Neuroscience Just Gave Me a Free Pass to be Lazy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Collaborative inhibition

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

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

2. Shared forgetting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Infectious thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Planting doubts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The extended mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Take a look at this anxiety research !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading lights up your brain like a Christmas tree.

by Jessica Stillman

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

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

We don’t just understand a book. 

On a neurological level we live it.

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

An incredible empathy workout.

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

Stop skimming and really sink into a good book.

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

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

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

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

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

5 facts about YOUR brain

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

1.  It’s mostly water.

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

2.  It has mirror neurons.

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

3. It cannot feel pain.

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

4.  Some functions improve with age.

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

Letting Sunshine In by Peggy

5.  The brain cleans itself.

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

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

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

And You Thought ONLY Virus Were Contagious

 They call us “home”

our microbiome.

Our body spews 

a cloud no one can see

Bacteria, viruses, fungi

intermingling you and me

Releasing microbes in the air

from head to toe where ever we go

Because they’re here to stay

Don’t waste your money

on bug spray

images-1

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

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

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

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

 In this time of PANDEMIC

WEAR A MASK!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a tip:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The physiological part of conversations is very  important.

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

Here’s the WHY:

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

Here’s a tip:

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

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

 

 

 

CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH – Creative Expression BENEFITS your BRAIN

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

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

Found objects & magazine pictures

Neuroesthetics

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

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

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

1. Art promotes well-being through Mindfullness

HeART of Spirituality Workshop Judy Facilitated

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

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

Collage using Magazine Pictures

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

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

Magazine picture collage

THREE TIPS FOR ARTS-BASED MINDFULNESS

1. Make mistakes – Experiment

The first rule of all my Creative Expression workshops is:

THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG

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

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

2. Reuse and repeat – Practice & Process over Product

Play and experiment with reusable materials:

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

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

3. Silence Part of Your Brain

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

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

Take a look at some early posts on Creative Expression:

Tutorial: Processing Your Creative Journaling

Processing Theraputic Creative Expression

Sneek a Peek Into My Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P. S. Full disclosure:

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

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

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

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

Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin & E The Happiness Quartet

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

Happiness Hack Stars

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

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

Can mowing the lawn make you smile more?

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

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

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

Barbara Coulter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peggy

 

https://wp.me/pLGhj-bDg

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

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

Watching cute animals is good for your health

Science shows watching cute animals is good for your health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Stinky tip for not touching your face

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

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

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


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

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

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

.

Getting even more famous – Oprah, here she comes

Peggy now has a SECOND interview about her picture book “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling DownTale of Maui and His Back Legs”  on the blog Intentional Conscious Parenting  by  Carol Lawrence and Stacy Toten.

I’m not, I swear I’m NOT jealous but I am AFRAID.  When Peggy becomes even more famous she will leave me . . . blogging alone into the dark night.

Here’s the best part about her interview . . . because it includes me . . .

“Judy and I went to high school together, then lost contact for decades. After reconnecting we found out that we lived near each other, were both psychotherapists, had similar therapeutic approaches and were both proponents of neuroscience.

“I was newly retired and working on Maui’s book. When I showed Judy the pictures I had drawn she was excited about Maui’s story and helped edit my writing.”
“Judy had been blogging on Curious to the Max, for fun, for many years and when she retired we decided to create Max Your Mind to share neuroscience and how we applied it to help others.”

“When we wrote  “Hack Your Way to Happiness” we had already been writing blog posts together. We each get ideas, then edit each other—although Judy has to do most of the editing-she is better at it and has a wonderful sense of humor. Judy mostly created the critters we use, then I draw them in various poses for the blog and the book.”

Click here to read the interview and see what Peggy REALLY thinks about me and our  partnership

Maybe Oprah will ask me to do a cameo when she interviews Peggy . . .

judy

https://www.intentionalconsciousparenting.com/2021/01/interview-with-author-peggy-arndt.html#more

Don’t MISS OUT! Hurry! Act NOW!

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Find out why James Hamblin is tired of being asked if he’s smelly.

“Hamblin, a physician and health reporter has been fielding the question since 2016, when the article he wrote about his decision to stop showering went viral. He outlines compelling reasons why one might want to spend less time sudsing up: Cosmetic products are expensive, showering uses a lot of water, and the whole process takes up valuable time.”

“Perhaps most importantly, bathing disrupts our skin’s microbiome: the delicate ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses that live on (and in) our body’s largest organ.”

Most of these microbes are thought to be benign freeloaders; they feast on our sweat and oils without impacting our health. A small number cause harmful effects, ranging in severity from an irksome itch to a life-threatening infection. And some help us out by, for example, preventing more dangerous species from taking up residence.”

Researchers are in the early days of developing the full picture of just how substantially this diverse living envelope influences our overall health, and many of their findings suggest that the microbes on our skin are even more important than was previously understood. Skin has long been considered to be our first line of defense against pathogens, but new studies suggest that the initial protection may come from the microbes that live on its surface.

Meanwhile, the health care and cosmetics industries are already at work developing new categories of “prebiotic” treatments and skin care products that claim to cultivate our skin’s population of beneficial microbes and banish the troublemakers.
Hamblin’s new book, Clean: The New Science of Skin, is a documentary survey of this pre-dawn moment in our understanding of the skin microbiome. Hamblin spoke with people from a wide range of specialized perspectives:

  • a collector of historic soap advertisements
  • megafans of a minimalist cosmetics brand
  • several CEOs
  • many types of scientists, including a “disgustologist”
  • the founder of a style of addiction recovery treatment centered on the therapeutic potential of human touch.

    Hamblin was interviewed about the benefits and social dynamics of showering less, and the coming wave of microbially-optimized cosmetics.

    (This interview has been edited for length.)
    He challenge some cultural norms about hygiene. 

    There’s a distinction between “hygiene” and “cleansing rituals” that’s especially important in this moment.

‘”Hygiene” is the more scientific or public health term, where you’re really talking about disease avoidance or disease prevention behaviors. Removal of mucus, vomit, blood feces … any behavior that signals to people “I am thoughtful about not transmitting diseases to you, and I’m a safe person to be around.” That would include hand-washing, brushing your teeth, cleaning of open wounds, even mask-wearing. I don’t think any of that stuff is due for questioning.”

“But a lot of the other things that we do are class and wealth signifiers — like combing your hair or whitening your teeth or wearing deodorant — which actually have nothing to do with disease avoidance or disease transmission. They’re really much more of a personal or cultural preference. And that’s where people are experimenting with doing less.”

“And there’s the emerging science of the skin microbiome. Being clean [has historically] meant removing microbes from ourselves, so it’s an important moment to try to clarify what, exactly, we’re trying to do when we’re doing the hygiene behaviors.”

“Some people are misconstruing the central thesis of your book as “shower less like I did.” 

“I think that many people — not everyone — could do less, if they wanted to. We are told by marketing, and by some traditions passed down, that it’s necessary to do more than it actually is. Your health will not suffer. And your body is not so disgusting that you need to upend your microbial ecosystem every day.”

It’s mainstream to think about your microbiome.

“Twenty years ago, the idea of kombucha, and probiotics, and trying to have a healthy biome in your gut were really fringe hippie concepts. And now we’re doing clinical trials of fecal transplants.  People are being more conscious about things like antibiotic overuse because they don’t want to potentially disrupt the gut microbiome. That has been a really radical shift.”

“. . . if things like acne, eczema and psoriasis are the result of an interplay between your immune system and the microbes on your skin, it is, indeed, scientifically a very promising and cool hypothesis to think that we can shift that microbiome and help people through their flares or outbreaks. That science is supersound.”

“We’re really riding a fine line between drugs and beauty products here, which makes it very hard for consumers to know.”

“Most likely these products are not doing anything. Because there’s so little regulatory oversight on this type of product, we don’t even know for sure that they contain what they claim to contain. And if they were significantly changing your skin microbes, I would want to be extremely careful that there was indeed evidence to back up that that change was good and worth making.”

“So just because scientists are learning that the microbiome might be important for our health, the solution to skin problems is not necessarily “go to the drugstore and buy a probiotic shampoo.”The skin is very often an external manifestation of our overall health. Very rarely is something limited to the skin.”

“I’m not telling anyone that they should do less, basically. I’m only trying to understand why we do the things that we do.”

 

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/09/26/917019912/in-the-era-of-hygiene-clean-author-makes-the-case-for-showering-less

Got Rhythm. . .What Sparks Selfish Behavior?

Brain Activity In Monkeys May Shed Some Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study is published in Nature Neuroscience.

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

YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WE DID IT!!!!!! 

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

Why did it take so long? 

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

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

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

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

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

$3.76 

 SPECIAL PRICE – Cheap – just for you

(and anyone else who wants to buy a copy) 

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

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

HACK away Doldrums, HACK away Blahs 

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

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

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

Click here: for 2021 Calendar

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

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

. . . coming any year now!

A New Year’s Note – annus horribilis

To all our loyal subscribers,

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

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

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

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

A CURIOUSLY CREATIVE Zazzle Shop creation

A CURIOUSLY CREATIVE Zazzle Shop creation

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

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

Peggy and Judy

*Latin for knowledge and wisdom

 

scientia et sapientia knowledge and wisdom

It’s easy to get Around to Square Breathing

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

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

What is square breathing?

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

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

How to practice square breathing

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Repeat

When to practice square breathing?

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

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

Want to feel good? Talk to yourself.

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

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

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

Need an audience? Talk to a mirror.

The Neuroscience of Everybody’s Favorite Topic. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peggy

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

 

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

Did you know . . .Mice make faces too?

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

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

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

Fear?                             

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

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

Pain?

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

Nausea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disgust?

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

Pleasure!

How this could help people

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


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

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

 

Why we lie and the neuroscience behind it

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

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

We lie to:

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

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

Liar liar

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


Your Brain On Lies

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

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

    Lies At Work

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

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

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

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

Lying Rx

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

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

What do you lie about? Why?


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

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

Wearing a mask is like turning down a marshmallow

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

Temporal Discounting or

Gimme that marshmallow NOW!

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

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

End-of-History Illusion.

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

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

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

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

*      *     *

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

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

How to eat carbs to LOSE weight

             Eat too many carbs and gain weight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 So what’s a “body” to do?

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for The Chemistry of Joy

A DYI to Feel better in 12 minutes

Maneuver Your Consciousness In 12 Minutes Or Less

by Christine Comaford*

Preparation, you’ll need:

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

  • A painful belief;

  • A belittling,

  • Anger at someone or something

  • An unpleasant person

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

  • Circumstances out of your control

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

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

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

  • How painful it is.

  • How it makes you feel.

  • Why it’s wrong. 

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

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

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

  • How did it come to be?

  • What is interesting about it?

  • What is familiar about it?

  • What good things come from it?

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

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

  • This is fascinating because . . . !

  • What’s amazing about it?

  • How do you feel about it?

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

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

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

  • Wow.” So much gratitude and appreciation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will seeing red help you lose weight?

Feeling overwhelmed by seasonal excess?  

Eating more than you need during the pandemic?

Try focusing on the color red. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Do you get goosebumps on Halloween?

    *Matthew Sachs Ph.D.

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

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

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

Weak Tie Friend, by peggy

Weak Tie, Strong Tie  Friends, by Peggy

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

Mark Granovetter’s* research found that quantity matters.

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

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

People with more weak ties may be happier.

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

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

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

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

Peggy

Howdy by Peggy

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

Rx: Best Friends create Better Health

They Teach It at Stanford

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

He was serious.

“Besties”

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

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

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

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

Friends and pets

Lifelong friends

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

P. S. Interesting Research findings:

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

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

5 ways to keep your brain in “gear”

My fibromyalgia brain fog has been denser than usual so this article caught my attention.  I figure if I do at least 4 out the 5 of these things I might be able to bump my brain functioning up to normal.

(I’ve edited down the article . . . but not a lot because after all it is for me!, Judy)

Neuroscience says these five rituals will help your brain stay in peak condition

“Lucky for us, advanced technologies have enabled researchers to understand how the brain works, what it responds to, and even how to retrain it. For instance, we know our brains prefer foods with high levels of antioxidants, including blueberries, kale, and nuts. We know that a Mediterranean diet, which is largely plant-based and rich in whole grain, fish, fruits, and red wine, can lead to higher brain functions. And we know that smiling can retrain our brains to look for positive possibilities rather than negative ones.”

Here are five simple rituals that cognitive scientists say can help your brain grow new cells, form new neural pathways, improve cognition, and keep your outlook positive and sharp.

1.  Congratulate yourself for small wins

“The frequency of success matters more than the size of success, so don’t wait until the big wins to congratulate yourself, says B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. Instead, come up with daily celebrations for yourself; your brain doesn’t know the difference between progress and perceived progress.”

“Both progress and setbacks are said to greatly influence our emotions. So the earlier in the day you can feel successful, the better—feelings of excitement help fuel behaviors that will set you up for successes. For instance, a productive morning routine can be used to motivate you through the rest of the day. We feel happier and encouraged as our energy levels increase, and feel anxiety or even depression as our energy levels go down.”

2.  Keep your body active

According to neurologist Etienne van der Walt, “Specific forms of exercises have been shown to be very beneficial for … brain growth.”

“When we exercise, our heart rate increases, oxygen is pumped to the brain at a much faster rate, and new brain cells develop more quickly. The more brain cells we create, the easier it is for cells to communicate with one another, developing new neural pathways. Ultimately, our brains become more efficient and plastic, which means better cognitive performance.”

“It doesn’t even take that much sweat to keep your brain in good shape. A study conducted by the department of exercise science at the University of Georgia in 2003 found that an exercise bout of just 20 minutes is enough to change the brain’s information processing and memory functions.”

3. Stretch your brain muscles

“Like other muscles in your body, if you don’t use the brain, you’ll eventually lose it. This means it’s crucial to exercise your brain and keep it stimulated.”

“Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes that it’s especially important to target areas of your brain that you use less frequently. Good suggestions for stretching your brain muscles include learning to speak a new language, learning to play a new instrument, or even learning to juggle.”

“To enhance his own cognitive prowess, author James Altucher tries to come up with new ideas every day. He writes about his daily system:

  • “Get a SMALL pad.
  • Go to a local cafe or a park.  For cognitive stimulation it is important to vary your routine.
  • Maybe read an inspirational book for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Start writing down ideas. The key here is, write 10 ideas …  all you want is a list of ideas.”

“Mid-way through the exercise, Altucher says his brain will actually start to “hurt.”  Whether he ends up using the ideas or throwing them away is not the point. 

4. Sit upright

“Not only is an upright position found to increase energy levels and enhance our overall mood, it’s also been shown to increase our confidence, as in this 2013 preliminary research conducted by Harvard Business professor Amy Cuddy and her colleague, Maarten W. Bos.”

“Positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness.”

“From a purely cognitive perspective, positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness, as well as more likely to recall depressive memories and thoughts. Researchers say this phenomenon is ingrained in our biology and traces back to how body language is “closely tied to dominance across the animal kingdom,” as Cuddy writes in her new book, Presence.”

“So what’s the best way to ensure you feel powerful in both body and mind? Erik Peper, a professor who studies psychophysiology at San Francisco State University, advises checking your posture every hour to make sure you’re not in the iHunch, or iPosture, position. He also advises bringing smaller devices up to your face while in use instead of forcing yourself to look downward at them in a collapsed position.”

 5.  Sleep with your phone away from your head

“There’s a lot of myths and half truths out there about how—and if—your smartphone may be effecting the brain. While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the topic of wireless devices, there does seem to be a link between blue light—emitted by electronic screens including those of smartphones—and sleep. Interrupting or changing our sleep patterns is bad for a lot of reasons. For example, lack of enough deep sleep could be preventing us from flushing harmful beta-amyloid from our brains.”

“According to Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT specializing in sleep and the brain, our brains’ natural cleansing system requires six to eight hours of sleep. Without it, brains eventually encounter major build-ups of beta-amyloid, a neurotoxin found in clumps in the brains of people with neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“While scientists have always known that the brain cleanses wastes, much like the body, the sophistication of this cleansing system was investigated in 2013 by Maiken Nedergaard of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester. This study found “hidden caves” that open up in our brains when we’re in a deep enough sleep. This liquid cleaning system, dubbed the “glymphatic system,” enables copious amounts of neurotoxins to be pushed through the spinal column.
“So, exactly how far away do you need to keep your smart devices? We’re not completely sure, but Swart says it’s a good idea to not sleep with it next to your head. Ultimately, keeping our brains healthy takes willpower and resilience, just like with any other part of our bodies. But as research shows, staying sound of body and mind as we age is certainly possible—with a little effort.”

If you don’t believe me click here! http://qz.com/626482/neuroscience-says-these-five-rituals-will-help-your-brain-stay-young/

 

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