Dr. Turer’s Non-Negotiables for Happiness & Balance

By Dr. Ellyn Turer — October 22, 2018 — There are 5 actionable & non-negotiable things I believe everyone can do to start feeling happier today. I call them non-negotiables because there is no negotiating out of doing them. I have been both actively pursuing and fascinated with happiness and balance for a very long time. After seeing patients for over a decade, I have consistently observed that incorporating the following 5 things in your life will bring you an undeniable sense of happiness:


  1. Aim for a minimum of 3 days per week. Ideally, get between 4-6 good work-outs in each week. I went to a conference on mind-body medicine a few years ago. Nearly every presenter made it very clear that we need to be telling our patients to exercise for the undeniable mental health benefits. Exercise will always out you in a better mood!


  1. Aim for a minimum of 3 times per week. Anything is better than nothing. Try to get at least 10 minutes, but even 3 minutes will still prove beneficial. There is a cumulative effect that comes with meditation. The longer you practice meditation throughout the course of your life, the better you’ll feel. I have reviewed countless meditation apps. My #1 choice is headspace. I even use headspace myself!

Other excellent meditation apps include: Calm & Buddhify. Meditation is so good for you! It helps decrease your overall level of reactivity to everyday stressors, so you ultimately feel less stressed. It literally makes no sense not to meditate. It took me years to become a regular meditator and even today my practice is not perfect. However, it  has become a regular part of my weekly routine and I’m better for it. As a side note, I also meditated throughout my pregnancy and I’ve been told I have a baby Buddha.

Eat Clean

Eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense food. What we consume has a direct impact on both our physiological and psychological well-being. Numerous foods have been linked to decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some examples of these foods include, but are not limited to: blueberries, salmon, walnuts, Brazil nuts (one every other day), oranges, dark chocolate, asparagus, avocado, curcumin, & chamomile tea (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6). Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t get your Baked & Wired Fix on from time to time, but overall lets treat our minds and bodies better by making cleaner food choices.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Ahhhhh…sleep! It’s essential to make getting quality restful sleep a priority.  Aim to go to bed around the same time at night and wake up around the same time every morning. Here’s the magic number: 7.5. Remember it. Dan Buettner, a resident expert in happiness and longevity, states that the happiest people in the world get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night (7). So, let’s make that a goal. Sure, you can function on less, but who wants to merely be able to function. There’s a huge difference between existing and living. Getting quality sleep will help you really LIVE. In addition, lack of sleep affects your brain’s capacity to control emotion. The more well-rested you are, the better equipped you will be to handle everyday stress. Sleep is medicine. Make it a priority.

Schedule at least 1 meaningful social activity every week.

  1. As a society we are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other. You’re checking Instagram while watching Bachelor in Paradise while shopping online (or maybe that’s just me ). Happy people feel connected to others. One day a week may seem low for some and high for others, but it’s so important. I make a point to schedule at least one activity with a friend every week.

You have so much more control over how you think and feel than you ever realized! If you regularly incorporate these non-negotiables in your life, you will be happier. I know it.

Let’s do this! Happiness is a choice. Let’s make the choice together.


1.) Delub, E.  (2015, November 16). Nutritional Psychiatry: Your brain on food.

Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

2.) Esmaily, H., Sahebkar, A., Iranshahi, M. et al. Chin. J. Integr. Med. (2015) 21: 332. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11655-015-2160-z

3.) Latif, R. &  Sunni A. A.  (2014). Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; A controlled clinical Study.  International Journal of Health Science, 8(4), 393-401. Retrieved from:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350893/

4.) Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-Regulated Anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology2013, 701967. Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/701967

5.) Mao, J. J., Xie, S. X., Keefe, J. R., Soeller, I., Li, Q. S., & Amsterdam, J. (2016). Long-term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology23(14), 1735–1742.  Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2016.10.012

6.) Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-Regulated Anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology2013, 701967. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/701967

7.) Buettner, D. (2017, October 17).  9 Questions for Dan Buettner: Happiness lessons from the happiest places in the world.  Retrieved from: https://www.bluezones.com/2017/10/happiness-lessons-from-happiest-countries-and-cities-in-the-world/). 

A Three-Year-Old’s Wisdom

tea-381235_1280February 2015—Several weeks ago, I gave a talk to parents of obese children on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 25 minutes into the talk a sweet 3-year-old girl with medium-brown hair in pigtails quietly walked into the room and took a seat next to her mother. Moments prior to her entrance, I had presented the following question to the parents: “What kinds of things do you do to relax when you feel stressed?” The audience avoided eye contact with me, looked around the room and pretended that they needed to check their Blackberrys at that exact moment all in effort to avoid answering my question.

I decided to ask the question again…silence.

As I continued to survey the room, my eyes slowly met with those of the 3-year-old girl. I looked at this little girl in pigtails and asked for her name…“Lyla,” she answered shyly. I proceeded to ask Lyla if she ever feels stressed? She looked directly at me with bright brown eyes and answered my question with ease… “Definitely!” she proclaimed. It took me a moment to grasp my head around the fact that someone so young could even begin to understand what it meant to feel stressed.

I then asked Lyla the same question that I asked the parents moments prior to Lyla’s seemingly inconspicuous entrance…“What kind of things to you like to do when you feel stressed,” I asked. Without hesitation, Lyla quickly, with a matter-of-fact tone answered, “I just put on my pink dress.” So simple. Just to clarify, I asked “So all you need to do when you feel stress is put on your pink dress and all of your stress melts away?” She answered softly, yet with genuine confidence, “Yeah, I just put on my pink dress.”

This innocent exchange got me thinking…where is my pink dress? Perhaps, finding a reliable way to relax is easier than we think. Maybe we are trying too hard to relax. When Lyla talked about her pink dress, she breathed diaphragmatically without intention. It appeared that even thinking about this dress served to naturally induce a relaxation response for this little girl.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you (regardless of gender) go out and buy a pink dress. What I do suggest is to take about 10 minutes to sit down and think about an item or activity that you find relaxing. Think about your senses: whether it’s wrapping yourself up in a warm fuzzy blanket, spritzing on your favorite perfume or cologne so you can smell it throughout the day, listening to a song that you find soothing, taking a sip of hot or iced tea, petting your dog or cat, holding a memento (i.e., a favorite photo, a sentimental object), notice how both your mind and body feel as you engage in any of the above-noted activities.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, the more our society increases its desired, unrealistically fast pace, the more important it becomes for you to take a moment and breathe. The items and activities mentioned above oftentimes serve as “triggers.” Implementing a simple, yet meaningful object or activity into your daily routine may serve to naturally induce a relaxation response with little to no effort.

Have a great month & as always don’t forget to breathe!

The Mind Body Minute with Dr. Ellyn L. Turer

Psychologist DC-Mind Body Minute with Dr Ellyn TurerJanuary, 2015 — STRESS. A word in which we are all too familiar. It seems as if the pace of our society becomes quicker with each passing moment, ultimately causing each of us to experience unnaturally high levels of stress on a regular basis. Routine exposure to such high levels of stress produces physiological and psychological reactions. The development of a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression are just a few examples of the mental and physical effects of stress on the human body.

Further, the society in which we live is saturated with stress. It is also one enamored with the “quick fix.” Living in a quick-fix society ultimately serves to prevent one from learning how to solve issues long-term. Thus, we get further drawn into a vicious cycle where we experience stress, look for a quick fix, and find short-term relief, only to find ourselves inundated with stress once again. Stress is like driving your car in the driveway, placing the car in park and pressing on the accelerator. After a while, the car will overheat. Our bodies work in a similar manner because we too have breakdown due to stress.

Few people have truly effective ways to handle stress. Some people do things to alleviate the symptoms of stress, yet never actually work on the problem itself. Somewhere along the line we stopped trusting ourselves and our natural ability to decrease feelings of stress. There is no better time than the present to start rebuilding that trust.

As each new life begins with a single breath, so too will this journey aimed to help each of us live more satisfying, stress-reducing lifestyles. Two words…just breathe. It seems too simple. However, learning how to breathe properly actually serves to induce a relaxation response in our bodies. Diaphragmatic breathing occurs when you inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Imagine that you are blowing out a candle as you exhale through your mouth. Close your eyes and continue to breath in this fashion for three to five minutes. Practice this relaxation technique at least one to two times daily. The more you practice, the easier it will become for you to relax your mind and body. Once you have taken your first diaphragmatic breath, you have officially embarked on this stress-reducing journey.

Have a wonderful month and please don’t forget to breathe!

Soothe Your Mind to Heal Your Body

Soothe your mind to heal your bodyNovember 16, 2014 — By Dr. Ellyn L. Turer, Psy.D. — I obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology to work with individuals diagnosed with an illness or injury as well as their families to help cope with the emotional/mental ramifications of having an illness/injury or being involved with such an individual. Throughout the course of the six years it took to officially become “Dr. Turer,” the toxic effect that stress has on the human body became increasingly apparent.

In a hospital setting, it is not uncommon to receive a consult to see a patient reporting numerous physical symptoms (e.g., stomach pain, headache, difficulty sleeping, high blood pressure, etc.) for which all potential medical explanations/diagnoses have been explored.

I want to emphasize that I am in no way suggesting that the reported physical symptoms of such a patient are not real. On the contrary, these symptoms are quite real and frequently act to negatively infiltrate into every aspect of that individual’s life.

Several years ago during my residency, the chief psychologist would routinely make the following statement: “When the mind suffers, the body cries out.” This statement could not hold more truth when talking about the intricate connection between the mind and body. As such, it appears that both a direct as well as inverse relationship can exist between the two. The greater the mental/emotional burden one carries, the greater the physical/somatic burden one carries as well. In like manner, when the mind makes efforts to avoid/ignore felt emotions, the body may react through the manifestation of physical symptoms.

Studies indicate that those suffering from various painful conditions are likely to find a significant reduction in pain as well as the need for medication simply by attending just one 90-minute yoga class a week for three months. The regular practice of yoga has also been proven to decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and insomnia, improve heart health and fertility, and strengthen immune function.

*It is of great importance to get clearance from your primary care physician prior to engaging in the above-noted exercise.

Of course, yoga is not for everyone! As such, here are several additional effective mind-body healing techniques:

(1) Listen to relaxing/slow tempo music. Researchers suggest that tuning into approximately 30 minutes of classical music may serve to evoke soothing and relaxing effects equivalent to taking an anxiolytic/antianxiety agent.

(2) Write for approximately 10 minutes each day about stressful events and the feelings they elicit. You will be amazed at the cathartic effects of putting your thoughts and emotions onto paper.

(3) As mentioned in my April article on stress reduction…Don’t forget to breathe!

–Ellyn L. Turer, Psy.D.