It’s “that” time year – Isolation, Not Loneliness, Shortens Life

We often believe that during holidays everyone, except us, is having a wonderful festive time, surrounded by loving family, caring friends, filled with fun, festivity and happiness.

At the risk of “bah humbug” what I most often heard from clients was holidays were filled with stress, trepidation, family feuds or deep pain at being alone while everyone else seemingly was partying.  

Coupled with studies which suggest that the Christmas/New Year’s holidays are a risk factor for cardiac and noncardiac mortality.* the United Kingdom study on loneliness and isolation of 6,500  had an interesting conclusion:

Loneliness hurts, but social isolation can kill you. 

“The study, by a team at University College London, comes after decades of research showing that both loneliness and infrequent contact with friends and family can, independently, shorten a person’s life. The scientists expected to find that the combination of these two risk factors would be especially dangerous.”

“We were thinking that people who were socially isolated but also felt lonely might be at particularly high risk,” says Andrew Steptoe, a professor of psychology at University College London.”

“To find out, the team studied 6,500 men and women ages 52 and older. All of them had answered a questionnaire back in 2004 or 2005 that assessed both their sense of loneliness and how much contact they had with friends and family. The researchers looked to see what happened to those people over the next seven or eight years.”

“And Steptoe says he was surprised by the result. “Both social isolation and loneliness appeared initially to be associated with a greater risk of dying,” he says. “But it was really the isolation which was more important.”‘

‘”At first, it looked like people who reported greater levels of loneliness were more likely to die, Steptoe says. But closer analysis showed that these people were also more likely to have other risk factors, like being poor and having existing health problems. Once those factors were taken into account, the extra risk associated with loneliness pretty much disappeared, Steptoe says.”‘

“But people who spent very little time with friends and family, or at social events, were more likely to die regardless of income or health status the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

“It’s not clear why social isolation is linked to mortality. But one possibility is that having other people around has practical benefits as you get older, Steptoe says. For example, they may push you to go see a doctor if you are having symptoms like chest pain, he says. And if you were to lose consciousness, they would call for help.”

Do Facebook friends count? How about texting?

“Other researchers say they are surprised and not necessarily convinced by the new study, even though they say it’s large and well-done.”

‘”It doesn’t negate the loneliness work that’s been done to date,” says Bert Uchino, a University of Utah psychology professor. He says this study may have reached a different conclusion than earlier ones because people’s definition of loneliness is changing in the Internet age.”‘

‘”People … may think that they’re connected to other people because they’re on Facebook,” Uchino says. So they may not report feeling lonely. But that sort of connection, he says, may not have the health benefits of direct contact with other people.”

*https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/01.cir.0000151424.02045.f7   (There are multiple explanations for this association, including the possibility that holiday-induced delays in seeking treatment play a role in producing the twin holiday spikes.)

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/03/26/175283008/maybe-isolation-not-loneliness-shortens-life

Pawsitively Tuesday – Rx for Gratitude

Guaranteed* to decrease moping, malcontent and feeling blue. Gratitude is now available over-the-counter, but should not be used off-label for conditions other than dysphoria.

Rx for Gratitude by Peggy

WARNING!

Adverse Side effects

  • Only take as directed, no more than 100 gratitudes a day, or may induce euphoria, resulting in dancing nude on the beach which can lead to skin cancer.
  • Can cause lightheartedness in individuals with pre-existing conditions of joy
  • May impair balance and equilibrium with danger of falling in love with yourself or others.

*Disclaimer:  

Any and all information, directions, inferences, enticements, and/or opinions on this site are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.
Peggy, Judy or their representative felines and canines make no representation and assume no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this site or any other web site, and furthermore such information is subject to change without notice, depending on our mood.

PEGGY, JUDY, their felines and canines are  NOT RESPONSIBLE NOR LIABLE FOR ANY ADVICE, COURSE OF TREATMENT, DIAGNOSIS OR ANY OTHER INFORMATION, SERVICES OR PRODUCTS THAT YOU OBTAIN THROUGH THIS SITE or anywhere else, for that matter.

 

How to Achieve Any Goal (It’s Not What You Think)

In 8th grade I was passed over for an advanced class that most of my friends were put into.  Ironically, not being seen as one of the “smart” students was what motivated me to be a really good student in high school. My motivation was fear. I was simply afraid – afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my friends, afraid I would flunk tests.  I was so fearful  that if I didn’t know EVERYTHING I would fail and probably overly prepared for every test. What is surprising to me now, is that even though I did very well on tests, I never developed enough confidence to relax a bit and not spend all my time studying. 

Pain and Fear Motivates.

Turns out, according to science, the secret to maintaining motivation might actually be more counterintuitive than we originally thought.*

“When we first embark on a task to achieve a goal–like losing weight, for example–we first focus on the positive outcomes. We’ll be able to feel lighter, more confident, and get new clothes. Yet, what really pushes people to effective, consistent action isn’t necessarily focusing on the potentially happy ending that could come from our actions. It’s thinking about the potentially negative outcome–not being able to wear clothes that you barely fit into now, not being able to look good for a certain event on your mind–that get us thinking about concrete steps we can take to actually achieving our goals.”

“When people begin to experience the fear that accompanies a potential failure or disappointment, it actually encourages them to work harder to prevent that than if they were motivated by positive, promotional reasons. The desire not to let someone down–even if that person is yourself–is strong enough to get us on the path to success.”

I was much smarter than I knew choosing fear

as my motivator!

 (PA)

*Peter Economy,  https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/neuroscience-the-one-thing-you-need-to-achieve-any-goal-its-not-what-you-think.html

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

 

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