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8 Ways Science Reveals That Hugging Creates a Physiological Response Equivalent To Drugs

JANUARY 22, 2015 by JOSH RICHARDSON

Hugs make you feel good for a reason and it’s not just the loving embrace that gives us that warm feeling in our hearts. It’s much more. It affects the entire body to such an extent that many scientists claim it is equivalent to the effect of many different drugs operating on the body simultaneously. Even seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch can help people deal with their emotions with clarity and more effectively.

1. REDUCE WORRY OF MORTALITY

In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging – even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear – helps soothe individuals’ existential fears. “Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance,” lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study.

2. STIMULATES OXYTOCIN

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that acts on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and stress, and even making mammals monogamous. It is the hormone responsible for us all being here today. You see this little gem is released during childbirth, making our mothers forget about all of the excruciating pain they endured expelling us from their bodies and making them want to still love and spend time with us. New research from the University of California suggests that it has a similarly civilizing effect on human males, making them more affectionate and better at forming relationships and social bonding. And it dramatically increased the libido and sexual performance of test subjects. More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate. The chemical has also been linked to social bonding. “Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding,” DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein told NPR. “It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.” When we hug someone, oxytocin is released into our bodies by our pituitary gland, lowering both our heart rates and our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

3. LOWERS HEART RATE

Embracing someone may warm your heart, but according to one study a hug can be good medicine for it too: In an experiment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of 10 beats per minute compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment.

hugs

4. STIMULATES DOPAMINE

Everything everyone does involves protecting and triggering dopamine flow. Many drugs of abuse act through this system. Problems with the system can lead to serious depression and other mental illness. Low dopamine levels also play a role in the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s as well as mood disorders such as depression. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine and hugs are said to adjust those levels. Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation! Hugs stimulate brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. MRI and PET scans reveal that when you hugs people or listen to music that excites you, your brain releases dopamine and even in anticipation of those moments. Dopamine sensors are the areas that many stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine target. The presence of a certain kinds of dopamine receptors are also associated with sensation-seeking.

5. STIMULATES SEROTONIN

Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. It’s perhaps one reason why people fall into gang and criminal activity — the culture brings experiences that facilitate serotonin release. Reaching out and hugging releases endorphins and serotonin into the blood vessels and the released endorphins and serotonin cause pleasure and negate pain and sadness and decrease the chances of getting heart problems, helps fight excess weight and prolongs life. Even the cuddling of pets has a soothing effect that reduces the stress levels. Hugging for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

6. WELL-HUGGED BABIES ARE LESS STRESSED AS ADULTS

Want to do something for future generations? Hug them when they’re still little. An Emory University study in rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life. The research concluded that the same can be said of humans, citing that babies’ development — including how they cope with stress as adults – depends on a combination of nature and nurture.

cuddles

7. PARASYMPATHETIC BALANCE

Hugs balance out the nervous system. The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The effect in moisture and electricity in the skin suggests a more balanced state in the nervous system – parasympathetic.

8. ENHANCE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Research shows that the hug hormones above are immuno-regulatory. All of this has an even deeper meaning on the way our systems work with each other, including our immune system. his also parallels with the way that hugs promote the relaxation response — they help to change the way your body handles both physical and social stresses, thus boosting your immune system naturally, to do the job it was designed to do!

Josh Richardson is blogger, healer, and a constant pursuer of the natural state of human consciousness.

Sources:   tinyshift.com    dopamineproject.org   brainhq.com    huffingtonpost.com    npr.org    dailymail.co.uk   nih.gov


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3 Buddhist Beliefs That Will Rock Your World (And Make You Much Happier!)

You don’t have to practice yoga or follow an Ayurvedic diet to benefit from Buddhist ideas (but if you do, more power to you).

Whether or not you think about balancing your dosha, here are three powerful elements of Buddhist philosophy, “The Noble Truths,” and how you can incorporate them into every day. They might just change your life…

1. Dukkha: Life is painful and causes suffering.

Many people might say that Buddhism is pessimistic or negative. This is a common result of learning that one of the Noble Truths is translated as “Life is suffering.” But there’s more to this statement. It’s not just telling us, “Life is tough, so deal with it.” So what is it telling us?

We actually can create more suffering in our lives by trying to avoid or suppress difficult emotions. Yes, our lives are inevitably punctuated with various unpleasant feelings: loss, sadness, fatigue, boredom, anxiety appear and reappear during our lives.

But attaching or clinging to particular expectations, material items, and states of being is often a cause for acute frustration, disappointment, and other forms of pain. So rather than fear our suffering or seek an ultimate resolution to it (and become frustrated by our lack of finding one), we can learn simply to recognize our suffering.

How we can use this belief every day: Try not to buy into the idea that you’re broken. Expect that death, aging, sickness, suffering, and loss are part of life. Practice acceptance in the face of strife. Stop attaching to the idea that life should be easy and pain free, both emotionally and physically. This is a misconception made popular by the fashion, beauty, and pharmaceutical industries.

Illness, heartbreak, loss, disappointment, and frustration are parts of life that can be mitigated by practicing “non-attachment.” Try to embrace imperfection, to let go of this belief that life should be a certain way. Open your heart to uncertainty.

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2. Anitya: Life is in constant flux.

Anitya or “impermanence” means that life as we know it is in constant flux. We can never access the moment that just passed, nor can we ever replicate it. As each day passes, our cells are different, our thoughts develop, the temperature and air quality shifts. Everything around us is different. Always.

When we are feeling especially uncomfortable, the concept of impermanence can be, paradoxically, comforting. In other words: if nothing is permanent, we know our pain will pass. But when we are experiencing joy, the idea of impermanence can be incredibly fear-inducing.

If we accept the idea of impermanence at face-value, it can be incredibly liberating. In the West, about 100 years after the Buddha expressed this idea, Greek philosopher Heraclitus mirrored the belief when he famously said, “You can never step in the same river twice.” All we have is the present moment.

How we can use it in our everyday lives: Celebrate the idea of change. Accept that everything is constantly changing. It’s kind of amazing, when you just think about it! And even when the idea of impermanence might feel scary, it helps us appreciate everything we are experiencing in the present: our relationships, body, mood, health, the weather, our favorite shoes, our jobs, our youth, our minds. So let’s savor those moments we do enjoy and know that the ones we don’t enjoy will pass.

3. Anatma: The self is always changing.

When I ask clients what they want to get out of therapy, they commonly answer, “I want to find myself.” Our culture has led us to believe there’s a concrete, constant “self” tucked away somewhere in us. Is it between our heart and liver? Or somewhere unknown in our brain? Who knows!

Buddhism, however, assumes there is no fixed, stable “self.” In line with Anitya (impermanence), our cells, memories, thoughts, and personal narratives — all of the “matter” that ultimately comprises our identities — change over time.

Sure, we all have personalities (though they can change over time). We have names, and jobs, and other titles that we use to identify ourselves, to feel a sense of “self.”

But the idea of a constant self is yet another story our culture has told us. It is a story we can change, and thereby accept the idea that we ourselves can change — at any time, in any place. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Thanks to impermanence, anything is possible.”

How we can use it in our everyday life: Instead of focusing on “finding ourselves,” we ought to focus on creating the self we wish to be at every moment. It’s possible for us to be, and feel, different today than we were and felt yesterday. Being depressed today doesn’t mean we’ll be depressed forever. We can forgive others. We can forgive ourselves.

Once we let go of our attachment to the idea of the constant “self,” we can rest more comfortably with the constant change present in all of life. In each new moment, we ourselves are new.


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Certain Foods Can Damage Your Ability To Think Flexibly

A high-fat, high-sugar diet causes significant damage to cognitive flexibility, a new study finds.

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust and adapt to changing situations.

The high-sugar diet was most damaging, the research on mice found.

This caused impairments in both long- and short-term memory.

This is just the latest in a line of studies showing the potentially dramatic effects of diet on mental performance.

Professor Kathy Magnusson, who co-led the study, said:

“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong.

Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing.

Then one day that road is closed and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”

With lower cognitive flexibility, adapting to these kinds of changes would be more difficult.

Professor Magnusson said it wasn’t yet clear how these damaging effects were caused:

“It’s increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the human brain.

Bacteria can release compounds that act as neurotransmitters, stimulate sensory nerves or the immune system, and affect a wide range of biological functions.\

We’re not sure just what messages are being sent, but we are tracking down the pathways and the effects.”

The research was carried out on laboratory mice.

They were given either a normal diet, a high-fat diet or a high-sugar diet.

After four weeks the mental and physical performance of mice on the high-fat or high-sugar diet began to suffer.

Professor Magnusson said:

“We’ve known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you.

This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you.

It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”

The ‘Western diet’ that many consume daily is high in sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates.

The study was published in the journal Neuroscience (Magnusson et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog


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Why Complaining Is Holding You Back & How To Stop

January 8, 2014       by Alanna Ketler

We all do it at some point or another, usually quite a few times per day and generally too much. We complain about the weather, our jobs, our partners, our friends, our cars, our houses, our headaches, our food, our plants, our animals and pretty much everything else. Why do we do this? I think that we all know that complaining doesn’t actually fix anything or make anything better, but we still do it, all the time. Some people do it a lot more than others, but in general most people are doing it too much. Perhaps we can find out an answer.

Most people do not even realize how much they complain because it is a habit, and like most habits it tends to be so familiar that it goes unnoticed. A complaint can generally be a good icebreaker for some people. Do you ever find yourself or someone else commenting on things like how crappy the weather is, how long the line is or that the store or bank should have more cashiers on? It seems that it is easier for people to say something negative and get a good response than it is to say something positive. People also complain because they want validation for their negative thoughts, they want to know that other people agree with what they are saying.

The thing about complaining is that it actually creates more negativity in our lives, and the more you do it the more down you feel, it is like a snowball effect. Sometimes we tend to use a complaint as an excuse for something, if we are late we might say that the traffic was out of control today, instead of taking responsibility for our actions and just taking a mental note that we should have left earlier. Being frustrated with something like traffic on the way to work, which is entirely out of your control, can actually make you feel down or upset for the entire day. This one complaint sets off a bad mood, which often leads to even more complaining. In turn this isn’t just affecting your mood, but everyone’s mood around you as well.  Have you ever noticed how drained you feel after getting together with a friend and all they do is complain? Have you found yourself completely drained after complaining a lot to a friend? There is no doubt about it complaining brings us down.  To clarify, there is a difference between an observation and a complaint, an observation is simply noticing something and making a comment about it without any judgment or negativity towards it. You can probably feel pretty easily whether or not you are making an observation or a judgment.

stop complaining

So What Can We Do?

The first step to breaking this habit is to admit you have a problem… just kidding. The first step is to be aware of your complaints throughout the day. I watched an episode of Oprah about 5 years ago and one of the topics was about a book called “A Complaint Free World,” and a technique was discussed to assist with breaking this habit. You wear a bracelet on your wrist either the left or right, every time you complain you have to switch the bracelet over to the other wrist. The goal is to eventually not have to switch the bracelet at all for an entire day. This is a great tool to help you become more mindful of your complaints, but also the less you complain the easier it is for you to completely break the habit.

Try to lessen your judgments towards people and situations, if you aren’t judging so often you most certainly won’t be complaining. When these judgments do come up, try and look at why they are happening in the first place and why you are bothered by what other people are doing, or the situation you’re in. If you can’t change the situation that you’re in you have no choice but to walk away from it, or accept it.complain

A big one is to just try not to dwell on things and don’t take things too seriously. Sometimes small problems are greatly exaggerated, but in the grand scheme of things how important is it really?

Now with all this being said, I don’t think that it is a good idea to pent up all of our anger, frustration and unhappiness, I think it is very important to express ourselves and ‘vent’ from time to time. The key here is to look at our thoughts and actions and be aware of how we are feeling and thinking. Changing our negativity, not blocking or ignoring it, but getting to the point where little things are not making us upset anymore, so instead of blocking all of your anger, you just aren’t feeling as much of it. I think the world would be a much happier place if we would focus more on the awesome aspects to life, rather than the draining, depressing sides to it! We can all do our part to see this happen, its up to us to

“Be The Change You Wish To See In The World.”   🙂

Much Love

Sources and further readings
http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-ways-to-complain-less-and-be-happier/
http://www.mindbridgetraining.com/why-do-we-complain


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More Than Two-Thirds of Adults Overweight or Obese

Only 25 percent of men and 33 percent of women at a healthy weight, researchers say

By Dennis Thompson    HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) – Fewer than one-third of Americans are currently at a healthy weight, with the rest of the population either overweight or obese, a new report finds.

About 35 percent of men and 37 percent of women are obese. Another 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women are overweight, researchers said in the June 22 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Obesity is not getting better. It’s getting worse, and it’s really scary. It’s not looking pretty,” said Lin Yang, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Obesity has been linked to a number of chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and arthritis, Yang said.

“This generation of Americans is the first that will have a shorter life expectancy than the previous generation, and obesity is one of the biggest contributors to this shortened life expectancy because it is driving a lot of chronic health conditions,” she said.

The new report used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey gathered between 2007 and 2012, involving more than 15,000 men and women age 25 and older.

Based on the data, researchers estimate that more than 36 million men and nearly 29 million women in the United States are currently overweight. About 32 million men and 36 million women are obese, the researchers found.

Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BMI is calculated by comparing a person’s weight to their height.

For example, a 5-foot-9 man who weighs 169 pounds or a 5-foot-4 woman who weighs 146 pounds both have a BMI of 25, and would be considered overweight, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Obesity is defined by the CDC as any body mass index 30 or higher. A 5-foot-9 man who weighs 203 pounds or more is considered obese, as is a 5-foot-4 woman who weighs 175 pounds or more.

obese

More Americans are overweight and obese these days, compared with federal survey data gathered between 1988 and 1994, Yang said.

Back then, 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women were either overweight or obese, with a BMI of 25 or greater. Today, around 75 percent of men and about 67 percent of women are either overweight or obese, according to the study.

The new obesity figures did not come as a surprise to Dr. Elliott Antman, president of the American Heart Association.

“It’s in line with what we already knew, and it provides some numbers on the magnitude of the problem,” Antman said of the new study. “It puts a face on the issue, and it’s a significant problem.”

Obesity is related to increases in diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, “all of which converge on an increased risk of heart disease and stroke,” he said.

America’s weight problem is an issue that will not be resolved through a purely medical solution, Yang and Antman said. Politicians and officials at the federal, state and local levels will need to weigh in with policies that increase the number of calories people burn and decrease the amount of unhealthy foods they ingest.

For example, communities need to adopt plans that will make it easier for people to get around on foot or riding a bike, rather than sitting in a car, Yang said.

“America is a very much car-dependent country. We know car driving is a chunk of sedentary behavior,” she said. “More walking or bicycling would increase the physical activity of the whole nation.”

Policymakers also need to find ways to improve the availability of inexpensive, healthy food, Antman said. Right now, processed food and fast food that is high in unhealthy sugar, salt and fat tends to be more affordable and available in America’s communities than healthier options.

“Fast foods are less expensive, so that individuals trying to feed a large family might tend to purchase them rather than fresh foods, which are harder to find and more expensive, and therefore less economically appealing,” he said.

SOURCES: Lin Yang, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.; Elliott Antman, M.D., president, American Heart Association; June 22, 2015, JAMA Internal Medicine


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10 Ways to Deal With Irrational People

It’s hard to believe there is someone out there that hasn’t dealt with an irrational person and even been irrational themselves. When we are irrational, there are usually other things in play behind the scenes. Irrational behavior happens when we’ve reached the tipping point, and we have to just let it out.

Even though we all experience our version of irrational behavior from time to time and it is understandable, it doesn’t make it easy to deal with someone who is acting irrationally. We might get it, but we don’t have to like it.

Here are 10 ways to deal with irrational people:

1. Listen and Let Them Vent

The best way to diffuse irrational thinking and behavior is to listen as they vent. Sometimes just listening is the hardest part because our natural tendency is to point out the irrational thinking. Doing so will only to increase the emotions of the situation, so it’s important to bite our tongue and listen earnestly. Sometimes, just knowing they are being heard is all that is needed.

2. Make a Personal Connection

An “us” versus “you” mentality will only encourage the person to dig in their heels and stand firm. Try making a personal connection by using their name and making them feel like an individual. Making someone feel special and giving them a platform where they feel respected is an important step in lessening the tension.

3. Summarize What You Heard

When dealing with irrational people, it is really important to them that their message, complaint or opinion is understood. Start by summarizing what you heard to make sure you both are on the same page. This is a great starting point to begin the next steps in solving the situation.



4. Stay Calm

It is very easy to get caught up in the emotions of a situation. Don’t do it. Focus on staying calm and take the time you need to respond in a thoughtful and respectful manner. When you respond with anger, often more irrational behavior will ensue, completely blowing things out of proportion. Calmly hear them out and then help them to calm down too.

shouting

5. Pay Attention to Your Word Choice

When trying to talk with someone who is in a heightened emotional state, the words we choose to use can be the difference between handling the situation and escalating it. Choose positive words like, “I will remember” instead of “I won’t forget.” Another tip is to try and make sure to avoid using “you” except when talking about what you are hearing from them. For instance, “what I hear you saying is …” comes across as respectful. On the other hand, “you said …,” can come across as a bit accusatory even though it isn’t meant to be.

6. Be Empathetic

Remember there is usually more to the story. They may have just received some bad news or maybe they are in the midst of a huge life-changing event. Regardless, be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand what is the key issue and just be there to help them work through it. Knowing someone is on their side is needed to help them relax and come back to a place of calm.



7. Ask Questions

Asking questions shows interest in their dilemma. It shows care, respect and interest in what they are going through. Gathering information by asking questions serves a dual purpose. First it allows you to get a true assessment of the situation and secondly it gives you some time to determine the best course of action in a positive way and not in a reactionary one.

8. Detach Yourself From The Situation

During any irrational situation, it’s necessary to remember that irrational thoughts and actions are about them, not about us. When we begin to internalize what is being said, is when things get blown out of proportion. We should strive to be supportive and engaged without making it about us.

9. Be Prepared to Compromise

“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.” – Ludwig Erhard

It is often the art of the compromise that soothes a tense situation. We should start any compromise knowing our bottom line and theirs. Then it’s up to us to somehow find a way to meet somewhere in the middle. We will know more about what sort of compromise might work if we have taken the time to listen and ask questions.

10. And Finally, Recognize Sometimes There is No Winning

It is important to know that there are some irrational behaviors and requests that may not have a resolution. Do what you can but it’s important not to compromise your principles or values to accommodate someone else’s irrational thinking. At some point, you may have to agree to disagree and be prepared to walk away.

On the surface dealing with irrational behavior can seem a daunting task but with a few important steps, it can become quite manageable. And when it becomes apparent that there is no solution to the situation, we should be prepared to walk respectfully away.


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5 No-Fail Ways To Get (And Stay) Happier

Do you ever wonder why some people are happier than others? As a life-coach and author, I discovered that despite our vast differences, we are more similar than we realize. We all want love, acceptance, and appreciation. It’s our strategies for achieving these things that vary. In general, people see the world in one of two ways: full of possibilities or full of obstacles. Your interpretation of the world creates your reality.

If you’re trying to reach a new goal, you have to do what you have not done before.

Here are five ways to shift your perspective that can make a huge difference in the success of your life’s pursuits.

1. Stop focusing on problems that don’t exist.

Problems are an inevitable part of life. But how we approach them depends on our worldview. An excuse-oriented person falls back on reasons it can’t be done. Maybe it’s been done before, or it will take too much time or money, so they throw their hands up in the air and say, “why bother?”

Solution-oriented people look for answers in the unknown territory of life. They are the trendsetters, inspirational leaders, authors you love, or creative types tackling problems head on. They are the people who, instead of saying it can’t be done, say, “Watch me.”

2. Visualize results.

People fall into one of two buckets when it comes to making their dreams come true. They will focus on all the reasons it can’t be done or the results they want to see. If you are trying to reach a new goal, you have to do what you haven’t done before. That requires you to focus on the possibilities. Results-driven people often make their dreams come true faster, and they are happier, healthier, and wealthier.

happiness

3. Assume it can be done.

Last week I proposed a problem for my students to solve. One student raised her hand and politely said, “It can’t be done.” I smiled and replied, “With that mindset, you’re right. But if you assume it can be solved, you will be able to solve it.” The students who thought they could solve it did. Those who said it couldn’t be done stayed stuck.

The results we see in life are based on what we think. What you think, you become. If you want new results, look for new ways to approach old problems.

4. Know when to break the rules.

Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, Ghandi: all visionaries praised for their innovation. Without breaking rules, they wouldn’t have made the same impact or contributions that they did. That doesn’t mean all rules were meant to be broken. They exist to keep order in place.

But breaking rules with a purpose — relinquishing limiting perspectives to come up with creative solutions — is a necessary part of the creative process. Give yourself permission to break rules when you feel limited by them, as long as your actions won’t negatively impact others.

5. Believe the world is a kind, loving place.

We attract what we believe. If you look at the world in a negative light and see hate, sadness, and pain, you will feel more of that in your life. But when you focus on small acts of kindness, on love, on opportunity, and on hope, joy will be yours for the taking.

Life is what you make of it. Make it something great.