How to trick your brain into thinking you are happy

Yes, you can “fake out” your own brain.

Smiling fools your brain into thinking you are happy, then this creates actual happiness.  A smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin*.

Now here’s the fake-out:  Our brain isn’t good at telling the difference between a smile because you are happy and a fake smile.

Smiles by Peggy

But wait . . . there’s more

A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”

“And there are plenty more studies out there:  Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity.”

Smiling enhances our Immune system

“More than happiness is at stake.  Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist looks at the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system. He asserts that it has been found “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness boosts your immune system.”

“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

Smiles are contagious

“This is because we have mirror neurons that fire when we see action,” says Dr. Eva Ritzo, As its name suggests, mirror neurons enable us to copy or reflect the behavior we observe in others and have been linked to the capacity for empathy.”

“Try smiling into the mirror. Dr. Ritzo recommends smiling at yourself in the mirror, an act she says not only triggers our mirror neurons, but can also help us calm down and re-center if we’re feeling low or anxious.”

So SMILE and pass on a dose of neurochemical happy

*Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression.  Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.

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On the fly: Catch on to these Lessons and you’re Hooked for Life

Most people don’t realize I’m an outdoor person at heart.  I bike, hike, kayak and fish.  I just returned from fly fishing with my cousin Kate in the Catskill Mountains in southeast New York.  We had perfect weather and I was in my element with the tall green, green trees,  flowers in bloom, blue, blue lakes and country roads winding through low hills and picturesque towns.

Judy asked me what life lessons I learned form fly fishing.   I thought and thought but NOT while I was fly fishing. NO, never when, you are fly fishing which is the first lesson.

Life Lesson #1: Attention must be paid.  Pay attention to what you are doing.  Focus on the task at hand so you can do it well and improve your skills.  Know where you’re casting your efforts . . . You get the drift.

Fly Fishing:  To catch fish, I must pay close attention to what I’m doing:  Watch where to throw my line, watch if I’m getting a nibble.  Fly fishing requires lots of concentrated attention, similar to meditation . . . and life. 

Lesson #2. Be prepared. Have a plan for unwanted but foreseeable events.  If you fall in the water make sure it’s shallow but learn how to swim before you take the plunge.

Fly Fishing:  When wading in a moving river, it’s possible I could fall in.  My wading stick helps me avoid that, but I still keep a whistle to call for help,and have learned what to do (like positioning my feet downstream).

Lesson #3. Pack the essentials first.  You have a limited amount of resources.  First determine what is needed and then, if room, add what’s wanted.  Clutter weighs you down.

Fly Fishing: I pack the essentials first, then add the frills:  The most important is a net to catch the fish.  Since I want to carry just a FEW pounds of equipment, I’m careful about what I put in my vest pockets. In one pocket I have what I need to change flies (in case the fish don’t find the fly I’m using tasty, or replace a fly when I invariably lose them to an aggressive bush, grabby tree, deep rock or floating log). Another pocket holds nippers to undo messy tangles of line (especially those that wrap around my body).

If there’s room, I add things that are not essential but handy – extra flies, line, goo that help a fly float, gadgets to help flies sink, and indicators that help me know when a fish has taken my fly.

Lesson #4. Have a big netBe ready to capture the good things that come your way.

Fly Fishing:  Most of the time I catch small fish but I’m ready for the biggest fish.   I carry a BIG net because I can put a small fish in a big net, but can’t put a big fish in a small net.   When I “land” my catch I look to make sure it’s a fish before cradling it back into the water to join his other fishy friends.  

Lesson #5.  Water-proof yourself.   When you do fall down most of you will stay dry . . . otherwise you’ll get moldy.

Fly Fishing:  I dress for success. That means waterproof clothing and boots, so I can stand in a stream trying not to fall in.   But nice accessories are important, such as a cute vest with all the flys, and my wading stick  (form and fashion all in one).

Lesson #6.  Keep Casting.  It takes a LOT of practice to know where and how to make a catch.

Fly Fshing  I practiced casting first and a lot (because I couldn’t  practice landing a fish until I caught one). Practice means noticing where my fly lands (in the water is definitely desirable), and learning were it is likely there’s a fish waiting.  Practice means reading the currents and . . . improving my aim

Lesson #7. Tie down what’s important.  When you find yourself in the wilderness you don’t want to “lose it” downstream.

Fly Fishing:  I keep what I value close by and tied down.  Standing in a moving stream and dropping something I need  (like my fishing rod) means it’s GONE. Finding a way to attach important stuff -like my “nippers” that are on a “zinger”  (a retractible string with a pin on the end) is what makes a good fly fisher person . . .  which brings me back to Lesson #6.

   . . . Kate and I caught a 6 fish and released them to swim free.

Peggy

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Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku Can boost Immunity, reduce stress & elevate your mood

You don’t need to take off your clothes or use soap or water for that matter. Forest bathing isn’t a bath – it’s a sensory immersion. Forest bathing isn’t a hike, it’s a meander.

Taking a Forrest Dip by Peggy

The idea is to go slow and let yourself take in nature – the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – notice things you might ordinarily miss.  It’s a meditation which helps clear your brain, and see your surroundings with fresh eyes. 

The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. “Medical researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing and have demonstrated several benefits to our health,” says Philip Barr, a physician who specializes in integrative medicine at Duke University.”

One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city to taking a forest walk. Both activities required the same amount of physical activity, but researchers found that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.

“Researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure among forest bathers. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases — which can lead to a drop in blood pressure.”

“On average, the forest walkers — who ranged in age from 36 to 77 — saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure from 141 mmHg down to 134 mmHg after four hours in the forest.  This might not sound like a big difference, but it can be clinically significant. Most doctors these days agree that people younger than 60 should aim to keep their blood pressure under 140.”

“There’s another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people. Some of the compounds are very distinctive, such as the scent of cedar.”

  • “Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killer cells .”
  • “Another study found inhalation of cedar wood oils led to a small reduction in blood pressure. These are preliminary studies, but scientists speculate that the exposure to these tree compounds might enhance the other benefits of the forest.”

“The idea that spending time in nature is good for our health is not new. Most of human evolutionary history was spent in environments that lack buildings and walls. Our bodies have adapted to living in the natural world.”

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Pawsitively Tuesday – Don’t Mind Me

“Anyone who doesn’t change their mind

doesn’t have one.”

Bob Burridge

Interchangeable

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Frankly Freddie – Spending money (on me) will make you happy

Dear Human-beings and critters with discretionary money.

Reading dry research is . . . dry.  If you don’t want to read this article, watch the video and . . .  buy me doggie treats so you feel JOYFUL.

There is scientific evidence that when you buy me treats you will feel good:  You probably think spending money on yourself makes you happy but this is NOT true.  

  1. In a series of experiments by Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues,employees were asked about their general happiness levels before and after receiving their annual bonus(2008). Regardless of the size of the actual bonus, employees who spent more of their bonus money on others or on charity reported greater general of happiness than those who spent more of it on themselves.

2. In another experiment, participants who were directed to spend a small amount of money on others (either $5 or $20) reported greater feelings of happiness than those who were directed to spend the same amounts on themselves. The dollar amount didn’t matter.  (Doggie treats cost $5 or $20)

Even human beings around the world get emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others.  Data from 136 countries found that prosocial spending was consistently associated with greater happiness. (Lara Aknin and colleagues, 2010). 

Your Giving (to me) Brain

“Humans are social creatures, who depend on the ability to foster teamwork with others to survive. To this end, the human brain has a built-in reward system that manages how we interact with others: the neurotransmitter oxytocin.”

“With respect to the happiness that prosocial spending produces, oxytocin might have something to do with the intensity of the feeling. When we spend money on others, it’s usually on friends and family (I consider all you as FAMILY) who we consistently work to maintain good relationships with. When we spend money to help our friends and make our family smile, our brain rewards us for strengthening our social ties.”

In appreciation for your generosity,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, DCD

Deserving Canine Dog

and then send me treats.

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What on earth is a “Nappuccino”?

I always have more than one book in progress:  One for when I’m tired and need mindless entertainment; one for when I’m alert, is informative and grows my neuro-connections.  

I found a book* that addresses both and surprised me with a tip on napping. When I was younger naps were a waste of time.  Now, I appreciate the “restorative power” of catching a mid-day snooze.  Here is a good recipe for a…

 “Nappuccino”

Want to maximize your Nappuccinos? Here is what you do:

  • Find the best time for your nap. When is your energy low point? Your mood low point? For most of us, it is about 7 hours after we wake up. 
  • Create your nap environment – someplace comfortable: the floor, bed, couch, bathtub (EMPTY) –  definitely low lights and NO cell phone.
  • Set a timer, nap 10 to 20 minutes, you will feel more alert and function better, without waking with that groggy feeling.

Here’s the kicker that surprised me:

The  Nappucino

Drink a cup of coffee! That’s right, drink coffee before you nap. It takes the caffeine about 25 minutes to kick in, so you’ll get the perfect amount of napping time and then you’ll wake up with the caffeine boost.  Who woulda thunk it?

There’s also evidence that habitual nappers get more from their naps than infrequent nappers. Practice makes perfect – I’m taking a Nappacino every day until I am an expert.

(PA)

*”WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink 

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Talk outloud to yourself

Talking to ourselves may seem strange because we tend to associate speaking out loud to nobody in particular as a sign of mental illness. For those of you who talk to yourself there’s a growing body of research to indicate that self-talk can help memory recall, confidence, focus and more.

Talking to yourself: a sure-fire way to become the most interesting person in the conversation

“It’s not an irrational thing to do,” says Gary Lupyan, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, who has studied how hearing ourselves speak can impact our memories. “You don’t know everything you’re going to say – you can even surprise yourself.”

His work, which is one of the most cited studies in this field, had people look at objects on a computer screen. Some had to say the name of the item out loud, while others were instructed to remain silent and keep the word in their head. The result? The ones who said the word out loud were able to locate the objects on the screen more quickly.

A similar experiment had people say the names of common grocery store items out loud. They then had to find those items by looking at photographs. The ones who said the words found the foods faster.

“Saying a name out loud is a powerful retrieval cue,” says Lupyan. “Think of it as a pointer to a chunk of information in your mind. Hearing the name exaggerates what might normally happen if you just bring something to mind. Language boosts that process.”

Feel better with self-talk

“Anne Wilson Schaef, a former psychologist and now author and speaker, often encouraged her clients to speak to themselves. Not only did it improve her clients’ memories, but it also changed the way many of them felt. For instance, if a patient was angry, she’d tell them to say out loud what they were upset about. The anger would then disappear.”

We have to say the right words for this to work

In 2014, the University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross released a paper saying that self-talk can make us feel better about ourselves and instil a confidence that can help us get through tough challenges. However, we have to say the right words for this to work.

“Kross, . . . conducted a series of experiments that had people describe emotional experiences using their own names or words like “you,” “he” and “she.” He found that talking in the third or second person, helped people control their feelings and thoughts better than those who spoke in the first person.”

“In another study, Kross, who outlined his research in the Harvard Business Review, asked people to refer silently to themselves in the second or third person while preparing for a speech and found they were calmer, more confident and performed better on tasks than those who used only first-person words. The results were so profound, wrote Kross, that he now gets his young daughter to speak to herself in the third person when she is distressed.”

Improving muscle memory 

There is also a lot of research that shows that self-talk among kids is an important part of their development. A 2008 study found that five-year-olds who talk to themselves out loud do better at motor tasks than when they’re quiet.

why-talking-to-yourself-is-the-first-sign-of-success

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