Happiness Hack: Maui Had a Ball-You Can, Too

“Happiness Hacks”  are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood. We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

“Maui’s Mini Tail”

Maui had a yellow ball.

Maui loved to chase a small yellow ball around the house. He would grab it with his paws and throw it up in the air, or bat it across the floor!  He loved  playing with the yellow ball, constantly chasing it around the house and batting it across the room.

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I should have learned a thing about feeling good from Maui but it took a book to teach me what Maui knew.

Peggy had a beach ball

When I was working with patients with major mental health problems (Schizophrenia, severe depression, manic depression), I read The Biopsychology of Mood & Arousal by Richard Thayer. I was surprised to learn that if you do a brisk activity for only 10 min, your mood goes up and stays up for 4 hours. It sounded almost too easy.  I found  a beach ball to put it to the test.

At the beginning of the next patient’s group therapy session I  asked everyone to rate their current mood on a scale of 1 to 10. One = horrible/awful/terrible/bad. Ten = wonderful/elated/ joyful/good.

I tossed the beach ball in the air and everyone joined in batting the ball to each other.  Sometimes we missed, sometimes we got hit in the head, but everyone swung at the ball, waved their hands around and had a little exercise.   AFTER 10 MINUTES we stopped and rated mood again.

Take a look at the chart below showing how each patient rated their mood at the beginning of the session, in blue, and where each patient rated their mood after tossing the ball for 10 minutes,  in green.

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Would the mood elevation last? After 3 1/2 hours, everyone rated their mood again.  All moods were still up with one exception. It had worked making my own mood elevated.

The chart below shows each patients mood before the ball toss started,  in blue, and where each patient rated their mood after 3 1/2 hours, in purple.

hourslaterchartThe average improvement in mood was 30%! In TEN MINUTES.

Of course, negative events can bring mood down again. (as happened to the one patient – letter i – in the group) but this is one of my favorite “tricks” to stay happy.

Maui always knew . . .  playing ball is good for you.

THE SCIENCE 

In his 1989 book The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, Robert E. Thayer discusses how 10 minutes of brisk exercise improves mood for four hours.  He describes how each of us has a daily biorhythm of ups and downs in energy (There’s a chart in the book on how to  figure out your own biorhythm).

Exercise is shown to boost endorphins and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine both of which improve mood.

Not only does exercise grow your muscles, it also grows neurons in your brain. Such neuron growth is associated with improved mood.  Research shows:

Regular exercise can relieve depression just as well as medication over a 4 month period, and even better after 6 months.

I personally use this concept to get and keep my own  mood up.  Ten minutes of activity is a cheap price for creating 4 hours of feeling good (or at the very least, feeling ok).

(Peggy)

How do you elevate your mood?  Let us know in the comments.

Click here for Time article It’s All in the Nerves: How to Really Treat Depression 

 

Frankly Freddie, EYE with a VIEW

Dear my Freddie Fans,

It’s hard to get Peggy to show her art (she’s more humble than Judy who seems to relish posting nude humans).  Peggy prefers nude animals.

She took these photographs at the San Diego Zoo,

a nudist camp if I ever saw one . . .

Peggy, clothed

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Roving Reporter

Fur Fun: Freddie’s Forwarning

 You can’t be vain

dancing in the rain

for it’s a sure bet

your paws’ll get wet

your fur will matt

and you’ll looked like

a drowned cat

 

Eye My View – Birds of a Feather

Did you know that Egrets are carnivores and have sibling rivalry . . . to the extreme?

They snare prey by walking slowly or standing still for long periods, waiting for an animal to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole.

Fish are a dietary staple, but great egrets use similar techniques to eat amphibians, reptiles, snakes, mice, and other small animals.

Great egrets are found near water, salt or fresh, and feed in wetlands, streams, ponds, tidal flats, and other areas.

  I found these at the San Diego Zoo.

This long-legged, S-necked white bird is found throughout the Americas and around much of the world. It is typically the largest white egret occurring anywhere in its range (only the white-colored form of the great blue heron is larger).

These birds nest in trees, near water and gather in groups called colonies, which may include other heron or egret species. They are monogamous, and both parents incubate their three to four eggs. Young egrets are aggressive towards one another in the nest, and stronger siblings often kill their weaker kin so that not all survive to fledge in two to three weeks.

The great egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society and represents a conservation success story. The snowy white bird’s beautiful plumage made it far too popular in 19th-century North America. Great egrets were decimated by plume hunters who supplied purveyors of the latest ladies’ fashions. Their populations plunged by some 95 percent. Today the outlook is much brighter. The birds have enjoyed legal protection over the last century, and their numbers have increased substantially.

Peggy

The Gentle Barn

We’ve been looking for a charity to support.  The Gentle Barn combines everything we love: children and animals.

2019 Valentine profits from the CURIOUStotheMAX Zazzle sales will be donated to:

The Gentle Barn

Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.

“The Gentle Barn rescues animals from severe abuse and neglect who are too old, sick, lame, or scared to be adopted into homes. We are sanctuary to horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, llamas, peacocks, emus, cats and dogs.”

Once rehabilitated, the animals help us give hope and inspiration to children with the same stories:

At Risk Youth 

“The instant connection with the animals that is made each and every time we bring our boys there is almost impossible to describe without using words like “extraordinary,” and “uplifting.” There is more to the connection than just curiosity on both the boy’s and animals’ parts. There is an understanding of what it means to have a second chance. Whether you happen to walk on 2 feet, 4 hooves, or merely just enjoy the sensation of watching as two completely different creatures, human and animal, learn something that books can’t teach.”Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home

Special Needs Children

“I teach a class of eleven students, eight of which are autistic and three of which have general developmental delays.” – Special Education Teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District in a low-income neighborhood in Chinatown.”

“The Gentle Barn gave my students the opportunity to let go of what usually keeps them locked up inside. You gave them the opportunity to show kindness to another living being. You gave them the opportunity to pet, brush, feed, and take care of another living being. For most of them, this was the first time they could do any of these things.”

Educational Programs

“The hours we spent at The Gentle Barn were some of the most “teachable moments” I’ve come across in my 17 years as an educator. The children learned about the animals, of course, but they also learned a great deal about themselves, and were challenged to think in a new and different light than before.” – Sierra Canyon Middle School

Click on this link to visit our CURIOUStotheMAX Zazzle Store

The Gentle Barn is on a six-acre paradise in Santa Clarita, CA. “The property is complete with large horse and cow pastures, a red and white barnyard for the smaller animals, an organic vegetable garden, lots of shade trees, and a panoramic view of gorgeous mountains. The over one hundred and seventy rescued animals are safe and happy at The Gentle Barn, and there is plenty of room to welcome their visitors and the children they host.”

“The Gentle Barn has a second location in Nashville, Tennessee, and a third in St Louis, Missouri. It is their goal to open Gentle Barns in every state so that everyone in America can hug cows, cuddle turkeys, give pigs tummy rubs, and look into the eyes of these animals and know for certain that we are all the same, and deserving of the same rights, respects, and freedoms.

Since its inception, The Gentle Barn has saved thousands of animals and

been host to over 500,000 people.”

Our Inspiration – Maui and the Healing Power of the Brain

Anyone who has ever had a pet or watched wild critters knows animals are inspirational (I’m told there are even people who find reptiles, insects and other vermin fascinating – myself . . . I prefer mammals . . . but who’s to say . . .).

I’ve had a horse, Misty, dogs and cats.  My last kitty Maui, long after his passing, has been particularly inspirational:

  • Maui inspired me to write his story as a book to help children know that they too can flourish with patience and persistence.
  • Maui’s story is proof the brain, YOURS and mine, is capable of “rewiring” and “repatterning”. 

To read Maui’s story click here

  • Maui inspired Judy and I to create MAXyourMIND (formerly Catnipblog) to share neuroscience research and how we can all live better, healthier lives harnessing the power of our own minds.

Maui was part Siamese and lived up to the breed’s reputation of being intelligent, playful, social and quite mischievous.  

Maui

I named him for the jokester god of the Hawaiian islands. What happened to him was no joke.

When Maui was 11 years old, he had a  blocked ureter.  The treating vet told me Maui would not live.  I brought him home and helplessly watched Maui do nothing but lay on the floor with his chin on his favorite water bowl.  He didn’t eat for days and his back legs were weak.
One day Maui couldn’t move his back legs at all. The vet had neglected to tell me that cats not eating for 3 days or more can lead to heart problems which can result in a clot that blocks the femoral artery. The blockage causes the back legs to not function.  A permanent condition.

 The vet repeated Maui could die at any time and suggested putting him down. I was distraught.

Hope against hope, I took Maui home and helplessly watched him drag around with his two front legs.  It took him one human year or 7 cat years to rewire his brain and regain use of his back legs.

Maui taught me first hand about persistence, resiliency and how with patience the brain can be retrained  . . .  and the paws will follow.

For Maui and His Back Legs book, click here

Our human brains, too, have incredible plasticity.  Maximize aspects of your life by focusing on what you want and minimize what doesn’t support your wants and needs.

The old sayings “Practice Makes Perfect” and “The Power of Positive Thinking” have been proven accurate through scientific research . . . and Maui.

Peggy