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 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

Happiness – how our remembering self hijacks our experiencing self

I tend to live in the present moment – not because I am centered nor have I perfected mindfulness.  It’s because I  have a very lousy long-term memory.   You can tell me the same joke over and over and I’ll laugh every time because I never remember the punch line.  I don’t remember having already seen a movie or read a book until I get to the end.  Details of my life elude me.  Turns out I’m blessed by a forgetful remembering-self.

LISTEN to this!!!!!!!! –  How we determine what is a painful experience or a pleasurable one; How we create the story of our life.

Happy is as Happy Does! – Jump’n for JOY

Can’t stop smiling when I see this video of pure excitement!

“The video, posted to YouTube by Kevin Clancy, shows an adorable puppy showing off its cute little dance moves.”

“The dog broke into dance and then literally started jumping for joy when its owner came to take the little pup home from what appears to be a doggie day care.”

 

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

Human tsunami

Joy! Let it rain! Let it pour!

Monsoons of movement

 Don’t miss this WONDERFUL video!

“What are these humans doing? Dancing. Many humans on Earth exhibit periods of happiness, and one method of displaying happiness is dancing. Happiness and dancing transcend political boundaries and occur in practically every human society. Above, Matt Harding traveled through many nations on Earth, planned on dancing, and filmed the result. The above video, the latest in a series of similar videos, is perhaps a dramatic example that humans from all over planet Earth feel a common bond as part of a single species. Happiness is frequently contagious — few people are able to watch the above video without smiling.”

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth
Video Credit: Matt Harding & Melissa Nixon; Music: Trip the Light

Rain comes dribbling down

or torrents blown from the sky

either way it’s wet

 

Thank you Margo for sending such joy!

Happiness Research & Wendy

Happy Thoughts by Wendy Holcomb

For a young woman with a myriad of health issues Wendy Holcomb is one of the most spunky, positive people I’ve encountered on the blog-o-sphere. In her own words:

I have a few chronic illnesses that are a part of my life: Meniere’s Disease (this has caused severe hearing loss), Gluten Intolerance, Fructose Malabsorption, chronic migraines, Hypothyroidism, Hypoglycemia, chronic pelvic pain, Bi-Polar II Disorder and chronic hip trouble. However, I’m determined to
find a way to live an active, useful, and happy life!

How does Wendy remain so positive?  What makes us happy?  What makes us unhappy?  All the psychology research FINALLY being done on happiness (instead of despair, decay and decadence) appears to have common threads.

University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky finds that  “. . .practicing acts of kindness both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbor) triggers a cascade of positive [neurochemical] effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.”

Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: Humans seem happiest when they have

  1. Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.)
  2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)
  3. Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness)
  4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger)
  5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

There is also a growing body of evidence that correlates “contentment” with just three things:

  • A sense of belonging (a community, faith group, family)
  • The ability to contribute artistically (self-expression in any form)
  • Service (to others).
Personally I will take the 3.  For me it seems that the 3 encompass just about everything else. 

What do you think?

Check out Wendy’s blogs:

CreatetoHeal    PicnicWithAnts   WendyCooks (gluten free recipes)

Happy Test Revisited. Important Questions to Ask Yourself

At the risk of being much too serious and fracturing your image of me, I invite you to read some wonderfully thought-provoking comments from the post yesterday on the “Satisfaction with your Life Test”.    Take a look at three comments.  I believe that each person brought up what is essential to how we view and experience this thing called “our life”

I’ve posted some questions for you to ponder after each.  

I wonder Judy. I remember having written recently.. if there is pain in my heart doesn’t mean I am not happy.. so is it with satisfaction… does dissatisfaction mean unhappiness… I am not sure.. and one more thing.. the moment I sit to do a test to check if I am happy means that I am not…indeed that’s my perception..and I am no authority..to make a statement.. I am just a simple student of moments..and what feelings those moments bring….. well I am at this moment feeling happy to be here…on your page. Posted by Ramesh Sood

  • If you carry pain about some loss does that mean you can’t be happy?
  • How are your dissatisfaction about specific things in your life affect your happiness?

Hi Judith,
Given the title of the test; “how happy are you”, implies to me that happiness is something that can be measured by degrees. I disagree with that premise. Happiness is a state of being, perfect unto itself. I am happy because I am happy and nothing added would make me any happier…regardless of what is added, I will still be happy. Since happiness is a state of being, it can not have an opposite. A person can’t be unhappy. He can be sad, upset, angry, disappointed, etc. but any of those feelings, thoughts and emotions do not make for an “un” status.

The universe, however it was created, is a positive reality. An “un” positive reality can not exist in the same realm. I’ll avoid the question of “G-D” as a factor and just go with any theory for the beginning of life. If the big bang happened, it happened. It didn’t “un”happen. If we evolved from slime, then we evolved not “un”evolved. I’m making this point and opening it to discussion.
posted by Rabbi Dr. Dan S.Wiko

  • Do you think about your own happiness as a state of being rather than something that you measure?
  • If your happiness is a state of being what do you do to fully experience it?  
  • What do you do to deny your own state of happiness?

“When human’s are happy there is no impetus for personal growth, change or bettering the world.”
This is a statement which is fundamentally flawed and as it is foundational to the proposition, we can’t help but get faulty answers.
To illustrate, I am an extremely happy person – happier than most anyone I know, and my happiness comes from learning, growing, challenging what is considered normal, challenging my own thoughts and beliefs and actions and seeking to better the world through bettering myself.
Now if you were to use “satisfied” or “content” instead of happy…
I can still be happy while not being satisfied. I’m not satisfied with my financial situation but since money does not govern my happiness – I am happy.
I also agree with The Rabbi – happiness is a state of being which comes from within, and not from external factors.
Posted by John H.

  • Do you think satisfied/content on the same continuum as happy  (Satisfied____________Happy______________Ecstatic)?  or
  • A state of being not connected to other emotions?
  • Do you experience your happiness coming from internal or external factors?