Good Grief, and other wisdom…

This article is filled with wisdom about what I will describe as “good grief”… Allowing transition to move through our Being in healthy ways. Nourishing life and processing grief is so much more than only confrontation with death. I hope these handy tips bring a spaciousness to your journey which supports integration and peace. Much love and Grace, Rain.

The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving

(And a 4 step plan to move through your grief.)


Another way to say that you are grieving is that a part of you is stuck in a moment in time.

Sometimes the cause of the stuckness isn’t the grief itself, but the fact that you don’t even recognize that you’ve lost something and that you need to grieve.

Grief is a word that is used interchangeably with bereavement, but grief is not exclusively about the physical death of a person.

Grief doesn’t fit in a box, either. Some forms of grief take years to work through, other types take a few solid months, some take a single moment of deep acknowledgement.

Everyone grieves differently and for different reasons, but one thing remains constant in the process. It’s the one thing no one has ever said about grieving:

“I did it right on time.”

Grieving is marked by a lag, a delay, a freezing, “Wait. What just happened?”

Grieving is also not a linear process.

One moment you feel you’ve fully moved past something, the next moment it’s right back in front of your face.

That’s because grief is insidious, imposing and demands to be felt. Even if you’re able to somehow avoid it all day long, grief comes back to you in your sleep. It’s laying right on your heart as you wake up.

Grief doesn’t say, “I’ve been here long enough, I think it’s time for me to leave.”

No. Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace.  But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need.  Perhaps how much you wanted something, how deeply you care about someone, how far you’ve come from where you were.

As Mark Nepo so beautifully puts it, “The pain was necessary to know the truth, but we don’t have to keep the pain alive to keep the truth alive.”

Still, grief isn’t necessarily a depression. People can be grieving and heartbroken about something and not even know it.

Here are some examples of events that cause grieving:

A break up

The selling of your childhood home

What you always wanted but never got

A person who died

A person who is still alive but is electively absent in your life

The loss of a dream



Loving someone who is self-destructive

The loss of a pet

The end of a friendship

Job loss or the end of a career

The typical route for grieving begins with denial, and that’s actually a good thing.

Ultimately, your defense mechanisms are there to protect you. Denial kicks in when it would otherwise be too overwhelming to feel it all at once. Ideally, denial slowly fades away and the grief is felt. (Ideally.)

More typically, you swallow your grief.

It comes up in small spurts when you’re not paying attention, then you numb yourself to it somehow, then it jumps up more forcefully, then you numb yourself more heavily.

That is the path of staying stuck in grief. The path loops. People lose themselves on that path.

Is there a better path?

The answer is yes. But you don’t have to walk it unless you choose to.

Some losses are so exquisitely painful, in a way that no one else could ever fully understand, that no one would fault you for staying in the loop.

If you do choose to get out of the disorienting, dizzying loop of grief, here are 4 ways to begin:

1. UNDERSTAND – That your heart is broken, even if it’s not visible to others.

Keep in mind that there’s no ‘right way’ to grieve and that grieving is not a linear process.

Just because its been 6 months, 4 years, 15 years, whatever – none of that means anything to your grief. The clock starts when you begin to recognize your grief. In other words, when you genuinely begin to address what happened (or perhaps what never happened).

2. RECOGNIZE – Before you can grieve, you have to recognize that you need to grieve.

Something happened, or didn’t happen, that burdened you.

Ironically, when you’re burdened, something is given to you and taken away from you at the same time. What do you feel was taken from you? What do you feel you are burdened with? The answers to those questions help you recognize what you need to grieve.

3. TOUCH – You have to touch the loss (as well as all the anger, sadness, bitterness, resilience, compassion and any other feelings you encountered during your loss).

You’re in touch with your grief when you make space for the feelings your loss brought into your life. It may feel counter-intuitive to go back to the feelings that you want so desperately to let go of, but there’s simply no way to move through grief without making contact with it, without fully touching it, without fully feeling it.

You have to pick it up, hold it, feel the weight of it in your hands, on your heart and within your life. You have to feel the whole loss. Grief demands to be felt with an insistence that needs no sleep.  You either allow yourself to encounter the feelings or you remain encased in a shell of yourself under a misguided sense of self-protection.

4. MOVE – The feeling of grief can linger for so long that you almost befriend the grief.

The grief becomes oddly soothing in its familiarity and its predictability. Dealing with the grief means letting go of this familiarity and moving towards something less predictable and less familiar, which is scary.

Still, if you want to genuinely address the grief, you have to continue to move through the peripheral, familiar parts of your grief and go right into the epicenter of your grief. As the classic hero’s journey goes, you have to get inside the belly of the whale.There (and only there) you will find the door to the unpredictable pieces of life that are patiently waiting for you on the other side of your pain.


Understand your heart is broken.

Recognize why it’s broken.

Touch the grief.

Move towards the epicenter of your grief, as it’s the only path to other side of your pain.

Please remember, the grief you’re experiencing is yours, and you can carry it with you for as long as you like. Let go of it only when you feel ready-enough, and if you never feel ready, that’s okay. If you do feel ready to move through it, recruit professional support here, or here, or here. Navigating through grief is unpredictable, dangerous terrain. You don’t have to do it alone.

Katherine Schafler is an NYC-based psychotherapist, speaker and writer.  For more of her work, join her newsletter community, read her blog, or follow her on Instagram


The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!



Please click on the links above to be taken to the original article, and note all copyrights belong to the original publishers / author and their contractual agreements; this post is entirely quoted – please observe all due respects. Greetings, Rain ~




Of Rilke, and other imponderables

Dear Rainer Maria Rilke, who cropped up first during my University days in relation to a special friend, has the most marvelous quote of which I wish to remind us all, today (Good Friday) –

hearth fires

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke


easter egg

image credit: unknown

I hope that this adds meaning in the places and spaces which might at present lack “value” or make any sense – and together we traverse the necessary “imponderables” towards a different tomorrow, perhaps beyond anything we have yet dreamed.

Blessings for a nurturing time this Easter,  and plenty of soul warmth.


Rain & Co.


Hollow Bone

In memory of those who have past, passed on…

remembering crow

“We locked up our wisdom into our bones                                                                              And swallowed the keys
They sank in our rivers of blood
And we forgot the maps
Because we had to forget the mysteries
To keep them safe.
We wove our hair into brooms
And swept over our paths
And then burned the earth with our rage
We didn’t teach our children
It was the only way to protect them,
we thought
But in them we planted seeds, seeds and keys
And told them stories and riddles and songs
With no roots, just tangled threads
That would take years to unwind
Just enough time
For the rains to fall again
and put out the fires
For the dams to break
For the rivers to flood
For the paths
to be walked again
For the soil to breathe
And as the old bones crumble
Deep beneath the rubble
We find we’ve always had the keys
Our stories and our maps
Our paths are revealed to some
And the seeds grow again
The threads are unspun
And woven again”

~Amara Bronwyn Hollow Bones

Found first at this link on the Facebook site of Katharine Krueger, entitled Journey Of Young Women… with full gratitude and respect. Kindly follow this link for the full picture…. Aho! Rain & Co.

remembering crow.jpg

Art by Lucio López Cansuet

In Loving Memory of Franziska Blochliger on the first anniversary of her brutal death by gang rape and strangulation. #RIP #FranziskaWeRemember 

Happy New Year! 2017

15726629_1819496151644064_6294929850314234509_n.jpgimage courtesy of Planet News by Zoe

As another year turns upon the clock of time, I wish you well.

May you find one task today, to infuse with a greater light of hope toward the future of your dreams.

And here is a suggestion for holding on to what counts, when the tides turn and we wish to remember some of “the good ol’ times”….

Aho! Rain and Co.

image courtesy of Power of Positivity


PS I am migrating my posts to (my website) more deliberately this year…. I am growing the magnitude of my work in the world, and planning to take strides in greater visibility around what I do. I hope you enjoy that lens of perception… blessings!

Closure, 2016


Early this morning I was awakened to hear from my closest staff member, of the passing of her son – unexpectedly, he was stabbed and died from the blood loss and injury upon arrival at the hospital. She was by his side.


How does one meet such an unexpected turn of events, when mere days ago one was celebrating Christmas as a family, in trust and cohesion of the greater good?

butterflies vase

The dimensions of pain on our planet right now, are so intense and relentless – it seems futile to try find words of meaning or comfort. Yet, we are human – so much like the deepest recesses of Pandora’s box – we find hope.


We strive for meaning, and perhaps that thread, so indelibly “red”, is what keeps our souls alive, and allows our Spirits to thrive, despite everything.


Here are words which brought me comfort today – written merely hours ago, by a dear friend of mine named Shakti, on the survival of her own love loss toward the tail end of this year:

well, well, well!

“When grief comes

Like a cold wind in the night
An army rises up in me
Ready to defend, avoid, distract –
Any tactic to avoid

I take command of the army.
Be with this
Tears speak the language of water
Not of words
The medicine for heartbreak
Is not abandoning this heart
But staying
Close and intimate
While this cold wind blows
Through the open gates
Of my undefended

by Shakti Malan



For myself, this month has been a quiet one as I regroup from the fullness of 2016, and work towards clarity and readiness for our entry into 2017.

counting 2016

I hold hope, despite everything. And I hope, many dreams and wishes will come true. For me, for you – and for all of us, plus this planet’s highest good and potential.


May your year end be blessed, and the birthing in your awareness of the New Year summon all the strength, meaning, and grace needed to sustain you.


Carpe Dieum. Rain and Co.


Synchronized Prayer & Action Campaign, Standing Rock

We will gather to hold quiet intention of blessing, gratitude, and support for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, praying for the successful conclusion of this situation as soon as possible:
That the good of all water protectors is upheld, human rights are honored and sanctified, indigenous ethics are respected as sovereign, and the integrity of life on this planet is held with utmost dignity and value.
#PraywithStandingRock is a synchronized moment of Prayer across the world giving thanks for Mother Earth, Clean Water and the Water Protectors at Standing Rock.
For all our Water… Into this crucible we pour our love… Rain & Co.

Venus Temple, 18 Big Tree Lane, Kuthumba Eco Reserve, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, 6602, Western Cape, South Africa


#WaterProtectors #IstandwithStandingRock #NoDAPL

anchoring by tree



Times have been strange, uncomfortable, and pressured to give voice in the light of blatant injustices, both local and global. This poem, for now, sums it up….. {Thanks, Alice – you so often say what I cannot}. RM

On Stripping Bark from Myself
(for Jane, who said trees die from it)
“Because women are expected to keep silent about
their close escapes I will not keep silent
and if I am destroyed (naked tree!) someone will
mark the spot
where I fall and know I could not live
silent in my own lies
hearing their ‘how nice she is!’
whose adoration of the retouched image
I so despise.
No. I am finished with living
for what my mother believes
for what my brother and father defend
for what my lover elevates
for what my sister, blushing, denies or rushes
to embrace.
I find my own
small person
a standing self
against the world
an equality of wills
I finally understand.
My struggle was always against
an inner darkness: I carry within myself
the only known keys
to my death – to unlock life, or close it shut
forever. A woman who loves wood grains, the color
and the sun, I am happy to fight
all outside murderers
as I see I must.”

-Alice Walker, from Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 Complete

“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” ~ Rumi


Sometimes, words fail me (or I, words).

Today, these visuals are to bless your screen in the absence of words…. For Rumi states it so well:

“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” ~ Rumi











Rest well in these trying times, and may the Light Within Guide your way home. Always, Rain ~

there’s a Black Moon on the Rise….

balancing the scales yeah.jpg

Hey there, World! 😉

Just to alert everyone to this fantastic, rare “Black Moon” astrological event taking place this day / night…

Nothing sinister, in fact if anything – truly potent, magical, and sacred.

Interesting how “scared” and “sacred” share the exact same letters, with merely one, small letter changed.

Hmmm. #FoodForThought

A description on “what the Black Moon is” can be found in the excerpted article below.

What amplifies the significance and transformative energy of this Black Moon, is its arrival straight BANG! after this trio of eclipses we just experienced. #BOOM.

It is said that the first New Moon following an eclipse season, is especially powerful in setting intentions for change, growth and transformation.

To boost these positive features – this particular Black Moon is occurring in the astrological sign of LIBRA, the medicine of relationships – and finding balance.

YAY! That’s the good news 😉

Furthermore, the upcoming Rosh Hashanah (Jewish) Festival taking place in the next few days, creates a potent portal for processing these intentions and renewing oneself through traditional practices (or whatever yours might be):

Self-appraisal and assessment is a dedication which garners our momentum for impending change and to signify a meaningful contribution going forwards.

balancing act III.jpg

Here is an article indicating a more Pagan – influenced perspective, also valuable in harnessing the energies of this New Moon portal period:

Please note this article is to be found in its entirety, posted by its author @THEHOODWITCH  and this is merely an excerpt.

Black Moon ~ September 30th, 2016

“What hurts you blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.”
― Rumi”

Friday September 30th, 2016 we’ll see the second occurrence of the New Moon in a single month. We’re all familiar with the second full moon called the “Blue Moon” but the second New Moon also has a special name, she is called the Black Moon, doesn’t that just sound powerful and majestic? well that’s because she is!

*The New Moon is a time of initiation and new beginnings. It is the time to plant the  seeds of what you want to grow in your life. Making a wish, intention, a promise, or a vow is a common custom. It is believed that as the moon grows, that your intention or goal will too, usually by the time the moon completes its cycle and returns full circle to new again.*

Utilize the energy of the black moon for constructive magick pertaining to: *Beginnings, New projects, ideas, inspiration, vitality, freedom, Love, wealth, success, courage, friendship, and protection.*



New Moon offers us her energy of intention, to rid ourselves of the negative habits in our life. The energy of the new moon aids us in ridding our minds and bodies of toxic thought patterns as well as eliminating toxic substances like excess alcohol,  processed foods, caffeine & tobacco usage.

Starting a new project, or discipline should be substantially less difficult to stick to when started during the new moon. it’s important to come up with a ritual that has meaning for you, instead of trying to follow any set guidelines (unless you’re already part of an established ritual group).


Astrology expert  Molly Hall has some wonderful insights as to creating a personalized New Moon Ritual.


*Gather Sacred Supplies:*  Your altar is where you collect your sacred objects — pictures, found objects and the like. Using herbs with healing or symbolic properties adds to your ritual. Stones and crystals are another powerful ally. Candles are magical, and in its form contains all four of the elements. A small journal on hand allows you to keep a record of your intentions.

*Preparing for the Ritual:* This is the most important part of ritual, since your commitment is the key. Take a ritual bath with sea salt to clear your field of any negative energies. Sage is an herb used to clear a space, and make it sacred for ritual.

  • Light the end of the sage wand and blow on it until there is a smoldering glow. Use it around your own body, and in the space of your ritual. Clear your mind with meditation, using music or just quieting down in your cleared, sacred area.

*Grounding:* This is something that’s important anytime, for staying connected to earth energy. Signs that you’re not grounded are mania, nervousness, racing thoughts and the like. Too often we forget to feel the earth under our feet. I’ve mentioned Starhawk’s grounding meditation a few times on the site, and her tree grounding exercise is one of my own daily rituals. In a nutshell, it’s visualizing the roots going down into the Earth, through the layers, into the core, and then drawing that energy back up through your feet again. It moves through each chakra, coming out the top and down around you. Try this or another variation of grounding before you set new Moon intentions.

*Your New Moon Wishes:* After you’ve cleared a sacred space and settled your energy, you’re ready to set your intentions. Make a list of what you’d like to draw into your life, and Dream Big! The new Moon is a moment to conjure what seems out of reach, and creating the vision is the first step to making it a reality. But these are not just words on paper. As you write them down as intentions, you are committing to doing your part to make them real. Some call it co-creating, since you’re opening to universal energies to set dreams in motion.

*Dreams of the Soul:* Your intentions come from the longings that keep coming up. In the days leading up to the new Moon, give some thought to those longings, and see what images, dreams and streams of thought come up. Use symbolic associations to go along with your intentions. Weave in the element for the new Moon, and think about the houses and planets that are affected by it. For an earth new Moon, for example, you might plant seeds that represent your intention. Rituals are a way to work with universal energies, and draw attention to the particular life lessons, or arena (house, planet, etc) that it illuminates for you.

*Symbolic Acts:* Here’s where you get to be creative. If your intentions are to write a book, or broadcast your ideas out to the world, tie them to a helium balloon and send them off. Write them on a stick and offer it to the fire. To open to love, put lavender and a rose quartz in a small pouch, along with the qualities you’re seeking. If you’re inspired, add a symbolic act to your intention-setting ritual.

*Keep them Alive:* 

A big part of success with new Moon intentions is what comes after.

Find ways to keep them in the front of your awareness.

Put them in a visible spot, or keep them in your wallet.

Make notes in your journal about your progress.

At the full Moon , find ways to take action on those intentions, and *celebrate any signs of change.*



Basil is the botanical most associated with attracting wealth and prosperity. Large, fresh, vivid green basil leaves are believed to resemble cash bills. In addition, basil is strongly identified with various spirits of wealth and good fortune. The presence of the botanical beckons these spirits, together with their blessings of prosperity.  Basil belongs to Maitresse Ezili Freda Dahomey, Vodou spirit of luxury and is featured in many of her rituals.


  • Water
  • Fresh Basil
  1. Boil enough water to cover basil.
  2. Pick off about a handful of fresh organic basil leaves.
  3. Place the basil leaves into a bowl and submerge them in the boiling water.
  4. Allow leaves to sit in the water for about 15-20 minutes. Strain the basil and add the liquid to your tub of water.
  5. Soak in the tub while floating the basil leaves in the bath water.

May your portal of power be beautifully beckoned forth, and all good wishes kindly come true!

To close, I wish to mention an upcoming event, hosted by Christine Arylo entitled “crazy wisdom” –

A Gathering for Women Who Courageously Dare to Follow Their Heart & Do Things Differently & Would Love a Boost of Courage + Wisdom to Light the Way.

Join our free livestream on Saturday, October 1st.
Crazy Wisdom: Super Powers for Conjuring Up Courage

“Our power ends precisely where our fear begins” – Melissa Etheridge

“If you were fearless and knew you wouldn’t fail,
what would you be doing differently right now?”


I hope to see you all online soon. Blessings on this powerful portal – #WeAreTheChange with love and gratitude, Rain & Co.

neuroscience secrets to assist you today!

This fabulous article copied and pasted for you below (see links below for original post and all credits, please) highlights a few *easy* steps help yourself feel better faster! #Enjoy 😉 Oh, and Happy Equinox. #BlessedBe. Rain & Co.

“A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier”

You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.

Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:

1. The most important question to ask when you feel down

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why?

Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.


lilies 09:16.jpg

Via The Upward Spiral:

Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.

And you worry a lot, too. Why? In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better — at least you’re doing something about your problems.

Via The Upward Spiral:

In fact, worrying can help calm the limbic system by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreasing activity in the amygdala. That might seem counterintuitive, but it just goes to show that if you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.

But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible, long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question:

What am I grateful for?

Yeah, gratitude is awesome … but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.

You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.

Via The Upward Spiral:

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable …

Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.

Via The Upward Spiral:

One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.

I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

Via The Upward Spiral:

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.

For more on how gratitude can make you happier and more successful, click here.

But what happens when bad feelings completely overtake you? When you’re really in the dumps and don’t even know how to deal with it? There’s an easy answer …

Point out the things that upset you.ibm4381/Flickr

2. Label negative feelings

You feel awful. OK, give that awfulness a name. Sad? Anxious? Angry?

Boom. It’s that simple. Sound stupid? Your noggin disagrees.

Via The Upward Spiral:

[I]n one fMRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Gross found that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But labeling, on the other hand, makes a big difference.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.

Ancient methods were way ahead of us on this one. Meditation has employed this for centuries. Labeling is a fundamental tool of mindfulness.

In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people, too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators.

To learn more of the secrets of FBI hostage negotiators, click here.

Okay, hopefully you’re not reading this and labeling your current emotional state as bored. Maybe you’re not feeling awful but you probably have things going on in your life that are causing you some stress. Here’s a simple way to beat them.

Make decisions to do things you enjoy.Francisco Osorio/Flickr

3. Make that decision

Ever make a decision and then your brain finally feels at rest? That’s no random occurrence.

Brain science shows that making decisions reduces worry and anxiety — as well as helping you solve problems.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.

But deciding can be hard. I agree. So what kind of decisions should you make? Neuroscience has an answer.

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process. In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control …

As Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz said in my interview with him: “Good enough is almost always good enough.”

So when you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, as I’ve talked about before, a feeling of control reduces stress. But here’s what’s really fascinating: Deciding also boosts pleasure.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.

Want proof? No problem. Let’s talk about cocaine.

You give two rats injections of cocaine. Rat A had to pull a lever first. Rat B didn’t have to do anything. Any difference? Yup: Rat A gets a bigger boost of dopamine.

Via The Upward Spiral:

So they both got the same injections of cocaine at the same time, but rat A had to actively press the lever, and rat B didn’t have to do anything. And you guessed it — rat A released more dopamine in its nucleus accumbens.

So what’s the lesson here? Next time you buy cocaine … whoops, wrong lesson. Point is, when you make a decision on a goal and then achieve it, you feel better than when good stuff just happens by chance.

And this answers the eternal mystery of why dragging your butt to the gym can be so hard.

If you go because you feel you have to or you should, well, it’s not really a voluntary decision. Your brain doesn’t get the pleasure boost. It just feels stress. And that’s no way to build a good exercise habit.

Via The Upward Spiral:

Interestingly, if they are forced to exercise, they don’t get the same benefits, because without choice, the exercise itself is a source of stress.

So make more decisions. Neuroscience researcher Alex Korb sums it up nicely:

We don’t just choose the things we like; we also like the things we choose.

To learn what neuroscientists say is the best way to use caffeine, click here.

OK, you’re being grateful, labeling negative emotions and making more decisions. Great, but this is feeling kinda lonely for a happiness prescription. Let’s get some other people in here.

What’s something you can do with others that neuroscience says is a path to mucho happiness? And something that’s stupidly simple so you don’t get lazy and skip it? Brain docs have an answer for you.

Have fun with friends.

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4. Touch people

No, not indiscriminately; that can get you in a lot of trouble.

But we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.

Neuroscientists did a study where people played a ball-tossing video game. The other players tossed the ball to you and you tossed it back to them. Actually, there were no other players; that was all done by the computer program.

But the subjects were told the characters were controlled by real people. So what happened when the “other players” stopped playing nice and didn’t share the ball?

Subjects’ brains responded the same way as if they experienced physical pain. Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.

Via The Upward Spiral:

In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain … at one point they stopped sharing, only throwing back and forth to each other, ignoring the participant. This small change was enough to elicit feelings of social exclusion, and it activated the anterior cingulate and insula, just like physical pain would.

Relationships are important to your brain’s feeling of happiness. Want to take that to the next level? Touch people.

Via The Upward Spiral:

One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.

Touching is incredibly powerful. We just don’t give it enough credit. It makes you more persuasive, increases team performance, improves your flirting … heck, it even boosts math skills.

Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. In fact, when studies were done on married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the effect.

Via The Upward Spiral:

In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations. One fMRI study scanned married women as they were warned that they were about to get a small electric shock. While anticipating the painful shocks, the brain showed a predictable pattern of response in pain and worrying circuits, with activation in the insula, anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. During a separate scan, the women either held their husbands’ hands or the hand of the experimenter. When a subject held her husband’s hand, the threat of shock had a smaller effect. The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits. In addition, the stronger the marriage, the lower the discomfort-related insula activity.

So hug someone today. And do not accept little, quick hugs. No, no, no. Tell them your neuroscientist recommended long hugs.

Via The Upward Spiral:

A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.

Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time.

Don’t have anyone to hug right now? No? (I’m sorry to hear that. I would give you a hug right now if I could.) But there’s an answer: Neuroscience says you should go get a massage.

Via The Upward Spiral:

The results are fairly clear that massage boosts your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels, which helps you create new good habits … Massage reduces pain because the oxytocin system activates painkilling endorphins. Massage also improves sleep and reduces fatigue by increasing serotonin and dopamine and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.

So spend time with other people and give some hugs. Sorry, texting is not enough.

When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better. What about when they just texted? Their bodies responded the same as if they had no support at all.

Via The Upward Spiral:

[T]he text-message group had cortisol and oxytocin levels similar to the no-contact group.

Author’s note: I totally approve of texting if you make a hug appointment.

To learn what neuroscience says is the best way to get smarter and happier, click here.

OK, I don’t want to strain your brain with too much info. Let’s round it up and learn the quickest and easiest way to start that upward spiral of neuroscience-inspired happiness.

Sum up

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of ‘best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

So what’s the simple way to start that upward spiral of happiness?

Just send someone a thank-you email. If you feel awkward about it, you can send them this post to tell them why.

This really can start an upward spiral of happiness in your life. UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb explains:

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

So thank you for reading this.

And send that thank-you email now to make you and someone you care about happy.

Get a free weekly update via email here.

roads less travelled.jpg

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

Read the original article on Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Copyright 2015. Follow Barking Up The Wrong Tree on Twitter.


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