Life Coach Mara

Mara is a life coach and soon, she will be a psychotherapist. She has been involved in several wellness projects and is now here for you. She will give you hints on how to reach that healthy lifestyle you always wanted. Ask Mara a question and she might just answer in one of her articles. To contact Mara, e-mail her at

Walking through doorways can make us forget stuff

There is an explanation to why walking through doorways can make us forget stuff that we were doing. According to Professor Gabriel Radvansky from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the phenomenon occurs as an “event boundary”, Medical News Today reports.

It must have happened to you, too:  wanting to get something from a certain room and when you get there, you forget what you went there for in the first place. It is not early Alzheimer’s, as some may be joking about, nor it is any other serious memory problems. Gabriel Radvansky, a Psychology Proseffor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, United States, explains the phenomenon in a recent article posted on the University’s website. “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away”, he says. The compartmentalization of the activities done in different rooms makes it difficult to remember what we were doing before entering the new room. 

The “event boundary” is a subject Prof. Radvansky is currently exploring.  Together with his team, he has published several articles on the matter. Their latest study was published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Previous studies have proven that there is a location-updating effect which translates through a slight memory decline, when people are changing location, from one room to another. What Prof. Radvansky is trying to find out is the degree in which the environment influences the memory decline.
Until now, it was proven that:

– Distance has nothing to do with memory decline: people deciding upon an activity in one room and then moving in the room for a certain distance had no memory impairment; those deciding upon an activity and walking the same distance but stepping out of the room suffered a memory decline.
– Memory impairment occurs both in real and virtual rooms
– If a person decides upon an activity in one room, the passes through other rooms, ending up in the first room, the original room does not have any influence on the memory decline suffered when leaving it in the first place.

Female orgasm, similar to epileptic seizure, scientists say

Scientists at the Rutgers University, New Jersey, US, say that the female orgasm is similar to an epileptic seizure. The conclusion was drawn after a test done by using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to measure the changing level of oxygen utilization in a five-minute brain networking activity recording.
During the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, which took place in Washington, D.C. the researchers at the Rutgers University, New Jersey have presented their latest findings in regard to the female orgasm. They have recorded the brain activity for a period of five minutes, monitoring the changes in the oxygen utilization before, during and after the orgasm.

The volunteer for the experiment was one of Rutgers’s PhD candidates, Nan Wise, a sex therapist.   “Secondary to an epileptic seizure, there’s no bigger brain networking event”, she said in an interview to UK’s The Guardian. Wise added that the experiment is part of her PhD work. “It’s my dissertation. I’m committed to it”.

The video footage consists in a series of fMRI snapshots that were taken a couple of seconds apart from each other. In the pictures showing 40 different brain regions on each side the oxygen utilization is showed in colors, from dark red at the beginning. As time passes, the red becomes orange, turning to bright white invading all the areas in the end, representing the highest level of cerebral activity.

The researchers say that finding how pleasure is obtained at a brain level can help in treating people who are confronted with a sexual blockage. “If we can learn how to activate the pleasure regions of the brain then that could have wider applications”, says Prof. Barry Komisaruk. Among other problems that could benefit from the findings are psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Why giving up sweets requires psychotherapy

Far from being just a biological need, the sugar craves have a more sensitive background and giving up sweets requires psychotherapy in most of the cases.

Losing weight has always been an issue for most of the women. Few of us have the “luck” of being born with a genetic “helping hand” that drives the metabolism at a higher speed, so that the fats will burn faster. But in most cases, it’s not about genetics. When do you know it is something else?

Every person can have cravings occasionally. It is when it becomes a habit to eat only as a result of a craving impulse that the problem appears. When you are eating without really being hungry, but because you feel the drive of stuffing yourself with a certain food, you are doing two things: you ingest quantities of unneeded food (probably not the healthiest, either) and you are trying to fill an emotional void.

A close attention to your eating habits will uncover that you are somehow driven to eat at certain moments (the evening, the time when you are left home alone, the time before an important meeting at work, and so on). Basically, it’s every moment that you feel the stress level is going up. Some people eat when they are bored, as a mechanism of coping with the anxiety of having nothing to do. And the more you feel the pressure of stressing situations, the more likely you are to eat uncontrollably.
The majority of cravings involve sweets. And of them, only the most fatty, creamy, sugary ones become interesting enough. The reason why this happens is partly biological. Sugar raises the levels of serotonin in the brain, which allows us to put our guard down and diminish the anxiety.  But as we have seen, stuffing ourselves with muffins is not the best treatment for anxiety.

Psychotherapy is the best way to go when you want to lose weight, give up sweets or dealing with food cravings. The therapist will be able to remove the cause of the anxiety, thus allowing you to be more comfortable in your own skin and say goodbye to the food addiction moments.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome linked to emotional shocks

A recent study says that the Irritable Bowel Syndrome is linked to emotional shocks that a person can go through in life, ScienceDaily reports. According to the findings, psychological traumas resulted from the death of a dear one, a divorce, the effects of a natural disaster, several types of abuse – all these are factors that can make someone more prone to develop the disease.

Mayo Clinic researchers presented a study called “A Case-Control Study of Childhood and Adult Trauma in the Development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),” at the Annual Scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology’s, which took place in Washington, DC in late October. The study was led on 2623 volunteers. The results of the study showed that among patients with IBS, the majority reported having had to deal with traumatic events in their lives, prior to the diagnosis. Of these, general life traumas, like deaths, divorces, break-ups, were more common than sexual or emotional abuse.

Dr. Yuri Saito-Loftus, who presented the study, said that even though IBS has previously been linked to stress and childhood abuse – in 50% of the cases, which is double the percent of those who suffered such traumas, but did not have IBS – “most studies of abuse have focused on sexual abuse with sparse detail and also have not looked at other forms of psychological trauma.” This latest study is the first to concentrate on “multiple forms of trauma, the timing of those traumas, and traumas in a family setting.”

In the United States, 5 to 7 percent of the population is diagnosed with IBS, even though it is estimated that up to 10% suffers from the related symptoms. IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the digestive system, manifesting through abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. Basically, the motility of the bowel is affected, which leads to all the discomfort. Dr. Saito-Loftus explains that the motility of the bowel is influenced by the brain, which deals with the information received from the outside world. The latest study showed that patients with IBS experience or report traumas at a level higher than patients without IBS.

Sleep paralysis: not so uncommon

Although it sounds terrifying, sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that happens to ordinary people at some point in life. If you had an experience similar to what you are about to read, it doesn’t mean that you have a psychological problem, nor that it was only a dream.

I decided to write about sleep paralysis because I have come across many people who experienced it and didn’t know what it was. Many of them were frightened and tried, over the years, to find some explanation for what had happened. And the truth is there isn’t that much material to explain it and help you deal with such an experience. There are little studies on the subject. One of the psychologists that have been interested in sleep paralysis and have written about it is Dr. David J. Hufford. In his book, “The Terror That Comes in the Night” released in 1982, he explains the phenomenon in detail and adds that is actually experienced by many more people than we believe.

Sleep paralysis is a state of both the body and the mind, in which the body acts like it is sleeping, but the mind awakes. This state is usually experienced either right before we fall asleep, or just before we wake up in the morning. Most of the people feel terror when in the state, as they cannot move, or speak. Many of them report having hallucinations during that time and report that they feel a heavy pressure on the chest that is suffocating them. Some people remain in sleep paralysis state for seconds, but for others, it can last up to 10 – 15 minutes.

Scientists haven’t yet figured out the mechanism of the sleep paralysis. It is not known what triggers it, or how it can be stopped. It is not known if it has something to do with genetics, or what kind of activities in the brain makes it more likely to occur. Still, the folklore of a great number of cultures mentions the phenomenon under different names, but with the same descriptions. In the United States, it is described as “the old hag”. In Northern Europe, the people have the myth of the “mara” spirit. In Hungary, sleep paralysis is called “lidércnyomás”, which means “lidérc pressing”, where the lidérc is an evil spirit. In Eastern Europe the phenomenon is known under the names of “Vrachnas” (Greece) or “Strigoi” (Romania).

Dr. Hufford advices that if this is something that you experience, you can try minimizing effects by avoiding sleeping on your back, avoid losing hours of sleep for several days in a row and try to minimize the level of stress you are dealing with on a daily basis.

Most important, sleep paralysis is not a pathological mental condition if not associated with other mental symptoms. In other words, you are not crazy.

Author Emily Rapp writes editorial about son with Tay-Sachs disorder

Emily Rapp, the author of “Poster Child: A Memoir”, writes an editorial in the New York Times about her son, Ronan, who was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Tay-Sachs. Her moving text has touched the hearts of thousands of readers and has managed to raise awareness regarding the disorder in a delicate and personal manner.

“MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow”, the editorial begins. Ronan is one year and a half old and his mother will probably have to say goodbye to him before he reaches the age of three. Ronan, which means “little seal” in Irish, has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, named Tay-Sachs.

Tay-Sachs disease appears in a person at a very small age (3 to 6 months old), through the genes inherited by the parents. If both parents carry the disease gene, and pass it to the child, then he has 25% chances of developing it. However, if the child inherits the gene from only one parent, he will not develop the disease, but will be a carrier. Tay-Sachs represents the defective state of a gene on chromosome 15.  It is the lack of a protein called hexosaminidase A, that triggers the disorder. Its lack causes the gangliosides (chemicals found in the nervous system) to add up in the nerve cells, causing the symptoms to appear.

Tay-Sachs makes the body turn to a vegetative state in a matter of months to years. The symptoms include: loss of sight, hear, motor skills, decrease in mental and social skills. The brain cells die, causing dementia and the body develops in a much slower rate than in the case of a normal healthy child. In the end, the child does not react to anything, entering a coma state which ends with his death. The maximum age these children normally reach is somewhere between 3 and 5 years.

To this day, there is no cure for the disease, nor a treatment. The doctors can only try and make the patient as comfortable as possible throughout the struggle with the disease.
Emily Rapp reveals the extremely different perspective that parents of children with terminal diseases have when it comes to the future. “We will not launch our children into a bright and promising future, but see them into early graves”, her editorial says. “We will prepare to lose them and then, impossibly, to live on after that gutting loss.” Even though it is depressing to read or hear about such cases, it is parents like her that can teach us the best life lessons. “Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.”

The magic list that melts the extra pounds

On October 9, Ellie from New York Wrote:

“Dear Mara,
I can’t seem to lose weight. I am 5 foot 3 and have 160 pounds. I don’t feel comfortable at all, it’s not about how people see me anymore, it’s about how I feel inside. I want to be able and wear tight dresses and don’t feel like I’m about to pop out of the. I have tried, I think, every diet in the world. The problem is I give up eventually, because it feels way too hard. Can you help me?”

Women make a big fuss about their weight no matter how many extra pounds they have. And most of the times, it really isn’t about how other see them, but how they see themselves in the eyes of others and in the mirror, every time they have the chance. If you think of a diet as a way of losing weight, forget about it! Forget about the word “diet!” It’s a corsage that we tighten around our brain and it is only natural that at one point, it would explode.

If you have trouble changing your eating habits, or simply don’t know where to start, here is something that might help: the list that melts the extra pounds. I named it so, because it really helps regaining your ideal weight or slimming down. All you have to do is get into a relaxed state, preferably in a place that you know you won’t be bothered for at least 20 minutes. Get a pen and a piece of paper and write 30 ways that you would recommend someone to lose weight. They can be tricks, they can be exercise ideas, or they can be ways to see the process. I myself made such a list when I wanted to lose 10 pounds. And to get you started, I will give you some of the ideas I wrote down:

• I replace coffee with unsweetened tea
• I do not eat everything on my plate
• I admire myself every morning for something

Write everything that comes to your mind, even those things you believe will never work for you. Make the list like you are making it for your best friend. Then, every week, you pick 5 items that you commit to.

Celebrities have such rules they commit to, as well. Supermodel Tyra Banks avoids fried foods, LeAnn Rymes walks and Kim Cattrall cuts off the foods she craves. “I can’t have a little tiny bit of it because I want it all”, she had told access Hollywood back in May.
Get to work, girls!


If you have a question for Mara, send her an email to

We all have false memories and benefit somehow from them

Having false memories (remembering things slightly or a lot different from how they really happened) is very common for everybody, but recently, scientists have concluded that we all benefit somehow from them. According to Medical News Today, the Association for Psychological Science published in its journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, a paper on what the benefits of false memories are.

“False memories are a natural outcropping of memory in general”, psychologist Mark L. Howe says. Even though remembering things any other way but the real way they happened might be a trigger of worries, it is not necessarily a sign of an illness. All sane people have false memories and according to the scientists at Lancaster University in England, it is a part of our adaptation skills throughout the history of human kind. The incorrect memories, also referred here [in the paper published] as illusions, may have played a crucial role in our ancestor’s survival. “The animal that goes to a favorite food-foraging location and sees signs that a predator was there – but not the predator itself – may be on guard the next time”, Howe explains and continues: “But the creature that falsely remembers the predator was actually there might be even more cautious”.

Our memory is a psychological process, not a logical one. This means that there will always be errors in the perceiving, encoding and stocking the information we get from the external factors. Its main purpose is “to extract meaning from experience” and the illusions help that process. However, an excess of false memories can raise the suspicion of a mental illness, which must be brought before a doctor in order to examine it and set a diagnosis, if necessary.
The point that the study wants to make is that “just because a memory is false doesn’t make it bad”. False memories have the same impact on our behavior as real memories, as our brain does not distinguish between them. Thus, they could enhance our self-esteem, our level of tolerating some actions that we falsely remember as “not so bad”, our social skills and so on. False memories can also help in problem solving and in getting a better perspective on past events.

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