Will walking make you smarter?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Does brisk walking help you learn or should you rest up first?

Walking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Worldwide we are seeing the results of increases in body weight. Clearly being obese or overweight can seriously impact your health. We know that more exercise can help lose weight and may improve health but how much exercise is needed and the impact this might have on learning and memory is often overlooked.

The connection between exercise and the ability to learn may be a lot more significant than most people realize

As little as 10 minutes of brisk exercise in the form of walking can improve your ability to learn things. Unfortunately, most people do not recognize this relationship. Most of us rest after exercise and then try to study and learn when well rested.

We may be doing the whole exercise and learning behaviors backward.

One study, (Salas et al, 2011) reports that a brisk 10-minute walk improved college students ability to learn new material.

Unfortunately, the students in this study did not recognize that their learning had improved. Sometimes our own impression of how much we are learning turns out to be incorrect.

As those who practice yoga will tell you, exercise does not need to be painful to be helpful. The key to getting health benefits from this form of exercise is not speed or strength, but to breathe as you do it. Doing a pose or posture slowly and with breathing can result in significant health benefits.

So if you find that your concentration is waning, the answer may be a brisk walk rather than the traditional “break” from the thinking activity.

Turns out that we need a healthy body to help us with the tasks most of us think of as mental.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Should therapist teach Mindfulness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Mindfulness and meditation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Should you go to a therapist to learn mindfulness, meditation, yoga or spirituality?

Some therapists and counselors incorporate the teaching of meditation, mindfulness, spirituality and a whole host of other things into their practice. Clearly, there are times that these techniques can be helpful to clients. It is equally clear to me that you do not need to be a licensed therapist to teach a meditation class.

There are also times when some of these things can be harmful if done incorrectly. Meditation can be very bad for someone with PTSD or complex trauma if every time they try to close their eyes they have a panic attack. Another practice called grounding is recommended for those clients. (That topic needs another post.)

When we start mixing things up, professionals and clients need to be really clear about what is going on. Readers have asked some questions about this and I can see some professionals may be headed for problems.

What if I decide to teach a Wednesday night class in blogging? Can I sign up my therapy clients to come to this? Sure blogging can be a great way to express yourself and some of my clients might benefit from learning to write, but if I start mixing these two activities up we are headed for trouble.

Could a “Christian Counselor” teach a Bible study? Probably no reason why not. Except if they are doing their Bible study on Wednesday nights and competing with my blogging class this is not very therapeutic for either of us. (I picked Wednesday because I teach at the College on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not because of the traditional Wednesday night prayer meetings that some churches have.)

A counselor can have outside interests. We can and should do other activates. But when the lines between therapy and those other topics get blurry, there are lots of risks to clients. Maybe my Blogging class needs to be taught at the adult education school and the Bible study needs to take place in a church or someone’s home? Then the two roles are kept separate.

By the way, any therapist that tries to bill an insurance company for these other activates under the guise of them being “therapeutic” is probably headed for big trouble.

The role of the counselor or therapists is to help you get over, recover from, or reduce the symptoms of a particular emotional, mental or behavioral problem. This role conflict becomes a problem when a therapist starts signing people up for a yoga class.

Yoga can be helpful for managing certain emotional problems. (My understanding of Yoga is that it is an exercise done slowly and purposefully while managing your breathing.) So yes any exercise may be helpful in treating depression. Working on your breathing can be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and a therapist might spend a few minutes even a session teaching a client how to control their breathing to reduce anxiety. But when the therapist starts signing up clients for a weekly yoga class, they have crossed a line in my book.

Sure any therapist can have another interest. Say the therapist likes to play baseball and they start a Saturday baseball team. Is this therapy and should they be doing this with their therapy clients?

If I was working with a group of severely impaired people, those with no friends and no jobs, a weekly trip to the park to play baseball could be therapeutic. I could teach them how to take turns, follow the rules and how to resolve differences. We could even do some work on social skills, picking a team captain, how to talk with each other and so on.

But if the course of this baseball therapy included people with friends and jobs and we began to talk about baseball skills, bunting and sliding into base, this is no longer a therapy group and we are becoming a baseball team. That is not a function that requires a therapist.

This example I hope is easy to see. There are not many times a sport is likely to be a part of traditional therapy. When therapists start talking about meditation, yoga, mindfulness and a host of spiritual and self-awareness techniques the lines get blurry.

My thinking is that there are times that I may use a particular technique briefly to help a client reduce or manage symptoms but if I stray into teaching them another topic I am no longer in my “scope of practice.”

So if your therapist avoids working on your past traumas or other current issues and wants to spend a lot of time on these other topics that are not specifically designed to reduce or control your mental health symptoms, think this through.

You may need to find another yoga teacher and then restrict your therapist to doing therapy. If they are uncomfortable with that, you need to talk with them about this or eventuality you will need to change providers to get the help you need.

Having a therapist teach a meditation, mindfulness, or yoga class, can be another of those dual relationship issues that we therapists need to be careful about. If a therapist does do those activities there needs to be a clear connection to treating the client’s symptoms.

A therapist can use these techniques to help their client recover but they can’t use their client to support their other interests.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

The Yoga of pain

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

I did not realize that yoga could be so painful.

Yoga postures Parshvakonasana

Yoga postures Parshvakonasana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people are able to do all the postures with little or no discomfort. I, on the other hand, have perfected the art of suffering through Yoga.

Absolutely I am not an expert on Yoga. Not unless three sessions over a two month period make one an expert. I have however learned a large amount about what not to do while practicing Yoga. If any of you out there know more than I do about this subject, feel free to leave a comment and help us, newbies, out.

First a little about how I came to be attending a Yoga class in the first place. I am not too much interested in the religious aspects. I value my hair too much. Once long ago I was tempted for several days to join the Christina’s, cute girls and all. But the robes and the shaving the head, that cured me of that thought.

So why Yoga? First off my doctor has been urging me to get more exercise. I briefly tried an aerobics, calisthenics and weightlifting program.  The instructor was of the no pain – no gain school. He was home on leave for the summer and was making a little extra change before resuming his primary job, something about waterboarding on a remote Caribbean island. This was a painful experience.

A second reason to consider Yoga was when I dropped my pen on the floor and had to lay down to get it. My old body no longer bends all the way to the floor.

The first session of Yoga went great, well maybe acceptable would be a better description. By the third session, I was in pain, again. Thereupon I set about trying to ascertain what Yoga and pain might have in common. Was pain really needed for gain in the Yoga arena?

Yoga is defined as “a system or set of breathing exercises and postures derived from or based on Hindu yoga.” I do not think there is anything predictive of pain in that description.

The only common feature that my practice of yoga and I have in common, is  – well – ME!

Clearly, there were things that I was doing incorrectly. I will not give you the full lists of the things I do incorrectly, that would require the assistance of a family member. But here are a few of the errors I made in doing my Yoga.

You must continue to breathe while doing yoga postures.

Who knew that breathing was all that important? Turns out that the muscles need oxygen to function properly. If you have the tendency, as I do, to hold your breath while exerting yourself you will stop breathing while in those long poses and the result will be, muscles deprived of oxygen can become painful.

It is not necessary to strain to benefit from the exercise.

Forcing yourself to twist the way the person next to you does is not a good idea. Especially if they have been practicing Yoga for 20+ years. Go as far as you can, using the resistance of your own muscles to help you strengthen. If you are feeling pain this is BAD.

The little booklet we got when I signed up for class said, once I read it, the newcomer benefits from going part way until they can become flexible enough to bend farther. The more experienced person needs to bend a lot farther to get the same benefit.

This is the first time I can remember that being unable to do something was a plus.

Work around your injuries.

Do not force a part of the body that won’t bend, go as far as the part that does bend will go and then stop. The objective is to improve your breathing and ability to move, not to develop a full inventory of past injuries.

Doing a little each day is better than a marathon session once a month.

Between the last two group sessions, I have been doing a few stretching exercises each night before bed.

Guess what I discovered? If I gently stretch while breathing each night, by the end of the week I was able to reach my toes. OK, I was lying down at the time, but look, just being able to reach them, that is like a good thing, right?

Have any of you out there started on a fitness program as part of your recovery? Anybody do Yoga or a related exercise. Could you help an old guy out with any suggested ways to get the benefits without the pain?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.