No act of kindness,
no matter how small,
is ever wasted.
Smiling fools your brain into thinking you are happy, then this creates actual happiness. A smile spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones including dopamine and serotonin*.
“A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”
“And there are plenty more studies out there: Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity.”
“More than happiness is at stake. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist looks at the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system. He asserts that it has been found “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness boosts your immune system.”
“This is because we have mirror neurons that fire when we see action,” says Dr. Eva Ritzo, As its name suggests, mirror neurons enable us to copy or reflect the behavior we observe in others and have been linked to the capacity for empathy.”
*Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression. Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.
Most people don’t realize I’m an outdoor person at heart. I bike, hike, kayak and fish. I just returned from fly fishing with my cousin Kate in the Catskill Mountains in southeast New York. We had perfect weather and I was in my element with the tall green, green trees, flowers in bloom, blue, blue lakes and country roads winding through low hills and picturesque towns.
Judy asked me what life lessons I learned form fly fishing. I thought and thought but NOT while I was fly fishing. NO, never when, you are fly fishing which is the first lesson.
Fly Fishing: To catch fish, I must pay close attention to what I’m doing: Watch where to throw my line, watch if I’m getting a nibble. Fly fishing requires lots of concentrated attention, similar to meditation . . . and life.
Lesson #2. Be prepared. Have a plan for unwanted but foreseeable events. If you fall in the water make sure it’s shallow but learn how to swim before you take the plunge.
Fly Fishing: When wading in a moving river, it’s possible I could fall in. My wading stick helps me avoid that, but I still keep a whistle to call for help,and have learned what to do (like positioning my feet downstream).
If there’s room, I add things that are not essential but handy – extra flies, line, goo that help a fly float, gadgets to help flies sink, and indicators that help me know when a fish has taken my fly.
Fly Fishing: Most of the time I catch small fish but I’m ready for the biggest fish. I carry a BIG net because I can put a small fish in a big net, but can’t put a big fish in a small net. When I “land” my catch I look to make sure it’s a fish before cradling it back into the water to join his other fishy friends.
Fly Fishing: I dress for success. That means waterproof clothing and boots, so I can stand in a stream trying not to fall in. But nice accessories are important, such as a cute vest with all the flys, and my wading stick (form and fashion all in one).
Fly Fshing I practiced casting first and a lot (because I couldn’t practice landing a fish until I caught one). Practice means noticing where my fly lands (in the water is definitely desirable), and learning were it is likely there’s a fish waiting. Practice means reading the currents and . . . improving my aim
Fly Fishing: I keep what I value close by and tied down. Standing in a moving stream and dropping something I need (like my fishing rod) means it’s GONE. Finding a way to attach important stuff -like my “nippers” that are on a “zinger” (a retractible string with a pin on the end) is what makes a good fly fisher person . . . which brings me back to Lesson #6.
You don’t need to take off your clothes or use soap or water for that matter. Forest bathing isn’t a bath – it’s a sensory immersion. Forest bathing isn’t a hike, it’s a meander.
The idea is to go slow and let yourself take in nature – the sights, smells and sounds of the forest – notice things you might ordinarily miss. It’s a meditation which helps clear your brain, and see your surroundings with fresh eyes.
The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing.
One study published in 2011 compared the effects of walking in the city to taking a forest walk. Both activities required the same amount of physical activity, but researchers found that the forest environment led to more significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.
“On average, the forest walkers — who ranged in age from 36 to 77 — saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure from 141 mmHg down to 134 mmHg after four hours in the forest. This might not sound like a big difference, but it can be clinically significant. Most doctors these days agree that people younger than 60 should aim to keep their blood pressure under 140.”
“There’s another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people. Some of the compounds are very distinctive, such as the scent of cedar.”
“The idea that spending time in nature is good for our health is not new. Most of human evolutionary history was spent in environments that lack buildings and walls. Our bodies have adapted to living in the natural world.”
2. In another experiment, participants who were directed to spend a small amount of money on others (either $5 or $20) reported greater feelings of happiness than those who were directed to spend the same amounts on themselves. The dollar amount didn’t matter. (Doggie treats cost $5 or $20)
Even human beings around the world get emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others. Data from 136 countries found that prosocial spending was consistently associated with greater happiness. (Lara Aknin and colleagues, 2010).
“Humans are social creatures, who depend on the ability to foster teamwork with others to survive. To this end, the human brain has a built-in reward system that manages how we interact with others: the neurotransmitter oxytocin.”
In appreciation for your generosity,
Freddie Parker Westerfield, DCD
Deserving Canine Dog
I always have more than one book in progress: One for when I’m tired and need mindless entertainment; one for when I’m alert, is informative and grows my neuro-connections.
I found a book* that addresses both and surprised me with a tip on napping. When I was younger naps were a waste of time. Now, I appreciate the “restorative power” of catching a mid-day snooze. Here is a good recipe for a…
*”WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink