happiness Hacks: Touch much

“Happiness Hacks”  are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood. We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

I’m a hugger.  I admit it.  It’s almost a reflex when I see someone I like or admire.

In the 1970’s I taught 3rd grade.  It was common for some students to run up, throw their arms around my waist and give me a big hug.  We teachers would always hug back.  When a student got hurt or was in distress a hug was automatic.  Our cultural climate has changed and teachers are no longer suppose to touch, much less hug, students.  Our cultural climate is continuing to change and unwanted, unwarranted “hugs” are rightly being brought out into the open and condemned.

So I share this information from the work of Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time  with the acknowledgement that we should only be touching others who want to be touched.

Got someone to hug? Go for it. Alex Korb,  says ‘A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.”

“Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes work, too. Korb cites a study in which subjects whose hands were held by their partners experienced a reduced level of anxiety while waiting for an expected electrical shock from researchers. “The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.”’

And if you have no one handy to touch, guess what? Massage has also been shown to be an effective way to get your oxytocin flowing, and it reduces stress hormones and increases your dopamine levels. Win win.

Mousey Masseuse by Peggy

The value of touching shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re down. According to Korb:

“In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI [functional magnetic imaging] experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain . . .”

The next time you see me HUG AWAY!

(jw)

Am I Neurotic or Psychotic?

Nature or nurture?

Psychosis or neurosis?

Best to never know

Creatively weird

Crazy is as crazy does

Just comes naturally

Dopamine System in Highly Creative People

Similar to That Seen in Schizophrenics

 “New research shows a possible explanation for the link between mental health and creativity. By studying receptors in the brain, researchers at Karolinska Institute have managed to show that the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia.”

Humph! Is she neurotic or psychotic . . .
too close to call . . .

“High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual  bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.”

“We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia,” says associate professor Fredrik Ullén from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, co-author of the study that appears in the journal PLoS ONE.”
“Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box,” says Dr Ullén about his new findings.”

Read the entire article in Science Daily, click here

Desperate Measure for Fibro Exhaustion

Judy's Journal page

Here’s what I’ve decided to do to minimize my fibromyalgia exhaustion!

Desperate measure   – Take 1/2 a Mirapex* tablet. That will cut the exhaustion in half!  AND . . .

  • I’ll compulsively eat half as much and lose weight.
  • I’m not sure how the 1/2 tablet will affect gambling and sex addictions since I hadn’t developed those.  But since I will only develop half of the addictive side effects I’ll ask my husband which one he prefers.
  • I’ll confine the narcolepsy to after dark.

*Mirapex, Other Parkinson’s Disease Drugs Linked to Compulsive Gambling, Hypersexuality
Date Published: Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

“Mirapex and other dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s Disease have been linked to the development of extreme behaviors by yet another study. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, one in five patients (I think I met several at the bakery counter) taking such drugs in a recent study developed behavior disorders, such as compulsive gambling or hypersexuality.”
“Parkinson’s Disease occurs because of a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine in certain areas of the brain. (Some fibro patients have lower levels of dopamine) A dopamine agonist works by mimicking the effects of this chemical. However, dopamine is also known to produce a “rush” in the brain of people who are anticipating a reward or excitement. (So that’s why I RUSHED to eat chocolate croissants every day – sometimes rushed a few times a day) Many experts believe that such a biochemical reaction is behind the reports of compulsive behavior linked to dopamine agonists like Mirapex.”

I TOLD you I was desperate . . .

P.S. My Horoscope for today:

“Knowing the truth is always important to you, but the Libra Full Moon’s activation of your 9th House of Big Ideas motivates you to get your facts straight. However, you could become blinded by your own desires now when making your plans. Although you may realize that you’re exaggerating, others still take what you say at face value. Carefully distinguishing the facts from the fantasies is a smart move for all involved.”

Fibromyalgia, CFS Medical News

My first reaction was “I’m back” when I started taking a dopamine enhancer (Mirapex) for my fibromyalgia. “My” fibromyalgia!  Sounds like I’m possessive OF it instead of possessed BY it. . ..trust me, I’d gladly let it go, give it up, dump it, get rid of it, send it away . . . sorry, just got on a roll . . .

Back to the point of this post:

Even if you don’t have fibro or Chronic fatigue chances are you know someone who does.  It is estimated there are 10 million people with the condition in the United States alone.

I urge you to take at least a quick look at the latest edition of Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain newsletter.  There are several links to the latest in medical information in the newsletter.

http://www.fmcpaware.org/user-subscriptions/archive/view/mailid-66/key-0fbd2e860c4cbfd5c4294e4c6e2b3dc1/subid-18999-3034782d559f8fa1f3990cf0a9d7a334

In the event you aren’t wanting to click on the link here’s one of the articles that pertains to dopamine:

Dopamine in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Low Dopamine: How It Makes You Feel & How to Fix It
By Adrienne Dellwo, About.com Guide

“Dopamine has different roles in different areas of your brain. In the thinking areas, it makes you able to focus your attention. Low levels of dopamine in this area are linked with ADD/ADHD. In the movement areas, it helps you control how your body moves. Extremely low levels here lead to Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by tremors and problems with balance and coordination.

People with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) generally have low dopamine levels as well. Symptoms of both conditions include both cognitive effects as well as movement and balance problems.

Low Dopamine

No neurotransmitter acts alone. They all work together in a complex web of activity that scientists are really just beginning to understand. Still, experts have been able to associate different neurotransmitter imbalances with certain conditions and symptoms and find some ways to help boost or decrease activity.

Low dopamine levels are associated with the following symptoms:

Stiff, rigid, achy muscles
Tremors  (restless leg)
Impaired fine motor skills
Cognitive impairment (called brain fog or fibro fog)
Inability to focus attention
Poor balance and coordination
Strange walking pattern (gait), frequently with small steps
High levels of dopamine, on the other hand, are associated with addiction, euphoria, hyperstimulation, excessive focus, suspicion, and the inability to separate what is important from what isn’t. If you’re taking medication that increases your dopamine levels, you should let your doctor know if you have symptoms of high dopamine, which is associated with psychological side effects.

Neuroleptic (antipsychotic) drugs lower dopamine levels, so if you’re taking anything in this class for another condition, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about symptoms that could be related to low dopamine. Common drugs in this class include:

Clozaril (clozapine)
Haldol (haloperidol)
Risperdal (risperidone)
Seroquel (quetiapine)
Zyprexa (olanzapine)

Increasing the Availability of Dopamine

Drug treatment of low dopamine levels may include stimulant therapy with Ritalin, Concerta and Methadate (all of which contain methylphenidate).

We don’t have a lot of research confirming that food can boost dopamine levels in your brain, and even if it can, it would take prohibitively huge amounts to have the desired effect. In spite of the lack of hard evidence, some practitioners recommend:

Tea (black or green)
Apples, bananas & watermelon
Blueberry extract
Red wine
Beets, beans & legumes
Chicken
Cheese
Eggs
Fish
Wheat germ

Supplements believed to help raise dopamine levels include:

NADH
L-Theanine (supplement form of amino acid unique to black and green tea)
Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish oil or flax seed oil
Rhodiola rosea
A note on tea & theanine: Studies show theanine increases both norepinephrine and dopamine while lowering glutamate levels, all of which can have a positive effect on those of us with FMS and ME/CFS. Research is mixed, however, on how theanine impacts serotonin levels. If you decide to try theanine, track your symptoms to see if serotonin-related symptoms get worse.

While it’s generally safe to experiment with these kinds of foods, don’t expect miracles and avoid extreme changes to your diet. Be sure to make changes slowly, and track your dietary changes and symptoms in a symptom journal to get an accurate gauge of what may be helping. You should always work with your doctor to decide what methods to try and how successful your treatments are.”

Unrequited Love

Judy's Journal Page

I’m in love.  Unfortunately I’ve not made time to spend with the object of my affection.  Fortunately, my paramour has lots of other lovers and doesn’t miss my attention.  I pine alone. 

This video made me realize that if I am going to feel good about my love affair, attention must be paid.

“There is a reason why art has served as a means of soulful self-expression for centuries upon centuries. All forms of art, from painting to dancing to music, are very personal and emotional experiences — both for the artists and the viewers.

While it is a common experience to fall in love with a certain artwork, scientists now have evidence that shows the brain reacts similarly when viewing artwork and when falling in love. New research by Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London demonstrates that viewing a beautiful work of art creates the same chemical response as love. Both experiences trigger the feel-good chemical dopamine. So if you’re missing that special someone, perhaps partake in a daily dose of art inspiration.”

And even if you aren’t missing “that special someone” take in a daily dose of creative expression.

We all can use as much dopamine as we can get.