Everyone has dopamine in their brains as a neurotransmitter. It gives you the desire to pursue pleasure and feelings of reward and happiness. Apparently, video games and scrolling social media, (and cocaine) flood the brain with abnormal amounts of it, and you can build up a “tolerance” which requires you to play more games and do more scrolling.
And some folks are now engaging in “dopamine fasting”, which can bring down your tolerance. This enhances focus and gets emotions on an even keel. Here’s a very interesting article about it.
Activities that flood our brains with the feel-good-reward neurotransmitter dopamine are:
scrolling on social media playing video games listening to music watching TV eating junk food playing on our phones
… basically anything that doesn’t take a lot of work. Reading, learning something new, and math puzzles are things we’d rather not do because they are hard. But in the end they give us healthier levels of dopamine, AND they ward off dementia (along with exercise). I know I’m personally happier when I’m giving my brain a work out.
Sunlight exposure also activates our dopamine receptors, and any type of light activates dopamine release in our eyes! That’s why we stay hypnotized by our screens.
This video gives some great information about dopamine, and how to balance it’s levels in your brain:
This article is from 2012, but illustrates how we currently find ourselves in lock down in our homes. Our carelessness with the environment has repercussions. If the extreme storms and wildfires aren’t going to get our attention and force us to change, then the Earth will shake society to its core by spreading dangerous, highly infectious diseases.
“If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about. A critical example is a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more that have occurred over the last several decades — don’t just happen. They are a result of things people do to nature.
Disease, it turns out, is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic — they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.
Teams of veterinarians and conservation biologists are in the midst of a global effort with medical doctors and epidemiologists to understand the “ecology of disease.” It is part of a project called Predict, which is financed by the United States Agency for International Development. Experts are trying to figure out, based on how people alter the landscape — with a new farm or road, for example — where the next diseases are likely to spill over into humans and how to spot them when they do emerge, before they can spread. They are gathering blood, saliva and other samples from high-risk wildlife species to create a library of viruses so that if one does infect humans, it can be more quickly identified. And they are studying ways of managing forests, wildlife and livestock to prevent diseases from leaving the woods and becoming the next pandemic.
It isn’t only a public health issue, but an economic one. The World Bank has estimated that a severe influenza pandemic, for example, could cost the world economy $3 trillion.
The problem is exacerbated by how livestock are kept in poor countries, which can magnify diseases borne by wild animals. A study released earlier this month by the International Livestock Research Institute found that more than two million people a year are killed by diseases that spread to humans from wild and domestic animals.
That’s why experts say it’s critical to understand underlying causes. “Any emerging disease in the last 30 or 40 years has come about as a result of encroachment into wild lands and changes in demography,” says Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist and the president of EcoHealth.
Emerging infectious diseases are either new types of pathogens or old ones that have mutated to become novel, as the flu does every year. AIDS, for example, crossed into humans from chimpanzees in the 1920s when bush-meat hunters in Africa killed and butchered them.
IT’S not just the invasion of intact tropical landscapes that can cause disease. The West Nile virus came to the United States from Africa but spread here because one of its favored hosts is the American robin, which thrives in a world of lawns and agricultural fields. And mosquitoes, which spread the disease, find robins especially appealing. “The virus has had an important impact on human health in the United States because it took advantage of species that do well around people,” says Marm Kilpatrick, a biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The pivotal role of the robin in West Nile has earned it the title “super spreader.”
And Lyme disease, the East Coast scourge, is very much a product of human changes to the environment: the reduction and fragmentation of large contiguous forests. Development chased off predators — wolves, foxes, owls and hawks. That has resulted in a fivefold increase in white-footed mice, which are great “reservoirs” for the Lyme bacteria, probably because they have poor immune systems. And they are terrible groomers. When possums or gray squirrels groom, they remove 90 percent of the larval ticks that spread the disease, while mice kill just half. “So mice are producing huge numbers of infected nymphs,” says the Lyme disease researcher Richard Ostfeld.
“When we do things in an ecosystem that erode biodiversity — we chop forests into bits or replace habitat with agricultural fields — we tend to get rid of species that serve a protective role,” Dr. Ostfeld told me. “There are a few species that are reservoirs and a lot of species that are not. The ones we encourage are the ones that play reservoir roles.”
Dr. Ostfeld has seen two emerging diseases — babesiosis and anaplasmosis — that affect humans in the ticks he studies, and he has raised the alarm about the possibility of their spread.
The best way to prevent the next outbreak in humans, specialists say, is with what they call the One Health Initiative — a worldwide program, involving more than 600 scientists and other professionals, that advances the idea that human, animal and ecological health are inextricably linked and need to be studied and managed holistically.
“It’s not about keeping pristine forest pristine and free of people,” says Simon Anthony, a molecular virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “It’s learning how to do things sustainably. If you can get a handle on what it is that drives the emergence of a disease, then you can learn to modify environments sustainably.”
The scope of the problem is huge and complex. Just an estimated 1 percent of wildlife viruses are known. Another major factor is the immunology of wildlife, a science in its infancy. Raina K. Plowright, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University who studies the ecology of disease, found that outbreaks of the Hendra virus in flying foxes in rural areas were rare but were much higher in urban and suburban animals. She hypothesizes that urbanized bats are sedentary and miss the frequent exposure to the virus they used to get in the wild, which kept the infection at low levels. That means more bats — whether from poor nutrition, loss of habitat or other factors — become infected and shed more of the virus into backyards.
It might mean talking to people about how they butcher and eat bush meat or to those who are building a feed lot in bat habitat. In Bangladesh, where Nipah broke out several times, the disease was traced to bats that were raiding containers that collected date palm sap, which people drank. The disease source was eliminated by placing bamboo screens (which cost 8 cents each) over the collectors.
EcoHealth also scans luggage and packages at airports, looking for imported wildlife likely to be carrying deadly viruses. And they have a program called PetWatch to warn consumers about exotic pets that are pulled out of the forest in disease hot spots and shipped to market.
All in all, the knowledge gained in the last couple of years about emerging diseases should allow us to sleep a little easier, says Dr. Epstein, the EcoHealth veterinarian. “For the first time,” he said, “there is a coordinated effort in 20 countries to develop an early warning system for emerging zoonotic outbreaks.”
Gertrude Abercrombie’s “The Stroll” (1943). Credit Credit Oil on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust
Loneliness is a worthy foe, and with the rise of social media, most of us are suffering from it in some form – especially this time of year. It’s easy to feel isolated in tense family situations or even parties.
So how do we cope? I’m glad I ran across this article today. It has some fantastic actions we can take to combat loneliness, especially this time of year. Along with the list from the article, I would add these things:
Having a social life and human connection is important for us to thrive in our lives. A lot of people are shy about reaching out, or inviting people to do things. Do It!! Same sex friendships are particularly important in my opinion. If you have trouble meeting people then volunteer for something you care about…. and/or get a pet.
Animals are awesome. If you don’t, or can’t, have one, volunteering at the local shelter is a great way to interact cats and dogs, and to be of service at the same time!
Go to a Gym
It took me awhile to build up to it, but now I go three times a week. Working out keeps my blood moving and my endorphins running. I think more clearly, and I’m able to make better decisions. And I have more energy. Exercise is the best thing for everyone.
I’m personally sober since 2005, but if I wasn’t I would severely limit alcohol and stay away from drugs. In my experience these things end up making loneliness much worse.
This time of year is next-to-impossible to eat right, but I SO stay away from eating sugar. It keeps my blood sugar steady throughout that day so there’s less moodiness.
Good Night’s Sleep
I strive to get a good night’s sleep every night – which means eight solid hours in a dark, cool room.
List ten things you’re grateful for when you feel low and it will completely change your thinking and mood.
Walk in Nature
I take a walk in nature everyday with my dog. Looking at trees, grass, and feeling the warmth of the sun brings me lots of joy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. You’ll probably improve as you go along anyway. I’ve taken multiple creative paths and it feels so good to create something. Write something or pick up and instrument… or a pen!
Be of Service
Get out and be of service to people. Being of service in some way is crucial.
Get a New Job
I know from experience, if you’re unhappy with your job, you HAVE to make a change. Life is too short and we spend too much time there. Anyone can do it. Make a plan, get some training or education, and DO WHAT YOU LOVE.
“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness.
The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy.
The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.”
Romaine Brooks (American painter) 1874 – 1970 Femme avec des Fleurs (The Woman with Flowers, aka Spring), 1912 oil on canvas collection Lucile +Audouy, Paris, France
Sun in Pisces (Feb. 18th at 3:04pm Pacific)
Full Moon in Virgo today at 7:54am Pacific
Mercury in Pisces (weakened, in it’s Fall)
Mars in Taurus (neutral influence)
Venus in Capricorn (weakened)
Don’t do any Mercury or Venus magick for the next several weeks. Focus on Jupiter (in Sagittarius) and Saturn (in Capricorn) which are very strong.
Monday, February 18th: Sun into Pisces and Saturn conjunct Venus (yikes). The focus for the next month will be on spirituality, music, dreams, escapism, movies and art. The lines are blurred and it’s a confusing time, because Pisces believes “all is one”. However, there are two roads – one is connection with divinity and the other is substance abuse. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they are the same road. Focus on the middle path.
Venus conjunct Saturn today is hella rough on relationships. Not the day to process or work through issues. Try to keep responsibilities and discipline active.
Tuesday, February 19th: Full Moon at 0 Virgo. Any aspects to your chart at 0 Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces will be magnified! Great day to organize your house, or anything really! However, Virgo’s ruler, Mercury, is currently in it’s Fall (icky place) in Pisces, so communications are unclear and goals are fuzzy. This will be continuing for several weeks because Mercury will be retrograding in Pisces early next month. Being of service and focusing on healing is the best way to navigate this hazy time.
Mercury entering Pisces until April 16th. Mercury in its Fall means the sharpness of our minds is diminished, and we turn towards our imaginations. The next month is a time for visioning, self expression and creative writing. Careful not to go too far out into fantasy and delusion! Keep the ground under your feet.
Wednesday, Feb. 20th: Full Moon in Virgo still active. Attend to healing, responsibilities and service. The abstract quality of Pisces/Neptune/water must come into balance with the actuality and detail of Virgo.
Thursday, Feb. 21st: Moon in Libra. Negotiations highlighted. Opportunities for love, romance and art.
Friday, Feb. 22nd: Moon in Libra. The energy of romance and understanding is still with us today. Good evening for socializing. Venus conjunct Pluto in the evening brings depth and intensity, and a chance for rebirth, healing and catharsis.
Saturday, Feb. 23rd: Moon in Scorpio. Lots of intensity today, with Mars opposing the Moon. Avoid confrontation but embrace rebirth.
Ever been told to smile when you’re feeling down? While there’s science to support the idea that forced positivity can temporarily boost your mood, convincing yourself that you’re always happy may do you more harm than good, according to an insightful piece on Quartz by Lila MacLellan. Research suggests suppressing your less-than-pleasant feelings can harm your psychological well-being, and that accepting them is a better option.
Acceptance isn’t about making peace with your negative emotions: the “magic of acceptance is in its blunting effect on emotional reactions to stressful events,” Brett Ford, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, told MacLellan. Ford added that over time, acceptance of negative emotions can lead to “positive psychological health, including higher levels of life satisfaction.”
How and why this happens isn’t exactly clear. But Ford’s recently published research (in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) offers some insights. The research is from a few years ago, when Ford was a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley. She and a few other Berkeley researchers designed a three-part experiment in hopes of learning more about the link between acceptance and psychological well-being. The participants were from various socioeconomic backgrounds and races, and included people who had dealt with major and minor negative experiences (think the difference between losing a job and losing track of your keys).
Ford and her fellow researchers found that people who were more accepting of negative emotions (MacLellan calls them “habitual acceptors”) like anger or anxiety had reduced feelings of ill-being, something backed up by previous research, and were more likely to have better well-being. MacLellan notes that “accepting dark emotions like anxiety or rage won’t bring you down or amplify the emotional experience. Nor will it make you ‘happy’—at least not directly.” Instead, acceptance is linked to overall “better mental health when it’s used in response to negative emotions, not positive ones,” MacLellan writes.
Ford hopes her research can improve future mental health treatments, which “currently rely on some approaches that fail people,” she told MacLellan. “When something happens and you try to reframe it like, ‘Oh it’s not such a big deal.’ or ‘I’m going to learn and grow from that,’ it doesn’t necessarily work,” Ford said.
Bad experiences are inevitable. But if we only let in the positive emotions, we’re less equipped to deal with the rollercoaster ride that is just part and parcel of being alive. “People die in our lives, we lose them, if we have only been accustomed to being allowed to have more positive thoughts, then these realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen—and they will happen,” according to Svend Brinkmann, a psychology professor at Denmark’s Aalborg University quoted in the piece.
Part of the challenge of acceptance is that it runs counter to our culture’s expectation to be happy all of the time. We’re living in a “cultural age that’s decidedly pro-positivity,” MacLellan writes, which makes the “pressure to suppress or camouflage negative feelings” all the more pronounced. In the West (especially in the U.S.) “happiness and positivity are seen as virtues,” MacLellan notes. Ford told her that “some companies want their customers and employees to be delighted all the time. That’s unreasonable, and when we’re faced with unreasonable expectations, it’s natural for us to start applying judgement to the negative mental experiences we have.”
This probably isn’t helped by the fact that social media today is awash in well-curated and filtered frames of positivity. While a quick mood boost might feel great, continually suppressing our own negative emotions in favor of feel-good things only sets us up for a “striving state of mind,” according to Ford, which is paradoxical to finding peace and acceptance.
The good news is that acceptance can be learned. You can start by thinking of “your emotions as passing clouds, visible but not a part of you,” MacLellan suggests. Next time you experience a negative emotion or feel pressured to smile when you’re really not feeling it, remember that, as Ford explains, “acceptance involves not trying to change how we are feeling, but staying in touch with your feelings and taking them for what they are.”
Read more on Quartz.
Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning. His band Soundgarden played a show on Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Two hours after the show ended, he was gone.
For two days, I’ve been working on a piece to pay tribute to him, and it’s been a struggle. Usually when I have a problem like this it’s because I’m staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I want to say. That’s not the problem this time. The problem is I have way too much to say.
I’m not going to sit here and claim to have been a huge fan of Soundgarden. I didn’t dislike them, I just had to take them in small doses. I was a fan of Cornell. I love “Seasons,” the solo song he had on Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles. It’s a droning acoustic song about isolation and the…
Excellent reflection on codependency, which I’ve also suffered from. My personal solution has been to stay PRESENT with myself, and to be clear about my motivations. I’d love to hear your thoughts in my comments section.
“Unfortunately when we live like this nobody wins because we lie to ourselves and those around us; and superficial dishonest relationships don’t last.”