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)

Happiness Hacks: The Write Way


“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.

“In the 1970s, a professor of psychology named James W. Pennebaker began experimenting with the effects that talking, confessing and self-understanding had on human well-being. Nearly 30 years later, he and his collaborator, Joshua M. Smyth, a professor of behavioral health and medicine, produced a body of research that found the emotionally connective and relieving effects of expressive writing to promote self-understanding, ease emotional pain and aid in physical healing.[viii] Since their book, Opening Up by Writing It Down, was published in 1997, their findings have been corroborated by other scientists’ independent studies around the world.”

The 2016 edition of their book explains that expressive writing:

•  Offers those who either don’t wish to talk about their feelings or have no one to confide in a way to unburden themselves

•  Reduces stress, fear and isolation

•  Boosts immune systems, optimism and sense of connectedness

•  Allows minds to process, organize and understand their experiences and feelings, enhancing learning and memory

“When expressing themselves in writing, people often report that they feel safe. They are actually creating an artifact—one that symbolizes some of their thoughts and feelings but is not them. With that safety, people often find they can put things down on the page that are often hard to speak about, and explore the deeper truths that we all carry with us.”

“The writing itself is a “made thing”—something with weight and substance. Therefore, it has a place in the world and you become identified with that creative construction. For many people, this gives them a way to bootstrap out of negativity and to start to identify themselves in a powerful and positive way.”

http://www.howlifeunfolds.com/stronger-connections/expressive-writing-a-path-forward-for-your-health

Happiness Hacks: Sing

“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.

In second grade we stood at our desk and sang. EVERY DAY.  The teacher traveled the room, bending down to intently listen to each child.  Those who were out of tune she tapped on the head to sit down.  There were two of us who always got tapped.
 
From third grade on  I silently mouthed the words anytime, anywhere there was singing, terrified someone would hear me.   
 

Now the science is in. Singing is really good for you and the most recent research suggests that group singing is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

Creating music together evolved as a tool of social living. Groups and tribes sang and danced together to build loyalty, transmit vital information and ward off enemies.  (Since I still can’t carry a tune I figure all my enemies have long ago been warded off.)

Caterwauling beautiful music by Peggy

“What has not been understood until recently is that singing in groups triggers the communal release of serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and even synchronises our heart beats.”

“Singing helps people with depression and reduces feelings of loneliness, leaving people feeling relaxed, happy and connected. What’s more, the benefits of singing regularly are cumulative. People who sing have reduced levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.” (The research must have been done on people who could carry a tune.  My cortisol levels still go up when singing)

Now the good news (for me) . . . 

One of the great things about singing is that you can receive the wellbeing benefits even if you aren’t any good. One study showed that:

“Group singing can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”

“The current research into the neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified.”

I still can’t carry a tune but at least no one . . . so far . . . has tapped me on the head since second grade.

(jw)

Read the entire article:  The Neuroscience of Singing

A Happy Snacky Peggy Post

One of my long time friends (whose initials are jw but shall remain nameless) is a bit of a sugarcarboholic and green isn’t her favorite food color.  She also is in chronic pain and lacks energy.  When I found this research I wanted to share it and I know she reads this blog.

The Chemistry of Joy

Our mood, outlook and energy levels are determined to a huge extent by the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and their relationship to one another.

We feel good when they are in balance. Beta endorphins also create a feeling of well-being, connectedness to others, and emotional stability. They even help us tolerate pain.

  • If levels of norepinephrine and dopamine are low, people will slow down, sleep a lot, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to motivate themselves. They can have a “sluggish” depression.
  • On the other hand, people with high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, and possibly low levels of serotonin often feel angry, resentful and despairing. They can be critical and demanding. This would be an “agitated ” depression.
  • A third kind of depression can occur with low levels of serotonin, which results in people feeling fearful , worried and inadequate. This is an “anxious” depression.

maui-making-tea

In the Kitchen by Peggy

  • Sluggish Depression – Eating to INCREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: 
    Eat high quality proteins throughout the day, lean beef, low-fat meats and fish.
  • Agitated Depression – Eating to DECREASE norepinephrine and dopamine:
    eat the same as to increase serotonin but eat very small amounts of protein. A vegetarian diet would be good.
  • Anxious Depression – Eating to INCREASE serotonin:
    Increase carbs, eat tryptophan, which is in nuts, dairy, and meats. Eat regularly throughout the day. Get some protein, but not a large amount.

SUGAR (also alcohol) elevates beta endorphins, which may be why people have sugar cravings. This elevation only lasts a short time, because the body metabolizes it quickly. This results in a “low” that follows the sugar “high”, and you want more sugar! My friend (who shall remain nameless) can avoid this by eating complex carbs and protein.

Cholesterol helps the brain make the chemicals we need. So if you are depressed, eat some fat: Halibut, salmon, grains and nuts that have omega 3 and animal fat with omega 6 are both needed in balance.

    *    *     *

Hopefully my friend will not only read this post but start to eat better.  To make sure, I’ll suggest it for the book we are working on . . . 

“Hacking Your Way to Happiness” (It’s a work in progress, just like my friend). 

Peggy