Peggy & Judy are compiling all the Happiness Hacks they’ve posted. Here’s my favorite:
This hack is addictive. If it lasts more than 10 minutes it’s NOT A HACK
The Early Bird Pets the Worm
Get a pet (no wild animals please, since we don’t have liability insurance) and pet away to increase oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine in your brain.
A Japanese study showed that playing with a dog with which you have a bond, and makes sustained eye contact with you, causes oxytocin to spike in both!
Several studies show that having a pet can reduce depression, encourage healthier habits, and increase feelings of connectedness.
Freddie Parker Westerfield, S.D.E
Supreme Dopamine Enhancer
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.
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
Before I was licensed I was the director of a Rape Trauma program and initially trained in what was called “Immersion Therapy” – Trauma survivors were suppose to tell and retell and retell their trauma experience until the trauma had “lost” it’s emotional impact. After only a few sessions, watching clients get worse, I knew there needed to be a better way so I studied alternate treatments that did not re-tramautize people.
This experience was invaluable to both me professionally and the people who came to see me during my psychotherapy career. I successfully treated people with all manners of traumatic experiences from being in airplane crashes to buried alive. Although I’m no longer in practice, trauma research still interests me.
Reading this study about how it might be better NOT to sleep after a traumatic event got my attention. (jw)
Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions.
“Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst asked more than 100 healthy adults to rate their emotional responses to a series of images, some depicting unsettling scenes. Twelve hours later, they rated the images again. The difference: Half of the subjects slept during the break; the other half did not.”
“Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional reaction,” said Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist at UMass Amherst and co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Study subjects who stayed awake for 12 hours had a weaker emotional response to the unsettling images the second time around, suggesting sleep serves to preserve and even amplify negative emotions. Their memories were also weaker than those of their well-rested counterparts, as they struggled to remember whether they had seen the images before.
“It’s true that ‘sleeping on it’ is usually a good thing to do,” said Spencer, citing evidence that sleep boosts memory and other cognitive functions. “It’s just when something truly traumatic or out of the ordinary happens that you might want to stay awake.”
Spencer said people often find it difficult to sleep after a traumatic event.
“This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be a healthy,“ she said. “Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.”
While the findings may have implications for post traumatic stress disorder, Spencer emphasized that daily emotional ups and downs are not grounds for sleep deprivation.”
“Just because we have a bad day doesn’t mean we should stay awake,” she said. “We need to maintain some memories and emotional context to know what to avoid. We do learn something from them.”
Although sleep gives the body some much-needed rest, the brain stays active. Spencer used polysomnography to monitor brain activity in some sleeping subjects.
“REM sleep in particular was associated with a change in how emotional you found something,” she said. “We think there are parts of the brain being activated during sleep that allow us to process those emotions more than during day.”
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College.
I never thought of myself as a perfectionist because I never have done anything “perfectly”.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you, too, think you need to do your best and are hard on yourself because your best isn’t perfect?
P is for Peggy Perfect
I now have the “perfect” excuse to not be perfect. I can blame evolution.
What a relief.
Everyone has on average 400 flaws in their DNA*
“As life evolved, new abilities and new forms of life were not started anew, but grew out of what was there already. What existed just changed a bit, and those changes gave a new ability, a new advantage. Since new life was built on what already existed, the perfect solution to a new environment wasn’t always available, only what could easily develop from what already existed.”
What was workable, what was good enough, survived. Good enough meant it allowed the plant or animal to survive. And to be better than other solutions. But not necessarily perfect. So we are not perfect, and we do not need to be. We need to be good enough.
“The research gives an insight into the “flaws that make us all different, sometimes with different expertise and different abilities, but also different predispositions in diseases,” said Prof David Cooper of Cardiff University, the other lead researcher of the study.”
“Not all human genomes have perfect sequences,” he added. “The human genome is packed with pervasive, architectural flaws.”
How life evolved means we are not perfect, nothing is perfect, and we do not have to be perfect because perfect isn’t what life is about. Life is about good enough.
*The evidence comes from the 1,000 Genomes project, which is mapping normal human genetic differences, from tiny changes in DNA to major mutations.
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, vanilla, citrus, 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