“Anyone who doesn’t change their mind
doesn’t have one.”
“fMRI studies support this idea. Participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.”
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.
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..
For those who live in less sunny climates you can get vitamin D from foods too:
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.
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.“
“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.”
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.
Almost everyone I saw in private practice as a psychotherapist, at one time or another, expressed guilt:
Some harbored guilty feelings they were responsible for a parent’s short-comings, abusive behavior or unhappiness; Many felt guilty they had left an abusive home when they were of age and left a younger sibling behind without protection; Clients felt guilty they couldn’t provide for their family in the way they imagined they should. I could give millions . . . of other examples.
If I said this once while I was in practice, I said it a trillion times:
Why do we choose guilt when our actions aren’t immoral, illegal or unethical? We want to think we have/had control – that we could have chosen to do something differently and therefore we will be in control and have choice in the future. With feelings of sadness, fear or hurt we are simply vulnerable and feel out of control – out of control of ourselves and over circumstances.
I should have learned a thing about feeling good from Maui but it took a book to teach me what Maui knew.
When I was working with patients with major mental health problems (Schizophrenia, severe depression, manic depression), I read The Biopsychology of Mood & Arousal by Richard Thayer. I was surprised to learn that if you do a brisk activity for only 10 min, your mood goes up and stays up for 4 hours. It sounded almost too easy. I found a beach ball to put it to the test.
At the beginning of the next patient’s group therapy session I asked everyone to rate their current mood on a scale of 1 to 10. One = horrible/awful/terrible/bad. Ten = wonderful/elated/ joyful/good.
I tossed the beach ball in the air and everyone joined in batting the ball to each other. Sometimes we missed, sometimes we got hit in the head, but everyone swung at the ball, waved their hands around and had a little exercise. AFTER 10 MINUTES we stopped and rated mood again.
Take a look at the chart below showing how each patient rated their mood at the beginning of the session, in blue, and where each patient rated their mood after tossing the ball for 10 minutes, in green.
Would the mood elevation last? After 3 1/2 hours, everyone rated their mood again. All moods were still up with one exception. It had worked making my own mood elevated.
The chart below shows each patients mood before the ball toss started, in blue, and where each patient rated their mood after 3 1/2 hours, in purple.
The average improvement in mood was 30%! In TEN MINUTES.
Of course, negative events can bring mood down again. (as happened to the one patient – letter i – in the group) but this is one of my favorite “tricks” to stay happy.
In his 1989 book The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, Robert E. Thayer discusses how 10 minutes of brisk exercise improves mood for four hours. He describes how each of us has a daily biorhythm of ups and downs in energy (There’s a chart in the book on how to figure out your own biorhythm).
Exercise is shown to boost endorphins and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine both of which improve mood.
Not only does exercise grow your muscles, it also grows neurons in your brain. Such neuron growth is associated with improved mood. Research shows:
Click here for Time article It’s All in the Nerves: How to Really Treat Depression
“This year, the burgeoning idea that gut bacteria might have a significant impact on brain functioning gained steam in the scientific community. The National Institute of Mental Health invested more than $1 million on a new research program investigating the link between the gut microbiome and the brain, and a neuroscience conference last month called the investigation of gut microbes a “paradigm shift” in brain science.”
“It opens up a completely new way of looking at brain function and health and disease,” UCLA medicine and psychiatry professor Dr. Emeran Mayer told NPR last year.”
“Previous research had investigated a link between disorders like autism, depressionand anxiety to variations in the microbes within the intestines –– and this year, neuroscientists began to develop a deeper understanding of just how the microbiome, as it is called, exerts an influence on the brain’s development and activity. While the link is still being investigated, the immune system and the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the digestive tract, both likely play a role.”
14 minutes of your time to listen
Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain, Ruairi Robertson, TEDxFulbright, SantaMonica
“Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach? Has hunger ever changed your mood? Our bellies and brains are physically and biochemically connected in a number of ways, meaning the state of our intestines can alter the way our brains work and behave, giving a whole new meaning to ‘Food for thought’.”
“As a nutritionist, microbiologist and neuroscientist, Ruairi Robertson is passionate about the link between our bellies and brains. His research is examining how our intestines and the microbes within them can influence both physical and mental health, and most importantly how our diets influence this relationship. Ruairi has travelled the world researching food, and believes it is the key to global public health. Ruairi is a PhD student in University College Cork in Ireland and current Fulbright Scholar (2015/16) to Harvard University.”