A Hug a Day Brings Happy Your Way!

National Hugging Day TM

January 21st

1)    Hugs make us feel “happy”! When we hug another person, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone associated with “happiness,” according to scientific studies.

2)    Hugs alleviate stress! Just as a good hug increases our oxytocin levels, it decreases our cortisol or “stress” levels.

3)    Babies need hugs as much as water and food! According to researchers at Harvard University, hugs help promote normal levels of cortisol necessary for child development.

4)    Hugs make us better students! Students who receive a supportive touch from a teacher are twice as likely to volunteer in class.

5)    Hugs improve our game! Scientists at University of California, Berkley discovered that the more affectionate members of a team are with each other, the more likely they are to win.

Snug Hug by Peggy

6)    A hug a day keeps the doctor away! A hug stimulates the thymus gland, which in turn regulates the production of white blood cells that keep us healthy and disease-free.

7)    A hug stops the bug! Researchers at Carnegie Mellon proved that individuals who were sick and received hugs had less severe symptoms and were able to get better quicker.

8)    A hugging heart is a healthy heart! Research from University of North Carolina showed that a good hug helps ease blood flow and lower cortisol levels, which in turn help lower our heart rates.

9)    A hugging couple is a happy couple! Couples that experience their partners’ love through physical affection share higher oxytocin levels.

10)    Hugs let someone know you care without having to say a word! According to Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, we can identify love from simple human touch – imagine how much love a big hug can communicate!

From http://www.nationalhuggingday.com/ 

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My daily dose of happy vibes

Even though I grew up in Arizona, where the summer heat can be brutal, I love sunshine.  Perhaps some of my love of being outside is connected to feelings of riding Misty Soda, my first horse, a pale palomino.  After school,  no matter the temperature, I would rush to go riding. Perhaps some of my love of the sun is remembrance of teenage years laying by the pool, getting tan, taking a dip in the cool water and the feeling of water evaporating from my skin.

Riding by Peggy

Research indicates my love of sunshine may be more than just wonderful memory triggers. 

In the top layer of our skin, we have a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D3 from that substance. Vitamin D3 is then taken to the liver and kidneys to become the most effective form of vitamin D..

Most know that vitamin D is linked to strong bones and teeth.  Less known is research shows vitamin D deficiency also plays a role in some cases of depression, chronic fatigue and an increased tendency to infections.

For those who live in less sunny climates you can get vitamin D from foods too:

  • fish
  • butter
  • milk (especially full cream)
  • fortified margarine
  • breakfast cereals
  • meal replacement shakes.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble – so if you take a vitamin D supplement, eating healthy food with a little bit of fat such as fish, avocado or nuts at the same time.

Beaching it by Peggy

My adult years have been spent in California and my favorite place is the beach.  I know I am always more relaxed and happier when outside – being supercharged with vitamin D from the sun!

(PW)

https://www.goexpress.co.za/2017/11/06/get-daily-dose-happy-vibes/

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Frankly Freddie, Your Dog Can Help You Get A Better Night’s Sleep (parenthetically speaking)

Dear Human-beings, my faithful fans,

Some human-beings have a bit too much time on their hands, coming up with stupid studies to prove the obvious.  Here’s my evidence:

“According to the American Veterinary Association, currently, over 40 million American households have dogs. Among these households, 63 percent consider their pet dogs as a part of their family. (The other 37 percent are cat owners) However, many of them still are divided when it comes to having their furry family members sleep with them in the bedroom.”

“But, there’s a solution to the problem in a new study published this month, which said that having canine companions could actually improve the quality of your sleep. (Quality of sleep!? . . . we improve the quality of your LIFE) Although, there’s a catch. Letting them sleep in your bedroom is ok, but it doesn’t hold true if your dog is in the bed with you.”

A Mayo Clinic study, titled “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment,” published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings  . . . , suggested that people might actually sleep better when their dogs are in the bedroom with them, meaning that shooing your furry friends off might not be such a good idea. (They needed a study to discover it’s not nice to “shoo”?)

The study was based on an examination of 40 people who owned dogs and didn’t suffer from any sleep disorders over the course of five months. They put accelerometers on both the dogs and the owners for seven nights for the study and then determined the results.  (Accelerometers?! – no wonder no one could sleep) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerometer

The study found that people had a greater sense of comfort and security when they allowed their dogs to sleep in the bedroom. The study also differentiated between the dog being on the bed or just simply in the bedroom. It found that owners with dogs on their beds suffered from lower sleep quality than normal.  (What the study didn’t say is that we Canine-dogs suffer from lower sleep quality than normal when humans are on the bed.  Humans kick and turn, hog the covers,  groan and snore. Their accelerometer is off the charts)  

The researchers also said that it is important to consider the limited sample size on which the study was conducted and also to note that none of the dogs examined were under six months old. Younger puppies have more energy and thus might be problematic if they let into the bedroom at night. Thus, further research is required to understand the association between letting your dog sleep in the bedroom or not.

(Further research is NOT needed.  All you need to do is ask your dog)

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, SSCD

Sound Sleeping Canine Dog

http://www.ibtimes.com/your-dog-can-help-you-get-better-nights-sleep-study-2588111

DECIDE to DECIDE to reduce your worry and anxiety

I don’t know about you but I remember being told as a child: “Do your best”, “Try your best” and questioned: “Is that the best you can do?”  I worried a lot that I wasn’t trying hard enough or I should have done better. Whether that led me to being a “perfectionist” (which some will dispute) I’ll never know.  After reading about the neuroscience research what I do know is,  from now on, I’m DECIDING to strive for GOOD ENOUGH.

Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist, maintains:  One thing to try is making a decision about what’s got you worked up. It doesn’t even have to be the perfect decision; just a good one will do.

“. . . Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process.”

“In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control …” Korb: “Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.”

Decisions, Decisions by Peggy

Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals:

  • Decisions, intentions & goals – all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety.
  • Helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines.
  • Changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”

“A key thing here is that you’re making a conscious decision, or choice, and not just being dragged to a resolution. Your brain gets no reward for that.”

“If you’re still reluctant to make a choice between one option or another, the science suggests don’t worry, you’re likely to gain a positive bias toward the decision you make anyway.” 

“We don’t just choose the things we like;

we also like the things we choose.”

Alex Korb

Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

(jw)

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The Power of Touch

I’m a hugger.  I admit it.  It’s almost a reflex when I see someone I like or admire.

In the 1970’s I taught 3rd grade.  It was common for some students to run up, throw their arms around my waist and give me a big hug.  We teachers would always hug back.  When a student got hurt or was in distress a hug was automatic.  Our cultural climate has changed and teachers are no longer suppose to touch, much less hug, students.  Our cultural climate is continuing to change and unwanted, unwarranted “hugs” are rightly being brought out into the open and condemned.

So I share this information from the work of Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time  with the acknowledgement that we should only be touching others who want to be touched.

Got someone to hug? Go for it. Alex Korb,  says ‘A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.”

“Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes work, too. Korb cites a study in which subjects whose hands were held by their partners experienced a reduced level of anxiety while waiting for an expected electrical shock from researchers. “The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.”’

And if you have no one handy to touch, guess what? Massage has also been shown to be an effective way to get your oxytocin flowing, and it reduces stress hormones and increases your dopamine levels. Win win.

Mousey Masseuse by Peggy

The value of touching shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re down. According to Korb:

“In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI [functional magnetic imaging] experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain . . .”

The next time you see me HUG AWAY!

(jw)

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Get your FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

“Stress-related disorders and diseases have been on the rise in the whole population for decades, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those leading to . . . deaths of despair, but also to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”

“National surveys by the American Psychological Association that also capture how stressed, anxious and overwhelmed we feel show a similar increasing pattern. And it shows up in our bodies, even before we get sick or start down the many roads to self-harm.”

a judy collage

I personally have experienced just that.  My fibromyalgia flared for the first time during a particularly stressful time in my life.  The truth is I didn’t realize how stressed I was at the time.  Years later, it dawned on me that I had been in the center of  “the perfect” storm of stressful circumstances: My aging parents and in-laws were dying; my work focused on anger, anxiety, depression – any and all forms of psychological tension or stress; and my own hormonal changes.

I’ve seen similar circumstances with many clients and colleagues who, like me, coped with and habituated to the level of stress they were under and often didn’t know the magnitude of impact until much later when they became ill.  

All of us experience stress from work, money worries, traffic, political news, deadline pressure, relationship difficulties etc. and an even more basic cause which lies hidden at the intersection of psychology and biology:

Biology

“A central biological pathway is from excess cortisol — the fight-or-flight hormone — that characterizes being over-stressed for long periods of time. This “stress dysregulation” leads to risky health decisions, like addiction or overeating, and directly to many health problems linked to excess cortisol.”

Psychology

  • How we THINK triggers the stress response.  We don’t have to actually be in a stressful situation – it’s our perception of it that alone can trigger a neuro-biological stress response.
  • Slow-moving and cumulative social forces “get under the skin” early in life and can show up decades later in morbidity and mortality.
  • Losing a sense of control that you believed you had, whether real or not, justified or not, creates stressful dislocations.

There are many things that can be done to “de-stress”.  Most require time, money, effort or all three.  Basically, we like what is quick and easy.  To that end we’ve accumulated information and exercises over the 30 decades each of us was in practice and have now compiled some of it into a 19 page FREE PDF.  

Click here for your free copy:

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

You can always access the PDF by the “Free or Cheep Page” which is located in the masthead above the CATNIP banner on every page.

Please let us know what worked for you or how you modified any of the activities. 

Recent References:
Daniel Keating is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and author of “Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity — and How to Break the Cycle,”

The Hamilton Project looked at the “physiological stress load” in the US using biological markers tied to cardiovascular, kidney and liver function to create a stress load index. This physical stress load, a precursor to many diseases, has increased in striking fashion since the late 1970s, and it is getting worse as each new age group enters adulthood.

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Four cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of early death by two thirds.

In “our” never-ending quest not to be bound by time/event constraints this wasn’t posted on National Coffee Day.

(I should say “my” and exonerate Peggy who is punctual and remembers special occasions)

I drink a cup of coffee every morning but according to researchers I need to drink more so I can live a few months longer than I otherwise would . . . .

“People who drank at least four cups of coffee a day were 65 per cent less likely to die during the study than those who never drank it, adjusting for lifestyle and class. The risk of dying early was 25 per cent lower for each extra two cups drunk, according to the results presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona.”

Photo by Betty Rawlings

(Thanks Betty for permission to use your great photo!)

“Although the results do not prove that the drink benefits health directly, they come a month after two large studies found that coffee drinkers were less likely to die of several fatal conditions, suggesting that on average they would live a couple of months longer than non-coffee-drinkers.”

“Scientists said that while they were not recommending a daily brew, it was fairly clear that healthy people did not need to worry about caffeine intake.”

“In the latest study, researchers looked at data on 20,000 Spanish graduates with an average age of 38 at the start of a ten-year study, during which 337 of them died.”

“Coffee drinkers tend to be healthier in other ways which may not have been entirely adjusted for. However, Adela Navarro, of the Hospital de Navarra in Pamplona, who led the study, suggested that the anti-inflammatory polyphenols in coffee could play a role.”

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/four-coffees-a-day-cuts-risk-of-early-death/news-story/ac0895d91096bbdb7fc29cebc67c7ac9

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