5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHEER UP QUICKLY, ACCORDING TO NEUROSCIENCE

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.  Easier said than done.  When I’m “down” I often just want to wallow in my misery, lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself.  It’s easier just to brood.  

There are, however, easy things to do that actually alter your brain neurochemistry to help you feel better .   When you get tired of brooding:

1. Go for a Walk outside.

Moving releases feel-better neurotransmitters.  Research  shows that if you walk outdoors, somewhere green,  the effect is enhanced.  scientifically proven to make you feel better. 

Journal Writing by Peggy

2. Vent Your Frustrations Into a Journal

Get paper and pen and write whatever comes to your mind, and no matter what it is, just keep writing. Even if it’s just, “This is stupid. Why am I doing this? Need to take out the garbage,” Focus on your frustrations. Write for a minimum of 20 minutes so your unconscious takes over.  Once you’ve done a mind-dump your brain can move on .

3. Call a Friend or Family Member

You may not want to burden anyone else with your bad mood but sometimes a friend or family member is needed . Let them know up front you don’t need advice just a listening ear. It helps you feel not so alone, lets your brain “objectively observe” whatever is stressing you . . . and knowing there are people who care can help shift your perspective.

Cat ‘n Mouse Phone Chat, by Peggy

4. Practice Gratitude

A simple way to stop feeling sorry for yourself and dwelling on everything that is going wrong is to focus on what is going right. Write down 3-5 things in your life, or on that day, that you are grateful for. . . .  look for things you take for granted: indoor plumbing, no toenail fungus (that is, of course if you have indoor plumbing and toenails)  . . .  the more you practice gratitude, the more you experience it.

5. Laugh Out Loud in Front of a Mirror

This sounds a bit weird BUT your laugh muscles signal the brain to release positive neurochemicals.   Even if you just smile broadly it works.  

If you want the easiest way to feel better check out an over-the-counter remedy Click here: Rx for Gratitude

More? Four easy ways to get happy 

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)

Pawsitively Tuesday – turning to exercise

Twist and shout

work it all out

Pound the pillows

you’ll lose the kilos

Toss and turn

Calories will burn

Wake up thinner

in time for dinner

Thanks Linda B.!

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/

 

“1/4 of a second secret” to stop anger in its tracks

I met some remarkable people working as a therapist in a hospital psychiatric ward.  One of the most memorable was a Vietnam veteran who flew into rages.  He’d lost his lower left leg in battle. But the war or being severely injured were not what made him rageful. He had always raged, even as a child. His father raged as well.

His wife was the main target of his rages.  He would become uncontrollably angry at the smallest of things like forgetting where she left her keys, or spilling a beverage . . .  until he learned the “1/4 second secret” to controlling unwanted anger.

To understand the 1/4 of a second secret you need to understand the fight or flight reaction.

We have an ever vigilant watchdog,  a small almond shaped organ in our midbrain called the amygdala (amygdala from the Greek word for almond) that looks out for us 24/7 and alerts us to any POSSIBLE threat.  

When our brain receives a threat-cue, sounds, sights, smells, touches or even our imagination, our brain wants FAST action. No waiting around for a sign of safety, no thinking things through just FLEE or stay and FIGHT (there is also a “freeze” response but that’s another post).

Our amygdala floods the cells in our body with neurochemical signals to increase blood pressure, raise heart rate, send blood away from major organs to your muscles, constrict capillaries near the skin, increase breathing, and tamper down anything that isn’t crucial to fight or flee for survival. 

Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t discriminate between real threats, imagined threats, conditioned or potential threats.  That’s why things that are, in reality, not threatening can become threat-cues.

Luckily, many people tend to go with flight more easily than fight. But for those whose brain directs them to fight here’s the “1/4 second secret” that stopped the vet’s rages:


The thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, can STOP the fight or flight response. We have 1/4 of a second to interrupt the signal from the threatening stimuli (sounds, sights, smells, touches or our imagination).  In that 1/4 split second tell the amygdala “Stop” or “I’m safe” and take a deep breath.

If we don’t “catch it” in 1/4 of a second a neurochemical cascade will  flood our cells.  Once the cells are flooded it takes 15 – 20 minutes for the neurochemicals to metabolize out of our body (provided no new information saying the threat continues to exist is received).

This is what the vet learned to do:

  • First, he identified the triggers that sent him into a rage.
  • Second, when he anticipated a trigger he used his pre-frontal cortex to say “stop” to the amygdala.
  • Third, if he failed to anticipate the trigger and felt the stress response building he would take a 20 minute walk to speed up  metabolizing out the stress response.

I admired his remarkable determination.  It took him 1/4 of a minute at a time to stop his rage response, change his marriage and improve his life.

Do you have a “secret technique” to control your stress response?

(PA)

Neuroscience: Singing makes you (not me) happy

In second grade we stood at our desk and sang. EVERY DAY.  The teacher traveled the room, bending down to intently listen to each child.  Those who were out of tune she tapped on the head to sit down.  There were two of us who always got tapped.
 
From third grade on  I silently mouthed the words anytime, anywhere there was singing, terrified someone would hear me.   
 

Now the science is in. Singing is really good for you and the most recent research suggests that group singing is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

Creating music together evolved as a tool of social living. Groups and tribes sang and danced together to build loyalty, transmit vital information and ward off enemies.  (Since I still can’t carry a tune I figure all my enemies have long ago been warded off.)

Caterwauling beautiful music by Peggy

“What has not been understood until recently is that singing in groups triggers the communal release of serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and even synchronises our heart beats.”

“Singing helps people with depression and reduces feelings of loneliness, leaving people feeling relaxed, happy and connected. What’s more, the benefits of singing regularly are cumulative. People who sing have reduced levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.” (The research must have been done on people who could carry a tune.  My cortisol levels still go up when singing)

Now the good news (for me) . . . 

One of the great things about singing is that you can receive the wellbeing benefits even if you aren’t any good. One study showed that:

“Group singing can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”

“The current research into the neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified.”

I still can’t carry a tune but at least no one . . . so far . . . has tapped me on the head since second grade.

(jw)

Read the entire article:  The Neuroscience of Singing