Happiness Habits – My Brain Training

While reading “The Science of Happiness” I realized I practice turning worries and fears into “happy” . . . or at least “content”.  Let me share:

Part of being happy is having the habit of being happy

Ancient Greek Philosophical Statement – Greek philosophers actually ran “happiness schools”

Periander said “Everything is practice”

How to Practice Happiness*

  • Tell yourself that negative thoughts are destructive to your mind and let them go by replacing with positive or neutral thoughts.

 I’ve learned to tell myself –  “If I’ve been thinking negative thoughts and they haven’t helped me, I might as well stop thinking them and move on”.  It works, but takes practice. At first, my brain wants to go right back to the negative thought. I have to tell it a few times to switch to positive or neutral thoughts (having something specific to switch to can help).

  •  Sensitize  yourself to positive  feelings–look for them and expand them.

Pay attention to the present – where you are, what you are doing, who you are with.  I look for ANYTHING, however, small, I can  be grateful for or at the very least appreciate.  

imagine looking at yourself from a great distance, or though the eyes of someone else–notice how IN THE LONG RUN  your worries might not be as significant as you think.

Worries, I remind myself, haven’t happened but  my mind conjuring up possibilities.

  • Imagine good things, your imagination can change the brain almost as much as actual experience.

I sometimes make up an alternate history for myself,  how I got the support and love I wished you had.  It’s like a movie, made and directed by ME.

It takes time and practice but I can testify that it is possible to increase your ability to control how you feel.  

Peggy

*From “The Science of Happiness” by Stefan Klein

Buying happiness: How to get the most bang for your buck

There’s a lot of press on the misery that comes from winning the lottery and a lot of research showing that having more money doesn’t make you happier (if you can afford necessities like food and shelter).  Along comes happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky who maintains that money CAN buy happiness. It turns out it is all in how you spend it. There is also a catch.

How money CAN make you happier*

1. Develop yourself; pay to get a new skill, or to master an old skill or ability.


2. Connect with others; celebrate achievements of friends and family or take some one on a trip.


3. Buy things that relate to mastery or goals; buy new musical instruments, sports gear or software to advance a project.

4. Donate to worthy causes

5. Buy time with your money; relieve yourself from long work hours or chores that consume your time.

 Here’s the catch:

Money spent on other people brings the most happiness. A study by Elizabeth Dunn and others at U of British Columbia found a bonus raised happiness to the degree it was spent on others.

Spending your money on OTHER PEOPLE instead of on yourself gets you the most happiness for the buck.

*“The Myths of Happiness”by Sonja Lyubomirsky

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Positively Tuesday Positively

Three major insights from research

POSITIVE feelings can drive out negative feelings

No happiness LASTS forever, but we can experience more happiness and have it last longer

HOW we experience something is more important than what we experience

Owls, Larks & then there’s Me (Parenthetically Speaking)

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  Maybe there would be more validity if I had taken it when I was middle-aged and had the energy to rebound and peak.  As a seenager I seem to be in the slowdown phase, perpetually.)

Let me explain . . .  

What’s the best time to Think?

Daniel Pink* (born in 1964 and he’s NOT a seenager) says our ability to think changes throughout the day, consequently we function better, smarter and even more creative at various times.  Research suggests these effects can be as large as 20%.

Generally, we have a peak, a slowdown and a rebound during the day.

  • Most people are at their peak function during the late morning, till about noon. We think and focus the best then.  We don’t get distracted as easily.
  • Early to mid afternoon we are less alert and focused-this is the time for “busy work”.
  • In the late afternoon to early evening we rebound. We are more easily distracted though, which turns out to be good for creativity – problem solving and creative thinking. Our mood tends to be up and we are alert. Note that night owls have this time in the morning.

One in 5 people is a night owl, then the order is reversed–rebound, slowdown, peak.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  I’m a night owl person.  My morning rebound lasts until about 3 pm, followed by a slowdown until 11 pm when I go to bed.  My peak performance occurs undoubtedly while I’m sleeping.)

What’s the best time to Exercise?

When is best time to exercise? Depends on your goals-here is Pink’s guide:

  • Morning exercise is best for losing weight –since blood sugar is low before we eat, we will burn fat – even 20% more fat than later exercise
  • Cardio in morning will boost your mood, and doing this in the morning lets you enjoy the boost longer
  • It is easier to have a routine in the morning that later in the day.
  • Late afternoon exercise is best for avoiding injury, since your muscles are warmed up
  • You also perform your best in the afternoon ( one study by Elise Facer-Childs and Ronald Brandstaetter at U. Of Birmingham  in 2015 showed a 26% difference. Lung function is highest and strength peaks at this time, reaction time is quick and eye hand coordination is at its best. This time of day is when athletic records tend to be set-late afternoon to early evening.  You tend to enjoy your workout more at this time.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this.  I’m a night owl person.  Since my morning rebound lasts until about 3 pm, followed by a slowdown until 11 pm when I go to bed.  I should be exercising while I’m sleeping which will ensure I enjoy it more.)

How to stay happy and productive

Take short breaks-this helps keep you able to focus, especially when you move during the breaks.  Taking a 5 minute walk every hour will increase your energy, focus and mood,  lessening afternoon fatigue.  It’s better than one 30 min. walk. Researchers at Stanford found motivation, concentration and creativity went up with short walking breaks.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this. Peggy told me this is how we evolved – pick some food from a plant, walk a bit, pick more food . . .   I tried this and gained 10 pounds which depressed me and now I’m going to bed to sleep at 3 pm when my slowdown starts.)

Pink says social breaks are the best as they increase mood and decrease stress. The best breaks may be ones in nature, people feel happier and more rested.

(Frankly, I’m not sure about any of this. I could take a social break but I don’t think my husband would appreciate my asking anyone else to bed)

(jw)

Peggy made  Mood Tracker charts to help me pinpoint my daily energy swings.

Click HERE to get a PDF and print your own chart and instructions.

Mood Chart

 

Sample Mood Chart & Tracker

References:

Wall Street Journal article Feb. 16, 2018,

*“How to be Healthier, Happier and More Productive: It’s All in the Timing” by Daniel H. Pink

 

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Pawsitively Tuesday: Three Kinds of Happy

Martin Seligman was a pioneer in happiness research.

He found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.

 Seligman describes three kinds of happiness:

1.  Pleasant Life –enjoy yourself, eat well, savor life.

Dance for fun

2.  Engaged Life–develop a passion and work hard at it, lose yourself in it. Hug a tree

3.  Meaningful Life–contribute to the greater good.

Help others

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Food is Medicine

I’m an emotional eater –  it doesn’t matter if I’m feeling bad or good.  But when I’m depressed I crave sugar & carbs.   I’ve always conveniently blamed my father.   I’m not sure whether he was the one who needed a pick-me-up or he thought I did but he would go out of his way to bring a bit of pleasure into my life in the form of something delectibly sweet.

Dad would drive across town to a special shop that dispensed root beer from a soda fountain and then back at home he’d pile in vanilla ice cream to make floats.  We would sneak out to eat cinnamon rolls and M’M’s peanut chocolate candy. 

Dad lived by specific culinary principles:

  • Cake’s main purpose was to hold up the frosting. 
  • Pepsi was the beverage of choice because water was for bathing, not drinking.
  • The only edible food was brown and white (unless it contained copious amounts of sugar), green food should be reserved for insects or chimpanzees
  • Fruit was only safe to eat if it was in a pie. 

Today there is a an incredible amount of scientific evidence that food is medicine, not just muscle fuel, and the right kind of diet may give the brain more of what it needs to avoid depression, or even to treat it once it’s begun

You’re feeling depressed. What have you been eating?

Psychiatrists and therapists don’t often ask this question. But a growing body of research over the past decade shows that a healthy diet—high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and unprocessed lean red meat—can prevent depression. And an unhealthy diet—high in processed and refined foods—increases the risk for the disease in everyone, including children and teens.

The findings are spurring the rise of a new field: nutritional psychiatry.

“Now recent studies show that a healthy diet may not only prevent depression, but could effectively treat it once it’s started.
“Researchers, led by epidemiologist Felice Jacka of Australia’s Deakin University, looked at whether improving the diets of people with major depression would help improve their mood. They chose 67 people with depression for the study, some of whom were already being treated with antidepressants, some with psychotherapy, and some with both. Half of these people were given nutritional counseling from a dietitian, who helped them eat healthier. Half were given one-on-one social support—they were paired with someone to chat or play cards with—which is known to help people with depression.”

“After 12 weeks, the people who improved their diets showed significantly happier moods than those who received social support. And the people who improved their diets the most improved the most. (The study was published in January 2017 in BMC Medicine).”

“A second, larger study drew similar conclusions and showed that the boost in mood lasted six months. It was led by researchers at the University of South Australia and published in December 2017 in Nutritional Neuroscience.”

“And later this month in Los Angeles at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago will present results from their research that shows that elderly adults who eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains are less likely to develop depression over time.”

Scientific evidence aside . . .

My dad lived to 93 . . .  it might be prudent to follow his dietary regime.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, The Food That Helps Battle Depression bElizabeth Bernstein

 

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Frankly Freddie – Spending money (on me) will make you happy

Dear Human-beings and critters with discretionary money.

Reading dry research is . . . dry.  If you don’t want to read this article, watch the video and . . .  buy me doggie treats so you feel JOYFUL.

There is scientific evidence that when you buy me treats you will feel good:  You probably think spending money on yourself makes you happy but this is NOT true.  

  1. In a series of experiments by Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues,employees were asked about their general happiness levels before and after receiving their annual bonus(2008). Regardless of the size of the actual bonus, employees who spent more of their bonus money on others or on charity reported greater general of happiness than those who spent more of it on themselves.

2. In another experiment, participants who were directed to spend a small amount of money on others (either $5 or $20) reported greater feelings of happiness than those who were directed to spend the same amounts on themselves. The dollar amount didn’t matter.  (Doggie treats cost $5 or $20)

Even human beings around the world get emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others.  Data from 136 countries found that prosocial spending was consistently associated with greater happiness. (Lara Aknin and colleagues, 2010). 

Your Giving (to me) Brain

“Humans are social creatures, who depend on the ability to foster teamwork with others to survive. To this end, the human brain has a built-in reward system that manages how we interact with others: the neurotransmitter oxytocin.”

“With respect to the happiness that prosocial spending produces, oxytocin might have something to do with the intensity of the feeling. When we spend money on others, it’s usually on friends and family (I consider all you as FAMILY) who we consistently work to maintain good relationships with. When we spend money to help our friends and make our family smile, our brain rewards us for strengthening our social ties.”

In appreciation for your generosity,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, DCD

Deserving Canine Dog

and then send me treats.

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Pawsitively Tuesday – Make up your mind

 “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln

Today, researchers are confirming that assessment. Although some of your temperament is genetic, a large percentage is under your control. In short, your happiness is up to you.

Your Personal Happiness Quartet

How happy we feel is strongly influenced by 4 neurotransmitter chemicals: endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. They are often called “the quartet.”

Endorphin on Electric Guitar, Serotonin on Sax, Dopamine on Drums, Oxytocin on Oboe

Here’s a very basic idea of what they do for you and 7 ways to help boost your happiness:

ENDORPHINS 

They promote a sense of well-being, lesson pain and are primarily released when we are in pain or stressed.  Endorphins work in similar ways as prescription anti-anxiety drugs and opiate painkillers but provide the benefits without all the side-effects.

Low levels of endorphins are linked to opposite effects: physical and emotional pain (including chronic pain linked to disorders like fibromyalgia), addiction and risk taking behavior.

SEROTONIN
Serotonin is often called the “happy hormone”.  It improves your mood and helps beat depression.  Not only does it help with mood stabilization but plays a big role in getting good sleep, dreaming, emotional and social stability.

Low levels serotonin are associated with various mental disturbances including: depression, anxiety, PMS,  sugar/carbohydrate cravings, trouble sleeping, obsessive thinking and addiction to alcohol or drugs. Too high levels can be  problematic as well.

DOPAMINE

Dopamine is one of the strongest “feel-good hormones”.   It makes you feel energized, alert, motivated and in control.  Within the brain, dopamine helps control the reward and pleasure centers as well as helping regulate movement and emotional responses.  Interestingly, it enables us to not only see rewards, but to take action to reach them. 

Dopamine deficiency is implicated in Parkinson’s Disease and people with low dopamine levels may be more prone to addiction.  Low levels can trigger depression, lack of concentration (brain fog), poor motivation and difficulty initiating and/or completing tasks.

OXYTOCIN

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” since it’s released during highly emotional moments, such as  childbirth, being in love, and during orgasm. It motivates us to strengthen personal relationships, be faithful and facilitates compassion.  Oxytocin is a powerful hormone, produced mainly in the hypothalamus, and acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain

On the flip side, as a facilitator of bonding among those who share similar characteristics, oxytocin fosters distinctions between “in-group” and “out-group” members, and sets in motion favoritism toward “in-group” members and prejudice against those in “out-groups”.

7 ways to get the “Happiness Quartet”

working more for you:

We are all capable of producing our own natural highs (without taking illegal or prescription drugs) and when we repeat  behavior that facilitates the release of neurotransmitters we become naturally motivated to create positive habits.

1.  Tasting

Neurotransmitters that signal the release of endorphins come mostly from nutrients in our diet, like amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids and minerals. 

Serotonin is made primarily through intake of tryptophan-rich foods, such as turkey or milk. Most proteins will help release serotonin, including meat, fish, chicken, poultry, cheese, milk and eggs, which are complete proteins. A number of different plant foods, such as beans with sprouted grains, will get the same effects. Whole foods like seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, corn or the germ of grains, such as buckwheat and oats, are all good plant sources of amino acids that help increase serotonin.

Fats comprise 60 percent of the brain. Essential fatty acids support the activity of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Get healthy fats from coconut or olive oil, wild-caught fish like Alaskan salmon, nuts, seeds and avocado.

2.  Laughing

Laughter is a quick-fix for feeling almost instantly better, thanks to the release of endorphins.  Studies have even linked laughter with an elevated pain threshold. Try regularly doing something to keep your sense of humor: play with children, watch funny shows, recall a funny moment, share jokes, spend time with friends who have a sense of humor.

3.  Connecting

Give a hug, get a massage or simply have a deep conversation with someone you trust will all help release oxytocin and other chemicals that help you feel calm and comforted.  Some studies show acupuncture and other hands-on treatments  have similar effects. Make time for friends, reach out to others in need, find a sense of purpose and notice how good you feel when you do something nice for someone else.

4.  Learning

Every time you experience something novel or learn something new dopamine’s reinforces you.  With the internet, learning is at your fingertips.  Use your techno-time to look up something that peaks your curiosity,  travel, take up a hobby or get better at something you already do and release feel good neurochemicals.

5.  Smelling

The release of endorphins helps you feel calmer almost instantly when you smell the aroma of something that reminds you of fun or comforting times.  It can be as simple as the scent of fresh baked cookies, a parent’s favorite perfume or a dab of essential oil scents such as vanilla, chamomile, rose and lavender.  Your nose, after all, is close to your brain.

6.  Sunning & Nature

Sunshine and nature sites/sounds/colors seem to help regulate the release of serotonin and melatonin.  It only takes about 20 minutes a day to help your skin produce vitamin D (sunscreen will block this), which is important for your mood.  Studies indicate that exercising outdoors elevates mood better than indoors.

7.  Moving

A large body of research shows that people who exercise regularly have added protection against depression, reduce anxiety and get better sleep.  Exercise is one of the most endorphin-boosting things we can do. It also increases self esteem, gives a sense of mastery, increases energy levels, and thanks to dopamine, keeps you motivated to continue and improve.   You don’t have to do 10,000 steps or do intense workouts.  Research indicates that 3 times a week of brisk walking will do the trick.

Putting into practice all 7 ways to get the Happiness Quartet working for you:  

Eat a hardboiled egg while walking for 20 minutes in the park with a trusted friend, practice speaking Mandarin Chinese, laugh at your bad pronunciation and stop occasionally to smell the flowers.  How easy is that!

 

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The psychology behind BIG spending .

I’ve never been a big spender.  I attribute my frugal nature to growing up with parents who weathered a World War and a major economic depression.  My mother washed used aluminum foil to reuse and never bought anything that wasn’t on sale.

It’s fascinating to watch friends splurge on expensive items simply because they want them. And even more fascinating they don’t consider it “splurging”.  The research helps explain what drives people to spend thousands on products and experiences that could cost far less?

 1. Perceived Value & the Placebo Effect

“Research into how cost affects our perceptions shows that price matters so much to our understanding of value that we sometimes rate pricey things as superior or more effective, even if they are the exact same quality as the less expensive option.”

“In one study by The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Stanford University scholars, people not only rate the same wine more highly when they’re told it is more expensive, functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI scans taken of their brains while they were drinking the wine suggest participants enjoyed the experience of drinking it more.”

“In another study using placebo pain killers, participants who took a fake pain-killing drug that they were told cost $2.50 per pill experienced more pain reduction during a series of shocks than participants who were told the pill cost only 10 cents.”

2. Searching for Ultimate Experiences

“How does price and perception play into our purchasing decisions outside the laboratory? If an item is twice as expensive, do buyers assume it’s twice as good?”

“Michael Norton, a psychologist and professor of business administration at Harvard Business School says yes. In fact, we may consider the experience to be more than twice as good. We’re motivated to splurge because we’re seeking peak experiences, his research suggests.”

Norton says the same logic can be used to think about why people buy very expensive products or experiences. “There’s an extra boost when you go up in the quality of experiences. So, it’s possible that a $10,000 bottle of whiskey would be more than twice as pleasurable than a $5,000 bottle of whiskey because it’s such a peak experience way out in the extreme.”

By collecting memorable experiences, consumers obtain a sense of accomplishment and progress, and enhance their self-worth.

“We examine why consumers desire unusual and extreme consumption experiences, and voluntarily choose leisure activities, vacations, and celebrations that are unpleasant and even aversive. For example, many consumers choose to stay at freezing ice hotels and eat at restaurants serving peculiar foods, such as bacon ice cream. We demonstrate that such choices are driven by consumers’ striving to use time productively, make progress, and reach accomplishments (i.e., a productivity mindset). We argue that choices of collectable or memorable (unusual, aversive, extreme) experiences lead consumers to feel productive even when they are engaging in leisure activities, as they “check off” items on an “experiential check list” and build their “experiential CV.”Some of us are searching for unique leisure experiences, even when they might be less pleasurable than other options, in order to build their “experiential CV.”  Anat Keinan, Harvard University & Ran Kivetz, Columbia University

3. Flashing the cash

Some people are spending big purely to signal they’re successful. “You might feel like you need to show everyone you’ve ‘arrived’,” 

Economic theory shows demand for some goods increases as their price drops. By contrast, a ‘Veblen good’ is more in demand as its price increases, because of its exclusive and coveted nature.

“There’s a general principle that there’s a social comparison aspect of one-upping other people in our consumption. If I have a nicer bottle of wine (…) than you do then I win, and have shown how high status I am,” Norton says. But he adds people are polarised and often choose to be either extremely conspicuous or extremely inconspicuous to show high status.”

 4. The feel-good factor

And here’s the simplest reason of all: people splurge on luxury goods because they think it will make them happy. Norton, who co-authored Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, says that the amount of happiness you get from spending money will depend on how you spend it and not necessarily how much.

Norton says splurging on items for ourselves is finite and doesn’t add up to increases in happiness over time. Instead, he suggests spending money on experiences rather than things. “Most of us seem to be maxed out on the happiness we can get from stuff alone.”

Giving to others seems to add up to happiness over time.

There might be an even better way to get your kicks. Norton’s research proves that giving to others can make us happier people.

“It’s not that when you buy things for yourself they don’t make you happy in the moment. Of course they do. That’s why we buy them. It just doesn’t seem to add up to much happiness over time,” he says. “Giving to others seems to add up to happiness over time.”

Frugal is as Frugal Does

I’ve have always enjoyed giving to others . . . as long as I’ve made it or it’s on sale . . . (jw)

Resources:

http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20171006-the-psychology-behind-spending-big

Placebo Effects of Marketing Actions: Consumers May Get What They Pay For. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236852497_Placebo_Effects_of_Marketing_Actions_Consumers_May_Get_What_They_Pay_For

 

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My daily dose of happy vibes

Even though I grew up in Arizona, where the summer heat can be brutal, I love sunshine.  Perhaps some of my love of being outside is connected to feelings of riding Misty Soda, my first horse, a pale palomino.  After school,  no matter the temperature, I would rush to go riding. Perhaps some of my love of the sun is remembrance of teenage years laying by the pool, getting tan, taking a dip in the cool water and the feeling of water evaporating from my skin.

Riding by Peggy

Research indicates my love of sunshine may be more than just wonderful memory triggers. 

In the top layer of our skin, we have a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D3 from that substance. Vitamin D3 is then taken to the liver and kidneys to become the most effective form of vitamin D..

Most know that vitamin D is linked to strong bones and teeth.  Less known is research shows vitamin D deficiency also plays a role in some cases of depression, chronic fatigue and an increased tendency to infections.

For those who live in less sunny climates you can get vitamin D from foods too:

  • fish
  • butter
  • milk (especially full cream)
  • fortified margarine
  • breakfast cereals
  • meal replacement shakes.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble – so if you take a vitamin D supplement, eating healthy food with a little bit of fat such as fish, avocado or nuts at the same time.

Beaching it by Peggy

My adult years have been spent in California and my favorite place is the beach.  I know I am always more relaxed and happier when outside – being supercharged with vitamin D from the sun!

(PW)

https://www.goexpress.co.za/2017/11/06/get-daily-dose-happy-vibes/

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How to flip the switch – Shame, guilt and worry

Our brain wants us to feel good but it hasn’t quite figured out how to differentiate “good” feelings from “bad”.  When you feel shame, guilt and worry your brain is trying to reward you by activating its reward center! 

Feel’n Blue by Peggy

When you are being followed by a black cloud, Alex Korb* has some insights that might help you find the sun. It’s all about neuroscience.

According to Korb, “Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.“

“A similar thing may be going if you just can’t seem to stop worrying. Korb says worrying stimulates the medial prefrontal cortex and lowers activity in the amygdala, thus helping your limbic system, your emotions, remain copascetic. His theory is that, even though worry is widely recognized as a pointless thing to do from a tactical point of view, apparently the brain considers it better than doing nothing at all when you’re anxious.”

How do you redirect your brain from “rewarding” you with guilt, shame or worry?

“Korb suggests asking yourself: “What am I grateful for?” His reasoning is chemical: “One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”

“Even more intriguingly, actually coming up with something you’re thankful for — not always an easy thing to do in a dark mood — isn’t even required. Just the acts of remembering to be thankful is the flexing of a type of emotional intelligence: “One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

Serotonin Boost by Peggy

We’ve written about gratitude before – and will undoubtedly continue.  Quick and easy ways to refocus on what you can be grateful for is often hard when you’re feeling down.  Force yourself to name, list, draw 3 – 5 things every day.

They can be the same things every day and minor things taken for granted.

Examples of my gratitude:

  • I have teeth to brush

  • When I turn on the faucet water runs out

  • Blog followers clicked “like” on this post whether they “liked” it or not

Ahhhh. . .  I feel a serotonin surge in my anterior cingulate cortex and my  emotional intelligence increasing as I type . . . 

(jw)

*Alex Korb,  The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/4-things-you-can-do-to-cheer-up-according-to-neuroscience

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Want to be happy? Eat Your Dessert First

We’ve all fallen into thinking “I will be happy when ___________”.  Sometimes it’s a mind set we’ve been taught: Eat your vegetables before you can have dessert;  There’s no time for happiness just “hard” work.  Often it’s simply paddling as fast as we can to keep our head above water.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, maintains we need to get happy first and success will be easier for when we are in a good mood we work better, are more creative, and cope better.

The neurochemistry says it all
“Positive emotions flood our brain with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.”

Heels over Head by Peggy

Smple activities that will increase the “happy” neurotransmitters in your brain.

Recall a memory of something happy or funny
Take a brisk walk
Watch a funny video clip or cartoon
Hang out with someone who makes you smile

Proven ways to increase happiness which take a bit more time and effort:

1. Meditation (Joy on Demand”, a book on easy ways to meditate)

2. Think of something you can look forward to doing

 3. Perform an act of kindness

Acts of Kindness by Peggy

4.Modify your physical environment (go outside in nice weather, surround yourself with pictures that remind you of loved ones, happy times, trips, read positive magazines, books, videos or surround yourself with objects or symbols that bring a smile.

5. Exercise 20 – 30 min. 3X week

6. Create & nurture relationships.

 7. Use your skills and do something you enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Symptoms of Happiness

I was embarrassed!

Patients who had just been released from the hospital’s psychiatric unit caught me red-handed.   I was leading a group therapy session about how important it is to focus on the positive – what you want instead of what you do not want. I went on and on explaining that when we think negatively the neo-cortex part of our brains triggers neuro-chemical emotions which correspond to those thoughts.

Not happy

Not happy

I smoothly seque-wayed into explaining what the many symptoms of depression are. The patients had been listening,  and stopped me and not so diplomatically pointed out I was focusing on the negative. Lesson learned!  MY lesson learned.

The group decided that instead of learning symptoms of depression, they would create a list of  symptoms of happiness.  

 Here’s their list:

Symptoms of Happiness

  1. Feeling good (or at least “decent”) most of the day, for two weeks or more.
  2. Eating an appropriate amount of food with good appetite.
  3. Sleeping well and awakening refreshed.
  4. Taking pleasure in most everyday activities and enjoying fun activities.
  5. Having a good energy level most of the day, every day, for two weeks or more.
  6. Having thoughts of fun or of good times to come.
  7. Being able to concentrate on the activity on hand.
  8. Feeling that one’s life matters.
  9. Able to exercise three times a week for half an hour, or more.
  10. Socialize in person or on the phone with 5 to 7 people each week. ( texting counts too)
  11. Laugh or at least smile every day.
  12. tailupsmall

    Happy is as Happy Thinks

How many happiness “symptoms” do you have?

(even one is a start).

PA

Linda commented (below): Feeling grateful, enjoying nature, feeling loved, able to say “life is wonderful”.

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Research shows you will be happier for 3 months – Music to my ears

I played violin in the high school orchestra. It was enjoyable and got me out of physical education class. Practicing was another matter.  Practicing the violin was excruciating for me. It was solely focused on doing weird, complicated, boring scales over and over and over . . . no melody, NO FUN.   I would set a timer for 1 hour: polish my violin for 10 minutes; resin the bow for 5; tune the strings for 15 and; laboriously do scales for the rest of the time. I did get better.

If only I had known that I could have practiced being in a good mood while I was practicing scales.

Yup, research now shows the more you practice being in a good mood the better you get at keeping a good mood.

Our brains seek out familiar patterns. The more we consciously focus on positive thoughts the easier it is for our brain to access those thoughts and find positive patterns in other areas.  (Of course, there is a corollary  – focus on the negative and your brain will look for more negative connections).  So the more you think about the positive things in your life, the easier it is to think of good things in your life. 

Start at any time.  Like now. Think about something “positive/good” . . . a time you had fun or laughed at a joke or a childhood celebration.  It doesn’t even have to be about you or your life . . .  something “positive” you’ve witnessed, read about or even imagined.  Share it with someone and notice feeling happier.

The more you practice the easier it will be for your brain to access the positive and lift your mood.  

Here’s an easy practice session.

   Maui Practicing, not judy, by Peggy

Pawsitive Exercise

Each day for a week, at the end of the day, write down 3 good or positive things that have happened to you that day and why they happened. 

They can be:

  • BIG things (became a grandma, bought a Maserati, won the lottery)
  • Small things (took a nice shower, ate breakfast, paid the water bill on time).
  • The same things repeated each day or different things/events listed.

When you write down why they happened give yourself credit:

  • I won the lottery because I bought a ticket
  • I took a nice hot shower because I paid the water bill on time
  • I became a grandma because I became a mother because I have kept a good relationship with my daughter because I called her and had a positive conversation.

You don’t need a fancy journal –

a notebook, post-it-notes, napkins will work.

Just do this for one week.

Research shows you will be happier for 3 months!

My violin “practice” list would have looked like this:

  • I managed to get through another violin practice session without dying of boredom.
  • I played in tune, 75% of the time
  • I polished my violin and it’s shiny.

(jw)

Reference:  Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410

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