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Nurturing Mental Health

Collection summary

Placebo – The Art of Mind Tuning

During World War 2, wounded American soldiers would lie on the battlefield, patiently waiting in pain for the combat medics and nurses to bring medications to help them get back on their feet, either to get back to the base camp or to go forth and continue fighting the war.

The problem was that the most commonly used drug that would help these soldiers was morphine, due to its painkilling and epinephrine-inducing effects. Morphine was in very short supply at the time, however, largely because the number of soldiers in need of it increased drastically over time as the war carried on.

In one instance, army doctor Henry Beecher noticed that one of the nurses accidentally grabbed a vial of saline water in place of the similar-looking morphine vial and injected its contents into a hurt trooper. Miraculously, the soldier felt immediate relief and was shortly back on his feet!

placebo mind tuning


  • The placebo effect is a result of what happens when someone believes in what they are experiencing,
  • The placebo effect falls under the category of a mechanism that neuroscientists describe as self-directed neuroplasticity,
  • There are different factors at play here that utilize these processes and brain regions like hormonal response, classical conditioning, expectations and genetics.

In Latin, the word placebo translates to ‘I shall, please’. The placebo effect can be defined as: “A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.”

It is the result of a person’s beneficial belief that overtakes their sense of optional unhealthy realities. It happens when an individual’s health or performance appears to get better and consistently improves after consuming a placebo or allowing their mind to be plied through one.

The placebo effect and a placebo are different things. The placebo effect is a result of what happens when someone believes in what they are experiencing and expecting, while a placebo is the fact or object, such as the saline water that Henry Beecher observed being used, or a new beneficial belief that they actually find trustworthy.

Therefore, a placebo can also be administered on oneself, without the involvement of a third party or an external source like the medical industry. The placebo effect here falls under the category of a mechanism that neuroscientists describe as self-directed neuroplasticity, where the mind can learn to improve and develop through internal belief and a sense of mindful healing.

Belief seems to be the primary reason a placebo is picked up by people.If this belief has the ability to convince us of something that is not real or does not exist in the first place, then this belief can be put to a greater purpose than the one intended for use by doctors and medical practitioners.

Placebo has the ability to make you believe in something and watch it happen, so why not learn to control this belief to make your life better in any way you want and not just when you’re being manipulated?

Seeing how placebo is a way for you to tune your mind to your needs, let us learn to hone it as a skill rather than thinking of it as an underlying mechanism.

The science

The question that begs to be asked now is, why exactly do people experience changes in their biology and physiology as a result of fake medication and self-directed placebo? Research on the functioning of the placebo effect continues to this day as to the precise neuroscience behind it.

Studies carried out so far indicate that placebos are associated with specific brain areas, particularly the hypothalamus and the basal ganglia.

Neuromediators like opioids and dopamine show a correlation with pain reduction in the central nervous system regions associated with pain construction.

The basal ganglia and the thalamus consist of lots of different nuclei, each of which behaves like processing junctions for various sensory inputs from the somatosensory organs.

Hence, the results from these studies confirm that certain parts of the thalamus are crucial for the sensation and recognition of pain, and were strongly associated with the placebo effect, due to the fact that a placebo works when the feeling of pain is reduced.

It is argued that there are different factors at play here that utilize these processes and brain regions, and here are some of them:

1.Hormonal responses: This explanation fits in with the time when Dr Beecher noticed the soldier being administered saline solution in place of morphine.

It is a fact that endorphins are triggered and released upon consumption of a placebo, with belief guiding the body systems to repair itself in real time. Endorphins have been observed to have a molecular structure that closely resembles morphine and other similar painkilling opiates that are released as part of the central nervous system’s natural painkillers.

In a study conducted to test the effects of a placebo on the neurobiology of the brain, researchers noted that in both the treatment (control) group and the placebo group, opiate receptors were found to be activated under the functional magnetic resonance imaging (or fMRI) scans of the brain.

This could be a possible explanation to demonstrate why one might not be able to distinguish between placebo and real medication and so end up falling for it under the guise of plain strong belief and expectations

2.Classical conditioning: Another way a placebo can be picked up by someone is through the age-old method of subconscious conditioning.

Similar to how Pavlov’s dog would begin to salivate when the bell rang, even though there was no sight of food, we humans have a way of placing a placebo on ourselves without realizing it.

When we pair certain medications with psychological relief as a result of consuming said medication, we subconsciously start to confirm associations between these two stimuli and the resulting learned response.

For instance, if you regularly take a crocin to relieve yourself of some headache, you have begun to form associations between the pill and pain relief. If you are now given a fake but similar-looking crocin, you will still be relieved of your pain because the association works to your belief.

3.Expectation: What is believed to actually be experiencing a motivated and spirited moment, the science of anticipation plays a crucial role in the placebo effect.

For example, a highly driven patient who believes and hence expects the treatment to work is more likely to experience a placebo themselves. Similarly, even a highly enthusiastic doctor could have an impact in terms of boosting the patient’s anticipation for the medication to work or his/her belief in the treatment.

This applies to some extent to the prescribing of real medicine too, for instance, if the doctor seems to be very positive in nature, the patient is more likely to see improvement in their health from taking the medication.


art mind tuning

A study conducted in 2015 confirmed “neurotransmitter pathways that mediate placebo effects”. Any genetic variation that is present in this region has the potential to modify the effects of the placebo, as observed during multiple randomized clinical trials (RCTs).

This proves that a process of genetic screening can identify these placebo responders and improve the efficiency of the RCT.

Therapeutic care is an industry that can benefit from this discovery since interactions between the placebo receptors and the drug molecular pathways allow RCTs to be conducted with more control over the genetic variations.

To put it in simpler terms, being a human has more benefits than we could ever imagine. We are given a large forebrain, where the prefrontal cortex resides, which gives us the ability to turn thought and belief into reality.

To be able to understand and see how the system works, we must first understand the three key elements that make up the mechanism of a placebo: conditioning, expectation and meaning. In order to orchestrate a well-rounded response, the placebo must bring together these three concepts to work in sync.


Expecting a stressor is always difficult to deal with. When you know that something is coming your way that will disrupt your pattern of being able to stay calm, your nervous system releases cortisol, a stress hormone.

Cortisol is responsible for communicating between your body and brain that stress is imminent. Hence, the expectation of the stress is a seed for the stress.

However, it can be a source of relaxation too, as the anticipation of belief and the ability to confront the stressor has also seen a decrease in cortisol levels, thereby suppressing the levels of stress and increasing the dopamine reward system.

We have the ability to build on positivity with the help of self-directed neuroplasticity that encourages the engagement of dopamine and serotonin to develop the necessary skills to tackle the stressor.

Knowledge of the future’s negative events does not take away from the fact that there is negativity in the future. Rather, it adds to the motivation that one now has the resources, such as proper time, to find a solution. It allows looking at the bright side of every problem.

James Clear explains in his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, that we condition our minds by making habits.

So when we condition our minds to react the same way towards different stimuli, to believe that we can go past and heal, that is exactly what will happen.

Cues, such as observing behaviours, reading kinesthetic signs such as confident body language and stern eye contact followed by verbal patterns of demanding unshaken attention, all play a role in tuning our minds through unnoticed placebos.

These cues support the ability to carry out cognitive tasks such as conditioning, anticipating and providing meaning to form associations.


A placebo can be seen as a gimmick, a scheme or even a joke to try on someone and have a good laugh if it works.

But it is essentially the first evidence of the human mind taking complete control of the body with the sole purpose of healing and performing, through pure and raw belief.

These are some pieces of evidence that support the statement that a placebo is an effective way of treating different conditions and diseases—this is proof of how powerful the human mind really is, and how far it can take us. A placebo is basically nothing—a fake, a counterfeit, like a pirate.

But it ends up giving us everything and more, saving lives in the process—that’s the amount of impact a sense of belief can have on our minds, performance and physiology.

Remember, it’s all in your head.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

7 Things Mindful People Do Differently

The intention of being more present in our lives is inspiring many people around me. I never would have imagined some of them practising mindfulness but they now sit in daily meditation.

When I look at the Seattle Seahawks, and think of our Army Vets or politicians sitting in the “Quiet Caucus” room, I’m filled with a whole lot of hope. When I see an increasing amount of kids and teens being taught mindfulness in their schools, I see possibilities.

My wife and I ran a family retreat and long before the deadline, it was sold out hinting at an increasing desire among parents to incorporate this practice into the fold of their families. 

Mindfulness things differently


  • People who practice mindfulness tend to have a beginner’s mind. Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders of life,
  • Doubting the process is not a sign of failing at being mindful. They are opportunities to learn about the hindrances of life and understanding how to overcome adversity,
  • As we practice mindfulness, we come to understand that nothing is permanent and in this way, life becomes increasingly precious. 

As people start to engage in mindfulness, I’ve noticed a few things that they attempt to do differently.

1. Practice Being Curious

One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is the beginner’s mind. This is engaging something as if for the very first time. People who practice mindfulness bring this attitude with them throughout the day.

When they take a shower, they imagine for instance that it was the first time they felt the water, smelled the soap or watched the steam as it shifted and changed before their eyes. Novelty is one of the fastest routes to creating new neural connections.

Even a meal or snack becomes a chance to pause and reflect on how this simple piece of food. They think of all the people from around the world who contributed to putting the ingredients together.

This mundane snack becomes a source of gratitude and a moment of recognizing the interconnection between seemingly disparate things.

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine, and routine is resistance to wonder.” Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders of life.

2. Forgive & Invite 

Life comes with its obstacles and engaging in a mindful life is not too different. Throughout the process there are times when we get too tired or too busy, find ourselves doubting the process, get caught up in avoiding what’s uncomfortable, or just feel too restless.

We come to understand that these are not signs of failing at being mindful. Instead, they are opportunities for learning about the hindrances of life, what gets in our way, and understanding two things: what we need in those moments and the fastest route to begin again.

The simple phrase “forgive and invite” can be enormously helpful. When we get caught in an obstacle, we “forgive” ourselves for the time gone by, investigate the obstacle to learn from it, and then “invite” ourselves to begin again.

Practicing “forgive and invite” over and over again in life becomes an incredibly strong vehicle for growth.

3. Hold Their Emotions Lightly

When you start paying attention to any emotion you start to experience that it is an energy that is “in motion.” It has a certain nature of coming and going and in experiencing this we can naturally hold them more lightly.

This enables us to not get so wrapped up in the difficult feelings, but instead hold them with a gentleness and tenderness – maybe even learning from them as we get better at understanding what we need.

We also hold comfortable emotions lightly as we know that they are not permanent either, but have this same ‘passing’ nature. With this experience, people who practice mindfulness can be grateful for the good moments and graceful during the more difficult ones.

4. Practice Compassion

Compassion can be defined as noticing suffering with an inclination to want to help in some way.

Repeated practice of intentionally paying attention to ourselves with curious and caring attention sends the implicit message to our brain that we’re worth caring about. As we start to pay attention to difficult emotions we become less afraid of them.

Instead, they become our teachers, guiding us to get increasingly better at not only understanding what our needs or those of others are but at helping ourselves or another. This act of self-compassion or compassion is the essential healing agent and facilitates connection.

self compassion healing

5. Make Peace with Imperfection

Many of us are keenly aware of our imperfections and this erupts in a barrage of continuous self-judgment. As we start to practice being present, we can’t help but see that we are not the only ones who are imperfect. To be imperfect is to be human.

The imperfections that arise become less of a struggle and instead of a source of recognizing the common humanity of people. As Zen priest, Dogen Zenji said, “To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is to not have anxiety over our imperfections.” Easier said than done, but mindfulness helps us lean in that direction.

 6. Embrace Vulnerability  

Our brain’s default mode is to act as a guard against vulnerability with ourselves and with others. However, someone who practises mindfulness comes to understand that vulnerability is where the gold is.

From embracing vulnerability, we develop courage, trust, and connection. As we do this we begin to trust ourselves and others and in doing this we cultivate connection.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we are vulnerable everywhere and at all times. We can be discerning about this, but slowly we begin to trust ourselves.

7. Understand that All Things Come and Go

If there is one singular law in life, it is that nothing is permanent (except that law of course). When we close our eyes and listen we hear how sounds appear and disappear.

When we open our eyes we see how over time the seasons change. Food enters our mouths, the taste is there and then it’s gone. We’re born on this earth, we grow up and eventually pass away.

As we practice mindfulness, we come to understand this and in this way, life becomes increasingly precious.

We begin to put our phones down more often and open our eyes to the sacred moments all around us. As I continue to hear over and again from any parent, “It all goes by so fast.” May we learn to savour this precious life.


Many people ask the question, “How do you start?”

The 15th century poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are, that’s the entry point.” My wife had an interesting experience where she was home alone with our two boys.

She wanted to meditate, but there was no space for it. A rare occurrence of our two boys playing in their room by themselves opened her up to an idea. The entry point for her was to use sounds as her practice.

She sat on the couch, closed her eyes and opened up to the act of listening. She heard the birds chirping, the chimes ringing and the sounds of the boys playing. She had a nice 20-minute meditation.

There are so many ways to begin, begin where you are.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

This article originally appeared on elishagoldstein.com. Republished and modified with permission.

How to Unplug to Reconnect

In our hyperconnected world, distractions from devices, social media, notifications and various digital technologies are endless. It’s something that seems to suck up all of our time and leave us unfocused. Particularly in the past decade, the effect of technology on all aspects of our life, including health and workouts, has been pronounced and can have a number of negative effects.

That’s where the idea of unplugging to reconnect comes from. It’s important to be aware of how distractions can impact us: the health implications of being constantly connected to technology or how it can take away from recreational activities. It’s equally important to know how to combat these distractions.

man with earphone


  • It’s important to be aware of how distractions can impact us, from health implications to taking away from other activities,
  • Constant distraction can lead to anxiety, poor sleep, difficulty in remembering things or focusing as well as having an impact on working out and productivity,
  • It’s important to unplug and truly focus on workouts—whether by exercising outdoors, avoiding screen time during workouts or designating particular times without technology.

What is the effect of technology dependence on our bodies?

The many ways in which distraction can affect our lives have been written about and researched quite a bit over the past few years. As devices and technological innovations become increasingly accessible, there has been an ‘epidemic of distraction’ most people tend to encounter daily. This leads to a problem of ‘continuous partial attention’—because technology is so engaging and lures attention away so easily that it becomes difficult to spend sufficient time truly analysing and focusing on one problem in depth.

Over time, this not only has profound effects on the attention span but can also lead to psychological, memory and mental health disorders as well as impact the body in other ways. A growing number of studies and research projects suggest that the overuse of electronic media or digital devices increases stress, and anxiety, reduces the ability to concentrate and, in many cases, can also impact overall balance and quality of life. In turn, this can lead to reduced productivity or other manifestations of the problem.

For instance, things like ‘multi-tasking’ are actually a form of switching tasks quickly and telling the brain to focus on something new every few moments. With the rise of smartphones, apps and social media, this happens constantly, and there is an increased demand on working memory. This can lead to a cognitive overload, with the brain’s attention being lured away constantly and not allowing us the ability to focus on environmental cues, problem-solving, or even to properly create memories.

For many experts, the idea of ‘multi-tasking’ is flawed and not truly possible at a neurological level, except when both tasks are very simple, or one of the tasks is virtually automatic and done by the lower brain stem. For instance, walking or riding a bike while speaking on the phone or listening to music can be done since neither task demands continuous attention. But as soon as a greater cognitive load is added to the mix, this takes away from the ability to properly pay attention and thus reduces productivity.

This can also have an effect on the mind and body. Overuse of digital devices can lead to constant distraction and the inability to focus, which can, over time, impact the learning process and memory. This is because memory and learning depend on the principle of ‘down time’, which is when we take a break from an activity or are idle or asleep. During such periods, the brain is able to consolidate and process information into memory or learn from these experiences.

When the brain is constantly stimulated, this can hamper or prevent this process. This can lead to difficulty properly paying attention and symptoms similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), where it is difficult to prevent the mind from wandering, and the ‘executive attention’ is greatly diminished. Thus, focusing on a particular goal or task without distraction becomes much more difficult, and this can affect productivity, as well as mood.

The idea of unplugging to reconnect is based on the idea that constant digital activity can impact the brain. But this impact is not just limited to attention; research suggests that it can be tied to reduced productivity, anxiety, depression and a lack of motivation. This can also affect our workouts and physical health in different ways. Exercise breaks can help combat this since physical activity without distractions can allow the brain time to process information and develop new ideas.

In addition, several other steps can be taken to ensure that our engagement with the internet and digital technologies is more productive than corrosive.

lady sitting namaskar

How can we unplug to reconnect?

Considering that constant distraction can lead to anxiety, poor sleep, difficulty in remembering things or focusing as well as having an impact on working out and productivity, there are a few strategies that can allow us to unplug to reconnect. They are primarily based on the concept of removing technological interference.

  1. Use Airplane Mode:Most phones and devices have a ‘do not disturb’ or airplane mode that can be used to bolster focus even outside of a travel context. Whether you’re trying to complete a task, work out or finish something important, using this mode can help you avoid the constant distraction of notifications and new alerts.
  2. Designate a tech-free space:Within your home or spaces, you occupy most frequently, create a dedicated space that is free of screens and technology. This means no phones, computers or televisions. Instead, that space can be set aside for relaxing, exercising or unwinding without any distractions.
  3. Clear distracting digital clutter:Distractions often occur because tech is within your line of sight, and it is a habit to pick it up and check for alerts or messages. By putting a phone, laptop or tablet away in a set location and only checking it at designated times rather than whenever it is around, you can reclaim focus and avoid overuse. Even within the context of your phone or laptop, try technologies that limit your time on social media browsing or other similar activities, and try to only use them mindfully.
  4. Meditation:Meditation or deep breathing exercises. Daily meditation practice or even just a few minutes of taking a meditation break in the midst of a crowded and distracting day or between tasks can help rejuvenate you and remind you to pay attention to what’s important rather than feeling scattered.
  5. Exercise:Staying active and having a regular workout routine that gives you time away from technology can also be a powerful antidote to digital overload.

Although all of these methods require discipline to practise, implementing them regularly can help to slowly regain your attention and prevent chronic distraction. These steps can help you remember that the machines are a tool for you to use or master rather than the other way around.

In the following section, we look at how unplugging can benefit your workout and the relationship between technology and exercise.

ladies sitting mat

How can we unplug to optimise workouts?

When it comes to working out or exercising, the relationship with technology is an interesting one. On the one hand, it can positively influence the number of devices used to monitor, support or facilitate training and the way different technologies allow you to better plan or discover new workouts.

On the other hand, as these tools proliferate and become increasingly commonplace, there is the risk of the same kind of distraction entering the fitness time in your day. Most gyms incorporate technology such as a television in front of cardio equipment, electronic monitors or wristbands that provide data about each workout, apps that can guide you during your workout, as well as your smartphone that may alert you to messages or be used for calls or music during the exercise period.

Though some of this data can be useful, using exercise as a time to unplug and get away from constant distraction is also important. To effectively manage your health, it’s important to identify when cognitive overload is happening and be able to use your exercise time as a way to recharge and focus on your health rather than as another sphere which is constantly interrupted by notifications and metrics.

Focused time is essential to a good workout; thus, many gyms or fitness studios have policies limiting or prohibiting device use. You can use various other techniques to optimize your workouts while unplugging and putting your mind at ease. Some of these are:

Booking your workout:

You should treat an exercise session or time period as a formal appointment that you cannot cancel or get distracted from. One way to do so is to simply leave your phone at home when you go to the gym or studio, while another is to simply schedule a booking with yourself as you might for any other meeting. Doing so can minimize the use of distracting technology and help you to truly focus on fitness.

Use the outdoors to your advantage:

Running, biking, or walking outdoors can be a great way to unplug from technology, be by yourself and escape the constant connectedness while getting closer to nature. Outdoor workouts have been shown to reduce stress levels and will help you experience a new environment without distraction if you leave your devices behind. Even simply doing yoga in a park or garden or listening to music while you run outside (without notifications turned on) can have a therapeutic effect.

Create a dedicated space:

For those who prefer home workouts, the number of potential distractions also tends to be higher. So whenever possible, set aside a space for exercise that is away from all your screens and that you can use during your scheduled time without distraction.

Join a group activity:

If you think these solo activities are difficult to implement and you find yourself distracted frequently or turning back to your machines, then a group activity can provide some relief. Try joining a training group, running club, a studio session or a pickup game—things that foster social interaction without technology. It can give you the chance to make actual connections and the accountability of keeping your screen away during your exercise time.

Apart from the physical benefits, one key element of working out is the fact that it helps keep you balanced and grounds you mentally. Being aware of the impact of technology and staying unplugged can allow you to maximise this while reaping the benefits.


We all know that devices are taking over our consciousness and attention in several ways. By being mindful of the effect this can have on our minds and bodies, and particularly seeing how they change our focus, we can find strategies to manage them.

Exercise can be one such tool, but to do so, it is important to unplug and truly focus on our workouts. This can have both mental and physical benefits—whether it is exercising outdoors, avoiding screen time during workouts or designating particular times without technology. In short, it’s important to be aware of the impact digital devices have on our attention spans and fitness and take steps to counter that.

Disclaimer:The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new health care regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.


  1. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/7400/unplug-to-reconnect-focused-fitness-without-technology-s-distractions/
  2. https://www.ideafit.com/personal-training/digital-distractions/
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/07/22/how-to-unplug-from-distractions-and-plug-into-your-own-vital-energy/
  4. https://www.nifs.org/blog/looking-to-unplug-running-and-walking-may-be-your-solution
  5. https://www.lecomwellness.com/blog/dont-let-technology-trip-you-up/?doing_wp_cron=1619731539.3829889297485351562500

7 Things Mindful Families Do Differently

As the world starts whirling faster, it’s more important than ever to build the strength of presence within ourselves and in our families. This yearning to be grounded and tethered to the moment is making its way into our homes as many of us search for experiences to slow down. It’s possible to weave the tenet of mindfulness into the fold of the family. Teaching kids to imbibe mindfulness at an early age can help to mould their attention, self-regulation and curiosity. It can help them cultivate a sense of empathy.

Research shows that if parents learn the skills of mindfulness, their relationship with their teens is set to be healthier. It is also positively correlated with the psychological development of adolescents going through cognitive and emotional changes. (1) Mindfulness refers to nonjudgmental attention to one’s experiences in the present moment.

Teaching parents to be mindful in their daily interactions with their adolescents may be one way to improve the quality of parent-youth relationships and positively affect youth psychological development.

We’ve distilled a list of seven things that mindful families do differently. The common denominator of these attributes is the quality of our presence with one another.

Embrace imperfection

No matter how many books we read or how much we learn, we will never be “perfect” parents. Since we are both psychologists and mindfulness teachers, it is often assumed that we must be “perfect” parents at all times and honestly, it’s not the reality. We still get triggered, overreact, and say and do things that we wished we hadn’t. While we have gotten better about this over time, the most important thing we have learned is to accept our imperfections as parents.

Let’s be clear – you are going to make mistakes, you are going to hurt your children’s feelings, and you are not going to be able to show up in all the ways you want to or the ways your children want you to but NONE of that makes you a bad parent – it only makes you a human. When you can move into a place of acceptance, you are able to shift into a state of greater ease and grace within yourself. When we beat ourselves up over our flaws, we create more pain, fear, and disconnection.

When we practice radical self-compassion, we are transformed. We are teaching our children to do the same for themselves by setting an example.

PRACTICE: Take a moment to think about some way your mind is telling you that you’re deficient as a partner or a parent. Maybe you think you don’t pack the perfect Instagram-worthy lunches every day or that you secretly don’t like playing the same game over and over again with your child.

Now, notice the feeling that belief brings up as you think about it. Be aware of any places of discomfort and extend a soothing gesture to yourself, just like you would to your child if they were upset or feeling shame. You can place your hands in a comforting way on your body – on your heart or your belly. Cup your face or even give yourself a hug and say to yourself, “My mind is telling me I’m falling short, but the truth is, I’m doing the best that I can. I love my child(ren) with all my heart and give them what I can in so many other beautiful ways.” Let these words linger. Repeat this or any other comforting words of wisdom as many times as you need to feel your body soften.

Listen with curiosity

There are so many things, as parents, that we’re juggling moment-to-moment in our lives that it has become a rare experience to stop and truly listen to one another. We are often distracted. We are trying to do too many things at once like being engrossed in our phone with a false sense of urgency or making snap judgments, leading us to lose our cool with our kids or our partner, creating disconnection and misunderstandings.

As we pause and listen to each other more often, we can engage with our familial experiences with a growth mindset. We can see the struggles and triumphs as opportunities for learning and evolution. Instead of judging each other, we can get better at recognizing the moments in which we don’t understand where the other person is coming from. Lean in with curiosity and say, “tell me more.” We could step into their shoes to understand their perspective by asking ourselves, “why might they be acting this way?”

Listening with curiosity opens up more possibilities for healthy dialogue, fewer misunderstandings, more clarity and greater connection (not to mention better outcomes).

PRACTICE: If you could glimpse into most family homes you would hear the familiar echoes of “You aren’t listening to me!” When we get triggered, our armour goes up and it’s hard to listen and really hear each other. This week, see if you can catch yourself in a moment where you are planning a brilliant counter-argument while not letting someone finish their sentences. This is a sign that you’re not listening.

Stop, take a deep breath, feel your feet, notice if emotions are rising within you and be gentle with yourself. And then proceed by choosing to be fully present and listening. You don’t have to have an answer in the moment, an awesome retort or even give them what they want. You will probably be surprised by the reframing power of mindful listening with an open heart.

Communicate courageously

Let’s be honest, being vulnerable is hard and at times even scary, which is why we sometimes find ourselves avoiding tough conversations. While in the moment it might feel easier to sidestep talking about something painful or uncomfortable. What is left unspoken and unresolved can turn into a kind of slow poison. Over time this builds resentments and distrust. The truth is, being clear and honest with each other about what you need and how you feel is ultimately an act of kindness that creates trust and connection.

This means showing up with our partners and kids with an open mind. Often the core issues in our relationships don’t stem from the content of the fights or disagreements but rather from what is not being spoken and not being healed. We cannot overemphasize the importance of making repairs after a rupture. This means that even when it feels hard and scary, we come back together once our nervous system comes out of the state of overwhelm and both people have the opportunity to feel understood and cared about. This leads to soothing feelings of safety and reconnection.

In this process of communicating wholeheartedly, you may not always be able to give your kids or partner what they are asking for, but you are giving them something far greater – you are teaching them that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

PRACTICE: Check in with yourself for something that’s been bothering you but you have not shared. Take a few moments to get to the heart of the issue. What actually happened and how are you feeling? Maybe there’s an underlying feeling of frustration, sadness or fear. Now go a bit deeper and explore your need(s) that are not being met like respect, understanding, space or communication. Now, with this preparation, see if you feel ready to approach your family member with openness and curiosity as you disclose the needs you have uncovered.

Here’s an example, “When I heard you demand that I take you to your friend’s house, I got irritated (feeling). I’d like to be seen and appreciated for the ways I support you (need). Next time it would mean a lot to me if you asked in a kinder way and could say, “thank you” when I do nice things for you.”

Practice appreciation and gratitude

Being a parent is one of the most thankless jobs and it’s not uncommon for family members to take each other for granted. Small acts of kindness can go unacknowledged. Here’s where small shifts can go a long way.

While words of affirmation may or may not be your primary love language, we all want to be seen and appreciated. There’s a surprisingly simple way of doing this. It can have immense benefits – intentionally practising being appreciative and expressing gratitude to one another.

There are so many small opportunities for being appreciative of one another, like acknowledging our kids or our partner for emptying the dishwasher or being ready on time. Small acts of appreciation can shift the culture of the house from ‘demanding and disheartened’ to ‘cooperative and grateful’. While it may seem silly or even annoying to thank someone for being ready on time – if this has been an issue for the concerned person, it feels good to be recognised, when things are going well. In our house, we make it a practice to thank whoever prepared dinner. This creates a small pause of gratitude for the family and sets a much kinder tone for a shared meal.

PRACTICE: As you go through the next week, see if you can show your appreciation more intentionally. It’s often contagious and you may just start being appreciated more as well. It’s often easier to start small, so choose something that you naturally feel grateful for and express it in a moment where you might not usually say anything. Maybe it’s when someone brings you water or a cup of coffee, straightens the living room, gives you a hug unexpectedly, or picks up the kids and takes them to their activities. Be on the lookout for your expectations when doing this (are you waiting for them to appreciate your appreciation?). If you notice it rearing its head, see if you can make a note of them and then let them go. Allow this to be a playful exploration of giving and receiving.

Forgive yourself and each other

Lily Tomlin once said, “forgiveness means letting go of any hope for a better past.” Every family has its hard moments. There are times when we don’t feel listened to or appreciated and there are other times when people are cranky or “hangry” and say things they don’t mean or wish they could take back. If you’re in a family (which is just about all of us at one time or another), we know you can relate to these less than stellar moments.

In practising mindfulness, we come to understand that our mistakes aren’t signs of failing at being humans. Instead, they are opportunities for learning about the inevitable pitfalls of life and understanding the optimal route to get back into a space of balance and connection.

The simple phrase “forgive, investigate and invite” can be enormously helpful. If we have transgressed, we can set the intention to “forgive” ourselves for this wrongdoing, understanding that we can’t change the past, remembering that we aren’t perfect, and realizing that we often make mistakes out of ignorance, confusion or a sense of disquiet. We then investigate where we went off track, what impact it made and how we would respond differently next time to learn from it. After that, we can “invite” ourselves to make repairs.

PRACTICE: There are often many opportunities for forgiveness in a family. There is always someone who doesn’t follow through, meet our hidden expectations or who steps on another’s toes. Be on the lookout for these moments and recognise them as opportunities to practice forgiveness. Some are trivial and worth letting go, while others deserve to be investigated with an invitation for communication.

Saying in your mind, “In whatever way you have harmed me, out of your own ignorance, confusion or upset feelings, we all make mistakes, I am inclining toward forgiveness.” Then get curious about what really happened. It may be skilful to include the practices of “listening with curiosity” and “communicating courageously.” Remember, it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow.

Practice support and generosity

One of the core values of mindfulness is generosity. The spirit of generosity means giving and sharing things of value that can be reflected in money, time, love or possessions. Our kids look to us to see how to show up in the world. Practising generosity is rewarding because our acts not only have a positive impact on ourselves and the recipient but also have ripple effects for generations to come. It holds possibilities for making the world a kinder place.

Of course, it starts with us tapping into our own generosity which can assume many forms. This can include donating money to a cause you support, bringing a meal to a sick friend, or giving a hug or smile to someone who needs it. Our kids are always watching us and modelling our behaviours. So, it’s important that we model this way of being in the world and include them in these acts as often as possible. Want some ideas? You can consider getting involved in service projects at a local school or organization. You can encourage your kids to make cards for their grandparents or someone who is ill. You can have a rule where a certain percentage of money from a lemonade stand goes to a charity chosen by your kids. You can even make a game out of it. In our family, we encourage kindness by putting “kind bucks” (play money) in a jar when we catch them performing a kind or generous act. Eventually, these “kind bucks” can be turned in for various rewards.

Generosity and compassion can be healing agents within the family system, our culture, and the world. Ultimately, connection is the cornerstone of well-being and it starts in the family.

PRACTICE: Have an informal family meeting to talk about why generosity and compassion are important and the ways you want to weave them into your family. You will be pleasantly surprised by the creative and fun ideas your kids have! We have found that when they are involved in the planning and have a more personal connection to the experience, they are much more engaged and it ultimately carries much more meaning for them. And remember to make it fun – it will keep them engaged and they would want to do it again. You could invite other families and friends to join you in the practice.

Don’t forget to play and have fun!

We tend to get stuck in the day-to-day grind, managing a barrage of stressors. It seems silly to say that any of us would forget to have fun and enjoy each other but it’s more common than you think. The pressure of raising good humans can be weighty, so much so that we can fall into a pattern of taking things too seriously and being overly focused on tasks (chores, homework, activities etc.) that we lose sight of the joy of togetherness.

With the exception of planned trips (we all know they aren’t “vacations”) we often don’t intentionally plan to embed the idea of ‘fun’ in our days. Why not? Why not be more purposeful when planning out the week to make sure to include play? When the family plays together, it often ushers more laughter, connection and healing. These moments are often the ones remembered for years to come.

PRACTICE: Dr John Gottman, internationally renowned relationship expert, has found that in order to have healthy, stable relationships our ratio of positive interactions should be five times greater than our negative interactions with each other. Consider this ratio and think of your family interactions in the past week or month. Does the ratio feel out of balance? Spend some time looking at how you can cultivate more positive experiences in the family.

Get together to explore an activity that everyone finds fun and interesting. This can range from big things like surprising the kids by making them skip school and taking them out for a drive to smaller things like getting them ice cream after school on a weekday for no particular reason. You can experiment with having a weekly game night, having an impromptu water balloon fight or even spending a few minutes watching funny animal videos together. We all have different definitions of fun, so find ways for your interests to intersect! Families stray off track all the time and like practising mindfulness, once we realize this we can always begin again.

Many people ask the question: “How do you start?”

The 15th-century poet Kabir said, “Wherever you are, that’s the entry point.” So, we play with starting where we are, pausing, relaxing our shoulders and asking ourselves, “What or who do I really want to focus on right now?” Sometimes the most meaningful moments occur when we slow down and tune into mundane things at home. This not only benefits you, but your partner (if you have one), and your children too.

Remember, whatever way you choose to do, you will not be perfect. When you stray from your intention, forgive yourself. In that moment you can discover something vital: you can always choose to begin again. Begin wherever you are.


Teaching kids the skills of mindfulness can help inculcate the values of attention, self-regulation, curiosity and compassion. There are many ways in which mindfulness can be weaved into the fabric of family life. No matter how evolved or educated you are, you will still get triggered, overreact, and say things that you wished you hadn’t. Embrace your imperfections and turn them into learnings. When we pause and listen to each other more often, we can engage with our familial experiences with a growth mindset. Vulnerability is a brave stance. It can pave the way for difficult conversations. Practise “forgive, investigate and invite” repeatedly. It can work as an incredible vehicle for connection in the family. One of the core values of mindfulness is generosity. Mindful families are generous units. Last but not the least, the families that play together heal together.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention or alleviation of any disease, disorder or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127910/

Can Poor Posture Affect Your Mental Health?

When we think of posture, we usually attribute it to the way our upper body looks: the physical straightness of the spine, neck, and shoulders. While there is extensive research on how good posture impacts the body—particularly the spine and spinal health–-other research is being conducted on the effects of posture on mental health. We know that physical ailments deeply impact our mental health and mental ailments manifest in the physical body in the form of pains and diseases.

Since the body is highly interconnected, it is only natural to assume that our posture can affect our mental state and vice versa. But how is this possible? What contributes to this mental health shift, and can it be reverted with the mere improvement of our posture? These are some of the avenues we seek to explore in this article.


  • Proper posture ensures proper alignment of bones and joints, decreasing wear and tear of the supportive structures.
  • Good posture improves confidence, reduces stress, reduces anxiety and depression, improves mood and energy levels, and increases resilience.
  • Being mindful, staying active, being within optimal weight range, wearing good shoes, and driving with good posture are some of the ways to improve posture.
mental health posture

What are posture and good posture?

To begin with, it is imperative to understand what posture and good posture mean. Posture, in simple terms, is how the body is aligned while sitting, standing, or lying down. This could be in an active or inactive state. It more specifically refers to the position of the spine in these states.

Every human being has a natural curve in their upper (cervical), middle (thoracic), and lower (lumbar) spine. These curves need to be maintained, which means that they should not go beyond or below their normal range so that the spine can hold the body up without putting excess strain on its support structures—muscles, bones, and ligaments. This maintenance happens when the muscles surrounding the spine are strong, thereby balancing and supporting the body equally.

There are two types of postures:

1. Static posture

This is how the body holds itself when it is stationary; for example, while standing, sitting or lying down.

2. Dynamic posture

This is how the body holds itself when it is in a state of motion, such as while walking, running and swimming.

Good posture while sitting down is when your feet are touching the floor, there is equal weight or pressure on both sides of your hips, your back is straight (maintaining all natural curves), your shoulders are back and relaxed, and your chin is parallel to the floor, and your ears line up with your collarbone.

While standing, however, there should be a slight bend in the knees, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders, your chin should be parallel to the floor, your shoulders should align with your hips, and your weight should be evenly distributed between the two feet. Proper posture ensures proper alignment of bones and joints, decreasing wear and tear of the supportive structures.

Why is posture important?

We’ve all heard the phrases “walk tall” or “sit up straight” numerous times from well-wishers in our lives. Most of us have always had an inherent insight into the benefits of good posture. But good posture is also crucial for overall health and well-being. It is almost as important as nutrition and working out are for the body. It can have immense physical and psychological benefits.

Correct alignment of the body allows it to move without any strain or excess wear and tear of the joints, muscles, and ligaments. It alleviates back and neck pain and improves confidence, energy levels, and lung capacity. But how can it impact our mental health exactly? Let’s understand that in more detail.

poor posture affectshealth

How does posture influence your mental health?

Although it is not commonly known or understood, your posture directly impacts your mental health. Here is how:

1. Increases confidence: Slouching is commonly associated with a lack of confidence. There have been conflicting opinions on “power poses” and their ability to alter confidence levels. A power pose is a pose in which your chest is upright, your spine straight and your shoulders squared.

A study conducted in 2015 by Amy Cuddy, a psychologist from Harvard University, revealed that people who stood with their chest upright found themselves more confident and performed better in interviews compared to people who had a tendency to slouch. This theory is not conclusive, but reports have shown that people tend to feel better when they stand in a power pose. High power poses increase testosterone and reduces cortisol, thereby increasing confidence.

Researchers also found that people who were asked to sit upright tended to believe their own views and opinions about their qualifications vs those who were asked to slouch, who were less likely to accept their own views. In other words, people with better postures had more confidence in their abilities. Another possible explanation for the correlation between confidence and posture is the amount of air that goes into your lungs when you stand tall.

Slouching or leaning forward can diminish lung capacity, reducing the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s tissues, including the brain, by 30%. This means that better posture will allow your body to use its lungs to the optimal capacity, leading to a calmer demeanor and better decision-making, thereby improving confidence.

2. Reduces stress: As we have seen above, bad posture induces shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is when the diaphragm is not engaged in the breathing process. When this happens, oxygen doesn’t reach very far down the lungs, causing only the chest region to expand.

As a result, the sympathetic nervous system—responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight response—gets activated, increasing cortisol and, therefore, the stress in the body. A simple improvement in posture can help increase your lung capacity, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce your cortisol levels.

3. Reduces anxiety and depression: A study conducted by Harvard University revealed that sitting up straight improved symptoms of anxiety and depression. Altered breathing caused by bad posture induces and exacerbates the level of anxiety, sometimes even causing panic attacks if the breathing becomes very shallow. Since the body’s sympathetic nervous system is extremely active at this point, the adrenaline and cortisol present in the blood increase, increasing the body’s anxiety level.

Over a prolonged period, the sympathetic nervous system dominates, leading to prolonged anxiety symptoms. Research shows that adopting an upright position may positively affect mild-to-moderate depression because it reduces fatigue and decreases self-focus.

4. Improves mood and energy levels: Posture—not just while sitting down but also in movement—affects your emotional well-being. Studies conducted on people with good and bad postures—where both groups were exposed to psychological stressors—reported that people who walk in an upright position tend to experience positive emotions and feel less sleepy.

Another study reported that walking upright may even increase energy levels and fight exhaustion. Additionally, physiologically, when the body’s posture is proper, the muscles function better with minimal effort, leading to less energy being expended and higher overall energy levels.

5. Improves resilience: Posture usually changes when the body is under stress and when you have lost focus. Studies conducted on students have shown that when people deal with difficult tasks, good body posture can help them stay alert and more resilient during such tasks compared to when they slouch. People in this study displayed higher perseverance even during seemingly unsolvable puzzles just because of good posture. Good posture also reduces mental exhaustion and quick fatigue in such situations.

mental health poorposture

How can you improve your posture?

There are many simple ways to improve your posture:

1. Being more mindful: The easiest way to improve your posture is to catch bad posture before it adversely impacts other parts of your body. Be mindful of how you’re sitting or standing when you wash the dishes, watch television, text, or walk.

2. Staying active: Staying active is another imperative step towards good posture. Most physical activities focus on keeping the body upright or in a good position. Additionally, it’s good practice in general to do exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles that, in turn, help strengthen the spine. Activities such as yoga, tai chi, and strength and conditioning can help you become more aware of your body and its movements.

3. Maintaining a healthy weight: Extra weight around the abdomen can cause problems in the pelvis and spine. Therefore, shedding extra weight and strengthening the abdomen can help correct your posture.

4. Wearing comfortable shoes: Bad footwear, particularly heels, can change your posture and make you walk differently. In the long run, this can recruit incorrect muscles for static or dynamic movements, putting unnecessary stress on certain muscles, bones, and ligaments. Wearing low-heeled shoes or even zero-drop (no-heel shoes) can help strengthen the right muscles and prevent excess strain on the other ones.

5. Ensuring surfaces are of apt height: Whether it is your work desk, your dining table or your kitchen counter, ensure the height of these surfaces is appropriate for you so that you don’t have to slouch whenever you are working or doing chores.

6. Making small changes while sitting: Sitting is a big contributor to bad posture. While sitting, ensure your feet touch the ground, switch positions often, take a walk now and then, and relax your shoulders.

7. Sleeping correctly: Sleeping on a bad mattress can alter your posture. A hard mattress that allows your spine to retain its curves is ideal for good sleep and posture. If you sleep on your sides, keep the knees slightly bent but don’t hug them. Ensure your neck is at the same height as your spine. Using a thin pillow under the neck is ideal if you sleep on your back.

8. Driving with good posture: While driving, ensure you sit up straight and have a slight bend in the knees, which, in turn, should be at the same height as the hip or slightly higher.


Posture has an impact on not just our physical but also our mental health. The alignment of the body when you are sitting, standing, or lying down defines your posture. Good posture is important for the overall health and well-being of a person.

Mentally, it helps improve confidence, reduce stress, reduce anxiety and depression, improves mood and energy levels, and makes you more resilient. There are many ways to improve your posture, such as being more mindful and active, maintaining weight, wearing comfortable shoes, and sleeping correctly.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It neither provides any medical advice nor intends to substitute professional medical opinion on the treatment, diagnosis, prevention, or alleviation of any disease, disorder, or disability. Always consult with your doctor or qualified healthcare professional about your health condition and/or concerns before undertaking a new healthcare regimen including making any dietary or lifestyle changes.


  1. Science explains why good posture is the ultimate confidence boost
  2. Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance
  3. Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts, Study Finds — ScienceDaily
  4. Deep VS Shallow Breathing – Causes, Dangers, Benefits, Exercises – Buteyko Clinic
  5. How Posture Influences Your Physical and Mental Health

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