How to change your own neurochemistry to feel happier

There is power in positive thinking–and the power comes from you.  and what you can do to have more “happy” neuro-chemicals. 

SEROTONIN & POSITIVE THINKING

As far back as 2007 scientists* measured how positive thoughts change brain serotonin levels which is another key neurotransmitter in happiness. Professional actors were used since they could keep up an intense emotional state.   Using a PET scan researchers found that focusing on happy memories resulted in increased uptake of the serotonin building blocks. Focusing on sad memories resulted in lower uptake. This supports the since replicated conclusion that we, by choosing to focus on happy thoughts, can self-regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters and change our brain’s chemical balance to support happiness.

DOPAMINE & MEDITATION

Another study shows why meditation makes monks among the happiest people on earth,

Dopamine is also crucial for happiness and relaxation, Researchers examined the changes in dopamine during meditation using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning on meditators.  The dopamine increased significantly in an area called the basal ganglia during meditation. This is the first evidence that by focusing our thoughts, we can alter how the neurons in our brain fire, and increase dopamine release.

No prescription needed, no side-effects from medications.  Your only cost is a bit of practice focusing on positive memories and thoughts or, if you are more ambitious, a bit of your time to learn to meditate. 

The Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience

 

Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku Can boost Immunity, reduce stress & elevate your mood

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.

Taking a Forrest Dip by Peggy

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.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that the practice can help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress. “Medical researchers in Japan have studied forest bathing and have demonstrated several benefits to our health,” says Philip Barr, a physician who specializes in integrative medicine at Duke University.”

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.

“Researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure among forest bathers. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases — which can lead to a drop in blood pressure.”

“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.”

  • “Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killer cells .”
  • “Another study found inhalation of cedar wood oils led to a small reduction in blood pressure. These are preliminary studies, but scientists speculate that the exposure to these tree compounds might enhance the other benefits of the forest.”

“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.”

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FAITHfully Yours – Sunday Retrospective #1

“If we take people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat them as if they were what they ought to be, we help them to become what they are capable of becoming”

Goethe 

A Baha’i Bit

Essentially a mystical Faith, the Baha’i teachings focus on the soul’s relationship with the eternal, unknowable essence of God, and recommend daily prayer and meditation to everyone. 

Baha’is believe that the human spirit lives eternally, and so endeavor to illumine their souls with spiritual attributes—kindness, generosity, integrity, truthfulness, humility and selfless service to others.

http://bahaiteachings.org/bahai-faith

www.bahai.org/

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“But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 

1 Corinthians 13:13

“Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul.” 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (Baha’i World Faith)

Baha’is accept the validity of each of the founders and prophets of the major world religions, whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization – Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

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“Prayer need not be in words, but rather in thought and attitude… words without love mean nothing.”

Abdu’l-Bahá

Loving Touch by Peggy

Baha’i Tidbit

The Baha’i Faith, the world’s newest independent global belief system, teaches the oneness of God, the unity of humanity and the essential harmony of all religions.

http://bahaiteachings.org/

bahai-faithwww.bahai.org/

During the month of November, Baha’i Blogging is hosting a post-a-day-or-so something related to or inspired by Faith.  Because so many of you follow both this blog and CATNIPblog Peggy & I will post our “dailies” here and Sunday “retrospectives” on CATNIPblog.com

The hashtag is #bahaiblogging.

Want to be happy? Eat Your Dessert First

We’ve all fallen into thinking “I will be happy when ___________”.  Sometimes it’s a mind set we’ve been taught: Eat your vegetables before you can have dessert;  There’s no time for happiness just “hard” work.  Often it’s simply paddling as fast as we can to keep our head above water.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, maintains we need to get happy first and success will be easier for when we are in a good mood we work better, are more creative, and cope better.

The neurochemistry says it all
“Positive emotions flood our brain with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.”

Heels over Head by Peggy

Smple activities that will increase the “happy” neurotransmitters in your brain.

Recall a memory of something happy or funny
Take a brisk walk
Watch a funny video clip or cartoon
Hang out with someone who makes you smile

Proven ways to increase happiness which take a bit more time and effort:

1. Meditation (Joy on Demand”, a book on easy ways to meditate)

2. Think of something you can look forward to doing

 3. Perform an act of kindness

Acts of Kindness by Peggy

4.Modify your physical environment (go outside in nice weather, surround yourself with pictures that remind you of loved ones, happy times, trips, read positive magazines, books, videos or surround yourself with objects or symbols that bring a smile.

5. Exercise 20 – 30 min. 3X week

6. Create & nurture relationships.

 7. Use your skills and do something you enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Healing a Broken Heart, Part II – Learning

The second most important thing (the first being to grieve and forgive myself) was to LEARN SOMETHING FROM MY EXPERIENCE

Learning about myself and (even while enduring the pain) what I gained from the relationship was extremely helpful. Some of my lessons were obvious. It was immediately clear that I had moved away from being the kind of person I wanted to be. The disagreements I had with my boyfriend were not worth the frustrations and bad feelings they created.  I realized my priorities had been out of whack and my short-term goals and long-term goals didn’t match. There were other lessons I learned that weren’t as obvious to me and took time to discover. Here are some ways that helped me learn more:

1. MEDITATE


Our conscious minds tend to dwell on the negative.  Our unconscious knows the whole truth.  The quickest and easiest way to access the unconscious is to meditate.  Set aside 20 – 30 minutes every day to sit quietly by yourself (even 10 minutes will help). Pick a time of day when you feel pretty good. Spend a few minutes getting into a relaxed state (there are many books on meditation – I recommend Joy On Demand by Chade-Meng Tan). Just put the question to your mind “What can I learn from this relationship that ended?”. Let thoughts bubble up without trying to figure anything out. Your unconscious mind is very good at finding answers, just give it a little time.

2. READ

Read everything you can on broken hearts. You feel less alone as it becomes clear that many others have been through this experience and you get  ideas and inspiration that can make you feel better.

3. WRITE
Just writing the story of what happened and how you felt will help. In fact, if you write about it for 20 minutes a day for 3 days helps a lot, according to James Pennebaker, who researched writing about emotional experiences. Putting your thoughts down on paper helps you get some distance from them. Most importantly, spend some time playing “devil’s advocate” with any negative thoughts. Ask if they are really true, completely true. Argue with them.

4. DEVELOP GOALS 
Start with qualities, skills and attributes you have,  want to keep or expand, then add qualities you want to develop. This will put you at the center of your life (as opposed to centering your life around someone who is not there).

(PA)

Read

Part I, Healthy Grieving

Part III, Putting the Loss Behind You

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How to lose weight after 40 (parenthetically speaking)

It’s well-known that I agreed to do this blog-site if I was amused . . . so far, so good.  I’ve added another criteria – find information about how I can lose weight (preferably without dieting, counting calories or exercising).  So far NO good.

Admittedly, part of my reason for wanting to lose weight is vanity.  More importantly, the other part is for my health.

My body does not bounce back as easily as it once did (even though there’s more to bounce). 

I’d like to blame it on genetics but since neither of my parents was overweight I know it’s my  lifestyle choices.  Here’s my take and confession (in red) on this article about  “Six of the top lifestyle habits to focus on”.

1. Fight the dreaded spread

“Fat in the mid-section is metabolically active and we gain more of it as we age. That’s not a good thing. As opposed to the fat we gain in our thighs and rear, abdominal fat can lead to several chronic conditions.” (Totally agree!)

“A 2014 study found that the type of fat we consume might make all the difference. Participants in the study were asked to eat 750 extra calories every day for seven weeks. Those having excess calories from saturated fats had activated cells that promoted fat storage in the belly and increased insulin resistance. However, individuals who had had a high consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds, gained less abdominal fat and were more likely to increase muscle mass instead.”

“Multiple studies have demonstrated this connection between saturated fat intake and belly fat, especially when it is coupled with reduced levels of estrogen.”

(My problem is not cutting out saturated fats – it’s eating too many nuts and seeds.  I love the crunch.  I think crunching food expends calories)

2. Get your biceps back

Bulge those Biceps by Peggy

“Jump off the treadmill, if want to lose weight. If you change nothing about your exercise routine now, it’s almost a guarantee you will find the pounds creeping up. This all boils down to a loss of muscle mass — a condition called sarcopenia that begins at 40.”

“In fact, up to 40 percent of muscle mass is lost between the ages of 40 and 80. (Ay yi iiii I only have 8 years before all my muscles are gone) This alone is the kiss of death to metabolism. Muscle weighs more than fat making it a metabolically superior calorie burner.”

“. . .  attempts to lose weight on low-calorie diets can lead to even more lost muscle. Studies have found that regular resistance or strength training may be a better alternative than your daily runs to preserve and gain muscle — even when coupled with a low-calorie diet. Aerobic exercise is still important, just don’t make it your only form of activity.”

(My core muscles are holding up all the belly fat)

3. Fall in love with plants

Tree Hugger by Peggy

 

“A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that healthy behaviors, like eating fruits and vegetables daily, significantly improved the odds of successful aging. Plants provide a protective measure against oxidative stress and free radical formation — two things that go hand-in-hand and increase with age.”

“Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radicals in the body and our ability to fight against is uneven, with free radicals prevailing. Free radicals can cause disease and there is an association with an increased risk of formation of free radicals as we age. That’s why after a certain age, building up our defenses (through having lots of antioxidants in plants) can help reduce this imbalance and stack the cards in our defense system instead.”

(Many studies focus on the inflammatory process being involved in many chronic conditions, including the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue and Hashimoto’s diseases I have.  I struggle with eating more vegetables and THAT I blame on my father who rarely ate vegetables . . .  but lived to 93 . . . )

4. Find your own ‘om’

OM by judy

“The more years we live, the higher our risk of developing a disease, especially heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. All of these conditions are tied, in some way, to inflammation. A 2017 study from Georgetown showed that mindfulness meditation had a significant impact on reducing stress hormones and inflammatory proteins and a 2014 study found that just 25 minutes of meditation a day could alleviate stress levels.”

If you don’t have 25 minutes to spare each day, a 5-minute meditation helps. Or 1-minute meditations can calm your mind. It’s that easy.

5. Think about your magnesium

Legume by Peggy

“Even individuals with relatively healthy diets can be deficient in magnesium. Adequate magnesium is important to protect our bones. In addition to promoting bone health, magnesium plays a role in protecting our brain, heart and nervous system. It’s also associated with keeping energy levels up and bathroom habits regular.”

Women between ages 31-50 need 320 milligrams daily, according to the National Institutes of Health.  Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Seeds, especially pumpkin seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, swiss chard and collard greens
  • Beans and legumes

(I take my magnesium in pill form – another way to avoid vegetables . . .)

6. Be less happy about happy hour

The American Heart Association found that heavy drinking in middle age — defined as more than two drinks daily — increased the risk of heart attack and stroke (and breast cancer) more than traditional risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease.

(I’m good here . . . wine gives me headaches.  Too bad over-eating doesn’t.)

jw

Here’s the article:  How to Lose Weight After 40

 

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All God’s Creatures

We have posted about the benefits of meditation and nature.  Take just a few minutes to:

Meditate on the sounds and sight of THE HUMMINGBIRD POOL PARTY.

A record 30 hummingbirds bathe together at one time

Thanks LYN!