Got Rhythm. . .What Sparks Selfish Behavior?

Brain Activity In Monkeys May Shed Some Light

“Monkeys are highly social animals that live in groups called troops, but they’re not always very cooperative with other members. In fact, they’re known to act quite selfishly to assert their dominance or when resources are scarce. Interestingly, researchers at Yale University have recently identified specific patterns of brain activity that determine if a monkey is in a sharing mood or not.”

“Studies in humans have identified many candidate brain regions that drive decisions to share. For this particular trial,” in monkeys ” the researchers selected two brain regions to examine more closely: the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex.

  • The amygdala is typically called the emotional center of the brain. It’s responsible for fear and aggression, and it helps store emotional memories. 
  • The medial prefrontal cortex is sometimes called the moral center of the brain. It’s responsible for a large variety of higher cognitive functions like analytical thinking and executive decision-making.”

“Researchers presented pairs of rhesus macaques with one of two scenarios where they had to decide if they would share juice with the other. This was done while the authors recorded activity in the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex activity in the macaques’ brains.”

  • In the first scenario, the monkeys could choose to give juice to their fellow monkey or have the juice thrown in the trash.
  • In the second scenario, they had to choose if they wanted to drink juice by themselves or share the juice.

“Monkeys hate to see good juice go to waste, so in the first scenario they would typically give the juice away. But they weren’t as nice when they had the option to drink the juice by themselves.”

“It turns out that the decision to share and the decision not to share can be identified by the rhythms of brain activity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.”

“When the brain activity between the two regions were in sync, the monkeys had decided to share the juice. The two regions were not tuned together when the monkey chose to have the juice thrown out or when it chose to drink alone.”

Additionally, the activity of the brain regions occurred at different frequencies depending on which decision the monkey made.

“We found a unique signature of neural synchrony that reflects whether a pro-social or an anti-social decision was made,” says Steve Chang, the senior author of the paper and an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Yale University, in a release.”

“The findings of this study suggest that the coordination of the activity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex regulates social-decision preferences.”

“We all know there are individual differences in levels of generosity,” adds Chang. “Maybe Scrooge did not have high levels of synchrony after all.”

The study is published in Nature Neuroscience.

https://www.studyfinds.org/what-sparks-selfish-behavior-brain-activity-in-monkeys-may-shed-some-light-study-finds/

YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WE DID IT!!!!!! 

Our Happiness Hacks book has been in the works FOREVER (Maybe not forever, but several years).  We started writing and drawing the book when we realized we had several MAXyourMIND posts outlining how-to easily and quickly tweak your neurochemistry to feel better. 

Why did it take so long? 

  • Every “Happiness Hack” was researched and referenced.
  • We had to figure out what a neurotransmitter did.
  • In our naivete we didn’t know how time consuming and frustrating it would be for us non-techies to format a book that had pictures (as you already know, the drawings are how we amuse ourselves and hopefully you).

Splish Spash – read Hack Your Way to  Happiness to figure out how this works.

21 ways (count ’em TWENTY-ONE) to “tweak” your own neurochemistry to feel better, happier in only 5 – 10 minutes!

 (Yes, you read it right –  only FIVE to TEN minutes out of your day to feel happier.) 

Brisk It, Splish Splash, Sing it Out, Charmed, Wee3, Breathe into It, Choc full, Air it Out, The Write Way, Show Them the $, Dial a Smile, Imagine Me, Seek ‘n Find, Warm it Up, Happy Snacky, Be Nosey, Tender Eyes, Pet a Pet, Do-Good, Touch Much, Flip’n Good

$3.76 

 SPECIAL PRICE – Cheap – just for you

(and anyone else who wants to buy a copy) 

Click here: for Kindle book  “Hack Your Way to Happiness”

You can access Kindle books on a pad, phone or computer, no Kindle needed

HACK away Doldrums, HACK away Blahs 

Some people are born with “happy” brains. This booklet is for the rest of us who want to feel happier and are impacted with the stress of daily living, plagued with pain of past events or worries about our future.

Be the FIRST one on your block to have a copy.  Don’t delay we need a best seller.

And if you want a 12 month reminder don’t forget our 2021 Happiness Hacks Calendar. 

Click here: for 2021 Calendar

Look for the money-off coupon on the Zazzle page.

Stay tuned – there’s a workbook to follow . . . 

. . . coming any year now!

A New Year’s Note – annus horribilis

To all our loyal subscribers,

Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” (a Latin phrase meaning horrible year). “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,” she said during a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession.

2020 is NOT a year on which the entire world will look back at with undiluted pleasure.  It’s been life taking, life altering, terrifying and exhausting.

“Old age” now has some advantages. We are blessed to be retired, have safe homes, food and friends and will be in the top tiers eligible for the COVID vaccine.

When we look back to our past (don’t ask how many decades . ..) our most valuable life’s lessons came from the most dire and painful of circumstances and experiences.  Still in the middle of this “annus horribilis”, our current lessons are not yet clear.  Now looking forward to the future we will rethink old, outdated values, rituals and routines in light of all that 2020 brought.

A CURIOUSLY CREATIVE Zazzle Shop creation

A CURIOUSLY CREATIVE Zazzle Shop creation

We thank you for sharing our posts, with your family and friends, to help us find a broader community to learn about mental, emotional and physical well-being.

We wish you and yours a HEALTHY 2021 filled with scientia et sapientia!!*

Peggy and Judy

*Latin for knowledge and wisdom

 

scientia et sapientia knowledge and wisdom

It’s easy to get Around to Square Breathing

Brené Brown Talks About Square Breathing, but What Is It?

 Square breathing can lead to mindfulness, slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure.” and it’s easy to do.

What is square breathing?

Also known as box breathing, 4×4 breathing or four-part breath, square breathing is a type of diaphragmatic breath work—deep breathing using your diaphragm, which fills your lungs with oxygenated air more fully than shallow chest breathing. According to Harvard Health Publishing“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange—that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.

This type of breathwork has been scientifically proved to help increase calm and focus and decrease stress, depression and anxiety—even the military teaches it to aid in stress-related emotional disorders. It’s also a great way to practice mindfulness.

How to practice square breathing

First, breathe normally (if you’re reading this you are probably doing it already!). Then inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Make sure your belly expands as you inhale and constricts as you exhale; this is diaphragmatic breathing because you’re using your diaphragm! Take a moment to think about each cycle of breath. As you simply stay aware of your breathing, you’re already practicing mindfulness. On your next cycle, start square breathing:

  1. Inhale through your nose for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  2. Hold your breath for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  3. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  4. Pause and hold for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  5. Repeat

When to practice square breathing?

On a walk, before bed, in the shower, sitting at your desk – anywhere you breath. Practicing square breathing when you’re not in a stressful situation is just as important for mindfulness, and it will prepare you to do it when you are in a tense situation, whether that’s a stressful meeting or an actual crisis.

Read in PureWow: https://apple.news/AoZYQ3UIVSd-3Gv_5FZZJ-w

Want to feel good? Talk to yourself.

Folk lore has it that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness. Being a life long “self talker” I hide this habit.  If my friends thought I was mad who would want them as friends?

Now that cell phones are ubiquitous my car is the one safe haven where I can unleash my monologues. I figure that anyone who passes me while driving assumes I am talking on the phone.

(According to some research when you are having a conversation, about 60 percent of what you say will be about you.  That statistic rises to 80 percent if you are communicating on social medial.)

Need an audience? Talk to a mirror.

The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favorite Topic. 

Researchers from Harvard University’s Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab wanted to see what parts of the brain became active when subjects talked about themselves rather than about other people.

They discovered that talking about yourself activates the same areas of the brain as sex, cocaine, and good food.

Researchers took these findings one step further. Does someone else need to be listening to you when you talk about yourself, for it to be a pleasurable experience?

  • The same process was repeated with one difference. This time some of the responses would be shared and some would be kept private.
  • Each participant brought a friend or relative with them. These companions were put in an adjoining room.
  • Before subjects were asked questions about themselves or others, they were told whether their response would be live broadcast to the person they brought with them, or kept private, even from the research team.

The results showed that both talking about yourself and sharing your response brings pleasure.

The greatest enjoyment comes from talking to other people about yourself; the least from talking privately about others.

Although it isn’t as high, talking privately about yourself still comes with a strong hit of pleasure. That means that private self-reflection like writing in a journal or talking to yourself are feel-good activities.

Who knew I talk about myself because it feels good?  I thought it was because I liked my own company.

Peggy

Click here for post on journaling: The Write Way to Physical and Emotional Well-being

 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-neuroscience-of-everybody-favorite-topic-themselves/

Did you know . . .Mice make faces too?

Eek! Mice make facial expressions based on their emotional state. (We’re not making this up.)

Mice make different faces depending on how they feel — and that could impact how we treat mood disorders

Mice, unlike most people, cannot force a smile or disguise their disgust (as far as we know). Most of us may not have realized that their tiny, fuzzy faces can muster an emotional expression at all.

Fear?                             

But a group of German neurobiologists have proven mice can, in fact, express emotions — and they play out all over their petite faces. The researchers say that analyses of rodent brains in mid-emotional reaction could improve the ways we treat human patients with mood disorders.

“Being able to measure the emotion state of an animal can help us identify the ‘how’ and ‘where’ in the brain, and hopefully get hints at how emotions arise in humans, too,” *

Pain?

Researchers carried out a series of experiments with emotive mice and linked five emotional states — pleasure, disgust, nausea, pain and fear — to their facial expressions.
The results, published  in the journal Science, could advance how we understand emotions — and they’re cute to boot.

Nausea?

How do you measure a mouse’s emotions?
It’s not easy.

First, the team stimulated mice to react in certain ways so they could observe how their faces changed.

  • Drinking a sweet solution evoked pleasure
  • drinking a bitter substance elicited disgust.
  • A painful shock to the tail could incite fear,
  • an injection of lithium chloride might have made them feel ill.

Not every mouse reacted the same way to the same stimuli, the researchers noted:

  • A thirsty mouse expressed pleasure when drinking water more than a full mouse did. That’s a fairly nuanced reaction for such a small animal.
  • Close-up footage of the mice showed subtle changes in their facial expressions:
  • When a mouse experienced pain, their noses drooped and their ears flicked down. When a mouse felt fearful, their ears ticked up and their eyes widened.

    Observations alone couldn’t determine the intensity of those emotions, though. So the neurobiologists next built descriptors for what each facial expression would look like and trained a computer to detect them in under a second. This effectively “measured” the emotions.

Disgust?

“But emotions don’t arise just in response to stimuli, the researchers noted — they originate in the brain.
So the neurobiologists took a peek inside the mice’s heads using two-photon imaging, a type of microscopy that can penetrate tissue to show how living cells move and change. The team used light to activate neurons, nerve cells that transmit information from the environment throughout the body to cause a mouse to react.”
The regions of the brain associated with emotions in humans lit up in mice, too: The anterior insular cortex, the region of the brain thought to be responsible for emotional feelings, was activated when a mouse’s face showed pleasure.
In the mice brains, neurons reacted with the same strength at the same time the mice “made a face.” This suggests that there are individual neurons that could be responsible for animals’ emotion, though this point requires more research.

Pleasure!

How this could help people

“Neuroscientists don’t fully understand how emotions associated with anxiety and depression arise in the brain. Starting those studies with a mouse might give them a strong foundation.”  Learning how and where emotions originate in the brain could improve the way physicians treat people with mood disorders.


https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/02/world/mice-facial-expressions-scn-trnd/index.html

Nadine Gogolla of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, neuroscientist and study author

 

Why we lie and the neuroscience behind it

I’m fine.  Of course I love you.   No, you don’t look heavy in those jeans.

Many of us lie . . . we call them “Little White Lies”. They do no harm . . . right?

We lie to:

  • save face
  • avoid hurting other people’s feelings
  • impress others
  • shirk responsibility
  • hide misdeeds
  • as a social lubricant
  • prevent conflict
  • get out of responsibility

When you think about it . . .  lies are based on fear . . . at the very least apprehension 
Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a psychologist  has confirmed that lying is a condition of life. In her research she found that over the course of a week we deceive about 30 percent of people we have interactions with.*

Liar liar

Women are more likely to tell altruistic lies to avoiding hurting other people’s feelings, and men are more likely to lie about themselves. De Paulo found that men lie more often to impress. A typical conversation between two guys contains about eight times as many self-oriented lies as it does lies about others.


Your Brain On Lies

Three key parts of our brain are stimulated when we lie.

  1. The frontal lobe (of the neocortex), which has the ability to suppress truth—yes, it’s capable of dishonesty due to its intellectual role.
  2. The limbic system due to the anxiety that comes with deception—and yes, when we’re lied to our “Spiderman sense” here can perk up, just as we can feel guilty/stressed when we’re doing the lying. 
  3. The temporal lobe is involved because it’s responsible for retrieving memories and creating mental imagery.
  4. Now add the anterior cingulate cortex because it helps in monitoring errors, and the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex because it is trying all the while to control our behavior. Our brain is extremely busy when we lie.

    Lies At Work

    The most prevalence of lies is at work, or more specifically, to get out of work.

    According to Zety’s recent 2020 research, of over 1,000 Americans, they found 96% confessed to lying to get out of work. 

    The most common lies include
  • feeling sick (84%),
  • family emergencies (65%),
  • doctor’s appointment (60%), or lying about
  • a family member’s death (31%)!

On average, one person has used 7 different excuses to get out of work on different occasions.
Only 27% of respondents who lied to get out of work regretted it, and 41% of respondents would lie again.
91% of people making up excuses to get out of the office were never caught!
More men than women were caught lying, and only 27% of respondents who lied to get out of work regretted it. For those caught, 70% regretted lying. But despite not feeling bad about themselves for lying, 59% of respondents said they wouldn’t do it again.

Lying Rx

It’s far more peaceful when we tell the truth, because our limbic system isn’t stressed about lying and our frontal lobe isn’t working to inhibit the truth.

Telling the truth just doesn’t take as much brain activity and you can notice not only how much better it feels, and  it makes your life simpler.
So why do we lie? Because it works for us . . .temporarily, at least. 

What do you lie about? Why?


*Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinecomaford/2020/10/17/why-we-lie-and-the-neuroscience-behind-it/#1f99bca7d7c1

Wearing a mask is like turning down a marshmallow

Masked
“Consider our current situation, where we are being asked to balance two monumentally impactful numbers in our heads — the 150,000+ new Covid-19 cases a day (and the threat that it’s going to get worse), and the reports that two new coronavirus vaccines are nearly 95% effective—and that things could get better.”
Those numbers are a mix of present tense disaster and future tense hope. One of these involves willpower — we dangle from a cliff and people shout, hold on, just hold on, help is on the way, keep doing what you’re doing to keep from plummeting. Wear that mask; wash those hands; remember the common good.”
“Now, luck consists of those who are forced to live and work in the most dangerously infectious circumstances not getting sick.”
“Future-tense hope is complicated by the fact that the future is a fragile place, cognitively. Sacrificing immediate pleasure (a big gathering at Thanksgiving, for example), for a bigger future gain (less sickness and death) is tough for humans.”

Temporal Discounting or

Gimme that marshmallow NOW!

Humans show, for one thing, what is called temporal discounting–or as a famous experiment from the 60s framed it: “You can have this marshmallow now, but if you wait, you’ll get two — which do you choose?”  We have a strong tendency to go for the one marshmallow now, to discount the desirability of a bigger reward whose delivery stretches towards the horizon of the future.

“Aficionados argue as to whether temporal discounting is “exponential,” where for every additional unit of time you have to wait, the reward’s desirability is halved, or “hyperbolic,” where the self-discipline needed declines even faster (“I’m sick of wearing this mask and I won’t do it anymore”). In either case, it means that we’re lousy at gratification postponement.”

End-of-History Illusion.

“Another problem is that we have trouble believing that there will actually be a future for us that differs from the present, something known as the end-of-history illusion. Ask someone, say, how much would she pay to go to a concert by her favorite band from 10 years ago? “Them? Two cents, I’m embarrassed I ever listened to them.” How much would she pay in 10 years to go to a concert by her current favorite band? “A zillion dollars — they’re going to be even more awesome then.”‘

“The present focuses the mind, and it’s hard to imagine that it will soon be just another piece of the past.”

“All of which makes it difficult for the promise of nearly 95% in the future to sustain us in the 150,000+ present. Nonetheless, there is some hope that we will manage some hopefulness. This is because we’re not being asked to imagine that nearly 95% will usher in an unimaginable future, one where within a few years, not only will the virus be gone, but that the huge failings and challenges it has exposed—the urgency around providing health care for all, stopping global warming, vanquishing inequality and reining in police misconduct—will be resolved.”

“Instead, nearly 95% promises to usher in a future we are able to imagine because it is one filled with things we remember. Much has been made of how “Make America Great Again” has dog-whistled a benighted time when hierarchy based on race, ethnicity, religion and gender reigned supreme.”

*      *     *

Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology, neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford University. He is also the author of “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/20/opinions/mask-marshmallow-covid-vaccine-sapolsky/index.html

How to eat carbs to LOSE weight

             Eat too many carbs and gain weight?

Eliminate carbs and end up feeling down, even down right depressed?

Many diets eliminate carbs, but what if you NEED carbs to keep your mood up?

During her research at MIT, Dr. Judith J. Wurtman* discovered that people binge on sweets or starchy carbohydrates to relieve depression, anxiety, or anger.  Carbs help your body get tryptophan to your brain so that your brain can make serotonin. 

Serotonin is a tricky neuro-chemical that lifts your mood, helps you recover from stress and decreases your appetite.  Your body makes serotonin, and to do that it needs tryptophan. 

  • However, tryptophan  has trouble crossing the blood-brain barrier, your brain’s security system for keeping out foreign substances.

  • Tryptophan can cross the blood-brain barrier, but carbs are needed to help get the tryptophan to your brain by pulling amino acids away from the brain to let the tryptophan in.

  • Your brain doesn’t make serotonin if you eat only protein, or protein and fat- – or even if you eat protein and carbs UNLESS you eat a small bit of protein and a big amount of carbs. 

It’s tricky! Wurtman found to maximize carbs help make serotonin, you have to eat carbs, proteins & fat in a particular combination.

 So what’s a “body” to do?

  • Eat a small amount of protein with a lot of carbs and little fat

  • Eat some protein, then later have a pure carb snack. (3-4 hours)

Wurtman found eating carbs, protein and fat with proper timing is what keeps our appetite down and our mood up.

*According to: The Serotonin Power Diet by Judith J. Wurtman, PhD and Nina Frusztajer Marquis, MD

The book gives more detailed instructions on how to’s, including meal plans & recipes.

Click here for The Chemistry of Joy

A DYI to Feel better in 12 minutes

Maneuver Your Consciousness In 12 Minutes Or Less

by Christine Comaford*

Preparation, you’ll need:

  1. An Emotion Wheel (we’ve included two samples)
  2. A timer – you’ll be doing four segments of three minutes in a row.
  3. Ideally, do this exercise with a buddy who will sit silently with you and ensure that you use all three minutes for each step below:
  4. Think of something you are resisting. Pick something “meaty”, like:

  • A painful belief;

  • A belittling,

  • Anger at someone or something

  • An unpleasant person

  • A situation you don’t want in your life.

  • Circumstances out of your control

Step 1. Negative Evaluation State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. During those three minutes, say out loud and don’t censor yourself or hold back. Really go all out:

  • All the things you don’t like about what you’re resisting.

  • What’s bad about it, what you can’t stand about it.

  • How painful it is.

  • How it makes you feel.

  • Why it’s wrong. 

As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify the key emotions you experienced during this state of Negative Evaluation.

Then have your buddy break your state. He or she can invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many stripes does a zebra have?”, or even ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.

Step 2. Curiosity State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. Now get really curious about this situation.

  • How did it come to be?

  • What is interesting about it?

  • What is familiar about it?

  • What good things come from it?

As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify your key emotions from this state of Curiosity. Then, have your buddy break your state by inviting you to shake your body out, asking you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many spots does a cheetah have?”, or asking you to count backwards from 10 to 1.

Step 3. Amazement State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes, and actively become amazed that this situation ever came to be.

  • This is fascinating because . . . !

  • What’s amazing about it?

  • How do you feel about it?

As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify the key emotions you noticed in this state of Amazement. Then, have your buddy break your state. He or she might invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “How many grains of sand are on a perfect beach?”, or ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.

Step 4. Full Appreciation State: Have your buddy set the timer for three minutes. Ahhhh…deep breath. Honor everything about this situation:

  • “Yes! This has been so very helpful in bringing me to the next level.

  • Wow.” So much gratitude and appreciation.

  • How do you feel about it as you’re honoring it?

As soon as the three minutes are up, look at the Emotion Wheel and identify key emotions you experienced while in this state of Full Appreciation. Then have your buddy break your state. He or she could invite you to shake your body out, ask you a non-sequitur question involving a number, such as “What’s your favorite number?”, or even ask you to count backwards from 10 to 1.

This process help release resistance, and also allows us to have choices and possibly increase our productivity. The quicker you can shift out of resistance and into consent, the faster you can focus on what really matters most.

Give this process a try and tell us if it worked for you.

Christine Comaford is a leadership and culture coach who helps businesses achieve growth. 

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/heres-how-to-feel-better-in-12-minutes/

Will seeing red help you lose weight?

Feeling overwhelmed by seasonal excess?  

Eating more than you need during the pandemic?

Try focusing on the color red. 

According to research study, people tend to eat less of food on red dishes – even chocolate or ice cream.

Background
Previously, scientists found diners at a pasta buffet heaped the marinara on if they used white plates, but took smaller helpings if their plates were red. They did the opposite when the pasta had a white sauce.

So researchers thought the key to eating less might be sharp color contrasts.

But the new study, published in the journal Appetite this month, indicates it’s not contrast, but one specific color — red — that causes people to cut back on what they consume. The research tested how much food (or hand cream) people used when the product was placed on a red, white or blue plate.
“We wanted to find out if the effect was limited to eating or generalized to other types of consumption. Hand cream was a convenient way to evaluate another sensory system — touch, rather than taste,” said study author Nicola Bruno, cognitive psychology researcher at the University of Parma, Italy.”
The study
In the new study, volunteers rated the saltiness of popcorn, nuttiness of chocolate and stickiness of hand cream.
Each person received a pre-measured sample of a product on a plate that was one of three colors — red, white or blue. The volunteers munched and moisturized as much as they liked while they filled out their answers. Of the 240 participants, 90 taste-tested popcorn, and 75 each sampled the chocolate chips and hand cream.
Each survey also included a question to check how much testers liked the product, since this may have triggered them to eat or use more. After the experiments, researchers measured how much the testers had consumed.
The authors also measured differences in the color intensity and contrasts of foods, cream and plates. Data in hand, they tested whether differences in people’s consumption correlated with differences in color contrast.
Results
On average, people ate less popcorn and chocolate when they were served on red plates compared to blue or white plates.
“Not surprisingly, self-reported popcorn fans ate more than those who expressed no preference for it on the survey. However, these people consumed more kernels independent of plate color. When researchers corrected for people’s preferences in their statistical analysis, eating off red plates was still associated with lower consumption.”

Use of the moisturizing cream followed a similar trend. When testing hand cream on red plates, people used about half as much, on average, compared to cream on blue or white plates.

Contrast had little to do with these results, said Bruno. Though dark chocolate on a red plate offered less contrast than pale colored popcorn or cream, people still took fewer chocolate chips.
“I expected to find the results related to differences in color intensity, but they did not. It’s really related to the color red compared to the food and cream colors,” he said.
Limitations
“The study supports the idea that the color red reduces consumption, according to Oliver Genschow, who studies consumer psychology at the University of Mannheim.”
Don’t run out and buy those red plates as a holiday gift just yet. In all the research so far, participants were unaware of the real reason for the tests, implying an unconscious process may be at work.
“We don’t know what will happen if people are conscious of their plate’s color. Maybe it won’t work anymore,” Genschow said.
He says color may be an additional factor to consider when treating patients with certain eating disorders, but it’s premature to suggest everyone trying to lose weight should simply switch to red plates.
Next steps”
“Predicting our responses to color in the real world is difficult. In other contexts, researchers have found responses to red range from attraction to aversion. On safety gauges and signs, red is a near-universal warning of danger. But on lipstick, cocktail dresses, or roses, many see red as the most romantic color.
For now, this new study elucidates one aspect — consumption.”

Did you know . . . Bald people may not get Goosebumps?

OOOooooooooo things that go bump in the Halloween night . . . your hair stands on end (without gel), a shiver goes down your spine . . . . goosebumps.

“Whenever you get goose pimples, it’s not actually somebody walking over your grave, as my granny used to say; it’s a little uptick in stress as your brain tries to keep you safe.”* 

Goosebumps – the muscles around each hair follicle contract, raising them up into little bumps and have an intriguing connection with your brain.  When your body goes into fight or flight mode -goosebumps can happen. 

Inside your brain, your amygdala is your watchdog, constantly looking out for anything dangerous in your environment. And when it detects anything, real or imaginary, as dangerous it sets off a chain reaction in your brain that releases adrenaline and starts the fight or flight response in your body. You get goosebumps.

This happens in animals, too. Your cat or dog’s hair will stand up on end, making them look bigger to possible adversaries. We as humans don’t have enough hair to really do this, but we may have kept the response from the time our ancestors were harrier then we are now.

 Goosebumps are a good thing . . so we aren’t all bald.

The cells that cause goosebumps, by contracting muscles, are important for the hair follicle’s health.  Without them, the hair could just fall out.  

It’s not just scary stuff that triggers goosebumps.
Goosebumps also happen when:

  • You are cold. 
  • Have a fever and get chills – adrenaline  is released to warm you up by lifting your body hair and making you “fluffier”  
  • Emotions – Beautiful piece of music as can music that creates a bit of fear or surprise . 

    Do you get goosebumps on Halloween?

    *Matthew Sachs Ph.D.

https://www.bustle.com/wellness/why-do-i-get-goosebumps-brain-reaction-neuroscientist

How many “Weak-Tie” friends do you have? IT MATTERS.

Weak Tie friends are not close friends but people you see regularly – from a shopkeeper to a casual neighbor, members of a group you belong to.  You may just wave, say “Hi” maybe chat a bit.  

Weak Tie Friend, by peggy

Weak Tie, Strong Tie  Friends, by Peggy

Having a good sized group of casual friends can increase your happiness, improve knowledge and your feelings of belonging.

Mark Granovetter’s* research found that quantity matters.

The most important thing he learned was that these weak-tie friends are very important when it comes to getting new information.

“Granovetter found that most people got their jobs through a friend-but 84% got their job through a weak tie friend, someone they saw only from time to time, not a close friend. As Granovetter saw that close friends tend to have the same information, but weak ties connect with different circles and can pass that information, like those of job opportunities, on to us. They also provide us with stimulation, new stories about what is happening or news about events. When it comes to weak ties, the more the merrier.”

People with more weak ties may be happier.

 When researchers asked people to keep a record of their interactions and their mood  they felt better on days when interacting more with weak-tie friends.

A study in Scotland and Italy showed that being a member of a group, such as a team or community group, gave people a feeling of more security and a sense of meaning.

Covid 19 had caused many of us to loosen those weak ties. Gyms, restaurants or bars are closed or limited.  Working at home limits changes connections. Some companies have noticed that even chance meetings with others you don’t work closely with can feed creativity and enhance the transfer of information.

I’ll be more focused on keeping touch with my weak tie friends, through social media, giving people a call, chatting with neighbors or remembering to wave when I walk. They may even have some tips on coping with the pandemic.

Peggy

Howdy by Peggy

*Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor, author of The Strength of Weak Ties

Rx: Best Friends create Better Health

They Teach It at Stanford

A lecture at Stanford University by the head of psychiatry, was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman. Whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.

He was serious.

“Besties”

“Women connect with each other differently and  provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult  life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes.  But their feelings? Rarely.”

Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health.  He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.

“There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!”

“So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very lucky. Let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. Evidently it’s very good for our health.”

Friends and pets

Lifelong friends

We REALLY TREASURE our GIRLFRIENDS.  Now go and treasure yours.  (couldn’t resist the Pink Color!)

P. S. Interesting Research findings:

  • Longevity – Married men live longer than single men, yet women who marry have the same life expectancy as those who don’t. However, women with strong female social ties (girlfriends) live longer than those without them.
  • Stress – For decades, stress tests focused solely on male participants, believing that all humans would respond in the same manner. When these same stress tests were finally conducted on females it was discovered that women don’t have the same, classic ‘fight or flight’ response to stress that men do. According to the research presented in The Tending Instinct, women under stress have the need to ‘tend and befriend.’ We want to tend to our young and be with our friends. Time with our friends actually reduces our stress levels.
  • More Stress – A study conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine found that when we’re with our girlfriends, our bodies emit the “feel good” hormone oxytocin, helping us reduce everyday stress. By prioritizing our female friendships and spending time with these friends, we take advantage of a very simple, natural way to reduce our stress.
  • Even more stress – Prairie voles, a monogamous rodent, have a similar response to stress. When a male vole is put in a stressful situation, he runs to his female partner. Female voles, when stressed, immediately run to the females they were raised with.
  • Self-esteem – A recent study by Dove indicated that 70% of women feel prettier because of their relationships with female friends. It’s no surprise that our self-esteem is highly influenced by our girlfriends; this is important to understand for girls as well as women.
  • The Health Factor – Women without strong social ties risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker – it’s that serious.

This post originally appeared on Curious to the Max. Click here for more posts like it.

My First Interview – 6 days left for special discount


“G’day folks, Today, I interview a multi-talented author from California. Welcome, Peggy …”  Hearing Clancy Turner describe me as multi-talented was both flattering and confusing.

 I wrote one book, “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs”.  And actually Maui had a great story, so I just wrote it down for him. Maui was my cat and he created his own amazing tale by learning how to regain the use of his paralyzed back legs.  So when a friend started writing a children’s book,  I decided to do the same and tell Maui’s story.  I struggled with writing, but loved drawing pictures for the book. When Clancy asked to interview me,  I could not pass up the opportunity, since Maui can’t speak for himself.

wed since Maui can’t speak for himself.

The impetus for the book was my young granddaughter.  I’ve always been fascinated by the brain and applied a lot of what I read about neuroscience when I treated psychiatric patients.  Neuroscience was a bit of a stretch for a 5 year old but Maui’s story seemed a perfect introduction to  perseverance, hope and healing.  

Here’s the link to the interview. Please take a look. I would love to hear what you think. How did I do as Maui’s surrogate?

Clancy Tucker’s Blog, Peggy Arndt – Guest Author

P.S.  I’m not one to brag but . . .  I’m delighted about many comments from people all over the world who bought “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs” and happy that Maui’s tale (pun intended) is reaching beyond Lucy.

“As a behavioral pediatrician, I see many children with a variety of difficulties. It can be hard to persist when you are having a bad day. However, I think the story of Maui and the will to continue to try, not give up on what he truly enjoys can be a wonderful conversation starter for children facing adversity. I will recommend this book to my families in clinic.”  Nerissa Bauer, M.D., Behavioral pediatrician, Consultant Blogger, Tweetiatrician, Public Speaker, Carmel, Indiana

“I read the story of Maui. It is touchy and inspiring. Though being a cat, Maui was determined, to resolve her back leg problem with continuous & renewed hope. And the Pictorials were so lively, pleasant and explanatory. These type of stories are good for Children, parents must make a habit of them read inspiring stories, which has fun and moral, which is Determination.” Anil Kumar Morathoti, Senior Social Worker-Child/Student Welfare, Education Development. State Coordinator, India

“You had one strong, courageous cat there! The story is great to read, and inspiring to say the least. It does go to show us the power of the mind, and how we all possess the power of healing, ourselves and others. It comes with courage, belief, perseverance, hope, and most of all love and passion for life. I applaud you for your determination but most of all for your vision of Maui walking again.” Paul Del Sordo, Special Needs Inclusion Coordinator

61lR-hq4N3L._AC_UL640_QL65_

In appreciation for all our readers I’ve discounted a copy of my book

Click here for “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs” on Amazon 

10 day special discount: $6.99!

Check out Clancy’s Website

Clancy Tucker in Laos

Clancy Tucker writes young adult fiction for reluctant readers but has also achieved success as a poet and photographer. Clancy has lived in four countries, speaks three languages, has photography accepted and published in books in the USA (Innocent Dreams, Endless Journeys & A Trip Down Memory Lane), used as covers for magazines (‘The Australian Writer’ – 2008 & ‘Victorian Writer – 2008), has work registered with the International Library of Photography, published in literary magazines and he’s written more than 90 short stories.

Bats! Not just for Halloween or COVID-19!

Witches don’t wear britches

Bats don’t eat cats

(When you expect this to rhyme

Don’t be surprised

and roll your eyes)

Click here for Riding High on Halloween mug

 A percentage of all sales is donated to The Gentle Barn Animal Rescue

 

Did you know bats don’t get COVID-19?  

“It turns out that the answer to that question has to do with the bat’s status as the world’s only flying mammal.”
“During flight, a bat’s body temperature spikes to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Its heart rate can surge to more than 1,000 beats per minute.”

Cute Bat

“For most land mammals, these are signals that would trigger death,” says Linfa Wang, who studies bat viruses at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. But bats live it every day.”

Wang says it seems that bats have developed special immune systems to deal with the stress of flying.

“Their bodies make molecules that other mammals don’t have, which help repair cell damage. And their systems don’t overreact to infections, which keeps them from falling ill from the many viruses they carry (and also prevents conditions like diabetes and cancer).”

“This shows that it’s not always the virus itself but the body’s response to the virus that can make us sick, explains Wang.”

Click here for Two Witches card 

 A percentage of all sales is donated to The Gentle Barn Animal Rescue

“Olival at EcoHealth Alliance says let’s be clear: it’s not the bats’ fault that people are getting diseases. “They’ve just sort of coevolved with these viruses and these bugs that basically don’t cause them any harm.”‘

“The problem, he says, is when the viruses jump to new species. And it’s human activity that makes that likely to happen.”


“In wildlife markets, like the one in Wuhan, Olival says animals that would rarely mix in nature come together. A bat in a cage could be stacked over a civet. And those animals are then mixed with humans — for example, butchers handling animals without gloves.”

“The way that we’re coming into contact with these animals, hunting, selling, and trading them is to a scale that really we haven’t seen before,” he says.”

“Investigators found traces of the virus in 22 stalls and a garbage truck at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, which also sold live animals. The market was shut down in early January, as it was tied to many of the early cases.”

“While the animal in the middle is still a mystery (some early reports point to pangolin), Wang says it’s easy to imagine how an infected animal could spread the virus to humans. “The animal can sneeze, the animal can urinate,” he says, “If a human touches [it] and blows their nose or whatever — they’ve got it.” Infection could also spread through eating undercooked meat.”

Click here for Many Witches kitchen towel

 A percentage of all sales is donated to The Gentle Barn Animal Rescue


“And bat researchers stress that bats aren’t just a possible source of viruses. They play a hugely important role in Earth’s ecosystem. They eat tons of insects and pollinate plants and disperse seeds for hundreds of plant species. And they’ve found a way to coexist with the viruses they carry — which means, says Wang, that even though bats may be the source of viruses that affect humans, they could also be the source of potential therapies if we study their immune systems.”

In the interest of not spreading false information or maligning bats more than they are already maligned, we have reproduced this article in it’s entirety.

Click here to see ALL our Halloween stuff on Zazzle

Remember a percentage of all sales is donated to The Gentle Barn Animal Rescue

Did you know you have thought worms?

We are familiar with earth worms, and earworms  (a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing).

Bet you didn’t know YOU have THOUGHT WORMS  

The average person will typically have more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day, new research into the human brain suggests.*

*The academic project—which was led by Jordan Poppenk, from the Department of Psychology, and Masters student Julie Tseng—outlines a method of isolating specific moments when a human is focused on a single idea, a phenomenon the researchers described as a “thought worm.” 

“Can measures of thought dynamics serve a clinical function? For example, our methods could possibly support early detection of disordered thought in schizophrenia, or rapid thought in ADHD or mania. “

“Thought worms are adjacent points in a simplified representation of activity patterns in the brain,” Poppenk explains. “The brain occupies a different point in this ‘state space’ at every moment.”

“When a person moves onto a new thought, they create a new thought worm that can be detected by brain scans……Drilling into this helped us validate the idea that the appearance of a new thought worm corresponds to a thought transition.”

Researching this spontaneous thought can help test how our brain patterns and thoughts are influenced by external influences, from drinking a cup of coffee to watching a movie for a second time.

“Thought transitions have been elusive throughout the history of research on thought, which has often relied on volunteers describing their own thoughts, a method that can be notoriously unreliable,” Poppenk said. “Being able to measure the onset of new thoughts gives us a way to peek into the ‘black box’ of the resting mind—to explore the timing and pace of thoughts when a person is just daydreaming about dinner and otherwise keeping to themselves.”

In the future, the team plans to look at how cognitive dynamics “vary across the lifespan” and attempt to better understand how mentation rate—the time it takes for a person’s thought to move on—relates to their individual personal qualities. “For example, how does mentation rate relate to a person’s ability to pay attention for a long period?” Poppenk said.



https://www.newsweek.com/humans-6000-thoughts-every-day-1517963

Body Weight Has Surprising and Alarming Impact on Brain Function

Summary: Obesity and higher body mass are linked to decreased cerebral blood flow. Lower cerebral blood flow is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a range of psychiatric disorders.

As a person’s weight goes up, all regions of the brain go down in activity and blood flow, according to a new brain imaging study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Research:

“One of the largest studies linking obesity with brain dysfunction, scientists analyzed over 35,000 functional neuroimaging scans using single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) from more than 17,000 individuals to measure blood flow and brain activity. Low cerebral blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is also associated with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, addiction, suicide, and other conditions.”

“This study shows that being overweight or obese seriously impacts brain activity and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as many other psychiatric and cognitive conditions,” explained Daniel G. Amen, MD, the study’s lead author and founder of Amen Clinics, one of the leading brain-centered mental health clinics in the United States.

“Striking patterns of progressively reduced blood flow were found in virtually all regions of the brain across categories of underweight, normal weight, overweight, obesity, and morbid obesity. These were noted while participants were in a resting state as well as while performing a concentration task. In particular, brain areas noted to be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, the temporal and parietal lobes, hippocampus, posterior cingulate gyrus, and precuneus, were found to have reduced blood flow along the spectrum of weight classification from normal weight to overweight, obese, and morbidly obese.”

“Considering the latest statistics showing that 72% of Americans are overweight of whom 42% are obese, this is distressing news for America’s mental and cognitive health.”

This shows brain scans from the study
3-D renderings of blood flow averaged across normal BMI (BMI = 23), overweight (BMI = 29), and obese (BMI = 37) men, each 40 years of age. Image is credited to Amen Clinic.

“Commenting on this study, George Perry, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology at The University of Texas at San Antonio, stated, “Acceptance that Alzheimer’s disease is a lifestyle disease, little different from other age-related diseases, that is the sum of a lifetime is the most important breakthrough of the decade. Dr. Amen and collaborators provide compelling evidence that obesity alters blood supply to the brain to shrink the brain and promote Alzheimer’s disease. This is a major advance because it directly demonstrates how the brain responds to our body.”’

“This study highlights the need to address obesity as a target for interventions designed to improve brain function, be they Alzheimer disease prevention initiatives or attempts to optimize cognition in younger populations. Such work will be crucial in improving outcomes across all age groups.”

Although the results of this study are deeply concerning, there is hope. Dr. Amen added, “One of the most important lessons we have learned through 30 years of performing functional brain imaging studies is that brains can be improved when you put them in a healing environment by adopting brain-healthy habits, such as a healthy calorie-smart diet and regular exercise.”

 

Original Research: Open access
“Patterns of Regional Cerebral Blood Flow as a Function of Obesity in Adults” by men, Daniel G.; Wu, Joseph; George, Noble; Newberg, Andrew. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

Neurologists Explain What Goes On In Your Brain When You Have A Recurring Dream

What is the brain doing when it plays the same dream, again and again? The neuroscience of recurring dreams gives us some insight into how they happen.

Dreams are very weird

“THINK ABOUT IT: You’re hallucinating four to six times a night as your brain attempts to synthesize and understand your experiences and memories. Recurring dreams add another layer of mystery. Around 60 to 70% of adults report having at least one recurring dream in their lifetime.”

Brain activity during a recurring dream partly depends on the dream’s content.

Different parts of the brain may be activated by different dreams

  • Dreams which are very visual activate our occipital cortex.
  • Dreams which involve dancing at a disco would activate our auditory cortex.
  • Dreaming of the same thing every night means you’ll activate the same group of structures repeatedly.

Emotions play a role in recurring dreams

“One of the theories regarding the function of dreams is that dreaming permits the emotional content of experiences to be processed,” If a dream keeps coming back, its emotional content is clearly important to you. This is why one of the most important mechanisms for generating dreams is the limbic pathway, an electrical brain circuit that regulates our emotional and behavioral responses when we’re awake. “When a person experiences recurring dreams, the limbic pathway is being activated in the brain .  .  . And it often lights up the amygdala, an almond-shaped area that processes emotions.”

“Along with the amygdala and the limbic system in general, repeating dreams can also involve the reticular activating system, or RAS. It’s a part of the brainstem that filters information to help us focus on important things, like emotional issues.”

 “Research* showed that recurring dreams might occur because of something called psychological need frustration, where you’re not getting what you need from waking life — whether it’s feeling respected, close to others, or in control. They can also be based on memories or traumas from your past. The RAS, the limbic system, and the amygdala combine to make the same dreams resurface again and again as your brain grapples with processing your problems and finding a solution.”

PTSD

“There’s another neurological reason dreams can keep coming back, too. “People with post-traumatic stress disorder will very frequently have recurring dreams or nightmares related to the trauma, and it is proposed that because of the extreme emotion of the experience, people wake up during the dream. This means that the dreaming process is never completed, and the emotional memory is never fully processed.” The brain will keep trying to finish its nocturnal job, and get interrupted every time. This could happen with benign dreams, too.”

Your recurring dreams might be annoying or strange, but they could show that something’s “stuck” in your waking life. And that could be a valuable clue to finding some peace, day and night.

Dreams that come back over and over again are trying to tell you something.

ARE YOU LISTENING?

*Research published in Motivation and Emotion in 2017

https://www.bustle.com/wellness/recurring-dreams-brain-neurologists#:~:text=%22When%20a%20person%20experiences%20recurring,shaped%20area%20that%20processes%20emotions.&text=It’s%20a%20part%20of%20the,important%20things%2C%20like%20emotional%20issues.

Did you know you were a trichromat? Why we all need green

With the COVID-19 need to isolate being slowly lifted, pictures of people flooding the parks, beaches and trails appear from every country which has been in a shut down.
I’ve always thrived outside, whether it’s sitting in the morning sun with a cup of coffee, hiking a trail, a walk by the sea or fly fishing in a stream.  Reading this information on the color GREEN has given me added insight on why nature is so appealing to me . . . Peggy

We’ve published posts on thepositive effects of falling water on our brains and now here’s evidence that we need green in our lives.
Green is the most universal interpretation of nature imagery, a symbol of the environmental movement and healthy living.
  • The human eye can see green better than any other color in the visible spectrum
  • The color has many associations, from disgust to tranquility

Green (the mixture of blue and yellow) can be seen everywhere and in countless shades.

We see green with ease because of how light reaches our eyes; the human eye translates waves of light into color.
When we see a green Woofer-dog, the color that we see is the light reflected off of the surface, the cones in our eyes process the wavelengths and tell the brain what color is being observed.

Kermit and I know It’s GOOD being GREEN

Humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colors: blue, green and red. The retina in a human eye can detect light between wavelengths of 400 and 700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum.

Each primary color corresponds to a different wavelength, starting with blue at the lowest (400 nanometers) and red at the highest (700 nanometers).

The color green resides in the middle of the spectrum, at around 555 nanometers. This wavelength is where our perception is at its best.  Because of its position in the center of the spectrum, both blue and red light waves are enhanced and better perceived with the help of green waves.

Your environment

Green space sweeps the planet. Before skyscrapers and suburbs popped up, our ancestors resided in forested regions full of greenery.
As they scavenged for food, the ability to differentiate between colored berries against the backdrop of green foliage was critical for survival.

The Evolutionary Advantage of GREEN

“The evolution of eyesight and the increasing ability to detect color with fine detail gave our primate ancestors an evolutionary advantage over other mammals who could not discern such differences as well.
Color changes in leaves, fruits and vegetables can indicate age or ripeness and even offer a warning that something may be poisonous or rotten.
Today, we continue to use this ancestral instinct at a farmers market or grocery store.”

Keeping you calm

“Some scientists and researchers also believe that because our eyes are at the peak of their perception to detect the wavelengths corresponding with the color green, the shade may calm us down.”

“With less strain to perceive the colors, our nervous system can relax when perceiving the tone.”

“This sedative quality of green may explain why there is so much of it in hospitals, schools and work environments. Historically, actors and actresses would recess to green rooms after so much time looking into bright lights on stage, though modern “green rooms” are rarely painted green.”

Helping you live longer

“A 2016 study found that living in or near green areas can was linked with longer life expectancy and improved mental health in female participants. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared risk of death with the amount of plant life and vegetation near the homes of more than 100,000 women.”

“After the eight-year study was completed, the data revealed that participants who lived in the greenest areas had a 12% lower death rate than women living in the least green areas.”

“With more green space, study authors said, came more opportunity to socialize outdoors. Additionally, the natural settings — compared with residential regions where plants and greenery were sparse — proved to be beneficial to mental health.”
Of those who did not live in greener areas, respiratory issues were the second highest cause of death. The study indicated that less exposure to polluted air may have been one of several reasons for increased life expectancy among for those who lived in green areas.

Keep Your Brain Sharp by Reading These

We have a big list of books we recommend–on neuroscience, happiness, meditation, your mind-body connection, talent versus effort  ….. even psychopaths!

Here’s a sample of 4 of the books you’ll find when you  

Click here for “Need to Read” :

The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge
Recommend to anyone who has to overcome a limitation or make a change

 

 

“The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to get Good at it” Kelly McGonigal

Makes a case for going after certain kinds of stress, and how stress and meaningful life are linked.See post about this book: The Upside of Stress

 

“The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works and What You Can Do to Get More of It”  by Kelly McGonegal, PhD

See our post on this book: Book Look – Did You Know Your HEART RATE can influence WILLPOWER?

 

The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity – And Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, Daniel Z. Lieberman MD, Michael E. Long, et al.

 

Tell us about your favorite books in the comments!

For more- Click here for “Need to Read” 

Bet you didn’t know: Your BRAIN may have changed during Covid & tips to help

Have you been feeling less alert? Less clear headed? More emotional? Feeling mentally fuzzy? than before Covid 19 appeared?

It isn’t just lack of sleep. Our brains actually change how they work in very stressful times.

Neuroscientist Hilke Plassmann calls this Covid Brain.

She explains why, instead of being clear headed during a pandemic, you may be having trouble concentrating. The area of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex,  that does the planning, thinks analytically and uses your working memory is overwhelmed when:

  • It gets unclear or contradictory signals, which hinder your decision making ability.
  • It has no previous experience to draw on for an event like a pandemic, and looks outward but finds the signals are not consistent.
  • Higher sensitivity to outside information and decreased ability to think analytically keeps us unfocused and anxious.

Here are some tips to help your brain cope:

1. How you think about stress matters

It isn’t the stress itself that gives us difficulty, it is our thoughts about the stress. If you think of stress as helpful in managing difficult times, it becomes less harmful, maybe even helpful  This may be even more true now.

Click here to learn more – The Upside of Stress”

“Regarding stress as a catalyst for positive change rather than a threat, for example, can promote clearer thoughts and keep negative emotions at bay”. 

2. Music can change your mood 

“Something as simple as listening to music can restore our equilibrium. Indeed, one study linked emotions induced through music to activity in brain networks that are essential for generation and regulation of emotions. Playing music in the background while working can also bolster productivity in times of stress by sustaining mental attention and sharpening focus,” Plassmann says. 

3. Meditation helps your brain 

Click here for ways to meditate

Much research shows that meditation  helps you manage your own brain.

Developing ways to regulate your brain, your stress levels and your mood will be a benefit long after Covid 19 is gone.

https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/neuroscientist-covid-brain-is-a-real-thing-heres-how-to-deal-with-it.html

Anxious thoughts? – Try doing “5-4-3-2-1”

When I was studying hypnotherapy there was a simple but effective “induction” for self hypnosis.  A variation can be used to help “ground” your brain in the here and now and redirect your attention from racing, non-productive or anxiety-provoking thoughts to the present moment by intentionally engaging your five senses: 

 5-4-3-2-1, in which you pay attention to:  Five things that you can see around you, four things that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste in your mouth.  

You can repeat the same thing more than once as it matters less what you sense and matters more that you simply pay attention to what your are sensing in the present moment.

Nor does it matter how you identify each.  You can:

  • Write these things down,
  • Say them aloud,
  • Mentally make note of them

For example, since I’m writing this post when I do the exercise now, I type them:

Sight 5 – I see my computer. I see my hands on the keyboard. I see the blue shirt I’m wearing.  I see the veins in my hands.  I see the lamp across the room.  

Touch 4 – I feel the my laptop on my legs. I feel the floor under my bare feet. I feel pain in my knee. I feel the keys under my fingers.

Hearing 3 – I hear birds, I hear the air conditioner, I hear my fingers tap on the keyboard.

Smell 2 – I smell coffee.  I smell the air in the room.

Taste 1 – I taste nothing.



This exercise roots you firmly into the here and now.  It can also help to take a deep breath before you identify each sensory item

Beat zoom fatigue by using your brain

I’m guilty.  I drift off after only a few minutes in Zoom meetings.  I pay more attention to the backgrounds than the people.  My attention is redirected by someone fidgeting or adjusting their camera.  If I don’t turn my own video image off I obsessively notice how my hair looks and try out positions to minimize my wrinkles.  judy


Why? It’s the Ringelmann Effect!
Ringelmann* proved there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the group and the size of each group members’ individual contribution. So if we feel we aren’t, or can’t, truly make a difference, why emotionally engage?

And if we don’t have “skin in the game” it’s easy to slide into checking our email, web surfing, or planning our weekend.

Here’s some suggestions to keep the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin flowing in everyone’s brain. 

Get The Most From Your Zoom Meetings, even informal zoom get-togethers

If you are a participant
  1. Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. 

  2. Stop your webcam video when you don’t need it.

  3. Use the best Internet connection you can.

If you are the organizer or facilitator

Zoom is a substitute for physical inter-personal connection. There are some ways to help everyone connect in cyber space:

1.  Even if it seems obvious, begin by stating what the meeting will focus on and the time allotted,    

Example:  “I’m glad to see everyone here to discuss/review/shoot the breeze . . . _________.  Hopefully, everyone has set aside the next hour but if you need to leave Zoom earlier, let us know.

When the basics are said out loud it a shared sense of purpose and control is heightened. Besides, the brain likes specific deadlines with dates or time. 

2.  Acknowledge/remind the Zoom time lag that occurs, the noticeable delays between video and audio – the time between you speaking and the other user receiving the audio on their end.  This helps minimize people talking over one another.

Possibilities:  

  • Ask people to wave their hand to speak or
  • Ask people take one deep breath before speaking.  It will both relax, help focus and minimize talking over one another

2.  Start (And End) With An acknowledgment or emotion Check-in. The most important thing missing from cyber-meetings is emotional connection.  “Touch” through a computer screen has to be purposely facilitated as it doesn’t come naturally.

Possibilities:  

  • At the very least (if there aren’t 500 people attending) acknowledge everyone by name
  • Have everyone say how they’re feeling by using a simple emotion wheel.  People can share in just a few sentences.

  • At the end of the meeting you can gently inquire if what they were feeling at the beginning is the same or different to help people refocus on themselves.

3.   Ask others to take a role during the meeting.  This helps people feel engaged –  gives them “skin in the game” which counteracts the Ringelmann Effect. It literally helps keep the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin flowing.  At the least, encourage everyone to say something at the onset.

Possibilities:  

  • Pose a question and have each person comment.  (It can be a serious question or a silly one.)   Ask if anyone has questions – Frequent Questions Increase Blood Flow To The Decision-Making Center Of The Brain.
  • Send out an article, video, quote, picture before the meeting and invite comments at the meeting.  Questions or topics to ponder keeps the prefrontal cortex in visionary/problem-solving mode.  

Possible Roles:

  • Summary maker – creates a summary and sends it out to participants or posts on social media 
  • Moderator – calls on people to talk
  • Timer – Calls out stretch breaks and meeting end

A 5 or 10 minute break every 20 minutes works wonders for engagement. Everyone can stretch in place or get up and move.  

4 – Periodically summarize information/topics to help those who have spaced out and others to focus,  Normal distractions or interruptions, like people or pets wandering in the room, will happen so it’s good to periodically recap what was just covered with a quick summary to bring everyone back. 

These suggestions will help keep the brain in gear but don’t guarantee zooming out during Zoom.

Check out DO YOU HAVE ZOOM FATIGUE for more information

What has or hasn’t worked for you?  Please SHARE.

 

 


*This effect, discovered by French agricultural engineer Maximilien Ringelmann (1861–1931).

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit Part 4: Fabricate/ Track

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

After 1,2 & 3 your stress level is so under control you might not need to read this last post on The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit. 

4. FABRICATE! YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE

HOW IN THE WORLD DOES CREATIVE EXPRESSION HELP STRESS?

During creative states of intense concentration your brain wave pattern changes, much like hypnosis. It can be any creative activity -writing a poem, dancing, playing the piano, knitting, sewing, singing . . .

When engaged in creative expression your brain filters out extraneous information and mind-chatter diminishes, lowering the stress response. When the stress response goes down a change in your physiology takes place: cortisol levels lower, heart rate slows, immune responses elevate. It’s not just your muscles that relax!

Here are two exercises to create those calm cues by making up situations and images YOU control. Now that’s incredible!

CALM DOWN COLLAGE

Calm collage by Lucy, age 8

Magazine cut-out collage using just 3 pictures

Here is an incredibly fun, easy, visual way to signal your brain it’s time to cool down and not continue keeping your neurochemistry on a fight or flight course. And don’t forget that CONCENTRATED awareness while you are creating your collage!

ALL YOU NEED: magazines, a scissors, glue and a sheet of paper, file card, a journal page or even cardboard (you choose the size).

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Cut or tear out serene peaceful, calming pictures.
  • Cut or tear out pieces of color that represent calm to you. For example, if there is a sky-blue dress, just tear out the color from the dress so that the dress isn’t recognizable—just a piece of the color.
  • Arrange the pictures and pieces of color on you paper in a way that pleases you.
  • Paste all the pieces down.
  • Put your collage up in a place where you will frequently see it to give your brain a calm cue.

You will feel pleasantly calm, just like the collage you have created.

If an 8 year old can learn how to do this YOU CAN TOO!

When you lead a stressful life it is often necessary to creatively give your brain cues it needs to:

  • Interpret peace, calm and serenity
  • Know that you’ve dealt with a difficult situation or person
  • Hear that you are safe and not in danger

Stacked Writing

Stacked writing by Lucy Arndt, age 8

Generally we don’t advocate thinking about, ruminating on pain, discomfort, or negativity as it only strengthens the stress response. Stacked Writing, however, is a way of “releasing” negative thoughts and feelings and decreasing stress levels.

What you need: A piece of paper and a SMOOTH writing pen. If you have a journal use that. When you are done no one can decipher what you wrote so anything goes!

• Write non-stop for 15–20 minutes (set a timer so you aren’t constantly watching the clock).

• Write on top of what you’ve written. Keep turning the paper as you write. Fill the page with sentences, phrases all on top of each other so that what you wrote is indecipherable.

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit, part 3: Eliminate/Concentrate

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

In this part 3 we continue with ways to reduce your stress:

2. ELIMINATE STRESS CUES

Get rid of stress cues in your life: Move to Tahiti, become a Monk, get a chauffeur, calm down—this category is more difficult than we originally thought . . . but not impossible.

Your bodymind wants you to live and prosper. It’s smart but limited. It can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening to you and what it perceives from the cues it receives through your sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, thoughts and mental imagery. Remember the rhino-cars?

So you need to eliminate, or at the very least avoid, cues that your smart but limited brain might perceive as threatening or dangerous.

Stress cues in your control to eliminate:

  • Reading tragic news stories (full of sight & sound stress cues)
  • Watching TV news or crime programs (particularly before bed)
  • Listening to certain rap music
  • Spending time with “toxic” or negative people
  • Worrying about what you can’t control (like earthquakes)
  • Thinking negative thoughts

You control what images, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts you expose your brain to. Even if you live in a war zone or are a police officer on gang patrol, with no control over the images and sounds that surround you, the one thing you do have control over are your thoughts.

3. CONCENTRATE! ON CALM CUES

When stress is chronic, it’s most effective to periodically give your brain a calm cue though-out the day and evening. In other words, you “chronically” cue your mind that it no longer has to keep you on alert, ready to flee or fight, because you’re not in danger.

CONCENTRATE

These two favorite breathing cues of ours are quick, simple and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Super Simple Signal Breath

In order to do this anywhere, anytime keep your eyes open and breathe through your nose.

  • Take a deep breath, expand your lungs and hold the breath for a moment before releasing it slowly, gently through your nose.
  • Let your body relax, deepening a sense of comfort in any way that’s best for you
  • Breathe normally and naturally…until your next Super Simple Signal Breath.

Because our autonomic nervous system has our breathing on “automatic pilot” we easily can forget to take this purposeful Super Simple Signal Breath.Here are some reminders that have worked for others to take a Super Simple Signal Breath:

  • Every time the phone “rings” or you text
  • Wear a bracelet or your watch on the “wrong” wrist
  • Put a post it note on your bath room mirror, car dash board
  • Write “B” for breathe in your appointments calendar

One Breath Cue with Safe Thought Cue

Try it NOW as you follow the instructions:

  • Take a deep, full breath, expanding your belly outward. 
  • Hold the breath for a count of 5.
  • Very slowly, gently release the breath through your nose and relax your body in any way you choose contracting your belly inward.
  • Tell your brain (silently) “I’m safe, right now.”

Don’t wait to feel stressed to purposely breathe. The more you practice the breath cues when you’re not stressed the easier it is for the brain to respond automatically and the quicker it will work when you are stressed. We’ve taught many people with severe anxiety disorders to do these one-breath exercises. Everyone reports it is one of the most effective things they have ever tried.
The hard part is remembering to do it.

You already know how to breathe. It’s free and in your control.

Incredibly Creative Stress Kit part 2: Bodymind/ Duplicate

In case you missed part 1, the Stress Test, click here for  a link

You have a BODYMIND

Ever wonder what your neck was for?

Bodymind? You’re probably thinking, “a typo.” Research has proven that your body and your mind are connected by your neck and are inseparable. The body talks to the mind, the mind talks to the body, the body talks to the body and the mind talks to the mind. You’re just one big, interconnected bodymind.

Now, let’s take a quick look at stress so you will know what’s happening in your own bodymind.

WHAT’S HAPPEN’N?

The stress response is simply “Fight or Flight”. Its purpose is keeping you safe, out of harms way. The problem in today’s world is our brains don’t actually know what is dangerous: See a picture of fighting on TV and your brain gets the message you are in danger; Your brain thinks that the 11 ton cars traveling down the freeway are like rhinos charging. More danger.

Your brain desperately wants you to survive and any cue it perceives as possible danger – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, thoughts & mental images – tells your bodymind to fight or flee from what is going to harm you. In some cases the freeze response is momentarily activated so that every part of your being is on alert giving time to decide whether to fight or flee.

When the stress response is activated blood is directed away from your intestines, stomach, brain – whatever organ isn’t needed to run or fight:

Ever get light headed? -it’s not time to think, just act: diarrhea?-let’s lighten the load; butterflies/queasy?-not the time to digest food. When you feel “shaky” it’s your blood being directed to arms and legs so there’s energy in that one-two punch and speed in your step. Lots of other things happen too, but you get the idea.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for!

Stress Reducing Exercises & Activities

Try the exercise & activities from each of these four different approaches to find what works best for you.

1. DUPLICATE FIGHTING & FLEEING

2.ELIMINATE STRESS CUES

3. CONCENTRATE ON CALM CUES

4. FABRICATE YOUR EXPERIENCE

First a word of safety

(We don’t want to have your brain perceive danger).

All the physical activities must be done only to your individual capability. If you have any medical/physical issues see your doctor/health care practitioner first before you try any of the physical exercises.

1. DUPLICATE FIGHTING & FLEEING

Trying to calm down usually only increases the stress response. Your bodymind is telling you to moooove!

Conventional advice is to “relax” when you’re stressed. I don’t need to tell you…but I will anyway: It’s near impossible to “calm down” the fight or flight response once your adrenalin is pumping. So let’s creatively use what our bodymind is doing and GO ALONG WITH THE PROGRAM-let’s duplicate what the fight or flight stress response is preparing us to do.

Once the stress response is triggered the neurochemistry is already in your cells telling your body to run or fight before you are consciously aware of the stress response. It takes, on the average 20 to 30 minutes for the neurochemicals to metabolize out of the cells.

Do physical activity for 20-30 minutes, the stress response will pass.

MOVING EXPERIENCES:

Walk to the store

Do jumping jacks

Climb stairs

March to music

Take a hike Clean a closet

Samba, rumba & mambo

Jump rope
Play soccer
Scrub the floor Build a shed
Kick box

Wash windows

Walk the dog

Ride a horse

Mow the lawn

Paint the ceiling

Rock climb

just MOVE.

When you don’t have the space, time or availability to do a “Moving Experience” physical focus is a way of directing some of that adrenalin into a positive place. Next are two quick and easy physical focus exercises that you can even do in public.

 STRETCHING THE POINT

  • Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms down, strrrrrretch forward.
  • Raise your arms high over your head.
  • Stretch them, try to touch the ceiling.
  • Pull your arms toward the back of your head and holdfor a moment.
  • Let your arms drop back to your sides.
  •  WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS

  • Pretend you have a whole lemon in your left hand
  • Squeeze it hard. Try to squeeze all the juice out.
  • Feel the tightness in your hand and arm as you squeeze.
  • Now drop the lemon (you can clean it up later)
  • Notice how your muscles feel when they are relaxed
  • Take another lemon I your left hand. Try to squeeze this one harder than the first lemon.
  • Drop the second lemon and relax.
  • Repeat this sequence using your right hand.

MOVING MANTRA

Adding thought to movement and your brain helps potentiate the activity.

NOW LET’S CONCENTRATE ON YOUR THOUGHTS. Remember, thinking is a cue to your brain.

First, what is a mantra? In this case it’s a positive statement you repeat over and over in your mind. We like to combine mantras with movement. So when we walk or exercise we’ll silently repeat a positive statement in rhythm to the pace.

Here are some to choose from. You can mix n” match. They don’t have to rhyme; it’s just incredibly more fun.

• 3-STEP Mantra: “I am safe”
• WALK AROUND THE BLOCK Mantra: “I feel good in the neighborhood”

• BREEZY DAYS Mantra: “Feel the balm, I am calm”

• IT’S FATE Mantra: “I feel good, I feel great, calm and tranquil is my fate!”

Better yet, create your own and e-mail us. We will share them with others.

Sneak Peak into our FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit, Part 1: Take This Stress Test

This is the first of 4 posts giving you FOR FREE a look into our . . .

 Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

written and illustrated by Slightly Stressed
Peggy Arndt & Judy Westerfield

Why The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit?

There are gazillions of books, articles, apps, tips & tricks on stress. What’s new? Why should this be different?

Most stress reduces are often boring, time-consuming or illegal. The purpose of this kit is to provide you with things we’ve tried that:

  • Are quick & easy

  • Have a creative twist

  • Are based on current neurological research

  • Work WITH your mind & body instead of trying to changethem

  • And… if you do them, they work!

First, take this scientifically based, unscientifically worded Stress Test. (The asides are ours*).

*P.S. No matter how we’ve worded the Stress quiz, all statements, in both Parts I and II, reflect REAL stress relievers and REAL stress inducers.

Part I- Stress Relievers Test

Scoring: Give each statement a score of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5

  • 1 – Yes, Always, Absolutely. I’m near perfect
  • 2 – Usually
  • 3 – Occasionally
  • 4 – Almost Never
  • 5 – Who ME? Are you kidding? Never, No way

____I give and receive affection regularly. (quantity, not necessarily quality)
____I have a circle of friends/relatives who are supportive.
____I exercise to the point of perspiration at least 3 times a week.

____I gave up smoking or have never smoked. (This refers to anything you put in your mouth and light on fire)

____I drink fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks a week (including beer & wine!)

____I am the appropriate weight for my height. (Not measured by runway model standards, please)
____I have such a flat mid-section you could serve drinks on it. (Must be fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks/week)

____I have an income adequate to meet my basic expenses. (And I use it for my basic expenses!)
____I get strength or solace from my spiritual/religious beliefs.

____I have people I am in touch with who I consider to be friends. (And they consider me to be a friend)

____I eat at least one balanced meal a day. (Translation: I eat fruits & vegetables once a day)
____I get 7-9 hours of sound sleep at least 5 nights a week.
____I am in good health- hearing, teeth/gums, eyesight. (I floss my teeth at least once a day)

____I am able to speak openly about my angry or worried feelings.

____I spend less than 4 hours a day watching TV or playing video games.
____I am able to take time for myself at least once a week. (Bathroom time does not count)

____I am able to have conversations with the people I live with about concerns, needs and issues. (The operant word is conversation, not argument)

Part II – Stress inducers Test

Scoring

Add 5 points for each of the following if they have occurred in the past 12 months and/or you have Post Traumatic Stress symptoms from the experiences indicated:

An accumulation of stressor over months, years or over a lifetime

____I’ve separated and/or divorced
____Gotten married
____Had a new baby or adopted
____Had twins, triplets, quadruplets, sextuplets, septuplets (for each child add 5 points)

____Been to jail (either as a “guest” or visitor).

____Become a step-parent
____Had a close friend or relative die (including pets)

____Lost a job, got fired, changed jobs, or retired.

____Sold and/or bought a home

.____Moved residences and/or remodeled my home.
____My wife/partner began menopause (and is outa control)
____My children have become teen-agers and/or are teenagers (5 points for each teen-ager)
____My husband/partner has become a teen-ager (Had a skull & cross bone tattooed on the arm and/or left to buy milk and never came back)

____Became a caretaker for an elderly parent, sibling, or grandchild(ren) (5 points for each person you take care of)
____My 40 year-old child moved back in, sleeps till noon and is not paying rent.
____My mother-in-law moved in, is paying rent and won’t move out.

____Had a serious illness or condition.
____Been hospitalized and/or dealt with insurance companies.
____Been in an accident or caused an accident (even if you weren’t hurt)

____Misc. other: Your stressor(s) of choice______________

Totals

_______Sub total Part I

_______Sub total Part II

_______Grrrrrand total

Find your total Score

Check out your stress level with this highly exaggerated

but accurate scoring system!

Stress-O-Meter 

Under 24: You shouldn’t’ be wasting your time taking stress tests. You are Calm, Cool & Collected and/or are from an alien planet.

Between 25-60: You should pay some attention to taking better care of yourself. Eat healthy and drink more milk.

Between 60-75: Your new mailing address will be Burnout- Ville. Run to the nearest parlor to have your score tattooed on your bicep as a reminder to slow down and breathe.

Over 75: Move to Tahiti immediately and don’t wait for the boat. (Swimming is a great stress reliever)

Over 200: indicates you took this test while curled up in a fetal position. When you manage to get up, IMMEDIATELY go out to buy milk, start swimming and never come back (you probably already have the tattoo)

If you scored more than 25, stay tuned to this blog for more of the Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

AND/OR!

Click here for your free PDF copy of the entire Incredibly Creative Stress Kit