Spiritual Blah Blah Blah

I’ve got your attention – right?

This title is not to be disrespectful of spiritual practices, it is to draw attention to the fact that many people talk about spirituality yet there is often a disconnect from the beginning practices to the action oriented end points – what a friend of mine calls, “Spiritual Blah Blah Blah.” That friend is Michel Pascal, author, meditation teacher, singer, producer, photographer and humanitarian.

Recently, I spent time getting to know Michel Pascal in person at one of his outdoor meditation spots in Los Angeles where we discussed our shared vision of the concept of integrative wellbeing or as he likes to call it “Emergency Wellbeing.” We both feel that it is an exciting time to be here on planet Earth as humanity is realizing how important it is for ALL of US as a collective to engage in acts of kindness (large or small) towards one another and to honor our environment.

Most of US are walking the walk by practicing acts of service and don’t even know that is a practice of being spiritual (being kind and humane.)

Do you smile at a stranger walking down the street? If someone is stranded on the side of a road would you stop to see if they were ok? Do you recycle whenever you can? Are you passionate about raising money for your community or another cause in the World? Do you send loving thoughts to yourself, your family, your friends, and the world? When you speak with someone do you make eye contact and listen intently?

I can list many more acts of kindness, acts of service, and thoughts of love that WE all do and might not even realize the healing POWER of our intentions and actions.

The unseen energy of love in every moment in every day makes a difference!

That is why in most of my blog posts, podcasts and conversations the concept of practicing a “mindful life” is part of the discussion. Practicing yoga, setting aside time for your practice of meditation are incredible wellness tools yet an integrated set of tools for your mind in your daily stress can keep you in your “thrive awareness zone” throughout your day.

On my show this week, Michel Pascal and I discussed the concept of practicing meditation and mindfulness is our every day stress. Michel is passionate about the revolutionary concept of training your brain to handle every day stress. To listen to our discussion on the practice of mindfulness in every day life go to https://www.drdenisemd.com/2016/11/podcast-michel-pascal/

Michel’s book “Meditation for Daily Stress:10 Practices for Immediate Well-Being” will be released in April of 2017! Go to michelpascal.tv to preorder your copy and for more insights and tools for emergency wellbeing.


  1. When individuals thrive WE all thrive.
  2. Mindset is everything.

For more tips and tools you can order: Mental Health and How to Thrive.

It was an honor to interview Michel!

Dr. Denise

Author, artist, teacher, literacy advocate Chris Helene Bridge discusses the importance of literacy for wellbeing.

Chris Helene Bridge is an award winning author, artist, teacher, and literacy advocate. She deeply believes that literacy determines success for the future of our children and our communities. Chris partners with several organizations including the Barbara Bush Foundation, the Houston Area Urban League, and with Books Between Kids to distribute her books to thousands of children.

Great Day Houston – “God Gave Us Wings”

What an honor to be featured as a medical expert on Deborah Duncan’s Great Day Houston “God Gave Us Wings” episode on 4/4/17 with best selling author Connie Rankin and the inspirational ladies featured in the book.

(Photo clockwise from top left: Donna Cole, Denise McDermott M.D., Connie Rankin, Deborah Duncan, Ileana Leija, Sue Pistone)

Peak Mind Performance

On my podcast this week I spoke to licensed psychologist Dr. Steve Hannant about “conditioning the mind for success!” I think that is a goal for our children, teens, and adults – don’t you? Dr. Steve had an amazing training experience in psychology that included a unique blend of East meets West mental health mentors. His dissertation in sports psychology included qualitatively studying the traits of elite mixed martial arts athletes. The areas of study included:

  1. Goal setting

  2. Breath work

  3. Imagery and Visualization

  4. Attention and Concentration

  5. Self hypnosis and Autogenic training

  6. Arousal regulation

  7. Rituals and Routines

  8. Meditation and Mindfulness


What mental strength criteria separate “the best from the rest?” Dr. Hannant said that after awhile he could just tell by interviewing MMA legends such as Dan Severn, “The Beast,” and Founder of Team Quest Matt Lindland and others that “MINDSET is everything!” A commonality of many champions includes having obsessive compulsive traits coupled with a mindset that is able to adapt with diversity. He emphasizes that repetition is key and “know the skills and do the drills,” is advice he give his clients. He loves incorporating his knowledge of sports psychology into his psychological practice and evaluation of each individual’s unique way of processing the world. I mentioned the word “neurostyle,” as a way that we can describe human behavior. He loved this and agrees that the way we talk about mental health can make a difference in the way we all feel about getting help or reaching our full thrive capacity.


Dr. Steve and I agree that it is important to: Embrace Your Neurostyle.


Having an awareness of one’s own strengths and weaknesses physically and mentally can help set realistic intentions for our best life. Can you imagine if each child had a mental health screening in addition to their physical examination every year at school? I am not talking about putting diagnostic labels on everyone. I am talking about a neurodevelopmental mini-evaluation with feedback to parents and children for their child to have a greater self -awareness. I also advocate strongly for a daily practice of meditation or mindfulness as “mind medicine” to promote excellent cognition, to improve empathy, to reduce stress, improve mood, and more!


When individuals thrive society thrives.


Dr. Steve and his wife incorporated the mental training program skillsets into a class for kindergarteners at his daughter’s school. He reported that the youngsters loved learning about the importance of breath work, goal setting, meditation, attention and other resiliency tools. Our Manhattan Beach school district incorporates the Goldie Hawn Foundation’s Mind Up Program https://mindup.org/?nabm=1, which embraces neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindful awareness. As a board certified Adult and Child Psychiatrist that is passionate about prevention, early intervention, and mental health advocacy I vote “YES” on integrative wellbeing programs in our schools, our offices and in our homes.

Dr. Steve is a fan (so am I!) of Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life book and spoke about this and other tools, tips and strategies that he includes in his website: http://www.mentaltrainingprogram.com.

To listen to our podcast: Dr. Steve Hannant on the Dr. Denise Show

Are you interested in more tips on mental health and how to thrive? Click here: Mental Health and How to Thrive ebook

It was a pleasure talking with you this week Dr. Steve, thank you again!

Dr. Denise









Spirit – Mind – Body

I am grateful as a doctor to be living at a time when the Mind, Body, Spirit paradigm shift has been introduced and embraced by many. I honor and thank the Pioneers of Integrative Medicine that have paved the way for succeeding generations.

The “humanistic relationship” and therapeutic trust between my patients and myself has always been the key to starting a collaborative relationship.

I believe setting intentions of love and compassion for your self are the start to your health, happiness and inner peace.

You are not your target symptoms. You are a multidimensional individual with thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that matter to me. They should matter to you too.

I believe we are ready as a society to embrace the Spirit—Mind—Body approach. You have to start with Spirit.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama defines spirituality with great clarity: “In Ancient Wisdom, Modern World “spirituality” is concerned with those qualities of the human spirit such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony-which bridges happiness to both self and others…”

‘Human spirit’ can be thought of as your intention to be the kindest, most loving and compassionate you.

A fundamental first exploration with my patients includes, “What makes you happy? “ It is important to know where each individual’s starting point is. In a warm and engaging manner, I find out how each child, teen, or adult views their health and well-being in the context of their developmental stage and Worldview.

“Why are you here? How can I help you?” Questions are asked in a way that inspire self empowerment from the start. “Your opinion matters to me.” It is important to make the point, “We all perceive and process the world in our own unique way.” This statement is a “shame-breaker.”

In medical school you are trained to know the interview style which includes the famous “chief complaint.” “What brings you here today?” That is important, yet let’s take it a step further. How about thinking about your goal for achieving your “chief success or aspiration of how you want to feel?” Do you feel the difference in the words? They are healing intentions. Yours.

You are a fundamental part of activating your path to well-being.

So, I believe that step one to reaching health and wellness is engaging my patients to want to be “their own best version of themselves” and for younger kids the thought of “being your own best friend.”

I work with a lot of children. I find that kids and parents really want the “bottom- line”, with an outlined health plan. We all do. I believe that the bio-psycho-social assessment coupled with a Spirit, Mind, Body approach leads to multidimensional well-being.

Spirit-Mind-Body Approach For Children Made Simple:


Step One: Spirit: Be Your Own Best Friend. Set the intention that you will be aligning with your highest self. Spirit sets the pace.

I collaborate, empower, and foster a trusting space with each individual that makes it known that they need to engage in the goal of starting their journey of health with the intention of “being your own best friend”.

I expect you to want to shift from being in crisis, to stabilization, with the end point being “thriving”. We figure out together what thriving looks like for you.



With kids (age 5 to preteen): I define my role “I am a feelings doctor.”

I ask “What did your parents tell you about coming here today? Was it your idea to be here or your parent’s idea? Or both?” I validate all possibilities.

I convey to each person “Your opinion matters to me. This is your health.” We might play games, build legos or draw a picture.

I ask, “Is there anything you want help with or want to feel better with?” Common responses from kids are “I want to focus more.” “I care too much about what other people think.”

“If you could design a school or family routine that was your favorite what would it look like to you?”

This approach engages the child into thinking about what their best life would look like.


Step Two: Assessing the Mind. Essentially what are your thoughts like?

I interview with open-ended questions using the framework of Western medicine. I value science and medicine and will make a treatment plan with the current standard of psychiatric care.

I emphasize, “You are not your symptoms or your diagnostic labels. You can help change your thoughts to healthy ones.”

Neurodiversity is embraced and I carefully choose words that promote wellness, not illness. I educate my patients as to why I use terms that allow for a “flight towards health and well-being”.

Examples: If someone is struggling with an eating disorder such as Anorexia (as defined by the DSMV/Western medicine) the treatment plan is defined and aligned with a multidisciplinary approach based on scientific data coupled with the collaborative “thrive plan” that each person and family system helps to create.

I quickly educate my patient that we will now be calling it your “nutrition issue” (a neutral reframe) or if a different term works for my patient I have them “coin their own term” and I coach them to phrase it in a neutral or positive way.

Why? This promotes a cognitive reframe, sets the intention for wellness and shifts an individuals thought into “Act as if” already healthy mode. P.S. Not everyone is ready to do this from the start. That is ok. It is a process. It happens at the pace it is going to happen.

Key point. My patients know that their thoughts make a difference to feeling better.


Step Three: Assessing the Body. Essentially what is your Physical health like?

To honor your overall well-being you need to take care of your physical health and your nutrition. I work closely with primary care doctors to make sure a physical exam and lab work has been done. I am open to all viewpoints of assessing physical well-being. Exercise, Nutrition and Meditation/Mindfulness are all part of the assessment and treatment recommendations.

In summary:

Spirit- “Be your own best friend.”

Mind- “Have healthy thoughts.”

Body “Be physically healthy.”

I view the Spirit—Mind—Body Paradigm as the progressive evolution of what our Masterminds in medicine, science and spirituality have been restating throughout history.


Dr. Denise



Education with a Heart

Our children spend half of their waking hours in school and our educators play an enormous role in shaping our children’s lives academically, socially, and emotionally. I had the honor of interviewing Professor Edward Mooney this week on my podcast. Dr. Mooney shared his story of how he went from possibly being a teenage drop out to being the passionate educator, author, father and grandfather that he is today. His father was an alcoholic and was repeatedly physically abusive to him as a teen. He described arriving at school one day without his homework, after a violent morning at home. He was on the verge of just giving up. He was heading to the office to officially call it quits and drop out! A compassionate teacher reached out to young Ed with such grace and care that left him with a feeling of safety and love which has shaped and inspired the rest of his life.

Can you stop and think about a teacher who showed you this type of care and compassion?

I remember a very kind teacher that kept me after class in fifth grade and with the greatest love and concern asked, “How are you?” She noticed that I was not raising my hand as much in class and that I was overall disinterested in school. She knew this was out of character for me and she took the time in a very thoughtful way to check in with me. I remember crying and sharing that a family member was hospitalized and was in critical condition. Her listening ear helped at a crucial time when I needed it the most. I felt loved and cared for in school and it made a lasting impression.

Our teachers and school administrators can provide an environment for children to receive education coupled with compassion.

“To reach a child’s mind, first reach a child’s heart.” – Dr. Edward Mooney,Jr.

A holistic “integrative wellbeing” focus in OUR schools creates a foundation for learning, socializing and embracing one’s unique way of processing the world. Dr. Mooney is passionate about instilling values of compassion and kindness in his classroom, or what he calls “Schroeder values,” after Lowell Schroeder, his childhood education superhero that changed his life. Dr. Mooney shared his specific “P.S. card- personal situation card” system that is in place in his classroom. This is a way his students can write on a notecard to let him know when they are dealing with a home life or personal matter. The message being sent is, “I am here for you and I want to help you get through this situation.” I applaud Ed for this tangible solution and really believe that our kids need to feel that they are cared for in their educational environment. He and I discussed that sometimes an extra day to turn an assignment in, or a listening ear, can make a world of difference for children who are dealing with a family or personal emergency. It can be the difference between graduating from high school or dropping out!

Dr. Mooney discussed his dissertation on school violence, and we discussed the various ways in which schools can handle the trauma of living through a shooting, specifically environmental and emotional strategies. These help deal with the immediate and the aftermath of a tragic event for the teachers, students and families. He discussed a “bad result” vs. a “good result” protocol after a traumatic event, with specific situations discussed in his thesis. The “trauma train” does not need to continue forever if there are built in “Wellness Protocols”, which we discussed on the show. To listen to the show this week: Dr. Edward Mooney Podcast on the Dr. Denise Show

I shared with Professor Mooney that at our Manhattan Beach elementary school, there is a weekly “spirit” assembly that includes awarding students for strong character and awarding classrooms for environmental awareness. Each week kindergarteners through 5th graders wear their school colors and selected children are chosen to receive acts of kindness awards known as “AOK” awards. Parents stay to watch, sing the school song, and recite the pledge of allegiance each Wednesday. Dr. Mooney was impressed, and as a parent and a child psychiatrist I concur that this type of “integrated wellbeing” assembly creates a foundation for safety, unity, and compassion in our schools.

I have gratitude for all of the educators, school administrators and families that create a safe and loving environment for our children. Dr. Mooney’s approach and dedication to what I call, “Education with a Heart” is to be commended as his philosophy creates a “ripple effect” of wellbeing for society.

Thank you Professor Mooney!

Dr. Denise