The Future of Mental Health with Dr. Srini Pillay (Episode 200)

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The Future of Mental Health with Dr. Srini Pillay (Episode 200)

The future of mental health is based in science but also recognizes realities beyond perception, with innovative uses of technology to help us realize our full human potential.
Mental health can be approached differently by connecting brain science with psychology. Dr. Srini Pillay joins Dr. Doni to talk about how we can achieve better mental health by focusing on relationships, purpose, vitality, and realizing full human potential.

In today’s episode I’m really excited to introduce you to Dr. Srini Pillay. He is the Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of Reulay, a digital therapeutics company. As a Harvard trained psychiatrist and author of “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try,” he is known for pushing boundaries and looking at mental health care differently.

I have a longstanding interest in researching and writing about the effects of stress on humans, and how we can help people recover from those effects. The conventional medical system often focuses on pharmaceuticals, but more people want other ways to help themselves navigate life stresses and experience wellness. 

This is why I’m excited to speak with Dr. Pillay. As both a psychiatrist and a person, he also looks at things differently to promote healing and offer guidance navigating our inner world.

A Modern Approach to Mental Health

Dr. Pillay sees himself as an integrationist. He values his medical training, having run McLean Hospital’s anxiety clinic and done years of brain imaging research. This put him in a position to connect brain science with human psychology. His psychiatry training covered many modalities – meds, cognitive therapy, personal therapy, psychodynamics – giving him a broad perspective.

He says his spiritual practices of meditation and “martinis” revealed consciousness levels beyond perceptual awareness. So in healing, he doesn’t rely solely on what we can see biologically. 

Over 60% of reality is imperceptible – dark energy, dark matter. Just as the 5 senses don’t fully explain the world, healing shouldn’t be limited to mainstream science. The placebo effect, for example, teaches us so much about what is possible beyond our perception.

Supporting patients to connect with themselves and to flourish in life is what Srini believes is possible. He emphasizes that healthy longevity depends on relationships, purpose, and vitality. That it’s not just about living longer, but with more enjoyment. A doctor should ask about a person’s relationships, which determine longevity yet are rarely addressed. 

We must question the mainstream and help people reconnect with their vital being.

Cognitive Strategies to Move from Anxiety to Calm (CIRCA)

When people ask how to handle anxiety, Dr. Pillay shares practical cognitive tools. His “CIRCA” method moves blood from the anxious amygdala to the calmer prefrontal cortex.

C: Chunking into pieces

The “C” in CIRCA stands for “chunking”: taking overwhelming responsibilities and deliberately breaking them into bite-sized pieces that feel manageable. This may entail implementing better organizational systems, gathering resources, brainstorming strategy, or perhaps delegating certain tasks to others. 

The goal is reducing overwhelm in the nervous system into step-wise increments summoning forward movement. Each completed small step creates confidence and momentum.

I: Ignoring mental chatter

The “I” is for ignoring excessive mental chatter through mindfulness meditation. This involves consciously returning attention again and again to sensation-based anchor points like the breath whenever the mind wanders. 

Studies confirm practices concentrating awareness on immediate somatic experience decrease anxiety and emotional reactivity by quieting the brain’s fear hub – the amygdala. Regular mindfulness meditation also correlates to enhanced immune function.

By repeatedly interrupting addiction to eddying thoughts, we strengthen the muscle of present moment observer consciousness. Gradually this permeates daily life, liberating us from identification with stressful narratives. 

From this compassionate witness space, we become capable of consciously choosing where to allocate attention and energy rather than default reactive emotional entanglement.

We remember we are MORE than a bundle of automatic stimulus response patterns rooted in evolutionary biology or childhood conditioning. This embodied realization immobilizes negative thought loops, dissolves illusion, and completely transforms life experience.

R: Reality Check

The “R” is for reality check. When challenging events occur that tempt us to over-identify as victims or slide down slopes of pessimism, we consciously pause to affirm ‘this too shall pass’ even during darkest nights of the soul. 

Maintaining spiritual perspective focused on eternal rather than temporal reality keeps us grounded in faith, fortified by the positive expectations of visionaries, buoyed by the momentum of incremental daily progress, and acknowledging the indefatigable human spirit’s tenacity to overcome. 

Nothing endures. The moment of crisis shall pass. Light perpetually shines beyond any occlusion. Stay calm yet active in service of solutions. What gifts might this storm deliver once weathered?

C: Control check

The next “C” in CIRCA is control check, modeled on recovery programs. Get clear about what’s within your realm of direct influence versus what remains outside your locus of control. 

For instance, you can choose thoughts, actions, reactions and where attention flows. But not law enactments, spouses’ feelings, aging process or stock market swings. Once acknowledged, channel your focus only into what you choose to focus on. 

Take action from an empowered perspective while surrendering attachment to external outcomes. Release unrealistic expectations generating resentment when unmet. In doing so, you can focus on making positive ripples through your sphere of impact. 

Leave the universe to handle the rest. You have enough to tend to in your interior domain and footprint of impact in the world.

A: Attention shift

Finally the “A” is representing attention shift. Even without solutions, during stressful predicaments, you can consciously choose to redirect your mind’s focus onto the outcome you would prefer to create. 

Prime your neural networks to aim for possibilities aligned with your desired outcome. Ask “what do I wish to build?” rather than endlessly mulling “what’s wrong here?”. 

Even if challenging realities remain while you await answers, you can purposefully adjust your internal attention and awareness in order to maintain empowered frontal lobe executive functions when under duress. 

You can act to lovingly address difficulties, but from a creative forward-focused mentality rather than reactive fight or flight. This preserves access to inspiration, levelheadedness and intuitive problem-solving until revelation precipitates breakthroughs.

Using Virtual Reality Technology for Mental Health

Dr. Pillay has done extensive research showing that using certain videos and audio can have therapeutic benefits. His company, Reulay, makes guided digital experiences using these techniques to help empower users. 

They make short 360 degree videos using nature scenes, geometric patterns, sounds, and more to reliably induce certain mind-body states. For example, someone feeling tired could watch forest visuals with natural sounds to lift their energy and mood. 

By providing these experiences online globally, healing practices once limited to spiritual retreats can now be accessed by more people.

Dr. Pillay also believes that virtual reality technology can safely simulate expanded states of consciousness for those in need. If VR could guide brain patterns similar to transcendental states where inflammation goes down and immunity strengthens, it could restore access to legendary healing territory. 

Typically only long meditation training enabled some practitioners to switch off inflammatory disease-related genes. But scientifically designed, digital interventions modeling those dynamics could theoretically invoke equivalent transformation without years of practice.

Additionally, Dr. Pillay explains how expanded virtual reality experiences can transcend limiting identities reinforced by habits and environment. Consciousness fluidly forms temporary identities based on context. But the ongoing self-narrative is more fluid than we realize. VR has great potential for identity expansion by immersing ourselves in role playing as empowered, inspired, or luminous selves unavailable in our usual daily experience. 

Through practice we become aware that we are the observer of shifting experiences in life. Virtual reality trains this mental flexibility which allows us to navigate roles and identities while anchored in our consciousness and self. 

Directed VR journeys could help many people move through stuck places in life and reclaim their inner freedom. The possibilities feel very exciting to Dr. Pillay, and to me, Dr. Doni, as well!

Beyond Stress and Anxiety – Seeking Vitality

When people say they are “stressed,” Dr. Pillay explores what they mean exactly. Many Americans feel constantly burned out and exhausted. Taking breaks often isn’t enough to recharge an overloaded nervous system. 

We need activities that truly inspire, motivate and energize us – absence from work is not enough. We need immersion in our passions.

The true antidote to exhaustion and anxiety is reconnecting to what brings us joy, fascination, and purpose. What possibilities activate our highest potential? If we just numb stress without renewing ourselves, we risk losing capacities and experiences that support our wellbeing.

Existentialist Soren Kierkegaard said anxiety comes from limitless freedom feeling groundless. We want unlimited options yet paradoxically impose structures that limit our creative choices. This causes anxiety and depression.

Rather than fight anxiety, reframe it as an ally and guide. Anxiety may be excitement calling us to create, innovate and actualize our latent talents courageously. It can signal arising inspiration demanding expression.

Stress often comes from the gap between current reality and what you feel life should be. Using anxiety’s transformative power allows it to birth empowered actions actualizing our visions. 

View anxiety as your deep self calling you to manifest sacred potentials within. Make it your friend.

Play Is Healing: Bliss Is Your True Essence

Another stress philosophy Dr. Pillay mentions involves play. Studies confirm play is healing, though undervalued. Our fundamental nature is bliss. When you worry, you betray your true essence. Remind yourself worry contradicts your natural state.

Through consciousness expanding work, people glimpse innate bliss capacities. Psychedelics don’t produce bliss – they unleash existing potentials. If bliss underlies everything, why do we suffer needlessly? Simplify life by honoring your original nature and allow it.

Overall, remember your power to choose thoughts serving your aims. Expect good to release natural biochemical gifts. View challenges as cries of your unfolding self so you can embody life-fulfilling behaviors already within you. Allow your vast intelligence to guide your healing.

Harnessing Technology’s Possibilities for Good

Dr. Pillay mentions he wasn’t a tech person initially. He got so absorbed because of its enhancement potential. What once took months now takes hours. As long as technology aligns with human betterment, he mentions he is dedicating himself to that.

All conscious creations have contradictions. Rather than get stuck in logic loops, elevate into intuitive consciousness where paradoxes dissolve. There are non-logical parts of existence which also deserve recognition.

Technology isn’t the only sense-maker. Think of a beautiful flower moving you – where is the logic in that? Making life wonderful involves being the curious, playful person you already are. Babies learn by engaging, not over-analyzing. Recover your natural wayfinding intelligence.

AI and VR could make healthcare more personalized. Group studies have limits but AI can suggest treatments aligned with your needs. Technology has risks but a huge potential for human betterment. 

The Future of Medicine

Mainstream research has issues. Last year a major study questioned statistics behind medical findings. We must interpret evidence carefully and leave room for our own health agency.

For instance, some antioxidants appear to help while accelerating cancer. Who decides how many vegetables to eat? We need to be open yet skeptical of dogma and learn to listen to our body’s signals. 

Another example of this is alcohol guidelines are constantly shifting. Recently it was “no amount,” though moderate intake correlates to longevity. Advice fluctuates. We need to look at our lives holistically and avoid rigid rules.

Back surgeries once touted are now seen as useless. Knee surgeries have been shown to result in the same outcomes as placebo. False certainty abounds. Stay vigilant yet moderate in conclusions. There’s no holy grail of wellbeing advice says Dr. Pillay.

Placebo power demonstrates self-healing capacity. Believing pain relief was given activates reward centers and numbs brain regions. Expectations alter physiology. Leverage your mind.

Rather than follow gurus, listen within. Your inner wisdom already resides inside. It will grow by trusting your innate brilliance. Make life a curious self-guided adventure.

Humanist Vision: Mental Health and Beyond

Overall, spread goodwill and faith. Life’s not about surviving – it’s about thriving phenomenally! 

Dr. Pillay suggests that we use science but recognize realities beyond perception. Resist contradiction loops and instead focus on subjective fulfillment.

Support human nature’s expression. Technology should empower self-realization. Despite risks, cling less to logic and control. Embrace exploration. Love your original curiosity and capability. Let’s honor the spirit inside!

Dr. Pillay concluded by emphasizing the innate intelligence we lose as adults. He suggests remembering the curious, persistent nature all humans showed learning to walk as children. 

Rather than seeking prescriptive methods, he encourages reconnecting to the unconscious wisdom behind that early capacity to explore. When we let vitality fill consciousness, answers emerge organically.

To learn more from Dr. Pillay, check out his book “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try” and the VR experience he helped create here. You can also find him on Instagram @drsrinipillay or Facebook @Srini Pillay, M.D.

To learn more about my Stress and Trauma Recovery Protocol® which involves optimizing cortisol and adrenaline levels using nutrients, herbs and C.A.R.E.™, my proprietary program to support clean eating, adequate sleep, stress recovery and exercise, you can read all about it in my latest book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health.

For the most comprehensive support, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with me one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment here.

If you enjoyed this, our 200th episode (!) of How Humans Heal, please subscribe and post a review. 

We’d love to have you to continue to join us for future episodes. We plan to continue to share healing information to help transform human’s health now and into the future. 

We’re here to help you!

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