Dealing with depression can be a lifelong battle that inhibits many wonderful people from living their best life. Break the mold now by learning the best ways to ease the discomfort, so you can move forward. While many people seek professional help, sometimes just learning simple tips can be a lifesaver. To learn more about such tips, we conducted an interview with Dr. Cheri McDonald, PhD, LMFT, an expert on complex trauma and PTSD (bio below).
1. What is depression?
A shortcut definition for depression is anger turned inward and unresolved grief. Depression is pervasive and can range from mild to severe. Studies indicate, depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among individuals ages 15-44 and ranks the top 3 challenges along with family crisis and stress. (reference)
A person can have a one-time episode or chronically suffer. When depression persists a range of behavioral and physical symptoms can manifest and include, but not limited to reduced interest in activities, sleep disturbances, loss or increase of appetite showing up in weight loss or gain, moodiness, fatigue, loss of focus and concentrations, poor self-esteem, negative and distorted thoughts and suicide thoughts. There are many possible causes, which may explain why most people can relate to ‘depression’. Most everyone can say they have experienced some level of feelings of sadness or sense of loss in their lifetime. Some sited causes are any one or combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress.
If the depression persists and impacts a person’s day to day functioning, it can be considered a
Recent research is surfacing that depression can cause changes in brain’s wiring and neural pathways.
2. How can someone stay motivated while depressed?
Motivation may be the most difficult hurtle as the lacking it is one of the symptoms of depression. The level of motivation can be directly related to how depressed you are feeling. It can feel like an uphill battle when you encumbered with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue and lose interest in most any interest.
The first step is to acknowledge where you are at, if you have hit bottom, own it. This accountability is strengthening in and of itself, as looking your enemy in the eye and getting to know the pit falls creates an advantage in combatting the obstacle of loss of drive.
The second step is to commit to a consistent practice of self-care that includes reflection on the miracle and loving creation you are and identify one purpose for the day to show up. This does take effort and commitment to show up despite ‘how you feel in the moment.’ As you recognize the combat with the obstacle of resistance, start small and build up, even if you create a five-minute mindfulness moment. Out of small things come greatness!
Seek out resources that encourage positive motivating energy such as, uplifting music, affirming podcasts and YouTubes video and learning from good books. Depression creates distorted thinking, hence you may hear negative ‘whisperings from within.’ Hear, reading and then saying positive words and vibration can open the clogged neural pathways and change the way of you thinking—again, with consistent practice and effort.
Getting your body in motion through binary movement is a powerful way to get your creative imagination opened and percolating. Neuroscience is showing how binary movement opens the pathways of the brain, clearing the cobwebs of paralysis and activating the mind, body and heart into action. A good walk is all that it takes.” Across the board, creative levels were consistently and significantly highly for those walking compared to those sitting.” (https://news.stanford.edu/2014/04/24/walking-vs-sitting-042414/) I suggest taking a walk with nature to be surrounded by life and vitality.
You may discover the lack of motivation is caused by something other than the depression. It may be more situational such as coping with an issue that is seems unresolvable or an experience that had dinged your self-confidence. Again, as the creative imagination opens, new epiphanies occur than can lead to insights and hope again.
If you find that you are struggling to find the motivation to do anything, even the five-minute mindfulness exercise, do not berate yourself. You have set an intention and that is doing something and quite a lot. Do what you can do and let go of any specific expectations. Rather remind yourself, you are in the process and breathe. Breath is the flow of life so start with a first new breath! Allow that to be good enough!
This may seem hard at first, but persistence will create the growing sense of motivation, and you will find that over time it becomes easier and the synergy will return.
3. How can tapping help a depressed person?
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is involves tapping with your hands-on specific areas of the body, known as meridian points, that correspond to acupuncture points. The goal is to open the meridian pathways that attack the irrational and distorted beliefs and creates a positive cognition to lift spirits. The belief is this will immediately alleviate the power of the negative thinking by unblocking energy flow as it is thought that the blocking of energy from flowing through the body is the cause of negative energy. Research has found ample evidence to support that EFT does indeed reduce feelings of depression, including one study calculating that “there was a ‘weighted mean’ reduction in depression symptoms by a whopping 41%.” (https://www.thetappingsolution.com/blog/research-proves-eft-effective-treatment-depression/)
4. How can reading alleviate depression? What should a depressed person mainly read?
Books offers a stabilizing force in all therapeutic processes as an agent of relief. Books offer us a community of support, temporary escape and an open horizon of new insights, paradigms, resolutions and future vision.
According to JJ Bola, the poet and author of No Place to Call Home, “the world can get you so down you feel like you’re the only person going through what you’re going through. But then you read and you realize that you are not alone; that if someone else has gone through it and survived then you are not alone; that if someone else has gone through it and survived, then maybe you can, too.” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/oct/26/just-how-helpful-is-reading-for-depression)
As shared in this reflection, reading offers comfort as the stories offer companionship that can lift your mood as their tales encases hope and healing. Many clients share that they come away from a good story with a reminder that ‘this too shall pass’ and there can be a silver lining to the dark time. Again, books are an adjunct for alleviating depression not to be substituted for medical and professional assistance when appropriate.
There are a wide range of books to choose from to lift your mood. Much of this is an individual choice. The parameters to be conscientious off include yet not limited to are:
1-self-help books offer great psychoeducation; tools and insight, with this comes renewed hope
2-autobiographies and biographies—learning from someone who has been there and risen from the rubble may be the most inspiring modeling and offering a belief that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.
3-fiction- there are great creative stories from the imaginations of authors have lived through their dark times and you can find companionship in their characters, momentum from their journeys and hope in maneuvering through their stories.
4-scriptures—turning to the holy scriptures offers an eternal perspective. The stories in these sacred pages of filled with the law of opposition, the cycles of pride and prosperity and the guidance of embracing the power of love. Here, clients share they are reminded of concepts such as, faith, hope and charity.
5-personal journal—reading and reflecting on your own stories previously written by your hand. This reminder can be the most endearing and powerful healing agent as you reflect on the happy and the trying times you persevered through before. You can reflect on the truth of your resilience, tenacity and how you know more than you know you know.
5. How can meditation help in managing stress and anxiety?
Western medicine offers a variety of medications for treating depression, known as antidepressants. These include a variety of options such as, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), atypical antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These medications work to impact the chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain which affect emotions and mood. Adjustment in brain chemistry can lift the sense of despair.
Again, as we are more than our body, it’s important to remember the depression experienced may not be caused by a chemical imbalance only, or at all. Depression is often rooted in the complexity of biology, psychology and social challenges that medication cannot touch.
Antidepressants can be helpful when a person struggles with severe depression. It just isn’t the cure all, its an adjunct and bridge to a long-term solution. “As time goes on, some people who respond initially to medication can slip back into depression, as can those who stop taking the medication.”(https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/antidepressant-medication.htm)
The challenge of medication is antidepressant oft times come with side effect that interfere or negatively impact a person’s recovery, in just another way. It’s important to process and weigh out the pros and cons of their use, just as all modalities and tools.
It my experience that individuals whose depression is mild or moderate, prefer the self-caring options and find they are just as or more effective as medication, without the side-effects.
Again, the use of medication is meant to be use in conjunction with psychotherapy, life strategy changes and self-care to assure the root cause and unresolved grief is processed and full healing occurs.
6. How can writing improve mode? What should a depressed person focus on writing?
Writing is one of the first modalities I introduce in the therapy room. I have found there to be no greater healing element for all ailments, as the greatest healer is within us, that is, from the inside out versus the outside in.
In an interview with Michael Reagan, he shares his insight that
support this paradigm for healing, Reagan offers, “I tell people, you know, I wrote a book. You don’t have to write a book, but…I think that when you write the story yourself, you are more honest, and it flushes things out. In my book, on the outside looking in, when I was writing about the sexual assault and trying to explain it, I mean, I must have rewritten that chapter 20 times. Because you just don’t want to say it and it’s like a breakthrough when you finally say, ‘look what happened.’ Writing a story to yourself is a therapeutic way of really working through it yourself.” (reference)
As Reagan passionately and adamantly shares, writing offers great empowerment in navigating your course of healing, which build self-confidence and encourages personal maturation through the deep core of the underlying losses and pain.
Writing offers an opportunity to witness an evolving and new perspective surfacing from the creative imaginative resources from within. This opens avenues for self-realization, insight on how to deal with hard things and how that may have already occurred in the past. As hope and awareness increases, a sense of well-being surfaces and mood can lift. Be tapping into the creative flow resources broaden and happiness is experienced, which can lead to reaching desired goals and happy healing.
In a nutshell, keeping a daily journal can lead to better thinking and open and honest communicating, promoting healing.
7. How can reading affirmation statements combat self-defeating thoughts?
Affirmations offer the brain a good work out for optimal functioning and optimistic thinking for long-term health, similar to hitting the gym to work-out the muscles of your body. Affirmations builds positive cognition that, in turn, stimulates your neural activity. A byproduct of stimulation to the brain is the production and release of natural chemicals your brain and body need in order to function properly BE happy. Again, these hormones lift the mood and produce the “feel-good” emotions.
A surge in confidence, self-esteem, and sense of accomplishment are all psychological benefits which are possible through reading affirmations. Experiencing these positive emotions is akin to writing your own prescription for success. People with high levels of confidence, self- esteem, and the ability to accomplish things have greater happiness or overall satisfaction than those who do not consistently practice self-affirming rituals.
Another psychological benefit of reading and reciting affirmations is that you can purge the negative cognition swimming in the recesses of your mind and thereby reduce their toxicity and impact on your overall health. Transferring the ‘stickin’thinkin’’ from the records of your brain out and inserting positive truths can lead to life-altering changes. As this exercise of embracing affirmations is repeated, a person is increasingly able to create emotionally distance from the intensity of the despair of depression. This, in turn, creates a sense of objectivity, which can evolve into a new perspective and elevate the mood. With greater objectivity, you may find it easier to come up with achievable solutions and breakthrough for life altering chances.
Positive psychology may have sprung from sensing the need to bring the positive to the surface as an effective tool for elevating mood. The research is surfacing as, “several studies have shown that increased positive emotions are a promising way of fighting depressive symptoms. Lightsey (1994) showed that positive cognition could predict future happiness and depression, and Wood and colleagues (2008) found that practicing gratitude improved well-being and prevented individuals from experiencing depression.”(https://positivepsychology.com/positive-psychology-depression/).
It’s exciting to see the new insight to the human psyche surfacing where evidence of the neuroplasticity of the brain open for true transformation. Affirmations are one means to reprograming the subconscious mind and encourage a person to alter the negative belief toward positive perspective one’s self or about the world and our place within it. They can alter the reality to be what is wanted, as they challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts and help to mitigate the effects of depression.
8. How can sleep, exercise, and eating healthy help in combating depression?
“There is a very strong association between sleep disturbance and major depression, lite link between the two is so fundamental that some researchers have suggested that a diagnosis of depression in the absence of sleep complaints should be made with caution.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181883/)
Typically, a person requires 6-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Good sleep can be a challenge when a person is struggling with depression. Insomnia and early morning waking are symptoms many people with depression combat. Obviously, this can create a dilemma as this sleep deprivation can lead to increasing risk of developing or exasperating depression and depression impacts the ability to get through a good night’s sleep.
Making a point to prioritize your life where opportunities for good sleep is imperative. Good sleeping hygiene techniques can include going to bed and waking up the same time every day for routine and body memory; shutting down stimuli at bedtime especially, electronics; engaging in a relaxing activity to sooth and transition to another state; avoiding food and drink which interfere with sleep, such as, caffeine and alcohol are some examples.
It’s common for a person who is stressed, fatigued, and mentally “down” to also be under-exercised, undernourished, and under-rested. Unfortunately, the failure to engage in self-care also keeps the struggle to feel good alive. Whereas, research demonstrates that exercise is one means of improving our general
Its best to pick an exercise routine you will keep on doing. The recommended time to invest in a regiment is a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes a day and no less than, three days a week.
Nutrition can also impact depression, it’s onset, exasperation or relief. It’s not uncommon for a person’s food patterns which precede depression to mimic the other habits of someone struggling with low mood. Such patterns include missing meals, poor or exceeding appetite, and craving of sweets. It has also shown that individuals who have a very low carbohydrate diet are at a risk of depression as it impacts brain chemistry which promotes feeling of well-being.
Vitamin deficiencies are also cited by some studies to increase the likelihood for depression compared to normal individuals. Vitamins play an important role in neurotransmitter metabolism. Deficiency in folic acid minerals has also been shown to cause change in personality and depression.
Studies are surfacing now that demonstrate a direct correlation that attending to good nutrition to alleviating depression .“There’s fresh evidence that eating a healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits highly processed foods, can help reduce symptoms of depression.” (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/10/09/768665411/changing-your-diet-can-help-tamp-down-depression-boost-mood)
As you can see, proper nutrition plays a significant role in warding of depression and overall mood.
9. If depression gets trapped in the cells of the body, how can one get rid of depression in this case?
As a holistic orient psychotherapist who works from the mind, body and spirit perspective, I am most excited about the new discoveries science it bringing to the forefront for the treatment of
There’s some belief that these cellular memories can surface through recurring dreams or nightmares, stray thoughts and impression and suppressed emotions rising from the subconscious mind. When the unresolved memories cannot remain dormant, they may bubble up in displaced emotions. If remains unaddressed, they can manifest into mental distress such as, depression.
Since knowledge is power, self-knowledge is the key to self-power. This is the premise of the work that I do, it is the philosophy of these modalities to address the unresolved grief stored in the cells of our body, so that the individual can release these memories from the body for complete and full healing. With the understanding of the true intentions come to the forefront of the consciousness what is truly wanted, needed and intended manifests and restoring the individual to a better mood state.
One therapeutic modality I use which supports my philosophy is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (IEMDR), as its premise is how vital to address all residual tension in the body to assure the full release of unresolved thoughts behind the depression. “This finding has been supported by independent studies of memory indicating that when a person is negatively affected by trauma, information about the traumatic event is stored in body memory (motoric memory), rather than narrative memory, and retains the negative emotions and physical sensations of the original event. When that information is processed, however, it can then move to narrative (or verbalizable) memory and the body sensations and negative feelings associated with it disappear.” (https://www.emdria.org/page/120)
Additional studies such as more recent research in mice by JNeurosci, may off support for this philosophy, “Physical manifestations of negative memories in the hippocampus could underlie cognitive symptoms of depression…Inhibiting these manifestations could be a future treatment route.” (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190812130856.htm)
This research demonstrates how neurons, known as engrams, found in the hippocampus may be involved in the development of depression. It is suggested the when these engrams are activated after an experience, their produces an impaired recall of positive memories and increase in the negative memories. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324470)
10. What is the relationship between drinking water and depression?
As we know, the main ingredient that makes up the human body is water. The average percentage cited is sixty. To understand the correlation between water depletion and depression, it’s helps to note that the heart and the brain are 73 percent water. We have already discussed the impact brain chemistry, conditioning due to unresolved loss and pain play in the development of depression. As part of the holistic view, the heart plays a significant role in the state of happiness. The number one cause of death is due to a broken heart, known as heart failure in one form or another. Then there is plasma, which carries blood cell, nutrients and hormones throughout the body, including to the brain and heart to maintain the body. Plasma is 90 percent water. The lack of water means lack of efficiency and ability to keep the body functioning all around. In fact, when dehydration occurs the brain’s neurotransmitter functioning is impacted resulting in dehydration Dehydration reduces serotonin level, which creates a decline in mood, concentration and ability to think positively.
The heart is the life of the soul, and to live and thrive fully the body needs our cells to receive and give love. The power of love is an energy source. As you witness people loving you can notice a vibrance of health radiating from them.
Dr, Masaru Emoto studied the relationship of water to the health of the body holistically. In his book “The Hidden Messages in Water” he offers insight to how the water in our bodies affected by our words, thoughts and actions. His studies allege that water carries and records information, forms impressions and has memory. And has shown by, “speaking positively or negatively to the water when frozen, will either crystallize into something beautiful or some ugly image which can be viewed under a microscope.
So, the message from water has the potential to transform our worlds view. Therefore, water teaches us the delicacy of the human condition and the impact that love and gratitude can have on us and the world.”
This is another way of respecting the impact water has on our health and well-being. Well hydrated and positive loving feelings from the heart, can lead to higher quality, vibration and patterns with the water for keeping a healthier body. Water can accentuate our feelings of love. Hence, be a great catalyst for lifting the mood overall.
11. How can remembering our purpose in life tackle depression?
Again, depression’s distortion of thought offers no foresight. Depression causes a person to focus on the past, robbing one of the moments and blinding them of any vision of the future.
With the fast-paced world, internet access and social media frenzy, its easy for a person to become encased with the importance of self to the point of self-absorption and disconnected to the reality of life. This in turn, takes the visual perception away from seeking for a future with a purpose. We are so focused on where we are now compared to what we hear and see from social medial, we lose perspective of what we can aspire to BE-come in the future. This feeds right into depressive thinking and then impacts our
“More and more research is coming out that supports this, noting how a strong sense of purpose in life leads to better
12. How do you see depression treatment development in the next 5-years?
As depression is likely to hit everyone sometime in their life span, even if simply situationally due to a stressful period in their life, I believe it will be a primary area of study of the next 5-years as it is today. The greatest innovative studies I’ve seen come forward is from the neuroscience research, as it has greatly improved our understanding of the neurobiology of depression.
The other area of impact has been in the alternative holistic arenas that include the mind body spirit impact in defining and treating depression. I believe these will continue and act a catalyst in accelerating the research moving forward.
Both these perspective offer “real-world” situation studies which has the potential to yield insights into the genetic, molecular, cellular, and neuroanatomical bases of depression.
It is my belief that this multi-level paradigm expands the definition of depression and it becomes more and more accepting to talk about, share about and address as a person and as a society. As it breaks the limitations of being labeled an aberration and embraced as a dis-ease we all may encounter in life, it will become more and more acceptable to explore, research and fight for answers, help and potential cure.
13. Are there any material (i.e. books, DVDs, websites) you would propose to those suffering from depression?
When is comes to materials to recommend for those suffering from depression, I gravitate to a broad range of choice. As intimate and individualistic depression is to the sufferer, so is the material that will touch their heart and resonate with the pain they are struggling with in the moment.
I first encourage a person to search the medium they are more prone to embrace ad more inclined to learn from, whether it be, reading, watching or listening.
My favorite are life stories of those who have experienced the dark nights and journeyed through the uncertainties, crossed their transformational bridge to come into the light of joy and peace they thought was lost forever.
Some of the books that have touched me and my clientele in enlightening ways, include yet not limited to biographies such as:
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl-
This addresses the value of purpose in combatting depression. Quoting Viktor. ‘Those who have a “why” to live, can bear with almost any “how”.”
Profound Healing by Cheryl Canfield She shares her story of survival from cancer, and how her mental perspective and inside out action led to her healing in 12 steps.
Dying to wake up by Paul Perry and Rajiv Parti Here, Dr Parti demonstrates the interplay of covert depression plays on life perspective, health and vision
Self-help books that offer hand on tools the person can easily grasp and add to their day to day routines already in place. I encourage moving forward in small steps only to assure success. Some examples include
Feeling Good by David Burns is an oldie yet goodie, as it is a great staple for understanding depression and learning where you stand with it.
Stick with it- Sean Young PhD and You are not your brain Jeffrey Schwartz md
Address actionable steps in combating the ‘stuckedness’ in which depression created and learning how the brain to maneuver out of it.
You can Heal yourself by Louise Hayes. He teaches how our thoughts directly impact our emotions and our physical health and visa versus—the interplay of the mind, body and spirit.
Technology today offers an unending variety of choices for direction insight and tools for healing. I follow the same train of thinking here as I do for the books. Look through what is streaming and seek insight for the mind, the body and spirit.
Again, I am an advocate of learning from others- as with reading the life journeys of those who took root, fought to rebound and the rose from the grave of despair- seek the same from the DVDs you preview- life stories of triumph over the despair.
The addition DVD’s have to offer is the visual. I would search out how to move the body to add life to it and expel the misery from it. Topics could include, yoga, meditation as well as learning new skills and talents.
Also, DVDs are a great way to tap into music and sound therapies such as, binary music which provides healing to the neuropaths and offers enjoyment.
I’d look for websites that offer insight on the topic of depression, updated self-help articles and recent research studies and even blogs of real-life individual stories that parallel your story and work as a roadmap on how to rise above the depression. Some suggestions include About.com or Suite 101.
There are also some great apps that work to monitor emotions.
One of the best apps I recommend is form the Awesome.one company. Here you can monitor your mood and get rewarded for rising to the joy.
Yet at the end to the day, the above resources are only as good as the partaker puts the newfound knowledge to work. Change comes through experience. If you are going to read, listen and watch my challenge to you is to take accountability for the knowledge gained and take action…take action now.
14. What recommendations would you like to give those suffering from depression?
Depression being so widespread, may be an indication that we are all susceptible to it. And by being open to experience and express all the emotions available it most healthy. Discerning what is a natural flow of the dance between experience and emotion and the distances emotional reaction to a past experience can actually get foggy in the day to day trek in life.
To remain conscious of which is which, it’s vital to be in alignment with what created joy and peace, a this is best manifested in the moment. Hence, the goal is to seek to be present.
Starting in the moment is a step all of us can do. Then as neuroscience is supporting, the begin taking small steps, again, out of small things come great ones.
The mind, body and spirit respond well to one small step at a time- tone sure consistent prescribe and endurance for continuous effort.
It has been taught by several of my own coaches and mentors that the greater put willingness to be personally vulnerable to more powerful and confident we will be. This step opens us to the support of a community, who can embrace us with love and feedback on how to keep on going.
A community can offer refreshing energy, insight and the strength of many to lean on. Hence, when you are down, they can pull you up, and in turn, when another is down, we can raise another up – this reciprocal dynamic is the sealing element of evolving out of despair, as we lose ourselves in the service of another.
This is effective as this is about taking action. Depression is a dis-ease of turning inward and ruminated the negative cognitions from distorted thingy- as we extract ourselves from these dark thoughts by pole vaulting into action- serving another we become open to new thought , perspective, opening the way for renewed hope that is reinforced by the kind and love from the gratitude of the receiver.
As we start with the first step, open our arms to another – just as we are in the money- the depression will lift.
The state – the vibration- the energy -the focus- whatever you want to call it, of depression cannot maintain itself in an environment of hope, gratitude and loving reciprocity.
Again, my recommendation is to stand up, take stock of where you are at and own it.
Then determine the first smalls two to take. Let each small step build on one another, Be courageous and convicted in being open and vulnerable to a support system. Open your heart to lean in versus away from another. Then as you are on your own trek look for the small ways to give to another as well.
Embrace the power of reciprocity and bathe in the power of love- the ultimate Achilles heel to depression.
My mission in my profession and my purpose in life is to encourage all of us, starting with myself to seek to live life by the inspiration from the quiet whisperings from within. As life is bound by the law of opposition, it is necessary to take time to reflect on the impact of the hard knocks then to work to #breakfree from the accumulation of the carbon residual ( which may be depression) so the brilliance of the pure diamond can shine your light to the world.
ABOUT DR. CHERI MCDONALD
Dr Cheri McDonald, PhD, LMFT and life mastery coach has over 30 years of experience and offers enriched insights to dealing with the intricate challenges of complex trauma and PTSD. Dr. McDonald is a bestselling author of two books: Whispering From Within – Creating and Achieving Your Ideal Self and Heal Your Trauma, Heal Your Marriage: 7 Steps to Root Rebound and Rise. She is also the founder of the #BreakFree Movement. She received her B.S. at Brigham Young University in Family Sciences, M.S. at California Lutheran University in Marriage and Family Therapy and completed her formal education with a Doctorate degree in Philosophy of Clinical Hypnotherapy at Pacific University. Learn more at: http://www.askdrcheri.com and https://aplace2turn.com.
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