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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

January 7, 2011

Some of our older readers will recognize this phrase as the principal lyrics for the song written and recorded by Bobby McFerrin in 1988. I used this phrase in discussion our Restoration to Health Strategy with a staff member recently. In context, we were talking about mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy and reprogramming our minds through the concept of neuroplasticity. Mindfulness is described at Wikipedia as follows: “…a psychological tool capable of stress reduction and the elevation of several positive emotions or traits.” Neuroplasticity is the ability of our mind to change negative neural pathways through training. I described the change as in part, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

I was talking to a therapist some time ago about a common discussion point with clients. They will ask, “why do I feel this way.” They worry constantly and can’t seem to be happy. This 13 minute YouTube clip of an interview of Dr. Gabor Mate shares his thinking about neural circuits being set during childhood.


I agree. The reason we are talking about mindfulness, CBT and neuroplasticity around Chugachmiut is because of the emerging research about the impact our childhood traumas have on our adult behaviors. Of the severely addicted patients Dr. Mate serves, less than 5% recover. He talks about the societal blame and shame, punishment and war on drug addicts. His role is to “reduce the harm” suffered by this population. That is the aim of his treatment.

Changing negative coping behaviors is tough work. It’s easier to prevent the trauma, if we can. However, since parental behaviors impact the child, we do need to work extensively with the parent generation to help them try to resolve their childhood trauma so they are less likely to inflict trauma on their children.

That’s why we are talking about neuroplasticity, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” “mindfulness” and cognitive behavioral therapy. If we help patients focus on the reasons for their unhappiness, or “why they feel this way,” maybe we can help them be happy.

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