How getting your hands dirty calms your mind

I have a garden plot.  This year I had a bumper crop for the neighborhood vermin.  What the rabbits didn’t eat the rats finished off.  I never caught any rats in action but I don’t think rabbits can climb up apple trees or tomato vines.   Based on research the neighborhood rabbits and rats are not only well fed but are very mellow.

Well fed by judy

Most gardens are sources of fresh food, but increasingly they’re also an extension of therapy for people with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD; depression; and anxiety.

It’s called horticultural therapy. And some doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists are now at work to test whether building, planting, and harvesting a garden can be a therapeutic process in its own right.

“Social scientists have also been looking at gardens built by and for the homeless, ex-convicts on probation and hospital patients. The results of early studies suggest they have a positive impact. Most people tend to not revert back to bad behavior and many make changes in their lives for the better, the studies show.”

“For now, that evidence seems to be enough to fuel the burgeoning field — programs like a camp for troubled teens in Hawaii, called Pacific Quest. Program staff tell The Salt they believe the garden is a beneficial tool to emotionally engage the kids.”

“For a few months, students — many with psychological issues from trauma, adoption, depression — band together and run a garden from the seed to the dinner plate. “They are introduced to the garden by eating the food planted by [a camper] who was in their shoes just a few months ago,” Travis Slagle, a Horticultural Therapy Association member and land supervisor for Pacific Quest, tells The Salt. “That builds their curiosity.”‘

A 2007 study in the journal Neuroscience found a bacteria found in soil linked with increased serotonin production in the brain — a sign that gardening could increase serotonin levels and improve depression.

“Much of the science behind just how gardening affects the mind and brain still remains a mystery. What scientists do know is that gardening reduces stress and calms the nerves. It decreases cortisol, a hormone that plays a role in stress response.”

click here to Read entire article

Next year I’m planting flowers. It’s only fair I give the snails their share of calm.

(jw)

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Your brain is wired for gossip

Who knew my urge to read the National Inquirer headlines at the grocery store check-out stand means I’m highly adaptive in the food chain . . . if not the food market.  

This is fascinating!

Our intense interest in gossip is not really a character flaw. It’s part of who we are. It’s almost a biological event, and it exists for good evolutionary reasons.

P.S. If you aren’t in the mood to read the whole thing, scroll down to where I’ve highlighted in red the results of the study.

Psst! The Human Brain Is Wired For Gossip  by Jon Hamilton,

“Hearing gossip about people can change the way you see them — literally.

Negative gossip actually alters the way our visual system responds to a particular face, according to a study published online by the journal Science.

The findings suggest that the human brain is wired to respond to gossip, researchers say. And it adds to the evidence that gossip helped early humans get ahead.

“Gossip is helping you to predict who is friend and who is foe,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University and an author of the study.

Barrett is part of a team that’s been studying how gossip affects not just what we know about an unfamiliar person but how we feel about them. The team has shown that getting second-hand information about a person can have a powerful effect.

But Barrett and her team wanted to answer another question: Once hearsay has predisposed us to see someone in a certain way, is it possible that we literally see them differently?

That may seem like a strange thing to ask. But it makes sense when you consider that the human brain has a whole lot of connections between regions that process visual information and areas involved in our most basic emotions, Barrett says.

So the team brought in volunteers and had them look at faces paired with gossip. Some of these faces were associated with negative gossip, such as “threw a chair at his classmate.” Other faces were associated with more positive actions, such as “helped an elderly woman with her groceries.”

Participants in the study were shown a neutral face paired with (A) negative gossip, (B) positive gossip, (C) neutral gossip, (D) negative non-social information, (E) positive non-social information, and (F) neutral non-social information. When the study participants viewed the faces again, their brains were more likely to fix on the faces associated with negative gossip.
Then the researchers looked to see how the volunteers’ brains responded to the different kinds of information. They did this by showing the left and right eyes of each person very different images. So one eye might see a face while the other eye would see a house.

These very different images cause something called binocular rivalry. The human brain can only handle one of the images at a time. So it unconsciously tends to linger on the one it considers more important.

And the researcher found that volunteers’ brains were most likely to fix on faces associated with negative gossip.

Gossip doesn’t just influence your opinions about people, it actually influences how you see them visually,“ Barrett says.

The finding suggests we are hardwired to pay more attention to a person if we’ve been told they are dangerous or dishonest or unpleasant, Barrett says.

“If somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them. You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”
– Frank McAndrew, Knox College psychology professor
Other scientists say that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.

Even when primitive humans lived in small groups, they needed to know things like who might be a threat and who was after a particular mate, McAndrew says. And learning those things through personal experience would have been slow and potentially dangerous, he says.

So McAndrew says one shortcut would have been gossip.

“People who had an intense interest in that — that constantly were monitoring who’s sleeping with who and who’s friends with whom and who you can trust and who you can’t — came out ahead,” he says. “People who just didn’t care about that stuff got left behind.”

And it makes sense that our brains pay special attention to negative gossip, McAndrew says.

“If somebody is a competitor or somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them,” he says. “You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”

Who knew tabloid news is the best thing

since we discovered fire?    

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Pawsitively Tuesday – Take a Look at Your Life

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself:

What if I had never seen this before?

What if I knew I would never see it again?

– Rachel Carson.

Eyed! by Peggy

 

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A Hug a Day Brings Happy Your Way!

National Hugging Day TM

January 21st

1)    Hugs make us feel “happy”! When we hug another person, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone associated with “happiness,” according to scientific studies.

2)    Hugs alleviate stress! Just as a good hug increases our oxytocin levels, it decreases our cortisol or “stress” levels.

3)    Babies need hugs as much as water and food! According to researchers at Harvard University, hugs help promote normal levels of cortisol necessary for child development.

4)    Hugs make us better students! Students who receive a supportive touch from a teacher are twice as likely to volunteer in class.

5)    Hugs improve our game! Scientists at University of California, Berkley discovered that the more affectionate members of a team are with each other, the more likely they are to win.

Snug Hug by Peggy

6)    A hug a day keeps the doctor away! A hug stimulates the thymus gland, which in turn regulates the production of white blood cells that keep us healthy and disease-free.

7)    A hug stops the bug! Researchers at Carnegie Mellon proved that individuals who were sick and received hugs had less severe symptoms and were able to get better quicker.

8)    A hugging heart is a healthy heart! Research from University of North Carolina showed that a good hug helps ease blood flow and lower cortisol levels, which in turn help lower our heart rates.

9)    A hugging couple is a happy couple! Couples that experience their partners’ love through physical affection share higher oxytocin levels.

10)    Hugs let someone know you care without having to say a word! According to Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, we can identify love from simple human touch – imagine how much love a big hug can communicate!

From http://www.nationalhuggingday.com/ 

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Feel the love – Make it HOT

Holding a warm hand can buffer a stress response. The warmth of physical contact can lower heart rate and blood pressure during a stressful experience and physical affection between partners is associated with lower cortisol levels in work-related stress settings. 

“In a recent study, the brain activity of 110 volunteers (around half of whom were female) was monitored as they anticipated small electric shocks to their ankles while holding someone’s hand. They were tested in three conditions: they held the hand of the person they chose to bring along for the study (a friend or partner), they held the hand of a stranger or they did not hold anyone’s hand at all.”

“Holding the hand of the person they brought along resulted in a significant difference in the brain’s activity pattern. There was less activity in the . . . regions associated with self-regulation, when compared to not holding anyone’s hand.”

“The brain’s activity pattern when holding the hand of a stranger was comparable to not holding anyone’s hand at all. It seems we confer our loved ones with great power over ourselves, but we don’t easily give strangers this privilege.”

If you can’t find a warm hand, hold a cup of coffee instead!

 “In a study published in 2012, a group of volunteers played an online ball-tossing game which left some study participants feeling socially excluded. Those who felt excluded had colder fingers and also felt sad/stressed at the end of the experiment. Holding a hot cup of tea prevented this. Physical warmth and emotional warmth may, to some extent, be interchangeable. An increase in one compensates for a deficit in the other.”

“Briefly holding a warm cup of coffee can make people see others as having a “warmer” personality and increases social connection. Opioid signaling is thought to be involved in the mechanistic pathway since the opioid antagonist naltrexone seems to block this effect.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-stress-proof-life/201712/exposure-heat-can-improve-mental-well-beingMORE

Hmmm, I wonder if that’s what makes meeting at coffee shops so popular?

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