Happiness Hack: Today’s Good Happenings

We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted. This one was on Catnip as:

“Research shows you will be happier for 3 months – Music to my ears”

I played violin in the high school orchestra. It was enjoyable and got me out of physical education class. Practicing was another matter.  Practicing the violin was excruciating for me. It was solely focused on doing weird, complicated, boring scales over and over and over . . . no melody, NO FUN.   I would set a timer for 1 hour: polish my violin for 10 minutes; resin the bow for 5; tune the strings for 15 and; laboriously do scales for the rest of the time. I did get better.

If only I had known that I could have practiced being in a good mood while I was practicing scales.

Yup, research now shows the more you practice being in a good mood the better you get at keeping a good mood.

Our brains seek out familiar patterns. The more we consciously focus on positive thoughts the easier it is for our brain to access those thoughts and find positive patterns in other areas.  (Of course, there is a corollary  – focus on the negative and your brain will look for more negative connections).  So the more you think about the positive things in your life, the easier it is to think of good things in your life. 

Start at any time.  Like now. Think about something “positive/good” . . . a time you had fun or laughed at a joke or a childhood celebration.  It doesn’t even have to be about you or your life . . .  something “positive” you’ve witnessed, read about or even imagined.  Share it with someone and notice feeling happier.

The more you practice the easier it will be for your brain to access the positive and lift your mood.  

Here’s an easy practice session.

   Maui Practicing, not judy, by Peggy

Pawsitive Exercise

Each day for a week, at the end of the day, write down 3 good or positive things that have happened to you that day and why they happened. 

They can be:

  • BIG things (became a grandma, bought a Maserati, won the lottery)
  • Small things (took a nice shower, ate breakfast, paid the water bill on time).
  • The same things repeated each day or different things/events listed.

When you write down why they happened give yourself credit:

  • I won the lottery because I bought a ticket
  • I took a nice hot shower because I paid the water bill on time
  • I became a grandma because I became a mother because I have kept a good relationship with my daughter because I called her and had a positive conversation.

You don’t need a fancy journal –

a notebook, post-it-notes, napkins will work.

Just do this for one week.

Research shows you will be happier for 3 months!

My violin “practice” list would have looked like this:

  • I managed to get through another violin practice session without dying of boredom.
  • I played in tune, 75% of the time
  • I polished my violin and it’s shiny.

(jw)

Reference:  Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410

A Happiness Hack – Splish Splash

Each month we post “Happiness Hacks” on Catnipblog. They are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood.

We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

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I love waterfalls!  

One of my favorite places to go is the Columbia River Gorge, an area with the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  There are over 90!  I love it there and I will hike uphill for miles to see the waterfalls.

All my life I’ve loved the rain, going to the beach, having a water fountain in my yard, and taking showers. They all make me happy. Now I know why – negative ions.

Negative ions are produced by falling water and create changes in our levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves stress, increases energy and reduces depression

“Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.” 

WebMD. Pierce J. Howard, PhD

The WebMD article goes on to say “The air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions — Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.”

Want to get negative ions?

  • Take a walk by a river or stream.
  • Walk in the rain.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Run in the sprinklers.
  • Have a water fight in a pool.
  • Hike to a waterfall.
  • Sit by a fountain.
  • Buy a negative ion generator for your home.
  • Or . . .  just take a shower.

(I didn’t list “wash dishes by hand” or “scrub the floor on your knees” because I believe adding detergent to water MIGHT create positive ions which we all know are not mood elevators . . .)

(PA)

References:

“Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes” By Denise Mann, WebMD, June 2, 2003.
The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain, by Pierce J. Howard, PhD
Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, by Robert E. Thayer,

 

I remember I don’t remember being hung-over

I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter.  It concerned me when a therapist colleague said “not remembering” was an indication of repressed memory probably of horrible childhood trauma.  Ai yiiii yiiiiii.  Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.

I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction”thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst.  He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”

This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion.  What does that have to do with hang-over?  Read on!

Hung Over by Peggy

Excerpts from:

You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.

“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience,also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”

“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,”explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”

“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’

” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”

“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.

I’m so relieved!  Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . .  the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the result of my exceptionally boring life.

(jw)

Initially posted on CATNIPblog.com

*To read the entire article, who the authors are and the research behind it click HERE.

Who knew I’d be a “national symbol”?

I’ve written many posts about my history of fibromyalgia, just not recently.  

My “foot episode” has caused a bit of a fiber flare-up, just in time for National Fibromyalgia/ME Chronic Fatigue day on May 12th.  

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:

In 1995 I contracted an invisible “illness”.  Out of nowhere I experienced excruciating burning pain in my hands, arms and legs followed  by years of gastrointestinal, cardiological, dermatological and emotional symptoms.  At the onset I was also in peri-menopause and experiencing mood swings, wildly, uncontrollably ric-o-shaying swings between happy to annoyed – which I’m minimizing for public consumption.

Back then fibromyalgia was not recognized by the medical community as a “real” ailment. Doctors considered it to be a syndrome: Unexplainable, unverifiable and psychosomatic. It was a Hysterical Middle Aged Woman’s Syndrome, as doctor after doctor told me. based on test, after expensive test coming back negative.  I was told nothing was wrong with me and to go home and “Get a life”.DSCN1413

Forever imprinted in my memory is an appointment with the chief of neurology at one of Los Angeles’ major medical schools (the doctor and medical center shall remain nameless because this is a true story)  He reviewed the test findings, looked at me knowingly – as if we shared a secret – and said, “You’re a psychotherapist. You know about psychological issues”.  He leaned forward, compassionately touching me on the knee and winked,  “Go home, live a good life and take up a hobby like kick-boxing.”  The only reason I winked back was to blink away the tears that were threatening to disrupt the façade that I wasn’t a hysterical middle-aged woman.

DSCN1414

I searched for anyone – gynecologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, environmental specialists, acupuncturists, immunologists, chiropractors – to name to what I had, to give what was invisible to everyone but myself a label other than HYPOCHONDRIAC.  I looked fine, acted fine, and thousands of dollars of medical tests came back negative.  All I took away from the 100’s of doctor’s visits was a stack of psychiatrist’s cards doctors handed to me on the way out of their office.

After years of  pain, escalating exhaustion, depression, countless doctors and tests I did qualify, on all counts, as a hysterical middle-aged woman .

Well over a decade later fibromyalgia was recognized by the medical community as “real”.  Current research indicates it might be a neuro-inflammatory/auto-immune disease impacting the  central nervous system.  No one knows for certain and there is no current cure.  

I’m no longer middle-aged or hysterical.  

But the doctors were right – it is, all in my head.

 Check out Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters –“You look great!” – and other things you should never say to heart patients and lots of other great posts about invisible illness.

  • Why, when you tell someone who is ill that they look good, they’re offended?
  • Practical ways you can encourage someone who is ill.

May 12th has been designated as International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND). The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

May 12th was chosen as it is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She was believed to have suffered from ME/CFS.

This is National Invisible Illness Awareness Week

P.S.  There are hundreds of millions of people with “Invisible Illness” in this world.  Click above to  read more information.  

Fractured head to toe, day 10

Judy judy in a chair

TV blaring, messy hair

Foot throbbing, rumbled clothes 

bleary eyes, throbbing toes

Judy judy bored bored

slowly going out’a her gourd

Judy by judy

 

Write On! How to Empty your brain to reduce stress

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

I’m not being overly dramatic as there is a body of research which shows that simply putting pen to paper changes your brain.

Easy Peasy Writing How-to

Write on! by Peggy

Choose a focus – a situation, feeling, thought and create a “topic Sentence”  If you can’t think of a specific begin with “Right this moment I am thinking . . . ” or “I am feeling . . .” or ” “I can’t think of anything . . . “

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

  • Use a pen that writes smoothly and comfortable to your hand.  Don’t use a keyboard since the act of writing with your hand is important.  Your small muscle movement is expressive (much like artistic expression, your handwriting is unique to you.  It doesn’t matter if it’s legible or beautiful as the movement registers with your brain in ways that tapping out letters on a keyboard do not).
  • Set a timer for approximately 20 minutes.  It takes that long for your unconscious brain to push through your logical thinking processes.
  • Use a journal, a piece of paper, a brown bag – it doesn’t matter.
  • Start with your “topic sentence”, thought, feeling . . . just start. 
  • Write continuously for 20 minutes, never letting the pen stop.  If your mind goes blank simply makes loop-d-loops with the pen until you have words to put down. Write quickly, spontaneously, intuitively.  It doesn’t matter what you write just put down on paper where your mind takes you.
  • Do not be concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
  • Do not be concerned if it doesn’t make sense.

Read  research How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present,  click here

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Spring has Sprung and so have I

Since retiring, my to-do list: clean out clothes closets, clean out the garage, the cupboards, replant the garden, paint the living room AND get rid of STUFF.  So far I’ve done very little un-stuffing. 

judy’s Cluttered Closet by Peggy

I just edited a research post on CATNIPblog and I’m relieved to know I can blame my brain which is scientifically on hiatus. 

Here’s a section I edited out on CATNIP trying to symplify the post.  Couldn’t bear to throw it away and lose it though . . .

“Why do we allow clutter to accumulate? . . .  it’s because we don’t want to make decisions about throwing things out. We think we might need that item someday. Blame the psychological effect called loss aversion. Humans are averse to losses. Our brain says, “If we get rid of it, then we’ve lost it.”’

“Can the process of removing physical clutter help us release negative emotional attachments in our lives? O’Reilly says there is a basic, intrinsic pleasure in increasing order.”

“O’Reilly has found that people will organize things as a way to relax and pass the time. An example he finds noteworthy is walking down the aisle of an airplane and observing people playing solitaire on their laptops.”

“They’re sorting fake, digital cards on a laptop,” he said. “Why? I can’t think of a more meaningless activity—sorting stacks of cards that aren’t even real cards. And yet we love to do it, because it’s satisfying to put things in their place.”

Read the full research, click here:

Daunted by “spring” cleaning? Blame your brain

 

 

 

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