Tag Archives: Aging

Elusive Pleasures: 10 Ways to Feel Better!

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Elusive Pleasures: 10 Ways to Feel Better!

What if you could do some simple brain exercises to get more pleasure in your life? Would you be interested?

What? Exercise my brain? How in the world do I do that?

Good news! For these exercises, you don’t even need to get off the couch! You don’t need to purchase new work-out clothes or shoes. Better yet, there is no gym membership required!

Welcome to the fourth of this five-part series, “Elusive Pleasures.” In this segment, we’ll explore brain exercises to improve our pleasure responses.

As I said before, neuroscientists are our friends! The research they’ve conducted paves the way for us to change the way our brains respond to any challenge. Today we’ll review ten science-backed ways science we can start our internal workout:

1.     Develop new interests and rekindle your interest in activities you left off long ago. New neuronal connections can be super-charged by learning new things. This can be as simple as learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, or learning how to crochet. Any novel task can stimulate new neuronal connections in your brain! Choose a pleasurable, interesting activity, and strengthen the pleasure circuitry in your brain!

painting and drawing tools set
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2.     Read a favorite book aloud with a friend. Yes, reading aloud is different for you, and the process of taking turns hearing the book in your own voice and in your friend’s voice will lay new neuronal connections that enhance the pleasure center in your brain.

couple holding books sitting on bed

Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

 

3.     Add a new aroma to your favorite activities. By adding an enjoyable scent with an enjoyable activity, more areas of your brain will be stimulated with a pleasure signal. The olfactory system is highly associated with emotional responses, so this one’s an easy exercise! It’s as easy as adding a lavender bath bomb to your warm bubbly bath.

aroma basket beautiful flowers blooming

 4.     Try new foods! Yes, it’s true! Learn about new foods, recipes and seasonings. Ask others about their recipes, how they use the foods you’ve never tried, and give it a try yourself. The pleasure circuit in our brain fires wildly when we’re engaged in an activity that sustains life, and eating is high on this list!

 5.     While you’re at it, explore the nutritional benefits of foods that help release dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. Foods and supplements that increase dopamine include those rich in L-tyrosine, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Consider drinking tea, seasoning with turmeric with pepper, supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, and others you’ll find on the list on this site: Think Tyrosine.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

anise aroma art bazaar

6.     Consider probiotics. There’s so much talk these days about probiotics. Some research supports the idea that toxins in our gut from “bad bacteria,” (lipopolysaccharides) actually destroy the brain cells that produce dopamine! Probiotics can rebalance the gut’s bacteria, thus preserving our dopamine-producing brain cells so we can enjoy more pleasure.

7.     If you can, engage in a strenuous activity like running for 30 minutes or more. In some people, this releases the body’s natural opioid into the pleasure centers of the brain. This has been known as the “runner’s high.” If you’re not able to engage in strenuous activity, instead do isometric exercises. This involves tightening and relaxing different muscle groups, but not necessarily moving the joints. Hold each contraction five to ten seconds, and do this several times for each muscle group in your body. Include your facial muscles, too! The simple act of smiling (yep, a big, toothy grin) can bring the pleasure response.

woman running wearing gray shirt

Photo by Luka Siemionov on Pexels.com

 

8.     Engage senses you don’t use often, such as stereognosis. This is the ability you have to determine what an object is by its feel. For example, place a few objects in a bag. Choose common objects like a paper clip, a spoon, a few coins and a comb. Now, without looking, place your hand in the bag and identify each object by its feel. That’s stereognosis! Have a friend (or your kids) gather items for your bag, and you gather items for theirs. This simple exercise, though it may seem silly, can create and strengthen neuronal connections and increase your pleasure responses.

9.     Walk into a store, bank or library rather than doing business by machines. Interacting with other human beings rather than machines and recordings strengthens our neuronal connections and pleasure circuits. Take the time to look these people in the eye, ask how they’re doing today, and really listen. Encourage them, compliment them or express your gratitude for the job they’re doing. Your reward? Enhanced neuronal connections and pleasure responses!

 

adult baker breads city

P hoto by Tran on Pexels.com

10.  Last, but certainly not least, is for mature audiences only. If you’re over 18, you can read on:
Read the rest of this entry

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

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Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

 

Last week I wrote about sprinkler heads.

Why would anyone stop to read about sprinkler heads?

Because it’s really about pleasure, and adapting to changes that block pleasure.

Maybe for you, it’s the sound of rain on the roof. Or perhaps you’re drawn to the beach, where the rhythmic splash of the surf and the caress of warm breezes relaxes your soul. Some prefer the mountains, with the scent of pine, and expansive views. Still others are drawn to the city, where light and movement dance all night. Wherever you’ve found yourself prone to relax, forget your stressors and relish the moment, that’s the spot.

That’s the spot I’m writing about.

I’m writing about our brains associating sensations (like the sound of the sprinklers) with pleasure. But then something happens to that spot:

  • The sprinkler heads need replacing, and the new ones make a different sound
  • Construction of a ten-story condominium interrupts your favorite spot at the beach
  • A stuffy nose blocks you from the aroma of pine trees on your mountain hike
  • The building across the street hangs a huge neon sign that blocks your view of the city

And the pleasure is gone.

That’s what I’m writing about!

We all relate to pleasure. We want pleasure. We need pleasure. Without pleasure, life is drudgery.

So how do we find pleasure once it’s gone?

(That’s why you’re reading an article that started out being about sprinklers!)

This five-part series can get you back to pleasure.

Today, I’m going to share with you a little more in depth about an obstacle I’m facing that is more challenging than changing sprinkler heads. It’s an obstacle that has been steadily crimping my pleasure for several years now, and one that I think many of you can relate to:

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

Aging. Dang it! I was going to knock around the tennis ball with my husband well into my 70’s. I was going to be that 80-year old still running the 5-K. I was going to dance in sexy high-heels well into my 90’s. I was going to lift bags of potting soil and bend over to tend the garden perhaps to 100.

Something ordinary and un-interesting blocked those pleasures well before their time: aging. In this aging body, they’ve labeled it many things: fibromyalgia (which I called the boogie monster in this article), arthritis, bone spurs, bulging discs and even a non-bony union of the subtalar joint. (Geez!) Whatever they’ve called it, it’s been one thing after another, and it’s left me with a choice between:

getting to do the active things I love           or

check feeling good enough to function in daily responsibilities.

I fought it for a while. When my right shoulder hurt all the time, I taught my left arm to swing the racket. Then my left shoulder hurt. With both shoulders, a hip, low back and ankle hurting, I finally left the tennis court.

gif funny tennis game over aging pleasure
Credit senorgifcom

 

 

Eventually, even less strenuous activities like ballroom dance, yoga, biking, walking and gardening produced more pain than pleasure.

For many people, this is “just part of aging.” They don’t talk much about it. They just don’t do as much as they used to do.

But hold on. . . Does aging have to mean life without pleasure? Is aging a slow process of peeling back the layers of pleasure until, at last, we’re ready to say goodbye to this cruel world?

I stepped back to think on this. Does aging have to equal lack of pleasure?

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs Be sure to read this second in a five-part series designed to help you restore pleasue after losing it! This is not just for the aging, it is for anyone who is experiencing a loss of pleasure!

(Selah)

If pleasure is associated with sensations and neural connections are involved, and I’ve associated being an active elder with pleasure, can my brain connections be changed?

What is it about my hope of being an active older person that gives me pleasure?

Is the pleasure response from activities like running, playing tennis, dancing, yoga, biking, walking and gardening only from their associated sensations? Is it just from the proprioceptive feedback from pounding of my feet on the pavement? Is it just from the cardiovascular exchanges and the toxic release of sweat rolling down my face as I dart side to side across the clay to reach the yellow ball? Is it just from the visual and vestibular feedback of seeing the same houses as I bike around our neighborhood day after day? Is it just from the tactile and olfactory signals from the gentle breeze on an evening walk, or the texture of the soil between my gloved hands as I plant a new flower in the yard? Certainly those sensory-neuronal connections release chemicals that produce pleasure, but is that the only thing about it that brings pleasure?

Could that pleasure response also come from something I perceived or believed about those activities?

When I think about the pleasure response that comes from the idea of being an accomplished, active senior, it isn’t really so much about the sound, or the scent, or the tactile input, though they each have their value.

What is it, then?

A new question arises in my mind. Could the idea of being active well into my senior years produce a feeling of pride of achievement? Do I find pleasure in being better-than-average? In beating the odds?

Hmmm.

I have to admit I’ve enjoyed that feeling since childhood. As the fourth of six children, affirmation and attention didn’t come easy for me. As a young child, I found affirmation and attention from being the smart one, the honor roll student, the best and the fastest. I could recite the alphabet before my school-aged brother when I was two years old. I could out-spell all of my older siblings by the time I was eight. I did algebra from my brother’s 9th grade textbook when I was ten, and, by the time I was thirteen, I could cook, clean and budget better than my mother (Sorry, mom). No one would call me lazy! I got positive attention from dancing, from taking care of myself, from being up and ready on time. In short, from outshining my sibs.

Hmmmm. Maybe I’ve held an erroneous belief all these years, and didn’t ever notice it.

(Note: Erroneous because pleasure never should have been from feeling better-than-average in the first place, but that is another story!)

My experience with aging is just one example of how loss of pleasure can be related not only to a change in physical ability and sensations, but also to underlying perceptions or beliefs.

Maybe you’ve had to stop and examine yourself, too. Maybe a challenge you faced persisted to the point that you had to look deeper into yourself to question why you struggled to adapt to your loss. Maybe you didn’t even realize you held erroneous perceptions or beliefs, until you had to stop and examine the matter.

Yet, here we are: a change in sensation, a change in some bodily function, a change in something beyond our control, a change that keeps us from achieving that which we believed would make us feel good– and pleasure eludes us.

What can be done? If aging—and its associated decrease in strenuous activities and impressive performance—continues this way (as it likely will), then where can pleasure be found? And what about you? Whatever it is that you’ve been believing but isn’t working out for your pleasure, can it be changed?

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again? Can changing our underlying beliefs help us find pleasure again?

That’s where we’ll pick up next.

(Click here for part 3 in this 5-part series Elusive Pleasures)

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join this conversation by commenting below (in orange, where its says “Leave a comment.” What changes in sensations, or functions, or other losses seem to rob you of the pleasure response in your brain? What underlying perceptions or beliefs have you identified when you more closely examine your childhood associations?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

 

Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

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Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

Comfortably settling into my spot on the back porch for Sunday morning coffee, I notice it.

It doesn’t feel quite right. Something is missing. What is it?

The cushions and pillows cradle and support me as always; the velvety plum-colored pillow fits perfectly on my lap, softly snuggling my hands as they curl around my coffee mug. The coffee is its usual perfect color, aroma and taste as I savor a sip.

I look up. The garden sports more than its usual splendor of blooms. The squirrel, in its ritual leap from the tree to the squirrel-proof bird feeder, cleverly clings to the wire mesh and bounces to get the seeds to fall out. Birds glory in their announcement of another beautiful day. The sprinklers, as timed, emerge for my enjoyment of their rhythmical dance across the lawn.

Yet my usual Sunday-morning-on-the-back-porch-peaceful feeling eludes me. What is it? Read the rest of this entry

More Than Words

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Pen in hand, released to the floor; chicken scratch.

“I. . . I. . . I. . ,” sputtered Vera, summoning strength from the tips of her toes and fingers, as they squeezed the foot and armrest of her wheelchair. A polite and apologetic smile took backstage. Vera forced her thoughts and intentions out of her eyes to the kind woman sitting across from her, giving her all.

“It’s okay, I know you’re in there. I know you’re having a hard time getting your words out. I’ll try to ask questions so you can nod yes or no.”

Vera settled and wiped a tear. She nodded yes.

Tessa breathed in, out, and laid her clipboard aside. This occupational therapy evaluation won’t be as easy as checking the boxes. None are. She quickly regrouped. “Is it okay with you if I ask your husband about things that are important to you so I can make our therapy sessions as meaningful as possible?”

Vera shook her head no. Then her eyes opened widely, she reached for Tessa’s hand and nodded yes. “Yah. . . no. . . . yes.” Eyebrows burrowed in at the sides and raised in the center, she looked pleadingly at Tessa, as if to say, “I can’t even control my yes and no answers!”

It was a left cerebral infarction with expressive aphasia. Tessa understood Vera’s condition from the textbook. Vera’s stroke spared her ability to understand language, but blocked her ability to speak–and to write. Now it was time to understand it from the eyes of a dear woman looking pleadingly to her for help.

Vera understood her condition from the textbook as well. Forty-five years a speech-language pathologist, now it was her time to understand it from the inside, reaching out.

Borrowed from gradydoctor.com

Photo borrowed from gradydoctor.com

 

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In honor of National Occupational Therapy Month and in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge (Flash Fiction: 300 words or less)

Joan T Warren

Generational Torch-Bearing

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Coming home from a precious, short visit with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter this weekend, there was plenty of time alone in the car to think. As I considered some of our conversations, ideas emerged, in Haiku form–a short poem for a short visit. I love Haiku’s minimalist framework, as it presses and refines immense meaning into a mustard-seed shell. Without further ado, my offerings:

Photo by Denesia Christine (the missing middle member in this generation of three)

Photo by Denesia Christine (the missing middle member in this generation of three)

Generations here

heart to heart our stories share–

legacies of love.

Photo By Denesia Christine

Photo By Denesia Christine

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Rooted, solid, old

autumnal trees, mountains, me~

glowing as we fade

©JoanTWarren