Name it, Blame it and feel happier

A favorite strategy to feel better, feel happier is backed by neuroscience, requires no Rx, practically no time nor physical energy.

When feeling angry, stressed, sad, lonely all you need to do is give your feeling a name to defuse it.

David Rock* explains:
“To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.”

“fMRI studies support this idea.  Participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.”

Here are some Peggyjudy ways you can NAME IT-BLAME IT and feel HAPPIER:

Call your emotion a Silly Name

  • Fantastically futile funk
  • Silly Sally Sad
  • Fangry Angry
  • Mumifiably Mad
  • Fraiday-Cat Fear

Draw a stick figure or an “emoji”

Metrics – Washed over by Emotion

  1. Give your emotion a number from 1 – 10 points.
  2. 1 = Ripple  5=Body-surfing wave  10=Tzunami
  3. Each minute after assigning a number to your emotion subtract 1 point until you are down to a ripple.

Pick a Mad Metaphor

Fit to be Tired by Peggy

  • I’m fit to be tied
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Fly off the handle
  • Blow a gasket, blow a fuse
  • Up in arms
  • In a black mood
  • Go ballistic

Pick a Fear Metaphor

  • Trembling like a leaf
  • Like a deer (or a mouse) in headlights
  • A shivering wreck. 
  • Paralysed with terror. 
  • Scared silly

Pick a Sad Metaphor

Woofer’s Sinking Heart by Peggy

  • Down in the mouth
  • Feeling low
  • Feeling blue
  • In a black mood
  • Gloomy Gus
  • My heart sank.
  • In the depths of despair.

DISCLAIMER!

You are hereby notified that the stunts and tricks displayed in this post are performed by professional animals and stick figures in controlled environments, such as closed circuit dark roads at midnight. Do not attempt to duplicate, re-create, or perform the same or similar stunts and tricks at home, as personal injury or property damage may result. All animals were paid scale-wage treats and none were harmed in the production of this post. The authors of this post are not responsible for any such injury or damage.

 

*David Rock,  Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long

Happy is as Happy Does and a Hack

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.

Compassion Hack

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.

 (PW)

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How Healthy Couples Manage Conflict – Part I

Scientific research keeps pointing to maintaining connections with others as a key to living longer and healthier.  This article is a basic guide for managing the inevitable conflict that comes in the most intimate relationships we have.

Couple Differences by Peggy

How Healthy Couples Manage Conflict

By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S.*

Healthy couples address the conflict.

“Some partners shut down and give each other the silent treatment or avoid the problem in other ways, said Bush, also author of the book 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: Advice to Recharge and Reconnect Every Day. However, healthy couples are “willing to talk about what’s going on.”

Healthy couples see conflict as an opportunity.

“They see [conflict] as a means for growing together… an opportunity to understand each other better and to clarify their needs and values,” Bush said.”

“The conflict doesn’t become a disconnect or a power struggle but an opportunity for both of them to create something new,” according to Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, co-creator of Imago Relationship Therapy with his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. It becomes an opportunity to have a conversation, he said.”

Healthy couples value each other’s perspective.

“Healthy couples believe that each partner has a valid point of view, whether they agree with them or not, said Hendrix, also author of several books on relationships, including the bestseller Getting the Love You Want. They realize that “there are legitimate differences and they understand that they don’t live in each other’s brains.”

Healthy couples consider their contribution to the conflict.

“Partners in healthy relationships “own their own stuff,” Bush said. They’re willing to look at how they’re contributing to the problem, she said.”

Healthy couples fight fair.

“Unlike unhealthy couples, they don’t name-call, insult, curse or hit below the belt, Bush said. They also don’t “bring up every problem that’s ever occurred.”

“Instead, “they stick to the issue at hand and have a respectful, curious attitude.” Instead of being defensive and focusing on explaining themselves, they’re interested in what their partner has to say.”

Healthy couples really listen.

“They give each other their undivided attention. They don’t interrupt or make remarks such as “That’s not right” or “Where did you get such a stupid idea?” Hendrix said. Rather, they are “fully … present to their partner’s point of view.”

Healthy couples kiss and make up.

“Typically, after an argument, healthy couples end up feeling supported, heard and understood, Bush said. Partners might apologize or say something like “I love you. We’re in this together,” she said.”

________________________________________________

A list like this can be daunting.  Make an assessment, figure out one or two areas to focus on.  You and your partner don’t have to choose the same area.  

Keep it in your conscious awareness so that when you “slip up” you can make a correction.  Learning is not about doing it perfectly.  It’s about making mistakes and making the corrections over and over.

*Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., is an Associate Editor at Psych Central. She also explores self-image issues on her own blog Weightless and creativity on her blog Make a Mess: Everyday Creativity.

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Your first chance to help us win and you to not win

“OK I signed up but please no mug.  I prefer to be a loser.” (RC)

Remember our last drawing MUG on a MUG?  After PLEADING with friends and colleagues to “follow” CATNIPblog I received the above message from my grade-school crush (who shall remain nameless but knows who he is . . . cuz I told him.)

Many of you have made it abundantly clear you don’t want things, so DO NOT MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY to not get anything!

TA DAA!!!

Announcing the no-giveaway-once-in-a-full-moon opportunity to invite your friends and family to FOLLOW CATNIPblog and receive nothing at all in return except for . . .

. . . Peggy & Judy’s unabashed gratitude cuz they do not want to spend the last remaining days of their lives typing their little fingers to the bone, creating uproariously funny drawings and taxing their little brains trying to figure out how to get more readers.

Looking for blog “Followers” by Peggy

Here’s all you have to do to insure you never have to apologize to Peggy & Judy with lame excuses like they’ve already heard:

  • I don’t know what a blog is.
  • I don’t have a computer
  • I can’t find the “follow” box even though you have told me it’s in the upper right hand corner of the blog.

join my grade-school crush (who continues to remain nameless).  Send this link http://CATNIPBLOG.com to your friends and family to FOLLOW CATNIPblog.  And if they are allergic to cats FOLLOW CURIOUS TO THE MAX where almost none of Judy’s drawings have fur, much less clothes.  (Click here for what I’m talking about.)

Join hundreds of other wonderful fellow-followers on the CATNIPblog of OFFICIAL LOSERS – you will receive nothing, at no time, nohow in perpetuity.”

Black hole of cyber-space

PLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEZ tell your friends and family to FOLLOW so Peggy & Judy can start the new year knowing all their hard work isn’t being sucked into the black hole of cyber-space without proper appreciation.

They don’t even have to read any of the posts . . .  we’ll never know.

(jw)

How to flip the switch – Shame, guilt and worry

Our brain wants us to feel good but it hasn’t quite figured out how to differentiate “good” feelings from “bad”.  When you feel shame, guilt and worry your brain is trying to reward you by activating its reward center! 

Feel’n Blue by Peggy

When you are being followed by a black cloud, Alex Korb* has some insights that might help you find the sun. It’s all about neuroscience.

According to Korb, “Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.“

“A similar thing may be going if you just can’t seem to stop worrying. Korb says worrying stimulates the medial prefrontal cortex and lowers activity in the amygdala, thus helping your limbic system, your emotions, remain copascetic. His theory is that, even though worry is widely recognized as a pointless thing to do from a tactical point of view, apparently the brain considers it better than doing nothing at all when you’re anxious.”

How do you redirect your brain from “rewarding” you with guilt, shame or worry?

“Korb suggests asking yourself: “What am I grateful for?” His reasoning is chemical: “One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”

“Even more intriguingly, actually coming up with something you’re thankful for — not always an easy thing to do in a dark mood — isn’t even required. Just the acts of remembering to be thankful is the flexing of a type of emotional intelligence: “One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

Serotonin Boost by Peggy

We’ve written about gratitude before – and will undoubtedly continue.  Quick and easy ways to refocus on what you can be grateful for is often hard when you’re feeling down.  Force yourself to name, list, draw 3 – 5 things every day.

They can be the same things every day and minor things taken for granted.

Examples of my gratitude:

  • I have teeth to brush

  • When I turn on the faucet water runs out

  • Blog followers clicked “like” on this post whether they “liked” it or not

Ahhhh. . .  I feel a serotonin surge in my anterior cingulate cortex and my  emotional intelligence increasing as I type . . . 

(jw)

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

http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/4-things-you-can-do-to-cheer-up-according-to-neuroscience

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Is your present presentable? – 13 Guidelines –

In my family when we bought someone a gift we asked ourselves 3 questions:

  • The first criteria – “What do they NEED?”.
  • If we answered ourselves in the affirmative the next question asked – “What DON’T they have?”
  • And the final test to pick a gift – “Would the gift be USEFUL to them?”.

Sometimes the resulting gift was wonderful and appreciated.  This, I will admit, was often when the gift giver didn’t follow those rules or asked the recipient what they WANTED.

Entering adulthood I learned that my family-rules-of-gift-giving are waaaaay off.  Here are my own guidelines (I’ve been told that I am pretty good at picking out gifts that hit the mark):

Gift Exchange by Peggy

 

  1. Give people what they already have! I know, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Nobody needs what they already have.  But if they have it, they LIKE it. If they have a whole lot of whatever it is, they like it a whole lot. So get them more. They will love it. They have already told you by their own choices.
  2. If they don’t have it be sure they want it. This is something I have been guilty of–I think they need this. It would be good for them to have this. But if it’s easy for them to get and they haven’t gotten it . .   they may not want it, unless it’s new or updated.
  3. Wrap it beautifully or creatively. The neuroscience bears this out: When people are impressed by the wrapping that carries over to the gift. This is a similar concept to the wine testing that found people like a wine better when they are told it costs a lot, and like it less when told it is cheap – when it’s the exact same wine.
  4. Use their colors & style. Think about the colors they wear or have in their homes.  If you are getting clothes, this is also true of style–do they dress like a tomboy or a diva? Match their style. Matching style is good for everything, even a toaster.
  5. Give an experience or time.  Help them do more of what they love:  Tickets to an event, creating free time (Your time babysitting, pet walking, running errands, cooking a meal etc ), Always ask yourself the same questions you would for a physical gift –  Would they want/enjoy this?, Will it be easy for them to do?)
  6. Resist temptation to get what YOU would want,
  7. Think about how they will use it later, not so much about how they will react when opening the gift
  8. Ask what they would like (research on  gifts shows following the gift list is more appreciated than off list items).
  9. If you’ve found a great gift that fits more than one person, go ahead,  give the same gift to different people.
  10. Don’t go too fancy or complicated as most people want easy and convenient (unless you know they like fancy).
  11. Let them know you were thinking about them–why you got it, what it reminded you of about them (especially for unusual or weird gifts).
  12. if you give a “big” gift, leave it at that.  Additional small gifts decrease the perceived value of a big gift
  13. Ask their friends or look at their Facebook page for ideas on what they like (hobbies, interests, clothes/jewelry  do they wear in their photos)

Are there gift-giving guidelines you follow?  Let me know!

(PA)

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/12/7-science-backed-ways-to-give-less-bad-gifts.html?utm_source=eml&utm_medium=e1&utm_campaign=sharebutton-t

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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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