Bet you’ve had an Emotional Hangover and not known it

I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter.  It concerned me when a therapist colleague said that was an indication of repressed memory of probably horrible childhood trauma.  Ai yiiii yiiiiii.  Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.

I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction” thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst.  He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”

This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion.  What does that have to do with hang-over?  Read on!

Hung Over by Peggy

Excerpts from:

You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.

“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”

“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,” explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”

“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’

” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”

“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.

I’m so relieved!  Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . .  the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the news I’ve led an exceptionally boring life.

(jw)

To read the entire article, who the author are and the research behind it click HERE.

HeART of Spirituality – Healing

Once a month I facilitate a free, non-denominational HeART of Spirituality workshop. Tapestry Unitarian Congregation hosts it.  There’s a different theme each month.

For those of you who want to think about your own spirituality I’ll post the information and the exercises for you to do.  For those who just want a peek at the heART the participants create take a look!

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Healing was the focus at this HeART of Spirituality workshop. 

The medium used was journaling.

Synopsis of the Introduction:

Physically, biologically anger and fear create a neurochemical cascade from the brain to the body triggering powerful stress responses. These two emotions interfere with physical healing and are incompatible with spiritual healing.  

When everything is going well we try to maintain the status quo (for good reason!).  To change, learn and grow we all need an impetus.  The most powerful stimuli for change and growth are when we face pain or fear.    

In Buddhism there’s a distinction between pain and suffering:  Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.  Suffering is based on our perception and emotional response.

Basic to Baha’i beliefs:

  • We learn how to develop God’s virtues through pain and earthly trials & tribulation.
  • God does not want us to suffer, He wants us to learn.
  • Suffering comes from our distorted perspective of spirituality and our ego needs.
  • Praying for “healing” is first and foremost for spiritual growth, not physical remedy.

My personal experience with fibromyalgia and my belief is that ultimately all healing – physical, emotional, situational,  is spiritual.

Indeed, scientific research shows that what we think and believe impacts our emotional and physical well-being.  The power of the placebo is a small example.

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First exercise – “Stacked Writing”

Stacked writing is a great way to keep things confidential and not have to hide your journal under the mattress.  You can spill your thoughts & feelings out on paper and no one (including you) will be able to read what you wrote.

Workshop Materials: I pasted colored tissue paper on large sheets of paper for the participants to write on.  These sheets were later turned into mini 8-page journals.

Your Materials:  A journal or just a piece of paper will do.  A black marker or pen. A timer

Instructions:

  1.  Write, print, scribble your thoughts and feelings all over the paper, continue writing, turning the paper in many directions (sideways, upside down) and writing on top of what you’ve written.   If your mind goes blank, keep scribbling until another thought pops in.
  2. Write for a minimum of 20 minutes, non-stop (make sure you have an easy flowing marker or pen).  Setting a timer is best so you don’t distract yourself or interrupt your writing.
  3. Focus on releasing the emotions of anger and fear.   Fill the page with sentences, phrases, words on top of each other so that what was written becomes indecipherable.

 

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Second exercise – “Found Poetry”  

Materials:  Newspapers, sheet of blank paper, (we used black construction paper but a journal or any paper will do) glue sticks, scissors.

Instructions:

  1. Focusing on the theme of “healing” cut out approximately 20 words & phrases from the newspaper.  Use your intuition, what catches your eye to choose what you cut out.
  2.  Arrange your words & phrases on a piece of paper, creating a free verse poem*.
  3. Paste your poem down when it “feels finished”.

*“Free verse is an open form of poetry. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern. Many poems composed in free verse thus tend to follow the rhythm of natural speech.” Wikipedia

Here are the participants Healing Poems.  Take a look!

Poetry, ideally, is meant to be recited out loud.  Get your moneys-worth and orate!

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Pawsitively Tuesday – Succeed OR Fail

In my opinion, one of the most “damaging” things we can tell our children, or ourselves for that matter, is that if we set our mind to it and have the perseverance we can do anything, accomplish anything, be anything.  WRONG.

No matter how much I may want to be a nuclear physicist my brain simply will not grasp the finer, much less coarser, points of physics or math.  No matter how much I might want to be a sumo wrestler, my body, dexterity and athletic ability forbids it.

So if I were going to talk to The Cat in the Hat I would tell him to change what he preaches to:

You have brains in your head

You have feet in your shoes

Try things, succeed OR fail,

You’ve got nothing to lose. 

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(jw)

Catattude – Neuroscience gives me a pass for “laziness”

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

Sleep better – 6 cool cat tips & 4 human techniques

Sleep isn’t for your body.  Sleep is for your brain.  When completely deprived of sleep, for only a few days, research shows that at best our immune system is depressed, we have trouble concentrating or processing information and at worst become paranoid and schizophrenic.

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Maui was a superb sleeper. No matter where I went in the house I found him stretched out. Whatever magically found its way to the floor (I certainly never put it there) I’d find him asleep – on pillows, magazines, empty boxes, dirty clothes . . . new clothes. A particular comfy spot was in the middle of a pathway like the top or bottom of the stairs.

As far as I could tell Maui was never sleep deprived, paranoid or schizophrenic.

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Superbly Sleeping

 

Maui’s Tips for a Good Nights Sleep . . . for humans only

  1. Exercise every day but never just before bedtime. (Chasing things like children and dreams doesn’t count)
  2. Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine (catnip is fine).
  3. Have a relaxing bedtime routine (stretch, turn in circles and always clean your paws and teeth).
  4. Keep the room temperature cool.  It helps us hibernate.
  5. Limit catnapping during the day to 10 minutes, 20 minutes max.  Any longer and your brain goes into deep sleep (and you’ll be a ornery cat when you wake up)
    Keep your bedtime consistent. 
  6. Don’t sleep all day and be up all night – it messes with your circadian rhythm.

Peggy’s Tips on Sleeping Well

  • Mind won’t shut off? Do a brain dump 30 minutes before bed. Write down your worries, things to do, random thoughts until your brain is empty. (takes about 3 days for this to work, but it works!)
  • Talk to your brain.  Assure your brain it can solve any problem or cope with difficulties much better when you are rested.  Your unconscious mind is always working and give you solutions while you sleep.
  • Get bright sunlight in the morning when you first wake up.  Go outside if you can.  Even if it is cloudy you get 3000 lumens vs 200 inside. (That’s a lot of lumens!)
  • Turn off cell phones, computers – anything that emits blue light.  It keeps the brain awake. 

Here’s a bonus tip to help you sleep well!!

Buy Guatemalan Worry Cats from the Greater Good Site .

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Handmade Guatemalan Worry Cats

 http://GreaterGood.com

Tell them your troubles and they’ll worry for you while you sleep!

Sleep even better knowing you’ve contributed to worthy causes.

Are you one of 30% who are sensitive to negative ions?

Am I lucky, or what!  Not only do I live in a house with running water, I live close to the  ocean (Pacific to be exact).  There’s evidence that some people are especially sensitive to the effects of water and even feel their mood lifted by fresh, humid air.

I am one of the 30%.  Even a humid breeze lifts my spirits.  I remember getting off a plane in Hawaii, breathing in the fresh, humid breeze and instantly feeling my mood elevate.  Perhaps it’s not only the incredible beauty of islands that attracts but the humidity that lifts the spirits?

Roughly one-third of the population seems to be particularly sensitive to negative-ion depletion . . .  can lead to feeling “down” at best and depressed at worst.

“Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants.”

 

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Peggy, breathing in the negative . . . . . . IONS  

Photo -S. Bossi, Driftright Indicators

The atmosphere we breathe, normally is full of positive and negative ions. However, air conditioning, lack of ventilation, and long dry spells remove negative ions from the air.  The proportion of negative ions is highest around moving water – storms, oceans, rivers, waterfalls.  No wonder I feel so energized at the beach.

The best ratios of negative to positive ions are associated with waterfalls and the time before, during, and after storms. The worst are found in windowless rooms and closed, moving vehicles. Air purifiers typically work by emitting negative ions, which purify room air by attaching to impurities and sinking them.

Marian Diamond, professor of neuroanatomy, University of California, Berkeley, found that levels of negative ions are inversely related to levels of serotonin in the brain. Negative ions suppress serotonin levels in much the same way that natural sunlight suppresses melatonin.

 Deplete the air of negative ions and you experience an increase in serotonin and its attendant drowsiness and relaxation—not what you want when mental agility is demanded.

Feeling a bit down right now?  Go take a shower . . . or move to Hawaii . . .

(PA)

Source: Robert E. Thayer,  Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal

Read Falling Water raises your Spirit for more ions

Pawsitively Tuesday – Freddie’s Forewarning

 You can’t be vain

dancing in the rain

for it’s a sure bet

your paws’ll get wet

your fur will matt

and you’ll looked like

a drowned cat