Tag Archives: Mental health

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:
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How About Another?

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It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do. Actually, I live in Plenty to Do. I know everyone there.

In the center of Plenty to Do lives a tiny little voice named ‘But.’

But, and her best friends, ‘Lemme,’ ‘Justdothis,’ and ‘Onemorething’ have been nagging me quite a lot lately. In fact, they kept me up too late several times this past week, looking at photos to crop, laughing over background colors and arguing over which WordPress theme would let them get their job done best.

I finally got fed up with their noise and decided, “Why not? Might as well have another!” I went on over to help them out today. I missed lunch and some paperwork of my own, but now maybe I’ll get some sleep.

At least until it’s time to get the next post ready!

Want to see what these gals from the land of Plenty to Do came up with? It’s a brand new blog, a forum for interacting about health, functioning well, recovering from injuries and disabilities, raising children with special needs, and the like. It’s a forum for people–patients, families, therapists, teachers, anyone interested in these things. Here, I’ll be writing more about what I know: Occupational Therapy. Here, I’ll be hosting other bloggers who are therapists, health care professionals, parents of kids with special needs, adults with spouses or parents with special needs, and such! There will be interviews, re-blogs and links to great resources.

Sound good?

Then come on, join the fun!

OT Interactions

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Sincerely,

Joan T Warren

 

 

Child Mental Health Day

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Remember twirling around on the swing set out back? Tummy on the swing, arms and legs hanging down,  you’d walk in circles to wind the suspended chains around one another, like a rubber band wound up to fly a toy plane, and then lift your feet up, and zoom! Off you’d spin, around and around again, until the swing came to a brief suspension and then spun the other way. Read the rest of this entry

April is National OT Month and Poetry Month

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Note: some posts deserve a second life. Here’s a repost from last April; what do you think, worthy?

April: Not a month for fools! Pull a prank on the first, but the rest of the month is National Poetry Month and National OT Month.

Most of us know what poetry is, but what is OT? An occupational therapist myself, I can say a little something about that!

Let’s start with some spring cleaning and air out the room with what occupational therapy is NOT:

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Doctor’s Recommendation

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Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

(The Lorax)

for fellow survivors

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Wow. An amazing manifesto for survivors of abuse found tonight on WordPress. I am reblogging for her to save it, and to pass it on! Please feel free to do the same.

April is National OT Month and Poetry Month

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April: Not a month for fools! Pull a prank on the first, but the rest of the month is National Poetry Month and National OT Month.

Most of us know what poetry is, but what is OT? An occupational therapist myself, I can say a little something about that!

Let’s start with some spring cleaning and air out the room with what occupational therapy is NOT:

  • OT is not helping a person find a job and get back to work (though it could include that)
  • OT is not physical therapy (though it includes physical rehabilitation and exercise)
  • OT is not weaving baskets (though we started that way, helping injured Civil War soldiers find their usefulness again)
  • OT is not playing with children (though, if we are doing our job well, it feels like play to the child!)
  • OT is not making crafts in the psych ward (there is a method to their madness!)
  • OT is not a therapist prescribing activities you must do to get better (if it feels that way, we missed the mark)

Misconceptions aside, let’s focus on celebrating the awesomeness!

Occupational therapy IS a health profession that skillfully employs meaningful activities to create and support functional participation for people with challenging conditions. We work in hospitals, physical rehabilitation centers, homes, schools, daycare and mental health centers. We facilitate all facets of health with persons, families, companies, communities. . . even societies. As an occupational therapist, I freely, openly and unabashedly admit that I love occupational therapy!

To celebrate National Poetry and Occupational Therapy Month, I offer this, my poem about occupational therapy! As you will soon see, I am more OT than poet.

 

Occupational Therapy

 

An artful blend

of science

and simplicity,

therapeutic

authenticity.

 

Buoyed by heritage,

research, and college:

Intense preparation,

foundational knowledge~

 

There’s anatomy,

physiology,

neurology, too.

Psychology,

kinesiology,

technology, woo!

development and human ecology,

and a little pharmacology, who knew?

 

A touch of gerontology,

anthropology, yes.

Micro- to macro- sociology,

a bit of theology,  God bless.

 

There’s structure

and function,

identity, process,

abilities, unction.

 

There are roles and habits

to assess,

routines and interests

to address.

 

There’s history, framework

and principled theories,

Models and practice,

and, lest you grow weary:

 

Consider relationships,

values, beliefs,

cognition, attention,

caregiver relief.

 

Assessing environment,

ergonomics and means,

selecting equipment,

for elders or teens.

 

We modify, formulate

and make adaptations.

We codify, delegate

and give adulations.

 

All of this knowledge concealed from your view,

we come alongside and spend time with you.

We share in your struggle,

engage your connection;

we want to do more than facilitate function.

For joy, and purpose,

and efficacy too,

are the pillars supporting what humans can do.

 

We’re primed for the NICU,

the preemie-pound baby;

to nestle him, swaddle her,

give hope for what may be.

Teach parents and nurses

to grade stimulation:

his stress signs, her turning. . .

reduce light, sound and touch,

like a womb, for the learning.

Chin tuck, cheek support,

respect gaze aversion;

promoting connection,

’til infant can burgeon.

 

Then, later on,

tummy time,

feeding and play,

motor skills,

reaching,

into something all day.

 

Sensory processing,

modulation and then,

integration for ease

of all systems to blend.

Bringing the just-right challenge,

we grow–

producing responses

in beautiful flow.

 

Developing handwriting,

visual perception,

peer interactions

and social connection.

 

Teens needing special consideration,

peer groups and identity,

with little oration.

Any splint that we form,

or device that we craft

better suit the teen norm

so they won’t feel outcast.

 

On to adulthood,

where the great inclination–

to establish and master,

with keen inspiration,

independence and skill

in the face of impairment.

We come alongside,

being tough, with endearment.

Empowering patience,

setting goals for today,

equipping the wounded

with a will and a way.

 

You’ll find us with elders

wherever the need;

healing with basics

from bathing and dressing, to pulling a weed.

It may seem we’re playing when we bring you your putter,

but we’re really ensuring your balance is better.

“I can cook this at home,”

you may say with assurance.

“Teach me how,” we implore,

(for your safety, endurance).

Whether cooking or eating,

standing or seating,

playing piano, or maybe just listening,

balancing checkbooks

or just reminiscing;

we’re facilitating

what matters to you,

showing your value

whether just be, or do.

 

And then, in the workplace,

the healthcare machine–

equipped here to manage,

so much to convene:

Keeping ethics, best practice

and excellence as key,

we do billing and coding,

document properly.

For without reimbursement,

we could not continue

to make such a difference

For someone–like you.

 

So, in all walks of life

there is some occupation;

we therapists share

this one aspiration:

To be about

the work of imbuing

The beauty of

human beings, doing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Did I mention that I love occupational therapy? 😉

Everyone knows someone who needs to hear about OT. Link up, pingback, spread the word! Please, all of you OT’s out there, add a stanza or two and tell us what you do.

 

©Joan T. Warren

AprilPoetryMonth

Life, Death and Grains of Sand

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We never know how long we have. We don’t know how long we have with the ones we love. Read the rest of this entry