants

State and federal health authorities are focusing on the role of contaminants or counterfeit substances as a likely cause of vaping-related lung illnesses — now up to 354 possible cases in 29 states, nearly double the number reported to be under investigation last week, The Washington Post has learned.

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August 30th, 2019 | Permalink

A walk in the park

Anxious? Got a bit of the blues? Before you toss down another Alprazolam or scroll through social media, try taking a walk in the park with or without a dog. Swinging on a swing, even better! Guaranteed to work without the negative side effects.—MR

Visiting a park boosts your happiness like Christmas morning

By Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, August 21, 2019

Here’s the best piece of advice you’ll get all day: Go to the park! According to a new study by researchers at the University of Vermont, city dwellers can not only overcome crankiness by spending time at a public park, but they can also be rewarded with a happiness boost akin to the jolt of euphoria one might get on Christmas morning.

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August 25th, 2019 | Permalink

Another round of yummy

Yummy recipes for the alcohol free! Instead of an appetizer, why not one of these? Alcohol consumption adds to or causes depression, sleeplessness and anxiety, not to mention domestic abuse and an empty bank account. At a meal, why not do zero proof, so you get some good out a meal since alcohol wrecks absorption of nutrients?—MR

No alcohol, no problem: How to make complex, balanced zero-proof cocktails

By M. Carrie Allan, Washington Post, August 14, 2019

A new era of moderation seems to be upon us, with people — especially young healthy, clean-living millennial types — drinking less overall and having lighter forms of booze when you do drink.

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August 21st, 2019 | Permalink


Sugar is addictive. It stimulates the same center in the brain as heroin. So you crave it and go into withdrawal without it. Obviously, it’s not as bad as heroin, but it acts the same in that you need more and more to “get high.” And as you go into withdrawal several times a day, it’s registered by your nervous system as anxiety–sometimes pretty extreme anxiety. If you are dealing with a panic or anxiety disorder, withdrawing from sugars will help A LOT.  Read the article below, and think about it…—MR

Does a sugar detox work? I’m on it and have had some surprising results

By Steven Petro, Washington Post, August 6, 2019

Early one Saturday, I headed to a “sugar detox” seminar at my gym. I didn’t expect it to be a hot ticket, but when I opened the classroom door every seat was taken.

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August 7th, 2019 | Permalink

Walking after midnight…

Back in the day, Patsy Cline, darling of Country Music, sang a song about “walkin’ after midnight, out in the moonlight, dreamin’ of you.” She was onto something. Walking is not only really good for your physical body, it can help walk away blues and anxiety so you can calm down and fall asleep. We are walking critters. Fish swim. Birds fly. Like bunnies, we burrow, stay put and do little wandering until we are frightened or experience loss. We were designed by Nature to walk away from a bad situation and keep walking until we find safety, food and rest. Our brain chemistry orders us to get up and go and then rewards us for the very act of putting one foot in front of the other for, at least, twenty minutes (and sometimes half way around the world) by giving us a shot of feel-happy you-can-relax-now chemicals. So if you’re suffering from the blues, anxiety or insomnia, put in your earbuds and go out walkin’ with Patsy or some other crooner who rocks your boat, cause as we all know, music also makes humans feel better…—MR

Fitness trackers are good for your health, but that 10,000-step goal is overblown

By Bruce Horovitz, The Washington Post, July 29

When Sonia Anderson got her first Fitbit step tracker, her poor pooch, Bronx, had no idea of all the steps that were coming. The device — which counts every step Anderson takes and displays those steps on an app — was a Christmas gift from her daughters two years ago.

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July 31st, 2019 | Permalink

All we need is love

I know. The above headline is a totally corny quote from the Beatles. But, the fact is, it is true. Almost 20 percent of people in America report loneliness and loneliness increases our risk for mental and physical illness. The good news is that overcoming the ill effects of it are easier than one thinks. Just speaking to someone in an aisle of the grocery store or striking up a conversation with someone else walking their dog in a city park sends all sorts of endorphins into action helping us to be happier and healthier.—MR

This town’s solution to loneliness? The ‘chat bench.’

Detective Sgt. Ashley Jones with the Avon and Somerset Police in England was talking to an elderly widow who had been scammed. She would get a call each morning from a man pretending to be her friend, and he eventually convinced her to give him about $31,000.

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July 21st, 2019 | Permalink

What we resist, persists

As the article below notes, anxiety is normal. And that today, attempts to avoid it make it much worse. It doesn’t mention substance use. Drinking alcohol is relaxing, but ultimately wrecks the nerves. Cigarettes replace a chemical in the nervous system, so every few hours, as nicotine disappears, high anxiety results, so another coffin nail is needed. Benzodiazepine is highly addictive, so ultimately legal anxiolytics make you more anxious than if you hadn’t taken them at all. Cannabis is the worst. While not addictive itself, it causes addiction to the reward chemical in the brain. The withdrawal anxiety from this endorphin is extreme, but fools the user because he is withdrawing from an opioid that was normal and familiar until cannabis took over triggering it at higher levels than the survival behaviors that are supposed to trigger it would have.—MR

Could our efforts to avoid anxiety only be making it worse?

By Jelena Kecmanovic, The Washington Post, July 10, 2019

We live in the age of anxiety. As a psychologist who has studied anxiety and treated hundreds of anxious patients, I see it eclipsing all other problems as a major psychological issue in the 21st century. Each day, I treat people who worry constantly and can’t relax, who feel tense and achy, and who have difficulty sleeping — all hallmarks of anxiety. Survey data confirm anxiety is ubiquitous.

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July 10th, 2019 | Permalink

Silent predator

Mold is a silent predator in the coastal regions from San Francisco to the northern border. If you have unexplained symptoms–mental or physical; symptoms that have difficulty healing particularly with breathing; or just don’t feel very good and don’t know why, you may wish to have your home or workplace inspected for mold during the damp mold season. It can be in the walls, ceilings, window frames or other hard to see places.–MR

Mold infections leave one dead and force closure of operating rooms at children’s hospital

By Hannah Knowles, Washington Post, July 3, 2019

One patient dead. Five others infected. A thousand surgeries postponed and 3,000 people told to watch for infection symptoms.

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July 4th, 2019 | Permalink

You are how you eat

An eating disorder can cause other chronic diseases, disorders and even sudden death. If you suspect your mom, your aunt or your grandma is a victim, for heaven’s sake, please do something! Have her read this article at the very least.—MR

The overlooked crisis of eating disorders among middle-aged woman

By Carrie Dennett, Washington Post, June 17, 2019

You’re an adult with multiple decades to your credit, and you’ve got it all together — or look like you do. You never have a kind word for yourself when you look in the mirror, but who does? Your eating and exercise obsessions, secret binges, and occasional purges can’t possibly be signs of an eating disorder. After all, your friends, family and even your doctor praise you when you lose a few more pounds. Besides, you’re too “old” for an eating disorder — right?

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June 19th, 2019 | Permalink

My purpose is porpoises

It doesn’t matter what your purpose for living is, e.g. saving porpoise habitat, growing traditional iris, collecting blankets for your local homeless shelter, or enforcing leash laws, but having a purpose will make you happier and, therefore, healthier. Living longer may be a side effect, but to me as a mental health counselor, living a more content life is the greatest reason to find yourself a purpose no matter how long or short life lasts. Note: living to watch the next Grey’s Anatomy probably doesn’t count.—MR

A sense of purpose could prolong your life

By Ephrat Livni, Quartz

The meaning of life is a question that has plagued philosophers for millennia, and there is no single correct answer. But increasingly, scientists are finding that having a sense of purpose, whatever yours may be, is key to well-being.

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June 6th, 2019 | Permalink

Buyer beware!

Glad cannabis and CBD are becoming legal to keep people out of jail for using something most likely no more dangerous than alcohol, but as a mental health counselor, I’ve seen adverse responses to these powerful drugs including what appears to be cannabis-induced psychosis, anxiety and depression. Not saying there are not benefits, but am waiting for science to accrue substantial research results before making a professional judgement about something that obviously seriously affects the bodymind and human cognition.–MR

Amid flood of CBD products, FDA holds first public hearing on cannabis extract

By William Wan, The Washinton Post, May 31, 2019

You can buy CBD in oils, supplements, soda, even dog food. But some of it violates federal food and drug regulations, prompting concerns over safety and deceptive marketing. With thousands of unproven products flooding the market, the Food and Drug Administration is convening its first public hearing Friday to wrestle with how to regulate cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis extract already being sold in pills, tinctures, skin lotions,  soda and dog food.

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May 31st, 2019 | Permalink

Brain damage

Your brain is an exquisite, easily-damaged electrical organ. It is the part of you that creates and regulates your mental, psychological, emotional, relational, spiritual and physical health. Damaging it through lack of sleep, poor quality sleep or electrical interference during your teen years may damage it for life, because it is growing so fast. However, at any age, DO NOT SLEEP WITH IT IN YOUR BEDROOM unless it is turned off. Whatever you may think is so important can wait until morning. No wonder memory care centers are filled to overflowing…—MR

Many teens sleep with their phones, survey finds — just like their parents

By Craig Timberg, The Washinton Post, May 29, 2019

Four out of five teenagers with mobile devices keep them in their rooms overnight — and nearly a third of those bring them into their beds while sleeping — according a study Wednesday that offered new evidence that mobile devices undermine the rest necessary for peak health.

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May 29th, 2019 | Permalink

Mind time vs screen time

All ages should strive to regulate and reduce screen time. As time goes by we are learning, there is a direct correlation between amount of screen time and mental, emotional, familial, relational, psychological and physical health. The less screen time, which includes traditional TV, the healthier an individual will be. If you work in front of a screen, take regular breaks and walk it off.—MR

Infants under 1 year old shouldn’t be exposed to any electronic screens

By Rachel Siegel, Washington Post, April 24, 2019

Infants younger than 1 shouldn’t be exposed to any electronic screens, according to guidelines issued Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

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April 24th, 2019 | Permalink

Simple ettiquette

The OKness of touch is a varying cultural value. Sometimes a national culture, a local culture, or perhaps a family culture. If your family was not “touchy feely,” being hugged at all may freak you out, but assuming others are crossing a line by touching is cultural prejudice. That said, hugging without permission is too. Things changed radically after the outset of the AIDS epidemic. Since fear of touch is also a symptom of PTSD, a simple “would you like a hug” or “do you mind if I touch your arm” would be a considerate national social norm to evolve.—MR

Biology loves a gentle touch. Society is less sure what the norm is.

By Mary Jo Murphy, The Washington Post, April 12, 2019

The unwritten rule can be as indelible as any chiseled into a tablet. That’s its genius and its curse. But because norms recalibrate, and today’s are still sorting themselves out, not everyone got the invisible memo that says a person shall not hug, pat, brush, graze, stroke, clasp, rub, squeeze or nuzzle another without first obtaining or at least intuiting consent.

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April 14th, 2019 | Permalink

This IS an emergency!

Over 150,000 Americans died from alcohol (car accidents, overdose and liver failure), drug overdoses (from mostly legal opioids) and suicide (by mostly legal guns) in 2017. The alcohol, pharmaceutical and domestic arms industry are making themselves billions through sacrificing the lives of individuals in our society. Since we do not have the political will to sufficiently legislate or fund assistance for our ailing community members, taking personal responsibility to keep these threats safely stored, little used, or out of the home altogether remains a personal moral choice.—MR

By Adeel Hassan, New York Times, March 7, 2019

The number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 hit the highest level since the collection of federal mortality data started in 1999, according to an analysis by two public health nonprofits, the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust. To reach their conclusion, the two groups parsed the latest available data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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March 8th, 2019 | Permalink

Giving back, not up

Life is excruciatingly short. but if you want it to last a little longer and be a little happier, volunteering during your retirement years has been shown to add years of healthy contentment to your life. Each developmental stage has a set of things we biologically, evolutionarily, should be doing or our bodymind doesn’t stay as healthy. Just as we should learn to walk at age one and talk at age two, and differentiate from our parents at age fifteen, we should be taking care of grandchildren at age 50 plus and/or acting as the wise elder in the tribe.—MR

By Jane Brody, New York Times, March 4, 2019

Encouraged by a grandfatherly professor at Cornell, in my sophomore year I gave a speech asking my fellow students “when you come to the end of your days, will you be able to write your own epitaph?”

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March 8th, 2019 | Permalink

Repeat after me. VERY SLOWLY

Hallelujah! Research is now backing up what I have been saying for decades. When withdrawing from an antidepressant, or frankly any psych med, you’ve been on for over six months, take at least a year to quit. Docs routinely advise patients to titrate way too fast. Then, use their withdrawal symptoms as an excuse to put them back on. But patients who VERY gradually reduced their daily dose of antidepressants over a year, even after years of use, are unlikely to experience any symptoms. I advise buying a metal fingernail file and start with one swipe of the pill across it. Then take one tiny additional swipe across the file every two weeks very slowly reducing the dosage, so your brain doesn’t go into shock making you think you’re actually mentally ill when what you are is in withdrawal. I’ve seen patients who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when, in fact, they had been taken off a benzo, cannabidiol or antidepressant too quickly! Think carefully before you decide to take these drugs. Do your research. And, please, be very careful getting off.-–MR

By Benedict Carey, New York Times,  March 5, 2019

Thousands, perhaps millions, of people who try to quit antidepressant drugs experience stinging withdrawal symptoms that last for months to years: insomnia, surges of anxiety, even so-called brain zaps, sensations of electric shock in the brain.

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March 6th, 2019 | Permalink

Is that all?

Let’s see, this drug, which was a party drug for years, only has these potential side effects: according to the article below, you can pass out, fall asleep, dissociate from reality, commit suicide, get addicted to it, have problems with attention, judgment and thinking, and not to mention hallucinations, tunnel vision and dissociative effects that “make people feel untethered from their surroundings.” Sounds a lot like whiskey, doesn’t it? Its label will carry a “black box” warning – the most serious safety warning issued by the FDA! It was fast tracked through its offices and only required one study instead of the usual two for approval. Gosh, no thanks. There are more natural, less dangerous ways to positively effect glutamate balance in the brain, but maybe Johnson & Johnson just wants to make money. Ya think?-–MR

In biggest advance for depression in years, FDA approves novel treatment for hardest cases

By Carolyn Johnson and Laurie McGinley, Washington Post, March 5, 2019

The Food and Drug Administration approved a novel antidepressant late Tuesday for people with depression that does not respond to other treatments — the first in decades to work in a completely new way in the brain.

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March 5th, 2019 | Permalink

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