Thursday, April 30, 2015

Brain Pathways

Much is being discovered about the human brain. I find the research fascinating as it relates to human behavior. One concept that I have always been intrigued by is the role of thought pathways in our lives. Researchers believe that each and every thought we have impacts us on a cellular level. Different pathways are formed based on thoughts we have while doing different things.

So many behavioral problems typically have underlying moving parts. Most of our behavior is connected to our thought processes whether we recognize this or not. Forming new thought pathways in our brain is essential for lasting happiness and behavioral change. If we want to lose weight, stop biting our fingernails, or not verbally react when angry, we must work to form new thought processes that will support a new response.

There is a story told of a farmer who had to cart his produce from his fields to a canal where his goods were shipped. He would place his supply in a wheel barrow each day and push it along the same path to the canal day after day. On a certain warm summer day the farmer was dutifully pushing his wheelbarrow down the same path. He noticed that the wheelbarrow was not easy to push anymore. Ruts had formed which made travel difficult. He noticed new rocks emerge that appeared too difficult to remove. The typical path that this farmer had taken for many days had become incredibly cumbersome. After finally getting to this destination, the farmer paused to consider his options. After much thought, he decided to form a new path above the old one. This new path took some effort and hard work as it was covered in lush, green, knee high grass. However, after taking a few days to clear the path, this path became very smooth and functional. The farmer now had a nice alternative in order to transport his goods.

As this short story shows, creating new pathways can be challenging but is sometimes very necessary. Some rocky or rut-filled brain pathways might sound like this: “I’m not good enough,” “I am inadequate,” “I can’t do this,” “I hate it when she does that,” “Why does everyone judge me,” “I will never measure up,” “I’m ugly,” or “Life isn’t really worth living.”

These thoughts may be a central piece in our misery, under-performance, or lack of positive behavior. My challenge to all of us is to identify our brain pathways that need some work. Work on replacing these old, negative pathways with new, positive pathways. Over time, with awareness, and with work, new pathways can be formed. Eventually these positive brain pathways can become habitual. This process can be freeing and liberating. It’s something every single one of us can start to do today! As you do this, you will notice how your outlook, mood, and view of life and people can change. Your body on a cellular level will also notice. Give it a try!

Matt Erickson, LCSW

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

'Twas I, but 'Tis Not I

As a therapist one of the main worries/concerns I have is trying to help people change.  Whether those changes be emotional or behavioral, I am constantly striving to help people help themselves and change the way they think, feel, and act.  Often this becomes an incredibly frustrating and at times saddening prospect as I learn to accept the reality that ultimately people change what they want to change.  In this I do not include those who cannot change genetics or physical limitations that are simply unchangeable, but rather am lamenting the plight of those who can make changes, but for myriad reasons choose not to. 

As I have continued to struggle with this reality over the past 10 years and am constantly on the look out for messages of hope that help me maintain my sanity as I walk the therapy path with individuals who are not ready to change.  Recently I heard one of these messages.

It comes from a play by Shakespeare.  While I don’t typically read a lot of Shakespeare (frankly he is a bit over my head) I nevertheless have garnered many great quotes from his works.  One of my favorites comes from the play “As You Like It.”  In the play an older brother named Oliver “frequently contrived to kill” his younger brother but to no avail.  Despite his efforts to kill his younger brother, later in his own life in a desperate situation, Oliver was rescued by his younger brother despite his frequent efforts to bring about his demise.  Upon learning of his younger brother’s efforts to save his life, Oliver makes a dramatic change for good.  Later, Oliver is asked by an individual if he was the man who so frequently tried to kill his younger brother.  Oliver replied, “Twas I, but ‘tis not I.  I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.”

“Twas I, but ‘tis not I” has been an idea that has helped me find hope during the tough times with my clients; especially when they are struggling against making positive choices.  Change truly is a choice, and sometimes it is in the face of extreme peril and adversity, much like in the case of Oliver when he nearly died but was rescued by his younger brother, individuals finally make the changes they need to make for good. 

I hope for my clients, and for myself, that each of us can in our own way look back on our mistakes and say, ‘Twas I, but ‘tis not I.

Krys Oyler, LCSW

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Well, I Was Wrong

If you have read our blog in the last few weeks you may remember that I made a bold prediction about the snowfall for the month of February. Well, I was wrong. Not only did my beloved February not pull through, but the ol’ reliable March snow showers also did not appear over the mountain ranges in the west. While the East Coast has been completely buried in snow this year, almost every mountain range across the Western United States currently sits below 50% of average water content due to the extremely low snowpack. In fact, many areas of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain areas have seen record-low snowfall totals. So what did we do with our ski program, cancel it? Certainly not! We embraced what opportunities we did have and made the best out of a poor situation.

On a normal snow year with lots of powder days, our students generally do not stray from their tried and true ski or snowboard discipline. But when all we had to ride on all day were groomers, we encouraged the students to try the other way of sliding down the hill just for fun. Several of our students took us up on this and really enjoyed the new experience while a handful of them were more than impressive.

Another high point of this season was how skilled several of our students became at either snowboarding or skiing when they began the season at a beginner level or having never set foot on a ski hill before. We have a blast with all our students at the various ability levels, but this year was especially fun to watch the progression climb quickly and the excitement and enthusiasm match it.

As we head into spring we reluctantly put away our snow gear and excitedly get out our paddles, fishing rods, hiking shoes, tents, bikes…this part of the list can get quite long. 

Mike Bodrero, Adventure Learning Coordinator