The Write Way to Emotional & Physical Well-being

“In the 1970s, a professor of psychology named James W. Pennebaker began experimenting with the effects that talking, confessing and self-understanding had on human well-being. Nearly 30 years later, he and his collaborator, Joshua M. Smyth, a professor of behavioral health and medicine, produced a body of research that found the emotionally connective and relieving effects of expressive writing to promote self-understanding, ease emotional pain and aid in physical healing.[viii] Since their book, Opening Up by Writing It Down, was published in 1997, their findings have been corroborated by other scientists’ independent studies around the world.”

The 2016 edition of their book explains that expressive writing:

•  Offers those who either don’t wish to talk about their feelings or have no one to confide in a way to unburden themselves

•  Reduces stress, fear and isolation

•  Boosts immune systems, optimism and sense of connectedness

•  Allows minds to process, organize and understand their experiences and feelings, enhancing learning and memory

“When expressing themselves in writing, people often report that they feel safe. They are actually creating an artifact—one that symbolizes some of their thoughts and feelings but is not them. With that safety, people often find they can put things down on the page that are often hard to speak about, and explore the deeper truths that we all carry with us.”

“The writing itself is a “made thing”—something with weight and substance. Therefore, it has a place in the world and you become identified with that creative construction. For many people, this gives them a way to bootstrap out of negativity and to start to identify themselves in a powerful and positive way.”

http://www.howlifeunfolds.com/stronger-connections/expressive-writing-a-path-forward-for-your-health

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Pawsitively Cats

“Years before they conquered the Internet, cats colonized our sofas. But they haven’t spent the last ten thousand years just snoozing.”

 “A new study reveals that tamed cats swept through Eurasia and Africa carried by early farmers, ancient mariners and even Vikings.

“The researchers analysed DNA from over 200 cat remains and found that farmers in the Near East were probably the first people to successfully tame wild cats 9,000 years ago, before a second wave of cat domestication a few thousand years later in ancient Egypt.”

Read the original research paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-…
Nature news story about the study: http://www.nature.com/news/how-cats-c…

Teaching Happiness is POWERFUL medicine


We’ve been posting about the benefits of developing “Happiness Habits”.  We all say sure, sure and then let those “habits” slide.  This recent research from Northwestern University study got our attention:

Teaching happiness to men with HIV boosts their health

“This is believed to be the first test of a positive emotion intervention in people newly diagnosed with HIV. Based on the study results, the intervention is promising for people in the initial stages of adjustment to any serious chronic illness.”

Learning skills for positive emotions result in less HIV in blood and less anti-depressant use.

Summary:
“When individuals recently diagnosed with HIV were coached to practice skills to help them experience positive emotions, the result was less HIV in their blood and lower antidepressant use, reports a new study. Men using positive emotion skills learned to cope with their stress, while men in the control group increased their use of anti-depressants.”

The findings extend to dementia caregivers and women with metastatic breast cancer.”

Here are the “Happiness Habits”  taught.  We’ll give you how-to in posts to follow.

1) Recognizing a positive event each day

2) Savoring that positive event and logging it in a journal or telling someone about it

3) Starting a daily gratitude journal

Cat journaling

Cat ‘n Mouse journaling by Peggy

4) Listing a personal strength each day and noting how you used this strength recently

5) Setting an attainable goal each day and noting your progress

6) Reporting a relatively minor stressor each day, then listing ways in which the event can be positively reappraised. This can lead to increased positive affect in the face of stress

7) Understanding small acts of kindness can have a big impact on positive emotion and practicing a small act of kindness each day

Mouse rewarding cat

Acts of Kindness by Peggy

8) Practicing mindfulness with a daily 10-minute breathing exercise, concentrating on the breath

If you want to read the research study here’s the link:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Marla Paul

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Brain Dance – Bust a Move and a toe or two

It’s good I’m human and only have two legs because I was born with two left feet . . . can only imagine what it would be like with four.  So when it comes to improving my cognitive abilities through dance there’s a problem.  

However, those of you with both a left foot, a right foot, and a bit of rhythm, should read this:

“Partners from multiple universities studied groups of older adults who were split up into groups that focused on walking, both walking and proper nutrition, stretching and toning, and dancing, and followed them for a period of six months. Scans were taken of participants brains before and after the study, and researchers uncovered surprising results.”

The findings suggest that combining physical, cognitive, and social engagement like dance can improve cognitive health.

“Those in the other groups actually had a decrease in white matter, perhaps because the work that goes into remembering a choreographed dance, coupled with the social interaction, gave the brain more of workout than walking or stretching.”

Meowie busting a move, by Peggy

“Agnieszka Burzynska, the study’s lead author and a professor of human development and neuroscience at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, told the New York Times that activities involving moving and socializing are beneficial for your brain.”

“The message is that we should try not to be sedentary,” she said in the interview. “The people who came into our study already exercising showed the least decline in [white matter].” She added that those who took up dancing showed white-matter gains.”

Giphy

“Psychology Today reports that dancing can indeed improve cognitive function, and visualizing dance routines also improves muscle memory. Additionally, the article by Christopher Bergland, states that different types of dance practice allows you to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory, and that by engaging in “regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week” anyone can maximize brain their function.”

“Another study, led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York city, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that dancing also slowed down aging, increased intelligence, and improved neuroplasticity.”

“It looks like the secret to living a long, and engaged life, just might be hitting the dance floor”

. . . with 2 left feet, HITTING the dance floor is to be taken literally.

(jw)

source article: Dancing may be good for your brain

Worry your life away – literally

As  psychotherapists we saw more people who were walking worriers (to coin a phrase) than most people meet in their lifetime.  Our “treatment” evolved over time based on our interest in neurochemistry and brain research.

Thirty plus years ago, when we were in school, excessive worry was labeled as an Anxiety Disorder. What we weren’t taught was there was a positive biological adaptation for the brain to “worry”.  Simply put the “brains” that knew best how to scan for danger were the “brains” that stayed alive long enough to produce progeny.

stock-vector-scared-cartoon-caveman-vector-clip-art-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-416053591

In our jungle days it was prudent and life saving for acute “worry”. The clients we saw who were anxious actually had very smart brains that were trying to keep them alive.  Unfortunately, our 21st century brains don’t realize we no longer live in the jungle and chronic worry is a problem.

We also live considerably longer than in caveman times and recently research has discovered that in addition to creating biochemical changes, dysfunctional worry profoundly affects our genetics.

“Obsessive worries — negative responses to stress — actually can shorten the component of DNA that governs a person’s life expectancy. Under excess stress, this DNA component becomes shorter.”

So our DNA structure is literally changed by dysfunctional worry that does not lead to resolution but that instead leads to destructive biological changes in the body.

Take a look at The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety for a simple and highly effective way to better control, if not curb, chronic worry.

The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety.

How to avoid getting upset around angry, mean, “toxic” people – Quick tip

The answer is sitting in your imagination (and in your kitchen) right now.

This was the topic in a group of patients who had been discharged from our hospital psychiatric unit.  That’s not me you’re thinking.  BUT you, too, have undoubtedly been confronted with “toxic” people.  

If not “toxic”, all of us, at one time or another, have wanted protection from otherwise unpleasant people .  Most of us don’t have the money or the wherewithal to move away or “divorce” ourselves from family or colleagues.  

The BIG question  

How do you protect yourself from the negative energy of people when they are standing right in front of you?   Listen to what this incredibly imaginative group of people came up with!

ELEVEN Uses for Press ‘n Seal

Imagine using “Press N Seal” to separate yourself from the person who is making you feel anxious, fearful, sad or just plain downright uncomfortable! 

While the “toxic” person is right there in front of you, in your imagination, rip off a huge piece of Press N Seal and put it between yourself and the offending party, then “seal” it with your finger.

Research shows our brains can’t tell the difference between what is literally happening and what we imagine happening. 

Imagining “press ‘n sealing” puts mental space between you and them – you stay calm and better able to cope with what they are saying or doing. It may even make you laugh, but consider the consequences of doing that . . . probably better to imagine yourself smiling while you wrap them tightly in another ripped off piece of Press ‘n Seal.

(PA)

Get a Move-on!

When I was growing up the only way the brain could be studied was after you were dead. With current technology researchers can now see electrical activity and brain structure in living brains.  The information on emotional states and the brain has exploded (the information, not the brain).  

Meowie Getting Her Move On by Peggy

We known for a long time how important exercise is for our body, but what we did not realize is how important exercise is for the brain.

Exercise has the same effects on the brain chemistry as antidepressant medications. Several studies have demonstrated that its benefits can ‘exceed even those of medication’.

“Exercise increases nerve growth factors, such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which are like steroids for the brain. Most people suffering from depression due to a deficiency of serotonin  depend wholly on psychiatric medications and consume antidepressants which target the serotonin system in your brain to elevate serotonin levels, that increase your motivation and willpower-and  minimize the activity of depression. Today neuroscientific research provides evidence that exercise can also ‘boost serotonin activity’.”

“Any movement such as:

  • walking  
  • jogging 
  • gardening
  • walking up and down the stairs

increases ‘the firing rate of serotonin neurons’, which causes them to release more serotonin to treat your depression or create new good habits. Similarly, exercise with moderate intensity increases your norepinephrine– which controls in depressive people the difficulties with concentration and deep thinking.”

“When you exercise your brain releases endorphins that act on your neurons like opiates (such as Vicodin or morphine) by sending ‘neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief’.  Exercise also speeds up activation of the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids (marijuana) are a naturally occurring chemical in the brain which reduces pain and increases positive feelings.”

Get Your Move On!  It’s legal everywhere.

To read the entire article by Professor B L Chakoo

Click here: http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/depression-and-neuro-science/