Tag Archives: spirituality

Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

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Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

We’ve looked at how easy it is to lose a good feeling. A simple change in sensation can derail pleasure. (If you’re just joining us, you can read part one of this series by clicking here). We’ve also discovered that our own perceptions and beliefs can contribute to pleasure loss (to review this concept, click here).

Now we’ve come to the good part! The reason you’ve come back, the reason you’re taking precious moments from your busy life to read this little blog:

How to get the feeling back!

happy found on clipart by Word

It really is important to have pleasure. How many marriages fail when a partner looks elsewhere for pleasure? It’s a common misconception to think that making a new connection with a different partner will restore pleasure. It’s only partly wrong, though. Making a new connection is essential. The different partner, well, that’s debatable!

The new connections we need are not necessarily with new people. We need to make new connections in our brains. When changes in sensation (like those sprinkler heads) result in a misfire in the pleasure response, our brains need new associations to restore pleasure. It’s neuroscience, but it’s not that complicated:

One neuron reaches out to shake hands with another.

“Pleased to meet you!”

“Likewise, charmed. Let’s meet here again.”

Most of us have heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist around the turn of the 20th century, used dogs in his studies of the digestive system. He paired a stimulus (like ringing a bell) with food presentation. Before long, he noted the dogs began to salivate at the mere ringing of the bell, even without the aroma or visual presentation food. The ability to create purposeful connections between the digestive system and the brain became known as “classical conditioning.”

It’s old science now, but still true.

Since then, scientists have discovered much more about brains. We now know that our brains constantly learn–including how to learn better.  We also know that natural chemicals in our brains can make us feel excited, good or pleasantly satisfied.  Perhaps most relevant to our task of restoring pleasure, scientists who study the brain found that

neurons that fire together, wire together.” neuronal connections with blue light from Word clipart

This is a catchy way of saying that pairing one sensation or movement with another, repeatedly, enhances their function, and eventually, activating one automatically activates the other.

We can re-condition our brain to respond to new stimuli with a pleasurable response!

Crazy, huh!?!

But true.

Try it! Pick something that always makes you feel good. Maybe it’s an Adam Sandler movie. Maybe it’s a sensual time with your partner. Maybe it’s a big slice of Death by Chocolate cake. Now, add a new sensation or movement while you enjoy this activity every time you do it for the next month or two. For example, bring a certain pillow to place on your lap every time you watch a funny movie. You may want to try touching an area on your face during intimacy. Or, if you’re the chocolate lover, play or hum the same piece of music with each bite.

eating chocolate cake

Before long, you’ll find that when you experience the sensation you’ve added to your pleasurable activity, your brain will start sending out that pleasure response! Just picking up that pillow makes you smile. Stroking your cheek in that spot will. . . Your song on the radio will give you the feeling you’ve just had a scrumptious slice of chocolate cake!

Neuroscientists are our friends! They also research methods to enhance new brain cell connections (neuroplasticity). They’ve found that physical and brain exercises boost neuronal growth.

For this week, along with practicing the pairing we just discussed, add some physical exercise to your daily routine. It needn’t be much; just an extra walk around the block, some light resistance work, or a few extra times up and down the stairs. Do this while you’re thinking pleasurable thoughts, and your brain will have more reason to fire up those neuronal connections.

brain exercises found on Word clipart

Next week, we’ll discuss more brain exercises we can do to improve our pleasure responses–even if they’re impaired by our own erroneous beliefs. For now, though, you have plenty of things to try. Please join me in a discussion by commenting below.

  • How will you be pairing activities to restore pleasure?
  • What exercises will you add to your daily routine this week?
  • Have you found new connections that restored your pleasure, now or in the past?

-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

On the Move: Church for Introverts

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Fading fast, treasured steps and memories.
Church for introverts.

imageFor WordPress Weekly Photo challenge,On the Move

Joan T. Warren
Randy’s iphone

Deeply Rooted

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Deeply Rooted

There’s something about one’s heritage that runs deep.  Be it genetic memory, collective unconscious, morphic fields,  or some other forthcoming mechanism, I believe we encounter intangibles like values, interests and talents with innate responsivity that tends to override our conscious efforts.

When I was a child my family joked about our heritage, blended as it is, saying we were mutts or Heinz 57. Mostly, though, my ancestors were Read the rest of this entry

Attention, please!

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Both in my work as a pediatric occupational therapist and in my personal life, the issue of attention surfaces daily.

I attend to all aspects of the children I work with as we engage in therapeutic activities. I attend to their physical status, such as muscle atrophy, spasticity,  joint alignment, sensorimotor responses, coordination and endurance. I attend to their emotional status through each activity–is the baby grimacing, averting her gaze or engaging and approaching with interest? Is the toddler afraid, uncomfortable, shy, angry, tired. . . or happily attempting the challenge I’m bringing? The environment gets my attention as well: Is the room too noisy, cold, hot, visually distracting? Does the environment support or hinder the child’s performance? I notice the posture and position of the child, the furnishings, lighting, sound level, scents, and features of the materials we’re working with. All of this, and more, either support or hinder a child’s success. My attention to these details can help the child attend to the activity that, in turn, helps them meet developmental goals.
The child lives in a family. The family also needs attention. When working with children who have special health care needs, I’ve yet to meet a family member who didn’t need some special attention. Families need help as they adjust to, cope with and grow through parenting their special child. If I come into a home to provide therapy for a child and fail to attend to the family’s status that day, I have missed an opportunity to not only help the family member, but also to better help their child. A family member who is overwhelmed, tired, lonely, afraid, or depressed is better able to connect with, enjoy and help their child when their personal concerns are addressed. A family member excited about their child’s new achievement enjoys having someone to share the good news with. If a parent feels uneasy with anything I’m doing with their child, their concerns merit my attention. If I ignore or slight their concerns, I’ve failed to respect the child’s greatest support system in life, the parent. If I give parents the attention they need, we can work as a team. The child benefits from this teamwork as much as we do.
At home, there is more to attend to. Each family member needs attention. The house, the yard, the dog, the laundry, the dishes, the food supply, the mail, the . . . what have I forgotten? . . . all need attention. I need attention too! I need to attend to balancing work, rest and play, tomake time to exercise, socialize, reflect and create (all things that rejuvenate me). Sometimes I get so caught up in noticing and attending to all the needs around me that I neglect my own needs. When self-neglect persists, it renders me incapable of helping others.
So, I’ve been thinking about this need for attention. The word attend finds its origin in the Latin attendere, which means to notice, to bend to. Sensory systems are designed to notice. Peripheral vision reacts to a flutter of movement: What was that? Notice. Tiny hairs respond to light touch with fight or flight reaction: Was that a bug on me? Notice. Auditory systems translate  sound wave vibrations: Was that my child’s cry? Notice. Bend to: Living things bend toward that which sustains life. Tender shoots grow through rocks and bend toward light. Grandparents bend to greet grandchildren, arms open wide. Lovers bend on one knee, to plead ‘be mine.’ Worshippers bend in adoration and appreciation for spirit revival. To attend, to notice, to bend to, is a natural and life-sustaining act. I would venture to guess that most of us feel emotionally nourished when someone notices and pays attention to us. Needing attention is not a fault, it is human.
Why, then, do we view the need for attention in a negative light? Read the rest of this entry

Birth of a Blog: Heart to Heart

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Somewhere around my fiftieth birthday I started thinking seriously about what I could still achieve in the fifteen to twenty years I had left in the work force, and hoping I’ll have many healthy years after that to pursue leisure, creative and volunteer activities. I set goals, then made some tough decisions and changes to help me reach those goals. As of this writing, five years have passed since then. Sometimes I feel I am no closer than I was, that unforeseen challenges have blocked progress. Time to stop and take stock.
What was I thinking? In these five years I started and finished a master’s degree, started my own business while maintaining my annual income, kept up a large percentage of maintaining our home and daily life, helped my husband’s business through four months during shortages of office manager, front desk and phone system meltdowns, managed the stress of helping a teen stepdaughter through some serious challenges (that shall remain confidential unless she consents to my sharing them), and gave a large portion of my time to nurture and care for my live-in step-granddaughter! Whew, and, now that I think of it, all while battling fibromyalgia and menopause! Not too shabby after all.
This brings me to why I began this blog. About twenty years ago I felt a Read the rest of this entry