1. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button
Sometimes your alarm goes off and you are just not ready to face the day yet. Resist the temptation to put off the inevitable by five or 10 minutes. (I can hit the snooze button multiple times, and fall back asleep multiple times. My solution is never set the alarm since my body is never ready to face the day.)
“Most sleep specialists think that snooze alarms are not a good idea.” That’s partly because, if you fall back into a deep sleep after you hit the snooze button, you’re entering a sleep cycle you definitely won’t be able to finish. So you’ll likely wake up groggy instead of refreshed. It’s best to figure out how much sleep you need on a nightly basis and make sure to get that amount.
2. Don’t Stay Curled up
So you avoided the snooze and now you’re lying awake in bed. Use this time to make yourself as big as possible — physically. According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, stretching out wide is a way to build confidence as you launch into your day.
Though it’s hard to say whether people feel good because they stretch out or vice versa, Cuddy explained that the people who wake up with their arms in a V “are super happy, like annoyingly happy.” (Since I can’t feel my arms until noon I am just plain annoying in the morning. Peggy is never annoying)
By contrast, she said there’s some preliminary evidence that people who wake up in a fetal ball “wake up much more stressed out.”
3. Don’t Check Email
If you sleep near your phone it’s easy to roll over and start mindlessly scrolling through your inbox. (Peggy is a roll over- scroller but she’s still not annoying) As Julie Morgenstern, author of the book “Never Check Email in the Morning,”if you start your morning this way, “you’ll never recover.”
“Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless,” she said. “There is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”
Instead, Morgenstern suggests that if you’re going to do some work, make it a project that requires considerable focus. (I don’t focus until 10 pm. Maybe I should start checking email first thing in the morning?”)
4. Don’t Leave your Bed Unmade
Why make your bed? You’re just going to mess it up when you sleep in it later. But according to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better,” making your bed is associated with increased productivity throughout the rest of the day.
Chicken or egg? I put my money on super-organized people who are more likely to make their bed to begin with rather than neatness creates productivity. (Peggy is organized and I’m “less so”. Yet she doesn’t make her bed and I make mine. If I don’t make my bed I’m unable to find it in the evening.)
But Duhigg writes that making your bed is a “keystone habit” that can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.” (So far, other good habits elude me . . . maybe I’ll try reverse psychology and leave my bed unmade)
5. Don’t Drink Coffee
Your body naturally produces higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates energy, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. So for most people, the best time to drink coffee is after 9:30 a.m.
If you consume caffeine before then, your body will start adjusting by producing less cortisol in the early morning — meaning you’ll be creating the problem you fear. (neither of us are prone to fearfulness . . . bottoms up!)
6. Don’t Get Ready in the Dark
“Your internal body clock is designed to be sensitive to light and darkness”, said Natalie Dautovich of the National Sleep Foundation. So getting ready in the dark could signal to your body that it’s still nighttime and could make you feel even groggier. (Maybe that’s my problem – I get ready in the dark because my eyes are at half mast until noon)
If it’s still dark outside when you wake up, Dautovich recommends turning on a strong light, like the ones used to treat seasonal affective disorder.
(Peggy goes outside, sits in the sun and drinks her morning coffee. She knows that morning sunlight resets our internal clock so we will be ready to get up the next day. HER eyes however are always wide-open in the morning)
7. Don’t Play it by Ear
It’s best if you incorporate your initial morning activities into some kind of routine. Scientists say our willpower is limited, and when we expend it early on in the day trying to decide what to do next, we have less left later in the day when we need to concentrate on work. Instead, let your brain run on automatic in the morning and conserve those mental resources for when you really need them.
(Maybe that’s why I’m not awake until 10 pm. Since my eyes are half-shut and my brain is still sleeping the only two organs left in my control are my mouth that drinks coffee in the dark and my ears which I play by)
How Do YOU sabotage your day before it starts?
Source: Business Insider, by
This was of personal interest to me given that the last several days I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Seems my brain’s left inferior frontal gyrus was not gyrating. (jw)
P.S. Be patient while the video loads. If you don’t like what Tali says you will like how she looks (certainly not like a stereo-type neuroscientist).https://www.ted.com/talks/tali_sharot_the_optimism_bias
“Optimism bias is the belief that the future will be better, much better, than the past or present. And most of us display this bias. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot wants to know why: What is it about our brains that makes us overestimate the positive?
Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.
In the book, Sharot reviewed findings from both social science and neuroscience that point to an interesting conclusion: “Our brains aren’t just stamped by the past. They are constantly being shaped by the future.”
In her own work, Sharot is interested in how our natural optimism actually shapes what we remember, and her interesting range of papers encompasses behavioral research (how likely we are to misremember major events) as well as medical findings — like searching for the places in the brain where optimism lives. Sharot is a faculty member of the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences at University College London.”
It takes a LOT for me to get angry. I can only recall 3 times in my life that I became REALLY angry – one involved a bar-b-qued turkey leg, but that’s another story. However, chronic pain has been my constant companion for 27 years. I’m blessed that pain isn’t #1 on my symptom list (fatigue holds that spot) and perhaps my slow-to-anger has been a big factor.
Millions of people in the world experience chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches which fall under the label of Nociplastic pain. This category of pain is new to me and got my attention. I’ve gone through the article and highlighted the points that stood out to me in case you want a quick read for an over-view. (judy)
“A growing body of evidence suggests that a subtype of chronic pain called nociplastic pain may be associated with unhealthy emotional regulation – particularly anger – according to a recent review.”
Chronic Pain Subtypes
“The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), in a 2020 review article in the journal Pain, proposed three subtypes of chronic pain, although these categories can be challenging to assess, wrote Brandon C. Yarns, MD, of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and colleagues in a recent review.¹”
- Nociceptive Pain is characterized by ongoing injury to peripheral tissues, such as pain associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer pain, and other conditions.
- Neuropathic pain is characterized by ongoing injury to peripheral nerves, such as pain associated with diabetic neuropathy.
- Nociplastic pain, by contrast, “includes conditions without evidence of peripheral tissue or nervous system lesion or disease, or with poor correlation of such peripheral findings to the patient’s subjective report of the locations of pain.” This type of pain is often associated with conditions such as nonspecific chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches, the researchers wrote.
Anger Regulation in Nociplastic Pain Syndromes
“The literature describing how emotion regulation, especially anger regulation, affects the presence and severity of nociplastic pain conditions goes back decades, Dr. Yarns told PPM. However, no prior reviews included neural correlates of emotion regulation in chronic pain patients. “So, we thought it was important to try to bring together the behavioral and correlational research on anger and anger regulation in chronic pain with brain imaging research on emotion regulation, most of which was in healthy adults,” with the goal of developing a model and an agenda to simulate further research in nociplastic pain, he explained.”
Proposed Biobehavioral Model Links Anger and Pain at Brain Level
“In an review published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Dr. Yarns’ team summarized the latest evidence and propose a unified, biobehavioral model – the Anger, Brain, and Nociplastic Pain (AB-NP) Model – as a way to advance research and inform treatments for chronic pain and its common comorbidities.”
“The team noted that the distinctions between nociplastic pain and other chronic pain subtypes start at the level of neural activity. Previous research has shown that nociplastic pain conditions are associated with neural activation patterns in emotional brain regions only, compared to activation in both sensory and affective regions observed in other chronic pain subtypes. For instance, task-based functional MRI studies have shown that periods of high spontaneous pain compared to low pain were only associated with increased activation in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), amygdala, and ventral striatum in people with chronic low back pain.”
“Next, the researchers highlighted findings from emotion research suggesting that nociplastic pain is associated with higher rates of secondary emotions, such as shame or embarrassment. “Considerable controversy remains about whether discrete emotions – such as anger – are associated with activations of unique and specific neural networks or whether most or all emotions activate the same or similar neural networks,” they wrote. However, studies have demonstrated that improved anger regulation can reduce pain.”
Pain Psychology: Gaps and Emerging Approaches
Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy
‘“Novel psychotherapies for chronic pain that act on emotion regulation – in particular anger regulation – have produced large reductions in chronic pain in clinical trials, namely emotional awareness and expression therapy (EAET),” Dr. Yarns explained. These therapies purport to act on brain circuits dealing with emotion and emotion regulation, but so far this association has not been tested, he added.”
“Dr. Yarns said he was surprised to find that no prior study had evaluated an anger regulation task in people with chronic pain during a brain scan. “This was surprising because there is so much behavioral and correlational data on the importance of anger regulation in chronic pain, so we thought someone would have evaluated neural correlates, but that is not what we found,” he said.”
Anger, Brain, and Nociplastic Pain (AB-NP) Model
“The AB-NP model, according to Dr. Yarns and coauthors, “illustrates the inverse relationship between nociplastic pain and anger in the brain” The model shows how increases in unhealthy anger suppression and expression are associated with increased nociplastic pain, as well as activation in the amygdala and mPFC. However, increased anger awareness reduces nociplastic pain in treatment studies and reduces amygdala and mPFC activation in imaging studies of pain-free adults.”
“The review was limited by several factors including the heterogenous terminology used in the studies, which made synthesis of the studies a challenge, the researchers noted. Other limitations included the incomplete imaging data and lack of data on testing the paradigms for inducing anger, noted the authors.”
Anger As a Pain Treatment Target
“According to Dr. Yarns, the key takeaway from his team’s review is the illustration that anger regulation is clearly an important treatment target for nociplastic pain conditions.”
‘“Specifically, when a pain patient gets angry, becoming aware of the feeling and allowing it to pass without immediately acting on it and without undue distress – anger awareness – could reduce pain by opposing the brain circuits involved in the generation and maintenance of many forms of chronic pain,” he said. “The fact that it teaches this form of anger awareness could be one way that EAET(emotional awareness and expression therapy) is so effective to reduce or even eliminate chronic pain,” he added.”
“As for adopting the model in clinical practice, “I think the biggest barrier is skepticism by both patients and providers about how important the brain, emotions, and emotion regulation are to most forms of chronic pain,” Dr. Yarns told PPM. “Since patients feel chronic pain in their bodies, most assume something is wrong with their bodies, but that is not always the case,” he said. “Emotional brain circuits affect the experience of all pain, and brain imaging research shows that changes in these circuits may cause nociplastic pain,” he emphasized. “Therefore, treatments for these conditions should intervene on the levels of emotion and the brain more than the body, which is where the pain is often felt, but not always where it is caused,” he explained.”
‘“Pain management providers also frequently focus on body-based treatments such as injections, devices, and physical therapy, and most psychological/brain-based treatments only focus on coping with or accepting the pain,” said Dr. Yarns. However, “our review suggests that at least one emotional process – anger awareness – could directly oppose the brain circuits that generate and maintain nociplastic chronic pain, and therefore reduce it,” he said.”
“Disclosures: The study received no outside funding. Dr. Yarns and a coauthor were supported by the US Department of Veterans Affairs.”
During the early years of our psychotherapy practices anger management groups used batakas to beat on pillows (and in more “advanced” groups – each other). Supposedly, batakas released the anger but we never referred anyone to those groups, thinking that practice makes perfect and practicing being angry, much less violent, was not therapeutic.
Many years later neuroscience proved us right, so we were REALLY surprised to find batakas are still being sold on the internet with outdated and debunked descriptions like this:
“The Bataka Encounter Bats (or aggression exercise bats) are designed to enable children and adults alike to release aggression in a fun, safe way. . . .Batakas are especially popular in therapeutic or educational environment. The Bataka consists of a coated fabric with a firm foam roller with integrated plastic handle. The handle provides hand protection, so that the risk of injury is minimized.”
Here’s a sample instruction to practice getting angry, easily and quickly:
- Buy a bataka from an internet site – hey, it’s only $160 . . .
- Think of something, someone, anything, anyone that’s bugging you and feel the anger.
- Focus on anger at past injustices, present slights – doesn’t matter if it’s directed toward you or someone else.
- There are opportunities everywhere – get angry at the news, household chores, lack of time, growing old, the weather, politics . . .
- Slug away at a pillow or chair.
- Make anger a habit and trust it to become a quick ‘n easy, automatic response.
(Warning: Your brain isn’t having fun, it’s strengthening your neuro-connections to retrieve angry feelings quickly.)
Unless you are being physically assaulted, anger is usually the lid on another emotion like fear or hurt. Put simply, fear and hurt create vulnerability and covering those feelings with anger gives us a sense of power.
To reduce anger:
- Refrain from trying to explain, justify, or rationalize why you got angry.
- Take a brisk walk, mop, shovel snow – movement helps dissipate the neurochemistry of anger and gives you faster clarity
- Pick another emotion – rejected, afraid, sad, hurt – even if you aren’t sure, just intuitively pick what feeling might have been covered by your anger.
- Think about what triggered the anger. Is there a pattern? What were circumstances in your life that created the rejection, fear, sadness or hurt?
Your brain is always creating and strengthening neuro-connections. Unused or seldom used emotional “connections” lose strength and fade away. The connections used the most often grow stronger.
You can train your brain to form any emotional habit you choose, with determination, effort and time.
“The actual secrets of the path to happiness are determination, effort and time.”
The Dali Lama
Take a look at the post on Reducing pain associated with anger regulation with a new biobehavioral model. Click HERE
All you need is an orange peel to feel les stressed? Sounds strange, but the science is solid.
Mayo Clinic researchers have affirmed there’s a tremendous stress-relieving compound buried inside orange peels — called D-limonene.
You don’t have to ingest D-limonene to start feeling its effects.
Just SMELLING it can make quite a difference!
Turns out, when you smell an orange peel, the D-limonene you inhale increases your brain’s serotonin and dopamine levels — which helps you instantly feel calmer and more relaxed.
According to Barbara Thomley, lead coordinator for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic:
“From what we’ve seen with our patients, even a quick smell can make a major difference… lessened anxiety always seems to emerge as a benefit.”
Oranges, by Judy
So next time you’re having a rough day, sniff an orange.
That citrusy smell can help “take the edge off” and quickly put you in a better mood.
From Dr. Steven Gundry https://drgundry.com
For something else to sniff that will lift you mood, Click here: A Happiness Hack:”Eau de Grass”
How to Learn Faster and Better, RANDOMLY
excerpted from Andrew Huberman’s newsletter
1. Stare to Get Focused
Visual focus increases mental focus. To increase your level of focus on the task, stare! Choose a point on a wall or object for 30-60 seconds before starting. You might be surprised if it takes a bit of effort—that ‘effort’ you feel is attentional engagement and reflects the activity of neural circuits mostly involving acetylcholine release in the brain. Expect your mental focus to flicker on and off, especially at the start of a learning bout.
2. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Perform the maximum number of repetitions you can in a given learning bout. There’s a reason teachers have you do the same thing over and over… . and over. If you repeat the process of what you are learning faster than is reflexive for you it will help your mind from drifting off task and keep you alert. Will you make errors? Of course, which leads to #3.
3. Make Errors and Activate Your Brain
Why should your brain take notice If you perform something correctly? But when you make an error, the the neural circuits that increase alertness are activated. When you feel stressed from producing something that doesn’t work your brain pays attention. Attention puts you in a better place to perform and execute learning-related behaviors the next trial—meaning on the next attempt. Computational modeling data suggests that an error rate of ~15% may be optimal and can help determine how difficult we should make a task.
But don’t worry too much about those specifics. Instead, keep doing repetitions and when you mess up, capitalize on it by doing another attempt (and another) while your forebrain is in that maximally attentive state.
4. Randomly Rest-Just for 10 Seconds
Studies (in humans!) have shown that when trying to learn something, if you pause every so often for 10 seconds and do nothing during the pause, neurons in the hippocampus and cortex—areas of the brain involved in learning and memory, engage the same patterns of neural activity that occurred during the actual activity of learning . . . . but 10X faster. These “gap-effects” are similar to what happens in a deep sleep.
The takeaway: introduce RANDOM 10 second pauses every 2 minutes during learning . . . which is one nice long breath in and out.
5. Give Yourself Random Rewards
The neural circuits that control rewards (all of which are brain chemical rewards) are closely tethered to the circuits that control motivation and the desire to pursue things, including learning. The question of how often to reward ourselves or others in order to keep motivation high is simple: make it random and intermittent. This is what casinos do to keep people gambling. It works. Predictable rewards lose their motivational impact quickly.
6. Max Out at 90 Minutes
Solid research shows that 90 minutes is about the longest period we can expect to maintain intense focus and effort toward learning. After 90 minutes, take a break and space intense learning bouts at least 2-3 hours apart.
7. Deep Rest , or take a Short Nap after 90 minutes of concentration
Research shows that shallow naps and/or NSDR Non-Sleep Deep Rest can enhance the rate and depth of learning. Within 1 hour of completing a learning bout, do a short NSDR “protocol”. Here are some options:
- Use Reverie, a free self-hypnosis app
- Take a 20 minute nap
- listen to an NSDR script such as 10 minute Yoga Nidra or a longer 30 minute video,
8. Sleep Deep at Night
The actual rewiring of neural circuits that underlies learning occurs during sleep and NSDR. Think of the learning bout as the “trigger” or stimulus for the possibility that we might learn, but sleep and NSDR are when the actual learning- the neural circuit rewiring, occurs. Our goal should be to get sleep right at least 80% of the time—it takes some work to get there but it is well worth it.
9. Breathe to Be Alert
Being alert acutally involves many processes and one of the main things is the release of epinephrine (adrenaline). One simple way to become more alert:
- Take 25-30 deep breaths (Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth).
- Next, hold your breath for 15-60 seconds.
- Finally, inhale once and hold your breath. But don’t force the breath hold; start to breathe normally immediately once you feel the impulse to breathe.
Behavioral protocols like the ones listed here are necessary no matter what. You don’t have to do all 9 every learning session (although numbers 1, 2, 9 are non-negotiable).
Click here to subscribe to Huberman’s newsletter or go to hubermanlab.com
Who isn’t a bit anxious these days . . . massacre, fire, flood, war, famine . . . the growing list is over-whelming. On the flip side is there is remarkable advances in everything from genetics to nuclear fusion.
In addition to scientific evidence that an “an apple a day” is biological good for us, here’s evidence that meditation reduces anxiety.
Nutritional research shows we can empower ourselves to feel partly — or sometimes entirely — better based on our dietary habits.
Pumpkin seeds, apples, strawberries, oatmeal and chickpeas help keep your sugar levels and mood stable.
Fluctuations in blood glucose can cause your mood to change rapidly, leaving you irritable, low on energy and feeling downright dreadful. Due to their higher fiber content, complex carbs pack in more nutrients than simple carbs and take longer to break down.
Chicken, eggs, lean beef, salmon , and lentils all provide energy that lasts and keep your blood sugar balanced.
Protein is necessary for healthy energy levels. It takes longer to digest than carbs, keeping your blood sugar balanced and providing lasting energy.
It also affects hormones that control satiety, so when you eat enough of it, you can ward off “hanger.”
Amino acids, are the building blocks of protein, help repair and replenish tissue — and your body needs them to make certain neurotransmitters.
Olives, tofu, dark chocolate, avocado and sardines reduce inflammation and blood pressure and have Omega 3 fatty acids that are good for your brain, immune system and inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids are part of cell membranes, particularly in the brain, and eating foods like salmon and sardines has been shown to ease depression and boost mood.
Beyond omega-3s, the unsaturated fats found in foods like avocados, olives and nuts may help keep inflammation at bay and reduce blood pressure, which are important for brain health.
Spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, pomegranates, shellfish affects mood neurotransmitters to keep you calm, and helps you sleep
All these foods contain folate which has an important role in the production of dopamine, impacts other mood-related neurotransmitters, helping you keep calm.
Folate has also been shown to help prevent neural tube defects, support cell growth, cell repair, and regulate sleep patterns (especially as you age).
A deficiency in folate levels has been linked to a number of brain issues, including dementia and depression.
Potatoes, turkey, cashews, kidney beans, and quinoa have iron which helps fight infection and keep healthy brain function
Low iron can cause fatigue and depression. The proteins found in iron also help maintain healthy brain function and development.
Consuming too much or not enough of iron can impact both your innate and adaptive immune functions.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, and lemons help you keep an even mood and repair your body
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that assists the body’s ability to make neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, which work to stabilize mood.
Your body needs vitamin C to maintain and repair all tissues, helping wounds and cuts heal. Plus, your adrenal glands require vitamin C to make stress hormones, including cortisol. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you produce — and the more vitamin C you need.
Tart cherries, pistachios, barley grapes and broccoli all help ease you into a good night’s sleep
Tryptophan, as well as nutrients like calcium and vitamin B6, help you produce melatonin, but you can also get this “sleep hormone” from the foods listed above.
Melatonin doesn’t have a soporific effect. Instead, it shifts you into a state that helps you ease your way toward sleep. Eating foods rich in melatonin before bedtime can help you take full advantage of the natural increase in this hormone that happens in the evening.
Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, is a dietitian, nutritionist, chef and author of “From Burnout to Balance: 60+ Healing Recipes and Simple Strategies to Boost Mood, Immunity, Focus and Sleep.”
“When you’re next staring deep into the eyes of your partner, the moment may soon be ruined by the knowledge that, regardless of whether these windows to their soul appear piercingly blue or a shimmering green, the reality is that they are brown.”
That’s right. All human eyes are brown. A mix of biology and physics should help explain this reality.
Seeing blue through the brown
Evolution in play
Like skin color, one theory behind the evolution of eye color is the migration of our early ancestors toward cooler parts of the world.
What we see-blue and green
“While high levels of melanin — in eyes, hair, and skin — help protect people in hotter climates, like Africa, from UV radiation, the need for the protective pigment decreases as people move to locations with less sun. “There was less need for all that melanin,” Heiting said.”
“It’s believed that’s how blue eyes came about, but it may just be the de-emphasis on the need for all the melanin,” Heiting said.
“Other options are colored contacts or laser surgery to change how light is reflected from your eye, but while you mull over the realization that eyes are not what you once thought they were, one thing is for sure: You’ll never look someone in the eye the same way again.”‘
*Bet You Didn’t Know
In a fascinating experiment, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation discovered that a muscle can be strengthened just by thinking about exercising it.
“For 12 weeks (five minutes a day, five days per week) a team of 30 healthy young adults imagined either using the muscle of their little finger or of their elbow flexor. Dr. Vinoth Ranganathan and his team asked the participants to think as strongly as they could about moving the muscle being tested, to make the imaginary movement as real as they could.”
Compared to a control group – that did no imaginary exercises and showed no strength gains – the little-finger group increased their pinky muscle strength by 35%. The other group increased elbow strength by 13.4%.
What’s more, brain scans taken after the study showed greater and more focused activity in the prefrontal cortex than before.”
The researchers said strength gains were due to improvements in the brain’s ability to signal muscle.
Neurobics™ is a unique system of brain exercises using your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways that encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. They are designed to help your brain manufacture its own nutrients that strengthen, preserve, and grow brain cells.
Include one or more of your senses in an everyday task:
- Get dressed with your eyes closed
- Wash your hair with your eyes closed
- Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.
Combine two senses:
- Listen to music and smell flowers
- Listen to the rain and tap your fingers
- Watch clouds and play with modeling clay at the same time
- Take a new route to a familiar place
- Eat with your opposite hand
- Shop at new grocery store
Cancel that gym membership, donate your running shoes and flex those buff fingers!
“One in four people will show patterns of antisocial behavior at least once during their childhood and adolescence. From stealing to bullying, lying, or even committing violence, most people grow out of these behaviors.”
“But for about 10 percent of the population, antisocial behavior never goes away, persisting into adulthood. In a new study, scientists scanned the brains of 672 people to discover that people who have antisocial conduct throughout their lives have smaller brains than those who do not.”
“Individuals who showed antisocial behavior consistently up to age 45 had a thinner cortex and smaller surface area in brain regions associated with executive function, motivation, and affect, when compared to people who were not antisocial.”
“By contrast, the research team didn’t see any widespread structural brain abnormalities in people who exhibited antisocial behavior only during adolescence.”
“The study’s findings suggest these differences in brain structure may make it harder for people to develop the social skills they need to stop them from engaging in the antisocial behavior in the first place, Christina Carlisi, a co-author on the study and researcher at University College London said.”
That has implications for diagnosis — and for treatment. If these changes appear in early life, or from birth, then it may be possible to intervene early enough to make a difference in people’s lifelong habits and conduct.
MAPPING THE BRAIN
“The study is not the first to link atypical brain development to antisocial behavior or conduct disorder. But it is the first to map out which areas of the brain may be distinct in people who only show antisocial behavior during early life as compared to people who exhibit this behavior across their lifespan.”
“To figure out which brain regions — if any — looked and operated differently in lifelong-antisocial behavior, the research team analyzed brain scans from 672 45-year-old participants who are a part of the Dunedin Study. The Study has followed the same group since age three, offering researchers unprecedented information on how people’s behaviors change and develop across the lifespan.”
“Of the 672 participants, 66 percent (441 people) had no history of persistent antisocial behavior, while 23 percent (151 people) had exhibited antisocial behavior during their younger years, and 12 percent (80 people) had “life-course-persistent antisocial behavior.” Members of the latter group showed conduct problems across their life such as physical fighting, bullying, destroying property, lying, truancy (or chronic work absenteeism), and stealing, up to age 45.”
“Researchers analyzed participants’ brain thickness, surface area, size, and other structural details using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.”
“Across the entire brain, individuals who showed antisocial behavior through life had (on average) reduced surface area in 282 of 360 brain regions. They also had thinner cortex in 11 of 360 regions, including in areas linked to goal-directed behavior, regulation of emotions, and motivation, all of which can factor into antisocial behavior.”
“By contrast, the people who had exhibited antisocial behavior only in adolescence did not have widespread differences in brain structure.”
“Most people who exhibit antisocial behavior primarily do so only in adolescence, likely as a result of navigating socially difficult years, and these individuals do not display structural brain differences,” Carlisi said.
“It is also these individuals who are generally capable of reform and go on to become valuable members of society.”
NATURE VERSUS NURTURE
“The findings do not show that lifelong antisocial behavior is rooted in the brain, or destined from birth. It is unclear whether people who do show these behaviors throughout their lives are born with brain differences or if these differences develop over time as a result of the behaviors themselves. They may also stem, in part, from environmental factors like drug use, smoking, or diet.”
“It is unclear whether these brain differences are inherited and precede antisocial behavior, or whether they are the result of a lifetime of confounding risk factors (eg, substance abuse, low IQ, and mental health problems) and are therefore a consequence of a persistently antisocial lifestyle,” Essi Viding, a study co-author and researcher at University College London, said in a statement.”
“The results jibe with a 2018 study that showed children with antisocial behavior, or who are diagnosed with conduct disorder, are at an increased risk for incarceration and poor physical and mental health later in life. More research is needed to determine how antisocial behavior plays out over a lifetime as well as in the brain.”
But the findings have important implications now for the treatment of juvenile offenders, the researchers say.
“Political approaches to juvenile offending often swing back and forth between punitive measures and approaches that give young offenders room to reform,” Terrie Moffitt, a study co-author and researcher at Duke University said in a statement.”
“Our findings support the need for different approaches for different offenders — however, we caution against brain imaging being used for screening, as the understanding of brain structure differences are not robust enough to be applied on an individual level,” she said.”
“Instead, we need to recognize that individual development can be one driver of serious repeat offending, but to also appreciate that this is not the case for all juvenile offenders.”
Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach?
Does hunger ever changed your mood?
Our bellies and brains are physically and biochemically connected in a number of ways, meaning the state of our intestines can alter the way our brains work and behave, giving a whole new meaning to ‘Food for thought’.”
The brain may be highly affected by the gut
The idea that gut bacteria might have a significant impact on brain functioning is gaining steam in the scientific community.
“It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease,”
“Previous research had investigated a link between disorders like autism, depression and anxiety to variations in the microbes within the intestines –– neuroscientists began to develop a deeper understanding of just how the microbiome, as it is called, exerts an influence on the brain’s development and activity. While the link is still being investigated, the immune system and the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the digestive tract, both likely play a role.”
90% of Serotonin produced in intestines 10% in brain!
Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain, Ruairi Robertson, TEDxFulbright, SantaMonica
Do bad dreams serve a purpose? Researchers analyzed the dreams of people and identified which areas of the brain were activated when they experienced fear in their dreams. They found that once the individuals woke up, the brain areas responsible for controlling emotions responded to fear-inducing situations much more effectively. These results demonstrate that dreams help us react better to frightening situations, thereby paving the way for new dream-based therapeutic methods for combating anxiety.
“Neuroscience has been taking an interest in dreams for a number of years, focusing on the areas of the brain that are active when we dream. The scientists employed high-density electroencephalography (EEG), which uses several electrodes positioned on the skull to measure brain activity. They recently discovered that certain regions of the brain are responsible for the formation of dreams, and that certain other regions are activated depending on the specific content within a dream (such as perceptions, thoughts and emotions). “We were particularly interested in fear: what areas of our brain are activated when we’re having bad dreams?” states Lampros Perogamvros, a researcher in the Sleep and Cognition Laboratory headed by professor Sophie Schwartz in the Department of Basic Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, UNIGE, and senior clinical lecturer at HUG’s Sleep Laboratory.”
Brain areas active during frightening dreams
The scientists from Geneva placed 256 EEG electrodes on 18 subjects whom they woke several times during the night. Each time the participants were woken up, they had to answer a series of questions such as: ‘Did you dream? And, if so, did you feel scared?’
“By analysing the brain activity based on participants’ responses, we identified two brain regions implicated in the induction of fear experienced during the dream: the insula and the cingulate cortex,” explains Perogamvros. The insula is also involved in evaluating emotions when awake, and is automatically activated when someone feels afraid. The cingulate cortex, for its part, plays a role in preparing motor and behavioural reactions in the event of a threat. “For the first time, we’ve identified the neural correlates of fear when we dream and have observed that similar regions are activated when experiencing fear in both sleep and wakeful states,” continues the Geneva-based researcher.
Do dreams prepare us for our waking lives?
The research then investigated a possible link between the fear experienced during a dream and the emotions experienced once awake.
“They gave a dream diary to 89 participants for the duration of a week. The subjects were asked that each morning upon waking, they note down whether they remembered the dreams they had during the night and to identify the emotions they felt, including fear. At the end of the week, they were placed in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. “We showed each participant emotionally-negative images, such as assaults or distressful situations, as well as neutral images, to see which areas of the brain were more active for fear, and whether the activated area changed depending on the emotions experienced in the dreams over the previous week,” says Virginie Sterpenich, a researcher in the Department of Basic Neurosciences at UNIGE.”
The researchers were particularly interested in the brain areas traditionally involved in managing emotions, such as the insula, amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex. “We found that the longer a someone had felt fear in their dreams, the less the insula, cingulate and amygdala were activated when the same person looked at the negative pictures,” says Sterpenich. “In addition, the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is known to inhibit the amygdala in the event of fear, increased in proportion to the number of frightening dreams!”
These results demonstrate the very strong link between the emotions we feel in both sleep and wakefulness. They also reinforce a neuroscientific theory about dreams: we simulate frightening situations while dreaming in order to better react to them once we’re awake. “Dreams may be considered as a real training for our future reactions and may potentially prepare us to face real life dangers,” suggests Perogamvros.
Dreams: a new therapeutic?
“Following the revelation of a potential function of dreams, the researchers are now planning to study a new form of dream therapy to treat anxiety disorders. They are also interested in nightmares, because — unlike bad dreams, in which the level of fear is moderate — nightmares are characterised by an excessive level of fear that disrupts sleep and has a negative impact on the individual once awake. “We believe that if a certain threshold of fear is exceeded in a dream, it loses its beneficial role as an emotional regulator,” concludes Perogamvros.”
Materials provided by Université de Genève
Ya gotta read this!
Richard Thaler and the economics of how we live
You could construct some powerful arguments about how an obesity epidemic is leading to more diseases such as Type II diabetes and coronary heart conditions.
You could put large red traffic light signs on unhealthy foods and engage in expensive public information campaigns warning that overeating products high in salt, sugar and fat can reduce life expectancy.
. . . Or you could just change where you put the salad boxes on the supermarket shelves.
“The last option is an example of nudge theory at work, a theory popularised and developed by Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago economist who is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics.”
Prof Thaler’s central insight is that we are not the rational beings beloved of more traditional economic theory.
“Given two options, we are likely to pick the wrong one even if that means making ourselves less well off.”
Lack of thinking time, habit and poor decision making mean that even when presented with a factual analysis (for example on healthy eating) we are still likely to pick burger and chips.
We’re hungry, we’re in a hurry and burger and chips is what we always buy.
Nudge theory takes account of this, based as it is on the simple premise that people will often choose what is easiest over what is wisest.
“Tests have shown that putting healthier foods on a higher shelf increases sales. The food is more likely to be in someone’s eye line and therefore “nudge” that person towards the purchase – whether they had any idea about the obesity argument or not.”
“Such theories, which sit in a big bucket of academic study called “behavioural economics”, are what Prof Thaler is famous for. So famous that the government now has its own Behavioural Insights Team, otherwise known as the “nudge unit”. It helps formulate policies, for example on pensions, to try and make us behave “more rationally” and push us towards better outcomes.”
Shoppers will spend more on a credit or debit card in a food shop compared with cash
One of its projects revealed that charitable giving via your pay packet – called payroll giving – increased dramatically if people were told who else in their peer group were also giving via that method.
Attaching a picture of “mates giving money” also improved the level of charitable donations. We tend to like doing what our friends like doing – called the peer group norm.
“Prof Thaler also gave us the concept of “mental accounting” – that we will tend to divide our expenditure into separate blocks even though they come from the same source.”
For example, we will spend more on a credit or debit card in a food shop compared with cash even though all the money ultimately comes from our earnings.
“Then there is his work on the “planner-doer” syndrome – that we lack self-control, will act in our own short-term self-interest and need extra incentives to plan long term than simply being told that, rationally, it is good idea.”
How many times do we let that gym membership lapse, despite our best intentions?
“Having just received news of the award, Prof Thaler told me that his job was to “add human beings” to economic theory.”
“And today he has been rewarded, both via the recognition of the Nobel Prize and by the not inconsiderable sum of £845,000 in prize money.”
Asked how he would spend the money Prof Thaler gave a succinct answer.
Neuroscience says doing this one thing makes you as happy as receiving $25,000
“The scientific study of happiness, also known as positive psychology, has given us a lot of useful insights in the last couple of decades. One of these insights is a study that showed that by doing just one thing, you would make yourself as happy as eating 2,000 bars of chocolate; and, more crucially, make yourself as happy as receiving $25,000.”
And what is that thing? Smiling.
“In a study in the U.K. scientists used many stimuli to see how happy they made participants feel. The researchers made participants do, see or hear different stimuli and using electromagnetic brain scans and heart-rate monitors, measured their ‘mood-boosting values.’ Interestingly, smiling trumped all of the other stimuli. It has long been established that smiling makes you feel good regardless of how you feel in the moment.”
“In 2009, using fMRI, scientist at Echnische Universität demonstrated that smiling activates your feel-good circuitry. Additionally smiling has some impressive correlations. For example, it has been associated with longevity. In 2010, Wayne State University researchers observed baseball cards from 1952 and measured the smile span of players. Those who were not smiling lived for an average of 72.9 years. However, the beaming players lived an average of seven years longer.”
“Similarly, a 30-year longitudinal study from UC Berkeley was able to use smile width from an old year book photo as predictor of a number of things: those who smiled had happier marriages, scored higher on measures of well-being and happiness. Smiles also predicted how inspiring others found them. Also, research has shown that we look more competent when we smile. We are perceived as more attractive, more likeable and more courteous. While commenting on this set of studies for Inc.com, Melanie Curtin gave some interesting statistics that are likely to draw your attention to your own smile”:
“Want to know where you stack up when it comes to smiling? “
- Under 14% of us smile fewer than 5 times a day (you probably don’t want to be in that group).
- Over 30% of us smile over 20 times a day.
- And there’s one population that absolutely dominates in the smile game, clocking in at as many as 400 smiles a day: children.”
So what? What does this mean? If smiling makes us happy, what do we get from being happy? Does happiness even matter?
“In another column on the scientific study of happiness entitled “5 studies on happiness and why you should get a pencil“ I said it does. ‘Some years ago,’ I wrote, ‘Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California and colleagues set themselves the daunting task of reviewing hundreds of experiments on the effects of happiness. ‘In his book, “59 Seconds,” Richard Wiseman reported the results of that study: ‘“After trawling the data from hundreds of studies involving more than a quarter of a million participants, Lyubomirsky discovered impressive benefits to being happy. Happiness makes people:
- More sociable and altruistic
- Increases how much they like themselves and others
- Improves their ability to resolve conflict
- Strengthens their immune systems
- Have more satisfying and successful relationships,
- Find more fulfilling careers
- Live longer, healthier lives.”’
Can we actually make ourselves happy? Or are people born happy?
“You can answer that question with three percentages: 50%, 10% and 40%. Again regarding the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues, Wiseman wrote in “59 Seconds,”: “The bad news is that research shows that about 50% of your overall sense of happiness is genetically determined, and so cannot be altered. The better news is that another 10 percent is attributable to general circumstances (educational level, income, whether you are married or single, etc.) that are difficult to change.”
“However, the best news is that the remaining 40 percent is derived from your day-to-day behavior and the way you think about yourself and others. With a little knowledge, you can become substantially happier in just a few seconds.” A part of that knowledge is that smiling does not only make you happy, but it also makes you like yourself, it makes others like you; it may notch you a fulfilling marriage, a longer life and give people the perception that you’re competent. But wait, there is more.
To help you increase your happiness, we wrote a book-available on Kindle-click here to preview: “Hack Your Way Happiness: How to Feel Happier Every Day, Based on Neuroscience.”
Let’s give the last word on smiling to a leader whose companions said “whenever we looked at his face, he was smiling.” And what did that leader say?
“Even a smile is charity,” Prophet Muhammad said. Which means that a smile does not only earn you worldly benefits but will also get you the hereafter.
By Ibraheem Dooba |
The question is: does your brain learn well under stress? The answer is “yes”. And the answer is “no”. How can that be? Here is what Henning Beck, author of “Scatterbrain: How the Mind’s Mistakes Make Humans Creative, Innovative and Successful” has to say:
Under stress the brain learns well for anything related to the stress, but learns poorly about anything not related to the stress.
Under acute stress noradrenaline is released and increases attention, and cortisol is released which which decreases distracting background “noise” . Theses two things let us focus and we can learn well and quickly. So the answer is YES.
Also, anything that is not related to the stress, the background noise, is suppressed. Learning math when you are stressed about your health is much harder. So the answer is NO.
During these last years stressors, obvious and hidden, surround the world. Isolation adds to the stress.
Try FOREST BATHING to reduce stress
The idea is to go slow and let yourself take in nature – the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – notice things you might ordinarily miss. It’s a meditation which helps clear your brain, and see your surroundings with fresh eyes.
The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.
“There’s a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. “Medical researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing and have demonstrated several benefits to our health.”
One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city to taking a forest walk. Both activities required the same amount of physical activity, but researchers found that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones. Read the full article and click HERE https://wordpress.com/post/peggyarndt.com/4728
Can brain science help to understand one of society’s most complex problems? Racism is a major societal problem in the U.S. and many other countries around the world.
Why some people would perpetrate crimes against other human beings just because they belong to a different ethnic group? Can brain science help provide an answer? Here are the main insights from a review article (Molenberghs, 2013) that tackled exactly this question.
1. How we categorize others
“From a theoretical perspective, racism is one aspect of a larger psychological phenomenon called in-group bias. Our brains have developed to adapt to complex social situations. Discriminating whether someone belongs to the same or a different group could be vital in order to behave correctly in some situations, such as during battle.”
“The same psychological mechanism can, however, lead to highly problematic behaviors. Everyone belongs to many different groups in their life. For examples, n-group bias can be observed between:
- fans of different sports teams
- supporters of different political parties
- students from different competing universities.
“In-group bias is highly dependent on context. Someone can show a bias against another person in one situation (e.g., during a football game when the two people support competing teams), but categorize them as belonging to the same group in another context (e.g., when engaged in a political discussion and realizing that their views align). This demonstrates how arbitrary and meaningless these categorizations often are.”
“Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex is particularly involved in social categorization. This brain area has also been found to be activated in studies in which participants were asked to think about their own personal attributes. This indicates that there is a relatively close association between thinking about ourselves and thinking about the social group(s) we belong to. This makes a lot of sense, as people also identify as members of the groups they belong to “
2. How we perceive the actions of others
“One important insight from psychological research is that people can perceive the same action very differently if it is conducted by a member of the same group or a member of a different group. In one empirical study by the author of the review article, participants were arbitrarily divided into two teams (Molenberghs et al., 2013) and watched videos of individuals from their own team and the competing team performing hand actions. Participants had to judge the speed of these hand movements and on average rated their own teams to be faster, even though the hand movements in the videos were performed at exactly the same speed.”
“In an additional functional magnetic resonance imaging study with the same task, the scientists found that participants who indicated a strong difference between the two groups showed an increase of activity in the inferior parietal lobule — a brain area that coordinates perception and action — when watching the videos, but not in subsequent decision making when rating the clips. These findings suggest that in-group bias already occurs very early in perception, not only when making a conscious decision about how to act.”
3. How we feel empathy towards somebody else
“One of the neuroscientific key findings about racism is that on average people express less empathy towards other people who do not belong to their own group. Empathy describes the ability to understand what somebody else might think or feel and to act in an appropriate manner. For example, one study found that ethnic group membership can modulate the neural responses associated with empathy (Xu et al., 2009). Here, the authors used functional magnetic imaging to record brain activation in White and Chinese participants while they were watching video clips of White and Chinese faces being either touched with a Q-tip (non-painful) or poked by a syringe (painful).”
“The scientists showed that both White and Chinese participants showed increased activation in the anterior cingulate cortex and the inferior frontal cortex when watching a video clip in which a person of their own ethnic group was experiencing pain. These brain areas have previously been shown to be activated when someone experiences pain themselves. Thus, the same brain areas that mediate the first person pain experience are also involved in feeling empathy towards somebody else experiencing pain. Importantly, the scientists found that this empathic brain response was significantly decreased when the participants viewed faces of individuals from other ethnic groups experiencing pain. Thus, in-group bias affects how much someone feels the pain of somebody else, which might contribute to why racist individuals would have less of a problem hurting somebody belonging to a different ethnic group than somebody who belongs to their own ethnic group.”
4. How we perceive faces
“Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies on the perception of faces with different ethnic backgrounds imply that both subconscious and conscious processes are involved in perceiving faces of people with different ethnic backgrounds differently than faces of people with the same ethnic background. For example, one study (Cunningham et al., 2004) presented pictures of African American and White faces to White participants while their brain activity was recorded using functional magnetic resonance imaging. When the faces were presented so briefly that they could not be processed consciously, the participants showed greater activation in the amygdala for African American compared to White faces. The amygdala is a brain region that plays a key role in emotion processing, including fear, anxiety, and aggression.”
“However, when the faces were presented much longer so that the participants could actually perceive them consciously, these differences disappeared. Instead, several brain regions in the frontal cortex that are involved in cognitive control and emotion regulation showed more activation when the White participants viewed African American faces. These findings suggest that there are at least two neural pathways when it comes to processing faces of individuals from a different ethnic group. On the one hand, there are quick and subconscious processes that engage brain areas involved in processing emotions. This early pathway is modulated by a later, conscious pathway that represents top-down regulation of feelings based on what is acceptable in society and what the individual has learned previously.”
“The findings in the review article by Molenberghs (2013) make one thing clear: Racism is a highly complex problem, not only on the societal level but also in the brain. There is no single brain area involved in racism. Instead, a complex network of brain regions involved in social categorization, self-perception, empathy, pain, and face perception is involved in racism and other forms of in-group bias and out-group discrimination.”
“The existence of this network and its sometimes automatic and subconscious activation is probably rooted in our ancient past when fast and correct identification of in-group and out-group members could be a matter of survival (e.g., in conflicts between different groups of prehistoric humans). Like many phenomena in evolutionary psychology, however, these processes could lead to problems in today’s society because conditions today are very different from the prehistoric conditions that shaped our brain structure.”
Different, yet alike.
“One important message from the study by Cunningham et al., (2004) is that the fast and subconscious processes that lead to a potentially negative emotional reaction to faces of people belonging to a different ethnic group can be regulated by later conscious control processes. This implies that it is of prime importance to educate individuals that racism is not acceptable, in order to strengthen the cognitive control of potential racist thoughts and to prevent racist behavior.”
Sebastian Ocklenburg, Ph.D.
The Asymmetric Brain
Even for many of the millions of Americans who haven’t contracted COVID-19, the past year could have profoundly negative health consequences for years to come. According to a survey of nearly 1,000 doctors conducted by American Academy of Family Physicians, more than 60% of doctors reported an increase in obesity among their patients. Additionally, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 61% of all adults polled reported gaining weight since March 2020.
Horrifying Long-Term Side Effects of Not Exercising
“Ninety-eight per cent of my day is, ‘You haven’t been exercising, you’ve gained weight, and your diabetes is no longer controlled. We need to help you with that,'” Andrew Carroll, MD, an Arizona-based doctor, recently explained to The Guardian. “It’s very rare I’m reducing medications over the last year.”
“It’s no surprise that the last year has been something of an anti-fitness perfect storm. Gyms have closed, workout options have narrowed considerably, important daily exercises we took for granted have been limited (such as commuting and running errands), and perhaps the only thing higher than our collective stress levels are the sales of comfort foods and alcohol.”
“If you’ve adopted a newly sedentary lifestyle in the wake of the events of the last year—and if you’re struggling to find your way back to a healthy, active lifestyle—know that you don’t have to meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services‘ guidelines of 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week starting immediately.”
Start small, and remember that simply walking for 20 minutes can do wonders for your body. If you’re capable of performing intense exercises, one new study found that you can enjoy the benefits of exercise by working out for only 12 minutes in a week.
“After all, leading a life lacking in physical activity won’t do your body any favors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a sedentary lifestyle is one of the four pillars associated with avoidable chronic disease, alongside a poor diet, smoking, and too much drinking. The CDC also notes that the lack of exercise is associated with “an estimated $117 billion” in healthcare costs every year.”
But that’s not all. Read on for the truly horrifying and long-term side effects associate with a lack of exercise, according to some of the nation’s top doctors.
You’ll Be at Greater Risk of Heart Disease
“Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease—even for people who have no other risk factors,” write the experts at the CDC. “It can also increase the likelihood of developing other heart disease risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol.”
You’ll Be at Greater Risk of Type-2 Diabetes
“Not getting enough physical activity can raise a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says the CDC. “Physical activity helps control blood sugar (glucose), weight, and blood pressure and helps raise ‘good’ cholesterol and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Adequate physical activity can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.”
You’ll Be at Greater Risk of Getting Several Cancers
“Getting the recommended amount of physical activity can lower the risk of many cancers, including cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, uterus, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach,” says the CDC. “These effects apply regardless of weight status.“
Here’s How to Take Action
The experts at the CDC offer several tips for getting more movement into your daily life. Among them:
- Look for any way to reduce your sitting time (“for example, instead of watching TV, take a walk after dinner”),
- Stick with activities you actually enjoy (“you might like morning walks in your neighborhood; others might prefer an online class after work”), and
- remind yourself that you can “break up” the guideline recommendations for 150 minutes of weekly exercise into “25 minutes a day every day.”
And for more reasons to get moving, see What Happens to Your Body When You Sit Too Much Every Day, Says Science.
Take a look at what therapists explain about 11 myths surrounding what it’s like to have both anxiety and depression at the same time.
“Over 18 million Americans live with depression in any given year, and anxiety affects almost 40% of Americans. Occurrences of both of these individual mental health conditions are also on the rise ― so it’s no surprise that there are tons of people who also experience them simultaneously.”
“Many people are familiar with depression and anxiety on their own, but the challenges of dealing with them at the same time are less understood by those who don’t directly live with them. That can lead to a lot of misconceptions.”
A person can have anxiety and depression at the same time, which can lead to many debilitating symptoms like lethargy, rumination, panic and more.
1. Myth: Anxiety and depression are completely unique disorders.
“Sarah Johnson, medical director at Landmark Outpatient Services, a mental health clinic in Louisville, Kentucky, said that anxiety and depression are “two sides of the same coin.” In other words, they both affect the same region of the brain (the amygdala, hippocampus and frontal cortex). Therefore, one can trigger the other.”
“Anxiety may occur as a symptom of clinical depression. On the other hand, it’s also possible to have depression that’s triggered by an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or separation anxiety disorder,” she said.
2. Myth: Both conditions are rare.
While it may feel at times like you are the only person in the world experiencing anxiety and/or depression, the reality is that many people are dealing with it too. Nearly 29% of people in the U.S. will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and 20.8% for a mood disorder like depression, according to Luana Marques, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.”
“If it is sometimes difficult for you to talk to family or friends about your experiences with anxiety and depression, consider talking to other people who are having similar experiences,” she said, noting that you can find support groups for people with anxiety and depression at the ADAA website.”
3. Myth: There is something wrong with you.
“I think the most common misconception about depression and anxiety is that there’s something wrong with the person, as if suffering isn’t a normal human emotion,” said Calum Hughes, CEO of Allied Corp, a research and development company focused on developing therapeutic solutions for those living with PTSD.”
“He highlighted the popular misconception that people with mental illness are “weak or can’t exist in normal society” and noted that mental health issues should be embraced just like any other medical issue.”
“You rarely hear of a stigma around people who have health conditions like diabetes; there shouldn’t be a stigma around depression and anxiety. They are real medical conditions that are treatable,” Hughes said.”
4. Myth: You shouldn’t ask questions if someone tells you they have anxiety and depression.
“After I tell people I suffer with both, the conversation often ends there because they feel like they’re not supposed to ask questions out of fear of triggering me or making me uncomfortable ― or maybe they’re uncomfortable,” explained Chelsea Giacobbe, a Hoboken, New Jersey-based consultant with anxiety and depression.”
Giacobbe prefers that people inquire about her condition and ask her questions as opposed to tiptoeing around it.
“If I tell you I suffer from both, then I’m open to talking about it and answering any questions you have,” she said. “And you never know if something I say will help someone else in need that you encounter, or help you realize there is someone in your life crying for help without vocalizing it or even knowing it.”
5. Myth: The only way to deal with the conditions is to power through them.
People often think that the best way of dealing with anxiety and depression is to just power through it or “fake it until you make it.” But that’s not always the case.
“Amanda Stemen, a licensed therapist and owner of Fundamental Growth, a therapy, coaching, and consulting business in Los Angeles, stressed that it’s OK to feel the poor moods that come with the conditions. In fact, not allowing yourself to process negative emotions can often do more harm than good, she said.”
“It’s often when we don’t allow ourselves to feel the physical sensations that come along with that, when we push them away, that it becomes something bigger,” she said.
“Stemen suggested setting a timer for two minutes, experiencing the feelings, and noticing how they shift and change the next time you’re dealing with mood-related symptoms.”
“While it’s scary to feel uncomfortable emotions because we’re afraid we’ll get stuck there forever, it’s actually avoiding our feelings that contributes greatly to depression and anxiety ― so feel the heck out of them,” she said.
6. Myth: Everyone with anxiety and depression experiences the same symptoms.
Anxiety and depression are umbrella terms that encompass a wide range of experiences.
“For some people, anxiety can look like worrying a lot about the future … for other people it might look like having unexpected panic attacks weekly … and for other people it might look like fear of specific things,” Marquest said.
Depression can also present as a wide range of symptoms.
“One person with depression might sleep all the time, have no energy and experience low mood, while another person with depression might feel irritable, experience appetite changes, and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy,” she said.
7. Myth: You always know if you have anxiety and depression.
“It seems absurd that someone won’t know they are feeling so afraid they suffer anxiety or so down they are depressed, or a mixture of both. But often anxiety and depression show up as symptoms we might not consider to be anxiety or depression at all,” said Winfried Sedhoff, a family physician specializing in treating mental illness in Brisbane, Australia.”
“He added that many of his patients don’t go in to get an official diagnosis until they start to experience physical symptoms of the conditions such as “regularly struggling to get to sleep, excessive worrying, chest pains, dizziness, feeling tired, and feeling washed out all the time without any apparent physical cause.”
“Many clients I have seen have been thoroughly investigated over months or even years for many physical symptoms that were ultimately typical symptoms of anxiety and depression,” he added.
8. Myth: It’s something people can just “get over.”
Again, depression and anxiety are considered medical issues. Sometimes that requires treatment, care and time.
“Whether you’re taking medication or seeing a therapist, treatment for anxiety and depression is not a quick fix,” said Emily Guarnotta, a licensed psychologist in New York that specializes in anxiety, depression and postpartum issues.”
“She added that successful treatment of simultaneous conditions involves changing long-standing thought patterns, beliefs and emotions and reconstructing new ones. All of this, of course, takes time. According to the American Psychological Association, half of therapy patients notice some improvements after 15 to 20 sessions, though some people take longer.”
“It’s important to remain patient with the process and let go of any judgments about how long it should take to recover,” Guarnotta said.
9. Myth: Anxiety and depression are just genetic.
Rob Scheidlinger, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westlake Village, California, said that it’s largely a myth that depression and anxiety run in families and therefore most people who suffer are predisposed genetically.
“While there is some evidence that there are a few causes of these disorders that are genetically carried, an overwhelming amount of current research states that most of the causal factors are environmental and situational,” he explained.”
10. Myth: People saying they have both conditions are just being dramatic.
“Cheryl Poldrugach, founder and CEO of Panic Aide in Dallas, Texas, said she’s been called dramatic a lot when talking about her anxiety and depression.”
“For those of us who truly suffer, it is life-altering. We lie to friends and family as to why we can’t go somewhere, lose friends for not showing up, lose jobs, miss school, etc.” she said, adding that anxiety and depression are a lethal mix and not to be taken lightly or prodded. “It is real.”
“Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, California, said that those who suffer from anxiety and depression are generally far from dramatic.”
“In fact, my clients often suffer from embarrassment due to their mental health status and the often-uncontrollable nature of their symptoms,” she said. “Although some of the symptoms may appear to be melodramatic in nature to bystanders, there is no joy or attention-getting benefit in a dual diagnosis of anxiety and depression.”
11. Myth: These conditions will go away on their own.
Depression and anxiety can both be serious medical issues. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help for your mental health.
“Feeling depressed or anxious is a signal to your brain from your body that there is something going on inside that needs to be dealt with,” said Meredith Sagan, chief psychiatrist at Alo House Recovery Center in Malibu, California.”
“Whether you’re going through some massive changes, dealing with trauma or just handling more in your life than usual, “feeling depressed or anxious is always a signal that an action step is required to handle it successfully,” she said. Professional support can help with that.”
Did you realize the Declaration of Independence doesn’t recognize happiness as a right, but rather the pursuit of happiness.
“March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, the result of a UN resolution adopted in 2012 that identifies the pursuit of happiness as “a fundamental human goal” and promotes a more holistic approach to public policy and economic growth — one that recognizes happiness and wellbeing as important pieces of sustainable and equitable development.
The official page for the International Day of Happiness, HappinessDay.org, goes one step further in declaring happiness a “universal human right.”
Is happiness really a human right? And is happiness a goal we should actively pursue? Maybe the answers are “no” and “it depends.”
by Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley
“First, consider the analogy between psychological wellbeing — including happiness — and physical wellbeing, or health. The World Health Organization endorses a “right to health,” but the details make it clear that it isn’t health, per se, that is a right, but rather the means to achieve the best health possible. The WHO constitution recognizes “…the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being,” with the right to health including “access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality.”
“So it may be that the best way to understand a “right to happiness” is as a right to pursue happiness. Happiness just doesn’t seem like the right sort of thing to proclaim as a right in itself.”
“The trouble is that a right to the pursuit of happiness may be counterproductive. For most Americans, actively pursuing happiness isn’t a reliable route to attaining it.”
“Studies conducted in the U.S. have consistently found that actively seeking happiness can backfire: Those who strongly value and pursue happiness are more likely to feel disappointed about their own feelings, to report loneliness, and to have depressive symptoms. One reason for these negative effects is that in many Western cultures, happiness is conceptualized in individualistic terms — as a personal pursuit that leads to personal achievements. Actively pursuing happiness (so defined) can thus decrease social connection, which is one of the best predictors of a person’s wellbeing.”
“These findings suggest that, at least in the United States, promoting a right to pursue happiness could lead to behaviors and outcomes that are quite distinct from those that support happiness itself. Put more strongly, supporting people in actively pursuing happiness could actually prevent people from achieving happiness. And it is presumably the latter — the actual achievement of happiness — that the UN resolution aims to recognize and support.”
“In light of this research, a right to the pursuit of happiness may seem deeply misguided — a right we should simply abandon. Instead of a right to pursue happiness, we should endorse a right to the conditions that successfully foster happiness. Or, to borrow the WHO’s formulation regarding health, we should endorse a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health and wellbeing.”
“But here’s another thought: Maybe the problem isn’t with the pursuit of happiness, but with how we conceptualize happiness itself. When it comes to defining happiness, perhaps there’s another way — a better way. Cross-cultural research suggests that there is.”
“In a paper published in 2015, psychologist Brett Ford and her colleagues found that the negative association between pursuing happiness and achieving happiness isn’t cross-culturally universal. In the U.S., they found the previously reported link between pursuing happiness and failing to achieve it. But in Germany, there was no reliable association between the strength of individuals’ motivation to pursue happiness and their actual wellbeing. And in Russia, Japan, and Taiwan, the association was positive: Those who were more motivated to pursue happiness also reported greater wellbeing.”
“The researchers hypothesized that these cross-cultural differences were driven by differing conceptions of happiness itself. They expected — and found support for — the idea that in more collectivist cultures, happiness is more likely to be defined in terms of social engagement, including pro-social behaviors (such as seeing to other people’s wellbeing) and social relationships (such as being surrounded by caring family and friends). For those with a socially-engaged definition of happiness, pursuing happiness presumably supported the kinds of social connections that are known to foster wellbeing, reversing the negative pattern observed in the U.S.”
“If these ideas are right, then the effects of pursuing happiness crucially depend on one’s notion of happiness itself. Promoting a right to the pursuit of happiness could yield positive consequences when happiness is understood in social terms. But with the more individualistic definition prevalent in the U.S., promoting the active pursuit of happiness could lead to less happiness, not to more.”
“More likely than not, the UN’s original advocates for the International Day of Happiness had a broad and community-oriented notion of happiness in mind — not the more narrowly individualistic one that many Americans seem to posses. For instance, the resolution itself doesn’t simply call for more personal wellbeing, but for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.”
“In celebrating the International Day of Happiness, then, we might do well to examine rather than reaffirm our tacit assumptions about happiness and its pursuit. And we might do well to join the UN’s resolution in aspiring to the wellbeing of all peoples, not only to our own happiness as individuals.”
This article is for me! I have proven to myself will power doesn’t work when it comes to getting my dopamine rush from carbs and sugar. I need WON’T Power. (judy)
Research shows that approximately 40 percent of the things we do on a daily basis aren’t decision-based. They’re mostly habits.
This doesn’t, at first glance, make sense. “We find patterns of behavior that allow us to reach goals,” says Dr. Wendy Wood, the author of Good Habits, Bad Habits. “We repeat what works, and when actions are repeated in a stable context, we form associations between cues and response.”
The way our brains are made often works against us.
“I’ll put ice cream on my breakfast oatmeal instead of milk”, I think, remembering the carton in the freezer.
- My prefrontal cortex — the brain region responsible for planning, decision making, and supporting goal-oriented behaviors — answers, “Nope. Too much sugar, eat healthy – sprinkle walnuts on top of the oatmeal, they are healthy.”
- My orbitofrontal cortex — the brain region responsible for emotion and reward in decision-making, answers, “Forget oatmeal, sprinkle walnuts on the ice cream and eat it from the carton.”
My prefrontal cortex is a logical and rational, but she’s shy, quiet and subdued. My orbitofrontal cortex is decisive, persistent, insistent, and loves to get her way and doesn’t care if it’s a bad or good habit as long as it’s tasty.
In neuroscientific terms, “When our intentional mind is engaged, we act in ways that meet an outcome we desire – and typically we’re aware of our intentions. However, when the habitual mind is engaged, our habits function largely outside of awareness. We can’t easily explain how we do our habits or why we do them… our minds don’t always integrate in the best way possible,” Dr. Wood explains.
In other words, my orbitofrontal cortex can quickly establish bad habits. I’ll do things reflexively, almost without thinking. Even if I do manage to think my orbitofrontal cortex and the force of habit will be louder
As Dr. Wood says, “Habits allow us to focus on other things. Willpower is a limited resource, and when it runs out, you fall back on habits.”
How do you break that cycle?
Dr Wood says you have to force yourself to think: Not before, but during.
Just how good are these cookies????
I eat the ice cream — because that requires willpower I clearly don’t have — but while I’m eating the ice cream. (Dr Wood may have been a researcher too long and oblivious to real world.)
The key is to reflect upon the actual benefits derived from a habit. One upside, lots of downsides.
Repeat, repeat, repeat the process, because one period of reflection and introspection won’t be enough.
I’ll have to do it several times before my orbitofrontal cortex adopts the rewards and emotions involved in not feeling bad about eating ice cream.
Then those two voices will speak in unison. My prefrontal cortex will share all the long-term benefits of eating healthy. My orbitofrontal cortex will chime in with reasons why skipping the ice cream will make me feel better in the moment. In emotional intelligence terms, emotions will work for me, not against me.
And that’s how, she says, the habit gets broken.
Willpower not required.
Dr. Wendy Wood, the author of Good Habits, Bad Habits
The pandemic has shown us, on a massive scale, how difficult it can be to make changes. When we want to change our behavior, it can be difficult, after all, there was usually a good reason, a positive coping mechanism, that led to the behaviors and habits we have now. But as we solve one issue with a habit, or as our situation changes, we may find that what we are doing is not in our best interest. I set out to learn what makes change easier. Kathy Milkman had some answers. Here are 12 of them.
1. Pick a special day to start
Pick a meaningful date to start the change that you want – That’s why New Years or Mondays are often picked for change kick-starters. To make it more memorable be creative: Your dog’s birthday, April Fool’s Day, the first full moon!
During the pandemic, a became more lackadaisical about housecleaning, especially the kitchen. I’ll mop “tomorrow” or as soon as my shoes stick to the floor . . . I picked the second Thursday of the month to clean, even if it’s not dirty. I live alone and a month of dust seems reasonable.
2. Make the change fun or entertaining
There’s more than one way to exercise, learn to salsa, join a soccer team, march while playing the flute. Instead of weights – lift cans of popcorn or hoe a garden. Even if it takes a bit more effort or time, you are making a long term change, so make it as fun, pleasant, easy and likely to be actually done.
Did I mention I hate doing housework? I bought some “tool-toys” – a scrub brush that rotates and a sponge with a happy face. Admittedly, watching someone else clean would be more entertaining.
Green beans a la mode:
3. Pair the new activity, with something you like.
If you limit the paired activity to when you are doing the new activity you want to have, it makes it even stronger. Say you love romance novels. Reading them on the treadmill makes exercise more enticing.
What works best for me is to pair housework with music. I dance as I scrub with my rotating brush and clean the kitchen with my happy face sponge. Pairing cleaning with dance and my trusty tool-toys is sometimes even fun . . . sometimes.
4. Turn it into a game, with an opponent and scoring system.
Make it a game, set small goals and create gaming features such as scoring points, symbolic rewards, enemies, obstacles to overcome, allies who help you. You can also compete with yourself. Click here for more on turning a goal into a game: our post “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life”
I cleaned the kitchen in 30 minutes, next time I will try for 20. I’m thinking if I only eat take-out I can get my time down to 3 minutes and a gold metal. SCORE!
5. Identify obstacles you are likely to encounter and pre-plan to work around them.
Identify what might stop you from making the change that you want. It’s easy to INTEND to change but things come up that get in our way. Thinking ahead about possible obstacles or temptations helps plan around them.
Did I mention I REALLY dislike to do housework? Well I do. One of the obstacles I have identified is playing Sudoku on my computer instead of cleaning. I’ve decided I won’t recharge any of my electronic devices, as I usually do, the night before my 2nd Thursday of the month cleaning day. I wonder if there are paperback Sudoku books . . .
6. Make it flexible, to stay on track if time or place changes
Create a flexible schedule for your new activity to develop a more robust habit. Plan on strategies for possible location or time changes so you can sustain your new behavior when important events come up.
If something IMPORTANT comes up on my the 2nd Thursday of the month cleaning day I still need to clean so I don’t get ptomaine poisoning. I hereby designate the 3rd Wednesday of the month as my alternate cleaning day (thought I’d shake it up with a Wednesday . . . ).
7. Track your progress
Keep track of your progress. Tracking lets you know when you did well, so you can feel good, it helps avoid forgetting, and you notice if you did not do well. A miss here and there is not a problem, (several in a row might be).
I’m tracking my cleaning on a calendar that I made for Zazzle. So far it’s working because I am pairing the pride I feel about making the calendar with the pride of sticking to a 2nd Thursday cleaning schedule. See #3! Click here for my calendar.
8. Link a new habit to a habit you already have.
Link a new habit to an old habit. . . such as adding flossing to teeth brushing, or adding some fruit to your morning coffee routine. This will make the change easier to remember and easier to become a habit.
Since I’m in the habit of eating every day . . . maybe I’ll clean the kitchen before I sit down to eat instead of waiting till my shoes stick to the floor.
9. Expect to fail some of the time.
If you expect to make the change perfectly and then go off your diet or forget to floss, you will think you can’t change, and give up. Failing or missteps are part of the process. Even scientists who literally “shoot for the moon” with rockets have to make corrections along the way.
I expect to become a world class Sudoku player and expect it will be at the expense of a clean house.
10. Set mini goals.
Set mini goals. Start with one small step that you can see yourself doing—and then continue to add more small goals. When I started hiking for exercise, I would give myself a goal: I will hike 10 minutes out, 10 minutes back. If I thought I could do more, I could go a little further, or add more time to my goal next time I hiked.
Not sure this will work with cleaning my house because I like to hike. Maybe 10 minutes of cleaning and 10 minutes of Sudoku . . .
11. Copy others who do what you want to do.
“Copy and paste” the ideas and methods of other people who have made the changes you want to make. Identify the specific ideas they use and the ones that fit your lifestyle and try them out.
I googled Oprah because she owns several houses. She must hate housecleaning too because I could not find it on her annual list of “favorite things”.
12. Reward Yourself
Give yourself rewards. Even symbolic rewards like the gold stars stickers teachers give kids have power. You can also save treats, like watching TV or something good to eat.
Now that I’ve salsa danced while scrubbing the tile with my rotating brush, linked cleaning with breakfast, lunch and dinner, tracked my progress on my calendar, I think I will reward myself with a cleaning crew and of course calendar them in for the 2nd Thursday of every month.
Here is to making change fun!
Adapted from “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Katy Milkman
I discovered Andrew Huberman, awhile ago because of my insatiable interest in all things about the brain. Huberman is a Stanford University professor in the Department of Neurobiology and has a few more credential than either Judy or I have. It is, however, gratifying to know that Dr Huberman agrees with our research on gratitude. (Peggy) Take a look:
“While much has been said before about the science of gratitude and its benefits, most of what I see “out there” is not accurate according to what the science shows. What is clear is that specific gratitude practices can be immensely beneficial for us. For example, an effective gratitude practice can:
- Reduce the activation of fear and anxiety circuits in the brain and body.
- Improve mood, focus and sleep.
- Reduce biomarkers of inflammation. (When combined with tools for enhancing social bonding, the positive effects are even greater.)
For these reasons, and because the holidays and New Year are upon us and have us navigating social interactions, I have assembled a list of five steps to enhance the quality of connection with yourself and others during the holidays and the new year.”
1. GET THANKS
“That’s right. Get thanks. Neuroimaging, EEG (brain electrical recording) and psychology studies show that the positive effects of a gratitude practice primarily occur when we receive, not when we give, gratitude. Of course, for that to happen, someone has to give gratitude, but merely writing out gratitude lists or counting our blessings—while useful, pale in comparison to receiving gratitude. Thus, give gratitude and encourage those receiving it to really hear you. Hopefully, someone in your life (perhaps many people) will genuinely thank you too.”
2. MAKE IT GENUINE
“In the science of gratitude podcast episode, I discussed a study showing that the genuine intention of the gratitude giver (the thanker), has a direct impact on the degree of positive effect felt by the person receiving the gratitude (the thankee). So give thanks, but do so with honesty. It matters.”
3. OBSERVE/RECALL OTHERS GIVING & RECEIVING GENUINE THANKS
“Neuroimaging studies from Antonio Damasio‘s Lab show that observing or hearing the stories of others receiving help (or thanks) activates pro-social circuits that improve our mood and other health metrics. We are wired for social interactions and are wired to gauge the emotional state of others. Hence, billions of viral Instagram and Twitter posts of people helping each other, people helping dogs or other animals stuck in drainage ditches, even dogs helping people stuck in drainage ditches, etc. It’s not by chance these posts are so popular. As the psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, says: we regulate each other’s nervous systems. Having a story you can recall in which someone received genuine gratitude is beneficial. Recall that story 1-3 times per week. Once it’s imbedded in your memory, you don’t have to recall it in great detail to receive the benefits.”
4. INTROVERSION & EXTROVERSION REFLECT SOCIAL HOMEOSTASIS
“We have brain circuits that drive a “social hunger” – an appetite for finding and reinforcing social bonds, and the release of the neurochemical dopamine from a special brain location (called the dorsal raphe nucleus; DRN) is involved in that drive. Studies on introverts and extroverts suggest that introverts like social interaction but are socially satisfied faster than are extroverts. This makes sense, based potential differences in the amount of dopamine they release from the DRN in response to social interactions. Don’t assume that introverts are quiet and that extroverts talk a lot. That can be true, but just as often, it is simply that introverts experience more dopamine release from less social interaction and thus are satisfied earlier. The takeaway is to offer (or take) opportunities to exit social interactions early and not feel guilty about it or take offense. The extroverts can keep at it until they get the DRN/dopamine they need. If anyone gets offended when you say, “all full… I’m ready to go”, feel free to cite me.”
5. MERGE PHYSIOLOGIES
“Elegant studies done earlier this year show that when people hear a story, their hearts begin to beat in a similar way even if they are not in the same room as one another. This is remarkable and holds up even for people with very different backgrounds and lives. Other studies point to the fact that when people have similar physiological experiences, they forever feel closer, which is familiar to many of us. Oxytocin (a hormone) appears to be involved. Narrative drives common physiological responses, which are powerful glue for relationship building of all kinds. The takeaway: Build social bonds by hearing, watching or sharing stories. Everyone being on their individual phones is not the way to do that. Watching movies, hearing someone tell stories, playing or listening to music, etc. are all excellent paths to this. Do those things together.”
Newsletter article from The Neural Network, by Andrew Huberman, PhD, Huberman Lab Podcasts
Myth 1. We only use a small percentage of our brain.
“Repeated in pop culture for a century, the notion that humans only use 10 percent of our brains is false. Scans have shown that much, if not all, of the brain is engaged even during simple tasks.”
Myth 2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed and persistent.
“We all have memories that feel as vivid and accurate as a snapshot, usually of some shocking, dramatic event—the assassination of President Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the attacks of September 11, 2001. People remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, what they saw or heard. But several clever experiments have tested people’s memory immediately after a tragedy and again several months or years later. The test subjects tend to be confident that their memories are accurate and say the flashbulb memories are more vivid than other memories. Vivid they may be, but these memories decay over time just as other memories do. People forget important details and add incorrect ones, with no awareness that they’re recreating a muddled scene in their minds rather than calling up a perfect, photographic reproduction.”
Myth 3. It’s all downhill after 40 (Good to know that as our bodies slide downhill our brains are still firm and appropriately wrinkled)
“It’s true, some cognitive skills do decline as you get older. Children are better at learning new languages than adults—and never play a game of concentration against a 10-year-old unless you’re prepared to be humiliated. Young adults are faster than older adults to judge whether two objects are the same or different; they can more easily memorize a list of random words, and they are faster to count backward by sevens.”
“But plenty of mental skills actually improve with age:
- Vocabulary – older people know more words and understand subtle linguistic distinctions.
- Given a biographical sketch of a stranger, they’re better judges of character.
- They score higher on tests of social wisdom, such as how to settle a conflict.
- People get better and better over time at regulating their own emotions and finding meaning in their lives.
Myth 4. We have five senses.
“Sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the passage of time.”
“Compared with other species, though, humans are missing out. Bats and dolphins use sonar to find prey; some birds and insects see ultraviolet light; snakes detect the heat of warmblooded prey; rats, cats, seals and other whiskered creatures use their “vibrissae” to judge spatial relations or detect movements; sharks sense electrical fields in the water; birds, turtles and even bacteria orient to the earth’s magnetic field lines.”
Myth 5. Brains are like computers.
“We speak of the brain’s processing speed, its storage capacity, its parallel circuits, inputs and outputs. The metaphor fails at pretty much every level:
- The brain doesn’t have a set memory capacity that is waiting to be filled up
- It doesn’t perform computations in the way a computer does
- Basic visual perception isn’t a passive receiving of inputs because we actively interpret, anticipate and pay attention to different elements of the visual world.
“There’s a long history of likening the brain to whatever technology is the most advanced, impressive and vaguely mysterious.”
- Descartes compared the brain to a hydraulic machine.
- Freud likened emotions to pressure building up in a steam engine.
- The brain later resembled a telephone switchboard and then an electrical circuit before evolving into a computer;
- lately it’s turning into a Web browser or the Internet.
These metaphors linger in clichés: emotions put the brain “under pressure” and some behaviors are thought to be “hard-wired.”
Myth 6. The brain is hard-wired. (This is not that same as being hard-headed, which is not a myth)
“This is one of the most enduring legacies of the old “brains are electrical circuits” metaphor. There’s some truth to it, as with many metaphors: the brain is organized in a standard way, with certain bits specialized to take on certain tasks, and those bits are connected along predictable neural pathways (sort of like wires) and communicate in part by releasing ions (pulses of electricity).”
“But one of the biggest discoveries in neuroscience in the past few decades is that the brain is remarkably plastic. In blind people, parts of the brain that normally process sight are instead devoted to hearing. Someone practicing a new skill, like learning to play the violin, “rewires” parts of the brain that are responsible for fine motor control. People with brain injuries can recruit other parts of the brain to compensate for the lost tissue.”
(Did you read the true story,The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs about how Peggy’s cat Maui rewired his brain so he could walk after his back legs were paralized? It’s a FREE PDF on our January Knewsletter – email us if you didn’t get a copy)
Myth 7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia.
“Next to babies switched at birth, this is a favorite trope of soap operas: Someone is in a tragic accident and wakes up in the hospital unable to recognize loved ones or remember his or her own name or history. (The only cure for this form of amnesia, of course, is another conk on the head.)”
“In the real world, there are two main forms of amnesia: anterograde (the inability to form new memories) and retrograde (the inability to recall past events). Science’s most famous amnesia patient, H.M., was unable to remember anything that happened after a 1953 surgery that removed most of his hippocampus. He remembered earlier events, however, and was able to learn new skills and vocabulary, showing that encoding “episodic” memories of new experiences relies on different brain regions than other types of learning and memory do. Retrograde amnesia can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury (ask an NFL player), thiamine deficiency or other insults. But a brain injury doesn’t selectively impair autobiographical memory—much less bring it back.”
Myth 8. We know what will make us happy. (If only this WERE true . . .)
“In some cases we haven’t a clue. We routinely overestimate how happy something will make us, whether it’s a birthday, free pizza, a new car, a victory for our favorite sports team or political candidate, winning the lottery or raising children. Money does make people happier, but only to a point—poor people are less happy than the middle class, but the middle class are just as happy as the rich. We overestimate the pleasures of solitude and leisure and underestimate how much happiness we get from social relationships.”
“On the flip side, the things we dread don’t make us as unhappy as expected. Monday mornings aren’t as unpleasant as people predict. Seemingly unendurable tragedies—paralysis, the death of a loved one—cause grief and despair, but the unhappiness doesn’t last as long as people think it will. People are remarkably resilient.”
Myth 9. We see the world as it is.
“We are not passive recipients of external information that enters our brain through our sensory organs. Instead, we actively search for patterns (like a Dalmatian dog that suddenly appears in a field of black and white dots), turn ambiguous scenes into ones that fit our expectations (it’s a vase; it’s a face) and completely miss details we aren’t expecting. In one famous psychology experiment, about half of all viewers told to count the number of times a group of people pass a basketball do not notice that a guy in a gorilla suit is hulking around among the ball-throwers.”
“We have a limited ability to pay attention (which is why talking on a cellphone while driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving), and plenty of biases about what we expect or want to see. Our perception of the world isn’t just “bottom-up”—built of objective observations layered together in a logical way. It’s “top-down,” driven by expectations and interpretations.”
10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. (No comment)
“Some of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst designed and most overinterpreted research in the history of science purports to provide biological explanations for differences between men and women. Eminent neuroscientists once claimed that head size, spinal ganglia or brain stem structures were responsible for women’s inability to think creatively, vote logically or practice medicine. Today the theories are a bit more sophisticated: men supposedly have more specialized brain hemispheres, women more elaborate emotion circuits. Though there are some differences (minor and uncorrelated with any particular ability) between male and female brains, the main problem with looking for correlations with behavior is that sex differences in cognition are massively exaggerated.”
“Women are thought to outperform men on tests of empathy. They do—unless test subjects are told that men are particularly good at the test, in which case men perform as well as or better than women. The same pattern holds in reverse for tests of spatial reasoning. Whenever stereotypes are brought to mind, even by something as simple as asking test subjects to check a box next to their gender, sex differences are exaggerated. Women college students told that a test is something women usually do poorly on, do poorly. Women college students told that a test is something college students usually do well on, do well. Across countries—and across time—the more prevalent the belief is that men are better than women in math, the greater the difference in girls’ and boys’ math scores. And that’s not because girls in Iceland have more specialized brain hemispheres than do girls in Italy.”
“Certain sex differences are enormously important to us when we’re looking for a mate, but when it comes to most of what our brains do most of the time—perceive the world, direct attention, learn new skills, encode memories, communicate (no, women don’t speak more than men do), judge other people’s emotions (no, men aren’t inept at this)—men and women have almost entirely overlapping and fully Earth-bound abilities.”
Love potions have been a plot point in fairytales for centuries.
Now, thanks to dramatic advances in our understanding of the neuroscience behind love, they’re close enough to reality to be studied by Oxford University researchers. Anders Sandberg, a neuroethicist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, He says that while we can’t buy romance pills yet, it’s only a matter of years before they exist. His work combines neuroscience and philosophy to unpack the ethical consequences of such pills, and just how they’ll fit into our lives.
“All our emotions are built on the foundations of neuroscience,” Sandberg says—whether that’s fear or anger or love. Recently, neuroscientists have begun to map out just what happens in the brain when we’re in love, bringing us closer to artificially recreating those neurochemical processes. “While there’s still not anything you can find in the supermarket or approved, we’re getting towards the point where they probably will show up,” he says.
Images of the brain show that love is, well, extremely complicated. Different parts are involved in the initial lustful attraction, the rush of falling in love, and the commitment and affection of long-term love. Romance drugs are most likely to focus on the last, long term part.
Different from the love potion of song that you drink, then fall in love with the next person you see. Ethically it would be worrisome for that to happen. A love drug may come to be something you take with someone, to keep or enhance your love.
Oxytocin is key
The brain system which determines long term commitment was discovered first in prairie voles. One species is monogamous and another closely related one is promiscuous. It turns out that the differences in their oxytocin systems is behind the different behaviors. Oxytocin helps couples stay together. Not just in voles, as neuroimaging studies in humans who say they are in love also show that oxytocin is the key element.
Drugs are already available to release oxytocin, (some are not legal), and experimentation of new substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca, an Amazonian hallucinogenic. Sandberg says “Ecstasy is not implausible.”
Sandberg thinks the drugs we have now do not last long enough to be effective at improving romance. “You probably want to teach your brain to produce oxytocin when you actually meet your partner,” he explains. “You want to teach the brain: This is the person I’m together with.”
We also need to ask ourselves if we want to fool with love? Maybe fading love is telling us something important that we need to pay attention to.
In some senses,though, we already interfere with the pathways of long-term love, argues Sandberg.
- “Should people having trouble in a relationship go to a marriage counselor?” he asks.
- “Shouldn’t a marriage just fall apart naturally?…
- If someone goes away on a romantic holiday that costs a lot of money and comes back with a better marriage, we’d probably say, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’”
“But surely there’s a clear line between medicalization and other means of improving a marriage, just as in sports there’s a difference between physical training and using drugs to boost performance? Well, the key concern in the sporting analogy is cheating, says Sandberg. Cheating in how you fall in love doesn’t make much sense: “Could you look at a married couple and say, ‘They cheated”?” he asks. “‘They’re deeply in love but they got to that state in the wrong way. Ha, those losers.’”
The question is would these drugs be good to have. Romantic love can be wonderful, but it isn’t always positive. In fact, maybe drugs that inhibit romantic love would be useful, for example, in letting people leave an abusive relationship.Or even just to ease that heartbreak of a failed relationship.
“Beyond the requisite drug trials and safety questions, these ethical concerns are likely to delay the introduction of love drugs. “I think in many ways, the drugs might be the easy part,” Sandberg says. “Figuring out how they actually fit into our lives is going to be the great challenge.”’
“When lockdown first started Zoom group chats and meetings seemed like lifelines. Texting was the answer to quick connections to friends and family.”
“As time went on I found Zoom meetings and group chats increased my stress. My phone was already constantly lighting up with news notifications, and the 50 or 60 missed texts that I could get in an hour from any one group chat made me feel anxious about putting it down. I felt guilty for not responding to a text right away, or checking in on a group thread. I couldn’t exactly come up with a good excuse, either – what was I going to say: “Sorry I missed your message, I was too busy staying at home doing nothing for the eighth consecutive month”?
“It’s surprising to discover that in the age of social distancing, it’s possible to suffer from social overload. If they give us solace and connection in a crisis, why do some of us feel burnt out and overwhelmed by them?”
“Lockdown has meant that many more of us are using messaging apps. Text messages are casual, immediate and research shows that we like them more than emails. By late March, for example, WhatsApp had already reported a 40% spike in the number of users. A study in September of more than 1,300 US adults showed that use of digital communications of all kinds increased during Covid, with text messaging leading with a 43% jump.”
“We’re lucky to have that kind of technology; without Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp, the pandemic would be a far lonelier experience. But group chat platforms come with an immediacy and intimacy that can make participating in them feel stressful.”
“One reason they stress us out is the built-in urge to read a text in real time – and the parallel expectation in online culture that you will also respond in real time,” says Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist at Stanford University in California who specialises in the intersection of technology and psychology. Not responding right away makes us anxious; it gives us a “sense of having fallen behind and broken a major rule of online communications”.
“What’s more, when you fall behind in a group chat, a backlog of missed messages can quickly pile up. Then, before you know it, texting starts to feel as cumbersome as drudging through work email. It makes for a “dreaded communication debt that we can now accrue by having asynchronous messages”, says Bernie Hogan, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute.”
“Before the pandemic, we could use the excuse of our busy lives to explain away missing a message or an entire conversation. If you felt tired and didn’t want to socialise, you could just say so. But since options for social activity have been so curtailed, group chats have come to play a bigger role in many of our lives. We feel we should prize these interactions, yet they’re coming at a much faster pace and higher volume than we’re used to.”
One reason they stress us out is the built-in urge to read a text in real time – Elias Aboujaoude
“While we could still manage, pre-Covid, to interrupt what we were doing and engage in this read-and-respond-in-real-time ritual, it has become all but impossible to continue doing so with the magnitude and frequency of interruptions today,” says Aboujaoude.”
‘Pavlovian response’ of anxiety
“But it’s not just group chats – it’s the technology itself. We already knew that being glued to our phones and computers was bad for our health. Depending on technology for all of our social communication needs can add to our cognitive load – something already under increased pressure in the pandemic.”
“Each [group chat] conversation might have its own emotional register. Switching between these has a psychological ‘switching cost’ both intellectually and mentally,” says Hogan, especially as we also jump among messaging platforms.”
“Then there’s the fact that some of us are experiencing burnout from all the demoralising pandemic news. Although early on we may have welcomed the articles that our friends shared as we strove to understand the impacts of Covid-19, we subsequently began to dread the stream of anxiety-fuelling updates.”
“Early into the pandemic, group chats may have felt like a good way to commiserate with many people simultaneously. You could count on everyone in the group having this stressful experience in common with you,” says Aboujaoude. “The problem, it soon became clear, is that the stress and anxiety that sometimes come with one-on-one texting is magnified exponentially in group chats.”
“And there’s also the issue of notifications that accompany each text or breaking news update – so even if the group chat is sending GIFs of monkeys back and forth, we still get anxious in this environment every time our phone vibrates or lights up.”
“Even if you have the ability to distinguish the different beeps and alerts, at this point, it’s almost like a Pavlovian response, where it’s just that beep that sets off that anxiety,” says Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association. “It means something terrible has happened, even if it’s not [terrible].”
“Of course, your tolerance for group chatting will depend on what else you’re juggling; Wright points out that not everyone is experiencing the same levels of stress.”
“Your great aunt may be retired, lives alone and finds that the group chat is really her only outlet to connect, while your college friends may be juggling working from home and Zoom fatigue, and trying to manage children at home e-learning, and may just feel like they don’t have the bandwidth to maintain the group chat,” she says. “The level of fatigue I think a lot of people are experiencing may just make it not practical to engage in the group chat.”
You actually don’t need to have an excuse for not texting somebody right away – Vaile Wright
“If you are feeling overloaded by your group chat commitment, experts say there are ways to combine appreciating these important connections with periods in which you disengage.”
“You actually don’t need to have an excuse for not texting somebody right away. It’s okay,” says Wright, adding we should do things within our control to safeguard our mental wellbeing. She recommends turning off notifications, muting threads or excusing yourself from a group chat for a while. She says some people’s feelings might get hurt, but setting boundaries is crucial. Explain it’s something you need, rather than just ghosting people, or say something like: “I can’t respond to this text, but the next time we’re doing a call, make sure you include me.”
“Aboujaoude points out that being burnt out on group chats is a good reason to rediscover phone calls, “where more in depth, less distracted communicating can still take place”. Wright concurs, saying: “Group chats are great for quick updates or sharing funny memes, but [the medium] doesn’t really lend itself to sharing important aspects of our lives, providing emotional support, sharing a laugh or a good cry. Phone calls provide more opportunities to really connect on an emotional level.”
“Indeed, research has shown that voice-to-voice communication – as opposed to visual communication only, like texting – increases your ‘empathetic accuracy’ and your ability to tune into the other person’s emotions, allowing for a deeper connection.”
eating and stresxs
“So, if you really want to talk, perhaps pick up the phone. And if you need to tell your friends you’re muting the group chat, chances are, they’ll understand. “A solid relationship will withstand digital separation,” says Aboujaoude.”
(Telephone conversations stress me out . . .must be fibromyalgia/ME . . . my number 1 scapegoat reigns supreme)
My choice between doing household chores and almost anything else is a NO BRAINER! My cleaning hacks are plentiful:
- Furniture dusty? I open the windows when it’s windy to blow the dust off .
- Dirty floor? I buy another throw rug to cover it up.
- Car needs cleaning? Wait for the rain and drive around block
Supposedly, there’s a major reason to consider reframing my relationship with chores— According to a study* the benefits of doing chores include a major boon for brain health.
I find that music helps
The study sought to draw links between doing chores and brain health and cognition. 66 cognitively healthy older adults underwent three medical assessments:
- a health evaluation
- structural brain imaging
- a cognitive assessment.
- They were also asked how often they spent tidying up their home, meal-prepping, doing housework, yard work, and other to-do list activities.
The conclusion? Those who were ‘doing more chores around their home displayed more brain volume in the hippocampus and frontal lobe, which are the brain areas that help with memory, learning, and cognition. So seemingly, when performing mindless chores like scrubbing the floor or doing a load of laundry, you actually may be sharpening your brain.
The study was limited in terms of its narrow testing and focus on a specific age group, but it does track that the benefits of doing chores would include brain health.
- The organizational and planning aspect of chores may promote the formation of new neural connections. (Maybe try creative expression: Doodle on to-do list, color-code the books on in your bookcase, and organize your spices alphabetically)
- Chores may also keep you active in a way that’s similar to low-intensity aerobic exercise, which can bolster heart health and, subsequently, help brain health. Lots of movement is the most important brain exercise known to man (but not to women who’s wider hips are meant for sitting).
There are 3 well-researched areas that do increase brain health:
1. Stress reduction
Furthermore, the benefits of doing chores can also extend to relieving stress, since cleaning can promote a sense of control, and organization can help calm down the nervous system. Considering that stress can compromise all facets of wellness, including our cognitive brain health. (Meditating on having a clean house calms me, as long as I don’t open my eyes and look around)
It’s suggested adding some creative movement into your routine. For instance, dance while vacuuming or dusting. Listen to music to make it as fun as possible. (I prefer dancing while watching someone else vacuum)
Our brains seek novelty, changes and challenges. Train your brain while doing chores in the house by changing things up is a way to introduce novelty implement new routines. Do a bit of research about the best methods that you can use for cleaning or doing laundry. (I watch videos on cleaning hacks but haven’t found one I’ve wanted to try.)
My brain is undoubtedly rotting as we speak. judy
Dear Judy, here are 3 ways your body knows what to eat:
Taste: neurons that respond to taste signal your insula -which tracts sensations in your body. There are 5 basic tastes: bitterness, sweet, salty, sour and unami (savory). (We know which one is your favorite . . .)
Feel: the texture sensations of the food in the mouth.
Gut neurons: (Yes, you have neurons in your intestines). They are called neuropod cells and respond to amino acids, sugars and fatty acids, and send signals to the brain through a cluster of ganglia know as the nodose ganglia. (yes, Judy, you have nodose ganglia). This in turn triggers dopamine in your brain, which is a reward chemical that motivates you to eat more. The good and bad news is this is a subconscious signal which triggers release of dopamine that affects your eating choices.
A combination of these gut signals, taste and feel in your mouth entice you to eat certain foods and you don’t even know this is happening!
We also learn what foods to prefer. Partly cultural and partly bio-chemical as food impacts both our metabolism and our brain. This is especially true of sugar.
Humans are wired to eat food that raises blood sugar (blood glucose). In part sweet food signaled it was safe to eat when humans foraged for food and it gives energy to continue foraging. Research studies show that sugar actually helps brain neurons function.
And when sugar is consumed, there’s a surge of dopamine. Dopamine, often called a feel- good chemical, rewards you to to repeat the experience. (Dopamine is implicated in addictive behaviors)
Talk to yourself! Crave sardines over sugar . . .
How do you reduce sugar cravings? Using the dopamine trigger you can learn to change eating choices by pairing foods together . . . kinda like Pavlov’s dogs . . .
1. What we tell ourselves about food can impact how they taste. This won’t change your mind about tastes you can’t tolerate, so pick food with a more “neutral” appeal and tell yourself it is good for your brain or your health. Do this enough times with conviction, the “neutral” food will start to taste better. The process behind this involves the insula and nucleus accumbins, parts of the brain’s reward system.
2. Pair the “neutral” food with a carbohydrate that slightly raises your blood glucose, gives a dose of dopamine and you’ll be rewarded for eating the more neutral food.
For example: Click here for Part I and the healthier foods listed (J-I will add link when part 1 is PUB) alongside foods that raise glucose but are not sweet (rice, potatoes, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy that is not sweetened)