Compassion makes you feel better. I saw this first hand when I worked in an outpatient program with people diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders – schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder and major depression. Many had been hospitalized more than once.
My goal was to help patients manage their illness, so they could stay out of the hospital and live a more normal life. Besides many of the things the program offered to help them, including medication, I believed if I could help them be happier, have more positives in their lives, some of the stressors they felt would be offset and help them stay well.
Acts of Kindness by Peggy
I had read a research project using compassion exercises and decided to try it. It worked well in the research and I hoped it worked for the patients. Here’s what I did:
Week 1: I asked the patients to spend an hour being really good to themselves, something to pamper themselves. It didn’t matter what they chose as long as they personally enjoyed it. When they shared everyone expressed liking their experiences and felt happy they participated.
Week 2: The patients were to take the same amount of time – an hour – and do something nice for somebody else, something to brighten someone else’s day. It didn’t matter who they chose or what they did as long as it was something kind and giving. When they shared this experience they were even happier! All reported they felt better doing something nice for somebody else for an hour than doing something for themselves.
Caring for others, having compassion, can make you happier. You don’t have to wait weeks between. Do something nice for yourself for an hour one day. The next day do something nice for another person. It doesn’t even have to be for an hour. Try it and see for yourself. And let us know how it goes.
According to brain science Buddhist monks are some of the happiest people in the world. They are don’t leave their monasteries and do things for others, but meditate on compassion. Research shows compassion meditation changes the brain and makes it happier!
Don’t have an hour to do something nice for someone else? Spend 10 – 20 minutes and meditate on compassion . . . Remember – It’s a hack NOT a substitution for the real thing.
Warning! This is bad Bad BAD advice.
According to Dr. Tara Swart, neuroscientist: “If you are under stress, eat every two hours for optimal brain function. Your brain can’t store glucose and so it is important to keep replenishing your stores. This will help you to maintain your focus and ensures a productivity boost.”
“It also ensures that your brain is well fed for any of the decisions it may need to make.”
“She adds that if you have the space to develop your mental resilience, then it can be useful to practice intermittent fasting as it teaches your brain that you can manage small amounts of physical stress, because you are in control of your recovery.”
Eating by Peggy
When I’m stressed (which is a chronic state with fibromyalgia) I self-medicate on sugar. Sugar gives me an immediate dopamine boost which then sends my blood sugar crashing which then sends me to my medicine cabinet (the pantry) . . . .
When I read Dr Swart’s advice the pantry was bare (after I ate a package of sugar coated pineapple, 3 prunes, a bowl of Cheerios and a handful of almonds – I’m stocking the cupboards with health food).
Knowing my two hours would be up in another two hours I made a dash to the store. A mix of double chocolate brownies (on sale) was only $3.99 and a better bargain than the packaged bakery brownies at $5.99. Maybe my mental resilience didn’t need practice.
I had already eaten up (pun intended) 45 minutes of my two hour zone by going to the store. So I was doubly stressed making the double chocolate brownies knowing that two hours would be up before the brownies were done and the only thing left to eat were Cheerios.
Dr Tara Swart is a neuroscientist who probably is svelte, prefers salt over sugar and her brain is smarter to begin with than mine. I’ll bet she’s never had to practice “intermittent fasting”.
One of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless) “hates” me because I weigh about the same I did when we went to high school together. (“Hate” may be a bit too strong but she’s been known to say that to my face.)
I can’t help it that I’m just not a glutton like one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).
I can’t help it that I eat healthy in moderation unlike one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).
When I found this research I thought I might share it with you and one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).
The Chemistry of Joy
Our mood, our outlook and our energy levels are determined to a huge extent by the chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and their relationship to one another.
We feel good when they are in balance. Beta endorphins also create a feeling of well-being, connectedness to others, and emotional stability. They even help us tolerate pain.
- If levels of norepinephrine and dopamine are low, people will slow down, sleep a lot, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to motivate themselves. They can have a “sluggish” depression.
- On the other hand, people with high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, and possibly low levels of serotonin often feel angry, resentful and despairing. They can be critical and demanding. This would be an “agitated ” depression.
- A third kind of depression can occur with low levels of serotonin, which results in people feeling fearful , worried and inadequate. This is an “anxious” depression.
Here is where he kitchen comes in:
In the Kitchen by Peggy
- Sluggish Depression – Eating to INCREASE norepinephrine and dopamine:
Eat high quality proteins throughout the day, lean beef, low-fat meats and fish.
- Agitated Depression – Eating to DECREASE norepinephrine and dopamine:
eat the same as to increase serotonin but eat very small amounts of protein. A vegetarian diet would be good.
- Anxious Depression – Eating to INCREASE serotonin:
Increase carbs, eat tryptophan, which is in nuts, dairy, and meats. Eat regularly throughout the day. Get some protein, but not a large amount.
SUGAR (also alcohol) elevates beta endorphins, which may be why people have sugar cravings. This elevation only lasts a short time, because the body metabolizes it quickly. This results in a “low” that follows the sugar “high”, and you want more sugar! My long time friend (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless) can avoid this by eating complex carbs and protein.
Cholesterol helps the brain make the chemicals we need. So if you are depressed, eat some fat: Halibut, salmon, grains and nuts that have omega 3 and animal fat with omega 6 are both needed in balance.
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And so my long time friend (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless)
THIS is a brain healthy diet:
Sugar 10% or less
Caffeine drinks a day, 2 or fewer ( a cup of coffee is 6 oz)
Complex carbs, whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruit and dark green, leafy vegetables – A lot!