Daunted by “spring” cleaning? Blame your brain

I’ve barely made a dent in the editing down of this article.  Why?  It’s a big article, I don’t know where to start and I am  blaming it on my brain.

Cluttered Closet by Peggy

 “Closets bulging with clothes and shoes. Plastic bins of stuff shoved under the bed. Stacks of mail covering the dining table. Has anyone seen the car keys?”

“It’s spring, time of rebirth and rejuvenation. Time to throw open the windows and do some spring cleaning. But the magnitude of the project is daunting. How to begin?”

“If you want to know why it’s so difficult to tackle a big project like spring cleaning, blame your brain, said Randall O’Reilly, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at CU Boulder.”

“The brain is wired to be very cautious and conservative in starting big projects, because once you do start, it takes over your brain,” he said. “The brain, researchers think, is wired to track progress towards whatever it is you’ve decided to do, like spring cleaning, which is hard work. You have to make a lot of difficult decisions and the outcome is uncertain. Your brain recognizes that and says, ‘Maybe I won’t start on that project after all.’ It’s an adaptive property of the brain.”

“Once we get over the initial stalling and begin the project, the brain rewards us with small hits of dopamine as we make progress. This provides an incentive to stick with the task.”

“Dopamine is a chemical released by neurons that sends signals to other nerve cells and plays a major role in both mood and reward-motivated behavior.”

“So, you’ve tackled cleaning and decluttering and you’re making progress. And then you notice the teapot that belonged to your grandmother stored in the back of the cupboard. It’s sweet and dainty and evokes fond memories of your grandmother, but it’s not your style at all. Now you’re confronted with a dilemma: Keeping a teapot you never use is taking up much-needed space, but getting rid of it would feel disrespectful to your grandmother.”

“Things with an emotional attachment take on meaning,” O’Reilly said. “The teapot is not just a teapot. It has a personal history, so it’s unique in that sense. If you get rid of the teapot, it feels sacrilegious. It’s valuable to you because it carries that authenticity and history with it, so it feels like you’re disrespecting that value.”

“So, why do we accumulate clutter? The answer is found in the dopamine system, which is based on expectations. When we accumulate something or have a pleasurable experience, the brain releases dopamine and we feel good. As soon as our wants and desires are satisfied, however, the brain discounts that feel-good moment.”

“You can see mathematically that the brain is constantly comparing what we have versus what we expected to get,” he said. “Every moment of our lives, that’s what our brain is doing. How much better is that movie versus what you thought it would be? How much better was that cookie than you remembered? Every single thing is being compared to a baseline of what your expectation is.”

It needs to be better than what you expected

“Attachments to things are like those expectations. We want them and feel that we need them. This is where it gets diabolical, O’Reilly said. If something we like is meeting our expectations, we no longer get a dopamine burst. Our brains are constantly trying to up the ante, so we continue to acquire more stuff to feel better.”

“To get the dopamine surge, the experience needs to be better than what you expected. If it just meets expectations, guess what? No dopamine for you! The flip to the reward of dopamine is a downer.”

“If the experience was less than you expected, there’s actually a reduction in the firing of dopamine neurons, leaving you feeling disappointed,” O’Reilly said. “Then the brain tries to come up with new ways to get the dopamine. It needs to be better than what you expected.”

“The expectation system is what drives learning,” he said. “This system in our brains drives us forward, to learning more and more. You’re changing your expectation level, your sense of self. Don’t have attachments. Have ambition.”

https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/03/27/daunted-spring-cleaning-blame-your-brain-professor-says

Read

Loss Aversion – why we don’t declutter.

 Click Here: Spring has Sprung and so have I

 

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Happy Anniversary to US! Gratitude to YOU! . . . plus a drawing

One year ago TODAY  CATNIPblog gave birth to a litter of critters and a gaggle of followers . . . YOU!

Gaggle

We’ve tried to remain true to our goal of sharing the information we’ve accumulated in our collective 60+ years as psychotherapists and our love of current neuroscience and neuropsychology research.  

Our vow to each other: Peggy keeps us on the track while Judy tries to swerve around the curves and bends.  So far our collaboration has worked – now Peggy is swerving and Judy is tracking.

We are GRATEFUL beyond words (even though we will find the words) to each of you for subscribing, commenting and giving us encouragement to blog our little fingers to the bone.

Our gift of gratitude:

We will use a random number generator to pick 3 names from our subscriber list.  The winners can choose whatever prize they want from our ZAZZLE Store.

We’ll have the prize mailed – you can send it as a gift to someone else or receive it yourself.

If you haven’t subscribed it’s not too late.  We will do the drawing on Sunday, March 17th.

P.S. More News!  We’ll be coordinating some CATNIP posts with Curious to the Max

click here: CURIOUS to the Max.  

CATNIPblog will stay focused on “Self-care tips, tools, techniques & neuroscience research for MIND, BODY & SOUL – shared with a wink and a smile”

AND . . .  since Peggy & Judy have “stuff” – stories, poems, drawings etc. that aren’t geared to CATNIP’s mission, you’ll find them on CURIOUS to the Max . . .  which is . . . how would we describe it? . . .  

. . . open-ended . . .

“Curious STUFF that makes me love, learn and laugh”

Thank you all for your support!

 

 

Pawsitively Tuesday – The Art of Life

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”

Some actual “eraserless” life drawings which reminded us of this quote:  Curious to the Max, Sneek a Peek into my Sketchy Life

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The HeART of Chronic Conditions (including life)

Curious to the Max blog has been the place where I’ve shared more of my personal journey.  CATNIPblog has largely been dedicated to information Peggy & I have accumulated on emotional & physical health and happiness. (wealth we leave to those who have experienced it!)

Today, I clicked on the blog of a new subscriber, Savannah’s  One Mountain at a Time .  What she shared about her journey with Lupus resonated:

“Though mine is said by my doctor to not be life threatening, my immune system is prone to attacking my healthy joint tissues systemically . . .  pain comes whenever it feels like it. Flares come and go, as do my exhausted days. Describing the pain is difficult but when a flare happens or I’m in pain, it feels like bruises anywhere inside my body, and someone is either jabbing needles in them or pressing them for long periods of time. . . . I take medications and go for jogs. I live a normal, active life despite pain.”

judy’s visual journal

Like Savannah my diagnosis is not life threatening, only life altering. Unlike Savannah, who was diagnosed at 23, I was blessed in my first forty plus years with relatively good health.  In 1995 that changed for me with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue.  I admit it’s been a struggle trying to ignore, over-ride or giving in to the daily fatigue, pain and various other “irritants”.  The older I get the harder it’s been.  The best I can describe is feeling like a sandy beach being worn away by unrelenting waves and occasional pounding storms.

In public I look fine and only those who intimately know me would know if I were feeling exhausted, in pain or depressed.  When I’m feeling particularly bad no one knows as I shelter in place – stay home and lick my wounds.  Any contact, even a phone call, can feel overwhelming.

collage by judy

CATNIPblog has been my in-home companion:  A way to connect to the world and my incredibly understanding friends while expending minimal energy;  posts that remind me to eat better, be grateful, and most of all Peggy and her delightful drawings that make me smile.  

Savannah’s faith, above all, is what seems to sustain her.  Me too.  Even on my worst days my question is never “Why me?”.  I ask God for guidance, the wisdom to understand that guidance and the where-with-all to carry it out . . . one day at a time . . . sometimes one hour at a time.

judy’s visual journal

Personally and professionally I learned early on that each of us, in ways large and small, carry physical or emotional pain.  Each of us searches, longs for answers, respite and meaning.  Savannah has found meaning at an early stage in her life.  I salute her.

https://pourforpoverty.wordpress.com/

Pour for Poverty: Savannah makes bags filled with sustainable essentials that she feels serve a beneficial purpose for people living in poverty filled with clothing, food, and hygiene products, written letters, prayers, bible verses and love. She distributes to the poor throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and occasionally other cities when traveling.

“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.

Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.

Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16, The Baha’i World Faith)

 

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