Fur Fun: Life Lessons from Noah’s Ark

  1. Don’t miss the boat.

  2. Remember that we are all in the SAME boat.

  3. Plan ahead.  It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

  4. Stay fit.  When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something REALLY big.

  5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

  6. Build your future on high ground.

  7. For safety sake, travel in pairs.

  8. Speed isn’t always an advantage.  The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

  9. When you’re stressed, float a while

  10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

  11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

However,

The woodpecker might have to go!

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 

 

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

 

 

 

You’ve got a Microbiome!

 They call us “home”

our microbiome.

Our body spews 

a cloud no one can see

Bacteria, viruses, fungi

intermingling you and me

Releasing microbes in the air

from head to toe where ever we go

Because they’re here to stay

Don’t waste your money

on bug spray

If you don’t believe me read: wherever-you-go-your-personal-cloud-of-microbes-follows

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An excerpt:

“Each of us carries around millions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and viruses — on the inner and outer surfaces of our bodies. Most of them aren’t dangerous. In fact, growing evidence indicates that they help us in lots of ways. Scientists call this collection of organisms our microbiome.”

‘”A lot of the recent work on the human microbiome has revealed that we’re kind of spilling our microbial companions all over our houses and our offices and the people around us,” Meadow says.”

“Meadow says the findings raise a number of possibilities, including, maybe, one day being able to identify a criminal by analyzing the microbial cloud he or she leaves behind at the scene.”

We know that if you live with people, and even if you just work with people, your microbial communities come to resemble theirs over time, Knight says. “And in the past we used to think that was due to touch. It may be just that you’re releasing microbes into the air and some of those microbes are colonizing the people you’re with.”

Giving amnesty to Daddy-longlegs

A Daddy-longlegs spider lives in my bathroom. It might be a Mommy-longlegs as she’s quite petite.  My eyesight isn’t good enough to tell her gender.  Even if I could I’m not sure what to look for . . .

I let her live there peacefully since we have a lot in common.  She’s discrete, I’ve never seen her entertain overnight visitors and quite tidy as I’ve never found any droppings of  left-overs from digested meals.   She leads a very monastic existence as do I (on occasion).

A Daddy Short-Legs Spider

A Daddy Short-Legs Spider

I’m not afraid of spiders (except those bigger than my thumb).  I try to steer clear of them because when I get bitten by one I have a painful, very painful,  allergic response. There is a legend that Daddy-longlegs are deadly venomous spiders which, after careful research, I found not to be true:

“Daddy-longlegs spiders (Pholcidae)There is no reference to any pholcid spider biting a human and causing any detrimental reaction. If these spiders were indeed deadly poisonous but couldn’t bite humans, then the only way we would know that they are poisonous is by milking them and injecting the venom into humans. For a variety of reasons including Amnesty International and a humanitarian code of ethics, this research has never been done. . . . Therefore, no information is available on the likely toxic effects of their venom in humans, so the part of the myth about their being especially poisonous is just that: a myth.”  http://spiders.ucr.edu/daddylonglegs.htm

I hesitate to get too chummy or name her because one day, should she decide to venture down from her post on the window near the ceiling and try to share my counter space, I might have to kill her.

(And with that, I sound like much of the world fighting for and protecting territory.  Perhaps it’s not so mysterious why we don’t have world peace?)

 

Can you imagine what it will be like 50 years from now?

Scientists have grown the entire forelimb of a rat in a lab . . . and it moves!

 Hidden in plain sight

God’s miraculous secrets*

Waiting to be found

photo curtesy of

Bernhard Jank, MD/Ott Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine

Dr. Harold Ott, head of the Ott Laboratory for Organ Engineering and Regeneration, and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston were able to “engineer rat forelimbs with functioning vascular and muscle tissue,”  . . .

“This may be an important first step leading to the eventual creation of functional, bioartificial limbs that could be used in transplants.”

Ott says this work “finally proved that we can regenerate functional muscle.” (They know because they ran an electrical current through the muscle tissue — and the little rat limb began to twitch).”

“They’ve since applied the first part of this technology — stripping cells from the framework — to the arms of primates, showing the process might work on the human scale.”

Read the article: In Massachusetts Lab Scientists Grow an Artificial Rat Limb

“T” is for Terrible Terror Bird

Have you ever heard of the Terror Bird?

He was real,  it’s not absurd

At ten feet tall

his turds weren’t small

and his face alone

could turn you to stone

It would have frightened me so

to be kicked with his toe

knocked out with his breath

then  pecked to death

 What could I say to not be his prey?

“Good day, Mr Bird, I won’t get in your way”

“Whatever you want, whatever you say”

“It’s not nice to eat

my flesh for your meat”

It’s a relief to now know

His reign is no go

Terror Bird is toast

just bones at the most

or maybe . . . a 40 pound roast?

“An army of huge carnivorous “terror birds” — some as big as 10 feet tall — ruled South America for tens of millions of years before going extinct some 2.5 million years ago.”

“Now, with the discovery of a new species of terror bird called Llallawavis scagliai [in Argentina] paleontologists are gaining fresh insight into this fearsome family of top predators.”

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“Llallawavis likely lived around 3.5 million years ago, near the end of terror birds’ reign, according to the researchers. It stood about four feet tall and weighed about 40 pounds.”

An article describing the findings was published online March 20 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/10/terror-bird-fossil-discovered_n_7040716.html