How to Sleep Better: 6 cool cat tips & 4 human techniques

Did you know sleep isn’t for your body?  Sleep is for your brain.  When completely deprived of sleep, for only a few days, research shows that at best our immune system is depressed, we have trouble concentrating or processing information and at worst become paranoid and schizophrenic.

sleep-small

Maui, my cat, was a superb sleeper. No matter where I went in the house I found him stretched out. Whatever magically found its way to the floor (I certainly never put it there) I’d find him asleep on it – pillows, magazines, empty boxes, dirty clothes . . . new clothes. A particular comfy spot was in the middle of a pathway at the top or bottom of the stairs.

As far as I could tell Maui was never sleep deprived, paranoid or schizophrenic.

sleepfoot

Superbly Sleeping

Maui’s Tips for a Good Nights Sleep . . . for humans only

  1. Exercise every day but never just before bedtime. (Chasing things like children and dreams doesn’t count)
  2. Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine (catnip is fine).
  3. Have a relaxing bedtime routine (stretch, turn in circles and always clean your paws and teeth).
  4. Keep the room temperature cool.  It helps us hibernate.
  5. Limit catnapping during the day to 10 minutes, 20 minutes max.  Any longer and your brain goes into deep sleep (and you’ll be a ornery cat when you wake up)
  6. Keep your bedtime consistent. 
  7. Don’t sleep all day and be up all night – it messes with your circadian rhythm.

Peggy’s Tips on Sleeping Well

  • Mind won’t shut off? Do a brain dump 30 minutes before bed. Write down your worries, things to do, random thoughts until your brain is empty. (takes about 3 days for this to work, but it works!)

  • Talk to your brain.  Assure your brain it can solve any problem or cope with difficulties much better when you are rested.  Your unconscious mind is always working and give you solutions while you sleep.

  • Get bright sunlight in the morning when you first wake up.  Go outside if you can.  Even if it is cloudy you get 3000 lumens vs 200 inside. (That’s a lot of lumens!)

  • Turn off cell phones, computers – anything that emits blue light.  It keeps the brain awake. 

Here’s a bonus tip to help you sleep well!!

Buy Guatemalan Worry Cats from the Greater Good Site  Charity Site

images

Handmade Guatemalan Worry Cats

 http://GreaterGood.com

Tell them your troubles and they’ll worry for you while you sleep!

Sleep even better knowing you’ve contributed to worthy causes.

This post first appeared on Max Your Mind. Click here to see more like it. 

Sneak Peak into my painted pears & favorite foods

After painting ice cream sundaes, cupcakes, doughnuts and pecan pie I did a “chaser” of fruit.  It wasn’t as fun as the desert but a lot easier than dripping ice cream or frosting. (jw)

Acrylic

Fruit Chaser

Appetizer

Main Course

How Many Symptoms of Happiness Do You Have?

I was embarrassed!

Patients who had just been released from the hospital’s psychiatric unit caught me red-handed.   I was leading a group therapy session about how important it is to focus on the positive – what they wanted instead of what they did not want. I went on and on explaining that when we think negatively the neo-cortex part of our brains triggers neuro-chemical emotions which correspond to those thoughts.

Not happy

I smoothly segwayed into explaining the many symptoms of depression. The patients had been listening, and stopped me by not so diplomatically pointing out I was focusing on the negative. Lesson learned!  MY lesson learned.

The group decided that instead of learning symptoms of depression, they would create a list of  symptoms of happiness.  Here’s their list:

Symptoms of Happiness

  1. Feeling good (or at least “decent”) most of the day, for two weeks or more.
  2. Eating an appropriate amount of food with good appetite.
  3. Sleeping well and awakening refreshed.
  4. Taking pleasure in most everyday activities and enjoying fun activities.
  5. Having a good energy level most of the day, every day, for two weeks or more.
  6. Having thoughts of fun or good times to come.
  7. Being able to concentrate on the activity on hand.
  8. Thinking that one’s life matters.
  9. Able to exercise three times a week for half an hour, or more.
  10. Socialize in person or on the phone with 5 to 7 people each week. (FaceTime and zoom count too)
  11. Laugh or at least smile every day.

    tailupsmall

    Happy is as Happy Thinks

Tell us what your happiness “symptoms” are.

PA

Are you one of the 30% who is sensitive to negative ions?

Am I lucky, or what!  Not only do I live in a house with running water, I live close to the  ocean (Pacific to be exact).  There’s evidence that some people are especially sensitive to the effects of water and even feel their mood lifted by fresh, humid air.

Roughly one-third of the population seems to be particularly sensitive to negative-ion depletion . . .  can lead to feeling “down” at best and depressed at worst.

I am one of the 30%.  Even a humid breeze lifts my spirits.  I remember getting off a plane in Hawaii, breathing in the fresh, humid breeze and instantly feeling my mood elevate.  Perhaps it’s not only the incredible beauty of islands that attracts but the humidity that lifts the spirits?

“Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants.”

scan-11

The atmosphere we breathe, normally is full of positive and negative ions. However, air conditioning, lack of ventilation, and long dry spells remove negative ions from the air.  The proportion of negative ions is highest around moving water – storms, oceans, rivers, waterfalls.  No wonder I feel so energized at the beach.

The best ratios of negative to positive ions are associated with waterfalls and the time before, during, and after storms. The worst are found in windowless rooms and closed, moving vehicles. Air purifiers typically work by emitting negative ions, which purify room air by attaching to impurities and sinking them.

Marian Diamond, professor of neuroanatomy, University of California, Berkeley, found that levels of negative ions are inversely related to levels of serotonin in the brain. Negative ions suppress serotonin levels in much the same way that natural sunlight suppresses melatonin.

Deplete the air of negative ions and you experience an increase in serotonin and its attendant drowsiness and relaxation—not what you want when mental agility is demanded.

Feeling a bit down right now?  Go take a shower . . . or move to Hawaii . . .

(PeggyA)

Source: Robert E. Thayer,  Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal

Read Falling Water Raising  Spirits for more ion information.

This post was originally on Max Your Mind.  For more from Max Your Mind, click here.

Neuroscience Gives me a Pass for “laziness”

My earliest memory was my mother waking me up. It was dark outside and chilly inside.  I don’t remember how many times she came into my room to get me out of bed.  I do remember pulling the covers over my head and refusing to get up in the dark and cold to get ready for pre-school . . .  

Mom was the first to give up our morning battle and I started kindergarten with “learning deficits”. Decades later I continue to not want to greet the new day until it is DAYtime. Morning and me ain’t buddies.

Furthermore, people, like Peggy, who bound out of bed alert and cheerful are jarring at best and obnoxious at worst.  

I take umbrage at being labeled “lazy” by you early-morning-worshipers who think those of us who understand that moving any extremity in increments larger than a few inches is not natural before 10 am. 

NOW!  FINALLY I’m vindicated!!!  Read this excerpt!  (jw)

“As anyone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning knows, fighting laziness is a losing battle. From beneath the covers, the world outside seems colder; the commute to work seems longer; the number of e-mails to answer unbearably high. Authority figures may chalk our lethargy to lack of self-discipline, but . . . 

. . . new research suggests that we’re just being our true selves: Choosing the path of least resistance, scientists argue, is hard-wired into our brains.” (What a relief.  I thought my wiring was simply “loose”)

“When we make decisions to act (or not), the brain thinks like an economist and runs a cost-benefit analysis. If the “cost to act,” as the researchers call it, is too high, it can bias our decision-making process, making us less likely to do things.  Applied cleverly, their findings can help us do things that we should be doing — and those that we should be avoiding. For example, going to the gym in the morning could seem more effortless if you sleep in your sweats, just as stashing your booze on a hard-to-reach shelf might make drinking it seem like more effort than its worth. There’s no guarantee that these hacks will work, but . . . “

“. . . if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that we’ll always take the easy route when it’s available — and becoming less lazy may simply come down to avoiding that option altogether.”

If you don’t believe me read the article: Neuroscientists Just Gave Lazy Humans a Free Pass

Originally posted on Max Your Mind. To see more from Max Your Mind, click here.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”*

I’m “prone” to procrastination.  I’m not talking about things that are tedious, difficult, unappealing or boring.  I’m talking about things that interest me.  

These 3 things often feed my hesitancy to start or finish a project:

  • Wanting to do something “perfectly” (or at least competently)
  • Waiting for the “perfect time” before starting.
  • Thinking that everyone else does it perfectly so I should do on first try.

Collage by judy

From now on “Do it Badly” is my motto to give me the courage to try new things, stop me from focusing on the outcome and have more fun.

“Do it Badly” today and . . .  improve as I go.

(jw)

Let us know if this works for you.

*writer and poet GK Chesterton

Mind over Matter – Maui the Miracle Cat & Cassidy the Miracle Kitten

Maui, my cat was the inspiration for MAXyourMIND blog where we focus on neuroscience research for all forms of wellness – mind, body and soul.  Maui’s healing journey taught me that with time and persistence retraining the brain is possible.  

Watching Maui struggle to walk and his recovery set the stage for my interest in the neuroplasticity of the human brain and how our our thoughts and behavior actually change the structure and neuro-connectivity in the brain.  When I was a practicing psychotherapist and working with in-patients in a hospital what I learned about neuro-science I taught my clients.

Luckily animals don’t have the ego that gets us humans in trouble. Animals with “disabilities” prove time and time again that living life, rather than bemoaning what they lack, is yet another important lesson.

Take a look at Cassidy, The Miracle Kitten!

See how Cassidy, the two-legged #MiracleKitten is doing 7 months after his rescue.

Be inspired!

Click here and read about Maui’s Healing Tale

Peggy

Just Say’n . . .

The early bird

“gets” the worm.

(LOVE_no_need_to_explain_poster available on Zazzle, click here)

Check out other Curious Critters and  inspirational sayings on Max Your Mind every Pausitively TUESDAY

There’s an Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation, Series ON!

If indeed you despair

Isolation needn’t be a bear

Find your own elephant  

 whose advice waxes eloquent

(not to mention relevant)

And if your friends are petulant

 please share!

We’re all about self-care

Click on each image to read Elph’s guidance

First Week of Self Isolation

Second Week of Self Isolation

Third Week of Self Isolation

 

 

 

The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation, Knitting Us All Together

The Elephant Says:

Don’t just sit and stare

Let’s knit and prepare

Something warm to wear

Winter is near

and we may still be here . . . 

Get Inspired by Peggy

Week #1 The Elephant in the Room

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Get Involved by Peggy

How to spend Week #2, The Elephant in the Room

Click here for: So, Sew Sew Sew

Click here for: Do it Up

Click here for: Self Isolation, Veg About

Get Creative by Peggy

Click here to  Week #3

Click here for: Posing

 Click here for: Going out’a your mind purposely

Click here for : Dye Job

The Elephant in the Room – Going out’a your mind purposely

The Elephant says:

 When you’re going crazy

 breath deep and meditate

a pillow for your bum

and sit up very straight

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Elephant in the Room: It’s to dye for

Elephant says:

It’s a new day

time for a new do

a little color, a bit of spray

so the real you shines through

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Why smart people believe coronavirus myths

(We are posting this article in its entirety, including pictures, because of it’s importance to the health and safety of everyone.)

By David Robson
6th April 2020

“From students to politicians, many smart people have fallen for dangerous lies spread about the new coronavirus. Why? And how can you protect yourself from misinformation?

It is a sad truth that any health crisis will spawn its own pandemic of misinformation.

In the 80s, 90s, and 2000s we saw the spread of dangerous lies about Aids – fromthe belief that the HIV virus was created by a government laboratory to the idea that the HIV tests were unreliable, and even the spectacularly unfounded theory that it could be treated with goat’s milk. These claims increased risky behaviour and exacerbated the crisis.

Now, we are seeing a fresh inundation of fake news – this time around the coronavirus pandemic. From Facebook to WhatsApp, frequently shared misinformation include everything from what caused the outbreak to how you can prevent becoming ill.

In past decades, dangerous lies spread about Aids which exacerbated the crisis (Credit: Getty Images)

We’ve debunked several claims here on BBC Future, including misinformation around how sunshine, warm weather and drinking water can affect the coronavirus. The BBC’s Reality Check team is also checking popular coronavirus claims, and the World Health Organization is keeping a myth-busting pageregularly updated too.

At worst, the ideas themselves are harmful – a recent report from one province in Iran found that more people had died from drinking industrial-strength alcohol, based on a false claim that it could protect you from Covid-19, than from the virus itself. But even seemingly innocuous ideas could lure you and others into a false sense of security, discouraging you from adhering to government guidelines, and eroding trust in health officials and organisations.

There’s evidence these ideas are sticking. One poll by YouGov and the Economist in March 2020 found 13% of Americans believed the Covid-19 crisis was a hoax,for example, while a whopping 49% believed the epidemic might be man-made. And while you might hope that greater brainpower or education would help us to tell fact from fiction, it is easy to find examples of many educated people falling for this false information.

Just consider the writer Kelly Brogan, a prominent Covid-19 conspiracy theorist; she has a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied psychiatry at Cornell University. Yet she has shunned clear evidence of the virus’s danger in countries like China and Italy. She even went as far as to question the basic tenets of germ theory itself while endorsing pseudoscientific ideas.

Kelly Brogan received a medical degree from Cornell University, yet has questioned germ theory and the existence of Covid-19 (Credit: Getty Images)

Even some world leaders – who you would hope to have greater discernment when it comes to unfounded rumours – have been guilty of spreading inaccurate information about the risk of the outbreak and promoting unproven remedies that may do more harm than good, leading Twitter and Facebook to take the unprecedented step of removing their posts.  

Fortunately, psychologists are already studying this phenomenon. And what they find might suggest new ways to protect ourselves from lies and help stem the spread of this misinformation and foolish behaviour.

Information overload

Part of the problem arises from the nature of the messages themselves.

We are bombarded with information all day, every day, and we therefore often rely on our intuition to decide whether something is accurate. As BBC Future has described in the past, purveyors of fake news can make their message feel “truthy” through a few simple tricks, which discourages us from applying our critical thinking skills – such as checking the veracity of its source. As the authors of one paper put it: “When thoughts flow smoothly, people nod along.”

Eryn Newman at Australian National University, for instance, has shown that the simple presence of an image alongside a statement increases our trust in its accuracy – even if it is only tangentially related to the claim. A generic image of a virus accompanying some claim about a new treatment, say, may offer no proof of the statement itself, but it helps us visualise the general scenario. We take that “processing fluency” as a sign that the claim is true.

The mere presence of an image alongside a statement increases our trust in its accuracy (Credit: Getty Images)

For similar reasons, misinformation will include descriptive language or vivid personal stories. It will also feature just enough familiar facts or figures – such as mentioning the name of a recognised medical body – to make the lie within feel convincing, allowing it to tether itself to our previous knowledge.

The more often we see something in our news feed, the more likely we are to think that it’s true – even if we were originally sceptical

Even the simple repetition of a statement – whether the same text, or over multiple messages – can increase the “truthiness” by increasing feelings of familiarity, which we mistake for factual accuracy. So, the more often we see something in our news feed, the more likely we are to think that it’s true – even if we were originally sceptical.

Sharing before thinking

These tricks have long been known by propagandists and peddlers of misinformation, but today’s social media may exaggerate our gullible tendencies. Recent evidence shows that many people reflexively share content without even thinking about its accuracy.

In one study, only about 25% of participants said the fake news was true– but 35% said they would share the headline

Gordon Pennycook, a leading researcher into the psychology of misinformation at the University of Regina, Canada, asked participants to consider a mixture of true and false headlines about the coronavirus outbreak. When they were specifically asked to judge the accuracy of the statements, the participants said the fake news was true about 25% of time. When they were simply asked whether they wouldshare the headline, however, around 35% said they would pass on the fake news – 10% more.

“It suggests people were sharing material that they could have known was false, if they had thought about it more directly,” Pennycook says. (Like much of the cutting-edge research on Covid-19, this research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but a pre-print has been uploaded to the Psyarxiv website.)

Perhaps their brains were engaged in wondering whether a statement would get likes and retweets rather than considering its accuracy. “Social media doesn’t incentivise truth,” Pennycook says. “What it incentivises is engagement.”

Research suggests that some people share material they would know was false if they thought about it more directly (Credit: Getty Images)

Or perhaps they thought they could shift responsibility on to others to judge: many people have been sharing false information with a sort of disclaimer at the top, saying something like “I don’t know if this is true, but…”. They may think that if there’s any truth to the information, it could be helpful to friends and followers, and if it isn’t true, it’s harmless – so the impetus is to share it, not realising that sharing causes harm too.

Whether it’s promises of a homemade remedy or claims about some kind of dark government cover-up, the promise of eliciting a strong response in their followers distracts people from the obvious question.

This question should be, of course: is it true?

Override reactions

Classic psychological research shows that some people are naturally better at overriding their reflexive responses than others. This finding may help us understand why some people are more susceptible to fake news than others.

Researchers like Pennycook use a tool called the “cognitive reflection test” or CRT to measure this tendency. To understand how it works, consider the following question:

  • Emily’s father has three daughters. The first two are named April and May. What is the third daughter’s name?

Did you answer June? That’s the intuitive answer that many people give – but the correct answer is, of course, Emily.

To come to that solution, you need to pause and override that initial gut response. For this reason, CRT questions are not so much a test of raw intelligence, as a test of someone’s tendency to employ their intelligence by thinking things through in a deliberative, analytical fashion, rather than going with your initial intuitions. The people who don’t do this are often called “cognitive misers” by psychologists, since they may be in possession of substantial mental reserves, but they don’t “spend” them.

Cognitive miserliness renders us susceptible to many cognitive biases, and it also seems to change the way we consume information (and misinformation).

We consume headlines and posts differently depending on our amount of ‘cognitive miserliness’ (Credit: Getty Images)

When it came to the coronavirus statements, for instance, Pennycook found that people who scored badly on the CRT were less discerning in the statements that they believed and were willing to share.

Matthew Stanley, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has reported a similar pattern in people’s susceptibility to the coronavirus hoax theories. Remember that around 13% of US citizens believed this theory, which could potentially discourage hygiene and social distancing. “Thirteen percent seems like plenty to make this [virus] go around very quickly,” Stanley says.

Testing participants soon after the original YouGov/Economist poll was conducted, he found that people who scored worse on the CRT were significantly more susceptible to these flawed arguments.

These cognitive misers were also less likely to report having changed their behaviour to stop the disease from spreading – such as handwashing and social distancing.

Stop the spread

Knowing that many people – even the intelligent and educated – have these “miserly” tendencies to accept misinformation at face value might help us to stop the spread of misinformation.

Given the work on truthiness – the idea that we “nod along when thoughts flow smoothly” – organisations attempting to debunk a myth should avoid being overly complex.

To fight misinformation, it’s important to present the facts as simply as possible (Credit: Getty Images)

Instead, they should present the facts as simply as possible – preferably with aids like images and graphs that make the ideas easier to visualise. As Stanley puts it: “We need more communications and strategy work to target those folks who are not as willing to be reflective and deliberative.” It’s simply not good enough to present a sound argument and hope that it sticks.

If they can, these campaigns should avoid repeating the myths themselves. The repetition makes the idea feel more familiar, which could increase perceptions of truthiness. That’s not always possible, of course. But campaigns can at least try to make the true facts more prominent and more memorable than the myths, so they are more likely to stick in people’s minds. (It is for this reason that I’ve given as little information as possible about the hoax theories in this article.)

When it comes to our own online behaviour, we might try to disengage from the emotion of the content and think a bit more about its factual basis before passing it on. Is it based on hearsay or hard scientific evidence? Can you trace it back to the original source? How does it compare to the existing data? And is the author relying on the common logical fallacies to make their case?

One thing we can do is simply think about a post’s factual basis before we pass it on (Credit: Getty Images)

These are the questions that we should be asking – rather than whether or not the post is going to start amassing likes, or whether it “could” be helpful to others. And there is some evidence that we can all get better at this kind of thinking with practice.

Pennycook suggests that social media networks could nudge their users to be more discerning with relatively straightforward interventions. In his experiments, he found that asking participants to rate the factual accuracy of a single claim primed participants to start thinking more critically about other statements, so that they were more than twice as discerning about the information they shared.

In practice, it might be as simple as a social media platform providing the occasional automated reminder to think twice before sharing, though careful testing could help the companies to find the most reliable strategy, he says.

There is no panacea. Like our attempts to contain the virus itself, we are going to need a multi-pronged approach to fight the dissemination of dangerous and potentially life-threatening misinformation.

And as the crisis deepens, it will be everyone’s responsibility to stem that spread.”

_____________________________________________
David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap, which examines why smart people act foolishly and the ways we can all make wiser decisions. He is @d_a_robson on Twitter.

As an award-winning science site, BBC Future is committed to bringing you evidence-based analysis and myth-busting stories around the new coronavirus. You can read more of our Covid-19 coverage here.   https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200406-why-smart-people-believe-coronavirus-myths?xtor=ES-213-[BBC%20Features%20Newsletter]-2020April17-[Future%7c+Button]

The Elephant in the Room: Posing

Elephant Says:

Don’t be lame

Get off your bum

Stretch, don’t strain

calm your brain

Yoga-phant by Peggy

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Frankly Freddie – It’s her birthday!!!!!!!!!!

Dear all my Freddie Fans,
It’s Peggy’s birthday today


I won’t tell you her age
But she’s reached that stage
When considered a sage.
Tho no longer a pup
She still whoops it up
Please send her some “licks”
from your ruby red lips

Peggy by Peggy

Happy Birthday Peggy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From FreddieL, L, L, L, L, L, L, L

(air kisses)

The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation: Veg About

The Elephant says:

Since it’s only us

Here’s our new plan

No need to cook

Eat out of the can.

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The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation : Sooooo Sew Sew Sew

  The Elephants says:

As long as you’re sitting

Let’s make masks

Give back to others

Live up to the task

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The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation: Do It Up

The Elephant says:

Hair’s turning grey

You’re no longer a pup

No need to be dowdy

Let’s gussy you up

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The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation, Selfie Rumba

The Elephant says:

Take some selfies, send to friends

Show ’em you’re hip

Come on, let’s dance

Put on a dress

Get out of those pants

 

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Messy is ME – making a mess of my life on purpose

Declutter! Focus! Do one-thing-at-a-time! Plan! Schedule!

There are thousands of books and articles on how to be organized.  I’ve read them.  I understand them.  I don’t follow them.

I rarely keep a things-to-do list.  I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda person.  My  process is divergent, I am a piler not a filer, not logical and I used to think there was something wrong with me. (jw)

AND NOW I’m vindicated!  Read this excerpt*:

“Sometimes, we place too much faith in the idea that if something looks well-organized, then we’ve got our lives under control.”

“It’s all too easy to fall into this trap. Many of us feel embarrassed about our cluttered desks, for example, assuming that they are an externalization of our internal chaos. Yet emptying your desk may, ironically, clutter your mind more than ever. All those tasks—read that book, reply to that letter, pay that bill—still exist. But lacking physical reminders that you trust, you may be forced to rely on your subconscious to remind you of all these incomplete tasks. Your subconscious will do a pretty good job of that: it will remind you every few minutes. An empty desk can mean an anxious mind.”

Piler Cat by Peggy

“Nor are empty-deskers necessarily better organized in their work lives. In 2001, Steve Whittaker and Julia Hirschberg, then researchers at AT&T Labs, studied the behavior (pdf) of “filers”, who scrupulously file away their paperwork, and “pilers” who let it accumulate on their desk and any other convenient horizontal surface.”

“. . .  the researchers discovered that the “filers” accumulated bloated archives full of useless chaff. Whittaker has a term for this: “premature filing.” That’s what happens when we take a new document and promptly file it in a fit of tidy-mindedness before we really understand what it means, how it fits into our ongoing commitments, and whether we need to keep it at all. The result: duplicate folders, folders within folders, folders holding just a single document, and filing cabinets that serve as highly-structured trash cans.”

“Meanwhile, the “pilers” flourished. They were much more likely to throw paperwork away—after all, it was in plain sight on their desks—and when they did file something, they were more likely to understand it. Paradoxically, the messy workers had lean, practical and well-used archives. Their organizational system was messy, but it worked.”

“It’s possible to over-structure your life in other ways, too. As the psychologist Marc Wittman told Quartz in August, a partly or wholly unplanned holiday tends to feel longer and fuller than a holiday in which every decision has been made in advance. Critical decisions have to be made in the moment, which means you pay more attention to what’s happening and have richer memories after the fact. But to carry out Wittman’s advice, of course, means letting go and taking a risk. Switching off autopilot always carries an element of danger. That’s why it works.”

“One fascinating study conducted in the early 1980s examined the well-worn question of how structured one should make a calendar. Some people think that if you want to get something done, you should block out a time to do it on the calendar. Others think that the calendar should be reserved only for fixed appointments, and that everything else should be a movable feast”

“The study, run by the psychologists, Daniel Kirschenbaum, Laura Humphrey and Sheldon Malett explored this question, asked undergraduates to participate in a study-skills course. Some were advised to set out monthly goals and study activities; others were told to plan activities and goals in much more detail, day by day.”

 “The researchers, assuming daily plans would work better than months were wrong: “The daily plans were catastrophically demotivating, while the monthly plans worked very nicely. The effect was still in evidence a year later. The likely explanation is that the daily plans simply became derailed by unexpected events. A rigid structure is inherently fragile. Better for both your peace of mind and your productivity to improvise a little more often.

I believe our brains are hard-wired to be logical or creatively divergent.  What works for one person, one situation, will not work for another.  If I can learn to stop berating myself when piles and projects surround me you can stop berating yourself for being overly organized.

(jw)

*Source:  Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist.

Originally posted on Max Your Mind. Click here to see more from Max Your Mind

The Elephant in the Room – Self Isolation: Liven Up Your Environment

The Elephant says:

This room’s a bore

Let’s change up things

Bring in some pizzazzz

we’ll give it some zing

Doing Introversion in the time of Isolation – “I vant to be alone”

Many people think I’m extroverted, simply because I am genuinely interested in people and am comfortable in social situations.  However, self-isolation is a relief because I’m an introvert – I recharge my “batteries” in private. 

Simplistically, extroverts recharge in the company of others. 
if you’re someone, like my husband, who is an extrovert and thrives on social connection, isolation is particularly difficult. He has spent an inordinate amount of time on phone calls – needing to hear other people’s voices – and calls out greetings to neighbors from across the street. 

Note:  My experiences and suggestions are EXAGGERATED because of my fibromyalgia/ME, Chronic Fatigue I’m physically depleted to begin with and overly sensitive to social interactions of the “normal kind” which drain me to the point of exhaustion. Many  people who are introverted and/or have life-altering medical conditions cope a bit differently than those who are extroverted and better thrive on personal and community connections. 

Me by judy

My personal experience in isolation:

Zoom meetings can be overwhelming:  Too many people, too much to track, people talking over each other or too long silences.  During the last Zoom meeting I stopped my video so no one could see me.  It helped me not be concerned how I was visually responding, even if it might have bugged others.  I excused myself and logged off before the meeting was over when I noticed my attention & physical energy was flagging.

Phone conversation have long been exhausting to me and I’m relieved when the phone doesn’t ring.  E-mail is my chosen means of communication because there is a one-way conversation – no need to think on my feet, and can time my responses for when I have energy and focus.

Exercise is a solitary experience. I walk Freddie, our dog, late at night, when no one is out and there’s no demand to interact with neighbors.  Freddie likes being able to sniff at his leisure and not have to patiently wait for human conversations to stop to resume his exploration.

Luckily, we introverts are no longer labeled as anti-social.  Research by social scientists have found that while some people can’t get enough of spending time with large social groups, others find the experience more of a mixed bag: usually gratifying, but ultimately draining. 

If you have a friend or relative who’s introverted: 

  • When you reach out keep your conversations short.
  • Don’t pressure people to stay longer in a virtual hangout than they want to be there. 
  • Ask what their preferred means of communication are.
  • Be patient if your contact doesn’t respond back quickly.
  • If a friend starts wrapping it up, just wish them well. (It will make them more likely to want to reach out again.)
    And MOST OF ALL Don’t take any of this personally 


We’re all in this together, even if us introverts want to be alone much of the time!

My caveat:  There are people, all over the world,  who would give anything to be able to be with the people they love – people hospitalized, others unable to hold new born grandchildren, isolated from parents, fearful of infecting others. Loneliness is also an epidemic.  We all want to make sure our friends and loved ones are physically or emotionally OK.   Embracing community in a times of hardship is one of the best and most universal qualities of humanity. Some introverts are my best friends.  I am, grateful for them and my introverted life.  

I’d like to know how you cope socially in these unsettling times.

judy

If this isn’t a reason to stay out of public spaces, we don’t know what is

TERRIFYING SIMULATION SHOWS HOW VIRUSES SPREAD WHEN YOU COUGH
A new 3D-rendered simulation by Finnish researchers shows how aerosol particles coughed out by a person in an indoor environment can spread terrifyingly far.

BY VICTOR TANGERMANN (posted in it’s entirety)

The research aims to determine how the coronavirus can spread through the air, and found that “aerosol particles carrying the virus can remain in the air longer than was originally thought, so it is important to avoid busy public indoor spaces,” according to a statement.

The 3D environment is trying to provide an analogue for the average grocery store with run-of-the-mill ventilation.

“In the 3D model, a person coughs in a corridor bounded by shelves under representative indoor ventilation air flow conditions,” reads the video. “As a result of coughing, an aerosol cloud travels in the air to the corridor. It takes up several minutes for the cloud to spread and disperse.”

“Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus,” explained Aalto University assistant professor Ville Vuorinen in the statement. “These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity.”

Aerosol particles from a dry cough — a common symptom of COVID-19 — are so small (less than 15 micrometers) that they float through the air rather than sinking to the floor. Air currents can help them spread. According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that influenza A viruses can be found in even smaller particles — less than five micrometers.

The model underlines that avoiding crowded places or “nodal points” could be an effective way to curb the spread of the virus.

Masks have also proven to be an extremely effective way to curb the spread through aerosol particles and droplets — that is, if a recent study published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature is to be believed.

Trying LSD

LSD was rampant in the 1960’swhen I attended The University of California at Berkeley.  I was soooooo naive, having lived in Phoenix Arizona, all my life.  The first time I heard of LSD was at a party where I was told to be careful drinking the punch because it was spiked with “acid”.  I turned to my friend and questioned:  Hydrochloric?

I admit to “doing other substances“but was too afraid of LSD having seen people take “bad trips”.  But NOW I’m willing to give LSD a try, the Steve Chandler*way:

Laughing, Singing & Dancing

Since I can’t carry a tune and have 3 left feet LAUGHTER will be easy.

(jw)

*Steve Chandler, author of – “Reinventing Yourself” and “Fearless.”

Important things to know about COPING so you aren’t more anxious

During our 30+ years as psychotherapists we never had to address the fear and uncertainty the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic has created.  The disruption to individual lives and society is surreal.

There are coping truths that we know are real:

  1. Everyone copes with horrible situations differently.  Some use humor (even gallows humor), some become immobilized or depressed, for others anxiety explodes, some grasp at things that are seemingly frivolous but under their control (like hoarding toilet paper).  I watch the news obsessively since I find comfort in information.
  2. We want our family & friends to cope in the same way we cope.  “Why aren’t you acting more worried?”, “Don’t be so obsessive”.  “Do something productive.”  “Calm down and slow down.” There’s comfort in thinking we are connected and not alone in our own way of seeing and responding to threats, real or perceived.  When other people don’t cope the way we cope it makes us nervous, as if something is wrong with them.
  3. The higher the stress the more the brain reverts to automatic, old, tried and true patterns and coping mechanisms that are basic to who we are and how we are in the world.  Our mind-body stress response says this is NOT time to change our normal behaviors and natural tendencies because doing something new creates more stress.
  4. It’s normal to feel productive anxiety right now, and while we need to allow ourselves to feel these feelings.  Some anxiety is productive—it’s what motivates us to wash our hands often and distance ourselves from others when there’s an important reason to do so. If we weren’t reasonably worried, no one would be taking these measure to help reduce the viral spread.
  5. Unproductive anxiety— unchecked rumination—makes our mind spin in frightening directions. Our anxiety is actually trying to keep us safe by focusing on potential threats preparing us for fight, flight or freeze. However, anxiety when constant elevates our stress response chronically which dampens the immune response which is the last thing we want during a pandemic. 

    Click here for your FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit PDF

In recent weeks we have been doing daily posts on coping with stress, anxiety and social distancing .

Click here for “Ways to Cope in Uncertain Times 

Click here for “Control your Stress & Anxiety: 6 Ways to Meditate for People Who Can’t “Meditate”

Click here for: “Control Your Stress and Anxiety: Comfort Eating Actually Comforts”.

Click here for : “ME, a Stress Case? . . . This Anxiety Reduction Technique is for YOU too “

Click here for:”Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity”

Click here for: “How to Reduce Fear and Anxiety in 30 Seconds”

Click here for: “How to Empty your Brain to Reduce Stress & Control Anxiety – Write On!”

Click here for: “How to activate your own Placebo to reduce Stress & Anxiety”

Corona-Crisis breeds fear, panic . . .and INNOVATION

You can now calculate just how long your stash of toilet paper will last you during a quarantine.

As households continue to stock up on toilet paper — emptying shelves across the country — a new website is attempting to answer the question: How much TP do we really need?

Howmuchtoiletpaper.com is a website created by student software developer Ben Sassoon and artist Sam Harris, both based in London, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The tool calculates just how long your stash of TP will last you during a quarantine.”
“The idea came to them naturally, while talking about how much toilet paper they used, and how that would change during the pandemic.”

Users enter how many rolls of toilet paper they have and how many times they visit the loo.

“If you scroll to the “Advanced Options” section, you can really get detailed, customizing the average number of wipes per trip, the number of sheets per wipe, sheets on the roll, and people in the house.”

“More than 2 million people have used the tool, the website says, and the average user has a whopping 500% more toilet paper than they need for quarantine.”

“The whole point of the tool is to reduce the toilet paper shortage around the world, which has begun as folks panic-buy rolls out of fear of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

“Not everyone is able to get to a store and stock up on toilet roll. Don’t be selfish.”  

the Howmuchtoiletpaper.com website says bluntly.

Thanks to Sharon M. for the cartoon!

How to Recognize & Honor Your Losses in this Time of Uncertainty

If you are irritable, less motivated, sad, or even angry, depressed, you are not alone.  With loss there is a grief reaction.  Not only are we dealing with loss of life, loss of mobility, choice, sense of safety, during this current time our emotional reactions are compounded by anxiety & fear. 

It’s easy not to recognize less obvious, existential and secondary losses but important to honor our own losses even if those losses seem small compared to others.  Left unrecognized grief can negatively impact our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.


Recognize your losses

We can’t deal with, or heal, what we aren’t aware of

 Consider how you feel when you think of these losses:

  • Social connections – One of the most impactful loss is the separation from friends and family. 
  • Separation from colleagues – Our work environment can be like a second family. 
  • Habits and habitat – The world outside our homes no longer safe and we can’t engage in our usual routines and rituals.  No matter how mundane – from getting coffee at the local café, driving to work, or picking up kids from school – routines help define your sense of self in the world. 
  • Assumptions and securitythe spread of the virus has upended assumption we once counted on. And so we’re losing our sense of safety in the world and our assumptions about ourselves,
  • Trust in our systemsWhen government leaders, agencies, medical systems, religious bodies, the stock market and corporations fail or are unable to meet expectations, we can feel betrayed and emotionally unmoored. 
  • Sympathetic loss for othersEven if you’re not directly affected by a specific loss, you may feel other’s, grief including: displaced workers, health care workers, the homeless, people barred from visiting relatives in nursing homes, hospitals, or those who have already lost friends and family and to those who will.

4 ways to “honor” your grief

Grief is not a problem to be solved

  • Communicate & Share your stories
    If you “bottle up” emotion your brain neurochemistry can negatively impact you physically and emotionally.
    Communicate with your friends or family about your experience.
    Pick up the phone, send an e-mail.  Ask to share your feelings and give permission/direction to NOT give or receive  advice nor “fix” anything. 
    Gather a group of friends to share losses together on social media. 
  • Write – Writing, whether it’s a journal or just a piece of paper, is another way to express, identify and acknowledge loss and grief.
  • Create – Make a sculpture, draw a picture or create a ceremonial object that symbolizes your feelings. This is not about making art but about expressing yourself.
  • Ritual – Do breathing exercises to symbolically blow away sadness, fear or anger.  Find a rock to throw away. Write feelings on paper and rip it up.
  • Meditate
    Regular meditation gives you time to slow down your thinking.  Take several deep, breaths throughout the day to lower stress.
  • Be open to joy & gratitude – Look for it in small places – the chirping of a bird, a funny video.

Remind yourself that grief is a normal reaction to loss

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/26/820304899/coronavirus-has-upended-our-world-its-ok-to-grieve

Frankly Freddie – Good things about Social Distancing

Dear Freddie Fans,
My human is a pro at self-quarantine.  She’s been using paper towels to open doors, pushing elevator buttons with her knuckles and washing her hands obsessively for years.  I encourage her to do all this because when she gets sick all her fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue symptoms flare up for weeks and she won’t go on walks.
I cheer her up by reminding her all the benefits of isolating herself:
  • I stay home with her so she’s never lonely.
  • She can wear the same clothes every day.
  • She can take a shower once a week or not at all.
  • She saves money on laundry detergent, soap, shampoo
  • Her excuse for doing the cleaning, cooking TOMORROW is plausible.
  • Naps are a good thing.
  • She saves money on gasoline and car washes.
  • Alarm clocks never need to be used
  • She has an excuse for whatever she needs an excuse for . . . 
I’ve been posting a daily series on coping with self-isolation, social distancing on all my blogs.  In case you’ve missed any of my sage observation and advice click on these links.  
And tell your friends to read FRANKLY FREDDIE!
and here are my blogs:
CURIOUStotheMAX – Stuff that makes us love, learn and laugh.
Art, prose, poetry, personal reflection, inspiration, animals, FREEBIES and . . . .FREDDIE the dog.
Neuroscience and research – tips & techniques for mind-body health and wellness,  shared with a wink and a smile and . . .FREDDIE
The HeARTofSpirituality – Exploring spirituality through art, prayers, self reflection & inspiration

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Frankly Freddie: Self-Isolated Dog Owners are Healthier Hoofers

Did you know that a record number of animals are being adopted?  Yup, humans who are self-isolating are finally figuring out what it’s like for all us animals who are isolated in shelters.

I prefer to think the adoptions are about animals rather than humans feeling lonely.  

There are lots of reasons to adopt an animal.

1. In a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to people who didn’t own a dog.

The study found that the dog owners walked briskly and got their heart rates up. At times, their pace was about 3 miles per hour, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers moderate intensity.

I take my human out for a walk as often as I can.  She’s a bit delusional . . .  she thinks she’s walking me. So I constantly have to remind her that she needs to quit patting herself on the back and pat me.

We canines keep you humans healthy.  It’s a big job.

2. Other studies have shown that moderate-intensity walking is just as effective as running in lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and other conditions. And the more people walk, the more the health benefits increase, according to the American Heart Association.

(“The national physical activity guidelines call for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise.”)

3.  If you look at studies on pet ownership, people who own pets seem to live longer than those who don’t own them. 

Get a life.  Adopt a dog . . . like me

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CHT

Certified Human Trainer

If you don’t believe me read this: Dog Owners Walk 22 minutes more per day 

If you want a kitty or bunny you can teach them to walk!  

If you don’t believe me Google it!

Mary Poppins just flipped her umbrella

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins with some Coronavirus inspired lyrics! The tune and all rights of course belong to Disney and all of the creators. This was created as parody, and is intended to bring some levity to the Coronavirus epidemic and to those who are spending long periods at home. I hope this video brings you a laugh in the midst of some hard times.”

Thank you Sharon M. for sharing this video!

How to activate your own Placebo to reduce Stress & Anxiety

In uncertain times we all need help to calm our fears so that our bodies are not flooded with stress hormones & neurochemicals.  

A placebo is NOT imaginary but creates biological changes in the brain that actually ease our symptoms and are very similar to the biological changes when we take drugs.

There are many DOCUMENTED placebo effects, depending on what we think a treatment is going to do for us. Examples:

  • Fake painkillerscause the release of natural painkillers in the brain called endorphinsand work through the same biochemical pathway that an opiod painkiller would work through.
  • A Parkinson’s patient takes a placebo they think is their Parkinson’s drug, they get a flood ofdopaminein the brain, which is exactly what you would see with the real drug.
  • Altitude sickness – someone at altitude inhales fake oxygen, there’s a reduction in prostaglandinswhich actually work to dilate blood vessels that cause many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Some explanations for the placebo effect 

Stress and anxiety— if we feel that we are in danger or under threat, the brain raises its sensitivity to symptoms like pain. Whereas, if we feel safe and cared for and things are going to get better soon, we relax and are not so alert to symptoms.

Physiological mechanisms like conditioning*   We can all be conditioned to have physiological responses to a stimulus, even immune responses. For example, take a pill that suppresses your immune system and on another occasion take a similar looking placebo pill, with no active drug, your body will mimic same immune response. Astonishingly, it doesn’t even matter if you know it’s a placebo.

Stress can rewire the brain — and create more stress

Like a muscle, the more you exercise any part the stronger it gets.

Brains are shaped by our thoughts and behaviors. Research shows your brain structure, neurochemical and electrical activity responds to and reflects how you think throughout your life.   For example: If you play a musical instrument, speak a second language, train for athletics for eight hours a day – the parts of your brain responsible for performing those activities gets more active and larger. 

If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day parts of the brain involved in the stress response get larger and other parts of the brain actually deteriorate.  Consequently, the very brain circuits we need to counter stress no longer work as well as they should.  

It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to change how I think now. I’m not feeling stressed.” It takes a long time to change your brain. 

In the middle of your face – your personal placebo “pill”

When stressed, the brain influences your body AND the body influences your brain.  The stress response speeds up your breathing to pump more oxygen when your brain perceives danger, either real or imaginary.  If you deliberately speed up your breathing when not stressed you’ll start to feel more aroused and on edge.  The opposite is true: Slow your breathing down, forcing your body into a more relaxed state.  Your brain responds with more calming thoughts and feelings.

Condition your own calming response using your breath . . . salivating optional.

Click below to read two ways to slow your breathing down:

Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity

Control your Anxiety: Easy, Fast, Effective and Square

* Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist, conditioned dogs so that whenever he gave them food he made a noise, like ring a bell.  Eventually the dogs associated the bell with their food and they would salivatejust to the sound of the bell.

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/

A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant, PhD. in genetics and medical microbiology

How to Empty your Brain to Reduce Stress & Control Anxiety – Write On!

Non-stop writing, stream of consciousness, free writing . . . it doesn’t matter what you call it – it can change your brain, change your day.

I’m not being overly dramatic as there is a body of research which shows that

simply putting pen to paper changes your brain to reduce anxiety & stress.

Write on! by Peggy

Easy Peasy Writing How-to

Choose a focus – a situation, feeling, thought and create a “topic Sentence”

If you can’t think of a specific begin with

 “When I ____________”,  Right this moment I am thinking . . . ” ,   “I am feeling . . .”,  

“I can’t think of anything to write because . . . “

It can be anything in the past, the present or the future.

  • Use a pen that writes smoothly and comfortable to your hand.  

Don’t use a keyboard since the act of writing with your hand is important.  Your small muscle movement is expressive (much like artistic expression, your handwriting is unique to you).  It doesn’t matter if it’s legible or beautiful as your hand movement registers with your brain in ways that tapping out letters on a keyboard do not.

  • Set a timer for approximately 20 minutes. It takes that long for your unconscious brain to push through your logical thinking processes.
  • Use a journal, a piece of paper, a brown bag- it doesn’t matter.
  • Start with your “topic sentence”,thought, feeling . . . just start. 
  • Write continuously for 20 minutes, never letting the pen stop. If your mind goes blank simply makes loop-d-loops with the pen until you have words to put down. Write quickly, spontaneously, intuitively. It doesn’t matter what you write just put down on paper where your mind takes you.
  • Do not be concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
  • Do not be concerned if it doesn’t make sense.

Read  research: How Writing About Past FailuresMay Help You Succeed In The Present

 click here

How to reduce fear & anxiety in 30 seconds

Affect labeling—the act of naming one’s emotional state—helps blunt the immediate impact of negative feelings and begin the process of reducing stress.

Ina small study* of 30 subjects, researchers conducted a series of brain-imaging experiments in which participants were shown frightening faces and asked to choose a word that described the emotion on display. Labeling the fear-inducing object appeared to:

  • Reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain in which the fight or flight reflex originates.
  • Increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with vigilance and symbolic processing.
  • The brain’s perception of the images shifted from objects of fear to subjects of scrutiny.
  • Experientially, the fact that there is a name for what you’re going through means that other people have experienced it as well, which makes an overwhelming emotion feel less isolating.

How to “Affect label” 

30 seconds . . . as long as you don’t count the 15 minutes of moving.

*The University of California, Los Angeles. Study led by psychology professor Matthew Lieberman,

https://qz.com/989060/reduce-stress-and-anxiety-with-a-pen-and-this-simple-neuroscience-backed-trick/

Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity

Diaphragmatic breathing is the best known and one of the most powerful breath exercises to reduce the stress response, get oxygen flowing to your brain and in your body.

If you’re constantly and chronically stressed out, sleep-deprived, malnourished, or dehydrated over time your immune function will weaken.

Longer, deeper breaths into your abdomen, slows your heart rate and activates the calming, parasympathetic nervous system. 

Inhale . . . . . . . . . . . Exhale. . . . . . .  by Judy

The most basic type of diaphragmatic breathing is done by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth.  However, exhaling through your nose allows you to do this in public places.

Here’s how:

  • Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.

  • Relax your shoulders.

  • To feel your diaphragm move as you breathe place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs on your stomach.

  • Take a slow, full breath in through your nose for about two seconds. Experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.

(your hand below your ribs moves in and out with each breath).

  • Press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds through your nose (or mouth) and tighten your diaphragm

(just like squeezing a lemon to get all the juice out)

  • The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible throughout.

Repeat these steps several times for best results.

It may take you a bit of effort at first to do this cuz it ain’t the usual way you breathe.

With continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing becomes easier, Easier, EASIER.

After you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing  . . . without using your hand.  

 

 

 

ME, a Stress Case? . . . This Anxiety Reduction Technique is for YOU too

Judy’s Self Reflection

I’m not a worrier by nature but during the past weeks and all the uncertainty about Covid-19 spreading throughout the world plus the fact that I have underlying medical conditions (I’m not mentioning my age!)I have had trouble falling asleep.

Tossing and turning, it took me 2 hours to realize my entire body was tense.

I relaxed my muscles. They tensed up againI relaxed again.  Muscles from head to toe tensed up again and again as if I were a trained athlete who had practiced so many times my muscle memory was so strong practice was no longer needed.

Flashing before my eyes was every therapy session I’ve ever had with anyone who had anxiety, PTSD, was a caretaker, had a sick loved one, experienced loss of any kind, anticipated loss, was in pain or had a medical condition. . . .

I had explained the relaxation response so many times that I automatically recognized the stress response in others (others being the operant word).

I know that our brains automatically perceive danger in any emotional, physical or imagined threat and sends signals to our bodies to ready us to flee or fight off our enemy.  Muscle tension is needed for running like hell or slugging it out – now’s not the time to relax if you want to live.

The opposite of DANGER is SAFETY

I’ve taught one of the very best, easiest mind-body techniques that calms the brain hundreds, maybe thousands, of times.  It absolutely works and only took me an hour of tossing and turning to remember to use it myself.

Best of all it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go.

Safe Signal Breath:

1. Take a deep breath through your nose.
2. Hold the breathfor just a moment
3. As you release the breath, through your nose, very gently, silently say: “Thank you brain, I’m safe.”(Be kind to your brain.  It’s just trying to keep you from being eaten alive.)

Sound too simple!?

Our brains are relatively simple in that brains can not tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) or when we imagine danger through thoughts or other cues.

Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of. Your brain will signal “danger! danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear.  Watch a sad movie and your brain will flood you with the neurochemistry of sadness and, if you are like me, sob like a baby.
So, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop the neurochemistry of fear and anxiety. 

It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutesor so for the neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells.  No matter how you FEEL keep giving your brain the “I’m Safe” cue.

Here’s the Key for Continual or Chronic Threats

Yoga, meditation, mindfulness prayer, listening to relaxation recordings all help. However, to break into a CHRONIC cycle you need to chronically signal your brain to stop sending the neurochemistry of the stress response to your body. Let your brain know that no one is throwing grenades at you, animals are not trying to eat you alive, you are SAFE.

Continually “Sprinkle” the Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening. It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this. A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.

You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose — except your stress response!

My Self Realization

I figured out that I had a legitimate reason to be anxious while virus swirl around the world looking for bodies to inhabit.

Control your stress & anxiety – Comfort Eating Actually Comforts

When I am a little stressed I want to eat – usually carbs – but if I am very stressed I lose my appetite. Peggy

I never lose my appetite because I’m an emotional eater – eat when I’m stressed, happy, bored . . .  From now on I’m calling it  “Comfort Eating” – it sounds less . . . emotional . . .  and  is a new area of research. Judy

For the second year in a row, just over a third of American adults reported eating “too much” or “unhealthy” food because of stress, according to an APA survey. Approximately 40 percent of people increase their eating when they’re stressed, 40 percent decrease their eating, and 20 percent stay the same. 

Dr. Janet Tomiyama has been trying to figure out if eating because of stress works for us.  Here is a summary of her findings:

  • Rats were given access to comfort food — usually Crisco mixed with sugar! 
  • Researchers then stressed them out
  • Over time, the comfort food actually dampened their stress hormones
  • Dampened down their brain’s responsivity to stress
  • Dampened down the signaling between the brain and the rest of the body, so they didn’t secrete as many stress hormones.

    CRISCO & sugar! At least they could have the decency to give us the cake under the frosting  . . .

We tend to be critical of people who eat because of stress BUT  “Not just psychologically, but also biologically — people who do a lot of comfort eating tend to show a reduced level of stress hormones and stress.”

What’s happening, according to Tomiyama:

  • “When you do anything that’s rewarding to you the reward parts of your brain light up — those parts of the brain can dampen down areas of your brain that are freaking out with negative emotion. And that’s why comfort foods tend to be foods that are high in sugar and fat. They’re really rewarding; they really do light up the reward centers of our brains.”
  • There’s also some work showing that when you do comfort eating, it builds up fat in your belly region and that fat pad sends a signal to your brain to decrease the amount of stress hormones that you’re producing. 
  • Then there’s conditioning. If throughout your whole life, you’ve paired stress relief with comfort foods over and over again, then soon enough, your body is going to automatically respond to eating these comfort foods with relaxation.

Many people have had the experience of being given comfort food to cheer us up as kids. Part of the comfort t then came from bing cared for but that became associated with the food, which now gives us comfort on its own.

“in addition to rodents, we also see comfort eating working in some non-human primate species as well. So my main take home from this is self-compassion: You’re not doing the comfort eating because you’re some sort of weak-willed human being; you’re biologically driven to do this. ” says Tomiyama.

What Tomiyama is trying to do now, is to see if healthy foods can also be comforting. Even in rat studies only unhealthy foods were used. Therein some data from surveys that say there are people who do use healthy foods for stress.

 “Nobody stress-eats strawberries, do they?”

Actually, strawberries might work she reports. Anything  sweet can dampen stress.

We’ll eat to that!

A. Janet Tomiyama, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Dieting, Stress, and Health Lab at UCLA

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/11/9/18072318/does-stress-eating-work-psychology

Control your Stress & Anxiety: 6 Ways to Meditate for People Who Can’t “Meditate”

Yay. Sure. 100%.  When I meditate it’s 50%-50% at best.  My monkey mind swings from trees with great abandon, my thoughts rambling, rumbling and wildly roaming.

So!  Why meditate?

Meditation has been rigorously scientifically studied and it’s shown to literally change the brain.  A regular meditation practice helps significantly with depression and anxiety, meditation has been shown to help with anti-aging, fighting infections, contributing to a sense of control and combating feelings of loneliness.

Nearly anything can be turned into a meditative practice as long as you focus on leaving your “head” and experience the world through your senses.(Sorry – Television, video games and reading don’t count as meditation because they simply replace our own thoughts with more stimulating ones.)

When the stress, thinking of “doing nothing” for 20 minutes, negates  benefits here’s 6 alternative forms of meditation:

(I’ve tried five of them- and they work.  You can guess which one I’ve ignored)

1.  Take a Musical Bath

Like a warm bath, sink into the melodies, soak in the harmonies, bath your body in the rhythms and Immerse yourself in sound.  It is a powerful and enjoyable form of meditation.
Get an album you’ve wanted to listen to for some time and listen to it… reallylisten, with no interruptions.

2. Dance When NO ONE Watches

Dancing is the natural progression from listening to music.  Many of us have had the horrible feeling of dancing while being stuck in self-conscious over thinking and paranoid about how we look.

Meditative dance is ignoring everything that is going on outside our own body and becoming one with the music.  Flay your arms, sway your hips, roll your eyes –  Let go of protecting your self image, have fun and even be silly. 

3. Draw with your eyes

Drawing is less about talent and more about learning to see.  Thinking actually can get in the way so that’s why this exercise is meditative.

(Don’t worry about what it’s going to look like, it’s the meditative process that counts not the Museum of Modern Art.)

By drawing without looking you use your sight perception to get out of your head- what you THINK it should look like – and be in the moment.

  1. Choose what to draw — a cup, your foot, a chair, it doesn’t matter.
  2. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes.
  3. Arrange yourself so you can see the object you will be drawing without seeing the paper.  Put your pencil through a paper plate so you can’t see your paper.
  4. Focus your eyes on some part of the object and coordinate your eye moving around the outline (contours) of the object with moving your pencil to record what your eyes observe.
  5. Without looking at your hand, your paper or your pencil focus only on the shape of an object.

    Do not look down at the paper as you SLOWLY move the pencil,  concentrating on the lines, and contours of the object as you let your pencil “flow” in time with your eyes.

  6. Continue observing and recording until the timer rings

Just like any meditation practice, this exercise can be difficult at first but will become easier as you learn to shift your thinking from an analytical, labeling mode to one that is more intuitive, MEDITATIVE.

4. Yoga

Not only is yoga incredible for flexibility, balance and strength, it’s also one of the oldest forms of meditation. You combining various movements with coordinated breathing to help focus on your inner body.

Watch yoga videos on YouYube, there’s hundreds to choose from – and practice them a few times a week.

Don’t get caught up with all the bells and whistles, yoga is about feeling connected to the earth and your inner body.  (The last time I checked your feet were already touching ground.)

5. Meditative Munching

Take advantage of one of the necessities of life – food – and the fact you do it every day . . . several times a day.  

Remember, the power of meditation comes with practicing full focus.  When your mind strays return to taste, texture, temperature.   Eating in front of the TV, in the car or standing over the sink only encourages the monkeys to leap around.

Eat slowly, savor each bite – focus on the textures, flavors, aromas and the temperature. (And while you’re chewing, feel grateful for each bite of nourishment.)

6. Restore with Chores

(We’ve gone from what I consider the most enjoyable – eating – to the least)

Chores can be meditative WHEN you focus solely on what your are doing.  Your monkey mind will try and take over to keep you entertained and stimulated.

Just as in all meditative practices keep refocusing your monkey mind on the task at hand: Washing dishes – focus on the temperature of water, seeing the pot become cleaner and cleaner;  Mowing the lawn – examine the cutting patterns, inhale the aroma of cut grass; Making the bed – notice the feel, color, wrinkles of sheets, the tension of folds, your hand motion . . .

(Personally, I’d rather monkey around.)

jw

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/6-alternative-forms-meditation-for-people-who-hate-doing-nothing.html

Ways to Cope in Uncertain Times

There is unprecedented anxiety in the entire world due to the pandemic.  Fear and anxiety is a normal response to unknown threats to our survival and well-being.  The problem for all of us is prolonged and chronic anxiety which elevates the stress response and lowers our immune response.

We have searched all our posts which address stress and anxiety to give you some tools to incorporate into your daily life and better cope with uncertainty.

Stressed out….

Click here for  FREE PDF of

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

to CALM, COOL & COLLECTED!

Have a look at these past posts: 

How to Reduce Fear and Anxiety in 30 Seconds

Meditation Changes Your Brain for the Better

Coping with family tension 

Six ways to meditate for those who can’t meditate

Comfort Eating Actually Comforts

Stressed? How to Activate Your Own Placebo

And from Curious to the Max:

ME a Stress Case? . . . I Don’t Think So. . . This Anxiety Reduction Technique is for YOU

Write On! How to Empty your brain to reduce stress

Click here for “Frankly Freddie: How to Social Distance and be Social” on Curious to the Max

Frankly Freddie – Social Distance from people not FOOD

For the Foodie
If you don’t know what a “foodie” is you are probably around the same age as Peggy & Judy. For all you “oldies” . . . “gastronome” and “epicure” define the same thing.  If you don’t know what gastronome and epicure mean it’s a person who enjoys food for pleasure.

  • Have a picnic on the floor (benefit-no ants, just dust).
  • Get takeout. Support independent restaurants which are hurting right now by eating their food. It’s reported that takeout service Grubhub will stop collecting commission of up to $100 million to support independent restaurants that use their service. (Just make sure you limit your contact with the delivery driver and wash your hands after unpacking the food.)
  • Have your own wine tasting of whatever bottles you have.  No wine?  Have a tea-tasting.
  • Make a new recipe, like dog biscuits.
  • Perfect grandma’s special recipe.
  • Make coffee, and study how many beans you use, which types, how hot the water is, how long it brews and whether any of that even makes a difference.
  • Read your cookbooks and find new culinary sites on the internet.
  • Make doggie biscuits – peanut butter should be the #1 ingredient
  • Watch “The Great British Baking Show,” and bake something with the ingredients you have on hand
  • Organize your spice rack alphabetically.
  • Make a cocktail or mocktail (if you don’t know what a mocktail is you’re over the age of 21)  Don’t forget the garnish.
  • Cook something special – make a double recipe and give half to an elderly neighbor and the other half to your dog.

 

 

Control Your Anxiety & Stress – Easy, Fast, Effective & Square

 To better control your anxiety and stress every single one of you has all the equipment you need:

A pair of lungs and a nose.

Slow, deep breathing hacks your brain’s chemistry, resets the autonomic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that calms and relaxes the body reduces anxiety and stress.

Square Breathing

Inhale and exhale through your nose*

  • Inhale deeply for a count of four

  • Exhale for a count of four

  • Repeat 4 times

(Can’t get easier than this IF you know how to breathe and count to 4) 

It’s best, during really stressful times, to so this breathing exercise throughout the day and evening.  You can do it anytime and anywhere . . . even lying down or upside down.

*Nasal breathing is better than mouth breathing: Your lungs extract oxygen from the air and the absorption of oxygen happens mostly on exhalation. Exhaling through the nose (because it’s smaller than your mouth) creates greater air pressure and therefore a slower exhalation.  Your lungs get extra time to extract a greater amount of oxygen.

Curious Coloring for Calming Down

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore.  Adults have discovered coloring provides a brief focus, away from the world within and the world around us. It’s a form of meditation:  Concentrated visual focus on color, patterns and repetitive motion are hallmarks of the meditative process.

We’ve picked out some Curious Critters that lend themselves for for quick & easy coloring. Embellish them, add patterns, squiggles and make them your own.

Click on the download at the bottom

Get out your crayons or colored pencils 

CREATE your own meditation.

(Don’t want to meditate?   Color with a child!)

 

Click here for your free coloring PDF

 

Scroll down for more posts in this series.

 

4 FREE Resources for Social Distancing & Isolation

Here are some fun, FREE resources for social distancing and self isolation-check them out!

Online University learning of all kinds of subjects

click here for  Coursera

Join Coursera for free and learn online. Courses from top universities like Yale, Michigan, Stanford, Imperial College-London, Tel Aviv University, Duke, Johns Hopkins, University of Cape Town, University of Tokyo etc. . . . and leading companies like Google and IBM.

I (judy) have taken 2 of the courses and they were excellent.  Since I don’t need any more degrees or certifications I never did the papers or took the tests . . .  just watched the lectures and did the reading.  There is a large catalogue of classes from colleges and universities all over the WORLD.  Fabulous resource.

Online exercise classes – Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness, one of the nation’s largest chain gyms, is offering free online exercise classes 

The at-home workouts are streaming on the company’s Facebook page, open to anyone, including non-members.

Because I love all of you I (Peggy) sacrificed myself and tried two Planet Fitness on-line workouts.

I tried 2 Planet fitness workouts.  They were actually great!  The instructors made it easy to follow all the exercises, all of which could be modified to easier levels.  

To make sure all of you could do the routines I did the easier levels, even though I didn’t NEED to, of course . . .   

I am recovering from a sprained ankle and didn’t want to jump on my foot, so I was clever enough to figure out ways to keep both feet on the ground.   (I couldn’t think of other excuses to modify more exercises but carefully watched how they were done.)

Instructors do warm ups and cool downs. Have a chair handy and water.  You get 15 second rests in between the exercises.  

Another thing I liked is the instructor stopped exercising in order to continue talking.  That allowed me to stop early too so I could hear what he was saying without the distraction of exercising . . . The workouts are scheduled for 4pm PST. I was late but no one said anything. There are many workout videos on the Planet Fitness Facebook page so if you’re late I’m positive they’ll let you in the class.

Fun things to do from NASA for kids and adults

https://www.space.com/free-nasa-space-projects-at-home-coronavirus.html

“NASA’s website has a plethora of opportunities for kids and adults alike to learn more about astronomy and spaceflight. Whether you want to be an astronaut, kill some time learning about the universe or help the agency work on future space exploration activities, there’s no lack of things to do.”

“So, if you’re looking for a little out-of-this-world escape while you’re stuck at home, There is a list of free space-themed activities from NASA to keep you occupied.”

 

Get out in the open -no charge at National Parks

The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees at all national parks that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to aid public social distancing.

“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” Bernhardt said in a news release Wednesday.
“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”
 
Scroll down for more posts in this series.

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Frankly Freddie – Social Distancing Naturally in Nature

Dear Freddie Fans,

Because I’m not allowed to go anywhere without a leash I KNOW how to cope.  This week I will share what you humans can do.  Since I’m Editor-in-Canine-Chief for several blogs I have a trove of posts to share with you.  Here’s today’s bit of my wisdom. 

Get out of the house. Just remember to keep 6 feet of distance from other people,  Find an area where you won’t encounter crowds.

  • Garden!
  • Pot a plant
  • Repot house plants.
  • Weed, mulch, rake & mow
  • Start birdwatching. Coronavirus hasn’t bothered birds. Download a birdwatching map. Sit in your backyard or near a window.
  • Take a brisk walk  You can still exercise – It helps your immune system be strong.*
  • Go on a stroll.  Sniff around and clear your mind.
  • Sit outside & breathe fresh air. Notice things about the world around you that you didn’t see before.
  • Bike ride.
  • Meditate, journal, draw in your yard or patio.

Resting after munching the lawn, bird watching, walking and sniffing.

*Exercise which increases immunity and reduces the stress response . . . even if it’s marching in place for 5 minutes without a leash.

Take a 10 minute walk outside – 5 minutes out and 5 minutes back.  The colors of nature are also calming to the brain.