Why Do We Treat Dogs Like Our Children? Because They Are

Do you have your precious pup as your iPhone background? Would you rather spend hours gushing about your dog Gus than delving deep into politics? Are your parties for your pets more extravagant than the Real Housewives’ parties for their children? Turns out you’re not alone.

Kelton Research, a market research company, wanted to scientifically examine why we treat Fido as more than our friend but as a certified member of our family. They surveyed over 1,000 dog owners and found that a whopping 81% of those asked describe their dogs as members of their family, equal in status to biological children. We not only see our dogs as our children, but ourselves as their parents as a majority (54%) of Americans refer to themselves as pet “parents” rather than pet “owners”.

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We’ve all heard that we look like our dogs: Females with longer hair prefer dogs with long floppy ears; Obese people are more likely to raise plumper pets than their skinnier contemporaries. It turns out our love of pets is more than skin deep as more than 1/3 of dog owners even refer to their dachshunds as their “son” or “daughter”. Crazily enough, 10% of dog parents even celebrate Father’s and Mother’s Day. Hopefully their “children” will give better presents than the ones they leave on their morning walks.

Ever wonder why your parents have more pictures of their Pomeranian on their mantels than you and your siblings? The average pet parent has over 7 photographs of their beloved canine on display at all times. Remember your parents buying wallet-sized copies of your hideous elementary school pictures? Turns out that 71% of pet owners have at least one picture of their pup that they keep with them at all times.

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The love for our dogs transcends our mobile photo albums and infiltrates our daily conversations. Stuck in a disastrous first date with nothing to talk about? Simply gush about your furry child! Over 79% of people divulge that they talk more about their dogs than politics while 55% would rather talk about their pets than their human friends. Furthermore, 48% of people agree that they spend more time talking about their pets than their professions while, surprisingly, 57% of people surveyed confess that they spend more time discussing their pet-lives than their sex-lives.

The lines between our chihuahuas and children are becoming increasingly blurred. According to the survey, 81% of pet owners know and celebrate their dog’s birthday with the same fervor of suburban soccer moms. Surprisingly, 74% of those asked dished that they like to share a meal with their furry friend with dinner being the most popular. No doggy bags needed!

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So why have our pets turned us into perfectionist parents? Turns out it may be due to a void left by our own biological children. Young people in the United States and abroad would prefer to have a fur-baby instead of an actual baby due to financial reasons. Young people are not the only ones caught up in dog-fever however as baby boomers are blossoming into empty-nesters. While middle aged couples cannot replace their adult children with more biological ones, they can easily go to their neighborhood adoption center and pick up a pup in need of a family. As humans we have an instinct need to nurture and dogs give us the opportunity to do so without the full responsibility of raising a walking, talking human.

They say that dogs are a man’s best friend. Chances are whoever invented that quote never had a Fido to call their own as we all know, and feel, that dogs are much, much, more than that. They are a member of our family and since they can’t talk back or ask us who we are dating at every Thanksgiving dinner, they are more than likely to be our favorite family member.

Travelling As A Cure For Depression: Should You Ditch Your Prozac for a Passport?

We all know about the fight or flight response: when faced with certain doom or uncertainty our brains go into instinctive mode, giving us only two options. When life smacks us hard in the face we can either smack it back or run to the comfortable lay-z-boy couches of our therapist. But what happens when the “flight” takes on a literal meaning, when people travel thousands of miles to escape the demons in their own heads?

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It’s Natural to Think Escaping to Nature Will Solve Everything

In these modern times, with the popularity of Instagram and social media behemoths, once distant places are at the tips of our fingers. You can’t help but to not be jealous when you see post of beautiful beaches or read articles titled “we quit our boring jobs to travel the world!” Psychologists want you to know, however, that the luscious green landscapes featured in Travel + Leisure will not lead you to greener pastures in your own life.

As humans, we tend to blame unwanted situations on external events: I failed my calculus final because I was sick, not because I didn’t study! I am single because all men are afraid of commitment, not because I don’t use mouthwash! The same goes with feelings of depression: we are more likely to think that we are melancholic because we are stuck in a mundane routine of working a 9-5 desk job in a middle-of-nowhere town where the most exciting events consist of corn fairs, not because of a chemical imbalance in our brains.

“The tendency is to attribute the cause of suffering to something outside of yourself: your job, your family, your relationship, and so on,” describes Mary V. Seeman, MDCM, DSc, Professor at the University of Toronto. “So you travel to get away from the supposed causes only to find that the depression is inside.”

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Travelling Can Lead You to an Even Greater Breakdown

You need to book a cheap but fast flight ticket, book a hotel close to the city center under $200, research sites to see, things to do, what to eat. Going abroad? You need to learn to say “please” “thank you” and “where is the nearest bathroom” in a new language. Travelling with friends? You need to make sure that Joe and Jane will get along the whole time. Travelling alone? You need to scout out public transportation, cultural differences and where you can drink without looking like a loser.

Travelling brings on all kinds of stress- stress we seem to willfully ignore until we arrive at our destinations. Some like to travel spontaneously, which can rebound when unknown stressors such as flight delays, bad weather and baggage loss rear their ugly heads. Psychologist Joseph Cilona warns his depressed patients that “travel has the potential to make things worse or better for those struggling with depression and [they should] be very conscious of your intentions by planning thoughtfully and thoroughly.”

Don’t forget that even if you travel, it’s not all about getting the perfect shot for your gram. Yes, a picture may say a thousand words, but if in your head your thoughts are a million a minute you can have a serious mental breakdown. Dr. Seeman elaborates stating:

“All the problems of traveling will bother people with depression more than usual: the annoyances, the inconveniences, the lack of sleep, the loss of familiar surroundings, the interruption of routines, the happy faces, and the forced socialization. Jet lag will be worse. Loneliness will be worse. New people will seem more of a drag.”

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Don’t Forget That You Always Have to Come Back Home

We travel for one of two reasons: we either are running toward something or running away. More often than not with depression we are running away from our what we think is the root of our sadness missing the forest for the trees. I remember so vividly breaking down in tears before boarding my flight from London to Toronto to go home during my first trip abroad. I had no job, no money and insurmountable student debt. What was left for me at home besides problems and questions I had no answers for?

And I know you’ve been there too. We take relief in setting our phones to airplane mode, not having to heard the incessant dings of work-related emails or obnoxious Facebook posts from our old high school friends. One day we are feeling high, dining on escargot in the middle of Paris, France and the next day were back eating Shake ‘n Bake in Paris, Texas. In fact, traveling for long periods may even make depression worse as Seeman explains: “All of the old demands will return, plus needing to catch up with work left undone. [With] the possibility of jet lag and the realization that the next vacation is very far away, a depressed person will probably feel it all more than a ‘happy’ person.”

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Should I Just Forget About My Cousin’s Wedding in Hawaii Then?

While yes, travelling can amplify feelings of depression in individuals, taking short breaks once in a while can help with stress and putting life into perspective. Remember that the difficulties with travelling while depressed lie in the before and after stages: planning and returning home from paradise. If one takes the time to plan thoroughly for the adjustments before and after travel then your trip will be a welcomed break instead of a total breakdown.

Planning before travel is the easy part: you can spend days on Lonely Planet researching hotels, sights, and food or you can even pay for someone to do it for you. The difficulties arise when we come back and have to deal with our life problems. Fortunately taking time to travel gives us the chance to think about our lives and strategize how to tackle depression. Dr. Seeman states that: “the vacation may have allowed [them] time to think about next steps and new purposes, so there may be a new determination to get help.” Of course therapy, meditation and counseling can help.

Remember that depression is a nuanced and complex emotion- one that can’t be cured by a miracle pill or a miracle plane ticket. Unless you take a good look at where depression comes from at home, it will always be along for the ride.

Why Does the Media Portray Mental Illness as a Superpower?

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Last night was the premiere of Legion, a television show detailing the life of David Haller (the son of X Men’s Charles Xavier) a diagnosed schizophrenic living in a mental hospital. Fans of the comics will know that David possesses many superpowers, many of which form from his deranged mental state.  While we may not know how exactly Legion’s superpowers will unfold in the new series, this is not the first time media has likened mental disorders to superpowers.

In the newly released Split, it is revealed that Kevin’s (who suffers from dissociative identity disorder) last personality is that of a superhuman who can climb up walls and is immune to bullets. In the critically panned Lucy, Scarlett Johansson’s character can throw men three times her size against a wall using only her brain. Batman becomes his own superhero through his inability to move on from his parents’ untimely deaths and the debilitating depression that accompanied it.

The trend of utilizing mental disorders as a means of developing a sympathetic superhero is not only dangerous as in undermines the real experiences of those suffering with cognitive difficulties, but represents a real lack of understanding of the 43.8 million Americans that experience a mental illness every year. Romanticizing chemical imbalances, trauma, and the 200 different forms of mental disease as having superhuman abilities only helps to keep real stigmas of these disorders alive and well in a society in which physical sickness prevails over psychological sickness.

So where does our obsession with the mentally impaired being blessed with some sort of superhuman ability originate? Americans have wrongly deduced for decades that humans only utilize 10% of our brains and that somewhere deep in the 90% of our gray matter we have superhuman abilities beyond common deduction and reasoning. This is the premise of the film Lucy in which the titular character has ingested an experimental drug that allows her to use the other 90% of her brain, which results in her obtaining psychokinetic powers.

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Scarlet Johansson in Lucy 

This myth is just that: a myth. Scientists have disputed this sentiment, repeatedly insisting that we use 100% of our brains. Think of a person who has had a stroke or has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. We can see the debilitating effects of brain damage, but it is far less than 90% of total brain mass. This means that they, and all of us, rely on more than 10% of our brains just to execute daily functions.

The closest iteration of a superhuman in the flesh is that of a savant. Darold Treffert, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin Medical School defines savant syndrome as “a rare, but extraordinary, condition in which persons with serious mental disabilities, including autistic disorder, have some ‘island of genius’ which stands in marked, incongruous contrast to overall handicap.” The most famous savant, ironically, is the fictitious Raymond Babbitt, the focus of the 1988 film Rain Man. Babitt displays remarkable abilities in math and memory but at the cost of social skills, language development, and sensory processing.

The problem with Rain Man is not in its portrayal of autism (psychologists have lauded the film for its authenticity) but rather in its representation. Rain Man, released close to thirty years ago, was one of the first films to address autism spectrum disorders, and surely the most successful film to document the effects of the condition. According to Treffert, only 10% of those on the autism spectrum actually possess savant-like qualities. He acknowledges the dangers of this representation by stating: “There is a danger of walking away from the movie with the impression that all autistic persons are savants and that all savants are autistic.”

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Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man

The popularity of the film undercuts the struggles that those with autism experience on a daily basis. Rain Man asserts that the cognitive disabilities associated with autism can be offset by special god-like abilities in memory, when in reality the majority of sufferers do not experience these. This allows for the public to underestimate the social disparities in autistic children and adults and therefore underestimate the devastating effects of the disorder themselves.

This concept that the media helps to downplay the suffering of the mentally handicapped is not only restricted to Rain Man, but in other films that depict psychological illness as a superhuman feat. This is most troubling in films that associate supervillains with mental disorders. One such film is the aforementioned Split in which Kevin (who suffers from DID, or split personalities) abducts three young girls. The film tries to build sympathy by characterizing Kevin as a soul that has lost control due to his disorder, but raises red flags in the mental health community by doing so.

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James McAvoy in Split

Split, by portraying a character who is mentally ill as a perpetrator of violence only helps to promote the unsubstantiated stigma that those with mental disorders are dangerous. Horror films including Psycho, Halloween, and The Silence of the Lambs all chronicle mentally handicapped individuals as murderers, and even more dangerously, suggest that their violence is the product of their disorders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that only 3-5% of all violent acts can be attributed to the mentally ill. Conversely, those diagnosed with severe mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the general population.

With all of this being said, it is clear to see that the media lacks fundamental education on mental illness in their depictions of the mentally handicapped as harnessing deep rooted superpowers. Not only does the media not take an initiative to actually learn about the human brain and the disorders that arise from brain abnormalities, but it puts forth harmful stigmas and capitalizes on the differences between the mentally impaired and “normal” individuals without psychiatric diagnoses.

If there is one thing that Hollywood gets correct when alluding to the mentally ill as having super powers it is the fact that the mentally ill are stronger than us. They may not possess the ability to fly at super speeds, pick up and throw cars as if they weigh as light as a feather, or save cities from danger, but they are far more emotionally strong. It takes true strength to leave your house and to ignore the stares that accompany schizophrenic outbursts. It takes true power for a depressed person to get out of bed and face the day when their brains are screaming at them to get back to sleep. It take true skill to see the mentally ill just as they are: as human.

Try It Tuesday: Is Laughter Yoga the Best Medicine?

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We all know the saying “fake it till you make it” and this is the concept behind laughter yoga, the newest and perhaps most unique form of relaxation out there. In a session of laughter yoga a group of yogis gather around to laugh at each other through some interesting  (aka weird) exercises in order to make you feel happy. No matter what the exercise, you have to force yourself to laugh (though the exercises should make you laugh themselves) in order for your body to perceive that you are calm and elated. Laughter yoga operates on the theory that fake laughter brings all of the beneficial effects of real laughter. According to the Laughter Yoga University (which I am sure is more accredited than Trump University):

“The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.”

So what are the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter yoga? Scientists can agree on 5:

  1. Good mood- Laughter releases endorphins that help the brain to calm down and become more relaxed
  2. Healthy exercise beats stress- Laughter yoga does encompass some of the hallmark stretches and breathing exercises as seen in regular yoga which means that it is in fact exercise
  3. Health benefits- Research has shown that yoga reduces stress and strengthens the immune system
  4. Quality of life- Laughter is a positive energy and will help you attract positive people in improve your life
  5. Positive attitude in difficult times- Laughter helps to create a positive state of mind to deal with negative situations

Well those all sound good to me, so I decided to try it out for myself. I decided to watch a laughter yoga video (there weren’t any classes in my area) and stumbled upon this gem on YouTube which you all can watch for yourselves.  The video depicts a training session held by Robert Rivest who is a certified laughter yoga instructor.

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One of the exercises in Rivest’s video. Pointing you finger at your hand is one of the funniest things in the world in the context of laughter yoga.

The Video

The video itself lasts for about 22 minutes and details numerous exercises that are included in a laughter yoga session. The video begins with some standard yoga breathing exercises and then becomes something you have to see to believe. Though the video is punctuated with more breathing exercises, that is the only similarity to actual yoga. Instead of downward dog, there’s rowing laughter in which you sit in a boat and pretend to row. Instead of child’s pose, you actually act like a child playing on a merry-go-round. Here are some of the best, most absurd, exercises:

  • Peek-a-boo laughter in which you laugh behind your hands and then play peek-a-boo with a fellow yogi
  • Cowboy laughter in which you laugh while spinning a pretend lasso and jumping up and down
  • Credit card bill laughter when you laugh while reading all the money you wasted on Starbucks
  • Hot soup laughter in which you spill hot soup on yourself but laugh about it instead of seeking medical attention
  • Finger tickle laughter which involves tickling other people’s fingers to get them to laugh
  • Hot sand laughter where you pretend that you are walking on hot sand and that your third degree burns are funny
  • Bumble bee laughter which involves you buzzing around like a bumble bee while laughing and looking for your next victim to sting
  • Volcano laughter where the group gets together to form one giant volcano but instead of spewing lava spews laughter

Throughout all of these exercises in order to get the group back to baseline Rivest make them chant “very good, very good, yay!” while clapping. There are literally no avenues in which you cannot be or feel happy in this program.

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Rivest’s laughter yoga is ‘mmm mmm good.

Did it Work?

I was actually very surprised at how calm and relaxed I felt after completing the exercises. While laughter yoga focuses on utilizing fake laughter, I found myself genuinely laughing at how ridiculous every exercise was, but hey that’s the name of the game. It still makes me laugh just writing about it, which is a good sign.

When I first began watching the video and performing the yoga I had a mild headache which disappeared after a few minutes of laughter. By the end of all of the different laughs, I felt very peaceful which seems antithetical given that I had just forced myself to laugh and be hyper for the past twenty minutes.

The biggest surprise was that the end results felt a lot like actual yoga. You would think that meditative yoga would lead to different thoughts and feelings than laughing and acting ridiculous, but I found the two to be quite similar. Laughter yoga left me feeling just as relaxed as traditional yoga poses but without the shame of being inflexible.

On a side note, the yoga, in addition to its relaxing effect, made me feel a little sleepy. I would have hypothesized that the exercises would provide more energy due to all the laughter but it seems as if the relaxing effects were more prominent. It reminds me of how sleepy I get when watching late night comedy shows (team Coco all the way). Is there a deeper reason for the existence of late night?

Will it Work For Me?

If you take laughter yoga seriously (an oxymoron I know) then yes, you should feel the same results. Even if you go into it thinking that the exercises are flat out absurd you should still find yourself laughing along due to this absurdity. It is also true that laughter is contagious so if you practice laughter yoga in person with others you are sure to feed off of their energy and feel happiness without even trying. When Rivest asked the participants in the video how the yoga made them feel here are there responses:

  • “glorious”
  • “victorious”
  • “full of love”
  • “relaxing”
  • “very happy”
  • “open”
  • “peaceful”

I am sure that if you give laughter yoga a chance then you will feel some of these emotions as well.

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Rivest’s rowing laughter exercise. They’re gonna need a bigger boat.

What Does the Research Say?

Because laughter yoga is a relatively new practice, there have only been a handful of studies investigating the health benefits. One study out of Bangalore India found that participants of laughter yoga had a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (a stress hormone). They also found that positive emotions increased by 17% and negative emotions decreased by 27%. A study conducted in the United States also saw that self efficacy (the ability to organize and carry out actions) increased in participants of laughter yoga.

Final Thoughts

Laughter yoga may seem ridiculous, but it was designed to be this way. I am sure we can all attest to feeling better after a good chuckle, so why not try to recreate this feeling for a longer period of time? Trying out laughter yoga surely will not hurt you, but it can leave you with some good stories, and laughs, to tell your friends.

Beer Yoga is Here to Help Heal Your Ale-ments

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Move over goat yoga, there’s a new sheriff in town: and he enjoys a pale ale.

It seems that the new trend in meditation is combining things that make us happy with yoga. Now beer yoga is the perfect illustration of this: who doesn’t love a nice cold pint?

That was the inspiration behind the aptly named BierYoga based in Berlin Germany. Founded in 2015 by yoga instructors Emily and Jhula, the classes integrate beer bottles into normal yoga poses in order to create an even more enjoyable experience.

“BeerYoga is fun but it’s no joke” states the BierYoga website. “We take the philosophies of yoga and pair it with the pleasure of beer-drinking to reach your highest level of consciousness.”

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While it might seem to be a bit of a stretch, the idea of combining beer and yoga does make sense from a psychological view point. Yoga is meant to be a relaxing process, to help one disassociate from the anxieties of daily life. Beer, as a form of alcohol, is a depressant for the brain. Depressants inhibit the GABA neurotransmitter creating a calming effect, thus promoting relaxation. How many times have you hit the bar for happy hour after work and felt de-stressed after your third or fourth or tenth (no judgement here) beer?

The owners of BierYoga also note the similarities between drinking beer and taking yoga classes: “Both are centuries-old therapies for body, mind and soul. The joy of drinking beer and the mindfulness of yoga compliment each other, and make for an energizing experience.”

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While some yoga classes in the United States have been performed in breweries (sadly only allowing students to imbibe after the class), none have actually integrated bottles of beer into the yoga poses. Photos on the BierYoga website depict yogis balancing beer on their heads, taking a sip while doing a downward dog, and most importantly  laughing and having a good time.  The bottle aren’t just for show or used as weights either: one participant noted drinking three bottles during the two hour class. The instructor even commands the posers to take swigs. “Has anyone not finished their first bottle? If not, bottoms up!” she says about half an hour into the class according to one satisfied reviewer.

Jhula and Emily have begun to expand their business, most recently sponsoring events in Sydney and Melbourne, and hoping to eventually break into the festival market.  Owner Jhula even conceived the idea for BierYoga after witnessing similar yoga being performed at California’s Burning Man festival. She is hoping to return to the legendary desert ritual, beer in tow.

Beer yoga coming to the United States? We can all cheers to that.

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Try it Tuesday: Do Adult Coloring Books Actually Work?

Last week was a stressful week. It was the last five days of Obama as President and the dread of a Trump presidency started to sink in. With all this stress, I decided to pick up an adult coloring book to see if they actually work in creating relaxation. And yes, I know that I am playing into the alt-rights portrayal of liberals as snowflakes with safe spaces and adult coloring books, but hey, it’s better to be conscious of your mental health than to be bullied by internet trolls.

The Experiment

In order to test the validity of adult coloring books I needed to induce stress and frustration. The best way to do this, I figured, was to watch the evening news for a full 30 minutes. I decided on ABC World News with David Muir in order to eliminate any bias associated with liberal or conservative news outlets. I ordered a Great British Bake Off coloring book (one of the most relaxing shows out there) and decided upon one image to color for the entire work week after the news, Monday through Friday.

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Oh David, not even your handsome face can cushion the blow of a Trump administration

What Happened

Monday January 16, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Rep. John Lewis boycotts the inauguration
  • Winter storms continue across the US
  • Outgoing CIA director warns Trump about Russia

Frustration level before coloring: 3/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

This day wasn’t particularly too stressful, but coloring actually help my attention and focus more than I imagined. The 30 minutes flew by as if it were 5 minutes and all I was thinking about while coloring was what color I was gonna make all of the pies and pastries. And how delicious those pies and pastries must be of course.

Tuesday January 17, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Barbara Bush and George WH Bush hospitalized
  • Trump communications appointee resigns amid plagiarism scandal
  • Trump receives record low approval ratings as incoming president

Frustration level before coloring: 4/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1.5/5

One interesting aspect about this foray into coloring was when I began I was starving and almost ordered a pizza. After I began coloring though, I was not hungry anymore and didn’t eat for over an hour after I was finished. I believe, like on the first day, this was because of coloring helping me to focus more. Again, the coloring was relaxing and helped me to forget for a second about our new president.

Wednesday January 18, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Obama commutes Chelsea Manning
  • DeVos cites grizzly bears as reasoning for guns in schools
  • 18 million Americans will go uninsured if Obamacare repealed

Frustration level before coloring: 5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 2/5

It seemed like this day was filled to the brim with bad news. Every single one of Trump’s appointees said disparaging things about climate change, women’s rights and their own failures to disclose their finances. How could one forget to mention they had $100 million dollars just lying around? Nothing got my blood boiling more than DeVos confirmation when she said that guns should be allowed in schools to shoot grizzlies, that disabled students shouldn’t be protected by federal law and that she did not know she donated thousands to anti-LGBT groups. That being said, the coloring was a great distraction for the thirty minutes, but as soon I was done the bad news kept tumbling, in bringing back my frustration.

Thursday January 19, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Trump inaugural concert most boring, most cringe-worthy concert in modern history
  • 2016 named hottest year on record even though Trump dismisses global warming
  • Hundreds attend queer dance party outside of VP Pence’s house

Frustration level before coloring: 4.5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

Today’s news was a mixture of good and bad. Of course the biggest ticket was Trump’s concert but it made me feel happier knowing how sparsely attended it was and that his biggest draw was the guy who wrote “God Bless the USA”. That being said, my frustration levels didn’t last after coloring and it was a welcome distraction from what was happening in Washington.

Friday January 20, 2017

The day of Trump’s inauguration

Frustration level before coloring: 100,000,000/5

Frustration level after coloring: 3/5

To be honest I didn’t turn in to the news today. I already knew what was happening and did not want to be a part of it. I kept my tv off, switched off my wifi on my laptop, and kept my headphones on. Like in previous days, the coloring definitely helped to shift my focus and keep me calm as I was creating art, this day was just full of special circumstances and anxieties that would not go away easily.

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They make adult coloring books for everyone. Even your pervy uncle 

Did it Really Help?

In one word:yes. The coloring definitely helped to calm my frustrations and to keep me focused on creating art as opposed to pondering all of the bad things going on in the world. I found that I was paying less attention to things around me while I was coloring and that it was quite relaxing. As another positive, I found that it actually quelled my appetite, or at least made me focus on things other than food.

Will it Help Me?

If you find that certain things or people make you frustrated, then yes, coloring books will help you. Because I induced my frustration by watching the news I am unsure that coloring will help you cope with generalized anxiety that may be experienced at all times. However, if you need time to unwind and focus on other things besides your hectic life, then adult coloring books will aid you in that.

What Does the Research Say?

Research on the subject of adult coloring mainly focuses on the benefits to the brain as well as differences with art therapy. Psychologists have found that while coloring may not be as effective as art therapy in the treatment of major mental disorders, they have found four main benefits to adult coloring:

  1. Helps dementia and Alzheimer’s patients remain engaged with the outside world
  2. Can lower blood pressure (by decreasing stress)
  3. Trains your brain to focus better
  4. Helps people deal with PTSD and stress

Psychologist Stan Rodski, who has even authored his own coloring book, compares the effects of coloring to the effects of meditation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains and focus on what is at hand instead of  the perils of everyday life.

Adult coloring books may also help in relaxation by replacing negative images and thought with positive ones literally:

“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”

Final Thoughts

If you have been thinking about picking up an adult coloring book but have passed due to embarrassment, time limitations, or disbelief in their effects  just do it! Even taking just half an hour out of your day can ease frustrations, help you focus and keep your brain from eliciting negative thoughts. You can find adult coloring books practically everywhere for cheap, and you can create priceless advantages for your brain in the process.

 

Source:http://www.medicaldaily.com/therapeutic-science-adult-coloring-books-how-childhood-pastime-helps-adults-356280

 

 

The New Trend in Meditation? Goat Yoga

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We’ve all heard of dogs having therapeutic properties, but goats?

That’s the basis of Lainey Morse’s new business: goat yoga classes. And if you’re wondering who would want to practice yoga in a barn with goats, the answer is thousands. That’s right, her classes at her No Regrets Farm in Oregon has a wait list of over 1,200 people as of yesterday.

“Goats are perfect for the yoga practice because it’s not only combining nature and animals, it’s combining yoga, and they all go together so well,” explained Morse. “The most fun part for me is watching people’s faces when a little goat comes up to them while they’re doing a yoga pose. It’s a distraction, but it’s a happy distraction.”

Morse formulated the idea of her yoga practice after hosting a child’s birthday party on her farm. A mother who taught yoga attending the party informed Morse that having a yoga class on her farm would be a popular attraction.

“I said okay, but the goat have to join in,” quipped Morse.

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Morse knew that the goats would provide therapeutic support to the yogis due to her own personal experiences. After she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder a year and a half ago, she turned to her pet goats for help.

“I would come home every day and spend time with my goats, and it was so therapeutic for me,” she says. “It’s hard to be sad and depressed when there’s baby goats jumping on you.”

Her own experiences with her goats would quickly translate into others receiving joy and relief from her eight goats. Morse welcomes visitors from far away cities like Seattle and Portland who are lucky enough to ensure a spot in her highly sought after classes.

“It may sound silly, but goat yoga is really helping people,” Morse says. “It’s not curing diseases, but it’s helping people cope with whatever they’re going through. People come in that have anxiety, depression; they’re recovering from cancer or illness.”

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Morse continues on, explaining how she uses her goats in animal assisted therapy for people that suffer from disabilities and depression.  One participant, Cherie Twohy, concurs with this sentiment explaining: “I’ve had a rough couple of years, and this put a smile on my face that I can’t remember feeling in a while.”

While unconventional, Morse and her students can’t deny the power that these baby goats have in helping with the anxiety, a phenomenon that people commonly seek yoga out to combat. With pupils coming in from states far away to get a piece of the action, this is one trend that is not dying out anytime soon.

“I can’t believe ‘Portlandia’ hasn’t called me yet,” Morse remarked.

It’s just a matter of time before we see Fred Armisen practicing the downward dog surrounded by these cuddly little goats.

Try it Tuesday: Achieving Brain Orgasms with ASMR

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Growing up there was always one thing I hated about Christmas: opening presents. Don’t get me wrong, I loved flinging away gilded wrapping paper to expose my wished for gifts of art sets, Matchbox cars, and SEGA games, but actually getting the toys out of the box left me cringing. The sounds of Styrofoam and cardboard elicited the worst physical reaction, even worse than the sound of nails on a chalkboard, causing painful tingling down my spine. If there are sounds that can cause negative tingling sensations is it possible that there are sounds that can cause euphoric, even orgasmic, tingling?

Enter ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is defined as an exhilarating experience, categorized by static-like or tingling sensations produced in the scalp and head that can move around the body precipitating compete relaxation. Colloquially known as “brain orgasms,” ASMR has become the new trendy way to achieve relaxation and combat insomnia with dozens of YouTubers devoting whole channels to creating the tingles in their viewers.

One such YouTube star is ASMRDarling (real name Taylor) whose channel has amassed over 464,000 subscribers. Her videos routinely feature gentle whispering, rhythmic tapping, and intriguing role play designed to stimulate and decompress her viewers. Her most popular video, “ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep” has been viewed over 8.8 million times and I decided to join these millions in order to experience the illusive brain orgasm.  Everybody loves orgasms right?

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Watching the Video

As advertised, the video features 10 distinct audio sounds that her viewers find to be the most heavenly and relaxation inducing. I will chronicle experiences with each of the sounds in chronological order.

Makeup Brushes– This first audible experience, for me, was the most effective. The sounds of the brush against the microphone created a slight tingling sensation in my nose and cheeks. The experience was heightened after closing my eyes and letting the sounds immerse my perceptions. I can only compare the sounds made to sounds of the womb, deep low pitched thrashing that a fetus senses while enclosed in utero.  By the end of this exercise I was at ease, in a state of total relaxation.

Pins in a Cup– The sounds produced in this exercise came from both tapping the outside of the container as well as dropping the pins in the cup. Because the sounds were not as long as the first segment, I found the sounds of this portion to be less effective. The rhythmic tapping reminded me of the sounds of water droplets, prolonging my state of relaxation from the first experience, but did not produce the same tingling sensations. The thuds of the pins reminded me of childhood toys, like LEGOs being shaken in a plastic tub, which filled me with a sensation of joy and nostalgia, but sadly did not produce any inklings of a brain orgasm. Perhaps if the sound bites were longer they would be more effective?

Ceramic Vase– After missing the tingling sensations produced by the makeup brushed, the echoes of Taylor blowing on the vase brought them back in full force. In addition to reinstating the tingling in my nose and cheeks, the vibrations infiltrated my upper arms and spine. Her blows on the vase opening mimicked the pure sounds of isolated wind, extending my relaxation to almost a meditative state. If there was a video of just this blowing for ten minutes I am sure I would have reached a full blown brain orgasm.

Antique Book– I have always loved the sounds of cracking open an old book. Hearing the breakage of the glue in the spine as well as the crispness of the pages are some of the most satisfying sounds in my memory. The action of Taylor stroking the pages with her fingernails is the most effective, again causing tingling in my nose and face. One of my favorite times from childhood was reading before bedtime (Roald Dahl especially) and this exercise brought me back to those nights.

Masking Tape– Taylor professed that the sound of tape is her favorite childhood memory, thus her incorporation of the sounds into the video. Perhaps my childhood memories of Christmas counteracted any meditative qualities in the tape noises as this segment held no relaxing qualities. Of course the tape produced an interesting clamor, just not one that promoted ASMR in my mind.

Water– This is the most conventional sound in producing an ASMR response. Rain machines have been around for decades in order to engender sleep in restless individuals. The sounds of the water brought forth images of rain, rivers, and waves again causing relaxation. No tingles here though, maybe because I have used rain machines in the past?

Matches– I was surprised at how calming the sound of scratching matches can be as the action is so similar to nails scratching a chalkboard. The sounds reminded me of walking on snow and ice (something I loved during my childhood growing up in Upstate New York) and again were very soothing. When Taylor then put the lit match in the water from the previous segment, it created a very interesting sound, but it was too short lived to create any orgasmic effects.

Hair Cutting– Now this exercise is unlike any of the other experiences. Taylor breaks the fourth wall with a pair of scissors in order to create the illusion that she is cutting your hair. I for one love the sensation of getting my hair done but it was hard for me to visualize that she was actually touching me. However, she gave me the same individualized attention that one gets when visiting a salon or receiving customer care so I can see the appeal of this section. I can now remember feeling tingling sensations from previous visits to Supercuts and will look out for them in the future.

Coins in Bowl– I’ll be honest, this is the segment that left me a little confused. My dog, however, perked her ears when hearing this portion through my headphones so maybe I am just missing something. The sound of the coins reminded me of collecting coins for my piggybank as a child so maybe the fact that I grew up without money is an impediment to getting the tingles from this exercise. No tingles here.

Tapping– The last sounds produced for the video was a good way to end this experiment. The tapping on the wooden box reminded me of horse trotting while the scratching, again, reminded me of walking on ice. Listening to the scratching repeatedly incited a deep relaxation with some minor tingling in my face and shoulders. I can postulate that if this segment were several minutes that I would be on my way to achieving the good old ‘gasm.

Why did it Work?

As mentioned above, most of the sounds incorporated into the video either replicated noises observed in nature or experienced in childhood. We have used nature to relax for centuries: you will seldom find a person who would turn down a free trip to Hawaii to relax on the beach or someone who wouldn’t try a rain machine to combat insomnia. What I find more interesting are the allusions to childhood memories incorporated into ASMR videos. Taylor throughout the video, and her dozens of other ASMR videos, only speaks in a whisper or a soft tone of voice, similar to how parents talk to their children or get their babies to calm down after temper tantrums. When I was hearing the tones produced in the videos images of Christmas, childhood toys, reading books at bedtime, playing in the snow, and saving up money flooded my consciousness bringing with them positive memories of childhood. Even in her haircutting video Taylor takes the position of a care giver, giving you a haircut similar to how my mother would attempt to give me a trim at the kitchen table.

So is ASMR a Freudian construct rooted in largely debunked psychoanalytic pseudoscience? I would not go that far. I would categorize ASMR as a tool designed to bring back memories of childhood and memories of where we have experienced total relaxation, which happens to be in places of serene nature for the most of us. Additionally, childhood seldom brings the daily anxieties and fears that come with adulthood and thus reliving childhood can bring us back to a time where we were at peace. Hearing is a powerful sense and when all other senses are eliminated, sounds by themselves can bring forth positive emotions stored deep in our subconscious.

Will it Work for Me?

Based on my conclusions your own experiences will dictate whether or not you can achieve a brain orgasm. If you have never felt any sense of deep relaxation then the odds of being able to achieve it by watching YouTube videos is probably pretty slim. Also, if you go into a video thinking that it will never work then you are setting yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would recommend determining what makes you the most relaxed and the happiest and finding a video that simulates those events through sound.

What Does the Research Say?

ASMR has not undergone the scrutiny of rigorous psychological testing, as it is a rather newly discovered phenomenon, but is considered to be genuine due to a hefty amount of anecdotal evidence. Blogger Steven Novella sums this up best writing:

“Is it real? In this case, I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently (that is always the key, but it is a recent enough phenomenon that this appears to be true) experienced and described the same syndrome with some fairly specific details. In this way it’s similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.”

Final Thoughts

Though perhaps not as intense as a real orgasm, ASMR creates a pleasant relaxing sensation; that is if you are open to it. If you allow yourself to become completely immersed in the sounds of whispering, tapping, and nature you can unlock a euphoric tingling feeling that can ease anxiety, insomnia and everyday uneasiness. With all the content available on YouTube why not take the chance to experience this for yourself. If anything you can get a laugh out of watching people whispering into a microphone.