Restore & Renew

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Life can be complicated, confusing, and stressful. Here you will find topical articles on a variety of issues known to affect physical and mental health. Each short article includes recommendations for further reading and other useful resources.


By Ronnie Biemans, Feb 9 2017 03:13AM

The tyranny of pleasure and of pain ;

They make us what we were not—what they will,

And shake us with the vision that's gone by,

The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?

Is not the past all shadow?—what are they?

Creations of the mind?—the mind can make

Substances and people planets of its own

With beings brighter than have been, and give

A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.

-George (Lord) Byron from The Dream

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. “ There are essentially two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute pain is a normal, time-limited, protective sensation that occurs in response to an injury or trauma. Pain receptors send signals to the brain that alert us to the need to take action. Chronic pain occurs when the acute pain response “goes rogue” and becomes a never ending state of discomfort that is debilitating and the signals just keep firing.

By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:37PM

I recently visited my father-in-law who lives some distance away in the Southwest. During this visit I encountered the caregiver’s lament in a new way. My own father passed away at 93 after a very full and happy life. I experienced his aging process more intensely as he lived nearby and was more a part of our daily lives. Nevertheless, each experience has its tender poignancy. Aging inevitably means loss in one way or another as time wears upon the body and mind. What we gain is often less obvious.

By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:30PM

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” - Gordon B. Hinckley

In the midst of our endless pursuit of what’s next, as we lean in to life, we find ourselves pushing toward accomplishment of some sort or another, barely taking time to appreciate what is, the good and the bad. The striving can be a source of focus or a source of distraction depending on what is happening in our lives at a given moment in time. Can we find a balance that allows us to fully participate in striving and effort yet also permits us to dwell in and appreciate the here and now? Regardless of our age or what we strive for, the search for balance is challenging. Balance is defined as “the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling, a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.” Enjoying all that life has to offer while addressing life’s challenges and moving through each life stage is indeed a balancing act.

By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:25PM

There’s almost nothing better than a full night’s sleep and nothing worse then a night of interrupted sleep. Ask any student who has slept a fitful night before an exam, or a professional who was sleepless before a big presentation or a parent of a newborn baby. If the trend continues for any length of time we find our minds have turned to mush, we’re cranky and feel just terrible. Why is that? Why is sleep so important?

By Ronnie Biemans, Dec 16 2016 06:19PM

The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster's -- "only connect." But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

- Johann Hari, Author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

Nearly every day we hear news of someone who is seriously ill or who has died as a result of drug or alcohol use. Sometimes we are compassionate, but more often than not we pass judgement on these individuals. However, it is not a lack of self-discipline that sets one on the addictive path but rather the powerful craving and biological drive to seek pleasure that causes the activation, over activation, and eventual exhaustion and depletion of the brain’s reward system. With substance use disorder, “Instead of achieving reward system activation through adaptive behaviors, drugs of abuse activate the reward pathways.” From a neurological perspective, drug use affects the way the brain functions in a number of ways. All of us have a reward pathway that is activated in part by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that serves a number of functions in the human body. In order to understand the powerful forces at play in addiction it is essential to understand the role of dopamine. Dopamine release is a key element in the human reward pathway. We depend on our brain’s ability to release dopamine in order to experience and to motivate our responses to the pleasures of everyday life, such as food and sex.

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