Frankly Freddie, Heads & Tails

My Way by Freddie
(with apologies to Paul Anka)

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there is doubt
I eat it up, never spit it out
So you too, can face it all standing tall

and if you’re smart

you’ll do it my way

You Humans ruminate, obsess, plan, plod and procrastinate.  I’m here to give you guidance:

1. Get your nose out of the past and your tail out of the future

Live for now. Think about it. Now is all that exists. If all the stuffing comes out of your plaything, find another one. When someone won’t scratch behind your ears offer them your back.

2. Never lead with your butts

I never procrastinate or make excuses why it’s too late to go for a walk or put off dinner until my favorite program is over.

If you had to cram seven years into one year you wouldn’t procrastinate either.  When you tell yourself “I want to go  fetch BUT I have to check text messages text first”  .  remember to go at life head-first, not “BUT . . . first”.

3. STICK Your Head Out the Window (make sure it’s rolled down )

There are so many smells and so many blessings outside the window . . . take it all in wherever you’re headed (pun intended). You humans focus too much on the destination and forget to enjoy the journey.

4. Use Your Sniffer

BEFORE MAKING JUDGMENTS based on what others look like take a few sniffs and watch their behavior.

I can tell after 5 sniffs whether someone is trustworthy.  You might need more than 5 since you aren’t as perceptive as I am.

5. Wag before you Speak 

I don’t speak a human language (I write it but don’t speak it)  I can’t give you a thumbs up but I can give you a paw.  Only if I can’t get your attention with a nudge I use my bark. My tail never lies . . . and you shouldn’t either.

6. The Power of Pet 

Scratch each others backs, rub bellies, pat heads.  At the very least, reach out and touch others with kindness.  Getting and giving pets feels really good.

Freddie Parker Westerfield

*If you’re a constant worrier, you’re not alone. 40 million American adults live with anxiety disorders.

It’s HOT . . . and chilli

Chillies come in many shapes, colours, sizes and strengths, but one thing they have in common is the burning sensation they cause in your mouth, eyes and any other part of your body into which their juices come into contact.

The hottest part of a chill isn’t its seeds, in fact it is the white spongy layer you find inside, called the placenta. Bite into this and you will really feel the burn.

  • That burning sensation is mainly caused by a chemical called capsaicin, which is found in tiny glands in the chilli’s placenta.
  • When you eat a chilli, the capsaicin is released into your saliva and then binds on to TRPV1 receptors in your mouth and tongue.
  • The receptors are actually there to detect the sensation of scalding heat.

Capsaicin makes your mouth feel as if it is on fire because the capsaicin molecule happens to fit the receptors perfectly.

When this happens it triggers these receptors, which send a signal to your brain, fooling it into thinking that your mouth is literally burning.

The Chili DOES NOT WANT TO BE EATEN

  • The reason wild chilli plants first started to produce capsaicin was to  protect themselves from being eaten by mammals like you.
  • From an evolutionary perspective the plant would much rather have its seeds dispersed by birds.
  • Oddly enough birds, unlike mammals like you, don’t have TRPV1 receptors, so they do not experience any burn.

Humans messed things up

  • Producing capsaicin was the ideal way to deter mammals from eating the plant while encouraging birds to do so.
  • Along came an ape with a giant frontal cortex who somehow learnt to love the burn.

Your body responds to a burst of severe pain by releasing adrenaline:

  • Eyes water
  • Pulse shoots up.
  • Heart beats faster
  • Pupils dilate.

If you can tolerate biting into some really hot chillies, it’s possible to have a “chili endorphin high” – Endorphins are natural opiates, painkillers which are sometimes released in response to the chilli’s sting. Like opiates they are said to induce a pervasive sense of happiness.

It is a form of thrill-seeking – feeding our brains’ desire for stimulation.

Beyond pain are there any health benefits to eating chillies?

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Vermont looked at data from more than 16,000 Americans who had filled in food questionnaires over an average of 18.9 years.

During that time nearly 5,000 of them had died. What they found was that was that those who ate a lot of red hot chillies were 13% less likely to die during that period than those who did not.

Researchers speculate that it could be that capsaicin is helping increase blood flow, or even altering the mix of your gut bacteria in a helpful direction.

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39217603

How to change your own neurochemistry to feel happier

There is power in positive thinking–and the power comes from you.  and what you can do to have more “happy” neuro-chemicals. 

SEROTONIN & POSITIVE THINKING

As far back as 2007 scientists* measured how positive thoughts change brain serotonin levels which is another key neurotransmitter in happiness. Professional actors were used since they could keep up an intense emotional state.   Using a PET scan researchers found that focusing on happy memories resulted in increased uptake of the serotonin building blocks. Focusing on sad memories resulted in lower uptake. This supports the since replicated conclusion that we, by choosing to focus on happy thoughts, can self-regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters and change our brain’s chemical balance to support happiness.

DOPAMINE & MEDITATION

Another study shows why meditation makes monks among the happiest people on earth,

Dopamine is also crucial for happiness and relaxation, Researchers examined the changes in dopamine during meditation using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning on meditators.  The dopamine increased significantly in an area called the basal ganglia during meditation. This is the first evidence that by focusing our thoughts, we can alter how the neurons in our brain fire, and increase dopamine release.

No prescription needed, no side-effects from medications.  Your only cost is a bit of practice focusing on positive memories and thoughts or, if you are more ambitious, a bit of your time to learn to meditate. 

The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 

Your Brain is not pink or blue. It’s Purple?

According to Lise Eliot, a professor of neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School and the author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, anyone who goes searching for innate differences between the sexes won’t find them.

“. . . the brain is a unisex organ. We have the exact same structures,” There is absolutely no difference between male and female brains. . . . Male and female brains are not much [more] different from each other than male or female hearts or kidneys.”

Purple Brain by Peggy, not Prince

Eliot said neuroscientists have yet to find a single circuit that’s wired differently between men and women, and that differences between sexes are best explained by nurture, not nature.

“We keep looking for a biological difference, finding it, it inevitably gets discredited, and yet we still seem so eager to find another one,” she said. Eliot blames academia and the media in part for this cycle. Because most scholars know that any small statistical difference between men and women will make headlines, academics, desperate for funding and attention, often focus studies on gender disparities. “You go back to data, analyze it for sex, and if you find a difference, then guess what: You have another paper,” Eliot said.

She said that even scientifically indisputable differences, such as the oft-cited statistic that male brains are 10 percent bigger than female brains, don’t mean anything. All of men’s organs are bigger on average, but that doesn’t mean they function differently.

Eliot said that it’s important to debunk efforts to prove that female brains are different if we want to disrupt current power structures. If scientists and academics were to begin with the premise that men and women are equally capable, their studies would result in radically different conclusions.

A 1970 study that showed men outperformed women 13 to one on the math portion of the SAT was used to explain why there aren’t more women at the top of stem fields. “People said brilliance in math is a male phenomenon,” Eliot said.

“. . .  it turned out women were being discouraged from pursuing STEM. Once more programs were put in place to foster this type of learning, the ratio dropped to 3 to 1, Eliot said, and is now on its way to closing.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/there-is-no-biological-difference-between-male-and-female-brains/563702/

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A Happiness Hack You Already Do . . . like breathe

We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted.  For this “hack” every single one of you has all the equipment you need: 

A pair of healthy lungs and an unclogged nose.

Slow, deep breathing hacks your brain’s chemistry, resets the autonomic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that calms and relaxes the body.

Nasal Breathing – Inhale and exhale through your nose*

  • Inhale deeply for a count of four,
  • Exhale for a count of four
  • Repeat 4 times

(Can’t get easier than this IF you know how to breathe and count to 4) 

*Nasal breathing is better than mouth breathing: Your lungs extract oxygen from the air and the absorption of oxygen happens mostly on exhalation. Exhaling through the nose (because it’s smaller than your mouth) creates greater air pressure and therefore a slower exhalation.  Your lungs get extra time to extract a greater amount of oxygen.

Inhale . . . . . . . . . . . Exhale. . . . . . .  by Peggy

Diaphragmatic breathing is the best known and one of the most powerful breath exercises to reduce the stress response, get oxygen flowing to your brain and in your body.  Here’s how:

Longer, deeper breaths into your abdomen, slows your heart rate and activates the calming, parasympathetic nervous system.

  • To feel your diaphragm move as you breathe place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs.
  • Take slow, full breaths

(your hand moves in and out with each breath).

  • Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding your diaphragm
  • Exhale slowly through your nose (or mouth) and tighten your diaphragm

(just like squeezing a lemon to get all the juice out)

  • The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible throughout.

It may take you a bit of effort at first to do this cuz it ain’t the usual way you breathe.

With continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing AND HAPPINESS will become easier, Easier, EASIER.

After you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing and feeling HAPPY  . . . without using your hand. (You can do this anywhere, anytime – lying down, sitting at the opera, standing in a check-out line . . . ).

 

 

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Love Drugs (literally)

Love potions have been a plot point in fairytales for centuries.

Now, thanks to dramatic advances in our understanding of the neuroscience behind love, they’re close enough to reality to be studied by Oxford University researchers. Anders Sandberg, a neuroethicist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute,  He says that while we can’t buy romance pills yet, it’s only a matter of years before they exist. His work combines neuroscience and philosophy to unpack the ethical consequences of such pills, and just how they’ll fit into our lives.

“All our emotions are built on the foundations of neuroscience,” Sandberg says—whether that’s fear or anger or love. Recently, neuroscientists have begun to map out just what happens in the brain when we’re in love, bringing us closer to artificially recreating those neurochemical processes. “While there’s still not anything you can find in the supermarket or approved, we’re getting towards the point where they probably will show up,” he says.

Images of the brain show that love is, well, extremely complicated. Different parts are involved in the initial lustful attraction, the rush of falling in love, and the commitment and affection of long-term love. Romance drugs are most likely to focus on the last, long term part.

Different from the love potion of song that you drink, then fall in love with the next person you see.Ethically it would be worrisome for that to happen. A love drug may come to be something you take with someone, to keep or enhance your love. 

Oxytocin is key

The brain system which determines long term commitment was discovered first in prairie voles. One species is monogamous and another closely related one is promiscuous. It turns out that the differences in their oxytocin systems is behind the different behaviors. Oxytocin helps couples stay together. Not just in voles, as neuroimaging studies in humans who say they are in love also show that oxytocin is the key element.

Drugs are already available to release oxytocin, (some are not legal), and experimentation of new substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca, an Amazonian hallucinogenic.  Sandberg says  “Ecstasy is not implausible.” 

Sandberg thinks the drugs we have now do not last long enough to be effective at improving romance. “You probably want to teach your brain to produce oxytocin when you actually meet your partner,” he explains. “You want to teach the brain: This is the person I’m together with.”

We also need to ask ourselves if we want to fool with love? Maybe fading love is telling us something important that we need to pay attention to.

In some senses,though,  we already interfere with the pathways of long-term love, argues Sandberg.

  • “Should people having trouble in a relationship go to a marriage counselor?” he asks.
  • “Shouldn’t a marriage just fall apart naturally?…
  • If someone goes away on a romantic holiday that costs a lot of money and comes back with a better marriage, we’d probably say, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’”

“But surely there’s a clear line between medicalization and other means of improving a marriage, just as in sports there’s a difference between physical training and using drugs to boost performance? Well, the key concern in the sporting analogy is cheating, says Sandberg. Cheating in how you fall in love doesn’t make much sense: “Could you look at a married couple and say, ‘They cheated”?” he asks. “‘They’re deeply in love but they got to that state in the wrong way. Ha, those losers.’”

The question is would these drugs be good to have. Romantic love can be wonderful, but it isn’t always positive. In fact, maybe drugs that inhibit romantic love would be useful, for example, in letting people leave an abusive relationship.Or even just to ease that heartbreak of a failed relationship. 

“Beyond the requisite drug trials and safety questions, these ethical concerns are likely to delay the introduction of love drugs. “I think in many ways, the drugs might be the easy part,” Sandberg says. “Figuring out how they actually fit into our lives is going to be the great challenge.”’

“Love drugs” will soon be a reality. But should we take them?

A Happiness Hack – “Eau de Grass”

We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted.  Here’s a “hack” that that surprised us.

Mow-on by Peggy

Mowing my lawn always makes me feel good.   I’ve figured it was because I love being outside and mowing was good exercise.  However, it’s a pretty small lawn and I don’t get a lot of exercise. I was surprised to read about research done at The University of Queensland in Australia finding that the smell of freshly cut grass increases feel-good neurochemistry in the brain.*

Their studies convinced the researchers cut grass smell was as powerful as well-known scents like:

 lavender, cinnamon, vanillacitrus, baby powder, pine, rose, rosemary, sunscreen and peppermint

They isolated the chemicals to create cut-grass aroma and have bottled it.  You can buy cut grass smell!

. . . or you could mow your lawn. Use a push-mower to get a twofer – aerobic exercise & happy aroma.

After all, your nose is very close to your brain . . . and connected to your happiness!

*University of Queens land researchers found that the scent of cut grass works directly on the amygdala and hypo-campus and makes you happier and less stressed.  They created a spray with the scent of cut grass called SerenaScent

 

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