Daily Grateful

grat·i·tude

[grat-i-tood, -tyood] noun, the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. In an article entitled In Praise of Gratitude, according to the Harvard Medical School,

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done a great deal of research on gratitude. Their research has concluded that gratitude do so much good because it, according to Dr. McCullough, “More than other emotion…is the emotion of friendship…It is part of a psychological system that causes people to raise their estimates of how much value they hold in the eyes of another person. Gratitude is what happens when someone does something that causes you to realize that you matter more to that person than you thought you did.” For more on gratitudinal research, click here. Also check out a great piece by Ocean Robbins on the neuroscience behind the benefits of gratitude click here.

November 30, 2013

This feel-good video, entitled Grateful, is from KarmaTube, a project of the very cool folks at “Daily Good.” The video, according to the site, was the brainchild of musicians Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod, who:

…brought together dozens of people from around the world to create this beautiful, heart-opening melody. Inspired by the 21-Day Gratitude Challenge, the song is a celebration of our spirit and all that is a blessing in life. For the 21 Days, over 11,000 participants from 118 countries learned that “gratefulness” is a habit cultivated consciously and a muscle built over time. As a famous Roman, Cicero, once said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” This soul-stirring music video, created within a week by a team of volunteers, shines the light on all the small things that make up the beautiful fabric of our lives.

November 29, 2013

🙂 Laughter is contagious!

We’ve all been there: one person starts laughing at something, then another, then another, and soon, hilarity ensues. But why? We all know that laughter is contagious, but what’s the reason for it? Turns out that it’s the same reason that people respond to negative stimuli, neural stimuli, and positive stimuli at the group level. According to Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University:

“Sharing others’ emotional states provides the observers a somatosensory and neural framework that facilitates understanding others’ intentions and actions and allows to ‘tune in’ or ‘sync’ with them. Such automatic tuning facilitates social interaction and group processes.

“The results have major implications for current neural models of human emotions and group behavior, but also deepen our understanding of mental disorders involving abnormal socioemotional processing. [source]

Laughing can release endorphins; natural opiates in your body that can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol–a well known “fight or flight” hormone that is linked to exhaustion and depression.This experience has been linked to an evolved as an early bonding mechanism.

Makes sense to me. Here’s an example of hoe people people tend to “sync up” – enjoy.

According to WebMD, the last few decades has revealed that laughter can have the following impacts on the body:

Blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.

Immune response. Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Provine. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.

Blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

Relaxation and sleep. The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.

November 28, 2013

A Day for Gratitude

Thanksgiving is, for many, no longer the celebration that it represented, historically. While I won’t go into that specific detail, I do think it’s become the official day of gratitude in this country, without question. Whatever you’re grateful for, immerse yourself in it; spend more time with it than usual. People? Animals? Environment? Helping others? The ability to sate your hunger and slake your thirst? Health? Doesn’t matter; whatever it is, dive in, deeply, and stay there a while. That “taking in the good” is what mindfulness is all about. and it’s what actually rewires our brains to build positive neural networks. (I honestly think of this as “creating new brain habits,” because that’s all neural networks are in the brain–infinitely complex habitual responses). One thing that you can do to remind you of the wonderful in your life is to create a folder of pictures, videos, music that you can turn to when things aren’t going so well. This video is included in my Folder of Gratitude. The following is for the animal lovers out there from the Great Whale Conservancy. Their story–and the aftermath of their efforts–are nothing short of amazing:

http://www.greatwhaleconservancy.org/

November 27, 2013

Take the time to take in the wonderful things, people, places, creatures, environment that surround you. Details of life that you might normally overlook. Drink them in, deeply, as if your very life depended on it. One could argue that it does–if one is to be truly happy, that is. This is what the vaunted “mindfulness movement” is all about, really. There are many methods for getting there, but much of it all boils down to seeing the world as it is, non-judgmentally, and enjoying the heck out of it while you can. You can’t slow down time, but you can experience and internalize the moments that comprise time much more fully. It doesn’t require that you meditate (although you should try to develop that as a habit; it will help facilitate mindfulness). But mindfulness is available any waking moment, literally: Just look around outside, at your loved ones, at those whom you feel close; listen to that moving piece of music; gaze at those pictures that make you smile; whatever your particular happiness zen, it’s available anytime you want to stop and notice, fully, gratefully, actively. It’s called “taking in the good” and it’s freely available to you any time you want it by internalizing the good. Mindfulness and taking in the best experiences can actually rewire your brain. But hey, don’t take my word for it, the brain is plastic and malleable. In fact, those who meditate consistently actually physically change their brains for the better, as research has clearly shown.

the-long-road-ahead-is-long-but

November 26, 2013

Morning Wake Up Call: “Grateful” for Cats. We’re supposed to wake up and greet the day with new optimism and a sense of promise, but sometimes we just want to giggle a little. This one goes out to all the cat “lovers” out there, who know what I’m talking about. Brings a new definition to “fight or flight”! 😉

November 24, 2013

Hang in there

[modified from source]

November 23, 2013

Emerson, author, poet, and lecturer, led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century in the US. He was a wise man, indeed. The mindful do not dwell on what was, or what will be, only what is. The end of the day is just that, the end of that set of experiences, bracketed by the hours we’ve chosen. Tomorrow will be a new series of moments, decisions, and opportunities, but for now, it’s time to rest…

Emerson Quote 11.23n
November 22, 2013

Very moving; very beautiful. Do sharks have oxytocin release systems, too? 😉

November 21, 2013

“I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life, and my country is going through a critical period. But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher. Laughing is a characteristic of the Tibetans, who are different in this from the Japanese or the Indians. They are very cheerful, like the Italians, rather than a little reserved, like the Germans or the English.” ~ Dalai Lama

And with that, some words of wisdom–and some infectious laughter–from the Dalai Lama:

According to “amillionsmiles” on YouTube:

This video looks at ‘Buddhism and Happiness’, as we ask are they a match made in heaven or something else? This eight minute epic reveals some incredible insights into human behavior and values that impact our happiness, particularly in this materialistic Western life so many are living, or reaching for.

The Dalai Lama’s talk is from his ‘the quest for happiness’ public talk in Adelaide during his ‘Beyond Religion’ tour in Australia.

While we would have ideally used footage of Tibetan monks in this video, we were unable to and instead used footage from our recent trip to Burma, where we acknowledge there may be subtle differences in how Buddhism is practiced. We do not mean to offend anyone by this and if you would like to fly us to Tibet to re-film this we’ll happily take up the offer.

November 20, 2013

Healthy happy juices are released when you physically connect with another. Go hug, kiss, gaze at, and otherwise physically interact with someone you love (oh, and make sure that it’s reciprocal!!! 😉 or give out a nice dose of oxytocin to your favorite critter. It can do wonders…

November 19, 2013

Be Here Now by Ray LaMontagne.

Don’t let your mind get weary
And confused your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy
Child, inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely
Child, it’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you that’s where you’ll find kindness

Be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now

Don’t lose your faith in me
And I will try not to lose faith in you
Don’t put your trust in walls
‘Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

Be, be here now, be here now
Be, be here now, be here now

November 18, 2013

Moving story of a little dog–and the people–who would not give up. Don’t ever give up. Believe in yourself. it’s not about falling–we all fall. It’s how we get back up again that counts.

November 17, 2013

Stay Mindful! (Wandering Minds Tend to Lead to Greater Unhappiness)

Harvard scientist Matt Killingsworth built an app to track peoples’ focus and mind wandering tendencies and tracked 15,000 users’ responses across many demographics. The data are nothing short of amazing. As it turns out, people are less happy not only when their minds wander, but actually because their minds wander, relative to when when they’re mindful or “focused, aware and in the moment”–regardless of whatever daily activity they’re doing (held up in traffic, shopping, etc.). Matt explains how he got the data and what the correlations mean, but this fits well with my future “What if…” and past tense “why” theory of worry, stress, and anxiety. In my theory, future what if… thinking is often stressful and anxiety-inducing because we dwell on things in the future (e.g., what if…I don’t get that job; I screw up my relationship; that sensation is a symptom of a serious illness; I can’t pay my bills, etc.). There’s also why…? thinking, wherein we dwell on things that happened in the past (e.g., why did I/he/she/they say/do/act that way? Why do I keep making the same mistakes? Why can’t I get a good night’s sleep?) Bottom line? When our minds wander, the research shows, we tend to be less happy than when we’re focused and mindful “in the now.”

But don’t take my word for it, listen to what Matt has to say about the science at his TEDx talk (more amazing TED talks here).

November 16, 2013

I don’t have to tell you that there are a gazillion cat videos on the Interwebs, and yes, I’m about to post more. The thing about this particular cat is that it’s unlike any cat I’ve ever seen. The big cat, Maru, is something of an Internet star–very zen, very playful, very , well, personable, somehow. Definitely an unusual kitty, Maru was alone for much of his life, but the owner introduced a new playmate, Hanna into the mix fairly recently. I love how they get along and hope you do too.

November 15, 2013

Something I wrote a while back with some pictures I’ve taken of some of my favorite surroundings. Enjoy.

November 14, 2013

One of the most moving performances I’ve ever heard. I hope this helps you feel as good inside as it does me. Feeling good is actually good for your brain. Keep wiring it that way. After you watch this, how did you feel?

Yours in Mental Hygiene,
The Ancient Brain Team

November 13, 2013

I think to myself, what a wonderful world. When I first heard this, I cried tears of joy and sadness. Joy for the message of the song, and sadness for the loss of this talented young man.

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

November 12, 2013

The typhoon in the Philippines has taken countless lives and displaced and traumatized and injured countless more. Think about how fortunate you are, yes, but please remember the plight of those less fortunate. Please give to help: here’s a list of organizations that you can donate to “in the now.

daily grateful - 11.12.2013

November 11, 2013

The late, great, Carl Sagan, in a moving few minutes that will have you thinking deeply:

About Carl

Carl Sagan was an astronomer, a philosopher, and a scientist who was one of the first to make our place in the universe interesting and accessible through his series “The Cosmos.”

Some of the more moving quotes from Sagan, a man who understood the true meaning of the word humility:

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.


November 10, 2013

An Owl was caught in a trap in the woods in rural Vermont. A friend of mine came upon it and rescued it (huddling it in her coat!). She drove for quite some time with the owl (whom she nicknamed “Hold On”) before finding a vet who did his best to save the poor creature’s life. Hold On was taken to local good soul who rehabilitates wild animals that have been injured. He nursed Hold On back to health and when it was time to go home, he asked if my friend wanted to release it back into the wild. The release took place on Sunday, March 3, 2013. Here’s the video I shot to commemorate one of the best moments ever. Remember to savor moments of joy. It feels good and your brain’s wiring will thank you for it…


November 9, 2013

Part of building “positive programming” or “wiring” into our brains involves taking moments–literally, moments–of wonder and gratefulness every day.

Here’s one we strongly suggest:

Yours in Mental Hygiene,

The Ancient Brain Team

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