Why you can’t stop checking your e-mail

Our brains are wired to constantly seek novelty, and every new email that lands in our inbox with a ping sends a dopamine-fueled shiver of excitement through our cerebrum. Turning off notifications and setting and communicating clear email . . . can disrupt that addictive dopamine loop.

Addicted, by Peggy

But behavioral science would suggest there’s more than just neurotransmitters at work.

“a factor that may be driving our inability to disconnect is the peak-end rule, whereby people tend to judge an experience based on what it felt like at its most intense point and at the end. In other words, what we remember most about our inbox is just how awful it feels to face all those unanswered emails — that endless, running to-do list of other people’s priorities — that have piled up while we were away.  So we keep checking just to avoid that pain.

Another factor could be our human predilection for making decisions based on short-term payoffs, like deciding to fall back into a warm bed in the morning rather than get up and exercise.
“We love to get things ‘done,'” explained Iris Bohnet, a behavioral economist at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Email is terrible for that. If you only respond to these 10 emails, it feels like an accomplishable task.”
 

Ironically, if we did stop checking email, we really wouldn’t miss that much. In a survey, Daniel Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke, found that only 11% of the emails in our inboxes require immediate attention. The other 89% can wait.

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Write About Past Failures to Help You Succeed In the Present

Having taught journal writing workshops for decades it’s apparent to me that very few people are avid journal keepers, including myself.  Most of us, however, can do periodic writing to relieve stress, resolve problems and most of all give our brains get an objective view point.

In psychological jargon the “objective observer” actually helps us “reprogram” painful, hurtful, stressful, difficult memories.  There are lots of ways to access our “objective observer” – meditation, guided imagery, the arts – and writing is one of the quickest.

Write on! by Peggy

Research have shown that writing about negative events or emotions is emotionally therapeutic and can even benefit the immune system.  Interestingly other studies have shown that writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.

Here’s a particularly interesting study:

How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present

by Alice G. Walton

“They say failure is a necessary part of success, but it doesn’t always feel that way. A new study in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience not only supports this connection but adds an interesting twist, finding that reflecting on past failures—by writing about them—may help us stay calm in the face of new stressors. The team found this in the lab, but based on past evidence, it likely applies to real life, too.”

“The researchers, from Rutgers University, University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, had people come into the lab and write for 10 minutes about either a time they’d made mistakes or failed at something in the past, or about an unrelated topic (a movie they’d recently seen). The team predicted that writing about a past failure would actually reduce a person’s stress level during a stressful situation in the present, whereas writing about the random topic wouldn’t have any effect.”

“To stress the participants, they subjected them to a well-known Trier Social Stress Test, in which participants have just a few minutes to prepare a five-minute speech, which they have to deliver in front of the researchers, or in this case a researcher posing as a “speech expert.” If that weren’t enough, the participants then had to count backwards by 13 from 2063. Finally, participants carried out a straightforward test of attention and reaction time.”

“As the team predicted, people who’d written about a past failure didn’t show the typical stress response (measured by the stress hormone cortisol) to the stress test, compared to the control group, who’d written about movie plots. They also did better on the tests of attention, making fewer mistakes, and ending with higher scores on average.”

“Because the control group still wrote, but about an unemotional topic, the authors conclude that it’s not just the writing, but the reflecting on earlier failure, that seems to have the stress-reducing effects.”

“We didn’t find that writing itself had a direct relationship on the body’s stress responses,” says study author Brynne DiMenichi in a statement. “Instead, our results suggest that, in a future stressful situation, having previously written about a past failure causes the body’s stress response to look more similar to someone who isn’t exposed to stress at all.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/03/24/how-writing-about-past-failures-may-help-you-succeed-in-the-future/#12991c2d13bc

Check out an easy tutorial on writing. Click HERE

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Hot to stop your SuperWorry

Mind races.  Unsettling worry or concern repeats itself over and over.  No solution.  No relief.  Can’t sleep.  Can’t concentrate on anything other than your SUPER WORRY

It doesn’t feel like it but your brain is doing this for your benefit – Relentlessly focus your attention on a potential (albeit imagined) threat to help you stay safe.  Three parts of you brain start firing in lockstep:

  • The orbital frontal cortex gives you the feeling you made a mistake or there is danger.
  • It signals the cingulate gurus which generates the neurochemistry of anxiety.
  • The caudate nucleus usually allows thoughts to flow from one to another, but it stops doing this.
  • These 3 parts together keep person locked into worry, an obsession with something thy fear.

You may even realize that the worry is not rational, or the fear is not imminent.  It’s your brain locked into a feed-back loop and won’t let you escape from the worrying thoughts.

Mousey Worry by Peggy

You can rewire your SuperWorry into SuperRelief

Talk to your brain – silently or outloud:

  1. Thank your brain for doing what it was created to do.  Don’t be mad or upset with your brain. It’s a good brain.
  2. However, relabel the problem as a brain problem, not an imminent threat. The real problem is not what you fear, it is the brain is getting locked into a position and isn’t moving on.
  3. Pick something positive or neutral to focus on instead.  Ideally something pleasurable.
  4. Repeat this as often as necessary.  It takes time for your brain to understand it doesn’t have to protect you in this way.

Here’s an example:  Thank you brain.  You don’t need to keep reminding me that (an earthquake will happen, someone will break into the house, I will get fired).  I’m safe right this minute.

When brain focuses on something over and over, it strengthens the brain neuro-connections. When you stop the thinking the connections are weakened.  Think of it like a wilderness trail – The more the trail is traveled the path gets wider and the dirt gets more and more compacted.  Stop walking on the trail and it becomes overgrown, impassable and no longer used.

Use it or lose it 
Any deviation from the neuro-connection path weakens it.  Every time you interrupt and then stop the thought about the fear and redirect your thoughts it gets easier. The more you  practice the more the neural links to the worry weaken and new positive neutral pathways are generated.

PET scans have shown that the brain pathways actually change when you perform the four steps.

Use this process for small worries, not just big ones.  

Sources:

Norman Dodgie,  “The Brain that Changes Itself” 

Jeffrey M Schwartz, “Brain Lock”  

Daunted by “spring” cleaning? Blame your brain

I’ve barely made a dent in the editing down of this article.  Why?  It’s a big article, I don’t know where to start and I am  blaming it on my brain.

Cluttered Closet by Peggy

 “Closets bulging with clothes and shoes. Plastic bins of stuff shoved under the bed. Stacks of mail covering the dining table. Has anyone seen the car keys?”

“It’s spring, time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time to throw open the windows and do some spring cleaning. But the magnitude of the project is daunting. How to begin?”

“If you want to know why it’s so difficult to tackle a big project like spring cleaning, blame your brain, said Randall O’Reilly, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at CU Boulder.”

“The brain is wired to be very cautious and conservative in starting big projects, because once you do start, it takes over your brain,” he said. “The brain, researchers think, is wired to track progress towards whatever it is you’ve decided to do, like spring cleaning, which is hard work. You have to make a lot of difficult decisions and the outcome is uncertain. Your brain recognizes that and says, ‘Maybe I won’t start on that project after all.’ It’s an adaptive property of the brain.”

“Once we get over the initial stalling and begin the project, the brain rewards us with small hits of dopamine as we make progress. This provides an incentive to stick with the task.”

“Dopamine is a chemical released by neurons that sends signals to other nerve cells and plays a major role in both mood and reward-motivated behavior.”

“So, you’ve tackled cleaning and decluttering and you’re making progress. And then you notice the teapot that belonged to your grandmother stored in the back of the cupboard. It’s sweet and dainty and evokes fond memories of your grandmother, but it’s not your style at all. Now you’re confronted with a dilemma: Keeping a teapot you never use is taking up much-needed space, but getting rid of it would feel disrespectful to your grandmother.”

“Things with an emotional attachment take on meaning,” O’Reilly said. “The teapot is not just a teapot. It has a personal history, so it’s unique in that sense. If you get rid of the teapot, it feels sacrilegious. It’s valuable to you because it carries that authenticity and history with it, so it feels like you’re disrespecting that value.”

“So, why do we accumulate clutter? The answer is found in the dopamine system, which is based on expectations. When we accumulate something or have a pleasurable experience, the brain releases dopamine and we feel good. As soon as our wants and desires are satisfied, however, the brain discounts that feel-good moment.”

“You can see mathematically that the brain is constantly comparing what we have versus what we expected to get,” he said. “Every moment of our lives, that’s what our brain is doing. How much better is that movie versus what you thought it would be? How much better was that cookie than you remembered? Every single thing is being compared to a baseline of what your expectation is.”

It needs to be better than what you expected

“Attachments to things are like those expectations. We want them and feel that we need them. This is where it gets diabolical, O’Reilly said. If something we like is meeting our expectations, we no longer get a dopamine burst. Our brains are constantly trying to up the ante, so we continue to acquire more stuff to feel better.”

“To get the dopamine surge, the experience needs to be better than what you expected. If it just meets expectations, guess what? No dopamine for you! The flip to the reward of dopamine is a downer.”

“If the experience was less than you expected, there’s actually a reduction in the firing of dopamine neurons, leaving you feeling disappointed,” O’Reilly said. “Then the brain tries to come up with new ways to get the dopamine. It needs to be better than what you expected.”

“The expectation system is what drives learning,” he said. “This system in our brains drives us forward, to learning more and more. You’re changing your expectation level, your sense of self. Don’t have attachments. Have ambition.”

https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/03/27/daunted-spring-cleaning-blame-your-brain-professor-says

Read

Loss Aversion – why we don’t declutter.

 Click Here: Spring has Sprung and so have I

 

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Don”t do these things when you first wake up (Parenthetically Speaking)

However, some sleep specialists say there are certain morning mistakes that can set the stage for an unproductive rest of the day. 
Here are 7 suggestions scientists and other experts say about making the most (and the least) of the first few minutes after you wake up. 

1. Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

Sometimes your alarm goes off and you are just not ready to face the day yet. Resist the temptation to put off the inevitable by five or 10 minutes.  (I can hit the snooze button multiple times, and fall back asleep multiple times. My solution is never set the alarm since my body is never ready to face the day.)

“Most sleep specialists think that snooze alarms are not a good idea.”  That’s partly because, if you fall back into a deep sleep after you hit the snooze button, you’re entering a sleep cycle you definitely won’t be able to finish. So you’ll likely wake up groggy instead of refreshed.  It’s best to figure out how much sleep you need on a nightly basis and make sure to get that amount.

2. Don’t Stay Curled up

So you avoided the snooze and now you’re lying awake in bed. Use this time to make yourself as big as possible — physically.  According to Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, stretching out wide is a way to build confidence as you launch into your day.

Though it’s hard to say whether people feel good because they stretch out or vice versa, Cuddy explained  that the people who wake up with their arms in a V “are super happy, like annoyingly happy.”  (Since I can’t feel my arms until noon I am just plain annoying in the morning.  Peggy is never annoying)

By contrast, she said there’s some preliminary evidence that people who wake up in a fetal ball “wake up much more stressed out.”

3. Don’t Check Email

If you sleep near your phone  it’s easy to roll over and start mindlessly scrolling through your inbox. (Peggy is a roll over- scroller but she’s still not annoying)  As Julie Morgenstern, author of the book “Never Check Email in the Morning,”if you start your morning this way, “you’ll never recover.”

“Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless,” she said. “There is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.”

Instead, Morgenstern suggests that if you’re going to do some work, make it a project that requires considerable focus. (I don’t focus until 10 pm.  Maybe I should start checking email first thing in the morning?”)

4. Don’t Leave your Bed Unmade

Why make your bed? You’re just going to mess it up when you sleep in it later.  But according to Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better,” making your bed is associated with increased productivity throughout the rest of the day.

Chicken or egg?  I put my money on super-organized people who are more likely to make their bed to begin with rather than neatness creates productivity.  (Peggy is organized and I’m “less so”. Yet she doesn’t make her bed and I make mine.  If I don’t make my bed I’m unable to find it in the evening.)

But Duhigg writes that making your bed is a “keystone habit” that can spark “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”  (So far, other good habits elude me . . . maybe I’ll try reverse psychology and leave my bed unmade)

5. Don’t Drink Coffee

Your body naturally produces higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates energy, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. So for most people, the best time to drink coffee is after 9:30 a.m.

If you consume caffeine before then, your body will start adjusting by producing less cortisol in the early morning — meaning you’ll be creating the problem you fear.  (neither of us are prone to fearfulness . . . bottoms up!)

6. Don’t Get Ready in the Dark

“Your internal body clock is designed to be sensitive to light and darkness”, said Natalie Dautovich of the National Sleep Foundation.  So getting ready in the dark could signal to your body that it’s still nighttime and could make you feel even groggier.  (Maybe that’s my problem – I get ready in the dark because my eyes are at half mast until noon)

If it’s still dark outside when you wake up, Dautovich recommends turning on a strong light, like the ones used to treat seasonal affective disorder.

(Peggy goes outside, sits in the sun and drinks her morning coffee.  She knows that morning sunlight resets our internal clock so we will be ready to get up the next day.  HER eyes however are always wide-open in the morning)

7. Don’t Play it by Ear

It’s best if you incorporate your initial morning activities into some kind of routine.  Scientists say our willpower is limited, and when we expend it early on in the day trying to decide what to do next, we have less left later in the day when we need to concentrate on work.  Instead, let your brain run on automatic in the morning and conserve those mental resources for when you really need them.

(Maybe that’s why I’m not awake until 10 pm.  Since my eyes are half-shut and my brain is still sleeping the only two organs left in my control are my mouth that drinks coffee in the dark and my ears which I play by)

How Do YOU sabotage your day before it starts?

(jw)

Source: Business Insider, by 

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Stress is Contagious . . . and it’s not seasonal.

I’m a passionate but fairly even-tempered person.   Times when I’ve felt stressed were very few and far between until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and consciously being on over-load and “wigged-out” became greater and more obvious.

It also became obvious that stress exacerbated my symptoms.

There’s a saying that the stress of one person ‘rubs off’ on another.  Having “sat with” thousands of stressed- out clients for 30 years I’ve often wondered if there was any connection to my developing fibromyalgia.

Now there’s scientific evidence that stress can more than just ‘rub off’ – it can mess with my brain as badly as it can mess with people in my life (and vice versa) . . . even if I’m not a mouse.

Contagious by Peggy

A study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience has found that stress may be contagious and even its effects on the brain may be transferred to people around. The research was conducted by Jaideep Bains, PhD, and his team at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), at the University of Calgary and his team.

“The study that was conducted on mice, also showed that the effects of stress were reversed in female mice, following a social interaction, but the same was not true for male mice. “Brain changes associated with stress underpin many mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression”, said Dr. Bains

“Recent studies indicate that stress and emotions can be ‘contagious’. Whether this has lasting consequences for the brain is not known.”

The research team studied the effects of stress in pairs of male and female mice. They removed one mouse from each pair and exposed them to mild stress and then returned them to their respective partners to test the results. The researchers monitored the response of a specific group of cells that control the brain’s response to stress. This showed that the cells of both the stressed mice and their partners were affected in the same way.

The most remarkable result of the experiment was that the neurons of the mice who were not themselves exposed to stress had been altered in a way that was identical to that of the exposed ones. The mirror effects were caused due to the release of a chemical from the activated neurons called the ‘alarm pheromone’. This chemical alerts the partner mouse who can then transfer the same signals to others in the group.

(jw)

https://www.ndtv.com/food/your-stress-can-affect-your-partners-brain-too-says-study-eat-these-foods-to-beat-stress-1822182

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Bet you didn’t know Your Heart Literally Talks to Your Brain

If you think your neck’s main function is to hold up your head you gotta read this!

“Given its distance from the brain, neuroscience hasn’t had much to do with the heart quietly thumping in your chest. But to get a fuller picture of the mind, you need to start looking below the neck.”

“These matters of the heart are University of Sussex researcher Sarah Garfinkel’s speciality.  Over the past several years, she’s found evidence that the beats of your heart — and your awareness of that rhythm — shapes everything from anxiety to racism to stock trading.”

“Every time the heart projects blood, it pings pressure-sensitive receptors that send signals to the head . . .The brain essentially flashes each time the heart beats,” she says, “and the degree of signal in the brain corresponds to how fast and how hard the heart is beating, so the brain is in dynamic, constant communication with the heart,” especially the amygdala and thalamus, regions associated with fear and pain perception, among other roles.”

“. . . your brain, but it also represents the activity of our organs, and whether you realize it or not, these sensations guide the way you navigate the world. Recognizing this marks a shift in how neuroscience could be approached, she says: Rather than separating the brain and the body, the brain is seen as embedded within the body. Doing so could offer new treatments for things like anxiety, where drugs could target bodily processes as well as those in the brain, or behavioral techniques like meditation that make people more bodily aware.

“I think the general public kind of knows it instinctively, they know if they exercise they feel better, they know their mood changes, their cognition and memory increases; people who meditate also see changes in their cognition and emotion,

“One of those primary somatic tools is interoception, or the felt sense of the activities of your organs. Garfinkel (and other neuroscientists and social psychologists) are finding that bodily sensations are key ingredients in emotional experiences, and that how fine-tuned of an internal “feeler” you are predicts your ability to stabilize them.”

Making decisions can be emotionally loaded — the decision feels right or good. 

More hopefully, heartbeat awareness looks to be trainable: Garfinkel says she has yet-to-be-published data suggesting that you can teach people to align their interoceptive self-confidence and their accuracy, reducing the unrecognized sensations and the anxiousness they promote . . .”

Source: To read how autism, negative racial stereotyping and how high interoceptive fluency can also help you make a lot of money  read the entire article: How Your Heart Talks to Your Brain

 

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