Mental Attitudes

The brain is often thought of as the command center for humans that ultimately controls our body. There appears to be an interdependence at play between the mind and the body, which both can influence each other and therefore influence our health and well-being. Several theories within health psychology, such as The Theory of Planned Behavior, the Transtheoretical Model, and the Health Belief Model each approach how mental attitudes can predispose, enable, or reinforce how people manage their health behavior. (Straub, 2017)

The emerging field of Health Neuroscience also aims at taking this a step further to investigate specifically “bidirectional and dynamic brain-behavior and brain-physiology relationships that are determinants, markers, and consequences of physical health states across the lifespan.” (Erickson, et al., 2014). Insights from these models suggest that psychosocial factors such as self-efficacy and self-enhancement may prove to be a better approach for shifting health behaviors. How do we recalibrate our thoughts and behaviors to recover from illness, but also strengthen and enhance our resilience to truly flourish and thrive?

According to Achor’s talk on the Happiness Advantage, the lens through which our brain views the world shapes our reality. This approach aligns with the idea of shifting our focus from a loss-frame messaging perspective to a gain-frame messaging perspective. Different researchers have tried to answer these same questions, but a common theme is that more positive feedback that engages neuroendocrine responses enable our mind and body to better maintain a state of homeostasis. (Achor, 2012)

There are two models that have shaped how we engage in health behaviors by identifying and formulating probabilities: the Health Belief Model and the theory of Planned Behavior. The Health Belief Model is explained as “four factors that influence decision making regarding health behavior: (1) perceived susceptibility to a health threat, (2) perceived severity of a disease or condition, (3) perceived benefits and barriers to the behavior and (4) cues to action.” (Straub, 2017,. Pg. 146) The model focuses on the causes of a person’s course of action, which most of the time is based on avoiding “illness-inducing conditions.”  Perceived benefits and barriers to the behavior does show that people calculate their decisions based on pros and cons, but there’s still a fixation on barriers. One of the barriers noted is “the belief that people are not capable of changing their behavior.”(Straub, 2017) While this model is helpful for identifying problematic areas, it misses the mark on prompting or guiding how to meet health goals.

The theory of Planned Behavior is a model that seeks to identify problems and predict health behaviors based on 1) the attitude toward the behavior, 2) the subjective norm regarding the behavior, 3) perceived behavioral control. With a strong emphasis on planning and intentions, this model is “most accurate in predicting intentional behaviors that are goal-oriented and fit within a rational framework.” (Straub, 2017,. Pg 148) However, our personal attitudes can often be irrational for a number of reasons, and that’s especially true in the younger stages of life. 

In contrast, the Transtheoretical Model adopts stages as a way to classify variables that influence health-related behavior. The stages are: 1) Precontemplation; not thinking about making changes or acknowledging that change is warranted. 2) Contemplation; acknowledging a problem and seriously considering changing behavior. 3) Preparation; thoughts and actions that will help equip an individual for a planned change. 4) Action; the process of changing behavior and upholding the process. 5) Maintenance; Sustaining the efforts of the transformation. This model differs from the previous two models; it provides strategies for success, acknowledges the struggle of adaptation, and recognizes that many people do not progress in a non-linear fashion. It also has a more inherent biopsychosocial approach with processes such as consciousness raising, counterconditioning, and reinforcement management, however there is still a preoccupation on risk instead of perceived benefits. (Straub, 2017)

What is a more beneficial model? Perhaps one that focuses on more positive values like prevention, pleasure, enhancement, and vitality. It’s telling that we don’t have a term for “the co-occurrence of human strengths” unlike its antonym co-morbidity, which describes multiple states of disease occurring simultaneously. (Straub, 2017)

As humans, we want to do more than just survive; we want to thrive. Substandard responses to fear and threats may be a type of survival, but it sure doesn’t sound ideal. It’s truly far from ideal that, “chronic exposure to environmental stressors leads to the development of depression like responses, heightened HPA activity, overeating, social avoidance and shrinkage of the hippocampus.” (Keller et al,. 2017) In the absence of access, awareness, and coping mechanisms, many people are expediting their aging process and increasing their likelihood of disease.

The idea of overhauling nationwide health systems to adopt new interventions may seem daunting, but studies show how a simple intervention can have an enormous positive impact. For example, the North Karelia Project aimed to launch an informational campaign for rural residents in Finland that had a very high incidence of coronary heart disease. 

The Finns had the highest coronary mortality rates in the world. The goal was to reduce smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure levels through informational campaigns. The results demonstrated “a 17.4 percent reduction in the risk factors among men and an 11.5 percent reduction among women. Most significant of all, over three decades, deaths among the working-age population from heart disease dropped by 82 percent.” Who could have predicted that level of success from an informational campaign? It is also noted that coronary disability payments had declined to a point where it was more than enough to pay for the entire community program, a win-win situation from a modest intervention. (Straub, 2017)

An intervention that can easily be implemented to help reinforce a behavioral change is the use of self-monitoring, where individuals keep track of their own target behavior. Today there are many tools, wearables, and ways to do this. Whether it’s using an activity tracker, logging everything you eat or wearing a pulse-oximeter to manage oxygen and heart rate, people are able to get a clearer sense of where they’re starting from and get a better sense of where they’d like to be. According to Patel et al., (2021) the “self‐regulatory process of gathering data and receiving feedback enables individuals to identify behaviors to change and, in doing so, can bring them closer to their health goals. This systematic review demonstrates that engaging in self‐monitoring via digital channels is feasible and effective.” While this study is specifically related to weight loss, it seems that this process could potentially be enhanced for other health behaviors as well. 

The previous two examples focused on targeting specific health behaviors. Another important area to take into consideration is our social environment. In a study by Branchi et al., (2013) two groups of mice were subjected to an acute stressor. One group of mice was raised in a social environment where they were part of a nest; while the other group was raised in individual cages. The mice that were part of a communal group were more resilient than the mice in individual cages. (Straub, 2017., pg 165) Almost telling for which countries are handling the spread of covid for better or worse right now, but that’s a topic for another time.

Whether we’re trying to overcome a genetic predisposition, adapt to an environmental stressor, or better cope with a social stressor, one thing is for certain, “overuse or dysregulation of neuroendocrine, autonomic, and metabolic systems lead to allostatic overload and the development or acceleration of many chronic illnesses, from depression to cardiovascular disease.” We cannot sustain prolonged chronic stress. The good news is that we can take steps to retrain our brains in order to seek out positivity, to become more resilient and to engage in healthier behaviors.

Through interdisciplinary study of the neurobiology of resilience, we can empower individuals and communities to embrace preventative care and adapt healthier behaviors to create lasting positive change. Achor point out, “In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, researchers found strong evidence of directional causality between life satisfaction and successful business outcomes.” 

Life satisfaction is something that might be determined subjectively. Is the life satisfaction that so many of us seek actually self-efficacy? The American Psychological Association defines self-efficacy as “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” People enjoy the fulfillment of achieving something, but that achievement derives meaning from our social environment as well.

It seems that interventions that help individuals and communities may have a greater positive affect on mental attitudes, mental health, and physical health. As we’re seeing more significance in the interdependence of the mind and body, we are also seeing an interdependence within our communities. Groupthink and confirmation biases effect our decision making; treating whole communities, such as the example of the North Karelia project, may have a greater impact long-term for both individuals and communities.

Achor also reveals several techniques to rewire the brain for positivity. One of them is random acts of kindness. He states that writing one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network “not only creates ripples of positivity, but also a revolution”. I believe this reflects the interrelationship between self-efficacy and feeling accepted in our community. 

If we can embed healthy values inside and out; then as a society we can be more positive, more resilient, and much healthier. A person-centered approach and a community-focused approach can generate more empathy, more humanity, and more experiences of satisfaction. Adopting these approaches enhances individuals and communities with more opportunities to thrive. So instead of asking, what do we have to lose? We can instead ask; what can we gain when we better support ourselves and each other?


Achor, S. Transcript of “The happy secret to better work”. TED. (2012) 

Erickson, K. I., Creswell, J. D., Verstynen, T. D., & Gianaros, P. J. (2014). Health Neuroscience: Defining a New Field. Current directions in psychological science, 23(6), 446–453.

Keller, J., Gomez, R., Williams, G., Lembke, A., Lazzeroni, L., Murphy, G. M., Jr, & Schatzberg, A. F. (2017). HPA axis in major depression: cortisol, clinical symptomatology and genetic variation predict cognition. Molecular psychiatry, 22(4), 527–536.

Patel, M. L., Wakayama, L. N., & Bennett, G. G. (2021, February 23). Self‐Monitoring via Digital Health in Weight Loss Interventions: A Systematic Review Among Adults with Overweight or Obesity. Wiley Online Library. 

Straub, R. O. (2017). Health psychology: a biopsychosocial approach. Macmillan International Higher Education. 

Emotions & Heart Disease

Heartache, emotional or physical, is usually something to be avoided. Which one’s worse? They’re both really unpleasant and unsettling. It may seem like a grim overestimation, but we likely know someone who’s died from cardiovascular disease. The unfortunate truth is that it’s responsible for nearly 24% of all deaths each year in the United States. (Straub, 2017).

Whether someone loses a loved one or is traumatized from a horrible life event, both leave their mark by changing our brain chemistry. According to the Institute of HeartMath, their research explains how “the heart responds to emotional and mental reactions and why certain emotions stress the body and drain our energy. As we experience feelings like anger, frustration, anxiety and insecurity, our heart rhythm patterns become more erratic.” What’s interesting is how individuals react to emotional heartache and physical heartache. Further, HeartMath’s studies delineate a crucial link between the heart and brain. “The heart is in a constant two-way dialogue with the brain — our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds in complex ways. However, we now know that the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.”

Our moment-to-moment bio-psychosocial response may play a more central role than just our genetics, in other words, our responses create a chain reaction that physiologically upregulates or deregulates us invariably. (2006)

Many of us have been lead to believe that our genetics are solely to blame. Certainly genetics play a role, however, psychosocial factors, such as low socioeconomic status, racial discrimination, and personality traits, also affect one’s vulnerability for hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and other co-morbidities of cardiovascular diseases. (Straub, 2017). 

As our societies are modernizing, or westernizing, they’re also becoming increasingly prone to “Diabesity”; a callous umbrella term, including: obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. This escalating health crisis is not only an issue in the United States, but it is an American export that is increasingly becoming a problem worldwide. As more and more people are being treated for diabesity, outcomes are not improving, they’re actually failing miserably. So perhaps, it’s time to take a different approach. Over the last twenty years, research through health psychology, behavioral medicine, social scientists and biological influences have found compelling information that links our emotions, our mindset and our sense of self-efficacy to lower adverse cardiac outcomes. With twenty years of findings, how is it that diabesity is still the leading cause of chronic disease and death, aside from the recent coronavirus? Perhaps, we have underestimated how difficult it is to change one’s mind, feelings, beliefs, behaviors and the decrepit systems of privilege, power and profit ingrained in our industry and society, which perpetuate this problem. (Chauhan, 2012)

Research by Tuck et al (2016) shows that “expressing positive emotions may predict cardiac risk via several pathways. Positive expressions are thought to have evolved to signal a willingness to interact and co-operate, potentially increasing social resources and/or reducing the risk of loneliness and isolation, both established CVD risk factors.” It appears that an optimistic mindset and ability to express emotions may be a crucial protective factor in heart disease, which is great. I’m all for some positive psychology, but on heavy days like today where the news is spinning from yet another shooting massacre that took the lives of women from the asian community, it’s difficult to accept and act with an optimistic mindset. That is the crux, the achilles heel, the kryptonite that is killing our souls and our bodies. It is incongruous to respond optimistically to deeply distressing events, layered on top of many other chronic stressful events. This is where the bad comes in: anger, fear, hostility, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyles, over-eating, mindless eating, smoking, toxic drug use – toxic everything. People’s actions are a reflection of what is happening around us.

From a self-evaluation standpoint, my heart rate has exceeded over 100 bpm several times as I’m writing this. As a multi-racial Filipina woman, who recently had to move my family, sell our house, and go to court, all in response to ethnic harassment and terroristic threats, the recent shooting is extremely emotionally triggering. I may be going off on a tangent here, but it will be very interesting to see how heart health for Asian Americans is looking in a few years with the 150% increase in hate crimes against this population. Actually, any group that has been socially constructed as a “minority” group, especially African Americans in the wake of the Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery modern day lynchings, and countless other lives lost; should really receive all the interventions and help if we want to enact positive change. 

Observing the psychophysiological reactivity model (Straub, 2017), it is evident that stress, hostility, depression, and anger act slowly over a period of years to damage the arteries and heart. Researchers have studied hostile people, of different genders and backgrounds, who were harassed while trying to perform a difficult mental task. What was found was an unusually strong activation of the fight-or-flight response in the form of larger increases of blood pressure, greater outpourings of epinephrine, cortisol and impaired functioning in the endothelial cells, which leads to atherosclerotic lesions, and eventually heart disease. Also damaging are individual’s tendencies to ruminate and dwell on anger-provoking events. According to Jokela et al (2014) “Over time, recurring activation of these systems may enhance development of cardiovascular risk factors such as the progression of atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, decreased heart rate variability, and inflammatory markers, all of which are known to contribute to cardiovascular disease mortality.”

Not only are people reliving these moments over and over, our brains and bodies don’t know the difference and they’re eliciting the same unhealthful chemicals every time anger-inducing events come to mind. This reoccurrence puts people’s mental health and physical health at risk for developing anxiety, depression, complicated grief, trauma, many other mental disorders and maladaptive habits, which are also usually drivers for heart disease. (Straub, 2017)

Research from Galea et al (2018), advocates for more of an intersection of disciplines to tackle the drivers of heart disease, which would “focus on the contributions of low education, poverty, and spatial racial residential segregation as the causes of health and disease.” The co-morbidities of racism; the system failures of income inequality, education inequality, red-lining in the housing industry, and the criminal justice system, are the architecture which produces emotional heartache, drives depression, and many other maladaptive coping patterns. Galea et al, (2018) further states, “Efforts to improve [population health] are as much “medicine” as are the drugs that act on the molecular mechanisms of disease. That we as a society invest so much more in medical approaches and cures than in the causes of poor health suggests that we are not doing as well as we should be at making all the causes of health visible.” In other words, reducing or eradicating the environments that breed inequality, poverty, and racism, would likely be the best medicine, instead of the stop-gap, money-making, pill-pushing by pharmaceutical marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, that is going to take lifetime of progression to achieve. Obviously, these issues need to be addressed, but until they progress people will have to manage in other ways.

Assessing one’s genetic risk is the first step in preventing heart disease. Additionally, individuals are able to explore other preventative pathways that can help reduce, delay or reverse a dim diagnosis. The reality is, it’s not easy and you have to do most of the work. Conversely, developing a heart condition, and then having to manage symptoms and care for yourself with less ability, less motivation, and less time to enact positive change, is probably worse. Enacting small, daily, and achievable changes over time to develop healthy habits is key.

Some medications like Lipitor or ‘cholesteroff’ may be helpful as a stop-gap, but should ultimately not be touted as a silver bullet. As noted by Galea above, an interdisciplinary approach, instead of a siloed biological approach, is critical in order to fully address the causes of cardiovascular disease. When we ask, how can we prevent heart disease? Perhaps, we should be asking, how can we tolerate frustration?

Depending on one’s personality and situation, different steps can be taken to help tolerate frustration: cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and gratitude/appreciation journaling. Working with a mental health provider to find an appropriate and engaging therapeutic process can help people train to better emotionally regulate, adapt to change and provide ways of externalizing our frustration in a safe way. Taking these a step further and participating in a group setting, may also help individuals feel acknowledged, less alone and also help in establishing healthy habits. (Malchioldi, 2013).

I’m personally interested in using Costa and McCrae’s big 5 model within different therapeutic modals. For example, in the big 5 model, or O.C.E.A.N; Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, individuals could be prompted to draw or write about a time they were ‘open to an experience’ that had a positive effect in their lives. By activating the brain in this way, I believe repetitive exercises may help individuals to visualize, remember, and realize that things are not always bad. This type of mindfulness practice may help individuals recall certain cognitive distortions, like all or nothing language, and have a realization of ‘catching themselves.’  With practice and guidance, individuals can strengthen their ability to self-regulate and take back some control in their lives.

Knowing one’s controllable risk factors and learning to optimize our self-management skills, coping mechanisms, and social supports are the areas we can control and enhance. Even when it’s hard, finding sincere appreciation and gratitude can go a long way in keeping our hearts healthy. 


Archacki, S., & Wang, Q. (2004). Expression profiling of cardiovascular disease. Human genomics1(5), 355–370.

Chauhan, H. (2012, August). Diabesity – the ‘Achilles Heel’ of our modernized society. SciELO. 

Galea, S., & Vaughan, R. D. (2018). Making the Invisible Causes of Population Health Visible: A Public Health of Consequence, August 2018. American Journal of Public Health108(8), 985–986.

Lee HB, Offidani E, Ziegelstein RC, Bienvenu OJ, Samuels J, Eaton WW, Nestadt G. Five-factor model personality traits as predictors of incident coronary heart disease in the community: a 10.5-year cohort study based on the Baltimore epidemiologic catchment area follow-up study. Psychosomatics. 2014 Jul-Aug;55(4):352-361. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2013.11.004. Epub 2013 Dec 10. PMID: 24751113.

Malchiodi, Cathy.Trauma and Expressive Arts Therapy: Brain, Body, and Imagination in the Healing Process Feb 20, 2020

Straub, R. O. (2019). Health psychology: a biopsychosocial approach. Macmillan International Higher Education. 

Tuck, N., Adams, K., Pressman, S., & Consedine, N. (2017). Greater ability to express positive emotion is associated with lower projected cardiovascular disease risk. Journal of Behavioral Medicine40(6), 855–863.


Addiction is a growing issue, but it’s also a treatable illness. Pre-covid, the Global Burden of Disease reported that the United States has the highest death rates of opioid, amphetamine, and cocaine overdoses in the world. Unfortunately, this trajectory will likely rise due to the immense stressors caused by the covid-19 global pandemic. (2017)

Listening to a TED Talk by Johann Hari, Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong, Hari peels away at how society currently manages addicts and addiction. It seems clear that the century old way of how addicts are treated and how society reacts to addiction is not working and change is necessary. Precursor knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms, biomedical models, and interventions are necessary in order to grasp the full impact of addiction, in order to understand how addiction is diagnosed, prevented, and treated. (Hari, 2015)

The neurobiological mechanisms of addiction include how drugs are administered and how chemical substances act on the brain. When drugs are injected or inhaled, they tend to have stronger and more immediate effects because they enter the bloodstream faster. As drugs reach their target receptors, there are several ways they can alter neural transmission. Agonists, produce neural actions that mimic or enhance the action of a naturally occurring neurotransmitters. Antagonists, produce neural actions that block the action of the neurotransmitters. In Health Psychology, Straub details this process using the example of the neurotransmitter dopamine in relation to cocaine. The stimulant cocaine, “binds to proteins that normally transport dopamine, thus blocking its reuptake. Because dopamine is not reabsorbed by the sending neuron, it remains in the synapse and continues to excite the neuron. As more dopamine remains to stimulate neurons, the result may be prolonged feelings of pleasure and excitement.” (Straub, 2017). Stimulants are known for their powerful reward effects, and these rewards tell the brain, this is good, let’s do it again. Remember, repeat. However, in order to keep producing a state of happiness and euphoria, the body and mind readjust to repeated use, which can produce different states of dependence and withdrawal. Substance use disorder occurs when one continues to take drugs, despite experiencing many problems, such as: physiological pain and risk to themselves and others, disrupting daily tasks and work, frayed relationships, and financial insecurity. This holds true for all psychoactive drugs; hallucinogens, stimulants, and depressants, all of which alter mood, behavior, and thought processes in different ways. (Straub, 2017)

Many social scientists and medical professionals have tried to unravel the mystery of addiction through the use of different biomedical models. Some models of addiction view physical drug dependency as a chronic brain disease inherited through biological vulnerability. However, specific genes that promote physical dependence are inconsistent or unfounded, as evidenced by concordance rate in twin studies. There is also a gaping inability of ruling out other possible confounding variables. (Straub, 2017)

The Withdrawal-Relief model hypothesizes that the neurochemistry of certain drugs restores abnormally low levels of dopamine, serotonin, and other important neurotransmitters. This rationale dictates that addicts need more of their drug to relieve physical distress. While this model seems rational, it’s unable to explain why addicts begin taking drugs in such frequency to develop a physical dependence in the first place. Also, long after withdrawal symptoms subside, the model fails to explain why many users suffer a relapse. (Straub, 2017)

The Gateway Drugs Theory, which has dominated drug prevention for decades, refers to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana as substances that bolster the probability of experimentation with other drugs. In addition, this theory views tobacco and alcohol use as strong predictors or stepping stones for marijuana, and eventually harder drug use. However, a study from the University of Pittsburgh followed over 200 boys for 12 years, starting at age 10-12 and reported findings that were incongruent with the gateway drug theory. The participants were categorized into three groups based on their eventual legal and illegal drug use: (1) those who only used alcohol and tobacco, (2) those who used alcohol and tobacco then proceeded to use marijuana (the gateway drug use) and (3) those who used marijuana before using alcohol or tobacco. A surprising 25% of participants reported using marijuana first, instead of tobacco and alcohol and “those individuals were no more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who followed the traditional succession of alcohol and tobacco before illegal drugs.” (Straub, 2017) This data supports a different model, the Common Liability to Addiction, which proposes that the likelihood a person will begin using illegal drugs does not predict subsequent illicit drug use, but instead notes that particular tendencies of substance use may depend more on the social and environmental circumstances of the drug user.

The lead author Dr. Tartar and professor of pharmaceutical sciences, elaborated that “the emphasis on the drugs themselves, rather than other, more important factors that shape a person’s behavior, has been detrimental to drug policy and prevention programs.” (Science Daily, 2006)

Many theories seem to diminish the social and environmental elements that shape behavior. Looking at the theory of Wanting-and-Liking, the first stage is comprised of rewarding good feelings from drug use; the second stage, drug use becomes an automated behavior.  It’s understandable that substance abuse can eventually become habit forming, but how is that one’s internal mechanisms of responding to negative consequences of substance abuse, such as vomiting, being threatened of losing their family and friends, or the potential of going to jail, fail to halt some people from course correcting when reckless behavior goes too far? This argument is the same for behavioral addictions such as overeating, gambling, gaming, shopping, or sexual addictions. Unfortunately, in many situations, the consequences severely outweigh the pleasures, yet the addiction remains. (Straub, 2017)

Alcohol particularly throws a wrench into these systems of thought, especially around genetics. According to Epps and Holt ( 2011), “there is no single gene for alcoholism, but genes and alleles that make alcoholism more likely have been found on every chromosome except the Y.” There is some evidence that for males, alcoholism in a first degree relative is the single best predictor or alcoholism, but for as much emphasis has historically been put on genetic vulnerability, it seems that personality traits and temperament may be a more accurate indicator that links to alcohol dependence. The traits most in common with alcohol abuse are: a quick temper, impulsiveness, intolerance of frustration, vulnerability to depression, and a general attraction to excitement. (MacGregor et al, 2009)

Depression seems to be a consistent factor among many types of addiction. Several studies on teens and smoking found that students who had persistent symptoms of depression at the start of a longitudinal study were, “more likely than other students to increase smoking, even when other factors were taken into consideration.” (Straub, 2017)

According to a study on psychological correlates of substance related addictive disorders in males, “Depression is among critical clinical issues with addictive disorder.” Further, results elaborated that “social anxiety and psychological distress was seen connected with augmented use of alcohol, anti-anxiety and other drugs, frequently to fulfill everyday hassles of life including personal/occupational issues and sometimes were used in a deliberate effort to reduce distress.” (Majeed et al, 2017)

Knowing that social and behavioral factors, as well as traits, personality, and genes, all influence a level of compulsiveness in substance abuse, what interventions are working? It seems that multi-faceted problems need multi-faceted interventions. Cessation of smoking among younger generations has been rather successful. The CDC reported that “the percent of high school students who smoked decreased from 36% to 22% during 1997 and 2003.” (Straub, 2017) The multi-factor approach of increasing taxes on cigarettes, creating campaigns that view smoking as addictive and having more negative social consequences, and programs that instruct students on how to resist social pressure have been most successful. In general, many programs are aimed at delaying addiction and substance use for as long as possible. As Straub notes, “for every year that drinking alcohol is delated, the risk of becoming alcohol-dependent decreases by 14%.” (2017)

Stage approaches, such as the use of the Transtheoretical model and 12-step programs, generates higher rates of participation, whether through Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, or Project MATCH. What these stage approaches have in common are more individualized treatment plans, the availability of participating at home and not only in clinics, and the gradual approach of a series of reasonable steps to help addicts advance one stage at a time. Another advantage of these models usually includes participation from a sponsor or peer who is or has already gone through an individuals stage. The Therapeutic Alliance and Psychosocial Interventions for Successful Treatment of Addiction states that,

“the combination of the different approaches (ie, practitioners in formal treatment and peers in self-help groups) can provide a synergy beneficial to patient motivation for maintaining the lifestyle change necessary to remain drug-free.” (Kelly, 2015)

Person-centered approaches to interventions and treatment are becoming more available. There’s a growing number of treatments that are being used to help substance and behavioral addicts from mindfulness, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, aversion therapy, CBT, and even psilocybin treatments. Whatever combination of techniques that are used, Lichentenstein and Glasgow argue that there are three interacting factors that influence effectiveness of treatment: motivation to quit, level of physical dependence, and barriers to or supports in remaining drug free. (Straub, 2017)

Support is a huge factor but can be a difficult road for addicts and their families, friends, and people within their social networks, especially for parents of addicts. Many parents will feel as though they have failed their children or didn’t do enough to prevent their addiction. It can be emotionally devastating as a parent to see drastic behavioral changes in your child and feel an immense amout of responsibility to figure out the best methods of helping them, while simultaneously experiencing alienation, isolation, and depression due to the shame that’s connected to drug addiction.

The shame cast on addicts and the inability to reintegrate into society only reinforces a narrative that addicts deserve to be punished. Hari argues with studies by Psychiatrist Benjamin Alexander, that addiction isn’t just about chemical hooks, but it’s rather an adaptation to one’s environment. Happy and healthy people tend to have happy and healthy bonds, relationships, and environments. In contrast, if someone cannot bear to be present in their life because they’re dealing with depression, anxiety, isolation, and exist in an unhealthy environment, then as social beings, that person will bond with something to cope with their emotions, be it alcohol, drugs, over-eating, the internet, work, or gambling. (Hari, 2015)

Complex, long-term issues call for multi-factor solutions. A cultural, political, and medical shift towards empathy, rehabilitation, and reallocation of resources is needed in order to bring relief to those struggling with addiction, as well as their caregivers. Changes in this direction will not only alleviate those struggling, but can also alleviate burdered systems and infrastructures. Multi-faceted rehabilitation in media, government, education, and culture can create societal shifts so that addicts are not seen as degenerates, but as people that can benefit from cognitive restructuring, physiological treatment, and rehabilitation assistance to rejoin their communities with greater resilience and the ability to thrive.


Hari, J. (2015). Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. TED.

Kelly, T. M. (2015). The Therapeutic Alliance and Psychosocial Interventions for Successful Treatment of Addiction. Psychiatric Times32(4), 33.

Majeed, S., Khan, A. Q., & Yasmeen. (2017). Psychological Correlates of Substance Related Addictive Disorders in Males. Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society14(4), 28–31.

Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2018, March 16). Opioids, cocaine, cannabis and illicit drugs. Our World in Data.

Straub, R. O. (2019). Health psychology: a biopsychosocial approach. Macmillan International Higher Education.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (2006, December 4). No ‘Smoking’ Gun: Research Indicates Teen Marijuana Use Does Not Predict Drug, Alcohol Abuse. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 5, 2021 from 2006/12/061204123422.html

Nourishing inside and out

People enjoy eating, but nutrition and long-term health goals are often not taken into account when we make daily choices about what to eat. According to the Center for Disease Control and National Center for Health Statistics, obesity has risen sharply from 30.5% in 1999 to 42.4% in 2018. Nearly half the population of our country is obese, which also means 42.4% of Americans have increased risk factors for many chronic diseases like coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and even certain types of cancers. There is a stereotype that overweight or obese people are lazy, which is a gross oversimplification. Also, lack of trying or laziness cannot account for this high of a percentage. Heredity and other biological factors are usually the first areas to be examined, but social, cultural, and geographical factors must also be taken into consideration as elements that influence weight gain. In order to address the obesity epidemic, it’s imperative to identify the contributing causes, prescribe healthy frameworks and introduce positive habits to ensure healthier outcomes.

I think many of us like to believe our thoughts and behaviors are not influenced by advertising or marketing. There’s a constant barrage of external stimuli popping up on our phones, tablets, tvs, toys, games, shows, stores, schools, etc and many are designed and aimed at children, who are more vulnerable to persuasion. According to a study on Influence of unhealthy food and beverage marketing on children’s dietary intake and preference, “evidence indicates that unhealthy food and beverage marketing increases dietary intake and preference for energy‐dense, low‐nutrition products in children during or shortly after exposure to advertisements”. Developing children that are exposed to food and beverage marketing are unfortunately also developing unhealthy habits. Habits become more ingrained in our daily lives and it can become more difficult to counter unhealthy habits with more beneficial choices.

Another study on Barriers to Childhood Obesity Prevention by Vittrup and McClure (2018), indicates that “many parents mentioned setting bad examples for their children’s eating and exercise habits, they also mentioned the cost of healthy foods, parents’ busy schedules, and lack of time to prepare healthy meals”. These findings reveal additional obstacles faced within a family social structure that further complicate healthy nutrition.

Older generations have been subjected to these same marketing campaigns. With the capitalist mindset of selling anything and everything for profit, there are also campaigns focused on different dieting solutions. One of the most jaw-dropping advertisements from a century ago was the Cigarette Diet, with the brand Lucky Strike encouraging people to smoke to suppress their appetites. Throughout the decades various examples of fad diets came and went, such as: the 1970s Grapefruit Diet, the 1980s Slim Fast Diet, 1992 Atkins diet, and now – Paleo, Whole30 and Ketogenic diet. It seems that people are trying, but eventually good intentions fall back into bad habits. This intention-behavior gap phenomenon, noted by De Ridder and his research, demonstrates that often times “automatic influences direct people’s choices to unhealthy alternatives. Looking at unhealthy food intake, the role of intentions appears overruled by the strength of habits.” We see this intention-behavior gap played out in numerous ways. (De Ridder et al., 2017)

Food is often associated with gatherings, holidays and celebrations.  What happens when there are too many birthdays and graduations in the same month? It can become an uphill battle trying to adhere to a Whole30 diet while everyone else is eating cake and ice cream. A personal example, as a Filipina, food is a huge part of culture and showing love and appreciation. At almost every major holiday or celebration, a giant roast pig “lechon” and platters of food are basically a requirement. There’s a lot of prescribed guilt if food is leftover or Tita Jasmine’s feelings are hurt if you don’t eat her fried Lumpia rolls. This is likely a similar occurrence with many cultures in varying degrees. Research has revealed that “a person is likely to become obese when a friend is obese” and further “if that friend is a close one, the odds almost triple.” We are heavily influenced by people in our social circles, especially our closest friends and relatives. It can be a bit of a conundrum trying to uphold our health goals only to become sidelined at social gatherings. (Straub, 2017)

Perhaps, one of the most disheartening determinants for not adhering to a health diet according to De Ridder is low socioeconomic status. De Ridder et al (2017) points out that “low SES is the single consistent risk factor for not adhering to a healthy diet.” The term food deserts, described as households being more than a mile from a supermarket with no access to a vehicle, results in families purchasing high calorie, low nutrient meals from fast food restaurants and always open 24/7 convenience stores. (Weaver, 2017). Taking all of these components into consideration, it seems that our environment heavily influences our behavior. Acknowledging the conditions that magnify susceptibility to well-known drivers of obesity, such as: low socioeconomic status, food deserts, little time or money to prepare healthy meals, and social and cultural influences; the propagation of the vicious cycle of poverty and obesity forms a feedback loop. (Weaver, 2017)

How is it possible to formulate a healthy diet plan when it feels like so many factors are out of our control? Certainly, there are many top level changes that need to be addressed through public policy or regulated through governing powers. However, small, daily, achievable personal changes can have an enormous impact.

According to Dr. Dean Ornish, simple lifestyle changes can make a powerful difference because we invest meaning in our actions. When diet and lifestyle are modified, it’s possible to slow, stop, reverse or prevent human and economic cost and complications. Ornish expands that daily lifestyle choices such as: how we eat, how we respond to stress, how much exercise we get, and how much intimacy, love and support we reciprocate is using lifestyle as treatment. Taking these factors into account, Ornish found that ~500 gene expressions were changed within just 3 months, simply by making changes in diet and lifestyle. It’s amazingly powerful to see scientific evidence that exhibits the turning on, or up regulating of the good genes that protect us and the down regulating of the bad genes that cause inflammation, oxidative stress, and the oncogenic mutations of the ras genes that were turned off. So, the more positive lifestyle changes we make, which are available to everyone for free, we can alter our genes to achieve improved health. As an added bonus, not only do diet and lifestyle changes benefits our physical health, they also benefit our mental health; comparable or even better than anti-depressants.

Ornish describes what some of these mechanisms for health are, but what specifically should we be eating? According to the Healthy Eating Plate Program, precision nutrition, or personalized nutrition, “have shown that for the average person, eating more vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while eating fewer highly processed foods made with added sugars and salt can help reduce the risk of various diseases.” According to Harvard’s Healthy Living Guide 2020-2021, a multi-dimensional approach, which also makes considerations for “sleep, physical activity, and time of meals also plays a role in causing variations in blood levels of glucose and triglycerides after meals. Therefore, an individual may see additional benefits if following personalized nutrition guidance beyond general health recommendations.” This helps establish a clearer guide for how we can help ourselves.

Eating nutritious food is no doubt beneficial. In addition, small simple lifestyle changes also leverages positive outcomes.  A community and nature-driven transformative guerrilla gardening movement led by Ron Finley and his volunteer group, LA Green Grounds, have started planting food forests in food deserts. Finley talks about how in South Central LA “the drive-thrus are killing more people than drive-bys,” or to more plainly say, people are dying from curable diseases. Finley and LA Green Grounds change communities in positive ways: training families to garden, live a more sustainable life, and find pride in growing their own food and being able to eat it and take back their health. Finley goes on to say that “if you don’t show how food affects the mind and body, then people will blindly eat whatever the hell you put in front of them.” 

The demand for our attention is high, but both talks by Finley and Ornish demonstrate the importance of establishing daily healthy habits amidst the endless environmental distractions. There is an urgent call for the reprioritization of our hierarchy of commitment. Harvard Health implores that “we must not lose sight of improving the broader food environment through effective policies, regulations, and other population-based approaches that can help make healthy food choices the default.” For our younger generations, that begins with them seeing us a positive role models. 

We must model the behavior we hope future generations to adopt by advocating for policy changes and engaging in more sustainable infrastructures. While it’s so much easier to watch TV and eat a bag of chips, it’s empowering to know that we have the power to instill healthy habits in this younger generation.  We can grow some kale locally, make healthier kale chips, add healthy leafy greens to our diet, connect with our kids through cooking, eating and gardening, and connect with nature and take pride in making choices that are sustainable for us and our world.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 11). Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

De Ridder, D., Kroese, F., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M., & Gillebaart, M. (2017). 

Healthy diet: Health impact, prevalence, correlates, and interventions. Psychology & Health32(8), 907–941. 

Sadeghirad, B., Duhaney, T., Motaghipisheh, S., Campbell, N. R. C., & Johnston, B. C. (2016). Influence of unhealthy food and beverage marketing on children’s dietary intake and preference: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Obesity Reviews: An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity17(10), 945–959.

Staff, A. (2021, February 5). Healthy Living Guide 2020/2021. The Nutrition Source. 

Straub, R. O. (2019). Health psychology: a biopsychosocial approach. Macmillan International Higher Education. 

Weaver, B. (2017). Health and Socioeconomic Disparities of Food Deserts. Global Ecological Humanities.

YouTube. (2012). A guerilla gardener in South Central La. (2012). TED.

YouTube. (2012). What’s Good For You Is Good For The Planet. YouTube. 

World Mental Health Day

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day.

How are you? Are you feeling OK? How’s your mood?

Mental health is best understood simply as our state of mind. Many of us are avoiding and lying about how we really feel as a means of escaping our inner conflict. Everyone has a breaking point and there’s only so many abnormal events one can absorb.

Americans wake up to daily discord that holds space in our minds, our bodies and our unconsciousness which affects our attitudes and behaviors and can even alter the brains ability to function.

Before the pandemic, Americans were already experiencing increases in suicide, drug overdose, addiction, anxiety and depression. As a result of the many complicated circumstances of covid-19, we are now experiencing the ripple effects with an uncertain economy, loss of jobs (and health care), at-risk essential workers, grieving families, overwhelmed teachers, students and parents and many other fragile human conditions.

Many people cannot access help until they are in a deep crisis. It is a problem that the initial point of care for many mental health conditions or substance use disorders begins with the criminal justice system.

In order for communities to overcome adversity and thrive, it is imperative to overhaul what care and rehabilitation look like for the well-being of our people and our country. More of the same will not fix the problem.

Mental disorders are primarily seen as a medical health deficit. I believe this viewpoint perpetuates a negative stigma.

Every single human being deals with mental distress in their lifetime. We all experience major change and disruptions in our life, (birth, death, health, environmental crisis, etc). that affect our social, psychological, physical and spiritual self.

We can choose to view these times of great stress as recoverable and manageable. We can choose to live in social conditions that enable individuals to look after their own and each other’s wellbeing. First, we have to recognize and define the program, our country is experiencing a mental health crisis.

This year continues to be relentless for everyone. I cannot speak to all of the pain felt by others, but I know I’m not alone in my pain.

Excluding the pandemic, my husband and I have experienced multiple family crises involving clinicians, medical institutions and the criminal justice system as we navigated our way in seeking support and services. As a victim of ethnic harassment that eventually escalated to terroristic threats to my family and our neighbors, safety became our highest priority.

We have experienced first-hand the resources available in trying to mitigate situations that became unsafe. Through every step, there was disappointing inadequacy in the availability of compassionate, person-centered and comprehensive care. There is no lack of compassionate people working their hardest to solve complex issues, but the systems we have in place don’t strive for preventative well-being or rehabilitation into society. If anything, individuals face more trauma, are marked with having a medical pre-existing condition which means less opportunities to make recoverable change.

Changes in infrastructure don’t happen overnight. It takes a movement from many people, leaders, and capital to recognize, research and enact changes. Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can be done, it is what it is. There are many things out of my control, but I’m choosing to focus on what I can do. Personally, art and art making is therapeutic for me. Whether I’m listening to music, playing music, painting or metalsmithing, I find that I am able to shift my energy into the present moment and self-regulate.

Psychologist and Expressive Arts Therapist Cathy Malchioldi, who has spent over 30 years working with individuals with traumatic stress says, “the arts have a unique role in restoring a sense of vitality and joy in traumatized individuals because aliveness is not something we can be ‘talked into’. Instead, it is experienced in both mind and body and particularly on a somatosensory level.”

Reading Malchioldi’s “Art Therapy Sourcebook” really influenced me on how art making can be used for personal growth, understanding and enhancing well-being. I’m drawn to the active participation of both counselors and individuals to externalize a conflict in a non-verbal channel through visual art.

So I’ve decided that I want to become an art therapist. I have experienced first-hand a myriad of examples of how art and art making has brought personal fulfillment, beauty, creativity, healing, resilience and enjoyment into my life and others.

I seek to understand the science behind the transformative power that art and specifically art therapy, has on our nervous systems. Now more than ever, people are in need of compassionate and comprehensive care.

Becoming a mental health art therapist is not only a personal calling, but it’s also my desire to be a part of transforming how mental health is perceived and to ensure that quality mental health care is more accessible.

I’m currently applying to graduate programs for a Masters In Art Therapy. I don’t know what that means for Frost Finery, but I hope to be able to integrate jewelry making with Art Therapy in the future and offer healing and creative programs.

So please tread gently on your neighbors and with yourselves. Embrace some form of restorative activities: art, music, dance, walking, hiking, running or yoga. If we want to rebuild systems that enable communities to flourish and thrive, it begins with ourselves. Next time you notice yourself spinning out of control, reach for a pencil, or a paint brush, or go for a walk and breathe. Feel your lungs fill up with air and find gratitude and joy that you are human and you are capable of change.


Artist highlight: Kelly Tinker

It’s Thanksgiving. So, it’s a time to reflect on what to be thankful for. I am grateful for a bounty of experiences, people and things. One person in particular has made such a difference in my life this year, that is my Frost Finery sidekick, metalsmith extraordinaire and creator of many things, Kelly Tinker.

She’s been a huge help, especially while I’ve been pregnant and trying to keep up with a business that can be physically demanding. She is also just a breathe of fresh air and one of the most talented and capable people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I’m very pleased to share an interview with Kelly and some of her personal works of art below.

Q: What draws you to metalsmithing?

A: I have always had a love for working with metal in any capacity as metal has a timeless nature that I prefer over materials like glass, wood, or ceramics.

I embrace the duplicity of metal: it can be softened or hardened, added to or subtracted from, polished and bright or dull and expressive, light and delicate or heavy and substantial.

Metalsmithing specifically gives me the tools to transform and explore the boundaries of  representing forms with metals; it has endless capacity to represent your ideas and turn them into timeless pieces of art.

Q: Do you have a favorite piece or favorite story behind a work you’ve made?

A: My favorite piece is probably “I Crave a Crumpet”. It started out as a simple lost wax casting of a kangaroo rat I had carved from wax.

On display at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum

Unfortunately part of my mold failed during the casting process and he ended up with a deep hole in its head.

I personally love brainstorming creative fixes instead of simply repairing the damage so I opted to build him a hat to cover it instead.
Well, the top hat I made him was very dapper and it only felt proper to also add a monocle, a hat rack, and a scarf.

Adding to this piece really got me experimenting with creating more three-dimensional shapes that I had never done outside of carving and casting before.
A single casting mistake transformed a simple kangaroo rat sculpt into one of my most whimsical pieces.

Q:What or who inspires you?

A: I can’t say I was ever inspired from anything specific to start working with metal, it always came directly from myself. It feels like a pure representation of me and my work is fueled by my own curiosity and whimsy.

I value metalsmithing as part of my life so much because it has always been an inescapable part of me.
Since my Freshman year in High school I was desperate to take the metalsmithing class, even before I really understood the sense of of what metalwork can do.
I patiently waited until I was an upperclassman and as soon as I had my chance to experience the tools and the materials myself,  I was in love.

No other art form inspired me like metalsmithing. Every part of the craft is deliberate and takes patience, planning, and sometimes tedious work. That time-consuming work ethic makes you fall in love with your piece by the time it has finished.

Q: What do you do when you have creative block?

A: I feel like my brain is running on all cylinders at all times and silly ideas pop into my head all the time.

Instead of letting those ideas get away from me, I make myself sketch it out on scrap paper or write out a note that I hope I can understand again.
That way I have captured my thought without trying to use it right away or have it distract me from what I’m currently doing.

Some of these ideas are good, others don’t have much hope, and some get lost all together.
However; this practice makes it so I have a hundred ideas at my disposal if I’m ever feeling lost for inspiration.

Even silly thoughts can trigger me to go down a creative path of thinking and could ultimately lead me to an idea miles away from the original thought.
Looking through my notes and sketches is almost like a reminder that I am a fountain of creativity and then I avoid feeling like I’ve lost all my ability to be creative.
I recommend making note of the smallest bursts of ideas that get you excited even if they are no use to you in the moment, its a nice back-up for a rainy day.

Q:If you could have one super Power (and there are no limits) what would it be?

A: I always super strength would be the most helpful and useful in everyday life.

Its also a good discreet superpower and you could hide your talents pretty well if you wanted to.

Can you imagine a life where nothing is too heavy, you are never tired from physical exhaustion, and you can get all your groceries inside in one trip without dying?!
You could even kinda of be able to fly because you can power jump! You could probably be a pretty confident climber as well. It opens so many possibilities!

So, yeah. Its helpful, makes so many things easier, as well as expands on the possibilities of your everyday life. I guess that’s what all super powers should do.


honeycomb silver cast with citrine cabochons


hang forged knife

Taken from Kelly’s drawlloween 2017 collection

See more of Kelly’s work




Breaking Panic Production Mode

Several times a year I go into panic production mode = WORK LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW AND DO MUCH AS YOU CAN! DEADLINES, AHHHH!

It’s a slippery slope – the takeout food boxes pile up, the gym calls about how long it’s been since you were last there (because they’re worried they won’t get a payment next month if you’re not alive) and you only see friends or family if they’re willing to help because they’re concerned. Ultimately, this ends in some debilitating infection or complete fatigue. Right now it’s the latter + some bio freeze pain gel, an ice pack and $$$ to the chiropractor.

During these episodes I start questioning myself – was the corporate overlord job possibly the better deal? Then I snap out of my bio freeze fever dream. Hell No. Work and life balance has always been a struggle.

I think for a lot of artistic people it’s even more of a struggle, especially if you’re a one person show. Work hours are spent running the business and not in the fulfilling art flow. Wouldn’t we all want to only do the things we like to do? I’m sure people in medicine would like to spend their time healing people instead of dealing with health insurance policies. Alas, those administrative tasks are oh so necessary. So we caffeinate ourselves in order to manage orders, expense receipts, detail estimates, deal with damaged items, wrangle inventory, book equipment time, organize supplies, etc etc etc. With day time business hours tied up in admin land, the artistic endeavors get pushed back. Those late nights, when the notifications stop flashing and your glowing rectangles stop buzzing, is the only peaceful time to get back to the sketch from the other day and take it as far as you can to physically see it realized.

One of my biggest struggles is finding a routine that accounts for these moments of fabrication and play, because this time is essential in helping me grow in my craft.

I certainly don’t want to complain. I have the great privilege of getting paid to make jewelry and I am beyond grateful that people want to adopt it into their daily lives. However, both personally and professionally, my current work and life situation is not sustainable. So, what to do?

There are many possibilities to a solution: hiring help, taking on different kinds of work and clients.. but before diving deeper into those areas… it seems that a clear, open mind to assess this broken repetitive thought and action cycle would be beneficial.

Maybe getting back to basics is the first step. Why have I been in denial of eating 3 healthy meals a day, getting 8 hours of sleep and having set work time boundaries? How can I expect to not experience some kind of cognitive dissonance if I’m sprinting head down on auto-hustle?

The answer I’ve landed on is aligning my mind, body and spirit in order to get clear on what my own definition of balance, success and happiness looks like. From there, I can work backwards and set specific attainable goals. Maybe the most important thing to do is plan for hiccups. When we adopt a new flow it’s easy to envision ourselves meditating on a cloud, happily producing our work in perfect harmony. Perhaps a change in attitude to see our mistakes as an opportunity to make improvements is a healthy iterative approach.

I’m so interested to know how other people manage their time. Please tell me! Share! But seriously, someone please slap me if I pull another all nighter, eat pizza more than once a week and send a yoga search party if my asana is missing from the studio for more than a week!

Breathe and innovate as you go.
Here’s to getting a head start on New Years resolutions. Slay.

Frost Finery on Instagram

A bit of radio silence ? Taking some time off with @brad_frost in South Africa. Woke up this morning to this Baboon!! #holiday #baboon #southafrica #waitforit

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Frost Finery on Instagram

️These vintage national parks postcards!A reminder of the American beauty that we can unite around #americanbeauty #nationalpark #shenandoah #kobukvalley #smokymountains #denali #hawaiivolcanoes #biscayne #unite #america

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