Justin Bieber’s wellness guru tried to cure my anxiety
“I got a good crew, but today I just feel off,” Justin Bieber says as he films a music video in Episode 9 of his YouTube docuseries, “Seasons.”
He drops to the ground, rubbing his hands through his hair. He circles his cheeks and forehead with his palms, like he’s washing his face without any water. He’s physically struggling to get out of his own head.
It’s a feeling I’m very familiar with. The Biebs and I both struggle with mental-health issues. His difficulties are on full display in “Seasons,” which follows the 25-year-old megastar through the making of his new album “Changes” and shows his often-rough road to recovery from drug addiction.
A key player in Bieber’s mental reset is Buzz Mingin, a local health coach and behavioral specialist with a celebrity following. He helps clients struggling with mental illness, brain injury and concentration issues, and remembers Bieber being in bad shape when they first met.
“He really wasn’t functioning,” says Mingin, 51, in the docuseries. “His cortisol levels” — the body’s so-called stress hormone — “were through the roof.”
Mingin, who has a Ph.D. in psychology but is not a medical doctor, works with the Amen Clinics, a national chain that specializes in brain-focused integrative medicine. Full workups by Amen Clinics — which can include talk therapy, oxygen chamber sessions and brain tests called SPECT imaging scans — cost about $4,000 and are not covered by insurance.
Its practices have come under fire in the past: In 2012, the Washington Post expressed skepticism about the reliability of the SPECT imaging, Amen’s high cost of care and its expensive supplements. A representative from the clinic rebukes these claims in a statement to The Post: SPECT imaging, they say, is based on reliable science, supplements can be better than “toxic” psychiatric medications and “getting healthy isn’t expensive when you compare it to the cost of being sick.”
At any rate, Mingin’s techniques seemed to be working for Bieber. So I went to see if he could help me calm down too.
In the Amen Clinic’s Midtown office, Mingin explains the method to his madness. In a thick Jersey accent, he tells me that he functions as a combination therapist, neurologist and wellness guru.
The first order of business is getting his patients on a strict schedule. “We want [to create] a predictable environment” to avoid extraneous stress, he tells The Post. That means sleeping, eating and exercising at the same time every day.
When stressors do crop up, he recommends “havening,” a relatively new psychosensory technique that has panicky patients stroke their arms, face or hands (patient’s choice) with their fingers until they feel calm. According to Mingin, fingertip stroking increases the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, to combat stress.
That’s what Bieber is doing during his music video freakout, when he runs his hands all over his head and face. When he’s done, he gets back up and back to work.
Sitting across from Mingin, I tell him I’m ready to try it.
First, Mingin asks me to focus on a stressor in my life. That’s easy: coronavirus. It’s spreading fast. All I can think of is a totally apocalyptic, worst-case scenario.
We come up with a mantra: “I’m not elderly. I don’t have an underlying health problem. I wash my hands. I’m going to stay alive.”
Mingin instructs me to use my fingertips and palms to slowly stroke my face, upper arms or hands while breathing slowly and counting the breaths: For 30 seconds, close the eyes, inhale through the nose for three seconds and exhale for five seconds.
“You want it to feel kind and soft,” he says. “We’re calibrating your thinking and the [brain] chemicals to work together.”
I close my eyes and focus on the texture of my finger pads, trying to match my breath to the motion, like a low-exertion yoga class.
While I haven, Mingin chants our mantra. I focus on taking long breaths. After 30 seconds, I open my eyes.
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