Happy Stories Sync Your Brain

Children love to be read stories.  And as always, children know best.  Research published in eNeuro shows . . .

Successful storytelling can synchronize brain activity between the speaker and listener, but not all stories are created equal. Sharing happy stories increases feelings of closeness and brain synchrony more than sad stories.

Researchers from East China Normal University compared how emotional stories impact interpersonal connection and communication. In the study:

  • The speaker — watched happy, sad, and neutral videos and recorded themselves explaining the contents of the videos.
  • The listeners — listened to the narration and rated how close they felt to the speaker afterward. Both the speaker and the listeners completed their tasks while researchers measured their brain activity with EEG.

“Sharing happy stories produced better recall in the listeners, as well as higher ratings of interpersonal closeness. The increased closeness was linked to increased synchrony between the brain activity of the speaker and listener, particularly in the frontal and left temporoparietal cortices. These regions are involved in emotional processing and theory of mind, respectively.Brain synchrony could become a measure of successful connection and communication.”

 Our books have happy endings.  Perhaps we were syncing our brains with yours?

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Click here for “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs” on Amazon 

Click here for “The Real Tale of Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf” on Amazon

Click here for “Hack Your Way to Happiness” on Amazon 

Bird Brains are We

During Covid Isolation Bird watching has become one of the few activities that are relatively safe wether done outside or looking out your windows.  We are discovering that “bird-brains” are complex and not stupid!

Play behaviour may be an important driver in the evolution of large brains in a number of species, including humans.

birdbrain

Have you ever seen magpies play-fighting with one another, or rolling around in high spirits? Or an apostlebird running at full speed with a stick in its beak, chased by a troop of other apostlebirds? Well, such play behaviour may be associated with a larger brain and a longer life.

For the past 50 years, international animal cognition research has often related the use of tools such as rocks and sticks to cognitive abilities in animals. But my research on Australian native birds, published in Scientific Reports, casts doubt on long-held assumptions about the links between large brains and tool use.

No significant association between tool use and brain mass.

However, very clear differences in relative brain mass emerged when birds showing play behaviour were compared to those that didn’t play. In particular, birds that played with others (known as social play) had the largest brain mass, relative to body size, and even the longest lifespans.”

Tool use in birds

Tool use has been studied in a wider range of species than play behaviour. Some internationally famous Australian examples include:

  • The black-breasted buzzard releasing rocks from their beaks to crack emu eggs
  • The black kite picking up burning embers and twigs and dropping them on dry grass areas to start a fire. The bird then feasts on fleeing or injured insects and vertebrates
  • Palm cockatoos that drum with a stick.

According to a classic theory known as the “technical intelligence hypothesis”, humans and other animals developed large brains because circumstances forced them into ever more sophisticated tool use.

What is bird play?

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picture borrowed from “The Real Tale of Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf

Play behaviour usually occurs in juveniles but in some species it extends into adulthood. Play behaviour occurs in species which tend to have

  • Long juvenile periods,
  • Long-term support from parents
  • Grow up in stable social groups.

Play behaviour is usually subdivided into three categories: solo play, object play and social play. 

Solo play: this may involve a single bird running, skipping, jumping, ducking, rolling, hanging, swinging, dancing, sliding and snow-romping. Solo play is the most widespread form of play, common among  parrots, magpies, and some pigeon species. 

Object play: this involves objects of any kind, including sticks, stones and small household items. Object players might carry a stick or stone or even just a leaf around, drop it, then pick it up again and run with it. 

Object players are not as numerous as solo players but still widespread across species. Click here to read a lovely description of a kookaburra absorbed in playing with a stone.

Social play: involves two or more individuals. Social play is so far the rarest category. It might involve one bird holding an object in its beak and the others chasing it. Published cases are largely limited to parrots and corvids, and are known in magpies and ravens.

White-winged choughs are known to play a game in which two youngsters simultaneously grab a small stick or a bunch of grass, then each tries to wrest it from the other. 

It turns out these categories are meaningful when used to analyse a potential link to brain mass. Information on brain weight/mass in Australian birds has been available only since an important study in 2014. It identified brain volumes and body sizes of all Australian bird species, enabling researchers to link these biological data to behavioural data.

A surprising link

My study involved 77 native Australian bird species for which full data sets were available. The results were more than surprising. In the samples used, tool use seems to confer no advantage whatsoever in terms of brain size or life expectancy: no matter whether a species showed tool using or not, relative brain masses were not different. However the results showed, rather dramatically, that brain size and forms of play are associated. 

  • Solo players had slightly larger brains than non-players

  • Object players had larger brains again

  • Social players had by far the largest average brain size relative to body weight.

  • Non players had the lowest average brain size

These results are by no means confined to parrots, but are found in songbirds and other orders. Whether this holds for birds globally is not yet known. However, since parrots and songbirds first evolved in Australia, then spread to the rest of the world, the results may indeed hold for birds outside Australia. More research will be needed.

Which came first the brain or the play?

Play resulting in large brains or large brains triggering play behaviour – is not known. But whichever way one looks at it, playing socially or even just playing at all, is related to a bigger brain and a long life.

So what does all this mean for human brain evolution? It may be a long shot, but the stages of development in humans and birds seem to have some similarities and this may be significant.

Offspring in humans, as in great apes and other primates, also develop slowly, have protracted childhoods and play extensively as do a surprising number of Australian native birds. It may mean playing together offers more than just passing the time. It could be an evolutionary driver for intelligence, and even for a long life.

Gisela Kaplan

Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour, University of New England

Fed Up with Facebook

Personal note from Judy: I’ve decided to completely delete my facebook accounts. The lack of social responsibility and focus on greed is something I no longer wish to support in any way.
If you want to continue to see what I’m “up to” please subscribe to the blogs Peggy and I share:
MAXyourMIND http://PeggyArndt.com– and CURIOUStotheMAX http://judithwesterfield.com.

If you don’t like blogs, e-mail us at PeggyJudyTime@gmail.com to be put on our mailing list for our once a month CURIOUS KNEWSletter.

We often include links for FREE PDF’s and periodically curious things, fun things, helpful things, scientific things.  You never know what our monthly focus will be because we (read Judy) doesn’t plan ahead . . . much to Peggy’s chagrin as she is charged with all the illustrations.  The one thing you CAN count on is our KnewsLetter will appear in your e-mail sometime during the month.

Here’s a sample of of KNEWS where we repeated one of our favorite quickie stress relievers we first featured here on MAXyourMIND:

July 2021 KNEWSletter

Ice cream, vacations, and hugs all deserve to be repeated – along with many of the self-help tips and techniques we’ve shared on MAXyourMIND blog.   One of the most requested repeats is Square breathing.  So we’ve now gotten around to sharing it with you. (pun intended).
 Square breathing can lead to mindfulness, slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure.” and it’s easy to do.

What is square breathing?

Also known as box breathing, 4×4 breathing or four-part breath, square breathing is a type of diaphragmatic breath work—deep breathing using your diaphragm, which fills your lungs with oxygenated air more fully than shallow chest breathing. According to Harvard Health Publishing“Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange—that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.

This type of breathwork has been scientifically proved to help increase calm and focus and decrease stress, depression and anxiety—even the military teaches it to aid in stress-related emotional disorders. It’s also a great way to practice mindfulness.


How to practice square breathing

First, breathe normally (if you’re reading this you are probably doing it already!). Then inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Make sure your belly expands as you inhale and constricts as you exhale; this is diaphragmatic breathing because you’re using your diaphragm! Take a moment to think about each cycle of breath. As you simply stay aware of your breathing, you’re already practicing mindfulness. On your next cycle, start square breathing:

  1. Inhale through your nose for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  2. Hold your breath for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  3. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  4. Pause and hold for a count of four (1, 2, 3, 4)

  5. Repeat

When to practice square breathing?

On a walk, before bed, in the shower, sitting at your desk – anywhere you breath. Practicing square breathing when you’re not in a stressful situation is just as important for mindfulness, and it will prepare you to do it when you are in a tense situation, whether that’s a stressful meeting or an actual crisis.

PLEEEEEEZE forward to a friend . . . or stranger.
We want to share as much of our accumulated information as possible before we turn 100 years old!

Want more Information about your BRAIN?
Click Anxiety and the Size of Your Frontal Cortex!

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What to do (and NOT to do) to survive a disaster

Ay Yi Yiii Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

  • In 2011 there was an earthquake in Japan. People risked their lives to . . . save bottles of alcohol.
  • In 2017 a plane caught on fire at an airport in Denver. People fleeing from the plane . . . stopped to take selfies.
  • In Dubai when a plane was on fire . . . people tried to collect their bags.

People argue while their ship is sinking, stand on the beach as a tsunami approaches. In fact 80-90% of people will respond to a crisis in ways that decrease rather than increase their safety. They may be in a deadly situation, but do not act fast enough to save themselves.

In most disasters, people wait–they do not panic, they do not stampede . . . they wait

There is a failure to adapt–especially in unfamiliar environments like a burning plane or sinking ship. Especially in a stressful situation, more thought about what to do is needed, but the situation moves faster than our ability to adapt to what is a new experience.

What to avoid doing (easier said than done):

1. FREEZING

One of the natural responses to danger is to freeze. (Psychologists now add “freeze” to fight or flight.) Your brain stops you, even though you have plenty of adrenaline.

It isn’t intelligence that matters–in emergency situations your thinking brain can shut down. You enter a fight or flight situation-or you freeze.

2. INABILITY TO THINK.

We use our working memory to make quick decisions. (When faced with a new, first time disaster there is no working memory.)

Disasters happen fast (plane manufacturers must show that a plane can be evacuated in 90 seconds-because the risk of the cabin being consumed by the fire increases sharply after this). But our brains do not work that fast most of the time in part because we need to invent a new strategy

  • The speed at which we can go through our options is limited and usually slower than the unfolding crisis.
  • The brain is flooded with dopamine (a feel good chemical) which also triggers the release of more hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. in a disaster as the body prepares for the disaster.
  • Then to make matters worse for figuring out what to do next . . .  the prefrontal cortex (where we think things over) shuts down because of cortisol & adrenaline.

3. Having TUNNEL VISION

In a crisis, it is unlikely that most people can respond creatively about the problem. Instead, what we do is keep using the same solution over and over, even without good results.

Tunnel vision is also seen in people with permanent damaged to their prefrontal cortex. So the brain’s stress response of shutting down this region might be to blame for inflexible thinking in moments of crisis.

4. Staying STUCK IN ROUTINE

James Goff, a specialist in disaster and emergency management at the University of Hawaii has seen shocking reactions to disaster. People will risk their life to retrieve their wallet. It seems crazy, but it is common. This refers to continuing with everyday routines when faced with a crisis.  He says,

“Being in a situation where your life is in danger increases your emotional arousal, and high arousal causes people to limit the number of alternatives they consider. That can be bad when trying to determine a course of action, since you may never consider the option most likely to result in escaping safely.”

5. DENIAL

“Invariably over 50% of the population do it, they go down to the sea to watch the tsunami,” says Goff. “They act as if nothing untoward is happening.” Denial usually happens because:

  • We don’t see the situation as dangerous, or
  • We don’t want to see it as dangerous.
  • We are not good at calculating risk.
  • We rely on our feelings, and sometimes reassure ourselves we will be OK. (Cancer patients wait four months on average before seeing a doctor. On 9/11 people who survived and were on the upper floors of New York World Trade Center waited an average of five minutes after the attacks before they started to evacuate.)

Why can’t we turn these reflexes off?

In everyday life, our brains are reliant on familiarity. Mindlessly getting our bag when the plane lands helps free up mental space to focus on new stuff we need to attend to.

In an emergency, adjusting to the new situation may be more than our brains can handle–so we keep doing what we have done before.

WHAT TO DO:

HAVE A PLAN AND PRACTICE “What if?”

If we can’t rely on our instincts, what can we do?

The best way is to replace automatic but not helpful reactions with ones that could save your life by practicing. You have to practice and practice until the survival technique is the dominant behavior.  It’s a bit hard to practice for a tsunami but you can IMAGINE.

Taking some time to imagine “what if”.  “Ask yourself one simple question, “If something happens, what is my first response? Once you can answer that, everything else will fall into place. 

THE GOOD NEWS – OTHER PEOPLE

Research shows that in most scenarios, groups of people are more likely to help each other than hinder. “In emergencies, the norm is cooperation . . .  Selfish behavior is very mild and tends to be policed by the crowd rather than spreading.”*

“Psychologists call this response “collective resilience”: an attitude of mutual helping and unity in the middle of danger.”

People’s tendency to cooperate during emergencies increases the chances of survival for everyone. “Individually, the best thing tactically is to go along with the group interest. In situations where everyone acts individually, which are very rare, that actually decreases effective group evacuation.”*

 LUCK MATTERS 

but sometimes what is needed is a good dose of luck.

____________________________________

*Chris Cocking, studies crowd behavior at the University of Brighton.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170711-what-not-to-do-in-a-disaster

“Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” by Laurence Gonzales

This post first appeared on

maxmsmall

https://peggyarndt.com/

What Falling in Love Does to YOur Brain, Body and Health

When love is in the air, you might experience some unexpected changes to your body. A romantic relationship can have intense effects.

Here are nine ways falling in love can impact your body, by Mary Daly

1. MAKES US ‘MADDENINGLY’ PREOCCUPIED

“Crazy in love” is actually a pretty apt description — especially in the early stages of a relationship. “Levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase during the initial phase of romantic love, marshaling our bodies to cope with the ‘crisis’ at hand,” according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. The rising cortisol depletes the body’s serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps to stabilize our mood. And that combination of high cortisol and low serotonin can cause us to feel like our emotions are on a roller coaster, completely immersed in all the highs and lows of our new love.”

2. SPARKS EUPHORIA

“Falling in love might cause you to become preoccupied and nervous. But it also can create a sense of euphoria in the body, thanks to the high levels of dopamine it releases. “Dopamine activates the reward circuit, helping to make love a pleasurable experience similar to the euphoria associated with use of cocaine or alcohol,” the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute says. In fact, research has shown loving relationships can be an effective antidote to substance abuse problems, as well as depression and anxiety. Plus, another chemical in the mix is oxytocin — the “love hormone” — which is released during skin-to-skin contact and heightens feelings of peace and wellbeing.”

3. BLINDS US

“Love is blind” is another phrase that science has proven somewhat accurate. “When we are engaged in romantic love, the neural machinery responsible for making critical assessments of other people, including assessments of those with whom we are romantically involved, shuts down,” according to the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. So we experience fewer negative emotions, including “fear and social judgment.” And that’s not the only change to our eyes we might see. Research also has shown our pupils tend to dilate when we look at the object of our affection — which potentially is a side effect of all that dopamine.”

4. CHANGES OUR VOICES

“When speaking to someone we find attractive, research has shown we might subtly and subconsciously alter our voices. One study found men were more likely to lower their pitch when speaking to women they found attractive. And another study learned women spoke in a higher pitch to men they found attractive. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior recorded people talking to relatively new romantic partners, as well as to close friends. They were instructed to say lines, such as “How are you?” and “What are you doing?” The researchers then played those clips for independent raters, who overwhelmingly were able to tell when a person was speaking to a romantic partner versus a friend, based on their pitch and perceived romantic interest.”

5. KILLS PAIN

“Love can hurt, but sometimes it also can relieve pain. A 2010 study recruited participants who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship to complete three tasks with periods of inflicted pain. During the first task, they viewed a photo of their romantic partner. For the second, they viewed photos of “an equally attractive and familiar acquaintance.” And for the third task, they took part in a word-association distraction technique that already had been demonstrated to reduce pain. As a result, both the romantic partner and distraction tasks significantly reduced the participants’ pain. And the partner task showed activation in the participants’ brains’ rewards center, suggesting “that the activation of neural reward systems via non-pharmacologic means can reduce the experience of pain,” according to the study.”

6. PREVENTS COLDS

“You might be lovesick, but a healthy relationship can keep you just that — healthy. According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, greater social support — and especially frequent hugs — can reduce a person’s chances of getting an infection. Participants were interviewed to learn about their support systems, and then they were exposed to the common cold virus. Those who had more supportive relationships in their lives (and received more frequent hugs) experienced greater protection against the virus. Although this effect doesn’t necessarily have to come from a romantic partner, the researchers highlighted hugs because they denote a more intimate relationship.”

7. INCREASES CREATIVITY

“Love and lust can mean two very different things when it comes to your creativity. According to Psychology Today, a 2009 study asked one group of participants to imagine a long walk with their romantic partner and another group to imagine a scenario involving casual sex with an attractive person. A control group imagined a solo walk. The researchers then gave the participants creative insight problems, as well as analytical problems, from the GRE. “They found that those primed with thoughts of love had the highest levels of creative insights (those primed with lust had the lowest), whereas those primed with thoughts of lust had the highest levels of analytical thinking (those primed with love had the lowest),” Psychology Today says. The idea is that love enhances our long-term, holistic thinking while lust puts us in the present, concentrating on concrete details.”

8. BOOSTS HEART HEALTH

“Falling in love can make your heart happy in more ways than one. According to a study on relationships and cardiovascular health, brief, warm physical contact between partners is able to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, even in stressful situations. And another study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found people in happy marriages were associated with lower blood pressure, stress and rates of depression, as well as greater life satisfaction. But the study did point out that single people had better health than those in unhappy marriages — showing happiness and support is the key.”

9. SPEEDS HEALING

“Love both can prevent health issues and heal them, research has shown. One study found married adults who had heart surgery were more than three times as likely to survive the next three months compared to single adults. Prior to their surgeries, researchers interviewed the participants and found the married adults tended to have a more positive outlook, especially when it came to managing any pain and discomfort.”

“And another study on wound healing recruited 37 couples to receive small blisters on their forearms. Then, the couples went through a structured social interaction task. The researchers found that the wounds on the couples who interacted more positively healed much faster than the wounds on the couples who engaged in negative communication — again showing what a loving connection can do for your life.”

https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-falling-in-love-does-to-your-body.html

This post originally appeared on

maxmsmall

https://peggyarndt.com/

Sneeeek eeek Peeeek into Judy’s Mask

It’s almost Halloween and masks are a hallmark of that holiday.  In my mixed media on-line class the assignment was “Divergence”.  It was hard to find my focus (what else is new? . . . ) and finally settled on a self portrait.  I thought about all the divergent paths my life has taken, shoulda, coulda have taken, didn’t take. 

I created each layer without conscious thought or choice.  I picked collage pieces at random, colors intuitively as I painted. The meaning of divergence evolved after I completed it.  There are layers and layers of paint and collage with I feel also represent me.  

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The end result is my “mask”.

Divergence  Mixed Media Self Portrait, 14″ x 17″ Bristol Paper 

1st Divergence – Egg collage – Among all the eggs and sperm that could have been fertilized there were only two that created my DNA.

2nd Divergence – Colors that represent some of the “large” choices I made at pivotal points in my life that led to who I am and the blind eye I had at those times to choices I could have made but didn’t.

3rd Divergence – Lines of collage and paint that delineate & represent each wrinkle of “small” choices (not to mention my skin) I made and didn’t make.

4th Divergence – Flow of color from the background into my being which represents my spiritual connection to everyone and everything.

Ultimately, whether we are conscious of it or not, we all wear many masks.  There’s nothing wrong with doing so.  It helps us socially, professionally – what we show and who we show it to – to function in a multi-faceted world.  Halloween just affords us to have a bit of fun doing so.

Sneek Peek at my Tribute Tree

I started this acrylic painting many moons ago and never finished it (nothing new, for those who know me).   I saw a video about Jadav Payeng that inspired me to complete it.

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“Forty years ago, Payeng —a then-16-year-old resident of Assam, India—discovered that snakes were dying on a barren Majuli Island due to a lack of shade.

This gruesome sight resonated strongly with Payeng, inspiring him to act. “When I saw it, I thought even we humans will have to die this way in the heat,” he told NPR. “It struck me.” Then and there, Payeng decided to dedicate his life to transforming the river island.”

One Tree a Day

“He pledged to plant a sapling in Majuli Island’s sandy soil every day—an admirable act that would eventually culminate in Molai Forest, a lush 550-hectare (1,359.08 acres) woodland.”

“Covered in all kinds of different trees (starting “first with bamboo trees, then with cotton trees”), the island has flourished, attracting an abundant audience of animals that includes elephants, wild boars, and even Royal Bengal tigers.​”

Man Spends 40 Years Planting a Tree on Barren Island Every Day, Now It’s a Giant Forest

You’ll never drink another can of cola without thinking about this.

Because neither of us are math wizards and count on our fingers when a calculator isn’t handy we are posting this in its entirety.  Whether you understand how it was calculated or not we can’t dispute that the conclusion is astounding.  

If you collected up every Sars-CoV-2 virus particle in the world, it would fit inside a soft drinks can, writes the mathematician Christian Yates.

ccan

“When I was asked to calculate the total volume of Sars-CoV-2 in the world for the BBC Radio 4 show More or Less, I will admit I had no idea what the answer would be. My wife suggested it would be the size of an Olympic swimming pool. “Either that or a teaspoon,” she said. “It’s usually one or the other with these sorts of questions.”‘

“So how to set about calculating an approximation of what the total volume really is?”

“Fortunately, I have some form with these sorts of large-scale back-of-the-envelope estimations, having carried out a number of them for my book The Maths of Life and Death. Before we embark on this particular numerical journey, though, I should be clear that this is an approximation based on the most reasonable assumptions, but I will happily admit there may be places where it can be improved.”

“So where to start? We’d better first calculate how many Sars-CoV-2 particles there are in the world. To do that, we’ll need to know how many people are infected. (We’ll assume humans rather than animals are the most significant reservoir for the virus.)”

“According to stats website Our World in Data, half a million people are testing positive for Covid every day. Yet we know that many people will not be included in this count because they are asymptomatic or choose not to get tested – or because widespread testing is not readily available in their country.”

“Using statistical and epidemiological modelling, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations has estimated that the true number of people infected each day is more like 3 million.”

“The amount of virus that each of the people currently infected will carry around with them (their viral load) depends on how long ago they were infected. On average, viral loads are thought to rise and peak about six days after infection, after which they steadily decline.”

“Of all the people who are infected now, those who got infected yesterday will contribute a little to the total count. Those who were infected a couple of days ago will contribute a little more. Those infected three days ago a little more still. On average, people infected six days ago will have the highest viral load. This contribution will then decline for people who were infected seven or eight or nine days ago, and so on.”

“The final thing we need to know is the number of virus particles people harbour at any point during their infection.Since we know roughly how viral load changes over time, it’s enough to have an estimate of the peak viral load. An unpublished study took data on the number of virus particles per gram of a range of different tissues in infected monkeys and scaled up the size of tissue to be representative of humans. Their rough estimates for peak viral loads range from one billion to 100 billion virus particles.”

“Let’s work with the higher end of the estimates so that we get an overestimate of the total volume at the end. When you add up all the contributions to the viral load of each of the three million people who became infected on each of the previous days (assuming this three million rate is roughly constant) then we find that there are roughly two quintillion (2×10¹⁸ or two billion billion) virus particles in the world at any one time.”

“This sounds like a really big number, and it is. It is roughly the same as the number of grains of sand on the planet. But when calculating the total volume, we’ve got to remember that Sars-CoV-2 particles are extremely small. Estimates of the diameter range from 80 to 120 nanometres. One nanometre is a billionth of a meter. To put it in perspective, the radius of Sars-CoV-2 is roughly 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. Let’s use the average value for the diameter of 100 nanometres in our subsequent calculation.”

“Assuming a 50-nanometre radius (at the centre of the estimated range) of Sars-CoV-2, the volume of a single spherical virus particle works out to be 523,000 cubic nanometres.”

“Multiplying this very small volume by the very large number of particles we calculated earlier, and converting into meaningful units gives us a total volume of about 120 millilitres. If we wanted to put all these virus particles together in one place, then we’d need to remember that spheres don’t pack together perfectly.”

“If you think about the pyramid of oranges you might see at the grocery store, you’ll remember that a significant portion of the space it takes up is empty. In fact, the best you can do to minimise empty space is a configuration called “close sphere packing” in which empty space takes up about 26% of the total volume. This increases the total gathered volume of Sars-CoV-2 particles to about 160 millilitres – easily small enough to fit inside about six shot glasses. Even taking the upper end of the diameter estimate and accounting for the size of the spike proteins all the Sars-CoV-2 still wouldn’t fill a can of soda.”

“It turns out that the total volume of Sars-CoV-2 was between my wife’s rough estimates of the teaspoon and the swimming pool. It’s astonishing to think that all the trouble, the disruption, the hardship and the loss of life that has resulted over the last year could constitute just a few mouthfuls of what would undoubtedly be the worst beverage in history.”

Christian Yates is a senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath and the author of The Maths of Life and Death.

This article is adapted from a piece that originally appearedon The Conversation, and is republished under a Creative Commons licence. 

Zombies and witches for you

Zombies love the smell of blood 

but you needn’t dread the walking dead

Light a match,  paint your nose red

They’re scared of fire and clowns for hire

folded_greeting_card-r5fd67a2f39344b1ea5aedd197a1c27f1_udfaq_1024 Click here for Zombie Halloween card on Zazzle

Witches, on the other hand

Travel in the air and land

They don’t like blood, just brew

Don’t cross ’em or you’ll end up stew

witchy_halloween_card-r44b8c4738bb848039c85255e15114dc4_udfaq_1024

.Click here for Two Witches Halloween card on Zazzle

witchy_towels-rb59f077a3ef245a19a211dff40e6b90f_2cf6l_8byvr_1024

Click here for Two Witches kitchen towel on Zazzle

 

To see all the Halloween goodies by Peggy and Judy, click here!

Sneak Peak at my arty life – “Facing Failure”

When I was an active faculty member of The Academy for Guided Imagery, Dave Bresler (co-founder) talked abou how drug addicts often needed to get clean, reuse, get clean, reuse until able to finally stay clean – They “failed their way to success”.   At the time I didn’t make the connection to how I learn and live life.

In retrospect every time I failed at something, whether relationships, careers, projects, classes (took Statistics 3 times) failure was the learning impetus to learn (except for statistics) grow, and gain a bit of experience and, hopefully, wisdom to fail in new areas.

I also fail my way to success in every new art project. A current class assignment is to make a series of mixed media focusing on whatever we choose.

Here are my recent journey of “arty failures”.   Every one is a learning lesson. “I tried that, didn’t work . . .  wonder what would happen if I did this? . . . 

  1. Selfie Sketch, copied and pasted.    2. Smeared paint on top. 3. Pasted torn paper on top

(What I learned so far:  I don’t look good without a neck)

I’ll keep you posted to my arty progress for this assignment.

In the meantime, reflect on your own “failures”:  

What did you learn?

What “life lessons” have you repeated?

.

“Spark”, How Raising Your Heart Rate Changes Your Brain

Which of these responses to EXERCISE do you use?

  • I love to exercise.
  • I hate to exercise but I do it.
  • I should exercise but I don’t.
  • Exercise?????

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey, M.D., and Eric Hagerman,  explains the strong evidence that aerobic exercise doesn’t just change our body IT CHANGES OUR BRAINS.

Music makes it fun!

This particular journey through the mind-body connection is fascinating, presenting research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from decreasing or avoiding depression, Alzheimer’s, addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder, menopause, even aggression.  Exercise changes neurotransmitters so you pay attention more easily, learn and keep yourself calm.  Exercise at the very least:

  • Helps you beat stress,
  • Raises your mood
  • Reduces memory loss
  • Helps you become smarter 

The book details the kinds of exercise  best for different conditions (such as cancer, depression, even diabetes).  There is fascinating information I had not read about like:  BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor) and why you want more of and how to get it. New focus on variable heart rate .

SPARK explores comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain. It may change the way you think about your exercise routine —or lack of . . .

Your feet don’t have to touch ground. Ride!  

Learn from the students in Naperville:

“The gym teachers at Naperville conducted an educational experiment called Zero Hour P.E. where they scheduled time to work out before class using treadmills and other exercise equipment where you are only competing against yourself to improve. This program not only turned their 19,000 students into the fittest in the nation but also, in some categories, the smartest in the world.”

“Academically, Naperville High School is currently in the top 10 in the state–despite the fact that they spend less money per pupil than other high schools in their district.”  Alan Freishtat

Click HERE for more about the Naperville experiment in exercise:

img_5111

God’s Creatures, Great, Small & octodexterous –


WATCH: An Octopus Taking Photos of her Visitors

When I lived in Greece getting together with friends at an outdoor cafe, sipping Ouzo and eating octopus was a favorite summertime activity. It was a long time ago, I was young, I didn’t know how smart octopi were and after a few glasses of ouzo I no longer knew what I was eating. Since then I have been relatively sober and understand that this incredible creature is not to be eaten but be admired. judy

“Meet the world’s first “octographer” – Rambo, a cephalopod at New Zealand’s Sea Life Aquarium who’s taking photos of its visitors.”

“See this impressive ability in action below, and watch as Rambo makes sure she doesn’t have her sucker-covered tentacles in the shot before hitting the shutter button.

Of course, Rambo isn’t the first cephalopod to perform high-level activities – not only do octopuses have mind-boggling camouflage skillssuperb speed and the ability to walk on land, they can also use tools and, apparently, predict soccer games.

“But, as far as we’re [aquarium] aware, this is the first time an octopus has been trained to take photos.The project is part of a collaboration between the aquarium and Sony, who provided Rambo with the camera and its special underwater casing that’s lowered into her enclosure. Then, when spectators line up against a specially provided backdrop, she’s able to use her dexterous tentacle to push the red shutter button . . . “

Source: Sony New Zealand

https://www.sciencealert.com/watch-an-octopus-in-new-zealand-is-taking-photos-of-its-visitors

What happens “after” Covid – for P & J and YOU?

Covid will eventually be tamed, possibly taking the course of other diseases like polio, seasonal influenza, measles and the like. We have two questions we’ve asked ourselves:

  1. What changes have we made during this time that we will keep?
  2. What are the first few things we will do when we feel safe enough to be out and about without feeling cautious or in jeopardy?

    upf

Here’s what Peggy’s come up with . . .  at this moment: 

  • I am going to continue to keep a lot of supplies on hand. Just in case – plenty of food staples, and things like toothpaste and soap (and, of course, toilet paper).
  • After Covid, one of the first things I want to do  is to get new tennis shoes. I am hard to fit so I don’t buy online with the unending returns.  My current shoes are worn out because tennis shoes are all I wear!
  • I will make medical appointments that are just routine check-ups.  I managed to get in a few before the Delta variant became so widespread.
  • I want to have lunch with friends  . . . sitting inside at a restaurant.  I have ventured getting together outdoors with a few friends who I know have been as cautious as I am but it will be a relief not to have to be concerned about “who and where”.

Here’s what Judy’s come up with . . . at this moment:

  • I’ll continue my new found skill, cutting my own hair.  Can’t cut the back but, if I do say so myself, the front looks ALMOST the same as when I spend the big bucks at a salon.  Of course, the only person who sees me is my husband . . .
  • I’ll continue doing art classes online if they are offered – on-line classes are easier than going to a live classroom.  I don’t have to pack up/unpack and drive for 30 min each way.   Watching class recordings anytime I want is a big bonus.  
  • I am saving these for when Covid is better under control because that way I may never have to do them:   I will wear something other than old t-shirts, sweat pants, and a painting apron.  I may  donate my accumulation of “professional work clothes” that will probably not touch my body ever again.  I  will dust the house just in case someone visits.

Now it’s YOUR TURN:

What changes have YOU made during this time that YOU will keep?

What are the first few things YOU will do when YOU feel safe enough to be out and about without feeling cautious or in jeopardy?

5 ways to keep your brain in “gear”

My fibromyalgia brain fog has been denser than usual so this article caught my attention.  I figure if I do at least 4 out the 5 of these things I might be able to bump my brain functioning up to normal.

(I’ve edited down the article . . . but not a lot because after all it is for me!, Judy)

Neuroscience says these five rituals will help your brain stay in peak condition

“Lucky for us, advanced technologies have enabled researchers to understand how the brain works, what it responds to, and even how to retrain it. For instance, we know our brains prefer foods with high levels of antioxidants, including blueberries, kale, and nuts. We know that a Mediterranean diet, which is largely plant-based and rich in whole grain, fish, fruits, and red wine, can lead to higher brain functions. And we know that smiling can retrain our brains to look for positive possibilities rather than negative ones.”

Here are five simple rituals that cognitive scientists say can help your brain grow new cells, form new neural pathways, improve cognition, and keep your outlook positive and sharp.

1.  Congratulate yourself for small wins

“The frequency of success matters more than the size of success, so don’t wait until the big wins to congratulate yourself, says B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. Instead, come up with daily celebrations for yourself; your brain doesn’t know the difference between progress and perceived progress.”

“Both progress and setbacks are said to greatly influence our emotions. So the earlier in the day you can feel successful, the better—feelings of excitement help fuel behaviors that will set you up for successes. For instance, a productive morning routine can be used to motivate you through the rest of the day. We feel happier and encouraged as our energy levels increase, and feel anxiety or even depression as our energy levels go down.”

2.  Keep your body active

According to neurologist Etienne van der Walt, “Specific forms of exercises have been shown to be very beneficial for … brain growth.”

“When we exercise, our heart rate increases, oxygen is pumped to the brain at a much faster rate, and new brain cells develop more quickly. The more brain cells we create, the easier it is for cells to communicate with one another, developing new neural pathways. Ultimately, our brains become more efficient and plastic, which means better cognitive performance.”

“It doesn’t even take that much sweat to keep your brain in good shape. A study conducted by the department of exercise science at the University of Georgia in 2003 found that an exercise bout of just 20 minutes is enough to change the brain’s information processing and memory functions.”

3. Stretch your brain muscles

“Like other muscles in your body, if you don’t use the brain, you’ll eventually lose it. This means it’s crucial to exercise your brain and keep it stimulated.”

“Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes that it’s especially important to target areas of your brain that you use less frequently. Good suggestions for stretching your brain muscles include learning to speak a new language, learning to play a new instrument, or even learning to juggle.”

“To enhance his own cognitive prowess, author James Altucher tries to come up with new ideas every day. He writes about his daily system:

  • “Get a SMALL pad.
  • Go to a local cafe or a park.  For cognitive stimulation it is important to vary your routine.
  • Maybe read an inspirational book for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Start writing down ideas. The key here is, write 10 ideas …  all you want is a list of ideas.”

“Mid-way through the exercise, Altucher says his brain will actually start to “hurt.”  Whether he ends up using the ideas or throwing them away is not the point. 

4. Sit upright

“Not only is an upright position found to increase energy levels and enhance our overall mood, it’s also been shown to increase our confidence, as in this 2013 preliminary research conducted by Harvard Business professor Amy Cuddy and her colleague, Maarten W. Bos.”

“Positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness.”

“From a purely cognitive perspective, positioning yourself in a powerless, crouched position can make your brain more predisposed towards hopelessness, as well as more likely to recall depressive memories and thoughts. Researchers say this phenomenon is ingrained in our biology and traces back to how body language is “closely tied to dominance across the animal kingdom,” as Cuddy writes in her new book, Presence.”

“So what’s the best way to ensure you feel powerful in both body and mind? Erik Peper, a professor who studies psychophysiology at San Francisco State University, advises checking your posture every hour to make sure you’re not in the iHunch, or iPosture, position. He also advises bringing smaller devices up to your face while in use instead of forcing yourself to look downward at them in a collapsed position.”

 5.  Sleep with your phone away from your head

“There’s a lot of myths and half truths out there about how—and if—your smartphone may be effecting the brain. While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the topic of wireless devices, there does seem to be a link between blue light—emitted by electronic screens including those of smartphones—and sleep. Interrupting or changing our sleep patterns is bad for a lot of reasons. For example, lack of enough deep sleep could be preventing us from flushing harmful beta-amyloid from our brains.”

“According to Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT specializing in sleep and the brain, our brains’ natural cleansing system requires six to eight hours of sleep. Without it, brains eventually encounter major build-ups of beta-amyloid, a neurotoxin found in clumps in the brains of people with neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“While scientists have always known that the brain cleanses wastes, much like the body, the sophistication of this cleansing system was investigated in 2013 by Maiken Nedergaard of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester. This study found “hidden caves” that open up in our brains when we’re in a deep enough sleep. This liquid cleaning system, dubbed the “glymphatic system,” enables copious amounts of neurotoxins to be pushed through the spinal column.
“So, exactly how far away do you need to keep your smart devices? We’re not completely sure, but Swart says it’s a good idea to not sleep with it next to your head. Ultimately, keeping our brains healthy takes willpower and resilience, just like with any other part of our bodies. But as research shows, staying sound of body and mind as we age is certainly possible—with a little effort.”

If you don’t believe me click here! http://qz.com/626482/neuroscience-says-these-five-rituals-will-help-your-brain-stay-young/

Who Knew? Vinegar in Your Garden!

One of my favorite activities is gardening.  I love being outdoors in sunshine, watching bird and making my surroundings colorful.  I’ve planted flowering trees, put in  a fountain and a bird feeder.  It’s my form of creativity and meditation.  Anything natural that can make flowers bloom, save time weeding, or make cleaning up easier I’m all for.  Who knew that vinegar can do all this and more.  Take a look:

1. Kill the weeds

White vinegar can get rid of weeds from the leaves down to the roots. I have used this, and it is much safer than some commercial products.  Just pour a bit of pure vinegar on the weeds (Sometimes I crush the leaves a bit so I know the vinegar gets absorbed.)  If you spray, be careful not to  hit plants you want to keep.

2.  Keep unwanted critters away

preview

Vinegar is smelly, so dampen a few old rags and put them around the garden edges. Rabbits, deer, raccoons and insects won’t like the smell.  It may even ward off snakes.

 

 

 

3. Get rid of slugs and snails

If you pour vinegar on them they dissolve. (Not for the feint of heart because they sort of melt.) 

4. Help your seeds sprout

g1Put seeds in a bowl of water, and add a bit of vinegar before you cover the bowl and soak for 8-12 hours (no more than 2 days). The vinegar will help soften the seeds outer coating so the seed can sprout.

 

 

5. Clean your tools

Spray your tools with a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of vinegar and water, and wipe them off. If they are rusty let them soak in the mixture overnight, then use steel wool and wash with soapy water.

6. Feed flowers

g2Vinegar acts like a food for your flowers. The next time you water, add a cup per gallon of water. Acidic flowers really like this – including azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias and rhododendron.

 

 

 

7. Test your soil’s pH balance

 Dig up some soil and add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vinegar -and watch it fizz. The more fizz, the higher the pH.

8. Get rid of mildew, mold and other fungi

Mix 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar with a gallon of water, and  spray  the affected areas. This method also removes black fungi from rose plants.

9. Remove calcium buildup on garden bricks

Vinegar can help clean off calcium and lime deposits from bricks and dividers. Use 1 cup white vinegar per gallon of water and  use a brush to scrub the bricks, then rinse.

10. Clean your birdbath

bird

I usually empty my birdbath and let the sun bleach it.   The next time my birdbath gets grimy I’ll try this. I particularly like the fact  it is safe for the birds. 

 

 

 

Happy Gardening!   Peggy

https://apple.news/AGXakW9qDR_GsjLZmAO_tUg

Watching Cute Animals is Good for Your Health

Science shows watching cute animals is good for your health

You knew watching videos of puppies and kittens felt good but now there’s data to back  that watching cute animals may contribute to a reduction in stress and anxiety.

The study* examined how watching images and videos of cute animals for 30 minutes affects blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety in a 30-minute montage of the cute critters.
“There were kittens, puppies, baby gorillas. There were quokkas.

The quokka, an adorable creature found in Western Australia,

 often referred to as “the world’s happiest animal.”

The sessions, conducted in December 2019, involved 19 subjects — 15 students and four staff — and was intentionally timed during winter exams, a time when stress is at a significantly high level, particularly for medical students.

In all cases, the study saw blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety go down in participants, 30 minutes after watching the video.

  • Average blood pressure dropped from 136/88 to 115/71 — which the study pointed out is “within ideal blood pressure range.”
  • Average heart rates were lowered to 67.4 bpm, a reduction of 6.5%.
  • Anxiety rates also went down by 35%, measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a self-assessment method often used in clinical settings to diagnose anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.

When questioning the participants, the study found that most preferred video clips over still images, particularly of animals interacting with humans.

*The study was conducted by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in partnership with Western Australia Tourism,

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/27/us/watching-cute-animals-study-scn-trnd/index.html

Originally posted on

maxmsmall

https://peggyarndt.com/

Sneek Peak at The Frog Princess Part 4

Judy has written another book.  It’s for children and adult-children–and you get a sneak peek at it!! This is part 4, click here for part 1 , here for part 2, and here for part 3.

It’s a little known fact that not all frogs are princes in disguise . . .

. . .  there are two genders, one of which is the “weaker sex”.

The Frog Princess

3chg

By Judith Westerfield

The Prince sighed
and the froggie replied
,

“Perfect you’re not
YOU are lacking a lot Can’t even fly
on your own in the sky. You’re not very fair
for a prince with no hair And It may be moot
But you’re short to boot.”

The Prince sighed as he replied,

“You’re right I fear
I’ve looked far and near
no matter if tall, or very small Whether blue, red or green Tall, wide or lean
Please stop my flight. Perhaps all are just right.
For a prince who’s uptight”

And lo the skies shook, right by the book,
A sight to behold Breaking the mold comes a princess so fair it’s hard not to stare. Shimmering green

A wondrous scene
A crown of red perched on her head.

Hard to grasp
The Prince gasped,

“From out of the blue? Too good to be true! No matter if tall
No matter at all!

No matter if green You are my queen!!”

The Prince cried!
And the princess replied,

“Well! It’s taken awhile,”

she said with a smile. And drops the prince, with nary a wince,
face first in the mud with a resounding THUD

The Prince spun his head

as the Princess said,

“Now know! When you take flight morning, noon or night”,

She said with great mirth,

“I promise to bring you . . . back to earth”

And this is how out of the blue. . .

wishes come true . . .

THE END

Sneek Peak at The Frog Princess -Part 3

Judy has written another book.  It’s for children and adult-children–and you get a sneak peek at it!! This is part 3, click here for part 1 , and here for part 2. ,   Click here for part 4

It’s a little known fact that not all frogs are princes in disguise . . .

. . .  there are two genders, one of which is the “weaker sex”.

The Frog Princess

3chg

By Judith Westerfield

“Hop on my back,
I’ll cut you some slack But don’t talkback.
I want no flack.”

So off they go
the Prince in tow hanging on for dear life looking for a wife.

“What a wondrous sight From this vantage of flight” “Still, all I can see
None suited for me
Many too greedy
Most too needy
Some too tall,
or much too small

None, not one, right at all”

Not one maiden fit

“I’m ready to quit,”

the Prince sighed, as froggie replied

“You needn’t fear
Your bride will appear.
Your wish will take wing
IF you say the RIGHT thing.”

“Acbracadabra!”

cried the Prince
Making the flying frog wince

“Let there be light!”

Shouting with might

“No! No! that’s not right!

“Bippity, Boppity, Boo? 1,2,3 Buckle my shoe?”

“Open sesame
Bring a bride to me!”

“Ok, let me focus . . . Hocus pocus?”

“Free! no charge!

Small, medium or large?”

“I give up, let me go

much too taxing, you know I’ve spent my life
Looking for a wife
On land, in the sea Someone perfect for me. Now in the air.

It’s just not fair None fit to a tee None suited for me”

“Many too greedy
Most too needy
Some too tall,
or much too small
None, not one, right at all. It’s an eye-opening site From this vantage of flight
A perfect bride doesn’t exist Once again, I’ve missed,”

To be continued………

/Click here for part 4

Sneek Peak at The Frog Princess- Part 2

Judy has written another book.  It’s for children and adult-children–and you get a sneak peek at it!! This is part 2 click here for part 1

click here for part 3,   Click here for part 4

It’s a little known fact that not all frogs are princes in disguise . . .

. . .  there are two genders, one of which is the “weaker sex”.

The Frog Princess

3chg

By Judith Westerfield

The Prince spied a spider who was an outsider.

“Spin me some webs
to attach to my legs They’ll catch the breeze when I bend my knees!”

the Prince cried.
And the spider replied

“I’ll spin if you will foot the bill.


Take my web if you please To catch a breeze
Wind ‘round your knees attach to your tie

flap your legs to fly take to the sky.”

“Help! I’m dropping like lead catching flies. . . . Instead!!”

the prince cried
as the spider replied


.

“Have you lost your mind My webs are fine! Guaranteed not to tear No matter where”

You’re no flyer I fear just a prince, my dear It’s just not your thing To take to wing

Stop sticking around Stay on the ground.”


The prince wasn’t mad Just terribly sad
Sitting down to mope
He felt like a dope.
When lo! High up in the sky a frog flying, No LIE!

Breaking the mold
With wings of gold
A froggie swoops down wearing a crown.
A crown of red
perched on her head
The prince rubbed his eyes Looking up to the skies
An impossible sight
In a golden light.

“I can’t believe my eyes. From out of the skies
I see a frog flying without even trying!”

the Prince cried
and the froggie replied,

“I heard you say
that you will pay.
I’ll fly you high if you will foot all of my bill.”

To be continued……

Sneek Peak at The Frog Princess – Part 1

 Judy has written another book.  It’s for children and adult-children–and you get a sneak peek at it!!

Click here for part 2.  Click here for part3   Click here for part 4

It’s a little known fact that not all frogs are princes in disguise . . .

. . .  there are two genders, one of which is the “weaker sex”.

The Frog Princess

3chg

By Judith Westerfield

There once was a Prince

With a perpetual wince

In his kingdom alone

No wife for his own.

He looked far and wide

For just the right bride

He sailed the seas

And if you please

roamed over the land

for a princess’ hand

Not one maiden fit

“I’m ready to quit
Many too greedy
Most too needy
A lot too tall
Some too small
None, not one, right at all.”


The prince was bereft The only place left Was to take to the sky Learn to fly

He was up for the ride To find the right bride

“I’ll learn to fly”
he said with a sigh, “Where I can spy
my princess from on high I must find a wife
To be in my life”


“I’m of delicate sorts
Need to change into shorts So my legs can kick
Don’t want them to stick And my knees are free
to fly higher, you see”



Just as he should
he ran fast as he could landing in mud
With a resounding thud. Jumping from trees Catching his knees.
Try as he might
he couldn’t take flight.


Then spotting a cow . . .

“She’ll surely know how Take me up to the moon It can’t be too soon! Yes, a cow will do

Four legs to my two.”

the Prince cried. And the cow replied,

“I’ll try, if you will
foot the bill
Now with all your might Hold on tight”.

My tail, not my udder!”

She yelled with a shudder


“ How now brown cow Run faster please
I’m scrapping my knees!”

The prince cried And the cow replied,

“Ok Prince, guess you’ve found I’m better on ground
Where grass is green
That’s my scene.”

 

 

To be continued………

Click here for part 2. 

Click here for part3

  Click here for part 4

Bet You Didn’t Know-Tickling Slows Down the Aging Process

NOW HEAR THIS!

This tickling does not lead to spastic body movements and laughter. It’s Ear tickling.

Researchers ‘tickled’ participants’ ears with a tiny electric current to influence the nervous system and slow down some of the effects of aging. 

Oops, wrong kind of tickle

It is a painless procedure where custom-made clip electrodes are placed on a part of the ear called the tragus. The therapy, known as transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, sends tiny currents of electricity into the ear that travel down to the body’s nervous system. There’s no pain,  just a slight tingling which is referred to as “tickling”.

Here’s how it works:

The autonomic nervous system controls bodily functions that don’t require thought, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.

Within the autonomic nervous system, there are two branches: parasympathetic (for resting activity) and sympathetic (for stress activity). The two branches work together to allow healthy levels of bodily activity.

The balance changes as people age, and the sympathetic branch can start to dominate. That domination can create an unhealthy imbalance in the automatic nervous system.

As a result, it can leave the body more vulnerable to other diseases and deterioration of bodily functions. 

Researchers hoped the therapy would improve the balance of

the autonomic nervous system.

After 15 minutes of daily therapy for two weeks, they brought the participants – 26 people over the age of 55 back into the lab and measured factors such as heart rate and blood pressure to judge the success rate of their trial.

They found that tickling helped re-balance the body’s autonomic nervous system.

There were improvements in self-reported tension, depression, mood disturbances and sleep.

The researchers believe that the therapy could be used to reduce the risk of age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

The next step is to take the study to a larger group to get a more comprehensive look at the benefits of tickle therapy.

Are you up for a tickle?  

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/08/02/tickle-therapy-new-therapy-could-slow-down-aging-process/1891544001/

Susan Deuchars, lead author on the study and director of research at the University of Leeds’ School of Biomedical Sciences

For more on the other kind of tickle,  click here for Tickle

Originally posted on :

maxmsmall

https://peggyarndt.com/

Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain – 4 Techniques to Help You Learn

A lesson from the Coursera course “Learning How to Learn.”

By PHILIP OAKLEY and BARBARA OAKLEY

1.  FOCUS and then DON’T

“The brain has two modes of thinking that Dr. Oakley simplifies as “focused,” in which learners concentrate on the material, and “diffuse,” a neural resting state in which consolidation occurs — that is, the new information can settle into the brain. (Cognitive scientists talk about task-positive networks and default-mode networks, respectively, in describing the two states.) In diffuse mode, connections between bits of information, and unexpected insights, can occur. That’s why it’s helpful to take a brief break after a burst of focused work.”

2.  TAKE A “tomato” BREAK

To accomplish those periods of focused and diffuse-mode thinking, Dr. Oakley recommends what is known as the Pomodoro Technique, developed by one Francesco Cirillo. Set a kitchen timer for a 25-minute stretch of focused work, followed by a brief reward, which includes a break for diffuse reflection. (“Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato — some timers look like tomatoes.) The reward — listening to a song, taking a walk, anything to enter a relaxed state — takes your mind off the task at hand. Precisely because you’re not thinking about the task, the brain can subconsciously consolidate the new knowledge.Dr. Oakley compares this process to “a librarian filing books away on shelves for later retrieval.”

“As a bonus, the ritual of setting the timer can also help overcome procrastination. Dr. Oakley teaches that even thinking about doing things we dislike activates the pain centers of the brain. The Pomodoro Technique, she said, “helps the mind slip into focus and begin work without thinking about the work.”

“Virtually anyone can focus for 25 minutes, and the more you practice, the easier it gets.”

3.  PRACTICE – Chunk it

“Chunking” is the process of creating a neural pattern that can be reactivated when needed. It might be an equation or a phrase in French or a guitar chord. Research shows that having a mental library of well-practiced neural chunks is necessary for developing expertise.”

“Practice brings procedural fluency, says Dr. Oakley, who compares the process to backing up a car. “When you first are learning to back up, your working memory is overwhelmed with input.” In time, “you don’t even need to think more than ‘Hey, back up,’ ” and the mind is free to think about other things.”

“Chunks build on chunks, and, she says, the neural network built upon that knowledge grows bigger. “You remember longer bits of music, for example, or more complex phrases in French.” Mastering low-level math concepts allows tackling more complex mental acrobatics. “You can easily bring them to mind even while your active focus is grappling with newer, more difficult information.”’

4.  KNOW THYSELF – Racer or Hiker?

“Dr. Oakley urges her students to understand that people learn in different ways. Those who have “race car brains” snap up information; those with “hiker brains” take longer to assimilate information but, like a hiker, perceive more details along the way. Recognizing the advantages and disadvantages, she says, is the first step in learning how to approach unfamiliar material.”

____________________________

About the Oakleys

“Barbara Oakley, a professor at Oakland University in Michigan, in her basement studio where she and her husband created “Learning How to Learn,” the most popular course of all time on Coursera.The studio for what is arguably the world’s most successful online course is tucked into a corner of Barb and Phil Oakley’s basement, a converted TV room . . .”

“This is where they put together “Learning How to Learn,” taken by more than 1.8 million students from 200 countries, the most ever on Coursera. The course provides practical advice on tackling daunting subjects and on beating procrastination, and the lessons engagingly blend neuroscience and common sense.”

“Dr. Oakley, an engineering professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., created the class with Terrence Sejnowski, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and with the University of California, San Diego.”

“Dr. Oakley said she believes that just about anyone can train himself to learn. “Students may look at math, for example, and say, ‘I can’t figure this out — it must mean I’m really stupid!’ They don’t know how their brain works.”’

“Her own feelings of inadequacy give her empathy for students who feel hopeless. “I know the hiccups and the troubles people have when they’re trying to learn something.” After all, she was her own lab rat. “I rewired my brain,” she said, “and it wasn’t easy.”’

“As a youngster, she was not a diligent student. “I flunked my way through elementary, middle school and high school math and science,” she said. She joined the Army out of high school to help pay for college and received extensive training in Russian at the Defense Language Institute. Once out, she realized she would have a better career path with a technical degree (specifically, electrical engineering), and set out to tackle math and science, training herself to grind through technical subjects with many of the techniques of practice and repetition that she had used to let Russian vocabulary and declension soak in.”

“Dr. Oakley recounts her journey in both of her best-selling books: “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)” and, out this past spring, “Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential.”The new book is about learning new skills, with a focus on career switchers.”

“Dr. Oakley is already planning her next book, another guide to learning how to learn but aimed at 10- to 13-year-olds. She wants to tell them, “Even if you are not a superstar learner, here’s how to see the great aspects of what you do have.” She would like to see learning clubs in school to help young people develop the skills they need. “We have chess clubs, we have art clubs,” she said. “We don’t have learning clubs. I just think that teaching kids how to learn is one of the greatest things we can possibly do.”

Originally posted on:

maxmsmall

https://peggyarndt.com/

Olivia & Buster . . . and Judy done-in

This was my final semester project for the Emeritus Art Media class.  It’s a mixed-media booklet called “Olivia & Buster Book” 

Story by Judy.

Dessert images are photo-copies of acrylic paintings I did when I was bored.  I photographed the paintings, and photo-copied them in small sizes.

Blob Critters – Threw blobs of watercolor on paper and used marker to make the blobs into critters.

It’s not perfect, my glue was gloppy, my white-out was beige-out, my black marker was blotchy, I was too lazy to hand letter,  It still needs a cover and then binding the pages into a book . . .  but after all the work I did I was too pooped to do anything more.  Olivia, Buster and I are now DONE-IN.

Good thing there’s no grades in Emeritus classes . . .

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The End

The Three Little Pigs, a Slight Curl of the Tale

by Judith Westerfield

Once upon a time there were 3 little pigs who were looking for a change of scenery.  Having decided that living in town was becoming too expensive, too crowded and too hectic they set off to find the perfect place to build new houses and new lives.

The first little pig hopped onto his motorbike and pedaled off.

The second little pig got into his pick-up truck and rumbled off.

The third little pig got into his Mercedes and drove off.

Lo and behold all 3 little pigs ended up at a tiny town at the edge of a very beautiful, dense forest, complete with a running spring, clear skies and a view of snow capped mountains.

Neighbors, who had already found the pleasures of living in such a wonderful place, welcomed them.  There was the most delightful young girl wrapped in a beautiful red cape, a white rabbit who wore a top hat and carried a large watch, a courageous lion and  a business savvy wolf who introduced himself with his contractor’s card.

“A perfect spot to build a new life!” declared the 3 little pigs.

The first little pig, being very frugal suggested they pool their money.

The second little pig being quite resourceful suggested they order materials from the Internet and have them delivered.

The Third little pig being very educated poured over house plans and construction manuals.

Soon big trucks pulled up to the edge of the forest and unloaded concrete and wood, cinder blocks and roofing materials.  Trucks pulled up to the edge of the forest and unloaded plumbing and electrical supplies.  Trucks pulled up to the edge of the forest and unloaded tools and equipment, hardware and flooring until only the very tips of the snow-capped mountains were visible.

And so the work began:

The first little pig gleefully ran up and down and around the piles of materials and supplies getting a feel for what appealed to him.  When just the right materials caught his attention he dragged his new found treasures off to his plot of land by the edge of the forest.

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The second little pig checked his house plans, made a list of everything needed and carefully amassed precisely the amounts and sizes of material specified.  He stacked everything on his portion of land by the edge of the forest in the order needed to follow the building plans.

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The third little pig hired the Wolf to build his house and sat in the shade of a big tree sipping lemonade and reading The Wizard of Oz and other tales.

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The contractor wolf, being very savvy, hired sub-contractors.  He huffed and puffed orders at them – telling them what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

The first little pig’s house took shape very quickly.  He pre-fabbed the walls while the concrete foundation was setting.  When the walls didn’t precisely line up he created the most innovative ways of designing new shapes.  Some of the rooms were square; some were round and some triangular.  Each room was different.  The first little pig got more and more excited as his house took shape.  It was an architectural and visual delight.  He added turrets on the roof.

The second little pig was still waiting for his foundation to set by the time the first little pig had added turrets on his roof. When the foundation was finally ready the second little pig began construction on the framing.  He measured and sawed, re-measuring and fitting until everything was aligned just right.  He put in plumbing according to the plans.  He installed the electrical according to the plans. Walls went up, the roof went up, he installed gutters for the rain and drainage on his land. He tightened and tested until everything was in place, exactly as the plans specified.  When finished it was a sturdy house, easily replicated by the plans . . . should anyone ask.

The third little pig’s house was proceeding quickly as all the subs had built many houses and knew exactly what to do.  The Wolf, who was very clever, suggested to the third little pig he might want to consider additional square footage since “After all you only build once.”

“Great idea”, said the third little pig, “I would nave never thought of that myself. Add a great room where I can play pool, a workshop next to the garage so I can tinker and a movie theatre where I can entertain.” 

The additions went up quickly as the subs had built many houses before and knew exactly what to do.

The wolf, who was very clever, suggested that the third Little Pig might want to up-grade the plumbing and have a waterfall in the back yard that cascades into a swimming pool.

“Great idea”, said the third little pig, “I would nave never thought of that myself. Add a hot tub too so I can relax.”

Magnificent water-works went up quickly as the subs had built many before and knew exactly what to do.

The wolf, who was very clever, suggested that the third Little Pig might want to up-grade the electrical to have an intercom and music piped into all the rooms, and home security systems to protect everything. 

“Great idea”, said the third little pig, “I would nave never thought of that myself. Add remotely controlled lights and smart appliances so I have even more environmental control.” 

The improvements went in quickly as the subs had installed many of the most current systems  before and knew exactly what to do.

The wolf, who was very clever, suggested that the third Little Pig might want to be environmentally friendly and install solar panels and do zero landscaping.

“Great idea”, said the third little pig, “I would nave never thought of that myself. Add skylights and triple paned windows too .”

Everything suggested went in quickly as the subs had built many energy efficient houses before and knew exactly what to do.

The first little pig loved his new house.  He continued to paint all the walls different colors, hung up crystal chandeliers and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceilings.  Every room was a visual delight.  After a big rain, when water pooled in his yard, he made a pond for the frogs.  When doors didn’t close tight he replaced them with hanging beads and tie-dyed fabric.  When the heater didn’t work, he built a fire-pit in the living room where he roasted marshmallows and drank hot cocoa.  When his kitchen appliances broke down he ate at the second little pig’s house.

The second little pig was snug and content in his new house.  He watched cable TV movies every night.  During good weather he mowed the lawn and planted flowers, delighting in the aromas of freshly cut grass and roses.  He washed his windows to have a clear view of the snow-capped mountains.  And every evening he cooked dinner in the microwave, for himself and the second little pig.

The third little pig glowed with pride at the magnificent house that was the showpiece of the entire forest town.  On the weekends he hosted parties so all could delight in what he built.

Whereupon the wolf, who was very clever, presented the third little pig with his bill. “I know how to build and I know how to tear down so pay up before I huff and puff and blow your house down.” Said the Wolf.  

“I have little money left after paying property taxes, water and electrical bills and hosting weekly parties for all to enjoy my magnificent home”, squealed the third little pig.

“Never fear,” said the Wolf.  “I know where you can get all the money you owe me”.  And so the Wolf, who was very clever, took the third little pig into town to get a bank loan.

The first little pig and the second little pig lived happily ever after, comfortable and happy in their homes.  The third little pig got into his Mercedes Monday through Friday and drove into town to his job.

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And the wolf . . . he huffed and puffed carrying his bags of money into the forest where he, too, lived happily ever after, retired from his contracting business.

Have you ever been “pressed by an elf” or abducted by an alien?

My brother Rick told me that he saw an alien standing in our bedroom doorway when he was about 4 and I was 9.  

I had just shared with him my abnormal fascination . . . and fear . . . of outer space aliens. I read many books about alien sightings and the accounts of alien abduction terrified me. At the same time, I hoped aliens were friendly and simply curious about earthllngs and would save us from our own self-destructive tendencies.

I also learned that many scientists think it is possible that sleep paralysis experiences result in accounts of alien abductions . . .  not nearly as exciting as real space aliens

(NapTime poster available on Zazzle click here)

Sleep paralysis,’ is a disturbance of sleep where a person is not able to move but is awake, and often has hallucinations in one or more senses (visual, auditory). Imagery from your dreams intrudes into a waking state.

The hallucinations are often about the feeling of paralysis, such as visions of someone holding you down. Similar incidents have been recorded as far back at 400BC and from many cultures, with the first reference from the Zhou Li/Chun Guan, and ancient Chinese book about sleep.

Researchers Brian Sharpless and Karl Dograhmji have collected 118 different terms from around the world that describe sleep paralysis-like experiences:

  • Germans have terms such as “elf pressing”.
  • Norwegian’s have “evil elves that shoot people with paralysing arrows before perching on their chests”
  • Japanese have a term for being magically bound by invisible metal.
  • Switzerland people describe an evil nightmare fairy that disguises itself as a black sheep.
  • Kurds have an evil spirit that suffocates people.
  • Iranians have a type of jinn that sits on the sleeper’s chest.

Consider the account of Jon Loudner, from the infamous 1692 Salem Witch Trials:

“… I going well to bed, about the dead of the night felt a great weight upon my breast, and awakening, looked, and it being bright moonlight, did clearly see Bridget Bishop, or her likeness, sitting upon my stomach. And putting my arms off of the bed to free myself from that great oppression, she presently laid hold of my throat and almost choked me. And I had no strength or power in my hands to resist or help myself. And in this condition she held me to almost day.”

Bridget Bishop was the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials. Her ‘curse’ was probably a misunderstood case of sleep paralysis.

“The  physiological mechanisms that cause sleep paralysis are still not completely understood. When we dream we only act in our dreams, our imagination. There is a block in the brain’s signals that lead to actual action, so we do not physically act out dreams. But if our brains do not do this properly, the results can be sleepwalking, when the paralysis stops when you are still asleep, or the paralysis continues after you have awakened or sets in just before you fall asleep. You are conscious, eyes open, but unable to move.”

Both problems result from a general sleep disruption.  Sleep paralysis can be induced in laboratory participants by repeatedly waking people from a deep sleep.  Many people have experienced this, and if you have not, chances are that someone you know has, as half of the population experiences this at least once. It is not a sign of mental illness or drug use . . .

. . . my own verdict is still out about elves and space aliens . . . and . . . Rick

judy 

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170323-the-strange-case-of-the-phantom-pokemon

This post first appeared on Max Your Mind (peggyarndt.com)

Sneak Peak – Judy’s Pandemic Paintings

Although the Emeritus painting on-line classes had various assignments my first thought after seeing them all together was the self-isolation I have experienced for over a year.  Interestingly, “isolation” was never foremost in my conscious awareness when I picked the subject matter.IMG_0928

 Assignment, Paint a figure with light from a window

The safe but solitary view from a window that can’t be opened.  Facing the light from outside that casts a dark shadow behind.

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Assignment, Figure in landscape -“tunnel composition”

This has a very similar feeling to me as the first.  No longer inside but in the shelter of a cave’s opening.  There are gathering dark clouds in the sunlit land.

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Assignment, Abstract collage with gold paint

Pieces floating on a black background.  Not sure what the 3 circles with gold represent but they are all connected.

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Assignment, paint a figure wearing white

Looking down – reading?  texting? reflecting? sad? pensive?  I’m not sure.  It too, is solitary.

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Assignment, Landscape-“circle” composition

There is a solitary figure, again, facing the sunlight, sheltered under a tree.  The water is not still and the light is both in front and behind the figure.

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Assignment,  Landscape, “S-shaped” curve composition

 Feeling a bit washed ashore on rocky terrain with everything horrific that is happening in the world and this is the painting that resulted.  It surprised me to see that no matter how isolated and inaccessible the terrain there are places of brightness and color.  It’s a relief there are no crashing waves to wash me out to sea.

Of course each viewer has their own unique impression when looking at images.  I wonder if you have a different impression than I do?

How many “Weak-Tie” friends do you have? IT MATTERS.

Walking around my neighborhood, early in the pandemic lockdown, I noticed people wanted to talk.  Even though staying a distance away, they were more friendly, stopping to chat, than pre-Covid19.  It seems there is an important reason for the casual chat.  While close friends are also important, research is showing that more casual or “weak-tie” friends offer some different benefits.

Weak Tie friends are not close friends but people you see regularly – from a shopkeeper to a casual neighbor, members of a group you belong to.  You may just wave, say “Hi” maybe chat a bit.

Weak Tie, Strong Tie  Friends

Having a good sized group of casual friends can increase your happiness, improve knowledge and your feelings of belonging.

Mark Granovetter’s* research found that quantity matters.

The most important thing he learned was that these weak-tie friends are very important when it comes to getting new information.

“Granovetter found that most people got their jobs through a friend-but 84% got their job through a weak tie friend, someone they saw only from time to time, not a close friend. As Granovetter saw that close friends tend to have the same information, but weak ties connect with different circles and can pass that information, like those of job opportunities, on to us. They also provide us with stimulation, new stories about what is happening or news about events. When it comes to weak ties, the more the merrier.”

People with more weak ties may be happier.

 When researchers asked people to keep a record of their interactions and their mood  they felt better on days when interacting more with weak-tie friends.

A study in Scotland and Italy showed that being a member of a group, such as a team or community group, gave people a feeling of more security and a sense of meaning.

Covid 19 had caused many of us to loosen those weak ties. Gyms, restaurants or bars are closed or limited.  Working at home limits changes connections. Some companies have noticed that even chance meetings with others you don’t work closely with can feed creativity and enhance the transfer of information.

I’ll be more focused on keeping touch with my weak tie friends, through social media, giving people a call, chatting with neighbors or remembering to wave when I walk. They may even have some tips on coping with the pandemic.

PA

Howdy 

*Mark Granovetter, a sociology professor, author of The Strength of Weak Ties

Originally posted on Max Your Mind

4 Plants Therapeutic for Alzheimers, depression, good blood flow, pain and some sicknesses. 

Nature’s Medicine

“Throughout history nature has provided us with treatments and cures for many of our ailments. In many cultures a medicine person, healer or shaman developed extensive knowledge of what plants had what effects so they could treat people.”

“Western medicine has looked at many of these treatments and they have been tested for effectiveness and safety. Four of these are discussed below,  and they are able to ease pain, calm us down and make us feel better.”

As with any medication, first first consult with your doctor.

Turmeric for Alzheimer’s disease

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Turmeric-Photo by Prachi Palwe on Unsplash

“An important part of Indian medicine for hundreds of years, turmeric is a spice that comes from the roots of the plant. The medically active part of the plant is curcumin, which protects against neurodegeneration for adults who do not have dementia. And in patients, memory, attention and cognitive function was improved when they were given 90 milligrams curcumin twice a day (this was from a large, long term study- click here to read study) over a year and a half .”

“Researchers think that amyloid plaques which build up in the brain may be inhibited by the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties.  These plaques are thought to be responsible for the death of nerve cells, which lead to symptoms of dementia.”

“A protein in the brain called tau is also thought to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Tau normally helps with microtubules in neurons, allowing nutrients into the cell. But when taus become twisted the cell dies because it does not get the nourishment it needs. Curcumin also benefits the twisted fibers, called neurofibrillary tangles.”

“While turmeric has curcumin, it is there in very small amounts, and our bodies are not good at absorbing it-unless it is eaten with pepper. Then our bodies have no trouble absorbing it!”

Cannabis for sickness and pain

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Cannabis-Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

“Cannabis is becoming legal in more and more states.In some places it is legal for medicinal uses but not recreational uses, another’s it is legal for both. In some places you need a prescription from a doctor. Research shows that cannabis has several benefits. It is shown to be safe and beneficial in both preventing nausea and vomiting (especially in chemotherapy patients) and in helping with symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The FDA has approved it for nausea and in many countries it us legal to use for symptoms such as muscle spasms, poor mobility, pain, sleep and quality of life for patients with multiple sclerosis.”

“Many doctors have found that cannabis also helps with pain from chronic illness, seizures and Tourette’s syndrome. More research is needed to show cannabis causes these benefits.”

“One of the difficulties in using cannabis is knowing how much to use, and in what form to take it. Smoking or inhaling cannabis can result in psychoactive responses, including delirium, and can even be toxic. Pills and edibles are easier to dose, but not absorbed as well.”

St. John’s wort for mild depression

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St. John’s Wort

“Part of folk medicine for a long time, St. John’s wort was used during the Crusades and in Asia and Europe. It was later taken to the Americas, Africa and Australia.”

“It is a short term treatment for mild depression. The active ingredients are  hypericin and hyperforin, which help keep your mood stable.Research (in rats)  shows that lessens the degradation of amine neurotransmitters.  Patients with depression show these neurotransmitters are not in balance. Hyperforin, like SSRIs which are used to treat depression, slows the reabsorption of dopamine and serotonin, two of the “happy” hormones, so that they stay around longer. SSRI stands for selective serotonin repute inhibitor.”

“However St. John’s wort changes enzymes in the stomach  so that medications leave the stomach and body faster. Because of this you should always talk to your doctor before you take it. It could make other medications you take less effective.”

Hawthorn berries for regulated blood flow

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Hawthorne Berries

“Used for jam and wine, Hawthorne berries are common in the Northern hemisphere. It has many benefits and is used in traditional Chinese medicine, specifically to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. It helps blood vessels to relax, so circulation is improved, and decreases the chance of arrhythmia.  It can be used along with the heart medication and improves heart function, fatigue and shortness of breath. While some studies have found no benefits, others find effects, so more research is needed.”

“Hawthorn berries are easy to eat and you can also make them into a tea, or dry them  or use as a supplement.”

https://apple.news/AqYcZma13TQWHP-Q3Yun3TACorrection: 

BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) Naked Mole Rats have Accents

Naked mole rats are very communicative, chirping, squeaking, twittering and grunting to one another.

Healthy!

Naked Mole Rats are renowned for their extremely low cancer rates, their slow rate of aging, and resistance to pain.

The skin of naked mole-rats lacks neurotransmitters in their cutaneous sensory fibers, so feel no pain.

Naked mole-rats feed primarily on very large tubers (weighing as much as a thousand times the body weight of a typical mole-rat) that they find deep underground through their mining operations.

EuSocial!

The furless rodents can live in colonies of up to 300 members.

Naked mole rats are really highly unusual in that they’re the most social rodent that we know of.   They are the first mammal discovered to exhibit eusociality.  This eusocial structure of naked mole-rats is similar to that found in antstermites, and some bees and wasps. Only one female (the queen) and one to three males reproduce, while the rest of the members of the colony function as workers – some are soldiers, some are workers, and they cooperate.

Some mole rats even band together to assassinate their queen.

Squeak Fluently! (albeit with an accent)

“They are very communicative and can often be heard chirping, squeaking, twittering and grunting to one another. But scientists wanted to understand the role of these vocalizations in their social life.”
“Over two years, researchers from the MDC and the University of Pretoria in South Africa recorded 36,190 “chirps” — noises very similar to a bird tweeting — made by 166 rats belonging to seven different colonies.Using an algorithm, the team analyzed the acoustic properties of the individual vocalizations, and discovered that each colony had its own “accent” or dialect.”

As cute and industrious as they are – Naked Mole Rats have a dark side (and I’m not talking about living underground in the dark all their life) 

A bit Xenophobic

Naked mole rats speak in dialects local to their own colonies and are hostile to outsiders.

The development of a dialect points to one of the rodent’s less-savory characteristics: xenophobia.Researchers believe the mole rats use their vocalizations to recognize whether a fellow rodent is from the same or a foreign colony.   Researchers played the rats back the vocalizations, and found that they would answer recordings from their own colony — but not from a foreign colony.

“Mole rat colonies are incredibly xenophobic. If a mole rat comes from a different colony, within minutes, they are recognized and usually killed by the colony it invades” 

The researchers say this is not genetic, but rather a cultural phenomenon — to test this, the research team took orphaned mole rat pups from one colony, and let them grow up in another.

“We could cross-foster an animal from one colony to another colony, and if it grows from a baby in a new colony, it adopts the dialect from the new colony, not the colony where it was born.”

Anarchists 

Naked mole rats, for reasons unknown, periodically overthrow existing “regimes”. While the queen is the only breeding female in a colony, the researchers observed cases where a high-ranking female and a team of accomplices would “assassinate” the queen.

“The dialects before the queen was gone were much more cohesive — they all spoke with a very similar dialect. As soon as the queen was gone there was a period of anarchy, and everyone started speaking a little more variably,” he said, adding that as soon as a new queen was established, the dialects became focused again.

BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) that living in the dark your whole life can turn you into a naked assassin!

The study was published in the journal Science.

(Naked mole rats are not the only animals to have local dialects — primates and whales have been found to converse in a common tongue.)

BYDK (Bet You Didn’t Know) swearing is a sign of intelligence – Read at your own peril

I admit to knowing swear words in several different languages. 

I admit there was a time in my life when I took delight in shocking my friends by throwing in a swear word or two during “normal” conversation. 

I admit that, on occasion, now in my advanced age, I’ve . . . gasp . . . sworn.  (judy,NOT Peggy)

Disclaimer:  We do not condone swearing.  Consequently we are quoting this article in its entirety and cannot be held responsible if you should suddenly find yourself mouthing words normally associated with being uncouth.

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN.   “Polite society considers swearing to be a vulgar sign of low intelligence and education, for why would one rely on rude language when blessed with a rich vocabulary?”

“That perception, as it turns out, is full of, uh … baloney. In fact, swearing may be a sign of verbal superiority, studies have shown, and may provide other possible rewards as well.”

“The advantages of swearing are many,” said Timothy Jay, professor emeritus of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who has studied swearing for more than 40 years.  “The benefits of swearing have just emerged in the last two decades, as a result of a lot of research on brain and emotion, along with much better technology to study brain anatomy.”‘

1. Cursing may be a sign of intelligence

“Well-educated people with plenty of words at their disposal, a 2015 study found, were better at coming up with curse words than those who were less verbally fluent.”

“Participants were asked to list as many words that start with F, A or S in one minute. Another minute was devoted to coming up with curse words that start with those three letters. The study found those who came up with the most F, A and S words also produced the most swear words.  “That’s a sign of intelligence “to the degree that language is correlated with intelligence,” said Jay, who authored the study. “People that are good at language are good at generating a swearing vocabulary.  Swearing can also be associated with social intelligence, Jay added.

“Having the strategies to know where and when it’s appropriate to swear, and when it’s not,  is a social cognitive skill like picking the right clothes for the right occasion. That’s a pretty sophisticated social tool.”

2. Swearing may be a sign of honesty

“Science has also found a positive link between profanity and honesty. People who cursed lied less on an interpersonal level, and had higher levels of integrity overall, a series of three studies published in 2017 found.”

“When you’re honestly expressing your emotions with powerful words, then you’re going to come across as more honest.”

“While a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty, the study authors cautioned that “the findings should not be interpreted to mean that the more a person uses profanity, the less likely he or she would engage in more serious unethical or immoral behaviors.”

3. Profanity improves pain tolerance

“Want to push through that workout? Go ahead and drop an F-bomb.”

  • People on bikes who swore while pedaling against resistance had more power and strength than people who used “neutral” words, studies have shown.

  • Research also found that people who cursed while squeezing a hand vice were able to squeeze harder and longer.

  • Spouting obscenities doesn’t just help your endurance: If you pinch your finger in the car door, you may well feel less pain if you say “sh*t” instead of “shoot.”

  • People who cursed as they plunged their hand into icy water, another study found, felt less pain and were able to keep their hands in the water longer than those who said a neutral word.

“The headline message is that swearing helps you cope with pain,” said lead author and psychologist Richard Stephens.  (Stephens is a senior lecturer at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, where he leads the Psychobiology Research Laboratory.)

Cussing produces a stress response that initiates the body’s ancient defensive reflex. A flush of adrenaline increases heart rate and breathing, prepping muscles for fight or flight.

  • “Simultaneously, there is another physiological reaction called an analgesic response, which makes the body more impervious to pain.”
  • “That would make evolutionary sense because you’re going to be a better fighter and better runner if you’re not being slowed down by concerns about pain,” Stephens said.
  • “So it seems like by swearing you’re triggering an emotional response in yourself, which triggers a mild stress response, which carries with it a stress-induced reduction in pain,” he added.

“Careful, however, the next time you decide to extend your workout by swearing. Curse words lose their power over pain when they are used too much, research has also discovered.”

Some of us get more out of swearing than others. Take people who are more afraid of pain, called “catastrophizers.” A catastrophizer, Stephens explained, is someone who might have a tiny wound and think, “Oh, this is life threatening. I’m going to get gangrene, I’m going to die.”

“The research found men who were lower catastrophizers seemed to get a benefit from swearing, whereas men who are higher catastrophizers didn’t,” Stephens said. “Whereas with women there wasn’t any difference.”

4. Cussing is a sign of creativity

  • Swearing appears to be centered in the right side of the brain, the part people often call the “creative brain.”

  • “We do know patients who have strokes on the right side tend to become less emotional, less able to understand and tell jokes, and they tend to just stop swearing even if they swore quite a lot before,” Emma Byrne, the author of “Swearing Is Good for You,” said.

  • Research on swearing dates back to Victorian times, when physicians discovered that patients who lost their ability to speak could still curse.  “They swore incredibly fluently,” Byrne said. “Childhood reprimands, swear words and terms of endearment — words with strong emotional content learned early on tend to be preserved in the brain even when all the rest of our language is lost.”

5. Throwing expletives instead of punches

  1. Why do we choose to swear? Perhaps because profanity provides an evolutionary advantage that can protect us from physical harm, Jay said.
  2. “A dog or a cat will scratch you, bite you when they’re scared or angry,” he said. “Swearing allows us to express our emotions symbolically without doing it tooth and nail.
  3. “In other words, I can give somebody the finger or say f**k you across the street. I don’t have to get up into their face.”
  4. Cursing then becomes a remote form of aggression, Jay explained, offering the chance to quickly express feelings while hopefully avoiding repercussions.
  5. “The purpose of swearing is to vent my emotion, and there’s an advantage in that it allows me to cope,” he said. “And then it communicates very readily to bystanders what my emotional state is. It has that advantage of emotional efficiency — it’s very quick and clear.

A universal language

What makes the use of naughty words so powerful? The power of the taboo, of course. That reality is universally recognized: Just about every language in the world contains curse words.

“It seems that as soon as you have a taboo word, and the emotional insight that the word is going to cause discomfort for other people, the rest seems to follow naturally,” Byrne said.

It’s not just people who swear. Even primates curse when given the chance.

“Chimpanzees in the wild tend to use their excrement as a social signal, one that’s designed to keep people away,” Byrne said.

“Hand-raised chimps who were potty-trained learned sign language for “poo” so they could tell their handlers when they needed the toilet.   And as soon as they learned the poo sign they began using it like we do the word sh*t,” Byrne said. “Cursing is just a way of expressing your feelings that doesn’t involve throwing actual sh*t. You just throw the idea of sh*t around.”

“Does that mean that we should curse whenever we feel like it, regardless of our environment or the feelings of others? Of course not. But at least you can cut yourself some slack the next time you inadvertently let an F-bomb slip.  After all, you’re just being human.”

“You’ve got to be kidding”

My Will Power VS my Won’t Power

I admit it –  My will power is puny.  The more I try to eat healthy foods the more I scarf down sugar laden carbs.  About 3-4 days is my limit for exerting will power.  Finally!  Research has confirmed I’m normal (sort of).

It turns out that everyone has will power, but only a limited amount to use each day. 

Research shows that just the act of resisting temptation wears out will power and we are more likely to lose the ability to discipline ourselves later. This includes not only stopping oneself from dong something unhealthy or unhelpful, but also depletes the ability to concentrate on doing something you want to do.

Rather than depend on will power, it is easier to put ourselves in situations where little or no will power is needed: Easier not to buy ice cream, than to have it at home and not eat it;   Easier to put a loud alarm clock far from bed so you have to get up than to have the snooze button next to the bed that you can tap (over and over) with your eyes shut and your head on the pillow. 

Reference:  Switch, How to change Things When Change is Hard Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Maui’s “Mini-Tail” of Will Power

Scratch by Peggy

Scratch

There it sat, in the middle of Maui’s path, taunting him with texture. Maui knew his human would be upset if he scratched this BIG, TEMPTING scratching post called couch.  

” Don’t scratch the couch.  Don’t scratch the couch.  Don’t scratch the couch” 

He had lost count of how many times he heard this.  But every time he passed by that couch, his brain remembered how great the rough fabric felt and directed his claws to come out, longing for a manicure. 

Did Maui scratch?  Yup.  Just like humans, the stress of resisting continual temptation wore out his will power.  I can’t blame him.  Maui can’t remove the couch, he can’t go outside where he would be free to scratch whatever and where ever he wanted . . .

. . . unlike me who could throw out all the junk food and not buy anymore . . . if I had the will power . . .

 

Originally posted on Max Your Mind

 

Neuroscience – 4 easy & fast things to do to boost happiness

Brain research is both shifting and validating common knowledge. This article by Jon Spayde in the United Health Care bulletin is worth posting AND READING in it’s entirety.

How to get happy in a hurry, according to neuroscience

By Jon Spayde

“. . . Time.com blogger Eric Barker lists four rapid, in-the-moment ways to feel happy – he calls them “rituals” – based on recent neuroscience, and featured in a new book by UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb: “The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.”‘

“1. Ask yourself what you’re grateful for. A warm house, a pet you love, your success at Minecraft? Whatever. Gratitude, says Korb, boosts both dopamine and serotonin, the two most powerful neurotransmitter chemicals involved in giving you a feeling of calm and well-being. “Know what Prozac does?” asks Barker. “Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.” And don’t worry if you can’t immediately find things to be grateful for, Korb says. The mental search for gratitude alone will begin to elevate the level of those pleasure chemicals”.

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One-liner doodle – WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

“2. Label negative feelings. Simply saying to yourself “I’m sad” or “I’m anxious” seems like a pretty paltry happiness strategy. But here’s what Korb writes: “…in one fMRI study, appropriately titled ‘Putting Feelings into Words,’ participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala [the brain’s fight-or-flight alarm bell] activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.”‘

“3. Make a decision. Just deciding to do something can reduce worry and anxiety right away. Korb: “Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals – all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world – finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.”‘

“But what about making the “right” decision? Isn’t that stressful? Korb counsels letting go of perfectionism. The “good enough” decision is…well, good enough to make our brains go into at-ease mode. “We don’t just choose the things we like,” says Korb. “We also like the things we choose.”‘

“4. Touch people (appropriately).One of the primary ways to release oxytocin [the pleasure-inducing ‘cuddle chemical’] is through touching,” Korb writes. “Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.”‘

“A hug is particularly effective, he says, mobilizing oxytocin against that alarm-bell amygdala. And if you don’t have anybody to hug, go get a massage: “The results are fairly clear that massage boosts your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels.”‘

Hug from  “The Real Tale of Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf”

by Judith Westerfield

United Health Care

NERW#

“The Upward Spiral” 

Other quick ways to boost happiness, our book on Kindle

“Hack Your Way to Happiness” 

For more books on happiness and other brain science topics click below:

Need to Read

Judy’s “Blobbing”

If you don’t know by now, Judy is constantly “on the prowl” for ways to doodle, experiment and as she says . . . “creatively procrastinate”.

She made blobs of watercolor, “found” faces and  blobbed on hair. Hopefully she wasn’t creating portraits of her friends . . .  like me.  Peggy

Introducing the Blob family by Judy

Bubbie Blob

Click here for Bubbie Blob small notecard on Zazzle

Anne Marie Blob

Click here for Anne Marie Blob small notecard on Zazzle

Buster Blob

Click here for Buster Blob small notecard on Zazzle

Bertha Blob

Click here for Bertha Blob small notecard on Zazzle

What Happens to Your Brain When You Reconnect With an Old Flame?

I believed my first loves (I’m using the plural in order to propagate an image of being one of the “popular” girls) were indelibly etched in my heart. The experiences we shared together, and even how we separated, stay with me in a positive and healthy way and helped form the person I am today.

Now I learn that all my first loves are not in my heart. They are lodged in my BRAIN. 

Experts say the neurological attachment that happens between young lovers is not unlike the attachment a baby forms with its mother. Hormones like vasopressin and oxytocin are key in helping create a sense of closeness in relationships and play a starring role in both scenarios.

If that person was your first, best or most intimate, the mark is even more indelible. Such preferential encoding in the brain is one reason why stories of people reconnecting with a high school or college flame are commonplace.

Feelings of romantic love trigger the brain’s dopamine system, which drives us to repeat pleasurable experiences. The brain’s natural opiates help encode the experience, and oxytocin acts as the glue that helps forge those feelings of closeness.*

“Oxytocin unleashes a network of brain activity that amplifies visual cues, odors and sounds,” explains Larry Young, a psychiatry professor at Emory University in Atlanta. That, plus the effects from your brain’s natural opiates and dopamine, and your romantic partner’s traits — strong jaw, piercing blue eyes, musky scent — leave a sort of neural fingerprint. Those preferences become soft-wired into your reward system, just like an addiction.”

Even creatures prone to promiscuity, like rats, are often primed to revisit their first pleasure-inducing partner, according to a 2015 study co-authored by Pfaus. And it seems humans may follow a similar pattern.

“WHO said I was promiscuous?”

Seeing a first love can instantly reactivate the networks your mind encoded decades ago. Throw a bear hug into the mix — and the accompanying flood of oxytocin —  that old brain circuitry lights up like fireworks. Justin Garcia, the associate director for research and education at the Kinsey Institute, says that just like a recovering alcoholic craving a drink after decades of sobriety, we can still be drawn to an old lover.

“It doesn’t mean you still want to be with that person,” he says. “It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It means there’s a complex physiology associated with romantic attachments that probably stays with us for most of our lives — and that’s not something to be afraid of, particularly if you had a great run.”

When Reconnecting Makes Sense – single, divorced or widowed?

“Most people have a lost love they wonder about. Someone who held your hand through transformative moments and helped you define you. Love research supports the notion that it’s psychologically intoxicating to reconnect with a former flame you still feel friendly toward; the brain lights up the same way a cocaine addict’s does before a hit.”

“But, unless you’re single, divorced or widowed, it’s probably best to avoid searching for that old love on Facebook. According to psychologist Nancy Kalish, professor emeritus atCalifornia State University, Sacramento, when social media collides with a generally happy marriage, the results can be disastrous. A whopping 62 percent of married folks in her study wound up having an affair with their ex — even though they didn’t reach out to them with any such plan in mind.”

“You can’t compare the person who you experienced a first or early love with to someone who you’ve had a deep abiding love with for many years through the course of a marriage,” Kalish says. “Both are good and both are powerful.”

“So before you follow an ex on Twitter, send them a Facebook message or stalk them on Instagram, consider two big factors: Are you single? And if not, are you prepared to let reconnecting with your ex devastate your current relationship? If the answer to either question is “yes,” you could be in for a pleasant reunion with an old friend,” Kalish says.

[This article originally appeared in print as “Fired Up.”]

*According to a 2010 study published in The Journal of Neurophysiology

How to have fun and improve your brain function, mental & physical health.

We’ve posted about creativity, in ALL its forms, many times.  We practice what we preach because it makes us smarter, happier, healthier . . .  only time will tell about dementia, and our mental health . . .  We’ve created FREE PDF coloring books to help you get started*

Engaging in creative behaviors (even just coloring in our P&J coloring books*) improves brain function, mental health, and physical health.

“Turns out, tapping into creative energy can  improve your overall health. It might sound too good to be true, but simply engaging in creative behaviors (even just coloring in those trendy adult coloring books) improves brain function, mental health, and physical health.”

“The theory of cognition postulates that being creative is actually a basis for human life. Basically, being creative is important.”

1. Increases happiness.

“You’ve probably heard of flow — it’s the state you get in when you’re completely absorbed in something. Have you ever been working on a project and completely lost all sense of self and time? That’s flow. It reduces anxiety, boosts your mood, and even slows your heart rate.”

“It’s not just being in flow that helps your happiness. Repetitive creative motions like knitting, drawing, or writing help activate flow, and are all tasks that create a result. And when you succeed at creating a result, no matter what it is, your brain is flooded with dopamine, that feel-good chemical that actually helps motivate you. Whether or not you’re aware of your increased happiness, the hit of dopamine you get after being in flow will drive and influence you toward similar behavior.”

2. Reduces dementia.

“Creativity goes beyond just making you happy… It’s also an effective treatment for patients with dementia. Studies show that creative engagement not only reduces depression and isolation, but can also help people with dementia tap back in to their personalities and sharpen their senses.”

3. Improves mental health.

“The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.”

“Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress… And it can also help you process trauma. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.”

4. Boosts your immune system.

“It’s time to start taking journaling seriously. Studies show people who write about their experiences daily actually have stronger immune system function. Although experts are still unsure how it works, writing increases your CD4+ lymphocyte count, the key to your immune system. Listening to music can also rejuvenate function in your immune system.”

5. Makes you smarter.

“Studies show that people who play instruments have better connectivity between their left and right brains. The left brain is responsible for the motor functions, while the right brain focuses on melody. When the two hemispheres of your brain communicate with each other, your cognitive function improves.”

“It’s pretty amazing that doing the activities that make us feel good (see that dopamine rush) are genuinely good for us.

  • Grab a pen and write, doodle.

  • Get your hands dirty with pottery or gardening.

  • Listen to music, or pick up an instrument.

  • knit, sew, sing, dance, draw, weave

Whatever you choose, it’s time to get creative!

*Get your FREE PeggyJudy coloring books HERE:

The Real Tale of Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf coloring book

Cute Critters coloring book

Maui and His Back Legs Coloring book

and see all the Elephant in the Room cartoons here: 

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

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320947

Kitty sez: Sugar Increases Happy

Sugar Increases the “happiness” neurotransmitter serotonin.

This Valentine’s day give your sweetie something sweet.  It’s a good way to quickly lift the mood . . . in the short run*. 

“Cooooooookies!”

Kitty knows

Eating refined sugars, with white flour, or other processed carbohydrates gives her the fastest serotonin boost. 

“Three blue hearts. No one will notice if one is missing.”

Kitty doesn’t know 

* In the long run sugar may set up an addictive craving cycle and is not healthy because her  blood sugar drops after a spike which causes her to eat more sugar cookies . . .

“Two blue dotted hearts. No one will notice if one is gone.”

But for one special day a year Kitty can indulge!

If you don’t believe Kitty click below for proof

Sugar Increases the “happiness” neurotransmitter serotonin.

 

CATption This! Grey Cat Favorites

We’re running out of inspiration.

Pick your favorite(s) and give it a NEW caTption! (in the comments)

 1. Sacked out

http://inktober-is-falling

2.  Fire away

From -“Happy Snacky”

3.  Read to me

4.  Write away

From -“The Write Way to Emotional & Physical Well-being”

CATption It! – Grey Cat is Pawsitive YOU have Better ideas than P & J

Pick your favorite(s) and give it a NEW caTption! (in the comments)

5.  How to heal…

From post-“Maui and retraining the brain”

6.  Ahhhhhhhh

From -“The Power of Touch”

7.  The little thrills in life

Maui’s Mood Tips

8. Eat up

From -“How to teach an old dog new tricks – Cognitive Science of Habits”

CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH – Creative Expression BENEFITS your BRAIN

During self-isolation due to coronavirus, many are turning to the arts. Whether looking for a creative outlet or opportunity for expression, it’s  possible that we are driven by an innate desire to use our brains in ways that make us feel good.

Having facilitated millions (maybe not millions, but a LOT) of Therapeutic Creative Expression workshops I know that creative expression — in all its many forms – is stress reducing and a tool for healing.  There is compelling  cutting-edge research, that the arts have positive effects on mental health which supports my experience and observations.

Found objects & magazine pictures

Neuroesthetics

This is a new field of study called neuroesthetics, which uses brain imaging and biofeedback to learn about the brain on art. Scientists are learning about how art lifts our moods and captures our minds.

Evidence from biological, cognitive and neurological studies show visual art boosts wellness and the ability to adapt to stress.

“While practicing the arts is not the panacea for all mental health challenges, there’s enough evidence to support prioritizing arts in our own lives at home as well as in our education systems.”
“Research shows that the arts can be used to create a unique cognitive shift into a holistic state of mind called flow, a state of optimal engagement first identified in artists, that is mentally pleasurable and neurochemically rewarding.”

1. Art promotes well-being through Mindfullness

HeART of Spirituality Workshop Judy Facilitated

MINDFULNESS AND FLOW — The arts have been found to be effective tools for mindfulness (a trending practice in schools that is effective for managing mental health).

“Specifically, engaging with visual art has been found to activate different parts of the brain other than those taxed by logical, linear thinking; and another study found that visual art activated distinct and specialized visual areas of the brain.”

Collage using Magazine Pictures

Neuroesthetic findings suggest this is not an experience exclusive to artists: it is simply untapped by those who do not practice in the arts.

There is a wealth of studies on the relationship between the arts, flow, and mental health, and flow-like states have been connected to mindfulnessattentioncreativity, and even improve cognition.

Magazine picture collage

THREE TIPS FOR ARTS-BASED MINDFULNESS

1. Make mistakes – Experiment

The first rule of all my Creative Expression workshops is:

THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG

Try something new and be willing to make mistakes to learn. Most professional artists practice for years and admit to making lots of pictures they don’t like before one they are satisfied with.  Those we now consider “masters” destroy pieces of their art – we only see what they felt was successful.

Our “feel-good” brain neurochemistry is activated when we try to learn new things.

2. Reuse and repeat – Practice & Process over Product

Play and experiment with reusable materials:

  • Dry-erase markers on windows that can be easily wiped away.
  • Sculpting material, like play dough that can be squished and reshaped.
  • Etch-a-Sketch, Buddha Boards
  • Crayons and coloring books
  • Scribble on cardboard

When your goal is to experiment you emphasize practice and process over product and take the pressure off to make something that looks good. If you want to keep a copy, snap a photo of the work, then let it go.

3. Silence Part of Your Brain

Don’t talk when you are making art, and if you are listening to music, choose something without lyrics. The parts of the brain activated during visual art are different than those activated for speech generation and language processing. Give those overworked parts of the mind a break, and indulge in the calm relaxation that comes from doing so.

The neurochemicals that are released feel good, and that is your brain’s way of thanking you for the experience.

Take a look at some early posts on Creative Expression:

Tutorial: Processing Your Creative Journaling

Processing Theraputic Creative Expression

Sneek a Peek Into My Journal

The HeART of Healing – Creative Expression How-To

Once a month I facilitated a free, non-denominational HeART of Spirituality workshop. Tapestry Unitarian Congregation hosted.  There was a different theme each month.

For those of you who want to think about your own spirituality Here’s the information and the exercises for you to do.  

For those who just want a peek at the heART the participants create take a look!

judy

        *          *          *

Healing was the focus at this HeART of Spirituality workshop. 

The medium used was journaling.

Synopsis of the Introduction:

Physically, biologically anger and fear create a neurochemical cascade from the brain to the body triggering powerful stress responses. These two emotions interfere with physical healing and are incompatible with spiritual healing.  

When everything is going well we try to maintain the status quo (for good reason!).  To change, learn and grow we all need an impetus.  The most powerful stimuli for change and growth are when we face pain or fear.    

In Buddhism there’s a distinction between pain and suffering:  Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.  Suffering is based on our perception and emotional response.

Basic to Baha’i beliefs:

  • We learn how to develop God’s virtues through pain and earthly trials & tribulation.
  • God does not want us to suffer, He wants us to learn.
  • Suffering comes from our distorted perspective of spirituality and our ego needs.
  • Praying for “healing” is first and foremost for spiritual growth, not physical remedy.

My personal experience with fibromyalgia and my belief is that ultimately all healing – physical, emotional, situational,  is spiritual.

Indeed, scientific research shows that what we think and believe impacts our emotional and physical well-being.  The power of the placebo is a small example.

First exercise – “Stacked Writing”

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Stacked writing is a great way to keep things confidential and not have to hide your journal under the mattress.  You can spill your thoughts & feelings out on paper and no one (including you) will be able to read what you wrote.

Workshop Materials: I pasted colored tissue paper on large sheets of paper for the participants to write on.  These sheets were later turned into mini 8-page journals.

Materials:  

  • A journal or just a piece of paper will do.  
  • A black marker or pen.
  • A timer

Instructions:

  1.  Write, print, scribble your thoughts and feelings all over the paper, continue writing, turning the paper in many directions (sideways, upside down) and writing on top of what you’ve written.   If your mind goes blank, keep scribbling until another thought pops in.
  2. Write for a minimum of 20 minutes, non-stop (make sure you have an easy flowing marker or pen).  Setting a timer is best so you don’t distract yourself or interrupt your writing.
  3. Focus on releasing the emotions of anger and fear.   Fill the page with sentences, phrases, words on top of each other so that what was written becomes indecipherable.

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Second exercise – “Found Poetry”  

Materials:

  • Newspapers
  • Sheet of blank paper, (colored construction paper, a journal or copy paper will do)
  • Glue sticks
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Focusing on the theme of “healing” cut out approximately 20 words & phrases from the newspaper.  Use your intuition, what catches your eye to choose what you cut out.
  2.  Arrange your words & phrases on a piece of paper, creating a free verse poem*.
  3. Paste your “poem” down when it “feels finished”.  (Rhyming is not necessary)

*“Free verse is an open form of poetry. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern. Many poems composed in free verse thus tend to follow the rhythm of natural speech.” Wikipedia

Here are the participants Healing Poems.  Take a look!

Poetry, ideally, is meant to be recited out loud.  Get your moneys-worth and orate!

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Make no Masktakes

And you thought virus could spread from person to person . . .

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

images-1

“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.”

“. . .  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, . . .  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.”

MASK UP!

Excerpted from: wherever-you-go-your-personal-cloud-of-microbes-follows

Happy Birthday Banner Judy (with a how-to)

When my two girls were small (3 & 6) I started making banners for their birthdays.  The banners were large (as all banners should be) and didn’t just proclaim “happy birthday”.  I drew a retrospect of all the major activities the birthday girl had participated in over the previous year. (Since they were small the pictures then were limited to roller skates and bikes.). I used simple stick figures and line drawings.  As they grew so did the pictures and they would identify everything they did that year.  My girls loved them.

It’s now a family ritual – me making a banner for my grown daughters and them reviewing their year.  When my granddaughter was born I added third banner for her.

A couple of years ago I got a wonderful surprise.  Both of my girls have been saving their birthday banners for years!  They cherish them as record of their lives.

Judy’s birthday was around the corner and  I decided to make one for her.   Here it is finished, and next I’ll show you step by step how to make your own:

FIRST:  Make a list of the birthday person’s major and minor events in the past year

Things like:

  • Trips – local or far away, short or long.
  • New skills – learning to ride a bike, taking up knitting.
  • Events. – big or small/positive or negative – a new job, school milestones, catching a cold, a pandemic lockdown . . .
  • Routine activities- work, school, walking the dog, doing yoga, riding a bike, hiking, reading, swimming . . . 

(In Judy’s case a lot  is routine since she’s been in self-imposed Covid isolation!)

When I first started making the Birthday Banners I didn’t track events and just brainstormed everything I could think of.  Now, It is easier and I make a simple list, writing down events as they occur, to  keep track all year.  You can make a list or calendar notes – both work.

SECOND: Organize the events on a timeline for the ones that are not routine.

THIRD: Gather materials

  • Roll of butcher paper – This is my favorite as it makes it easy to roll up, like a scroll, and tie it with a ribbon OR
  • Poster board OR
  • Several sheets of computer paper taped together.  When finished fold like an accordion book.
  • Pencil, markers, paint, crayons, colored pencils (whatever you choose to use to color in your stick-sketches).

(At first I used colored marker pens, but now I start with pencil-in case I make a mistake.)

FOURTH:  Write happy birthday and their name.  Leave room above and below to draw the events.

  • If you make bubble letters or outlines of the letters you can decorate the inside of each letter.
  • Plan where you will put the major events – where there are large white spaces.
  • Add stick figure drawings – in the order  in which they occurred or simply scattered on the banner.
  • I often add small repetitive items, like musical notes or in this case Covid masks. Sometimes I will sprinkle small hearts or birds across the whole banner.

FIFTH: Draw stick figures, symbols,  label the events, ( I do this when I think my drawing isn’t clear).

SIXTH: fill in with color.

  • If you used pencil to draw, go over the lines with dark marker or ink.
  • Use colored markers (easiest and quickest), paint, crayons or colored pencils.

The best part is giving them their own personal BIRTHDAY BANNER-they are loved!

Let me know if you make a Birthday Banner – send a picture!

Peggy

Chocolate Bark Bark

Did you know?

Eating chocolate has been tied to a reduced risk of heart disease. Now scientists have uncovered how strong this link is.

Turns out there’s added benefits when you add nuts and berries.  

Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other things:

  • DHA has been shown to improve cognitive performance in adults
  • Prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline and lower resting blood pressure.
  • One study even shows that mothers who get enough DHA have smarter kids.
  • Just a quarter cup of walnuts provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.

Strong scientific evidence also exists that eating berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes.*

“Berry fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals.  Berry fruits change the way neurons in the brain communicate. These changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition.”

dscn7200

Woof Woof Bark Bark

Woofer’s Bark Bark, a good for your brain’s Valentine treat 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated or 6 oz. bag of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups roasted walnuts or almonds, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup dried raspberries (other dried berries will work)

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave oven or stir chocolate in a double boiler until melted.
  3. Add nuts & berries and stir quickly to combine. (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
  4. Spread chocolate-berry-nut mixture on parchment paper, keeping nuts in a single layer.
  5. Sprinkle top with the remaining berry-nut mixture.
  6. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.
  7. Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.dscn7199

Sneek a Peek – We’re on a path to a BEST SELLER

Happiness Hacks has been a pet project for YEARS.  We realized we had posted a lot of simple quick ways to increase feel-good neurochemistry.  Our goal has always been to share all the information we have on mental, emotional and physical well-being (not to mention amuse ourselves).

We had a brrrrrrriliant idea!  Compile all the information in a book and amuse ourselves by drawing pictures.

  First came the research to back up all the neuroscience . . . one year later . . . Amusement NOT.

Second came the pictures (they amused us and hope they amuse you)

Third came the formatting into a book (not so amusing) and another year later we gave up and Peggy put 12 of the hacks into a calendar – which is now available for 2021.

Fourth – 3 years later Peggy massaged the 21 hacks into a template on Kindle.  We sent out some free PDF’s to get feedback before making it public.  Take a LOOK!


Click here for Hack Your Way to Happiness, Kindle edition

Full disclosure:

  • NO one (not one person) was paid for their comments
  • NOT one of them is a relative of either Peggy or Judy
  • Each gave us permission to share!

P.P.S.  We are so stoked by the comments we are now compiling all 21 Hacks into a Workbook.  Stay tuned

Learn how falling water makes you happy!

“This piece is beyond brilliant!!!! Thank you for sharing this.”  Joshua Castillo, Parenting Coach & Early Childhood Consultant, Los Angeles Metropolitan Area 

 

 

Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin & E The Happiness Quartet

Happiness Hack Stars

“This is great.  Clear, clever, and doable for most. Congratulations!”  Betty Rawlings, Director, Psychiatric Services, West Anaheim Medical Center, Ret.

“ I took a look, out of curiosity.  I wanted to see if there were any hacks I didn’t know about, and there was – being warm!  As someone who hot flashes constantly right now 🙂 I had to giggle when you said to embrace them!  Not exactly on my to-do list! Ha.  All in all, though, great book!  Love the playfulness of it, the graphics are great and of course the info is spectacular. “  Shannon Lambert , Parenting, pet, and lifestyle freelance writer

Can mowing the lawn

make you smile more?

“It’s holds some terrific thought provoking ideas and action evoking concepts. I’ve smiled at the pics and engaged with the thinking, thanks for putting this together.”

Lesley Forbes, Early Childhood Implementation Branch Manager at Department of Education and Training – Regional Victoria, Canada

“I loved it! Congratulations!!! 🤗”  Gabriela Rodriguez Campos, Parenting Coach

“You offer a lot of very easy to do hacks with all the scientific background for them with humor, encouragement and the cutest drawings! How could anyone try these hacks and not feel better? It was encouraging to hear that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re thinking you might be able/want to do and actually being able to do it. What a novel concept that one doesn’t usually hear about.
My only caveat came from hack involving drinking hot sauce. Hope  no one takes in a deep breath when taking that drink!
This is a great book for almost all ages to help anyone help themselves to a better life.”

Barbara Coulter

Your PERSONAL Sneek Peek at The Making of The Frog Princess

We blog for many reasons.  Chief among them is to keep ourselves amused in our advanced years.   We’ll let you figure out the other reasons.

Judy amuses herself by writing silly stories and “pomes”, loses interest and moves on to her next project.

Peggy is more cerebral (and organized).  She amuses herself by rescuing Judy’s abandoned projects and massaging them into REAL books.

Peggy is now in the process of colorizing, and putting together Judy’s last abandoned project The Princess Frog.

We thought you too might be amused by taking a peek at our process and progress: 

1. Judy Writes a story.

2. Judy does rough sketches for the story.

3. Judy’s publishing staff (meaning Peggy) uploads the sketches on her i-Pad and makes a clean outline.

4. Judy’s staff adds color

The Prince Searches the World for His Bride.

5. Judy’s staff frames the pictures

A Cow runs fast to help the Prince take flight

6. Judy changes her mind and wants different pants on the Prince. 

7. Judy’s staff re-draws, re-colors the picture.

(Judy thought Polka Dotted Shorts are more Princely)

7.  Peggy formats the writing using templates she spends hours researching in Amazon and Kindle.

8. Peggy inserts the images into the book template where they fit (until Judy changes her mind where the pictures go)

Considering there are 21 pictures Peggy has a lot of amusement ahead . . . 

Stay tuned . . . Peggy’s on a roll

Violet, Green and Flesh colored Faces by Peggy

Peggy has already well amused herself by publishing (Click on the titles):

Bet you didn’t know!

Google Arts & Culture’s collection is the easiest and cheapest way to see some of the treasures of the world    Now you can even go “outside” with incredible virtual tours of some of America’s best national parks.

Carlsbad-caverns-tour

Kenai-fjords-tour

Hawaii-volcanoes/nahuku-lava-tube-tour

Bryce-canyon/sunset-point-tour

Dry-Tortugas/near-little-africa-tour

MORE culture? There are still performances:

New York’s Metropolitan Opera will be offering free digital shows every night at 7:30 p.m.

Getting even more famous – Oprah, here she comes

Peggy now has a SECOND interview about her picture book “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling DownTale of Maui and His Back Legs”  on the blog Intentional Conscious Parenting  by  Carol Lawrence and Stacy Toten.

I’m not, I swear I’m NOT jealous but I am AFRAID.  When Peggy becomes even more famous she will leave me . . . blogging alone into the dark night.

Here’s the best part about her interview . . . because it includes me . . .

“Judy and I went to high school together, then lost contact for decades. After reconnecting we found out that we lived near each other, were both psychotherapists, had similar therapeutic approaches and were both proponents of neuroscience.

“I was newly retired and working on Maui’s book. When I showed Judy the pictures I had drawn she was excited about Maui’s story and helped edit my writing.”
“Judy had been blogging on Curious to the Max, for fun, for many years and when she retired we decided to create Max Your Mind to share neuroscience and how we applied it to help others.”

“When we wrote  “Hack Your Way to Happiness” we had already been writing blog posts together. We each get ideas, then edit each other—although Judy has to do most of the editing-she is better at it and has a wonderful sense of humor. Judy mostly created the critters we use, then I draw them in various poses for the blog and the book.”

Click here to read the interview and see what Peggy REALLY thinks about me and our  partnership

Maybe Oprah will ask me to do a cameo when she interviews Peggy . . .

judy

https://www.intentionalconsciousparenting.com/2021/01/interview-with-author-peggy-arndt.html#more

Nobody knew that alligators could regrow their own tails


“In a new research paper published in Scientific Reports, scientists reveal that juvenile American alligators appear to have the ability to regenerate portions of their tails if they have them severed by a predator or due to some other form of injury. It’s a remarkable finding that demonstrates that even some of the most well-understood spaces on the planet may still have some secrets to reveal.”

“The regrowth of limbs is something that isn’t uncommon in the world of reptiles. Many smaller lizards have the ability to regrow their lost limbs. It’s an invaluable tool when escaping predators, and creatures like geckos can regrow multiple tails, even regrowing the spinal cord that extends into the tail, and they can do it in as little as a month.”

“However, the ability to regrow limbs has been thought to be something that was reserved for much smaller species. An American alligator is a very large creature and even as a juvenile, they are typically larger than the kinds of lizards that are known to have the ability to regrow their limbs. However, after an alligator tail was sent to a team of researchers at Arizona State University, a team of scientists was able to determine that its tip had in fact regrown.”

“As is often the case with limbs that are regrown, the tail was slightly discolored and its scales were significantly smaller than they should have been, based on the age of the animal it came from. Using x-ray scanning and an MRI machine to get an inside look at the tail structure before slicing it open themselves, the researchers were able to determine that the tail was regrown.”

“We saw a lot of similarities between regenerated alligator tails and lizard tails, including the presence of a cartilaginous structure, the scale patterning, and the coloration. We also saw the regrowth of peripheral nerves and blood vessels,” Cindy Xu, lead author of the study, said in a statement.”

This is one area that alligators have a leg up . . . er . . .

tail up on humans.

 

https://apple.news/A2P8ZQcKjTo6-XOB-2ig_fQ

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_alligator

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