All posts by Dr. Keener

Matthew Keener, MD is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and Neuroimaging researcher at the Translational Affective Neuroscience Laboratory within the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Keener served as Chief Resident of Research at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and has also published scientific research on meditation and yoga through his work at Thomas Jefferson University Medical School Center for Integrative Medicine. An RKC Ketllebell Instructor, paddleboarder, and crossfit athlete, Dr. Keener also trains under Sensei John Hamilton in Sho-ha Ni-to Tenshin Ryu Kenjitsu and continues his meditation practice. He thrives on adventure, his children, and meditation.

Giving thanks to our community

Thanks for being here with us.

We’re coming up on our one-year anniversary, and I’m thinking back with gratitude on all of your comments and postings. This has been a fun experiment in creating community and putting out some new ideas. Some of our ideas have stunk. Some ain’t too bad. Through it all, we’ve loved your ideas, your facebook postings, your friendship, and today we give thanks for this collection of individuals and ideas.

Over the next month we’re likely going to shift to focusing on serving who we know best: adolescents and young adults (<40) looking to find new ways to manage their emotion to prevent mood disorders.  To date, we’ve been focusing on serving as many people as possible however realize that our real skill is in helping young adults navigate life, in a way that keeps “mood disorders” (like depression or bipolar disorder) at bay. There are all sorts of techniques we know of that can keep you doing well, and we want to share them. It will be a learning process of sorts, but we’ll bring you the best of what is out there, and together we’ll figure out which best apply to helping those who need them best.

Thanks to my family, my friends, colleagues, and patients. And thanks to you, reader.

Dr. Keener.

Meditation Monday – Fishbowl Meditation

This comes via Commander Mark Divine at Sealfit

Stop what you’re doing.
Imagine that your head is like a fishbowl, and your thoughts are silty, cloudy dirt that is floating in the water.

With each inhale, feel your belly expand, feel your diaphragm pulling downward.
Imagine that this motion is the “pump” that is clearing out the water with each breath.
With each exhale, imagine clear fresh water flowing inward.

With each cycle, envision the water getting clearer and clearer, and repeat until you’re where you want to be.

Thanks Coach Divine.


image: [keeeeeeeeegan]

Being Mindful of Might

On this Memorial Day, we look to remember and commemorate those who have served and given their lives in that service. There have always been those who seek to achieve their ends through violent means.  When this happens, there have also always been soldiers who have used their wits, daring and might to guard us while we sleep and to push back against those who would threaten us.

For today’s meditation, think of all the individuals you know who have been, or are now, associated with your nation’s armed forces. Take time to imagine them literally guarding you while you sleep, for in times of war they literally do just that.  Let’s be mindful that we have those who serve and protect us, and be grateful that we have them in our lives.

image:  [cwwycoff1]

Meditation Monday #15 – Compassion and Attention Meditation

Two  key processes trained by meditation are those of compassion and attention.

These are often trained individually, but darn the rules, we here like to mix it up a little and therefore suggest the following meditation.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Upon breathing in, focus on the sensation of the breath filling your lower belly.

Pause briefly, then slowly exhale.

As you exhale, imagine yourself spreading compassion outwards to everything and everyone.

So as you breathe in, focus your attention again on your own body, filling up your inner resevoir. Then pause and spread compassion outwards upon the out breath. Notice your ability to generate compassion grow with each cycle, and then again allow your mind to return to yourself and filling your reserves as you breathe in.

This mixture of self- and other-focused awareness allows us to not only take care of ourselves, but also those around us. In time we can build our compassion muscles. Remember,  you are what you repeatedly do!


Take just 5 minutes for yourself. How about right now?
Listen, there are 288 of these chunks during a day, you can spare one for some moodtraining!

 Start by breathing in.5 breaths is about a minute. 5×5 = 5 minutes.

 Go.   : )
image: [jamiesrabbits]

The Unexpected Revolution of Medicine

Medicine needs to get with the times.


The future of medicine lies, unexpectedly, in the individual’s personal use of digital technology to investigate their own health.  Click here to watch a compelling video that explains the coming revolution in medicine based on the work of Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and cardiologist at the Scripps Clinic.

Dr. Topol persuasively argues that digital technology can make medical care more efficient and effective.  But due to the medical community’s resistance to change, technological advances have yet to be fully accepted.


image: []


Meditation Monday #14 – The Walking Meditation

The 10 second take-home: Just walk while paying attention to yourself and your surroundings.

When you envision meditation you most likely imagine sitting still.

Yet meditation can be undertaken from any starting position, including a moving one. Remember, you can optimize your mood anytime, anywhere!

At its core, meditation is a process of changing your awareness, and this awareness can be initiated or maintained in any situation. This next meditation is an example of an open monitoring meditation, where the goal is to be better aware of our bodies and the world around us in the present moment.

Begin your walking meditation by bringing your attention to the cadence of your walk. Begin a steady intentional pace and bring your attention to the way your body is moving through space. Notice all the ways that your body feels, the way your feet make contact with the ground. Feel your clothing as it makes contact with your skin. Notice the rhythm of your walk but also the smaller rhythms within your arms, your hands, your hips.

Next begin to notice the world around you in a mindful fashion. Notice any breezes on your face, the sounds around you. Notice the colors and shapes of the world around you. The goal of this type of meditation to broaden your general awareness. In so doing, you are aware not only of your body, but the relationship between your body and the world around you. You become more aware of everything and everyone, and are better able to direct yourself through the world. When you notice yourself starting to think about the future or the past, bring yourself back into the moment, focusing only on right NOW.

Too often we get caught up in our own thoughts, worries, and lose track of the world around us. This is a good technique to not only get your bodymind moving, but also to enjoy the now.


image: [Todd Huffman]


The world’s most difficult meditation

Are you ready to take it on?

Focus on the present moment in all your dealings, “be here now“.*

Next step, yoda. The end.


*Of note, being present in the moment does not preclude being aware of what brought you to this moment. It also doesn’t mean being mindless as to the consequences of the moment. Fully examine your current state. In so doing, you automatically get in touch with with what brought you to this moment, and the logical next steps. To be present for your own life is that challenge of a (your) lifetime!








We love you!

A quick hug from Dr. Keener and your Moodtraining team.

Frankly, I’m not that into valentines day. Nothing sets one up better for disappointment than high expectations. I like chocolate but a box will just get me worried about my long-term risk for type II diabetes. Flowers are nice, but roses are kinda plain in my book and I worry about throwing them out when done.

Friends, however, are what get me smiling. I love my friends and those who enrich my life. I love supportive communities and those who make them thrive. So I love you, and I love the fact that you’re checking in with our community here!

Of note, we’ll be posting some video of the first ever moodtraining classes held at our affiliate gym Shadyside Spin in the near future. Stay posted!


Photo: [Leanas]




Anger Tennis: The Anti-Social Game that Betters Your Mood

What you’ll need: A tennis racket, balls, and a wall or court.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 5 minutes
What you’ll do: Learn a fun way to get out that frustration

Moodtraining Summary:

  • Identify why you’re angry
  • Smash it out

Let’s start!

This is one of my favorites. I call this one “Mac.”  Anger is what is called a “social emotion,” in that it involves your judgements around the intentions and motivations of people. In other words, when we’re angry, it’s triggered by something or someone (including ourselves). That doesn’t mean that another person caused our anger, just that there is a social component. This social piece usually means that you can’t “let out” your full feelings without disrupting social harmony. It’s usually characterized by a state of high activation and low pleasantness.


What we’ll do:

We’ll get the physiological activation out of your system in an active, chaotic way where you aren’t worried about behaving in a socially “appropriate” fashion. So instead of holding all this inside, we’ll offer you a fun, safe way to release that emotional energy.


1. Get a tennis racket and some tennis balls. If you don’t have one, no sweat. If you live near some woods, grab a stick and substitute leaves. If you’re in the city, find an abandoned lot and a stick and substitute a plastic water bottle or two. You can optimize your mood anytime, anywhere.

2. Go to a court or area with a wall that is somewhat fenced in, (with nobody there if possible). Any big space with some sort of wall will do, you’ll see why.

3. Start whacking those f-ing balls as hard and fast as you can.  Keep hitting the same ball, but as soon as you lose the ball you are hitting, grab another and hit IT as hard as you can. Screw form, screw technique. The goal is to get out that anger, run around, and have some fun in the end. So maybe you lose some balls, maybe you lose them all. So what? If it’s between that and losing your temper on your kids or husband, isn’t it worth it?! I think so.

4. Rest as needed. Repeat as needed.


Anger is a socially-triggered emotion that requires some anti-social activity to be released.  Give yourself the space and time to move angry energy through your body with a rousing game of anger tennis.



Please comment below!



Sleep and Mood

Lack of sleep can turn you into a cranky baby.


Sleep isn’t passive

As you may have already learned from recent attempts at fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions, keeping on track while maintaining the perfect balance of body and mind is no easy task. But the human body is a smart one, a little piece of work cleverly designed to do its own bit of moodtraining through an abundant amount of processes collectively known as homeostasis—the biological equivalent of ensuring a healthy balance. Sleep is one of the most important and most heavily-studied components of this regulatory system, yet it is also perhaps the most neglected in the world today, where productivity and results reign supreme. But sleep is far from a passive process, and it plays a tremendous role in making sure your body and your mind are functioning at maximum capacity.

Sleep makes you able to derive pleasure from positive experiences

While it is widely known that inadequate sleep impairs endurance performance during exercise, research has also shown that sleep deprivation, even in moderate amounts, can negatively impact the ability of the brain to consolidate and process emotional memories, and it can make us more susceptible to the negative emotions that often prevent us from achieving our goals.1  A 2006 study on the effects of sleep deprivation and exercise showed that subjects who exercised intermittently during the 30-hour period of deprivation actually experienced more mood disturbances than similarly-deprived subjects who did not exercise, while similar studies have shown that people are less able to derive pleasure from positive experiences when faced with a lack of sleep. 2

Sleep facilitates glucose metabolism

In an extensive examination of the physiological foundations of willpower and self-control, Gailliot and Baumeister discuss the role of glucose—a simple sugar that the body uses for energy—in supplying the brain with the resources it needs to overcome impulsive actions, stick to goals, and cope with unforeseen frustration and anxiety, as well as to complete complex intellectual tasks.  The availability of glucose and the body’s ability to utilize it seem to be important factors in determining how well we are able to manage our mood states, as well as our impulses.3 What does this have to do with sleep? Newer research indicates that even a single night of partial sleep disruption can increase resistance to insulin, the hormone necessary to make glucose available to the cells in our bodies.4,5 So without an adequate amount of sleep, we are depriving ourselves of the fuel we need to stay calm, cool, and collected, as well as potentially increasing our risk for developing type II diabetes. Other metabolic pathways are affected by lack of sleep as well, including that for cortisol, the “stress hormone” that can over time lead to decreased bone formation, weakened immune system, and increases in blood pressure. 5

Sleep and moodtraining

For the fitness-minded, goal-oriented individual, taking the steps to ensuring a full night’s rest might mean holding off on a project until the morning or skipping that night out at the club if you’re feeling sluggish. An important part of moodtraining is recognizing the powerful connection between body and mind, and also that you as an individual have the ability to strengthen that connection, improving your physical and mental well-being, just by paying attention and responding to the needs your body is trying to communicate. Your full night’s sleep will allow you to be more focused, more positive, more serene, and more able to resist those nasty temptations that can deter you from achieving your ultimate potential.


  1. Gujar, Ninad; McDonald, Steven; Nishida, Masaki; Walker, Matthew P. 2011. A Role for REM sleep in recalibrating the sensitivity of the human brain to specific emotions. Cerebral Cortex.  21 (1): 115-123.
  2. Scott, Jonathan P.R.; McNaughton, Lars R.; Polman, Remco C.J. 2006. Effects of sleep deprivation and exercise on cognitive, motor performance and mood. Physiology and Behavior 87(2): 396-408.
  3. Gailliot, Matthew T. and Baumeister, Roy F. 2007.The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control. Personality and Social Psychology Review 11: 303. DOI: 10.1177/1088868307303030
  4. Donga, Esther et al. 2010. A Single Night of Partial Sleep Deprivation Induces Insulin Resistance in Multiple Metabolic Pathways in Healthy Subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 95(6): 2963-2968.
  5. Spiegel, Karine; Leproult, Rachel; Van Couter, Eve. 1999. Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The Lancet 354(9188): 1435-1439.

Photo by xlibber. Used under Creative Commons licensing, borrowed from Flickr.