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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Frankly Freddie, Gratitude and Ode to Tom

Dear Human Beings,

Time for my ANNUAL Thanksgiving Ode To Tom’ and tell you what I’m thankful for:

  • I’m thankful that I was not born in a country where they eat dogs.
  • I’m thankful you are all my best friends!
  • I’m thankful for all the treats I get even if I don’t get as many as I deserve
  • I’m thankful I am soft and fluffy so people want to pet me

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Freddie Parker
Westerfield,  Poet Laureate

A Turkey’s Tale

by Freddie Parker Westerfield

A turkey named Tom lived on a farm

His story is such, so they say

Waking at dawn

he’d peck at the lawn,

searching for bugs,

nibbling on slugs

of which he was particularly fond.

Then on Thanksgiving day

Gobbledy gobbledy gone!

So if  YOU took Tom from off his farm

in the middle of the night

please give him due thanks

for gracing your table.  (It’s  fitting and only right).

And for all the bugs and many slugs

which make him an organic delight

P.S.  I was told to tell you that Peggy & Judy wish you all things to be grateful for in your life, like they are grateful for me.
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My BEST FRIEND Shari sent me this picture.  I think she might be a Turkeytarian . . .

 

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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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4 easy ways to GET HAPPY

There are studies which indicate happiness is over-rated and we should strive instead for contentment.  I say we should strive for happiness and be grateful when we are simply content.  

How to get happy in a hurry, according to neuroscience

From the book The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb

Know what Prozac does? It boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude!

1. “Write a running gratitude list or simply ask yourself what you’re grateful for: A warm house, a pet you love,  new shoes, a cellphone – doesn’t matter how big or small.  Gratitude boosts both dopamine and serotonin, the two most powerful neurotransmitter chemicals involved in giving you a feeling of calm and well-being.”

“Don’t worry if you can’t immediately find things to be grateful for. The mental search for gratitude alone will begin to elevate the level of those pleasure chemicals”.

2. Label negative feelings.Simply saying to yourself “I’m sad” or “I’m anxious” almost too easy for happiness.  Yet in one fMRI study – ‘Putting Feelings into Words,’ participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Each participant’s amygdala [the brain’s fight-or-flight alarm bell] 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.”

smallvet

sad . . . bordering on disdain. . .

3.  Make a decision. Just deciding to do something can reduce worry and anxiety right away.  “Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals – all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety.”

“Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which can pull you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world – finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.

“And you don’t have to worry about making the “right” decision?  The “good enough” decision is good enough to make our brains go into at-ease mode.  AND you can decide not to decide or change your decision!”

4.  Touch people, appropriately! This is one of the easiest ways to release oxytocin  which is the pleasure-inducing ‘cuddle chemical’]   It can be as simple as a handshake or a pat on the back.

“A hug is the best but if you don’t have anybody to hug get a massage which has been shown to boost your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels.”

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Pawsitively Tuesday – Rx for Gratitude

Guaranteed* to decrease moping, malcontent and feeling blue. Gratitude is now available over-the-counter, but should not be used off-label for conditions other than dysphoria.

Rx for Gratitude by Peggy

WARNING!

Adverse Side effects

  • Only take as directed, no more than 100 gratitudes a day, or may induce euphoria, resulting in dancing nude on the beach which can lead to skin cancer.
  • Can cause lightheartedness in individuals with pre-existing conditions of joy
  • May impair balance and equilibrium with danger of falling in love with yourself or others.

*Disclaimer:  

Any and all information, directions, inferences, enticements, and/or opinions on this site are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.
Peggy, Judy or their representative felines and canines make no representation and assume no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this site or any other web site, and furthermore such information is subject to change without notice, depending on our mood.

PEGGY, JUDY, their felines and canines are  NOT RESPONSIBLE NOR LIABLE FOR ANY ADVICE, COURSE OF TREATMENT, DIAGNOSIS OR ANY OTHER INFORMATION, SERVICES OR PRODUCTS THAT YOU OBTAIN THROUGH THIS SITE or anywhere else, for that matter.

 

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