Did you know, Natural Flavor is not always Healthier than Artificial?

Depending on my mood I  always have two books available to read  – one that’s scientific and the other a  mystery.  My science book was “The Dorrito Effect”.  Its main focus is how both artificial and NATURAL food flavors fool us into thinking we are getting certain nutrients that are NOT there. (Peggy)

Here’s a taste of what I gleaned from the book. (puns intended).

Flavor and nutrients have gone hand in hand (maybe hand in mouth?) since the beginning of time.  Both humans and animals developed  an amazing ability, through flavor, to know what to eat to get the nutrients bodies need.  A simple example is when we need potassium, bananas which are high in potassium look more appealing  or when depleted of iron we might crave red meat.  Dorritos are an example in the book as they were one of the first to heavily use artificial flavors.

Natural foods, have a lot of what is called secondary compounds and minerals.   With processed food we get more water and carbs and fewer minerals. What the flavor industry does is mimic flavor, say strawberry, without using strawberries.    Strawberry ice cream is tasty but most doesn’t contain the secondary compounds and minerals found in real strawberries.  Orange flavor might contain not only orange extract, but also extracts from bark and grass.

“Pick up any packaged, processed food, and there’s a decent chance that one of its listed ingredients will be “natural flavor.”  Anything labeled “natural” sounds good, particularly in contrast to “artificial flavor” but what exactly does “natural flavor” mean? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “natural flavor” as oils, resins or other extracts derived from natural sources like plants, meat or seafood. Processes like heating or fermentation are used to extract the flavor. The function of these products is flavoring, not adding any nutritional content.

Experts say that ultimately, natural and artificial flavors are not that different. While chemists make natural flavors by extracting chemicals from natural ingredients, artificial flavors are made by creating the same chemicals synthetically.

“The reason companies bother to label “natural” flavors rather than artificial flavors is simple: marketing.”

“Consumers may believe products with natural flavors are healthier, though they’re nutritionally no different from those with artificial flavors.”

“Nor are ingredients extracted from nature necessarily safer than something artificially made.” *

  • Many deadly toxins are produced in nature.

  • In some cases, natural flavors may have more detrimental environmental consequences than artificial flavors.  (Because natural flavors must come from resources in nature, they may involve more forest clear-cutting and carbon emissions from transport than flavors created from scratch in the lab.)

“If you like something, and it gives you the flavoring you want, you should buy it.  Don’t buy it because it says ‘natural flavor.’ Buy it because you like it.”*

*Gary Reineccius of the University of Minnesota. 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/11/03/560048780/is-natural-flavor-healthier-than-artificial-flavor

 

 

Sitting Possibly Makes My Brain (Yours too) Thinner?

(BUT I’m relieved that the pea is getting younger as my body grows older!)

Judy recuperating by Peggy

“A team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Adelaide studied 35 non-demented adults who were from 45 to 75 years old. They gave each study participant the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to determine how many hours on average they spent sitting and how much physical activity they got each day. Each study participant also underwent a high-resolution MRI scans of his or her brain.”

The researchers found that the more hours the subjects sat the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. (Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a medial temporal lobe that’s 2% thinner.) This was regardless of how much physical activity they engaged in when not sitting.

 Some of the possibilities of how sitting impacts your brain include:

  • Your blood may not be circulating as much throughout your body and therefore your brain. This could mean that your brain is not getting as much oxygen or the waste products in your brain aren’t being cleared out as effectively.
  • You don’t burn as many calories, which could lead to weight issues, which then alter a wide variety of mechanisms in your body.
  • Your body’s metabolic machinery and hormones may be impacted so that your brain is not getting as many nutrients or is being exposed to other conditions such as higher blood sugar.

More recuperation by Peggy

Correlations and associations do not mean cause-and-effect.

A study with only 35 people has many limitations and does not prove that sitting will make part of your brain thinner. “Maybe in this study, the people who were more likely to sit more each day also were more likely to be less active socially, have less stimulating jobs, or have other circumstances that could be affecting their brains. Alternatively, could thinning medial temporal lobes somehow be affecting their behaviors so that they sat more?  More studies are needed to figure out what is actually happening.”

*The medial temporal lobe is part of the brain responsible for forming longer term memories. It tends to thin as you age to begin with!

“Nonetheless, this study does add to the concern that “sitting is the new smoking”, which by the way nothing to do with “cigarette butts.” Other studies have associated regularly sitting for lengthy periods of time with increased risks of obesitydiabetesmuscle and back problemscancer, and other health problems.”

https://www.forbes./too-much-sitting-may-make-your-brain-thinner-study-suggests/

To learn how Googling can help your brain, read this:

 Google On! My brain grows younger while my body grows old.

the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a medial temporal lobe that’s 2% thinner.

Why women mature faster than men or Sometimes men take a bit more time to “act their age.”

(Apologies in advance to our male readers* – we don’t want to alienate you . . .  . . . with the truth.)

“There may never be an acceptable excuse for why men typically find more humor in their own passing of gas and burping than women, but the science points to a difference in the way our brains develop.”

(Turns out that “being mature” IS all in your head.)

A 2013 study published in Cerebral Cortex offers a scientific explanation behind the common notion that men take longer to “act their age” than women do. According to the study, it’s rooted in the fact that the female brain establishes connections and “prunes” itself faster than the male brain.

“It seems that the process starts a few years after birth and continues to occur until around 40 years old (when everything else starts deteriorating – coincidence?  I think not)  “

The human brain undergoes major changes anatomically and functionally as we age, and these changes make the connections in our brain more efficient. Notably, research found that this process tends to happen at an earlier age for women than men, which may explain why some (SOME?) women seem to mature faster than men.

For the first few years of life, there’s an “initial overabundance of neurons, connections, folding of the brain surface.  After that, a ‘pruning’ process occurs for refinement, to make the brain network more economic and efficient.” (It’s unfair that my body expands  and my brain condenses . . .  even if it helps to explain this particular maturation effect.)

The Study:  “The researchers recruited 121 people between the ages of 4 and 40 and used an imaging tool to estimate how different regions of the brain might be communicating, specifically looking at fiber tracts that connect brain cells to one another. As the fiber tracts get reorganized, the brain gets rid of some of the tracts between cells that are already close to each other, but keeps the ones that connect brain-cells that are far away.”

The science: “At birth, men and women have about the same number of brain fibers. These fibers create a network that helps us to learn and develop. As we get older, the brain finds a faster way to communicate messages from one region to another. Think of it like having a face-to-face conversation with someone instead of shouting to them across a loud and crowded room. Instead of potentially losing your message in a noisy room, your message is more likely to be received correctly, in a more direct message. When the amount of fibers gets streamlined, they are relaying more focused information directly to the region of the brain they need to target.”

“This selective pruning process, which is called preferential detachment, ( I prefer to selectively prune celulite and wrinkles) preserves core properties of the brain network that are crucial for information processing and cognitive development.” 

“This process seems to occur earlier in females than in males and could explain why cognitively, women tend to be ahead of the curve in terms of maturity. The brains of females are further along in the reorganization process and, for at least a few years ( a FEW years?), may be working more efficiently than a male’s.”

So how different are men and women? Maturity is in the brain of the beholder — but because female brains get pruned faster than males ones, it takes a little longer to show up in men.

“Understanding how our brain wires itself is key to understanding how mental illnesses and conditions develop. By uncovering our brain’s pruning system, this study takes us a bit closer to that goal. It also adds to the growing body of research that looks into gender differences when it comes to the brain. Since everything in the body is connected in some way, the next step would be for scientists to connect this difference to other effects around the body. (like cellulite and wrinkles)

*PRUNE ON!

https://www.mic.com/articles/111226/science-explains-why-women-are-faster-to-mature-than-men

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? You might have ADRA2b like me.

Goggle “emotional sensitivity” and you’ll find tons (well maybe not tons, but a lot) of articles, books, survival guides on how to overcome “being so sensitive”.   

About 1 in 5  fit the HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) profile.  I currently rate a 12 1/2 out of 16 traits below.  When I was younger it was 16 out of 16.  (Interestingly, artists and therapists seem to fit this profile in larger numbers than the general population . . . hmmm)

Fragile Fleur by judy

It’s baaaaaaaad:  I cry at dog food commercials and can’t tolerate anything that has a hint of violence.

My husband prefers “blow’em up – shoot ’em dead – stab ’em hard” for his watching pleasure.  He reminds me that it’s “not real” as I lock him in his room so I can’t see or hear what he’s watching.  I watch HGTV House Hunters International, preferring my suspense and intrigue to trying to guess which house the couple will buy.

However, rather than label myself as a “Highly Sensitive Person”, I prefer to think of myself as a fragile flower . . . so much more feminine.    

_____________________

Here are 16 HSP traits.  If you want to read more about each click here

  1. They feel more deeply.
  2. They’re more emotionally reactive.
  3. They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?”
  4. They prefer to exercise solo.
  5. It takes longer for them to make decisions.
  6. They are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.
  7. They notice details.
  8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts.
  9. They work well in team environments.
  10. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they’ve had a lot of past negative experiences).
  11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.
  12. Violent movies are the worst.
  13. They cry more easily.
  14. They have above-average manners.
  15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.
  16. They prefer solo work environments.

________________________

The good news! I no longer have to read up on how to overcome, minimize, explain or justify my emotional sensitivity because I must have a ADRA2b gene.

(Now I can blame my mother for my sensitivity – aren’t mothers always the ones who get the credit for how we turn out . . .  or the blame?)

Genes might explain differences in how we experience emotions

“Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a UBC neuroscientist. The study, recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.”

“People really do see the world differently,” says lead author Rebecca Todd, a professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology. “For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more.”

“The gene in question is ADRA2b, which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Previous research by Todd found that carriers of a deletion variant of this gene showed greater attention to negative words. Her latest research is the first to use brain imaging to find out how the gene affects how vividly people perceive the world around them, and the results were startling.”

“Fragile flower?  HSP? . . . I think she’s just plain melodramatic. . “

Originally posted on 

cropped curious

https://judithwesterfield.com/

The REAL reasons you procrastinate may not be what you think

I mastered in the art of procrastination. I began to perfect how to procrastinate in the 5th grade when I took violin lessons.  I HATED to practice.  The teacher only gave fingering exercises to do  – it wasn’t “music”, no melody, and I HATED doing it over and over and over.  Instead of being well-practiced in violin playing I became well practiced in procrastination.  I remember feeling very guilty knowing my parents were paying for lessons they could ill afford.  Guilt however, did not stop the procrastination.

According to traditional thinking procrastinators have a time management problem. With better scheduling and a better grip on time, so the logic goes, we will stop procrastinating and get on with the task at hand. Ha! Judy

Violin

“Increasingly, however, psychologists are realizing this is wrong. Experts like Tim Pychyl at Carleton University in Canada and his collaborator Fuschia Sirois at the University of Sheffield in the UK have proposed that procrastination is an issue with managing our emotions, not our time.”

Why procrastination is about managing emotions, not time.*

“The task we’re putting off is making us feel bad – perhaps it’s boring, too difficult or we’re worried about failing – and to make ourselves feel better in the moment, we start doing something else, anything else.”

Chronic procrastination is linked with mental and physical health costs, from depression and anxiety to cardiovascular disease

“This fresh perspective on procrastination is beginning to open up exciting new approaches to reducing the habit; it could even help you improve your own approach to work. “Self-change of any of sort is not a simple thing, and it typically follows the old adage of two steps forward and one step back,” says Pychyl. “All of this said, I am confident that anyone can learn to stop procrastinating.”

The Research

One of the first investigations to inspire the emotional view of procrastination was published in the early 2000s by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. They first prompted people to feel bad (by asking them to read sad stories) and showed that this increased their inclination to procrastinate by doing puzzles or playing video games instead of preparing for the intelligence test they knew was coming. Subsequent studies by the same team showed low mood only increases procrastination if enjoyable activities are available as a distraction, and only if people believe they can change their moods. 

The emotional regulation theory of procrastination makes intuitive sense.

Short-term mood lifters

Procrastination – while effectively distracting in the short-term – can lead to guilt, which ultimately compounds the initial stress.

“The emotional regulation view of procrastination also helps explain some strange modern phenomena, like the fad for watching online cat videos which have attracted billions of views on YouTube. A survey of thousands of people by Jessica Myrick at the Media School at Indiana University confirmed procrastination as a common motive for viewing the cat videos and that watching them led to a boost in positive mood. It’s not that people hadn’t adequately scheduled time for watching the videos; often they were only watching the clips to make themselves feel better when they should be doing something else less fun.”

“Myrick’s research also highlighted another emotional aspect to procrastination. Many of those surveyed felt guilty after watching the cat videos. This speaks to how procrastination is a misguided emotional regulation strategy. While it might bring short-term relief, it only stores up problems for later. (In my own case, decades later, I still remember by delaying my violin practice I ended up feeling even more stressed, not to mention the  guilt and frustration.)”

It’s perhaps little wonder that research by Fuschia Sirois has shown chronic procrastination – that is, being inclined to procrastinate on a regular, long-term basis – is associated with a host of adverse mental and physical health consequences, including anxiety and depression, poor health such as colds and flu, and even more serious conditions like cardiovascular disease.

Researchers say procrastinating helps us feel better when certain tasks fill us with negative emotions – if they are too difficult or boring,

Sirois believes procrastination has these adverse consequences through two routes –

  • First, it’s stressful to keep putting off important tasks and failing to fulfill your goals.
  • Second, the procrastination can involve delaying important health behaviors, such as taking up exercise or visiting the doctor.
  • Over time high stress and poor health behaviors are well known to have a synergistic and cumulative effect on health that can increase risk for a number of serious and chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer,” she says.

All of this means that overcoming procrastination could have a major positive impact on your life. Sirois says her research suggests that “decreasing a tendency to chronically procrastinate by one point [on a five-point procrastination scale] would also potentially mean that your risk for having poor heart health would reduce by 63%”.

‘Just get started’  ACT

“On a positive note, if procrastination is an emotional regulation issue, this offers important clues for how to address it most effectively. An approach based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ‘ACT’, an off-shoot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, seems especially apt.”

“ACT teaches the benefits of ‘psychological flexibility’ – that is, being able to tolerate uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, staying in the present moment in spite of them, and prioritising choices and actions that help you get closer to what you most value in life.”

“Relevant here is cutting edge research that’s shown students who procrastinate more tend to score higher on psychological inflexibility. That is, they’re dominated by their psychological reactions, like frustration and worry, at the expense of their life values; high scorers agree with statements like ‘I’m afraid of my feelings’ and ‘My painful experiences and memories make it difficult for me to live a life that I would value’. Those who procrastinate more also score lower on ‘committed action’, which describes how much a person persists with actions and behaviours in pursuit of their goals. Low scorers tend to agree with statements like ‘If I feel distressed or discouraged, I let my commitments slide’.”

“Research shows that once the first step is made towards a task, following through becomes easier”
“ACT trains people both to increase their psychological flexibility (for example, through mindfulness) and their committed action (for example, by finding creative ways to pursue goals that serve their values – what matters most to them in life), and preliminary research involving students has been promising, with ACT proving more effective than CBT in one trial over the longer-term.”

“Of course, most of us probably won’t have the option of signing up to an ACT course any time soon – and in any case we’re bound to keep putting off looking for one – so how can we go about applying these principles today? “When someone finally recognises that procrastination isn’t a time management problem but is instead an emotion regulation problem, then they are ready to embrace my favourite tip,” says Pychyl.”

‘What’s the next action – IF – a simple next step –

“The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate, “make your focus as simple as: ‘What’s the next action I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?’”.

“Doing this, he says, takes your mind off your feelings and onto easily achievable action. “Our research and lived experience show very clearly that once we get started, we’re typically able to keep going. Getting started is everything.”’

If only I had known all this in the 5th grade I would have been a violin concert virtuoso instead of a blogger. judy

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200121-why-procrastination-is-about-managing-emotions-not-time?xtor=ES-213-%5BBBC%20Features%20Newsletter%5D-2020January31-%5BWorklife%7c+Button%5D

*Dr Christian Jarrettis a senior editor at Aeon magazine.

For better & faster learning get things wrong.

Want to get your brain to learn more easily?

When we are young our brains are primed for quick and easy learning.  After about age 25 this declines, and learning takes more effort. However, at all ages there are things you can do to learn more easily.

Everyone thought that once you were an adult, your brain pretty much stayed the same. Research has now shown that the brain remains “plastic” and able to change throughout life. (It is just less plastic than it was when you were a kid!)

Neuroplasticity

Certain behaviors turn on the neurochemical cocktail of epinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine which alert your nervous system, increase neuroplasticity and make it easier for your brain to learn.

FIRST, you need to get things wrong!   

Try something new or something that has frustrated you.  We often give up, when we get things wrong and give up.  Based on the neurochemistry for learning when we stick with it, those very errors help us learn. Turns out that if you like  making mistakes, you are optimizing learning and neuroplasticity.

Making mistakes triggers 3 neurochemicals  for your brain to pay attention and figure out what change is needed to get things right.  

3 neurochemicals for optimal learning:

Epinephrine for alertness

Failure signals  what you are doing did not work and gets the brain to produce epinephrine.

Acetylcholine for focus 

Acetylcholine is produced to give you focus to help solve and remedy the mistake

Dopamine for motivation and reward

As you keep trying to solve the errors and make progress “feel good” dopamine is released  to reward you.  

Try any  NEW skill – motor, mental, emotional.  Remember the object is to make mistakes, stumble and fail, not succeed .  Focus on this anywhere from 7 to 30 minutes,  and you will have an hour or so to learn something you want to learn while your brain is in this “plastic” state”.

SECOND, switch to learning something else where you want to succeed faster.

After making errors on the first task  your brain will stay plastic for a while so you will have an easier time learning another skill like speaking a second language, baking bread , playing an instrument, or memorizing a speech.  If you are over 25 years old you will need to do shorter bouts – about 90 minutes – of learning (one reason young people can learn relatively faster is that they have a LOT of new things to learn).

Learn to attach dopamine to process of making errors

Try to subjectively associate the experience  of making errors with something good. Make failing repetitively a positive by telling yourself making errors revs up your brain’s plasticity.  Make frustration the source of what is ultimately good  for fast learning.

yoga

To summarize the steps to better, faster learning:

  1. Try a new learning experience where you will make a lot of errors for 7 to 30 minutes. Do not deliberately make mistakes as you need to learn by having to adjust and make corrections . (Motor learning is a good place to start because motor skills, like hitting a tennis ball or trying new dance steps, are observable and quantifiable.)
  2. During the next hour you will have increased brain plasticity to learn something you want to learn quickly and easily. I t does not have to be a motor skill, it can be learning anything, even making emotional connections.
  3. Keep your second learning bouts short, no longer than 90 minutes, whether once a day or 3 times a day.
  4. Know your own cycle and use the time of day when your focus and energy are naturally at their best. (To learn about your cycle, Click here for Mood Chart and Mood Tracker to download with instructions). Being calm and alert is optimal.
  5. Remind yourself why making errors is important!

    Try it out and tell us how it works for you.

Andrew Huberman  from Stanford explains the brain’s optimal state for learning: Below is link tor Huberman’s podcast #7 on You Tube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx3U64IXFOY

Do you have “sleep creep” too? Tips to set your wake-sleep cycle

I have “sleep creep”. My body wants to stay up longer than my intended bedtime. My brain wants to sleep in longer than my intended wake-up time. When I give into my brain & body, go to bed and get up when I feel like it, pretty soon I am staying up late and getting up late.

I particularly don’t like my sleep creep because I love to be outside in the morning – especially in the California sunshine.  (I grew up in Arizona where sunshine can be brutal.)  I wondered why I can make myself stay awake but can’t MAKE myself fall asleep?  I listened to a few podcasts on sleep that gave me more answers and tips to regulate my wake-sleep cycle and avoid “sleep creep”.   Peggy

What makes us get sleepy? There are 2 main forces:

Sleep force 1 – Adenosine

The chemical adenosine is a molecule which creates a “desire” to sleep. Levels of it are very low when sleeping and build during the day – the longer we are awake the higher the adenosine levels and the sleepier we become.

Why Caffeine creates alertness

Caffeine acts like an adenosine antagonist—it binds to the adenosine receptor, so you get less adenosine  and our “sleepy” signal is temporarily blocked.  When caffeine wears off adenosine quickly binds to its receptors and we become sleepy.

Sleep force 2 – Circadian Rhythm

When morning comes we get an increase in energy, no matter how long we’ve slept or adenosine levels. This is because of the second force that governs wakefulness is our circadian clock.  Our brain is “programmed” to wake up when the sun rises and adenosine is low. At this time a  pulse of cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) are released which increases heart rate and muscle tension to make us feel awake.

To help set this cycle our brain neurons need light.  Neurons respond best to sunrise light when the solar angle is low and the contrast between blue and yellow is highest.

Special retinal ganglion cells in the eye (not the cells we see with) register this type of light and communicates to our brain’s “clock” (the  superchiasmatic nucleus) which connects to every body cell.

This clock sets our circadian rhythm, which times the release of cortisol and epinephrine in the morning, and sets a cellular timer for melatonin to be released  later to help us fall asleep. If the circadian rhythm is not set early enough there can be negative effects for the cardiovascular system, metabolic system, mood, and learning . 

Resetting Sleep Creep with Morning Light

  •  Get outside early, within an hour or two of sunrise to optimally time the cortisol pulse. Once the sun is overhead the opportunity to time your morning cortisol is gone.
  • Don’t wear sunglasses to block the rays
  • Even on a cloudy day, outside you will get 10,000 to 50,000 lux outside (inside it is only about 500), so this is why being outside is important.
  • You need 2 to 10 minutes outside to set your internal clock, but as little as one minute may work if the light is bright.

Resetting Sleep Creep with Evening light 

The sunset effect: 

Early sun sets our clock and keeps it set but sunset also plays a part. When you view the sunset, melatonin signals your clock that it is the end of the day.  Being outside within an hour or so of sunset prevents some of the negative effects of light later in the day  so go outside for 2-10 minutes just before sunset.

The peak output of wakefulness and suppression of sleep happens late in day – about an hour before your bedtime you are most awake (some experience this as anxiety). The desire to be active in the evening lasts about 45 minutes.  (If you are around children who are very active just before bedtime, don’t worry . . . for at least 45 minutes).

How to Use light to deliberately shift sleep cycle:

Our upper visual field  contain the cells are that detect sunlight. At night it’s best to avoid exposing light to those cells.

  • Place lights low.  For example, use table lamps rather than overhead lighting.
  • Keep the lights dim.
  • The longer awake, the more light sensitive we are. Artificial or screen light can disrupt sleep-wake cycles so get as little light as possible after 8 pm.
  • Light between 11 pm and 4 am will suppresses the release of dopamine which impacts mood and focus.

Sleep Lab

Does how long you sleep matter?

A recent finding that is both exciting and interesting comes from the Harvard Medical School lab of  Dr. Robert Stickgold. His research shows that consistency of sleep duration is as important- possibly more important – as total sleep time for many forms of learning. (For example, it is better to get 5 hours every night, then sleeping 5 hours one night, 7 hours, 10 hours, 6 hours the next nights.)

Peggy

Here’s one of the podcasts I listened to:

The game that can give you 10 extra years of life

WATCH THIS VIDEO!

and add 7.5 minutes to your life today>

watch video here

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to explain My Baha’i spiritual belief that life here on earth IS about learning and growing from difficulties and adversity.  Pleasure, happiness breed stagnation since we want to hold onto the status quo.  Pain, suffering, fear lead to spiritual, emotional AND even scientific growth.

This video is not just how to find a more satisfying life BUT the story of how Jane McGonigal’s physical and emotional pain led to a fascinating approach to health and healing.   Post Traumatic GROWTH!  Love it!

“When game designer Jane McGonigal found herself bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion, she had a fascinating idea for how to get better. She dove into the scientific research and created the healing game, SuperBetter.”

Happy gaming 

“A traumatic event doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely. Instead, we can use it as a springboard to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives”, Jane McGonigal

….and you can tap the same mechanisms without experience being trauma

Jane McGonigal has written a book on the video topic ,SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully”, 

 

P.S. Her twin sister is psychologist Kelly McGonigal who wrote “The Upside of Stress” and “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works and What You Can Do to Get More of It”

Super Simple Self-Hypnosis

Super Simple Self-Hypnosis

At the bottom of this post is a link to a free PDF “Super Simple Self-Hypnosis, which includes a worksheet.

I promise! You won’t squawk like a chicken, forget your name or act like you’ve been on a drunken binge. I promise! The worst that happens is you will feel wonderfully relaxed. And you might even have a reduction of pain. Hypnosis has been the one thing that can do all of the above. But let’s remove two of the most common misconceptions first.

  1. Will I lose Control? You are fully in control and cannot, will not, do anything that you don’t choose to do. As a matter of fact the aim is to give you more control over your physical being. More control with stress levels, more control with pain levels.
  2. Can I be hypnotized? No secrets here. You already know all about being hypnotized.       When’s the last time you “spaced” out watching TV, reading a book, listening to your partner, friend, child (heaven’s never!) or driving (yikes)? Your brain constantly tunes into the natural state of hypnosis. Some people are more easily hypnotized while others have what is called “low hypnotizability” (that’s a mouthful). But with increased practice everyone is capable of entering some level of “Trance”.

woofmed

How does it work? If I knew I’d be a very rich woman. No one really knows exactly how the brain works consciously or unconsciously. Research using SPECT, PET scans and fMRI indicate that hypnosis involves different brain wave patterns and different parts of the brain than during normal conscious awareness. But so far no one really has been able to definitively identify what happens. What we do know is hypnosis is not sleep.

During hypnosis the unconscious is more receptive to positive suggestion and affirmation. Under hypnosis the unconscious mind can let go of old unwanted feelings, patterns. Hypnosis can lower blood pressure, decrease stress, strengthen your immune system, ease pain. People have used it to erase headaches, remove traumatic memory, improve self-confidence and self esteem.

Essentially hypnosis is a concentrated state of focused awareness. In the hypnotic state the mind is more receptive to positive suggestion. All hypnosis is really self-hypnosis. So I’m going to describe to you some easy ways for you to hypnotize yourself and then we’ll mix it up a bit with some imagery.

1. Choose your issue concern or problem

Pick something you’d like to work on. To begin pick a small appetizer, not the whole meal. You want to build success and practice. Don’t tackle losing 100 pounds in 2 months or always being happy. Focus on the quality or attribute you need to take the small steps to your goal. You get the picture.  Focus on something about you – something under your control, something concrete. Make this very specific.

2. Create a positive statement or affirmation

Step 3: Write down what you want your unconscious to hear.

  • Keep it simple – the fewer words the better.
  • Keep it sweet – make a positive statement.
  • Keep it personal – Begin with “I” not “you”

For example:

To lose weight, statement could be ” I am confident I make the right choice”.

To have energy,   “I feel energetic or I have enough energy to do what I need to do”.

3. Identify negative thoughts

Now identify the negative thoughts you’ve been telling yourself or hearing from others that are getting in the way of your goal:

Example:  “I feel bad, I’m tired, It won’t work, It never works, I’m a ditz!”

4. Find a quiet place

Find a comfortable place to sit. I recommend sitting, not lying down. The goal is to hypnotize yourself and give yourself positive suggestions, not to fall asleep. You can use hypnosis to relax into sleep but practice sitting up so you can use it for things besides snoozing.

5. The induction

An induction is a way of helping you change your focus from your “outside” world to your inner world. It’s a way of telling your brain that “It’s time!”. Here is my favorite:

Signal Breath:  

  • You can close your eyes or keep them open.  If you choose to keep your eyes open focus on an object directly in front of you a few feet away.
  • Take a long deep breath through your nose, expanding your abdomen.
  • Hold the breath for just a few seconds.
  • Release it through your nose very slowly, very gently, contracting (deflating) your abdomen.  
  • As you exhale deepen your sense of relaxation in the way that’s right for you.  
  • Do this two more times, each time relaxing into the breath.

Count-DOWN 

  • In your mind’s eye, picture yourself going down a stairway, elevator, escalator, path, spiral – whatever feels comfortable for you.  
  • As you picture yourself “going down” count backwards from 10 to 1.  
  • Take a breath between, or on, each count, letting yourself relax more and more with each count.

6. Use imagery

  1. In your mind’s eye imagine an image of a “safe” or comfortable place. a serene, or beautiful location. It can be indoors or outside, real or imaginary.  
  2. Notice what creates the sense of serenity, beauty or safety:  colors, sounds, time of day or evening, the temperature?  
  3. Stay with your special place for as long as you want. 
  4. Take it all in and let yourself relax even more.
  5. Imagine all your negative thoughts or beliefs vanishing. 

7. Affirmation

Repeat your affirmation silently, over and over, while imagining how you would look, act, what you would wear, how you would feel etc. all the qualities & attributes’, which match the affirmation, you’ve picked. Stay in your relaxed hypnotic state as long as you choose.  You can change the order of the steps, repeat steps or create your own steps . . . make it right for you, Open your eyes when your timer rings or you decide to stop.

Practice makes Perfect

Repetition helps solidify what you want your unconscious mind to learn.

Practicing for only 10 – 15 minutes a day is all you need to do.  You might even be surprised at how quickly you can relax and go inward.

In the end, what matters is how we consciously behave. So not only do you have to practice self-hypnosis to become good at it, you have to practice doing behaviors that support what you want to happen in your life.

Consumer alert!

Do NOT do self-hypnosis while driving any vehicle, climbing ladders, preparing your income tax, mowing the lawn or doing anything where you need your full conscious attention to be safe. Self-hypnotize only when you do not have to be fully aware and conscious!

Behaviors to Achieve My Goal

Examples: I will eat more vegetables & less sweets; I will go to bed earlier; I will think before I speak;

What I will DO this coming week to reinforce my hypnotic affirmation.

I will___________________________________________________________

I will___________________________________________________________

I will___________________________________________________________

For a worksheet and a bit more about self hypnosis, download our FREE PDF by clicking below:

  Super Simple Self Hypnosis PDF copy

My dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is lazy . . . not me.

A while back, I had a creative block. I read everything I could find on how to break my creative block and stop procrastinating. Almost everything I read about procrastination indicates that we procrastinate when we don’t want to do something that is not enjoyable.   Being a master procrastinator I also procrastinate with things that bring me enjoyment.

For inspiration, I read blogs of people who write, read or draw daily – all things which bring me enjoyment.  I feel badly I’m not like them  which leads me to read articles on procrastination and meeting goals (I know how to set them, just not meet them).

Finally the article below has liberated me! I know what to blame:

My dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is lazy . . . not me.

Bird, brain

Creative block? Here’s neuroscience how to fix it.

by Elizabeth Shockman

“What is it exactly that helps us be creative? What fuels us when we get into an especially productive work flow? What makes the hours disappear when our brains focus on a task?”

“What, in other words, is happening in our brains when we’re being creative?”

“Cognitive neuroscientist Heather Berlin at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says we know a little bit about what’s going on. Berlin studies the neuroscience of imagination, creativity and improvisation. And for those people who might be facing writer’s block? “There’s really no prescribed medication,” Berlin says. “There is no real magic pill.”’

Instead, she says, creativity depends on which part of the brain you might be using.

“When [people] are improvising, there tends to be a pattern of activation where they have decreased activation in a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Berlin says. “And that part of the brain has to do with your sense of self, your sort of inner critic, making sure that your behavior conforms to social norms.”

“Translation? When you’re at your most creative, “basically you lose your sense of self,” Berlin says. “You kind of release your inhibition. The second you become too self-aware that comes back online and you lose that flow state.”’

“In addition to losing inhibitions, people who are in a creative state have increased activation in a part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, which has to do with the internal generation of ideas. In other words, the ideas are coming from within.”

“Some people, when they’re in the flow state … a lot of people say ‘It feels like it’s flowing through me. It’s coming from someplace else,’ you know, ‘It’s coming so naturally I don’t even have to think about it,’” Berlin says. “It’s called liberation without attention. You can only keep a certain number of variables in mind when you’re thinking about something consciously. But if you let it go, you actually can come to a greater understanding because the unconscious can do much more complex processing.”

“For those suffering from creative block, Berlin has some practical advice:”

“You have to take in all the information and then go for a walk,” Berlin says. “Go out, do something else. Because those people who sit there and just obsess over thinking about it too much, using your prefrontal cortex you’re actually limiting yourself. So letting it go can actually help you get over, let’s say a writer’s block or a creative block.”

dogbone

If you get a dog, you have to go for a walk-so do dogs make you more creative?

This post first appeared on Curious to the Max

How to get the most from a hot soak

A while back, we posted about how hot baths can help with brain trauma, dementia and blood pressure-here is a guide to getting the best results:

See below for link to post about how baths help.

 “A hot bath is the original hydrotherapy — water treatment — and still the best. Immersion, buoyancy, heat, and vibration (if you’ve got jets) all have useful biological and sensory effects, many of which are useful to people with injuries, pain, anxiety, depression, and more”.

Hot baths can also relieve pain.

blue bath
 
1. Don’t make it too hot. Hot baths are a soothing escape, but too much heat will stimulate the nervous system. While you may feel tired ,you are not as relaxed and  may not be able to sleep for a while.
 
2. Cool your head–or feet. Sticking your feet out of the bath lets off some excess heat, while keeping the benefits of a raised body temperature. You can also pour cool water on yourself . This will help you to feel better after the bath.
 
3. Do some self massage in the bath.  
 
4. Stretch in the bath. The warmth decreases muscle tone, flexibility is increased and the buoyancy makes me stretches easier. 
 
5. Drink water-you will sweat in a hot bath (which helps eliminate waste from the body). Drink before and after. Being dehydrated can make you grumpy.
 
6. Baths are a great treatment for muscle soreness. The heat gets in much deeper than using a heating pad/pack. They are especially good for low back pain. Most low back pain is muscular, especially “knots” in muscles, which a hot bath can ease.
 
7. Try deep breathing-it may increase your relaxation. Not slow breathing but deep and strong.
 
Hottub
 

Source: https://www.painscience.com/articles/bathing.php

Click here for the research on lowering blood pressure, helping dementia and brain trauma with hot baths

 

This post first appeared on Curious to the Max

Moooooo……dy No More

It always “cracks me up” (figuratively speaking) when I see those signs for Chick Fil A.  NOW here’s even better news . . .  whether you are a cow OR a chicken .  Listen to this Nutrition Facts short video on improving depression and anxiety through what you eat:

 

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/improving-mood-through-diet/

And for those of my blog readers who are too busy (or too depressed) to listen to the video here’s the conclusion:

Vegetarians are significantly less depressed, anxious and stressed than even healthy meat eaters.…” and  “The complete restriction of flesh foods significantly reduced mood variability in omnivores…. Our results suggest that a vegetarian diet can reduce mood variability in omnivores. Perhaps eating less meat can help protect mood in omnivores, particularly important in those susceptible to mood disorders.

Originally posted on Curious to the Max

Having trouble concentrating during the COVID-19 pandemic? Neuroscience explains why

I’m not a good barometer of what is considered “good” concentration since I have always “multi-tasked” my whole life.  (I call it multi-tasking, others might refer to it as attention deficit disorder.  I suppose I could split the difference and call it multi-tasking disorder.)

I read about people, young to old, having trouble concentrating during this pandemic. Some lack motivation, and those who need to concentrate and complete tasks that require sustained intellectual engagement because of studies or jobs are having trouble.

Can science explain this? 

FIRST: Emotions CAN take over our minds – A question of the amygdala

Emotions can warn us and activate our bodies system for defense. The amygdala responds rapidly to anything that may be threatening. It responds to possible threats, so we are ready to act-to run or to fight, if the threat is real. It is faster than our prefrontal cortex, which can analyze if the threat is real or just looks like a threat.

Think of seeing a coiled shape on the ground. The amygdala immediately responds and starts to set in motion your systems to run or fight. A bit slower, the prefrontal cortex looks closely-is it a snake? Or just a coiled rope? The prefrontal cortex can shut down the emergency response that the amygdala has started if it is safe. But if it isn’t safe, if it was a snake, your body is already preparing, This helps you cope with danger and survive.

In people, the amygdala responds to social cues. People are very sensitive to the emotional charge of situations and people they encounter. Neuroscience shows we are unable to ignore the emotional charge we sense.

SECOND: Attention/focus/concentration are limited resources. 

The cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in 2002, was among the first to propose that attention is a limited cognitive resource and that some cognitive processes require more attention than others. This is particularly the case for activities that require conscious control, like reading or writing. 
These activities use working memory, which is limited. The brain circuits for working memory are in the prefrontal cortex.

Researchers have thought that the emotions being processed in the amygdala do not affect the attention resources of working memory. But new evidence indicates the circuits that connect the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex are important in determining what is relevant and what is not for whatever activity is currently being undertaken. 

THIRD: Emotional stimuli interfere with tasks that require working memory.

For tasks that need a lot of cognitive resources, there is more interference. The more someone needs to concentrate, the more easily they are distracted. Research by Michael Eysenck supports this idea. He and his colleagues showed that people who are anxious prefer to focus on the perceived threat, rather than the task they are performing. This can include internal thoughts or external images. This is also true of worry. Both anxiety and worry use up attention and cognitive resources that are needed for working memory. This decreases performance, especially if a task is complicated.

 

FOURTH: Mental fatigue tells us that our mental resources are depleted.

It is also mentally draining to do a task while trying not to attend to other demands. Mental fatigue tells us that our mental resources are depleted. So even if we try to avoid attending to something other than the task at hand, this in itself depletes our attention. This explains why it is so difficult and tiring to work and focus when there is an emotional situation such as Covid 19 that concerns us.

In the context of messages of danger about the virus, people find it difficult to focus fully.

FINALLY!  An excuse I can use.  I just wish my excuse wasn’t connected to a viral killer. judy

https://theconversation.com/having-trouble-concentrating-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic-neuroscience-explains-why-139185

Originally posted on Curious to the Max

How to avoid getting upset around angry, mean, “toxic” people – Quick tip

The answer is sitting in your imagination (and in your kitchen) right now.

This was the topic in a group of patients who had been discharged from our hospital psychiatric unit.  That’s not me you’re thinking.  BUT you, too, have undoubtedly been confronted with “toxic” people.  

If not “toxic”, all of us, at one time or another, have wanted protection from otherwise unpleasant people .  Most of us don’t have the money or the wherewithal to move away or “divorce” ourselves from family or colleagues.  

The BIG question  

How do you protect yourself from the negative energy of people when they are standing right in front of you?   Listen to what this incredibly imaginative group of people came up with!

ELEVEN Uses for Press ‘n Seal

Imagine using “Press N Seal” to separate yourself from the person who is making you feel anxious, fearful, sad or just plain downright uncomfortable! 

imgres

http://AndreaDekker.com

While the “toxic” person is right there in front of you, in your imagination, rip off a huge piece of Press N Seal and put it between yourself and the offending party, then “seal” it with your finger.

Imagining “press ‘n sealing” puts mental space between you and them – you stay calm and better able to cope with what they are saying or doing. It may even make you laugh, but consider the consequences of doing that . . . probably better to imagine yourself smiling while you wrap them tightly in another ripped off piece of Press ‘n Seal.

(PA)

How to teach an old dog new tricks – Cognitive Science of Habits

Research shows our brains are plastic, moldable and easy to please and despite sayings to the contrary, you can, in fact, teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. But you have to give your brain a reason to get started.  

Here are excerpts from the article:

On the Mind: How Habits Work and How to Make Them

“Our brains like treats, MRI scans are clear about that. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, including areas such as the prefrontal cortex. Food, water, sex and pleasurable activity light up these areas and travel around the brain. If you want to build a habit, make it fun.

“Overall, recent brain scans show that certain areas of the brain light up when a new behavior is started, and the most effective way to keep the areas lit and happy is through rewards. Otherwise, we’re programmed to be lazy and efficient.”

section_break.gif

“In the past year, neuroscientists and psychologists have teamed up to study habit learning and how the brain reacts to new behaviors. They’ve found that some neurons, the cells that fire information across our brain and tell us what to do, are linked to motivation, reward association and habit learning.”

 

“When we like a new action, our brain pumps out feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and we’re more likely to repeat the action to get the same pleasurable response.”

“Just like Pavlov’s dog, if we can motivate ourselves to repeat an action with a reward several times, we can potentially make it stick. And if we lump two or three of those habits together, they can cascade in the brain and lead to the likelihood of sticking with several good habits at once. Hey, even monkeys can learn how to build habits through repetition without much instruction, Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers reported.”

Key Takeaways

1.  Make a Plan for 2 months . . . or longer!

Figure out what works for you, and don’t get discouraged by what seems to be common knowledge. Pop culture has promulgated the idea that it only takes 21 days, or 3 weeks, to form a new habit, but research shows that, depending on the person and habit, changes can take two months or longer.

“To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards,” which may take days or weeks, Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit. “During that period, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a real change … think of yourself as a scientist in the data collection stage.”

2.  Be Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for failure or place your expectations too high.

“ . . .   it’s common for people to set their sights cripplingly high in a moment of ambition, only to feel crushed when they fail to live up to those unrealistic goals.”

“That crushed feeling sends negative pulses rushing through your neurons, which destroys good associations with the habits you’re building. Try the smallest steps possible . . .  to feel happy about the smallest success you can accomplish.”

3.  Reward Yourself

“If you want to be motivated, you have to do something you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.”

Read entire article: Habits and How to Make Them

How to teach an old dog new tricks – Cognitive Science of Habits

Research shows our brains are plastic, moldable and easy to please and despite sayings to the contrary, you can, in fact, teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. But you have to give your brain a reason to get started.  

Here are excerpts from the article:

On the Mind: How Habits Work and How to Make Them

“Our brains like treats, MRI scans are clear about that. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, including areas such as the prefrontal cortex. Food, water, sex and pleasurable activity light up these areas and travel around the brain. If you want to build a habit, make it fun.

“Overall, recent brain scans show that certain areas of the brain light up when a new behavior is started, and the most effective way to keep the areas lit and happy is through rewards. Otherwise, we’re programmed to be lazy and efficient.”

section_break.gif

“In the past year, neuroscientists and psychologists have teamed up to study habit learning and how the brain reacts to new behaviors. They’ve found that some neurons, the cells that fire information across our brain and tell us what to do, are linked to motivation, reward association and habit learning.

“When we like a new action, our brain pumps out feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and we’re more likely to repeat the action to get the same pleasurable response.”

“Just like Pavlov’s dog, if we can motivate ourselves to repeat an action with a reward several times, we can potentially make it stick. And if we lump two or three of those habits together, they can cascade in the brain and lead to the likelihood of sticking with several good habits at once. Hey, even monkeys can learn how to build habits through repetition without much instruction, Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers reported.”

Key Takeaways

1.  Make a Plan for 2 months . . . or longer!

Figure out what works for you, and don’t get discouraged by what seems to be common knowledge. Pop culture has promulgated the idea that it only takes 21 days, or 3 weeks, to form a new habit, but research shows that, depending on the person and habit, changes can take two months or longer.

“To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards,” which may take days or weeks, Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit. “During that period, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a real change … think of yourself as a scientist in the data collection stage.”

2.  Be Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for failure or place your expectations too high.

“ . . .   it’s common for people to set their sights cripplingly high in a moment of ambition, only to feel crushed when they fail to live up to those unrealistic goals.”

“That crushed feeling sends negative pulses rushing through your neurons, which destroys good associations with the habits you’re building. Try the smallest steps possible . . .  to feel happy about the smallest success you can accomplish.”

3.  Reward Yourself

“If you want to be motivated, you have to do something you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.”

Read entire article: Habits and How to Make Them

 

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Snack Your Way to Mental Clarity

This caught my eye, or more like it my appetite.  I’m always on the look-out for how I can eat more, feel better and not gain weight . . . These recommendations by *Mike Dow, Ph.D.,author of The Brain Fix are now on my menu.

“You can actually snack your way to mental clarity. . . . Dow says to opt for foods that enhance overall cognitive function and promote positive mood. 

IN THE MORNING

“Kick-start your day with Greek yogurt topped with walnuts and berries. . . . a yogurt fix “ significantly reduces anxiety, thanks to the probiotics that produce feel-good and stress-relieving neurotransmitters.”  Walnuts also support a positive mood, while the fibrous berries are “chock-full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that… make their way through the blood-brain barrier.”’

IN THE AFTERNOON

“For an afternoon pick-me-up, snack on broccoli and red bell peppers with hummus. Unlike processed snacks that lead to poorer memory and cognitive function (we’re looking at you, chips and crackers), you’ll feel sharper and more level-headed. This is because the vitamin C keeps your cortisol levels steady, which will also reduce stress levels while the healthy fats will provide you with more conservable energy.”

IN THE EVENING

“If you still have some work to finish up in the evening and feel hungry, eat a banana with pistachios while sipping on chamomile tea. “The bananas and pistachios both contain vitamin B6,” Dow says. “This is a stress-relieving powerhouse that fights the frantic feeling of scatterbrain.” Also, the amino acids will help your brain produce more melatonin so you get a good night sleep.”

PS-We tried to post this last Saturday but ran across a glitch so published today.

How to Snack Your Way to Mental Clarity

This caught my eye, or more like it my appetite.  I’m always on the look-out for how I can eat more, feel better and not gain weight . . . These recommendations by *Mike Dow, Ph.D.,author of The Brain Fix are now on my menu.

“You can actually snack your way to mental clarity. . . . Dow says to opt for foods that enhance overall cognitive function and promote positive mood. 

IN THE MORNING

“Kick-start your day with Greek yogurt topped with walnuts and berries. . . . a yogurt fix “ significantly reduces anxiety, thanks to the probiotics that produce feel-good and stress-relieving neurotransmitters.”  Walnuts also support a positive mood, while the fibrous berries are “chock-full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that… make their way through the blood-brain barrier.”’

IN THE AFTERNOON

“For an afternoon pick-me-up, snack on broccoli and red bell peppers with hummus. Unlike processed snacks that lead to poorer memory and cognitive function (we’re looking at you, chips and crackers), you’ll feel sharper and more level-headed. This is because the vitamin C keeps your cortisol levels steady, which will also reduce stress levels while the healthy fats will provide you with more conservable energy.”

IN THE EVENING

“If you still have some work to finish up in the evening and feel hungry, eat a banana with pistachios while sipping on chamomile tea. “The bananas and pistachios both contain vitamin B6,” Dow says. “This is a stress-relieving powerhouse that fights the frantic feeling of scatterbrain.” Also, the amino acids will help your brain produce more melatonin so you get a good night sleep.”

 

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Neuroscience Just Gave Me a Free Pass to be Lazy

My earliest memory was my mother waking me up.  It was dark outside and chilly inside.  I don’t remember how many times she came into my room to get me out of bed.  I do remember pulling the covers over my head and refusing to get up in the dark and cold to get ready for pre-school . . .  

Mom was the first to give up in our morning battle and I started kindergarten with “learning deficits”.  Decades later I continue to not want to greet the new day until it is DAYtime. Morning and me ain’t buddies.

Furthermore, people, like my husband, who bound out of bed alert and cheerful are jarring at best and obnoxious at worst.  

I take umbrage at being labeled “lazy” by you early-morning-worshipers who think those of us who understand that moving any extremity in increments larger than a few inches is not natural before 10 am.  

NOW!  FINALLY I’m vindicated!!!  Read this excerpt!

“As anyone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning knows, fighting laziness is a losing battle. From beneath the covers, the world outside seems colder; the commute to work seems longer; the number of e-mails to answer unbearably high. Authority figures may chalk our lethargy to lack of self-discipline, but . . . 

. . . new research suggests that we’re just being our true selves: Choosing the path of least resistance, scientists argue, is hard-wired into our brains.” (What a relief.  I thought my wiring was simply “lose”)

“Outlining the results of their work in a new paper in eLife, the researchers conclude that human brains seem to be wired for laziness. “Our brain tricks us into believing the low-hanging fruit really is the ripest,” said lead author Nobuhiro Hagura, Ph.D.,. . . ”

“When we make decisions to act (or not), the brain thinks like an economist and runs a cost-benefit analysis. If the “cost to act,” as the researchers call it, is too high, it can bias our decision-making process, making us less likely to do things. Applied cleverly, their findings can help us do things that we should be doing — and those that we should be avoiding. For example, going to the gym in the morning could seem more effortless if you sleep in your sweats, just as stashing your booze on a hard-to-reach shelf might make drinking it seem like more effort than its worth. There’s no guarantee that these hacks will work, but . . . “

“. . . if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that we’ll always take the easy route when it’s available — and becoming less lazy may simply come down to avoiding that option altogether.”

If you don’t believe me read the article: Neuroscientists Just Gave Lazy Humans a Free Pass

Four ways that OTHER PEOPLE can warp your memory, if not your identity . . .

Who knew?  . . . Your past is not your own. Through simple nudges, your friends, colleagues and strangers can change your recollections in ways you will never realise.

“When we think of our memories, it’s natural to imagine a kind of personal library, where we have stored the most precious events of our lives. Along the shelves, you can pull out that fifth birthday when you dressed up as Superman, or that family picnic when you found a worm in your sandwich.”

“Good and bad, these events define who we are; it’s the reason that amnesia is so scary. We certainly wouldn’t want anyone else interfering with those intimate recollections, or we would risk losing a vital part of our selves.”

“Except it turns out that your friends, family and colleagues are already ransacking your memory palace. They are rearranging the books on the shelves; they are tearing out pages and scattering them on the floor, or they are scribbling over our most precious volumes. “Our memories are constantly being reshaped by social interactions,” says William Hirst at the New School for Social Research in New York. “People can implant memories, people can induce you to forget or they can reinforce other memories.”’

Every time you have a conversation, you are inviting someone to ghost-write bits of your autobiography

“These are not rare events. Every time you have a conversation, you are inviting someone to ghost-write bits of your autobiography. It sounds troubling and it may cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about your past – yet you may be relieved to discover that there are also some unexpected benefits.”

“It takes only a second’s thought to realise that memory is rarely a solitary activity. During a day at work, for instance, we will deliberately recall events to tell our partner in the evening; we may even rehearse and refine the story on the train journey home. We will also recall and reminisce for the sake of nostalgia alone – even if the events are long in the past and familiar to everyone concerned. “I don’t know of any other species that does that,” says Hirst. “You can think of bees conveying where the pollen is, but it is very limited – there’s no intention behind it and they are only conveying new information.”’

“When Hirst first began this research more than a decade ago, he was among just a handful of people examining the ways those interactions change our memories. But times have changed, and it is now becoming clear that social networks can mould and sculpt our minds in profound ways.”

1. Collaborative inhibition

“Imagine that you and your friends John and Jane attended a football match, where you see a fight break out between the two sides. Afterwards, the three of you get together to discuss the event. You may expect that you will each trigger each other’s recall, helping each person to get a better understanding of the event. Although the group as a whole may record more than any single person, each individual will find that their own memory has been slightly impaired by the discussion.”

“It’s all down to the subtle dynamics of the conversation. If John is particularly talkative, for instance, everyone will be paying attention to his point of view, leading their memories down one avenue while distracting them from their own path. Jane might have been more likely to think about different players from a different team, for instance, or she might have noticed an unusual disturbance in the crowd – but John’s reminders have caused her to lose that train of thought. “John is essentially inhibiting Jane’s ability to remember with full potential,” says Hirst. For this reason, you would gather more details of the event if each person had sat down quietly and recorded all that they had known, before sharing notes afterwards.”

2. Shared forgetting

Importantly, the effects of our conversations can linger into our long-term memory. Hirst’s own research has focussed on a phenomenon known as “socially-shared retrieval-induced forgetting”. Through subtleties in the way he talks about an event, John can encourage Jane to forget something over time.

The “silence” has altered the memory trace, so that Jane will find it harder to retrieve details in the future

“It hinges on the fact that whenever we reactivate a memory, it becomes fragile and malleable. Suppose John is talking about a wedding he attended with Jane. He might mention his speech – reinforcing the memory – but he might neglect to mention a fight on the dance floor. Through association, this memory may still have been activated at the cellular level (rendering it vulnerable) but Jane may have suppressed that thought to concentrate on the rest of John’s anecdote. As a result, that “silence” has altered the brain’s memory trace, so that Jane will find it harder to retrieve details in the future.”

“So if you want someone to forget something, the trick is to pick a subject that will activate the memory, while then distracting the person from the crucial detail you would prefer to ignore. Over time, it may then fade.”

“Hirst has investigated the phenomenon extensively and it appears to be remarkably persistent. In one experiment, for instance, Hirst and his colleague Alin Coman asked pairs of participants to discuss 9/11. The participants did not know each other previously, but they still found that the conversation could still subtly nudge people to forget certain details.”

“If John forgot to mention the time of day, for instance, Jane would also be less likely to bring up the fact from her own story at a later point. Again, this probably works through activation through association, and suppression. John has triggered the memory in Jane’s mind, and by inhibiting that detail, she later forgets it.”

“Hirst says that people are often surprised by his work. Surely people would realise that certain details are being neglected, and fight against it? In reality, it rarely happens. “I think it requires a great deal of effort – you have to be really motivated to go beyond what people are talking about,” says Hirst.”

3. Infectious thoughts

To understand a third way your friends may be manipulating your memories, consider the eye-witness testimonies following the murder of Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh in 2003, who was stabbed to death in a department store. Many of the witnesses agreed that the perpetrator had worn a baggy green army jacket; yet the CCTV footage later showed that he had been wearing a grey sweater.

How could they have got it so wrong? It turned out that the police had allowed the eyewitnesses to sit in the same room as they waited to be interviewed. As they discussed the event, a false memory had spread from witness to witness.

Following the pioneering research of Elizabeth Loftus, we already know that it is alarmingly easy to plant false information in someone’s memory. One time, for instance, she hired some subjects who had all visited Disneyland as a child. Beforehand, some of them saw a fake advert for Disneyland featuring Bugs Bunny. Around 30% of these subjects subsequently “remembered” having met the cartoon rabbit at the resort – despite the fact he was a Warner Bros character and would never appear alongside Mickey and friends.

Starting in the early 2000s, Michelle Meade at Montana State University has shown that false memories are contagiousand can easily spread from one person to another. She would ask pairs of participants to view a household scene; they were then allowed to discuss what they had seen before they took a test. If one of the pair happened to drop in a few false details, they would stick in the other’s mind, so that they would swear they had seen it themselves.

Again, the effect is remarkably persistent. Even explicit warnings – explaining the flaws in their partners’ recall – failed to reduce the errors entirely. “The flipside to that is that sometimes the explicit warnings also reduce correct recall – they think that person is unreliable I should cut off everything they say,” explains Meade.

Meade is currently investigating the phenomenon in education, to see if one students’ mistakes may contaminate another’s understanding, but it’s easy to see how it could also have important implications for the courtroom, as the case of Anna Lindh’s murder shows.

4. Planting doubts

Besides seeding a false memory that we believe to be true, our acquaintances can also sow a grain of doubt about the memories we thought we could trust. Robert Nash, a psychologist at Aston University in the UK, knows this only too well. Looking back at his sister’s graduation, he could clearly recall that the British newsreader Trevor McDonald had attended the event. “I was absolutely convinced,” he says. But when, before his own graduation, he mentioned the event to his parents, he found them laughing in disbelief. A bit of research online only left him with more doubts. “And the more I thought about it, the more I knew that it wasn’t plausible.”

Despite his suspicions, the memory hasn’t disintegrated under the scrutiny, though. “I can still picture it.” This is an example of a “non-believed memory” and it shows the fourth way our social interactions influence our recollections – by questioning them and forcing us to confront our own failings.

Nash thinks non-believed memories are probably very common, pointing to a recent study showing that at least a quarter of participants could describe at least one questionable recollection. “But that survey asked if they could think of one on the spot – my guess is that everyone has a non-believed memory at one point.” And in many cases, it’s another person who first seeded the disbelief.

To understand the characteristics of these experiences, Nash and his colleagues recently explored surveys from hundreds of participants, finding three distinct flavours of non-believed memories. The “classic non-believed memories” might be similar to the kind Nash described: you have a vivid recollection, but you now strongly suspect that it is false; with others, there’s a grain of doubt – you have the sense it’s not true but you might still defend it. The third kind are weak non-believed memories. They are vaguer; you might feel confident that you remember something but you aren’t clear about the details, and you now doubt its very occurrence.

Nash has also investigated the ways we test the truth of our memories. Previous research had shown that our feelings of authenticity may depend on the assumption that our memories are accurate – so you might expect that people would put in a lot of effort to verify the facts. So along with his collaborators, he asked participants to imagine that someone had challenged a cherished memory, and asked them to describe how they would test whether it was true or not. They also had to rate how much effort it would take. In almost every situation – whether the memories were important or trivial, from the distant past or more recent – he found that participants would opt to use quicker but less reliable options. These might include asking a friend or family member who may be unreliable themselves instead of more difficult, but more accurate, attempts to get to the truth, such as checking the hard evidence of medical records or looking through old diaries.

The ‘principle of least effort’ was true even if they asked the participants to imagine that they would need to verify the memory for the police

This ‘principle of least effort’ was true even if they asked the participants to imagine that they would need to verify the memory for the police – a situation with serious consequences. “They still chose the ‘cheap’ strategy over the reliable strategy,” he says. We may think we value the truth, but “people don’t question their memories enough to think it’s worth putting in the effort”. (Truman Capote was strongly in this camp; when writing his non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, he claimed never to have used a tape recorder for his interviews, instead relying purely on his own recall.)

“Even after all his research, Nash still finds it hard to shake that belief. “I’m acutely aware of the fact that my memories aren’t reliable and I have just as many false memories as everyone else – but it’s still hard to budge the idea that I can trust my memory. We [psychologists] are not more immune than anyone else.” He does, however, try to remain open-minded if someone does question his memory. “I remind myself to entertain the idea that I might be wrong – that it’s all we can ever do.”’

The extended mind

“No mind is an island, after all – and despite the errors that other people may bring, our memories benefit from their input. This ties into the concept of ‘the extended mind’ – the increasing recognition that our environment plays a crucial role in our thoughts. “We tend to think of the mind as something that’s beneath the surface of skin but really so much of our actions are scaffolded by external artefacts and practices,”’ says Hirst.”

“Consider a recent study by Nicole Iannone at Purdue University in the USA, which examined the relationships between friends. She was interested in their “transactive memories” – a shared system of storing and recalling information. You may often lean on your friend for recipes for instance, while he may ask you for advice on holiday destinations, or you may turn to them to help you recall events from your past.”

The longest, strongest and most trusting friendships seemed to be built around these shared, interconnected memory systems

“To study that system, Iannone asked subjects to rate statements such as “my best friend and I can remind each other of things we know” and questioned them about the quality of the friendship. Sure enough, she found that the longest, strongest and most trusting friendships seemed to be built around these shared, interconnected memory systems. Iannone suspects that we may choose to build our memory around our friendship; if you know your friend is around for restaurant recommendations, you may opt never to read good food guides yourself. “Is it possible that you don’t develop knowledge in an area your best friend has a lot of knowledge in?”’

“Even the aspects of social influence that may at first seem like a disadvantage – such as the retrieval-induced forgetting and the contagious false memories – may provide some unexpected benefits, by sculpting our recollections so that we all remember the same details. “For me, one of the things that promotes sociality is common understanding of the past,” says Hirst. “All memories shape our identity, and collective memories may shape our collective identities.” We are not the sole authors of our autobiography – and we may all be stronger for that fact.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160920-four-ways-that-other-people-can-warp-your-memory

 

Anxiety and the size of your frontal cortex – yes, you have a frontal cortex!

We were ahead of the curve and  we’re happy to say that the current and extensive research in the neurochemistry of emotion is reshaping psychotherapy.  In addition to neurochemistry researchers are also finding  that the very structure of the brain is important.   Peggy & Judy

Take a look at this anxiety research !

“Healthy college students who have a relatively small inferior frontal cortex – a brain region behind the temples that helps regulate thoughts and emotions – are more likely than others to suffer from anxiety . .  . They also tend to view neutral or even positive events in a negative light, researchers report.”*

“The researchers evaluated 62 students, collecting brain structural data from neuroimaging scans and using standard questionnaires to determine their level of anxiety and predilection for negative bias.”

“Previous studies of people diagnosed with anxiety have found similar correlations between the size of the IFC and anxiety and negative bias, said U. of I. professor of psychology Sanda Dolcos, who led the study with graduate student Yifan Hu. But the new findings, reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, are the first to see these same dynamics in healthy adults, the researchers said.”

“You would expect these brain changes more in clinical populations where anxiety is very serious, but we are seeing differences even in the brains of healthy young adults,” Dolcos said.”

“The study also found that the relationship between the size of the IFC and a student’s negative bias was mediated by their level of anxiety.”

‘”People who have smaller volumes have higher levels of anxiety; people who have larger IFCs tend to have lower levels of anxiety,” Dolcos said. And higher anxiety is associated with more negative bias, she said. “How we see this is that the higher volume of the IFC confers resilience.”‘

“We found that larger IFC volume is protecting against negative bias through lower levels of trait anxiety,” Hu said.

“Anxiety can interfere with many dimensions of life, causing a person to be on high alert for potential problems even under the best of circumstances . . .  Negative bias also can interfere with a person’s commitment to activities that might further their life goals.”

“Understanding the interrelatedness of brain structure, function and personality traits such as anxiety and their behavioral effects such as negative bias will help scientists develop interventions to target specific brain regions in healthy populations.”

“We hope to be able to train the brain to function better,” she said. “That way, we might prevent these at-risk people from moving on to more severe anxiety.”

*UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCHER SANDA DOLCOS AND GRADUATE STUDENT YIFAN HU

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/uoia-slb041317.php

How Your Brain Reacts when you Read a book – a good book!

Reading lights up your brain like a Christmas tree.

by Jessica Stillman

“It turns out when we’re immersed in a great book, it’s not just the parts of the brain that deal with language processing that are hard at work. In fact, when we’re deeply engaged with a story our brains mirror the actions and feelings of the characters. So if someone in the novel you can’t put down is swimming, the sections of your brain that would light up if you yourself were paddling across a pool also activate.”

When we read a piece of fiction ‘closely,’ we activate regions of the brain that are aligned to what the characters are both feeling and doing.”*

We don’t just understand a book. 

On a neurological level we live it.

“Or, in other words, when you read about Anna Karenina leaping onto the railroad tracks, parts of your brain involved in motor control quite literally leap with her. When you read about a silky dress or rustling leaves, sections of your brain dealing with sensory perception activate. At a basic brain level we really do experience the same thing the characters do.”

An incredible empathy workout.

‘”When we read fiction, the brain actively simulates the consciousness of another person, including those whom we would never otherwise even imagine knowing. It allows us to try on, for a few moments, what it truly means to be another person. “

Stop skimming and really sink into a good book.

“It should be noted, however, this only applies to old-school deep reading — the kind where you get totally lost in a book — which is just the kind of reading our pinging screens are putting in jeopardy. If you’re just skimming for information or reading one of 15 open tabs on your browser, your brain doesn’t activate in the same way. You might learn facts, but you’re not gaining empathy.”

“There are many things that would be lost if we slowly lose the cognitive patience to immerse ourselves in the worlds created by books . . . What will happen to young readers who never meet and begin to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone totally different? What will happen to older readers who begin to lose touch with that feeling of empathy for people outside their ken or kin? It is a formula for unwitting ignorance, fear and misunderstanding.”

“So make time this week to put all your distractions and devices aside and submerge yourself in a great book. Such deep reading nurtures true empathetic connection to your fellow humans. In these difficult and lonely times, who couldn’t use a little more of that?”

*Natalie Phillips, scholar of 18th-century literature  teamed with Stanford neuroscientists

https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/this-is-what-a-great-book-does-to-your-brain.html

5 facts about YOUR brain

 Put on your thinking cap and noodle on these five fascinating facts about your brain.

1.  It’s mostly water.

“As a whole, the human brain is composed of roughly 73% water. Most of the brain is made up of two kinds of tissue: gray matter and (myelinated) white matter. The gray matter is about 80% water, while the lipid-rich white matter has about 70% water content. Also, on average, the water content of a female brain’s gray matter is 1.2% higher than that of its male counterpart. Your brain’s high water content is among the many reasons it’s essential to drink enough water each day, and part of the reason dehydration impairs your focus, memory and mood.

2.  It has mirror neurons.

“Have you ever wondered why you recoil in almost-pain when you see someone else get hurt? This reaction is the result of mirror neurons. Discovered just over two decades ago, these neurons are active not only when you perform an action but also when you see someone else do the same thing. For example, the smell of something awful will activate specific brain regions; these same areas are similarly active when you witness someone else making a nauseated face. Mirror neurons explain why we empathize with others and how we learn by observing and mimicking.

3. It cannot feel pain.

“Your skin, muscles and other organs contain pain receptors called nociceptors that create the sensation we feel as pain. Ironically, while your brain is the organ that processes these pain signals, it does not have these receptors itself and thus lacks the ability to feel pain. This is why during brain surgeries, doctors don’t need to apply anesthesia directly to brain tissue. The patient can be awake (but sedated) throughout the procedure.”

4.  Some functions improve with age.

“Popular belief says it’s all downhill for your brain function as you add more candles to your cake. While it’s true age can diminish short-term memory and slow brain processing speed, the good news is research shows some skills actually improve as we get older. Language skills and emotional intelligence become stronger; older people have more extensive vocabularies and are more skilled conversationalists. Additionally, the ability to control negative emotions improves with age, contributing to a better general emotional stability.”

Letting Sunshine In by Peggy

5.  The brain cleans itself.

“Until recently experts believed the brain had no lymphatic system to drain out waste like the rest of the body does. But scientists have recently discovered these types of vessels hidden deep inside the brains of mice. Similar structures have been seen in autopsy samples of human brain tissue, but more study is needed to confirm exactly how this waste-removal function may work in our central nervous system. Researchers believe this finding could lead to better understanding of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis.”

“Although there are still many brain facts yet to be discovered, experts learn more each day about the structure and inner workings of the body’s most complex organ. This research not only helps scientists understand what makes us who we are, but could also lead to treatments for a variety of neurological disorders.”

https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/brain-and-nerves/5-fascinating-facts-about-your-brain?cid=t1_rss12

And You Thought ONLY Virus Were Contagious

 They call us “home”

our microbiome.

Our body spews 

a cloud no one can see

Bacteria, viruses, fungi

intermingling you and me

Releasing microbes in the air

from head to toe where ever we go

Because they’re here to stay

Don’t waste your money

on bug spray

images-1

“Each of us carries around millions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and viruses on the inner and outer surfaces of our bodies. Most of them aren’t dangerous. In fact, growing evidence indicates that they help us in lots of ways. Scientists call this collection of organisms our microbiome.”

‘”A lot of the recent work on the human microbiome has revealed that we’re kind of spilling our microbial companions all over our houses and our offices and the people around us” 

“. . . the findings raise a number of possibilities, including, maybe, one day being able to identify a criminal by analyzing the microbial cloud he or she leaves behind at the scene.”

We know that if you live with people, and even if you just work with people, your microbial communities come to resemble theirs over time, . . .  And in the past we used to think that was due to touch. It may be just that you’re releasing microbes into the air and some of those microbes are colonizing the people you’re with.”

 In this time of PANDEMIC

WEAR A MASK!

 

Excerpted from: Wherever-you-go-your-personal-cloud-of-microbes-follows

Ways to keep your relationships functioning well in times of stress like Covid

Relationships are being tested by the stress of Covid 19, the stress of staying at home, and other stresses related to the pandemic, such as income loss. Part of this is that couples are spending more time together and with their children. Everyone is home, more confined, less able to get away by themselves, be active or go places. 

Having to stay home creates anxiety and discomfort, but going out creates fear over becoming ill. Anxiety is often  directed at one’s partner (especially in relationships that already were in trouble).

John and Julie Gottman are a husband and wife team who do relationship therapy and have extensively researched good and bad relationships, what works and what doesn’t.  Here are some suggestions they make:

The Gottman’s advise that one person be the speaker, and one the listener. The listener’s job is to understand and to ask questions that help them get a deeper understanding.  the listener can offer empathy–acknowledging the other person’s feeling and agreeing that those feelings make sense. This will help reduce stress.

Here’s a tip:

Use “talking sticks” which come from an Indian tradition. Whoever holds the stick gets to talk, everyone else has to listen. Talking Sticks are particularly good for family meetings with children.  Any stick will do – a branch from the garden, a wooden spoon.  The children can color the sticks.

When stressed, people tend to focus on problem solving, at the cost of not paying attention to each other’s feelings.  Gottman suggests questions to uncover and share feelings such as:

  • What is your worst-case scenario?
  • What are you really scared about?
  • What are you ruminating about?
  • What can’t you stop thinking about?
  • What’s your “default program” that comes to your mind?
  • Let me know what you’re thinking.

Whether or not you agree, the Gottmans suggest you try to fully understand your partners thoughts and feeling, just listen and understand, not try to fix anything. This can make a big difference.

Their research has shown that being on your partner’s side in times of stress keeps relations going. Even if you don’t completely agree you can:

  • Find an aspect to agree upon.
  • Agree that is how your partner perceives the situation.
  • Agree that feelings, although not rational, are real.
  • Agree that thoughts and feelings are different and don’t have to be compatible.

When bickering starts, small disagreements, the tone gets  negative. 

The physiological part of conversations is very  important.

When the negativity creeps in, it’s good to stop.

Here’s the WHY:

During misunderstandings, heated discussions or arguments the mind/body goes into a stress response.  Heart rates elevate, blood is diverted into muscle groups and away from vital organs (like the brain!)  During stress responses the brain responds to what it perceives as physical danger. This is time to fight, flee or freeze in place – not the time to listen or problem solve. Take a break to calm your brain down.

Here’s a tip:

  • First, agree when you will come back together and continue.
  • Get out of visual and audio range of your partner.
  • Do something self-soothing that calms you down, that gets you out of fight or flight. Ideally MOVE to help dissipate the neurochemistry of fight or flight.
  • Don’t think about the discussion you’re having, distract yourself.

The conversation will be different when you go back to it, even if circumstances are the same.

 

 

 

CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH – Creative Expression BENEFITS your BRAIN

During self-isolation due to coronavirus, many are turning to the arts. Whether looking for a creative outlet or opportunity for expression, it’s  possible that we are driven by an innate desire to use our brains in ways that make us feel good.

Having facilitated millions (maybe not millions, but a LOT) of Therapeutic Creative Expression workshops I know that creative expression — in all its many forms – is stress reducing and a tool for healing.  There is compelling  cutting-edge research, that the arts have positive effects on mental health which supports my experience and observations.

Found objects & magazine pictures

Neuroesthetics

This is a new field of study called neuroesthetics, which uses brain imaging and biofeedback to learn about the brain on art. Scientists are learning about how art lifts our moods and captures our minds.

Evidence from biological, cognitive and neurological studies show visual art boosts wellness and the ability to adapt to stress.

“While practicing the arts is not the panacea for all mental health challenges, there’s enough evidence to support prioritizing arts in our own lives at home as well as in our education systems.”
“Research shows that the arts can be used to create a unique cognitive shift into a holistic state of mind called flow, a state of optimal engagement first identified in artists, that is mentally pleasurable and neurochemically rewarding.”

1. Art promotes well-being through Mindfullness

HeART of Spirituality Workshop Judy Facilitated

MINDFULNESS AND FLOW — The arts have been found to be effective tools for mindfulness (a trending practice in schools that is effective for managing mental health).

“Specifically, engaging with visual art has been found to activate different parts of the brain other than those taxed by logical, linear thinking; and another study found that visual art activated distinct and specialized visual areas of the brain.”

Collage using Magazine Pictures

Neuroesthetic findings suggest this is not an experience exclusive to artists: it is simply untapped by those who do not practice in the arts.

There is a wealth of studies on the relationship between the arts, flow, and mental health, and flow-like states have been connected to mindfulnessattentioncreativity, and even improve cognition.

Magazine picture collage

THREE TIPS FOR ARTS-BASED MINDFULNESS

1. Make mistakes – Experiment

The first rule of all my Creative Expression workshops is:

THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG

Try something new and be willing to make mistakes to learn. Most professional artists practice for years and admit to making lots of pictures they don’t like before one they are satisfied with.  Those we now consider “masters” destroy pieces of their art – we only see what they felt was successful.

Our “feel-good” brain neurochemistry is activated when we try to learn new things.

2. Reuse and repeat – Practice & Process over Product

Play and experiment with reusable materials:

  • Dry-erase markers on windows that can be easily wiped away.
  • Sculpting material, like play dough that can be squished and reshaped.
  • Etch-a-Sketch, Buddha Boards
  • Crayons and coloring books
  • Scribble on cardboard

When your goal is to experiment you emphasize practice and process over product and take the pressure off to make something that looks good. If you want to keep a copy, snap a photo of the work, then let it go.

3. Silence Part of Your Brain

Don’t talk when you are making art, and if you are listening to music, choose something without lyrics. The parts of the brain activated during visual art are different than those activated for speech generation and language processing. Give those overworked parts of the mind a break, and indulge in the calm relaxation that comes from doing so.

The neurochemicals that are released feel good, and that is your brain’s way of thanking you for the experience.

Take a look at some early posts on Creative Expression:

Tutorial: Processing Your Creative Journaling

Processing Theraputic Creative Expression

Sneek a Peek Into My Journal

Sneek a Peek – We’re on a path to a BEST SELLER

Happiness Hacks has been a pet project for YEARS.  We realized we had posted a lot of simple, quick ways to increase your feel-good neurochemistry.  Our goal has always been to share all the information we have on mental, emotional and physical well-being (not to mention amuse ourselves).

We had a brrrrrrriliant idea!  Compile all the information in a book and amuse ourselves by drawing pictures.

 First came the research to back up all the neuroscience . . . one year later . . . Amusement NOT.

Second came the pictures (they amused us and hope they amuse you)

Third came the formatting into a book (not so amusing) and another year later we gave up and Peggy put 12 of the hacks into a calendar – which is now available for 2021.

Fourth3 years later Peggy massaged the 21 hacks into a template on Kindle.  We sent out some free PDF’s at random to get feedback before making it public.  Take a LOOK below.Click here for Hack Your Way to Happiness, Kindle edition

P. S. Full disclosure:

  • NO one (not one person) was paid for their comments
  • NOT one of them is a relative of either Peggy or Judy
  • Each gave us permission to share!

P.P.S.  We are so stoked by the comments we received we’re compiling all 21 Hacks into a Workbook.  Stay tuned

“This piece is beyond brilliant!!!! Thank you for sharing this.”  Joshua Castillo, Parenting Coach & Early Childhood Consultant, Los Angeles Metropolitan Area

“It holds some terrific thought provoking ideas and action evoking concepts. I’ve smiled at the pics and engaged with the thinking, thanks for putting this together.”  Lesley Forbes, Early Childhood Implementation Branch Manager at Department of Education and Training – Regional Victoria, Canada

Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin & E The Happiness Quartet

“I loved it! Congratulations!!! 🤗”  Gabriela Rodriguez Campos, Parenting Coach

Happiness Hack Stars

“This is great.  Clear, clever, and doable for most. Congratulations!”  Betty Rawlings, Director, Psychiatric Services, West Anaheim Medical Center, Ret.

“ I took a look, out of curiosity.  I wanted to see if there were any hacks I didn’t know about, and there was – being warm!  As someone who hot flashes constantly right now 🙂 I had to giggle when you said to embrace them!  Not exactly on my to-do list! Ha.  All in all, though, great book!  Love the playfulness of it, the graphics are great and of course the info is spectacular. “  Shannon Lambert , Parenting, pet, and lifestyle freelance writer

Can mowing the lawn make you smile more?

 Happiness is not magic. It is a skill. And Hack Your Way to Happiness is crammed full of activities you can do with your kid today. And tomorrow. And every day. Because skills take practice. But these activities are so fun, your kids will WANT to do them. And YOU will want to do them, too. So that’s win-win. Happiness building and family bonding (which is another pathway to happiness, by the way) at the same time. I love the way the authors have included the science behind the strategies. The more your kids know about how their brain chemistry works, the more empowered they will feel. Hack Your Way to Happiness is great addition to your parenting library.”

Elisabeth Stitt, Parenting Coach and Educator, Workshop Leader, Speaker and Author of Parenting as a Second Language

“You offer a lot of very easy to do hacks with all the scientific background for them with humor, encouragement and the cutest drawings! How could anyone try these hacks and not feel better? It was encouraging to hear that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re thinking you might be able/want to do and actually being able to do it. What a novel concept that one doesn’t usually hear about.
My only caveat came from hack involving drinking hot sauce. Hope no one takes in a deep breath when taking that drink!
This is a great book for almost all ages to help anyone help themselves to a better life.”

Barbara Coulter

I have the best of both worlds – The Science Behind Our Need for Variety

Since the stay-at-home orders in California I spend 4 days a week helping one of my daughters, who is working from home. I watch over my granddaughter’s schoolwork, cook, do laundry, walk their dog and garden. My granddaughter is restricted in TV and internet time so we spend time crafting, hiking and “playing”. No two days are the same. Then I’m back to my own house for a 3 day week-end.  I tell my friends I have the best of both worlds right now – 4 days interacting with people I love and 3 days of solitude.

I’m aware how fortunate I am. During this pandemic there are hundreds of thousands of people my age who are sheltering in place, many alone.
Being cooped up can make everyone a little stir crazy and add feeling out-of-control during a quarantine.  There is research that suggests . . .

” . . . people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines—when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences,” 

“The opposite is also likely true: Positive feelings may drive people to seek out these rewarding experiences more frequently.”

Some people’s brains respond more positively to getting off the beaten track.

Recently published brain imaging research* (conducted before the pandemic) suggests that the monotony created by a homogeneous daily routine that lacks new and diverse experiences may be harder for people who have more robust functional connectivity between their hippocampus and striatum. 

Is diversity in humans’ daily experiences associated with more positive emotional states?

To answer this question, researchers used GPS trackers to follow the daily movements of study participants in New York and Miami for a few months. The researches asked subjects to send text messages reporting on their positive or negative emotional states as they went about their day and moved from place to place or stayed in the same location.

At another phase of the study, participants had MRI scans to document functional connectivity between different brain regions.

Study participants with more robust hippocampal-striatal functional connectivity tended to report having a stronger emotional response to getting off the beaten track.

On days when people with this brain signature experienced more variety in their physical surroundings and were able to spend time in different geographical locations, they were more likely to report feeling “happy,” “excited,” “strong,” and “relaxed” or “attentive.”

“These results suggest a reciprocal link between the novel and diverse experiences we have during our daily exploration of our physical environments and our subjective sense of well-being.” 

Regardless of how much happiness or dysphoria someone feels being under lockdown, in the short-term public health experts agree that stay-at-home guidelines and social distancing are in everyone’s long-term interest. There are small things you have control over and can do.

We’ve posted some practical advice for those of us who are still sheltering in place and only leave home for essentials.  Even small changes that introduce greater variability into your physical or mental routine are beneficial—such as:

  • Exercising at home
  • Going on a walk around the block
  • Taking a different route to the grocery store or pharmacy
  • Reading about diverse locations and situations
  • Watching travel shows
  • Taking up a hobby

Does the daily grind of COVID stay-at-home orders make you feel every day is a carbon copy of the day before?

Peggy

 

https://wp.me/pLGhj-bDg

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/202005/the-science-behind-our-need-variety-in-our-activities

*This peer-reviewed paper (Heller et al., 2020) was published on May 18 in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

Watching cute animals is good for your health

Science shows watching cute animals is good for your health

You knew watching videos of puppies and kittens felt good but now there’s data to back  that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety.

The study* examined how watching images and videos of cute animals for 30 minutes affects blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety in a 30-minute montage of the cute critters.
“There were kittens, puppies, baby gorillas. There were quokkas. 

The quokka, an adorable creature found in Western Australia, is often referred to as “the world’s happiest animal.”

The sessions, conducted in December 2019, involved 19 subjects — 15 students and four staff — and was intentionally timed during winter exams, a time when stress is at a significantly high level, particularly for medical students.

In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, 30 minutes after watching the video.

  • Average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71 — which the study pointed out is “within ideal blood pressure range.”
  • Average heart rates were lowered to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%.
  • Anxiety rates also went down by 35%, measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a self-assessment method often used in clinical settings to diagnose anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.

When questioning the participants, the study found that most preferred video clips over still images, particularly of animals interacting with humans.

 

*The study was conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism,

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/27/us/watching-cute-animals-study-scn-trnd/index.html

Stinky tip for not touching your face

We are constantly reminded to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, don’t touch the mask, don’t touch your face.

Your face offers multiple entry points for the virus. So every time you touch your eyes, nose and mouth with grubby hands, you risk infection.
“If you have touched a table or a doorknob or some surface contaminated [with the virus] and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you have a chance of inoculating yourself with the virus”.

But, as a matter of habit, most of us touch our faces multiple times an hour without even realizing it.


So, here’s an idea. “After you wash your hands really well, touch a piece of raw onion,” says Catherine Belling of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. With this strong smell on your fingers, “you’ll notice when you touch your face,” she says. 

Sure, it may make you a tad antisocial, but it could be a good way to train yourself to touch less . . . 

. . . and a way to train others to social distance from you!

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