Nature’s Role in Our Happiness with Counseling by Melody’s Melody Anderson

October 30, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us on the show today Melody Anderson. She has a very interesting story to tell us about her work in the addiction field and ecotherapy. Welcome to Green is Good, Melody. MELODY ANDERSON: Welcome, John. How are you? JOHN SHEGERIAN: I am great today. I’m so excited to have you on because this topic has never been covered by us. I’ve never even seen it in the media and you’re going to cover this very important and timely topic because the issue of addictions and where we’ve gone in society and the help that we need is something that just isn’t getting enough coverage so it’s just an honor to have you on. MELODY ANDERSON: Well, thank you so how can we help these listeners out there? JOHN SHEGERIAN: Well, before we get there, and I want to get to your great practice called Counseling by Melody and you have a wonderful website, CounselingbyMelody.com. I’m on it. I want our listeners of you have a tablet or an iPad or something and you can go on it while you’re listening, please do it, CounselingbyMelody.com. Melody, share your journey. How did you even get into this field of helping people, number one, and then ecotherapy, number two? MELODY ANDERSON: Well, I think everything in life is a matter of shifts and changes and you know, there’s an old saying, ‘Adapt or die,’ and I’m a great believer that those who are flexible, kind of like the bamboo reed, those who are flexible can make it through storms and those who are rigid and say life has to be a specific way are going to have a harder time and I had a very interesting, I still have, I think I’m still alive, life. I trained as a journalist and I then became an actor and screenwriter and now I’m a therapist and what was behind all of it was I’ve always enjoyed being able to communicate to people and affect their emotional state and I paint as well and my paintings, in fact, do that as well. Some horrify them and some absolutely just create calm and some make people laugh and so that has sort of been the internal drive in me. I grew up in a family, sadly, where there was some alcoholism, which is a lot of why I got into this field, and I kept thinking that I could make people laugh and that would make them feel better or they would stop drinking or the fighting would stop, whatever it would be, and that’s kind of been the underlying- whether it’s as an actress or a screenwriter or as a journalist or a therapist- the theme is always the same of this desire to move people out of their emotional state to find some peace. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Interesting. So, in your therapy, what made you decide to develop this subset that’s fascinating, this eco-minded therapy? MELODY ANDERSON: You know, the research has shown, and this came out about 10, 15 years ago when they started to talk about SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. They hit the people in the winter when they’re getting less sun and they started to discover that when they put people in front of a lamp that mimicked the sun’s rays, people actually got better and so we started to realize that something like vitamin D, which we only get from the sun, and also sitting in front of these lamps in the winter, actually moved people out of these depressive states so that’s sort of where it started and it fascinated me because therapy is going more and more into understanding how the brain functions and that with exercise, you put out endorphins and that makes you feel better and more energized as well as the other brain transmitters, dopamine, which is the one that makes you feel like you want Vegas, and then serotonin, which is the one we use when going, ‘You know, I feel really good about today.’ JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, vitamin D, these lamps that you’re talking about, what other suggestions do you make when you start an eco-minded therapy process with someone? MELODY ANDERSON: Well, sometimes I might even just take someone that’s uncomfortable in the room. I might take them just for a walk and the movement alone and the focus on nature, it changes a person’s sense of being kind of trapped in a room or being judged but there’s some real specific things that we’ve discovered and the field is broadening and I certainly recommend people check it out on their internet, is that in 1980, there was a man called Robert Stone from Birmingham, England, who started to make a connection they called biophilia, that we have a connection to plants and that’s why gardening is one of the great therapies for people when they’re depressed and so it’s something we advise if you have a yard and are getting older and don’t have your real family around you or a lot of friends, that actually, working in the garden raises those neurotransmitters I was talking about. They also found that when they had just picture of trees and the color either green or blue on the walls or the world, like a big poster of the ocean or a poster of the forest, that people needed less painkillers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, green and blue, the colors of the earth, make you want less painkillers? MELODY ANDERSON: Right, and pictures of that as well and they’re starting to understand that in hospitals and putting up pictures in their room that’s kind of sort of creating a virtual green therapy. You can even have, as you know, on computers, or even on TVs, you can get a picture that will go on there. Sometimes people get fireplaces but they might be better off having a picture of the ocean and dolphins or a beautiful green forest and the other piece, we have five sense so ecotherapy can hit all sense. Hearing noises, they found that people who heard sounds of birds in the ICU spent less time in there and they’re also doing more studies in rehab and in homes for the elderly of having bird sounds and they find that people are more alert. Bird sounds are very powerful. They’re so wonderful because we now have these contraptions that you can buy that have all these different sounds on them, the surf and the birds and the rain and the forest and they’re very helpful for creating relaxation. If you suffer from anxiety, putting on those sounds can absolutely calm the body down. JOHN SHEGERIAN: No kidding. How about if you get a client and you’re starting some of this, like you say, different methodologies of ecotherapy, what if they’re not into it or they’re resistant to it? How do you bring them along? MELODY ANDERSON: You asked the $60 million question for all therapists because we always are dealing with clients that have resistance to doing lots of things that will make them feel better, just like MDs say, ‘Take your medication. You’ll feel better.’ What I do is I look at the piece of what is the fear behind it? And I then ask if what they have been doing had been helping them get better and usually the answer is no and I say, ‘Prove me wrong. Let’s just sit here and listen to this and see what comes up for you,’ and I’ll give a guided meditation while I’m playing the sounds of the surf and the ocean and I’ll ask them which one they like better but yeah, resistance is what anyone who tries to help people has to deal with because people are in fear and they keep thinking they know what’s going to work for them. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, it sort of is systemic to your industry? You’re used to that happening. You’re used to Downing Thomas’s coming into your office. It’s part of your industry anyway so it’s something that you’ve learned, how to bring people. MELODY ANDERSON: Yes, you’re trained in that and there’s a thing called motivational interviewing. There’s books and books and articles all about it and basically, to raise motivation, you examine what the problems are with what they’re doing now and how it’s affecting them so that there’s this man named Thomas Holcroft who said, “People change not because they see the light but because they feel the heat.” JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners who just joined us, we’re so honored to have Melody Anderson with us on today. She has a fascinating addiction and therapy program that she runs. you can learn more about it on her website, CounselingbyMelody.com. I’m on her website right now. It’s a form of eco-minded therapy we’re talking about. Of course, she is a very, very successful addictions therapy and in all things therapy and getting people well but today we’re talking about eco-minded therapy. On that line, and I don’t mean to be controversial at all, but given that the laws are changing so fast and there’s such a sea change now with regards to marijuana. Some people say that pot/marijuana is an organic product and say, ‘What’s the problem in using that? Isn’t that eco-therapy?’ Can you share some of your thoughts on this? Because this is just such a very, very fast moving topic that a lot of people in America have strong feelings about. MELODY ANDERSON: Well you know, heroine comes from a poppy, so we can say that’s therapeutic as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh boy. Now we’re going down a road, aren’t we? MELODY ANDERSON: So, that’s kind of a bad excuse. Magic mushrooms are organic so the reality is this. There’s two sides and the side that says that marijuana is not a problem are in fact ill informed and the fact we’re discovering with marijuana and how it affects the brain is that it affects an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which handles memory, mood and motivation, and when those cells start to die off, a person experiences depression, immobility, lack of drive, and that is exactly the same area in the brain that marijuana hits and what we’re finding is the younger, especially with males, the younger someone starts using pot, there seems to be an increase in the percentage of users who will experience schizophrenia. JOHN SHEGERIAN: This is not good. MELODY ANDERSON: No, it’s not good and people drink and kill people in cars too. It’s an issue of anything to excess. I always like to define addiction this way: Is this substance you’re using, and it can be also process addictions like computer, sex, watching TV, eating, all that sort of thing, is what you’re doing keeping you from affecting the quality of your life? Do you find that you’re lying about how much you’re doing? Do you find that you’ve tried to quit and you can’t or lessen the amount and you can’t? Because some people can use substances and not become addicted and with some people, they lack the thermometer in their brain that’s telling them two drinks is enough and you don’t need any more or two puffs is enough and you don’t need any more and I think that that’s the risk anyone takes when they get involved with alcohol and other substances. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I agree with you. I’m so glad you said that. You know, Melody, we’re down to two minutes, and I want to leave this to you to wrap up because you have such a great message and this is so important for people to hear. There’s so much going on right now with regards to addiction and there are lots of opportunities to get well with great people like you and the great service that you have. You wrap from here and do any shameless plugs you’d like because we need more people in the world like you. MELODY ANDERSON: Well, thank you very much. Well, the best information is hoping that people will do something to heal them and if someone has no money, they can go to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and if someone is a family member of someone who has got an addiction, I recommend the organization, Al-Anon. They can reach us on all the websites and get their information, have chat rooms, get the books, all this sort of thing. It’s very important not to be alone with either of these issues and as far as I’m concerned, please check me out at www.counselingbymelody.com and I will be speaking out in California here in August about loving someone who’s got a think called co-occurring disorders. That means they have a mental illness as well as an addiction and I’ll be putting all that up on my website soon. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great and for our listeners out there, the great thing about Melody and the message that she brings today about eco-therapy is that there’s hope out there. There’s hope because Melody and other great people like her can help you change your behavior if you really want to change and again, her great website, and I’m on it right now, it is wonderful and full of information and full of ways to connect with Melody if you’d like to do that. It’s www.counselingbymelody.com. Melody Anderson, you’re always welcome back here because the world needs more people like you. You’re an inspiring eco-therapy leader and truly living proof that green is good.