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Keeping our Semel Institute 
Community Informed and Connected


Dear Friends of The Friends,

We hope that you and your families are all safe and in good physical and mental health. We miss seeing you at our Open Mind community lecture and film series and look forward to resuming our in-person programming as soon as COVID-19 restrictions have eased. In the meantime, we are working on some virtual Open Mind events. Stay tuned! 

To fill the gap as we face this current health crisis together, we have curated some informative messages from Semel Institute leadership along with inspiring writings by thought leaders who have participated in past Open Mind programs. Each piece shares a unique perspective, strategy, or insight to help us navigate through this crisis and the mental health challenges that it presents. It is our hope that these words of wisdom will inspire us all to emerge from this difficult time, as the title of Rabbi Steve Leder’s book says, More Beautiful than Before.

Meet the new Interim Director of the Semel Institute,
Alexander S. Young, M.D., M.S.H.S.


Greetings from the Semel Institute! At the present time, we have all been affected by the COVID pandemic, professionally and personally. Many have made sacrifices, and unfortunately, this is likely to be with us for some time. At Semel, we have been working hard to ensure that we can continue our clinical services, research, and education in this difficult context, while ensuring the safety of our staff. Read More

Be “Mindful of a Good Night’s Sleep”

Michael Irwin, M.D., Director, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Director, Mindful Awareness Research Center and Friends of Semel Faculty Advisor, shares his evidenced-based advice on the importance of a good night's sleep.

In the midst of this pandemic, a good night’s sleep is what we all need. Restful and restorative sleep, lasting about 7 hours, helps regulate our emotions so that we can respond to the stresses and challenges that we are facing every day. Sleep health also protects us from depression by supporting our desire to seek pleasurable and rewarding activities and our ability to experience pleasure including being close with others, which are both attuned to the regulation of the neural circuits and brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine that signal well-being. Read More



We hope that that you will find these thoughtful essays written by some of our past Open Mind presenters inspiring and informative.


Andrew Solomon, National Book award winning author of The Noonday Demons and Far From the Tree

Staying Connected Amidst Social Isolation - the importance of prioritizing mental health while in medically mandated social isolation.

When the Pandemic Leaves Us Alone, Anxious and Depressed
“We are in a dual crisis of physical and mental health. But there are ways to head off breakdowns.”

TED Ideas worth spreading 
How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are.


Dan Siegel, M.D., Psychiatrist, renowned author and co-founder of the Mindsight Institute explores how we can build resilience and connection during the pandemic in his weekly PEPP MWe Up Talks and Gatherings  

UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Center offers free guided meditations to relieve stress with meditation.

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Rabbi Steve Leder, Senior Rabbi Wilshire Boulevard Temple and author of More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us. 
Rabbi Leder helps make sense of a tough time on The Today Show


LA Rabbi helps us get through coronavirus fears “Where there’s shadow, there’s light: 


We urge you all to take some of this extra, quiet time to read Upheaval, Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, the latest book written by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jared Diamond. Upheaval is a beautiful and timely account of how nations and individuals deal with crisis and go forward with resilience.


Lori GottliebNew York Times best-selling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and Atlantic columnist.
Are you grieving the losses of coronavirus? In addition to the tragic losses of life and health and jobs, we are grieving the losses of weddings, sports, family holiday celebrations, or getting a haircut or manicure! 
Lori Gottlieb shares her thoughts


Alex Korb, Ph.D., UCLA Neuroscientist and author of The Upward Spiral and The Upward Spiral Workbook


“The more you focus on things you can’t control, the greater the reactivity of your brain’s emotional circuitry and the more out of control you feel. But the more you focus on controllable things, the more your emotional circuitry calms down."
Using Neuroscience to Keep Your Anxiety Under Control


Gail Saltz, M.D., Psychiatrist, columnist and best-selling author of The Power of Different


Looking for ideas to keep things interesting at home? Staying engaged with fun, mentally stimulating activities isn’t just about passing the time but drawing together as a family during a difficult time.
Why Families Should Also Prioritize Fun During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Val Kondos Field, UCLA Women’s gymnastics coach and author of Life is Short. Don’t Wait to Dance. "Life threw us all into a new chapter unwillingly. It’s up to each of us to now write how that chapter will play out.”
Using Quarantine


Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, M.D. - psychiatrist and author of BEDLAM, An Intimate Journey into America’s Mental Health Crisis
“Don’t Neglect Your Mental Health during this Pandemic”


Tina Payne Bryson, co-author with Dan Siegel, M.D., of The Whole Brain Child and The Power of Showing Up
“Coronavirus Talking Points for Parents and Teachers with the Whole Brain Child Approach”

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Caroline Welch , author of The Gift of Presence: A Mindfulness Guide for Women. How we can pave a pathway, especially during these especially challenging times, for living with more presence and meaning through an approach she calls the 3Ps
Purpose, Pivoting and Pacing


Robert Bilder, Ph.D., UCLA Semel Institute Professor of the Biology of Creativity 
The Semel Institute’s Healthy Campus "6 Feet Apart" LiveWell podcast features interviews with leaders around the world speaking about how we can transition into this new way of life while maintaining all dimensions of our health. In this segment, Drs. Robert Bilder and Nicole Green talk about how to cope with stress and anxiety during the pandemic. Listen here


Dr. Bilder has coined a new disorder for these times Zoom-Associated Delirium (ZAD): Includes at least three of the following symptoms:
1) Disturbance of consciousness (i.e. reduced clarity of awareness of the environment), occurs with reduced ability to focus, sustain, or shift attention. 

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Vertigo

  • Irritability or Agitation

  • Intense cravings to visit the refrigerator or return to bed.

2) Change in cognition (e.g. memory deficit, disorientation, language disturbance, perceptual disturbance) occurs that is not better accounted for by a preexisting established or evolving dementia
3) The disturbance develops over a short period (usually hours to days) 
4) Evidence from the history, physical examination, or laboratory findings includes the disturbance I caused by sustained (usually more than 3 hours/day) exposure to or engagement in on-line video-teleconferencing, or other activities involving directed attention to and attempts to interact with images that occupy less than 0.1 degrees of visual angle 
5) The disturbance causes significant disruption of occupational, academic or social function

Please visit our website www.friendsofthesemelinstitute.org to see our library of videos from past Open Mind events and a calendar of upcoming fall programs. Please follow us on social media.