Discussions Regarding the World of Psychology (www.lapsych.com)

Mindfulness in the Workplace?

Mindfulness is more than just a trendy, buzz word. It’s goal is to help us learn to stay in the present and reduce how often our mind wanders. It has been shown to improve individual mood and cognition, as well as increase a sense of empathy in relationships. This, in turn, leads to better relationships, both in the workplace (as discussed in a new comprehensive study done at Case Western Reserve University) and your social life. It can take as little as 5 minutes a day so it’s hard to find and excuse not to give it a try! There are several free apps to guide you through it if you’ve never tried it before. If you prefer individualized training to learn the practice of mindfulness, a few sessions with a psychologist or mindfulness practitioner would be a great resource. What a great way to start your week!

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


Can the trajectory of your walk be a marker for anxiety?

A new study from the University of Kent found that due to the increased activity on the right side of the brain of individuals with elevated levels of anxiety (due to an active need to constantly inhibit and regulate thoughts/behavior), their walking trajectory tends to align to the left side when they are instructed to walk with their eyes closed. This cannot be used to diagnose anxiety in and of itself, but it is a good way to support a diagnosis. It can also be a good option to incorporate mindfulness techniques into treatment to calm the right brain activity and reduce anxiety. I would be curious to see if the trajectory shifts before and after practicing mindfulness.  

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

Are Certain Facial Irregularities Red Flags for Pedophilia?


A new study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior supports the notion that certain facial irregularities which are developed during the first and second trimester of pregnancy are positively correlated with future pedophilia. This study also found that left-handedness is also more common in pedophiles. I see positive and negative implications of this study based on the way it can be interpreted by people with various agendas. If used as a potential tool for early intervention, I believe that it can be a great benefit to help kids and adolescents who are at risk for becoming potential future pedophiles learn their triggers and coping mechanisms for such urges. However, if this study is misinterpreted by individuals, it can be used to alienate and red-flag individuals with possible features and can lead to discriminatory actions. It also brings up the argument of nature versus nurture and how much of this behavior is controlled by genetic predisposition or the environment and manner in which one was raised. Very interesting study…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

More Support for the Mind-Gut Connection

Another study from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, has found a connection between the increased ingestion of fermented foods and decreased social anxiety in young adults. It seems like more and more research is revealing the importance of the connection between the gut and our mental health. Food for thought… Literally!

Probiotics Good for Mental Health

probioticsWe all know that probiotics are great for our digestive health, but a new study has found that they may be doing more good than we thought! As reported in Science Daily, a study recently published in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, determined that taking probiotics every day for four weeks can significantly alter ones mood and thinking to be more positive and less focused on negative feelings and worries. The study consisted of 40 participants, of which 20 were given a placebo powder and 20 were given multi-species probiotics to take on a daily basis. The probiotic group demonstrated a significantly reduced incidence of ruminative thoughts involving their mood, as demonstrated by the completion of a questionnaire assessing their sensitivity to depression both at the beginning and at the end of the study. Although the group who took the placebo powder did not demonstrate a shift in their thought pattern/mood, the group who took the probiotics demonstrated a reduced level of negative thinking. This study can have huge implications in the field of mental health.

First and foremost, probiotics are known for being great for your health. However, if they come with the added benefit of improving your mood and thought pattern, then I see this as a win-win! During a consultation that I had with licensed acupuncturist, Kristine Parikian, I learned that the health of one’s gut is very important in the general health of one’s body. When the gut is balanced with healthy bacteria, it naturally improves the body’s immunity to various ailments. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that the balance probiotics provide in the body would translate to improved mental health as well. When all parts of the body are functioning as intended and are well geared to fight the daily germs/viruses that exist, the brain is also able to function at it’s best and is not stressed with the need to manage pain and illness. This, in turn, leads to greater mental clarity and improved mood.

My hope for the implication of this study is that it will encourage clinicians and doctors to explore one additional avenue of treatment for patients who enter their office with mild symptoms of mood disorders. Probiotics may not be the solution for all cases of mood disorders, but they’re a good place to start. For individuals with major depression or other significant diagnoses, this option is not likely to be enough, but individual therapy along with medication management is the most validated approach. However, for the majority of people who are struggling with daily stress and feel like it’s hard to keep mental balance in light of all this stress, it may be worth giving probiotics a try!

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

Premature Holiday Spirit???


As I was driving home last night, I noticed several houses that had already been decorated for the holidays with the festive twinkling lights outside and the beautiful Christmas trees showing through the windows. Given that I am a sucker for the holiday season, these sights filled me with a sense of happiness and warmth. Soon after these positive feelings, a sense of urgency set in. Was I late in getting started with holiday prep? Should I have spent the weekend getting decorations down and moving furniture around to accommodate the Christmas tree? As I started going through my mental calendar of things that need to get done, I realized that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! My family’s usual tradition is to set up Christmas decorations on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. This has always been the case for us, but until just recently, I have never felt the pressure to start decorating before that point. This got me thinking about why our society is in such a hurry to start celebrating the holidays.


Of course, there is the business related argument that it’s all retail based and that companies have started cultivating the holiday spirit earlier to increase sales. I have no doubt that this is true because, after all, who doesn’t want to drink a Chestnut Praline Latte in the red Starbucks cup as soon as possible??? But I can’t accept the fact that this is the only reason the holidays keep getting pushed earlier and earlier every single year. Yes, companies are pushing the holiday season upon us as early as possible, but the interesting part of it, in my perspective, is that we, as a society, are eager and ready to receive it! About 5 years ago, I remember that several department stores began decorating before Thanksgiving and many people thought this was ridiculous. Today, many retailers set up their holiday decorations after Halloween! The premature celebration of the holidays has become pushed upon us in such an inadvertent manner that not only are retailers setting up early for the purpose of increasing sales, but we have gotten into the habit of decorating our homes and businesses for the holidays before Thanksgiving has even arrived! Back to my real question though… WHY? Why are we so eager to celebrate the holidays that we have decided to start doing so a month or two earlier than they are meant to be celebrated?


Here is where it gets interesting for me! The psychology behind our readiness to welcome the holiday season…  First off, I began thinking about what it is that the holidays represent. A few terms automatically entered my mind… love, acceptance, unity, tolerance, family, support, and warmth. Even in terms of gift giving, the holidays are one of the few times of the year when we actively think about who we appreciate and what we can give to those individuals to make them feel special. We are encouraged to think about the well-being and happiness of others as opposed to the rest of the year when we are primarily focused on thinking about our own needs.  The holidays give us the opportunity to let go of the individualistic nature of our daily lives and to embrace the collectivist nature that many of us seek deep down inside. The holidays make it okay for us to look one another in the eyes at the store and to smile, they make it okay for us to let the person with one item ahead of us in line, they make it appropriate for us to give money to the homeless man by the exit on the freeway off-ramp without questioning what he will do with that money… The holidays make it okay for us to connect with one another without second guessing ourselves and feeling taken advantage of.  They make it okay for us to be good human beings, the kind of human being that we were before we were jaded by the negative experiences that have rewired our internal programming to be cautious, not trust others, and put our own needs before those of others. I believe that this is the main reason we are so ready to welcome the holidays into our lives, even if it is in early November!


As we enter the new year and make our resolutions, it may be beneficial to make a few resolutions that will help us carry the warmth of the holidays into the rest of the upcoming year. Consider spending more time with family, or holding the door for a stranger, or giving some grace to those around us with the realization that they might be going through struggles of their own. After all, we are in this together… We share this point in time with one another and what we do/how we treat each other today effects the norms of our society for generations to come.


-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

Signs of Cyber-Bullying to Look For as Your Kids Go Back to School

ImageAs students head back to school for the new academic year, there are naturally a new set of social changes and shifts in status that take place. Some kids/adolescents may attempt to highlight a different aspect of their personality during the new school year and change the label which may have been placed on them. Unfortunately, some of these individuals will choose the bullying route to achieve their personal goals: they will choose to take the route of belittling and tormenting others as a means of elevating this own status. In other words, they will bully others to elevate their own position in their social circle. This is a time when adults need to be hyper-vigilant and attuned to the experience of possible victims of bullying.

Some signs to watch for may be a change in the individual’s overall mood. Be aware of whether your child is suddenly more quiet, more angry, more irritable, etc. Also, pay attention to any physical changes that may be taking place such as wearing different types of clothing (i.e. covering up, dressing provocative, etc.). Another change that may need to be addressed is a sudden increase in the use of accessories such as stacking bracelets: this may be an attempt to cover up proof of self-harm.  Try to be aware of whether your child is quickly gaining or losing weight because this is usually a sign of some type of emotional turmoil. In addition, a change in your child’s usual routine may be an indicator that possible negative social changes may be taking places for him/her (i.e. she used to talk on the phone with her best friend for hours but suddenly has nobody to talk to). It is also important to take notice of any changes in your child’s use of social media and the internet. Is your child who used to be on the internet constantly, suddenly avoiding it?  Or vice versa?

It is important to note that neither one of these behavioral changes individually mean your child is being bullied but instead, it is usually any combination of these changes that should alert your sense of awareness as a parent. The underlying theme in all these possible signs of cyber-bullying is CHANGE in behavior. The most critical thing that a parent can do for his/her child who is being bullied is to first, notice the changes in your child’s behavior and the possible signs that your child may be in a state of depression, and second, to help them advocate for themselves or if need be, to step in and advocate on their behalf. The best thing that you can do for a child who is being cyber-bullied is to notice and to show that you care.

If you determine that your child is being bullied in any way, it is recommended that you add a psychologist to your team in helping your child process and make sense of the feelings and experiences that he/she has endured.

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian

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