One of my long time friends (whose initials are jw but shall remain nameless) is a bit of a sugarcarboholic and green isn’t her favorite food color. She also is in chronic pain and lacks energy. When I found this research I wanted to share itand I know she reads this blog.
The Chemistry of Joy
Our mood, outlook and energy levels are determined to a huge extent by the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and their relationship to one another.
We feel good when they are in balance. Beta endorphins also create a feeling of well-being, connectedness to others, and emotional stability. They even help us tolerate pain.
If levels of norepinephrine and dopamine are low,people will slow down, sleep a lot, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to motivate themselves.They can have a “sluggish” depression.
On the other hand, people with high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, and possibly low levels of serotonin often feel angry, resentful and despairing.They can be critical and demanding. This would be an “agitated ” depression.
A third kind of depression can occur with low levels of serotonin, which results in people feeling fearful , worried and inadequate. This is an “anxious” depression.
In the Kitchen by Peggy
Sluggish Depression – Eating to INCREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: Eat high quality proteins throughout the day, lean beef, low-fat meats and fish.
Agitated Depression – Eating to DECREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: eat the same as to increase serotonin but eat very small amounts of protein. A vegetarian diet would be good.
Anxious Depression – Eating to INCREASE serotonin: Increase carbs, eat tryptophan, which is in nuts, dairy, and meats. Eat regularly throughout the day. Get some protein, but not a large amount.
SUGAR (also alcohol) elevates beta endorphins, which may be why people have sugar cravings. This elevation only lasts a short time, because the body metabolizes it quickly. This results in a “low” that follows the sugar “high”, and you want more sugar! My friend (who shall remain nameless) can avoid this by eatingcomplex carbs and protein.
Cholesterol helps the brain make the chemicals we need. So if you are depressed, eat some fat: Halibut, salmon, grains and nuts that have omega 3 and animal fat with omega 6 are both needed in balance.
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Hopefully my friend will not only read this post but start to eat better. To make sure, I’ll suggest it for the book we are working on . . .
“Hacking Your Way to Happiness”(It’s a work in progress, just like my friend).
I’m here to help promote a petalicious book because my human and her blog-buddy Peggy Arndt are loath to toot their own horns, which is a human expression I fail to understand but because you are mostly human I think you know what I mean . . . but I digress.
If you’ve read CATNIPblogyou know that it is dedicated to Peggy’s cat Maui even though I maintain it should be dedicated to me, Freddie, since I do most of the work . . . but I digress.
Peggy has FINALLY after years and years of prodding published the children’s book she wrote for her granddaughter about her cat Maui who regained use of his paralyzed back legs. He did it by re-patterning his brain, even though I doubt Maui knew that’s what he was doing. That’s why, so they tell me, CATNIPblog is dedicated to Maui, because the blog is about how neuroscience research helps humans . . . but I digress.
Here’s the skinny, which is another human saying so ridiculous even human’s don’t know what it means:
Freddie Parker Westerfield, not Maui Arndt
“The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of
Maui and His Back Legs”
is now published on Kindle
*You have two choices to help make me happy & merry
1. Because you are my friend I’ve convinced Peggy you give you a free PDF copy of her book In return she will give me 5 minutes of scratching and petting for each downloaded PDF.
Each month we post “Happiness Hacks” on Catnipblog. They 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.
I love waterfalls!
One of my favorite places to go is the Columbia River Gorge, an area with the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America. There are over 90! I love it there and I will hike uphill for miles to see the waterfalls.
All my life I’ve loved the rain, going to the beach, having a water fountain in my yard, and taking showers. They all make me happy. Now I know why – negative ions.
Negative ions are produced by falling water and create changes in our levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves stress, increases energy and reduces depression
“Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.”
WebMD. Pierce J. Howard, PhD
The WebMD article goes on to say “The air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions — Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.”
Want to get negative ions?
Take a walk by a river or stream.
Walk in the rain.
Go to the beach.
Run in the sprinklers.
Have a water fight in a pool.
Hike to a waterfall.
Sit by a fountain.
Buy a negative ion generator for your home.
Or . . . just take a shower.
(I didn’t list “wash dishes by hand” or “scrub the floor on your knees” because I believe adding detergent to water MIGHT create positive ions which we all know are not mood elevators . . .)
“Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes” By Denise Mann, WebMD, June 2, 2003. The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain, by Pierce J. Howard, PhD Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, by Robert E. Thayer,
My last life drawing post Nude No More I complained that the models were wearing clothes. WELL! This last model was nude AND geeeeeeeorgeous: Tall, long, lean limbs, beautiful body, beautiful face, long blond hair and she was really nice . . . I was soooooooo jealous.
2 minute warm-up, charcoal
10 minute pose, charcoal on back of cereal box
10 minute pose, charcoal on back of cereal box
Some of the models never talk to the students. During their breaks they retreat to the dressing place or focus on their cell phones. This model was personable, looked at the drawings and chatted.
I was soooooooo jealous and told her not to come back until her body matched the lumps and bumps on our drawings.
Needing a bit of variety (getting bored with just drawing nudes), I signed up for a beginning painting class.
In order to not take myself too seriously and give myself permission to experiment I’m painting on the inside of cereal boxes. Canvas seemed much too intimidating and . . . the cereal boxes are free.
It’s a beginning oil painting class but 3 of us are using acrylic paint. Acrylic is water based, dries fast (helps with my boredom quotient) and doesn’t have stinky solvent. For the first lesson the teacher sent us a picture of a black and white alabaster bust of a small innocent looking child.
It’s challenging to say the least. My paintings turned into alien babies. After being initially aghast at how I transformed the innocent little child into someone from the outer realms I started to have fun painting alien babies.
My “art” posts are a bit sporadic, as is my energy. Have missed several classes cuz I is too pooped to pop . . . or in this case draw.
The life drawing class starts with very fast – today it was 30 seconds – warm-up sketches. These “quickies” are just to capture a single aspect of the model, like the way the body is . The poses for the remainder of the class range anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
15 minute poses
I’ve discovered I don’t have a lot of patience and am into “quickies”.
I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter. It concerned me when a therapist colleague said “not remembering” was an indication of repressed memory probably of horrible childhood trauma. Ai yiiii yiiiiii. Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.
I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction”thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst. He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”
This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion. What does that have to do with hang-over? Read on!
You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.
“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience,also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”
“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,”explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”
“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’
” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”
“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.
I’m so relieved! Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . . the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the result of my exceptionally boring life.
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual … “
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
Hold up your hand for just a second. Feel anything?
At any given second 100 trillion neutrinos are passing through your body . . .RIGHT NOW.
The majority of neutrinos in the vicinity of the Earth are from nuclear reactions in the Sun. The solar neutrino flux for us on Earth is about 65 billion neutrinos, passing through just one square centimeter of area on earth, every second. That’s a lot of neutrinos and we are not able to see them, sense them nor understand them.
There is so much, too much, that is not perceivable to our limited senses nor explainable by our reason.
I was a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years. Not only did people share their fears and sorrows but unexplainable encounters with spirits, near death experiences and life altering experiences with the divine. I admit I was sometimes skeptical. Over time it became impossible, to dismiss what intelligent, discerning people shared.
I now think of science as one wing and religion as the other wing of a bird; a bird needs two wings for flight, one alone would be useless . . .
. . . and I circled back to my study of faith and my belief we live a domino life where when one falls we all fall, where one succeeds we all succeed. I discovered two faiths I’d not originally studied – Unitarian Universalism and Baha’i. They not only complemented each other but each offered something a bit different.
Baha’is believe in and share all the UU principles:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
. . . and most importantly the 7th UU principle –
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The Baha’i World Faith brought me full circle back to childhood and to God but it wasn’t the God of fear but of love.
When I read the three core principles which are the basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity. From these stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers: Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna the Bab and Bahá’u’lláh. It was an “ah-ha moment for me that all establishers of religion. the great religions of the world, represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. That religion is seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age unexpectedly resonated.
Through decades of trials and tribulations I realize the magical thinking in my childhood, that the world revolved around me, wasn’t quite accurate . . . however,
. . . perhaps some magical thinking persists 60+ years later. Every morning I say a Baha’i prayer for family, friends, acquaintances, past clients and a prayer for those who have passed. The recitation of all the people grows longer each day and takes longer than the prayers . . . The difference between then and now is my prayers are steeped in love, not terror.
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I’m attending a sermon writing workshop led by Kent Doss, the reverend at Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation – not because I plan to deliver sermons but because I’m fascinated how ministers, rabbi’s, priests and preachers write and deliver something inspiring enough to capture the imagination and stir humans to transformative right action. week after week after week which seems a daunting undertaking.
To read Part I, The Interconnectedness of All Beings click HERE
As you read on my last Mini-Sermon post – I didn’t pray again for 50 years*. During those decades I studied or was exposed to the tenants of many faiths and beliefs: Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist and even atheist.
I discovered two things: First, the bedrock of all religions is love, compassion, unity and the interconnectedness of all beings. Second, no matter what belief I studied something was amiss to me. It just didn’t make sense (if belief could ever make rational sense) how each could claim to be the only truth, the true spiritual path.
So scientific research became my focus and bolstered my belief in the interconnectedness of all humans (and animals). With newer and newer technology the science continues to be even more fascinating and compelling. Here’s just a small sample**:
Mirror Neurons – These are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. This neural mechanism is involuntary and automatic and with it we don’t have to think about what other people are doing or feeling, we simply know. When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.
Touch– When you hug another person, brains release oxytocin and causes secretions of endorphins.You don’t have to be in love, have sex, or give birth to get a boost of oxytocin (although these experiences certainly do that). Cuddling, hugging, making eye contact, and even shaking hands gets oxytocin, the bonding hormone, flowing
Epigenetics – Scientists have long-known that parents pass genetic traits down to their children, current research suggests that life experiences like famine, trauma, stress can also produce chemical effects in DNA which shorten life-spans, appear as anxiety, depression and fear, inherited through generations and generations down the line.
Neural synchrony – Singing in groups triggers the communal release of serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and synchronizes our heart beats. When we pet an animal our blood pressure lowers and even more astounding their blood pressure lowers too. Studies of 3-month-old infants and their mothers have determined their heartbeats synchronize to mere milliseconds.
The electrical neuronal activity of two people involved in an act of communication “synchronize” in order to allow for a “connection” between both subjects. The rhythms of the brainwaves corresponding to the speaker and the listener adjust according to the physical properties of the sound of the verbal messages expressed in a conversation. This creates a connection between the two brains, which begin to work together towards a common goal: communication.
Scientists can find out if two people are having a conversation solely by analyzing their brain waves.
There is more research but just these four areas alone reinforce my belief in the interconnectedness of all beings. Next . . . our inter-glactic connection on Mini Sermon, Part III.
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To read Part I, Interconnectedness of all Beings click HERE
In anticipation of National Napping Day, observed annually the day following the return of daylight saving time, I’ve taken 2 hour naps every day for a week. National Napping Day is supposed to provide everyone with the opportunity to have a nap and catch up on the hour of sleep they lost due to the spring forward time change. Personally, I would prefer no time change and instead of N.N.Day we had a National No-Time-Change Day.
Curious Critters Catching Zzzz’s by Peggy
Mid-afternoon naps are an integral part of many cultures, and scientifically proven to be good for you.
A needed rest is supposed to make you feel better, improve your mood, be more productive and energetic. After my 2 hour naps I felt groggy, foggy, like muck.
Researching National Nap Day, I read that numerous studies have shown that short 10-20 minute naps are the most effective when midday fatigue hits. Improvements in alertness, productivity and mood have all been shown to improve with this type of snooze.
Apparently 10 – 20 minutes prevents your brain waves from going into deep sleep which is what creates the grogginess when you wake up
Now, they tell me . . .
William Anthony, Ph.D., a Boston University Professor and his wife, Camille Anthony, created National Napping Day in 1999 as an effort to spotlight the health benefits to catching up on quality sleep. “We chose this particular Monday because Americans are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time,” Anthony said.
Turns out there’s added benefits when you add nuts and berries.
Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other things, DHA has been shown to improve cognitive performance in adults, prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline and lower resting blood pressure. One study even shows that mothers who get enough DHA have smarter kids.
Just a quarter cup of walnuts provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.
Strong scientific evidence also exists that eating berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes.*
“Berry fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals. The two also report that berry fruits change the way neurons in the brain communicate. These changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition.”
Woof Woof Bark Bark
Woofer’s Bark Bark, a good for your brain’s Valentine treat
1 lb 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated or 6 oz. bag of dark chocolate chips
1 ½ cups roasted walnuts or almonds, unsalted
1/2 cup dried raspberries (other dried berries will work)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in microwave oven or stir chocolate in a double boiler until melted.
Add nuts & berries and stir quickly to combine. (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
Spread chocolate-berry-nut mixture on parchment paper, keeping nuts in a single layer.
Sprinkle top with the remaining berry-nut mixture.
Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.
Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.
Click here and on the Pinterest pictures for other chocolate recipes, and more about chocolate: