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The Science of Happiness June 20, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Happiness, Health & Wellness, Mindfulness.
Tags: , , , ,
37 comments

Eeyore-SittingIn  Zen and the Art of Happiness, Chris Prentiss explains why gloomy thoughts create a body that, at the cellular level, is more able to feel gloominess than joyfulness:

Each cell in our body communicates with our brain via receptor molecules located on its surface.

Cells are defined by which receptors are on its surface and whether those receptors are occupied by ligands or not.

Receptors and ligands are “information molecules” used to communicate across systems such as the endocrine, neurological, gastrointestinal, and even the immune system.  Ligands come in 3 types (neurotransmitters, steroids, and peptides).  Up to 95% of ligands may be peptides, which govern emotions.

The peptides produced in the hypothalamus gland in the brain duplicate emotions we experience ~> anger, hate, sadness, frustration, enthusiasm, happiness, and joy.

These peptides are channeled to the pituitary gland and the bloodstream, where they visit all 20-30 trillion cells in the body.

After cruising around the bloodstream, peptides dock on the millions of receptors on a cell’s surface.  There, they influence our behavior, activity levels, and mood.

That’s right . . . these teeny tiny molecular bits affect our mood.  With that kind of clout, it’s no wonder that peptides have their very own science journal.

We rely on cell division for growth, repair, and replacement of worn out cells.  An estimated 300,000,000 cell divisions occur every minute of every day.

New cells are created according to what you think and feel.  Cells created when someone is “depressed” will have more receptors for depression and fewer receptors to receive feel-good peptides.

As a result of this mechanism, we are either spiraling upwards into greater and greater happiness or downwards into greater and greater sadness, anger, fear, depression, frustration, etc.

Scruffy-CatIf we feel depressed for an hour, we produce eighteen billion new cells that have receptors calling out for depressed type peptides.

It’s as if the trillions and trillions of receptors are all cupping little hands around megaphones while shouting, “Send us more depression!”

That’s why thinking gloomy thoughts creates a body that is more able to feel gloominess than joyfulness.

The more we engage in any type of emotion or behavior, the greater our desire for it becomes ~> that’s true for depression, anger, and happiness.

We create ourselves by what we think and feel.  Once we start to manage our thoughts, our personal belief system changes and we begin to create a body that is more able to feel happiness.

Tigger-PogoWe can use our emotions and thoughts to create a body that’s more receptive to feel-good states, with a better functioning immune system.

By staying in the present moment, and choosing happiness right now, we increase our level of happiness tomorrow.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related post:  Researchers Find Link Between Peptide and Happiness  (Psych Central) * Become Susceptible to Happiness (Hindu Business Line)

Change June 6, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Food & Drink, Health & Wellness.
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42 comments

Chicken-Little-PosterFor many things, it’s slow and steady progress (not perfection) that helps us manifest change.

For others, cold turkey works best.

Gobble.  Gobble.

For example, switching from regular milk to skim milk or from dairy milk to almond or soy milk is harder if we alternate back and forth.  We don’t acclimate to the new milk until we STOP drinking the old milk.

The same is true of other dietary changes.

Our taste buds adapt to less salt and less sugar, but only after we eliminate the “problem foods” from our daily diet.

Also, change is easier if we don’t rely on sheer will power alone.

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Most of us are impatient and don’t want to wait.  Delayed gratification often is not enough to keep us slogging along with the new regime.

If we focus on the short term rewards gained from the behavioral changes we’re making, rather than on what we are giving up, it makes it easier to stick with the new behavior until it becomes status quo.

For example, we can focus on how we feel after a vigorous walk, rather than obsessing about the slow-to-move number on the bathroom scale.

Aah . . . that’s better!

For some terrific tips on mindful change:  What Needs to Change for Change to Happen (Find Your Middle Ground)

Chikungunya, Dude! June 5, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Bulletin Board, Health & Wellness, Humor.
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34 comments

Mosquito (in Public Domain)

A mosquito borne virus, which originated in East Africa before spreading to Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean, continues to make the news.

Symptoms of Chikungunya Fever include fever, headache, severe muscle pain, and a rash.

These symptoms appear 3-7 days after an individual is infected by a mosquito bite and can last for 2-4 months.  The infectious stage lasts 10-15 days.

The name (which sounds like “chicken goon-ya”) comes from the East African dialect for “doubled over.”

That does not sound good.

Take suitable precautions to avoid getting bit by these blood-sucking-good-for-nothing-critters that should never have been allowed on the Ark.

What the hell was Noah thinking?

Aah . . . that’s better! 

 

 

 

Exercise Rocks! June 4, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Health & Wellness.
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32 comments

250px-Scottish_hammer_throw_illustrationExercise releases endorphins and elevates mood.

It improves our fitness and sense of well-being.

It makes us happy.

Exercise ups our energy level, increases our metabolism, and regulates our appetite.

It normalizes melatonin production and enhances the sleep cycle.

It resets the limbic system, and releases pent up stress and anxiety.

Even if we’re not tossing rocks, exercise rocks!

It’s the fountain of youth.

Get moving!

Aah . . . that’s better!

Work Out Without Working Up A Sweat May 2, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Fun & Games, Health & Wellness.
Tags: , ,
23 comments

In 7 Ways Water Workouts Work Wonders, we touched upon the many benefits of staying cool while working out and getting fit.

Water exercise, or aquatics, is a terrific non-impact fitness tool.  Almost everyone can benefit from joining an aquatics class, including pregnant women, out of shape folks, the elderly, and patients recovering from injuries or certain surgeries.

* Water’s buoyancy reduces your “weight” by 90%, resulting in less stress on weight-bearing joints, bones, and muscles.

* You’re less likely to have sore muscles after working out in water, which makes it perfect for folks with arthritis, back problems, knee problems, or motivational problems.

* Water exercise, done right, encompasses all fitness components:  cardio-vascular, endurance, strength training, flexibility, and body fat reduction.

* The water’s resistance offers an excellent opportunity to strength train without using  weights.

To create additional resistance, cup your hands and pull or push the water away from you, or just run in place.

* Because of the water’s support, you can perform stretches that would be difficult (or impossible) on land.  As a result, you can move your joints through a wider range of motion and achieve greater levels of fitness and flexibility in and out of the pool.

Being in the water is calming and energizing at the same time.  Instead of creaking and groaning on land, you move with the ease and grace of a kid.

And, if you stay in the shallow end of the pool, you don’t even need to know how to swim!

Aah . . . that’s better!

7 Ways Water Workouts Work Wonders May 1, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Fun & Games, Health & Wellness.
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36 comments

For people with arthritis, hip injuries, or other joint maladies, working out on land can be incredibly painful, if not impossible.   Of course, not exercising can cause those conditions to worsen over time.

If you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, consider a third option . . . water aerobics:

1.  Exercising in water improves muscle strength.   The water’s resistance makes movements harder than on land, resulting in faster development of muscle strength, endurance and flexibility.

2.  Participants can control movements more easily using the water’s buoyancy to distribute the weight load, improve their balance, and reduce the impact on tender joints.

3.  Pool exercise speeds recovery after injuries or knee-replacement surgery since the buoyancy allows for full range of motion with less risk of injury.

4.  Water pressure compresses the chest, lowering the heart rate and helping blood circulate more efficiently.

5.  In a cool pool, participants can exercise longer and more comfortably.

6.  Water workouts may also improve mood and mental health.  Being in water encourages a more positive outlook, which speeds recovery from both illness and accidents.

7.  Warm water relaxes muscles, eases tension, reduces stress, and lessens mental fatigue.  It may also promote chemical changes in the brain which maintain critical thinking and memory skills.

Well?  What are you waiting for?

Dive in!

Aah . . . that’s better!

For more on Water Aerobics:  Aquatic Fitness (AARP)

Or watch this video on smooth underwater moves from WaterGym.com

Related posts:  Beginner’s Yoga 1~2~3 * 10 Happiness Boosters * 13 Tips to Stay Healthy & Happy

Need more inspiration?  Check out the Fitness-Photo Challenge on As My Camera Sees It and join the 12 week Fitness Challenge.

21 Ways To Improve Life Balance April 29, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Health & Wellness, Life Balance.
Tags: , , , ,
35 comments

1.  Nurture your body, mind, and spirit.

2.  Exercise is the fountain of youth.  Regular exercise increases metabolism, regulates appetite, improves mood, enhances sleep, and increases energy.

Need some inspiration?  Check out the Fitness-Photo Challenge on As My Camera Sees It and join the 12-week Fitness Challenge.

3.  Get enough rest.  Go to bed and get up on time so you can start the day unrushed.  Take time each day to relax and unwind.

4.  Simplify and unclutter your life.  Less is more.

5.  “Just Say No” to volunteer requests that don’t fit into your schedule or will compromise your sanity.

You are not the general manager of the universe.  Delegate tasks to others.

6.  Slow down.  Allocate enough time for tasks.  Pace yourself.  Tackle major life  changes and challenging projects in “small bites.”  Don’t dump everything into your wheelbarrow at once.

7.  Get organized so everything has its place, with backups for emergencies ~ an extra car key in your wallet or an extra house key hidden in the garden.

8.  Separate idle worries from realistic concerns.  If a situation concerns you, consider what you can do to resolve it.  If you can’t do anything, let go of the churning anxiety.  Keep breathing.

9.  Take things one day at a time.  Don’t worry today about what might happen tomorrow.  If it never happens, you’ll have worried for nothing.  If it does happen, you’ll end up worrying twice.

Worrying is interest paid on a debt we may not owe.

10.  Live within your budget.  Don’t use credit cards for ordinary day-to-day purchases unless you pay off the bill each month.

11. Talk less, listen more.  Learning to K.Y.M.S. (Keep Your Mouth Shut) can prevent an enormous amount of hassle.

12. Do something for the Kid in You everyday.  Build a library of wonderful memories.

13.  Bring a book to read while waiting in line.  Listen to books on tape or uplifting music while driving.  Or use waiting time for mindful meditation or creative visualization.

Waiting time does not have to be wasted time.

14.  Write down thoughts and inspirations.  Keep a folder of favorite quotes on hand.  Make time every day for a few minutes of quiet reflection.

15.  Having problems?  Try to nip small problems in the bud. Don’t wait until you’re in bed to worry about them.

16.  Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often just a smile away.

17. Laugh.  Laugh some more!

18.  Be mindful.  Use all five senses.  Notice the blue sky. Listen to uplifting music. Inhale pleasant scents, aromas, and fragrances.  Savor delicious tastes.  Give someone a hug.

19.  Take your work seriously, but yourself not at all.  Sit on your ego.

20. Develop a forgiving attitude.  Be kind to unkind people; they need it the most.  Hanging on to anger and stale grievances doesn’t hurt them, it hurts you.

21. Be grateful for small blessings.  Before going to sleep, think of one thing you’re grateful for that you’ve never been grateful for before.  When we look for the best in life, we see it.  Gratitude magnifies the good.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Simplify Your Life * Clearing Clutter * I Don’t Want Stuff Anymore, Only Things (Raptitude)

Give Your Brain A Boost . . . With A Book April 25, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Health & Wellness, Meditation.
Tags: , , , , ,
43 comments

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052Last week, Andra Watkins (The Accidental Cootchie Mama) shared links to two research studies done to evaluate the impact of reading on brain function:

Brain Function Boosted After Reading A Novel

This study revealed increased brain activity measured in the MRI’s of 21 college students during and after reading the novel Pompeii.

While this is promising news for book lovers, I wish the study had used control groups so we could compare results and determine whether reading novels has a more pronounced effect on the brain than:  watching movies, playing video games, meditating, dining out, texting, yoga, drinking wine, eating chocolate, walking, parasailing, riding a bike, talking to a close friend, having sex, etc.

Since everyone read the same novel, it’s hard to conclude, based on this study alone, that novel reading is better for the brain than other activities, such as reading poetry, attending a concert, watching a ballet, or “getting jiggy with it” by going ballroom dancing.

But reading definitely woke up a few neurons.

How Reading Lights Up Your Mind

Another article with anecdotal evidence about the value of reading (and meditation) for brain health.

Here’s what the article had to say about meditation:

“Meditation has long been studied to better understand how sustaining attention and focus affects the brain. Studies on mindfulness meditation, for example, show that parts of the brain associated with positive mood are activated with the practice of focusing attention.”

I have found this to be true.  Plus the sustained focus and attention carries over in all areas of life. Instead of re-acting to events (using stale beliefs about past experiences), we more mindfully choose how to spend our days.

Sally-BrownPerhaps by curling up with a good book.

And a cup of coffee.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related: Fight Brain Drain & Set Your Mind On Fire (Andra) * Your Brain On Jane (NPR) * Cross Train Your Brain

Cross Train Your Brain April 24, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Exercise & Fitness, Health & Wellness, Meditation.
Tags: , , , , ,
45 comments

A few weeks ago, we attended a lecture at Freedom Village on Cross Training Your Brain.

We’d heard the speaker, Dr. Kevin W. O’Neill, once before when he presented A Brain Training Symposium.

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Dr. O’Neill reiterated that what benefits the body, benefits the brain:

* Exercise ~ Ball Room Dancing is #1!
* Eat right ~ a Mediterranean Diet is best
* Sleep tight ~ without popping pills
* Don’t let the bed bugs bite
* Manage stress ~ meditation is great
* Focus on positives ~ don’t worry, be happy
* Interact with friends ~ be a social animal
* Tickle your funny bone chakra
* Learn something new today ~ build synapses
* Share your talents/volunteer/help others
* Develop an attitude of gratitude
* Drinking coffee lowers the risk of dementia
* Eat tumeric ~ curried veggies, please
* Play games, solve puzzles, have FUN!
* Live, Love, Laugh, Learn!

A few key points:

(1) Exercise is the fountain of youth when it comes to brain health.  It lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, increases gray matter, improves blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, and reduces stress.  For a 76% reduction in Alzheimer’s risk, try Ballroom Dancing!

(2) Reducing Stress helps maintain brain health ~ try exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other purposeful pursuits.  And get enough sleep.  Sleep allows neurons to shut down and repair themselves.

(3) A diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and omega 3 fats helps keep dementia at bay.  Vitamins C, D, and E are key building blocks for brain health.  As is Folic Acid ~ found in dark green veggies, chickpeas, and pinto beans.

(4) Intellectual Stimulation and Social Engagement are beneficial to brain health as we age.  Playing games and musical instruments helps ward off dementia.

(5)  Go ahead, enjoy your daily dose of caffeine.  According to the research Dr. O’Neill shared, drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day will lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease . . . by 65%!

But don’t just sit around drinking coffee, R~E~A~D!  More on that tomorrow.

Aah . . . that’s better!

 

What do you do to keep your brain sharp?

Playing The Blame Game March 16, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Health & Wellness, Humor, Mindfulness.
Tags: , , ,
32 comments

Broccoli-Mocking-StewieIt’s a shame when we insist on playing the blame game, because we proclaim ourselves as “victims.”

Much better to see our part in the process and maintain our autonomy and freedom of choice.

When we control our thoughts, we control our life.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts:  Owning Up (Suzicate) * How to Get Out of Prison (Gems of Delight)

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