by Gauri Savla, Ph.D.
Dear SDPA Members and Guest Readers,
I would like to start by thanking you for your overwhelmingly positive feedback on the maiden issue of online The San Diego Psychologist that we launched in May. We are especially thankful for your constructive criticism, which we have made every effort to incorporate in this current issue. Please continue to send us emails at TheSanDiegoPsychologist@gmail.com or directly comment on the articles online.
Since the publication of the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of The San Diego Psychologist, there have been a couple of new staff additions. I have had the distinct pleasure of working with our talented Newsletter intern, Sridhar Rao over the last few months. Sridhar has served as assistant to the Editor, website manager, proof-reader, and copy-editor. His unique background as a journalist with a technical background and current graduate student of Technical Communication at the University of North Texas makes him ideal for this job. The other addition to the team, of course, has been Crystal Thomas, the new SDPA office administrator, who has hit the ground running since the day she began. The current issue of The San Diego Psychologist is better because of these two people.
The theme of this Fall 2016 issue is Mindfulness and Resilience. Ellen Colangelo, the current President of the San Diego Psychological Association chose this topic to complement the October 1st 2016 Annual Fall Conference with the same theme. Thank you for responding so enthusiastically to our call for articles. Five of the best submissions make up the content of the Fall 2016 issue.
I can trace the beginning of my own insights into the potential of mindfulness as a powerful tool for emotional and physiological regulation to a single moment in my doctoral training. As a predoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, I attended a talk by Dr. Robert Sapolsky, world-renowned neuroscientist, primatologist, author, speaker, and endowed chair and professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University. Dr. Sapolsky speaks and writes extensively about stress, and the quote that stood out to me from his talk was this:
“If I had to define a major depression in a single sentence, I would describe it as a “genetic/neurochemical disorder requiring a strong environmental trigger whose characteristic manifestation is an inability to appreciate sunsets.”
That last bit resonated with me deeply; it described every person with anxiety or depression that I had come across in my clinical training until then. Dr. Sapolsky was referring to mindful awareness without using the phrase itself.
I have been fascinated with how, in an age marked by unprecedented advances in medicine, people are no longer afraid of dying of diseases such as cholera or scarlet fever, or typically, influenza, but instead, are dying of diseases caused by prolonged, accumulated stress. As Dr. Sapolsky wryly remarks in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, “…we are now living well enough and long enough to slowly fall apart.” Indeed, in my own clinical practice that focuses on geriatric patients, I see the effects of long-term, accumulated stress first-hand. I also get to see how mindfulness, either learned through therapy or a conscious lifestyle choice, helps some people prone to depression appreciate life despite their emotional pain. In today’s world, stress is ubiquitous, and so is anxiety and depression in varying levels; so much so that we have come to expect stress and its repercussions as “normal.”
The authors who have contributed to this Fall issue of The San Diego Psychologist are here to underscore the fact that it needn’t be so. There are gentle, effective tools to reverse the course of stress-related illness. In the last ten years, empirical research has demonstrated the benefits of mindfulness on both emotional and physiological resilience. Mindfulness has been an effective psychotherapeutic technique for people suffering from PTSD, generalized anxiety, and pain. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and even change brain structure and function. More and more clinicians and lay people are embracing this powerful tool to find peace and meaning in their lives.
Southern California is lucky to have excellent resources for mindfulness training that may be accessed via the Community Resources section of this issue.
In this issue of The San Diego Psychologist, we are lucky to have contributions from five experts on mindfulness and resilience. Linda Graham is a marriage and family therapist, a world-renowned expert on building resilience, and the keynote speaker at the SDPA Fall Conference to be held on October 1st, 2016. Her article focuses on the development of resilience over the lifespan, and how one can build resilience later in life. Dr. Shea is a clinical psychologist who has a mindfulness-based private practice in San Diego; she has a written poignant and powerful narrative of how mindful awareness helped build her resilience to face personal heartbreak. Dr. Tayer is a geropsychologist who has also written a first-person account of the how she found a unique way to build her own physical and psychological resilience. Dr. Hickman is the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of California, San Diego; his essay is on the symbiotic relationship between self-compassion and mindfulness. Finally, Dr. Stoddard, an expert on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the Director of The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management has written an informative essay introducing ACT, with examples of practical exercises that it entails.
I hope this issue has been as insightful for you as it has been for me.
Please share your feedback in the comments below, or email me at TheSanDiegoPsychologist@gmail.com. As always, we encourage contributions from members of the SDPA; to submit an article, please refer to these submission guidelines.
Thank for you reading.