Archive for category Emotion

Alcoholism Affects Men’s and Women’s Brains Differently


Alcoholism Affects Men's and Women's Brains DifferentlyNew research has demonstrated that the effects on white matter brain volume from long-term alcohol abuse are different for men and women.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System also suggest that when they stop drinking, women recover their white matter brain volume more quickly than men.

Previous research has linked alcoholism with white matter reduction, according to the researchers, who explain that white matter forms the connections between neurons, allowing communication between different areas of the brain.

In this latest study, a research team, led by Susan Mosher Ruiz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research scientist in the Laboratory for Neuropsychology at BUSM and research scientist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, and Marlene Oscar Berman, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology and anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM and research career scientist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, employed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the effects of drinking history and gender on white matter volume.

They examined brain images from 42 abstinent alcoholic men and women who drank heavily for more than five years and 42 nonalcoholic men and women. The researchers found that a greater number of years of alcohol abuse was associated with smaller white matter volumes in the alcoholic men and women. In the men, the decrease was observed in the corpus callosum, while in women this effect was observed in cortical white matter regions.

“We believe that many of the cognitive and emotional deficits observed in people with chronic alcoholism, including memory problems and flat affect, are related to disconnections that result from a loss of white matter,” said Mosher Ruiz.

The researchers also found that the number of daily drinks had a strong impact on alcoholic women, with the volume loss 1.5 to 2 percent for each additional drink. Additionally, there was an 8 to 10 percent increase in the size of the brain ventricles, which are areas filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that play a protective role in the brain. When white matter dies, CSF produced in the ventricles fills the ventricular space.

The researchers also found that in men, white matter brain volume in the corpus callosum recovered at a rate of 1 percent per year for each year of abstinence. For people who abstained less than a year, the researchers found evidence of increased white matter volume and decreased ventricular volume in women, but not in men. However, for people in recovery for more than a year, those signs of recovery disappeared in women and became apparent in men.

“These findings preliminarily suggest that restoration and recovery of the brain’s white matter among alcoholics occurs later in abstinence for men than for women,” said Mosher Ruiz. “We hope that additional research in this area can help lead to improved treatment methods that include educating both alcoholic men and women about the harmful effects of excessive drinking and the potential for recovery with sustained abstinence.”

The research was published online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Source: Boston University Medical Center

Brain scan photo by shutterstock.

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Challenges of Co-Parenting


Challenges of Co-ParentingDivorce frequently brings the challenge of how best to raise the kids. In today’s environment, it is common for both ex-spouses to share legal and physical custody of children after divorcing.

However, few studies have looked at the process of co-parenting, so little is known about how divorced parents negotiate the co-parenting process. A new study identifies factors that influence the success of co-parenting.

Researchers from Kansas State University discovered that the type of relationship a woman has with her ex-partner is a factor in how the couple shares custody of children.

Investigators followed divorced or separated mothers who were sharing physical custody of their children with their former partners.

Mindy Markham, Ph.D., an assistant professor of family studies and human services divided the study group into three patterns of co-parenting — continuously contentious, always amicable and bad to better.

Markham also looked at additional negative and positive factors that influenced the mothers’ co-parenting relationships.

The study included 20 predominately white, well-educated women between the ages of 26 to 49 who were divorced or separated from the father of their children.

The mothers, from two Midwestern states, shared with their former partners legal and physical custody of the children, who ranged in age from 21 months to 12 years.

At the time of the study, the couples had been separated or divorced from six months to 12 years.

“The findings of this study suggest that shared physical custody relationships are dynamic and can vary greatly,” Markham said.

In current study, nine mothers (45 percent) had continuously contentious co-parenting relationships with their ex-partners from the time of separation to the present.

This stressful negative relationship fueled the mother’s perception of her ex’s parenting abilities; financial concerns, including the ex not having a job or not paying child support; control or abuse by the ex-partner; and the inability of the ex to separate marital — or personal — issues from the co-parenting relationship.

“All mothers in this type of co-parenting relationship reported differences in parenting styles and were concerned with how the ex was raising the children,” Markham said.

“Parenting practices that concerned the mothers varied greatly and included putting children in harmful situations, not bathing the children, not disciplining them and having no rules or routines.

“It was especially difficult for these mothers to share custody with ex-partners who were uninvolved during the marriage. They didn’t believe their exes were responsible parents.”

Markham said eight of the women in the continuously contentious relationships didn’t want to share custody of the children with their ex-partner, but most were told by lawyers or the court that they would have to do so.

Twenty percent of mothers reported an amicable co-parenting relationship — where they reported always getting along with their ex-partners from separation to the present.

In this form of relationship the mothers believed their ex-partners were responsible parents, money wasn’t a source of conflict and the mothers chose to share physical custody.

Seven of the mothers in the study (35 percent) had bad-to-better co-parenting relationships, where co-parenting was contentious at the time of separation, but greatly improved over time.

At the time of the study, these women’s relationships were similar to those of women with always amicable relationships. These mothers wanted to share physical custody, thought the father was a responsible parent and most said money was not a source of conflict.

Significantly, all mothers in bad-to-better relationships said they were unable to co-parent amicably with their ex-partner in the beginning because personal issues were not kept separate from parenting responsibility.

“Although ex-partners with bad-to-better relationships originally allowed their feelings about one another to negatively affect their co-parenting, at some point they realized this was not beneficial and made a conscious effort to change the relationship for the sake of their children,” Markham said.

Being able to communicate with the ex-partner is a major factor during co-parenting. In the always amicable and bad-to-better relationships, mothers were able to communicate well with ex-partners.

The ability to communicate with the ex-partner made discussing differences in parenting styles easier, reported this group of women.

However, for women in continuously contentious relationships, lack of communication was a big issue, Markham said.

These mothers limited direct in-person or phone communication with their ex, preferring alternative methods like texting or email. They also avoided seeing their ex in person when it came time to exchange children by having them picked up at day care or school.

Markham said she was surprised by the level of animosity that accompanies shared custody, at least from some mothers’ perceptions.

“Nearly half of the mothers in this study continue to have conflicted relationships with their ex-partners, and conversations with these women negate the notion that shared physical custody ensures cooperative, less conflicted relationships,” she said.

“This study can be important for helping professionals recognize that shared physical custody is not a panacea for postdivorce problems — and that in some cases it exacerbates them.”

Source: Kansas State University

Parents arguing while child covrs his ears photo by shutterstock.

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Are Men Looking for Love from an Escort Service?


Are Men Looking for Love from an Escort Service?A new study suggests men who frequent the world’s oldest profession are not attempting to avoid an emotional commitment.

Researchers discovered that in men who become regular clients of sex workers, feelings of romance and love often develop.

The desire for an emotional attachment contradicts the historical or traditional premise that an encounter with a prostitute is a means to avoid attachment.

This study is published in a recent edition of the journal Men and Masculinities.

“In recent years, we have come to see a gradual normalization of independent escort prostitution, where sexual encounters have come to resemble quasi-dating relationships,” stated study author Christine Milrod, Ph.D. “Our study shows that regular clients of a particular sex provider often come to experience feelings of deep affection, which can progress into an authentic love story.”

Technology enables research on the topic as Milrod and co-author Ronald Weitzer, Ph.D., analyzed 2,442 postings on an online discussion board from a sex provider review site. More than a million clients of sex workers read and post about their experiences on the site.

A review of the postings discovered that approximately one-third included a discussion about emotional intimacy between sex workers and their clients.

Researchers discovered many clients expressed a desire to grow their relationships beyond the physical level in the form of sharing private feelings and mutual love.

“These relationships follow a conventionally romantic script that normalizes the liaison and destigmatizes both provider and client,” stated Milrod.

“The study shows that this kind of normalization may manifest itself in a merger of finances, families and finally monogamous partnerships – the provider is no longer just a supplier of the girlfriend experience, but a real-life romantic partner.”

Source: Sage

Couple photo by shutterstock.

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Older Adults Beat Younger at Staying Positive


Older Adults Stay PositiveDespite aches and pains and senior moments, older adults display more positive emotions than younger adults, say researchers. And they can pull out of a negative emotional state quicker than much younger adults.

Such emotional control may seem paradoxical, as many would expect that age would be associated with poor moods and emotional distress.

In a new study, Derek Isaacowitz, Ph.D., of Northeastern University attempts to explain the paradox.

He believes positive looking is a possible explanation: older adults may be better at regulating emotion because they tend to direct their eyes away from negative material or toward positive material. In the study, Isaacowitz presents evidence indicating that compared to younger adults, older adults prefer positive looking patterns.

Older adults also show the most positive looking when they are in bad moods — a time when younger adults show the most negative looking.

Researchers believe there is a causal relationship between looking for the good in life and mood. In the study they discovered for adults with good attentional abilities, positive looking patterns can help to regulate their mood.

So focusing on the positive seems to pay off for senior adults. Researchers also discovered that although elders prefer to focus on the positive, this perspective does not prevent them from missing other important information.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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Multi-Language Environment Affects Child’s Emotional Development


Multi-Language Environment Affects Childs Emotional DevelopmentIn a melting pot of cultures, many parents raise their children in a multilingual environment.

While children generally benefit from the cross-cultural exposure and linguistic experience, researchers are discovering that parents often switch between languages during emotional situations.

A new research study reviews this linguistic phenomenon to better understand how using different languages to discuss and express emotions in a multilingual family might play an important role in children’s emotional development.

Psychological scientists Stephen Chen and Qing Zhou of the University of California, Berkeley and Morgan Kennedy of Bard College say the findings suggest the particular language parents choose to use when discussing and expressing emotion can have significant impacts on children’s emotional understanding, experience, and regulation.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a steadily growing interest in the languages multilingual individuals use to express emotions,” said Chen.

“We were interested in the potential clinical and developmental implications of emotion-related language shifts, particularly within the context of the family.”

Existing research from psychological science underscores the fact that language plays a key role in emotion because it allows the speakers to articulate, conceal, or discuss feelings.

When parents verbally express their emotions, they contribute to their children’s emotional development by providing them a model of how emotions can be articulated and regulated.

When parents discuss emotion, they help their children to accurately label and consequently understand their own emotions. This explicit instruction can further help children to better regulate their emotions.

Research from the linguistic field suggests that when bilingual individuals switch languages, the way they experience emotions changes as well.

Bilingual parents may use a specific language to express an emotional concept because they feel that language provides a better cultural context for expressing the emotion.

For example, a native Finnish speaker may be more likely to use English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.

Thus, the language that a parent chooses to express a particular concept can help to provide cues that reveal his or her emotional state.

Researchers say that language choice may also influence how children experience emotion — such expressions can potentially elicit a greater emotional response when spoken in the child’s native language.

Researchers are unsure if shifting from one language to another may help children to regulate their emotional response by using a less emotional, non-native language as a way to decrease negative arousal.

Further, the ability to shift languages may help a child model culture specific emotional regulation.

Researchers believe evidence supports the premise that a child’s emotional competence is fundamentally shaped by a multilingual environment.

These findings may be particularly useful in the development of intervention programs for immigrant families, helping intervention staff to be aware of how the use of different languages in various contexts can have an emotional impact.

“Our aim in writing this review was to highlight what we see as a rich new area of cross-disciplinary research,” said Chen.

“We’re especially excited to see how the implications of emotion-related language switching can be explored beyond the parent-child dyad – for example, in marital interactions, or in the context of therapy and other interventions.”

The study findings are published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Happy family photo by shutterstock.

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Honesty, Not Forgiveness, May Be Best for Couples


Honesty, Not Forgiveness, May Be Best for CouplesEmerging research suggests a marriage in which partners follow the time-honored tradition of forgive and forget can lead to problems.

The finding opposes the strategy of positive psychology — an approach that offered the promise that with forgiveness, optimism, kindness, and positive thinking, people can turn around their relationships even after a serious transgression.

In the new study, investigators discovered that expressing anger might be necessary to resolve a relationship problem — with the short-term discomfort of an angry but honest conversation benefiting the health of the relationship in the long-term.

Experts say the study is part of a larger effort to better understand the contexts in which some relationships succeed and others fail, and also to understand how close relationships affect our health.

James McNulty, Ph.D., of Florida State University initiated the study when he took a closer look at positive psychology and well-being.

“I continued to find evidence that thoughts and behaviors presumed to be associated with better well-being lead to worse well-being among some people — usually the people who need the most help achieving well-being,” McNulty said.

These findings lead McNulty to examine the potential costs of positive psychology. In a set of recent studies, he found that forgiveness in marriage can have some unintended negative effects.

“We all experience a time in a relationship in which a partner transgresses against us in some way. For example, a partner may be financially irresponsible, unfaithful, or unsupportive,” he said.

“When these events occur, we must decide whether we should be angry and hold onto that anger, or forgive.”

His research shows that a variety of factors can complicate the effectiveness of forgiveness, including a partner’s level of agreeableness and the severity and frequency of the transgression.

“Believing a partner is forgiving leads agreeable people to be less likely to offend that partner and disagreeable people to be more likely to offend that partner,” he said.

Moreover, McNulty believes anger can serve an important role in signaling to a transgressing partner that the offensive behavior is not acceptable.

“If the partner can do something to resolve a problem that is likely to otherwise continue and negatively affect the relationship, people may experience long-term benefits by temporarily withholding forgiveness and expressing anger.”

“This work suggests people need to be flexible in how they address the problems that will inevitably arise over the course of their relationships,” McNulty says.

“There is no ‘magic bullet,’ no single way to think or behave in a relationship. The consequences of each decision we make in our relationships depends on the circumstances that surround that decision.”

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

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Do I Have an Issue?


Hi, I’m 14. I’ve been in high school for about a year now. I started becoming very very lonely. I used to go out with my “friends”. Now I stay home every single day & it’s summer. I sometimes cry myself to sleep because I feel so unwanted! My parents are divorce, I live with my dad & my dad HATES my mom. I haven’t seen my mom in 4 years. Witch probably makes me so emotional. I sometimes even cry because I don’t think I feel love or understood by anyone. I don’t like talking a bout my feelings to people because I feel unwanted, I feel like they won’t care. I keep so much to myself. It brakes me. I believe my dad is Bi-Polar & has anger issues, witch could be a reason why I get mad very easy. I hate my body so much! I’m fat! Im very insecure. I have so much emotion in me. I’m always sad, I could be happy for one minute then back to sad. I also sleep my whole day away.

A. It seems as though you may be experiencing symptoms of depression. You have negative thoughts, you don’t feel good about yourself and you are withdrawing from friends and family. Your feelings may be related to the breakup of your parents’ marriage or their contentious relationship. They may be so focused on battling each other that they are neglecting your emotional needs.

Another aspect of this problem is that you have been without your mother for four years. It is unclear why you have not seen your mother for such a long time but this likely is contributing to your problems.

I would strongly advise you to speak to your father or other members of your family about the possibility of professional help. Don’t ignore these problems. Your symptoms need to be addressed. It seems as though your father is currently unable to meet your emotional needs and if that is the case, then you should seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist can assist you in developing coping skills and the processing of your feelings in a psychologically healthy way.

If you feel uncomfortable approaching your father about this issue, then as soon as school begins next month, speak to a guidance counselor. The guidance counselor could assist you in addressing these problems or refer you to a mental health professional.

In the meantime, force yourself to be in the presence of others. That may not be easy but do it anyway. The less that you are isolated, the better. Isolation increases the likelihood of negative feelings. I would also encourage you to begin writing in a journal. A journal could be helpful in a number of ways including being a release for your emotions and documenting your symptoms. When and if you have the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional, having those notes from your journal could greatly assist the therapist in determining what might be wrong. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Mindfulness Practice Helps Seniors Combat Loneliness


Mindfulness Practice Helps Elders Combat LonelinessLoneliness can be a major risk factor for health conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. It is especially problematic among seniors, for whom seclusion and isolation may even lead to death.

Experts say that modern strategies to reduce loneliness in the elderly population — by participation in social networking programs in community centers — have not been successful. But a new study finds that a new/old approach may provide an innovative solution.

In the investigation, J. David Creswell, Ph.D., from Carnegie Mellon University looked at the use of mindfulness meditation to reduce loneliness in older adults.

In the review, researchers found that mindfulness meditation — a 2,500-year-old practice dating back to Buddha that focuses on creating an attentive awareness of the present moment — not only reduced loneliness but also lowered inflammation levels.

Inflammation is believed to promote the development and progression of many diseases.

These findings, published in Brain, Behavior & Immunity, provide valuable insights into how mindfulness meditation training can be used as a novel approach for reducing loneliness and the risk of disease in older adults.

“We always tell people to quit smoking for health reasons, but rarely do we think about loneliness in the same way,” said Creswell.

“We know that loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems and mortality in older adults. This research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults.”

For the study, the research team recruited 40 healthy adults aged 55-85 who indicated an interest in learning mindfulness meditation techniques. Each person was assessed at the beginning and end of the study using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples also were collected.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive either the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or no treatment.

The MBSR program consisted of weekly two-hour meetings in which participants learned body awareness techniques — noticing sensations and working on breathing — and worked their way toward understanding how to mindfully attend to their emotions and daily life practices.

They also were asked to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for 30 minutes each day at home and attended a daylong retreat.

Investigators determined that eight weeks of the mindfulness meditation training decreased the participants’ loneliness.

They also discovered that participants reduced genetic blood inflammatory responses as well as a measure of C-Reactive Protein (CRP).

These findings suggest that mindfulness meditation training may reduce older adults’ inflammatory disease risk.

“Reductions in the expression of inflammation-related genes were particularly significant because inflammation contributes to a wide variety of the health threats including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases,” said study collaborator Steven Cole.

While the health effects of the observed gene expression changes were not directly measured in the study, Cole noted that “these results provide some of the first indications that immune cell gene expression profiles can be modulated by a psychological intervention.”

Creswell added that while this research suggests a promising new approach for treating loneliness and inflammatory disease risk in older adults, more work needs to be done.

“If you’re interested in using mindfulness meditation, find an instructor in your city,” he said. “It’s important to train your mind like you train your biceps in the gym.”

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Elderly woman meditating photo by shutterstock.

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In an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? 5 Steps to Take move out.


In an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? 5 Steps to Take

by YourTango Experts

In an Emotionally Abusive Relationship? 5 Steps to TakeThis guest article from YourTango was written by Julie Orlov.

If you’ve ever been in a controlling relationship, you know how easy it is to get caught in its web. It usually starts out with a simple suggestion like, “Do you think that outfit is the best you can do for the banquet tonight?” or “I think you’re better off ordering the salad,” or “You should get a real job and stop all that nonsense about making it as an artist.”

At first, you take their suggestions as a reflection of their love and concern for you. After all, their comments are not that far off base, and you certainly don’t want to appear unappreciative or defensive. At this stage of the relationship, you want to please your mate, not alienate him or her. It’s more important to appear receptive and understanding of your partner’s opinions than to challenge them.

Some time goes by. You now notice that your significant other’s opinions of you continue to be critical. Only now, there is an emotional undertone that suggests if you don’t abide by his opinion, he will be angry, punitive and emotionally manipulative.

The scariest times come when you believe the threats of rejection and abandonment.

 

The cycle has repeated itself in such a way that somehow, you’ve become sucked in and are believing the rhetoric. Or, at the very least, you’ve been trying to manage the critical outbursts. You’re now so consumed with keeping your partner’s emotional judgments at bay that you have trouble considering if his demands have crossed over into an abusive and inappropriate arena. Your judgment is clouded.1

You continue to ask yourself, Is it me or him? You feel anxious around him, believing that somehow you can make things right again; you want to feel the love you did when the two of you first got together. Deep down, your biggest fear is that his opinions of you are right … that there really is something wrong with you, and you just may not be lovable the way you are.

The bad news? You are now caught in the web. The good news? There is a way out. It is so important to understand what control is really all about. Let me show you the way.

Why Do People Want to Control Others?

Here’s what a person’s controlling behaviors are generally all about:

  • Their own sense of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Getting someone else (like you) to make them feel okay
  • Wanting to hand-off their own anxieties so they don’t have to deal with them themselves
  • Ensuring that you will never abandon or reject them
  • Projecting their deepest fears of being inadequate and unlovable

A person’s controlling behaviors are virtually never about you.

Take Control Back

Here are five steps to getting out from under a person’s control:

1. Get your power back.

The quickest way to do this is to be willing to walk away from the relationship if need be. This enables you to move forward with the next steps from a place of power, not a place of fear.

2. Set limits on his criticism and emotional outbursts.

Let your partner know that you are open to hearing his concerns about your actions and how they impact him, but will no longer engage in conversations that attack who you are as a person.

3. Consider your partner’s concerns.

What are you willing to do for him? What is completely off the table? Make sure you align these requests with your personal well-being and integrity. Don’t agree to do things simply in order to keep the peace or save the relationship, especially if deep down you know it isn’t right for you.

4. Be clear and honest with yourself first, then your partner.

Consider your values, goals and needs. Make sure your decisions are in alignment with your highest self, needs and all. Let him know what you can and can’t do for him. Whatever you do, do not be intimidated. Have a powerful “no” and make it clear that he will need to accept the “no.” If he can’t, then it may be best for the two of you to part ways.

5. Find people and experiences that celebrate who you are.

Find ways to reconnect with the powerful person you truly are, i.e. someone that would never tolerate being treated in such a manner. Engage and connect with other people that support and love you for exactly who you are.

At the end of the day, only you can decide if his controlling behavior is something you are willing to live with or not. Relationships should be something that supports your growth, not something that diminishes it. Love celebrates who you are; it does not put you down. You deserve to have a powerful and loving relationship. So start with yourself. Love yourself enough to take the first step in reclaiming you.

Most couples deal with issues of control; it is a common tension that arises from time to time. However, if you and a loved one are struggling with how to deal with control issues constructively, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help. I want you to have the best possible outcome when it comes to strengthening your relationships.

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Do You Need Permission To Succeed?


As a recent private practice consultation group that I was leading came to an end, we took a few minutes to celebrate the growth and successes of each group member. I asked what each group would take away from their consultation group.  One therapist turned to me and said, “Thank you for giving me the permission to succeed.”

I have never really thought about my private practice consulting services as giving colleagues “permission to succeed,” but it seemed to fit. I asked myself, “Where did I get the permission to succeed?”

As I thought about it, I realized that my dad had modeled for me personal and professional success. As a child, I watched his music career flourish, how much he was energized through self-expression, and how he was motivated to inspire others through his work. My Dad’s modeling taught me that I, too, could create a professional life where I could express myself, be creative when faced with challenges, and inspire to make positive change.

I grew up believing that everyone had permission to have an amazing, creative and fulfilling life. I think that’s partly what inspired this blog. I want you to create a thriving private mental health practice that fills you with joy, that works for your life, and that reflects who you are.

When I saw my Dad a few weeks ago, on Father’s Day, I made a point of thanking him for giving me permission to succeed. I let him know that I really valued that gift that he’d given to me — the belief that I could find success and personal fulfillment in my professional life.

Do you need permission to succeed in your private practice?

Permission granted.

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