Laugh Away the Pain? It’s Evolutionary.

Once upon a time, Charlie Chaplin said, "Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain." Last week, The New York Times agreed. The reported on a recent study which found that,"laughing increased pain resistance." In this story, the science of modern times sides with the clown. The Oxford study also suggests that laughter has provided primates with an age-old evolutionary advantage.

Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar concluded that laughter triggers endorphins that allowed test subjects to resist pain longer. Test subjects watched a variety of video. Some subjects watched "The Simpsons," Eddie Izzard routines, and other comedy clips. Other participants watched  footage considered feel-good without being funny, like nature programs. Others  were subjected to boring- er- 'neutral' golf and pet training videos. All participants were monitored for laughter during the shows. The participants who laughed proved better able to withstand pain resistance tests adminstered after watching the videos. Another experiment, conducted live at an Oxford Imps improv show, supported the findings that laughter eases pain. 

The study reports that laughter, not just a general sense of well being, is key to the endorphin response and pain relief. Dr. Dunbar hypothesizes that laughter has been key to the social evolution of primates. Like singing, dancing, and other physical activities, shared laughter strengthens group bonds. A laugh today may play tonic to your pain, and shared giggling echoes age-old evolutionary rewards. I think may be time to rewatch Charlie Chaplin…

Dunbar's study was published in the proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences.

Laugh it up!

Alicia

Laugh and Eat Chocolate! It’s Good for Your Heart!

Chocolate Any fool knows that laughing and eating chocolate will make you feel good. Now scholars agree too! Let's sing it from the rooftops! (And support it with peer-reviewed science!) "EAT CHOCOLATE AND BE MERRY! Your heart will thank you!"

As explored in blogs past, laughing helps the heart. It reduces stress and increases healthy hormones in the same way exercise does. (Check out my blog entry 'How Many Chuckles = a Chinup?") Add to that happy science a recent study which discovered that habitual chocolate eaters showed a 37% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and 29% reduced risk of stroke.

It sounds too good to be true. No- this study was not sponsored by the Bay Area Hedonists Club. Scientists from the University of Cambridge announced the news at the European Society of Cardiology convention at the end of August. The respected British Medical Journal published the findings. Any google search yields pages of slavering support. It must be true! 

So, is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" passé? Probably not. Researchers caution that there are plenty of unhealthy ingrediants in chocolate treats. Going hog wild with calorific chocolate pudding on a regular basis is more likely to damage your heart. However, 'plain' chocolate (the less added sugar the better) can be considered healthy. So relax, chuckle, and chew a little chocolate while savoring the concluding words of the University of Cambridge study:

"Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption."

This fool may volunteer for the Cambridge crew's next experiment!

Of course, you all know by now that I'm on a refined-sugar-free diet, so I make most of my own chocolate, and I like to keep it all raw…  no cane sugar for me! I make it all with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar… I keep trying to make a stevia-sweetened chocolate… and keep failing..  But I digress…  

Ha ha ha! Hee hee hee! 

Alicia 

 

These be my sources, yo:

"Study: Laughter and Chocolate Can Boost Heart Health." Huffington Post. August 29, 2011.

"Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-anaylsis." British Medical Journal. August 29, 2011

Creating Every Moment

Creative_woman
People come to me for creativity coaching and say, "I should do more creative work.  If I spent an hour a day making art, that would be great."

But creativity doesn't only have to happen when we sit down to write or paint.  It can be part of every moment!  Have you spent time with those people who seem to make magic out of every moment?  People who invent a game out of jumping into their car, dance their way through the supermarket, belt out their favorite song at work, and create entire theater pieces with inanimate objects.  Your creativity is a muscle, and it wants to be pumped!  Try the following creativity exercises and incorporate them into your day to get your creative juice flowing.

  • turn your socks into sock puppets while you're getting dressed
  • think of a song you don't like, and write new lyrics that express the opposite sentiment of the song
  • write down all the excuses you make for not making your art in bullet points.  in a second column, write what you did instead of making art.  then, choose a silly accent, and read each of them aloud to yourself. 
  • take one day and invent life stories for each stranger you see on the street
  • wear a unique piece of clothing that people will comment on, and then make up a different story for each of them about where it came from

For added synergy, fill your well with stories of others' art and life to inspire you even more.

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"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to
leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your
intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover
is yourself."

-Alan Alda

Find your way, no matter what.

Woodpath
In my creativity coaching practice, I work with all kinds of performers.  A client of mine just told me that she had quit performing for a year because of some unkind words from a booker.  The booker's words had nothing to do with her performance; he was upset about something else.  She knew that, but was so shocked by such treatment that she didn't return to the stage. 

Guess what she did with that yearShe spent it honing her craftShe recorded and watched herself performing over and over again, rehearsed every day, and created a rock-solid repertoire.  (Insert montage sequence with the theme from Rocky here.)  When she worked up the courage to return to the stage, she knew her talent and skill was unquestionable.  And if a booker (or audience member, or anyone) ever speaks unkindly again, she'll know without a doubt that it's because they had a bad day.  And more importantly, she's knows she's earned her self-esteem and her place on stage.  I just saw her perform for the first time, and she's soulful, highly skilled, and beautifully in touch with her heart.

Her commitment to her goals in the face of fear inspires me.

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    "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor."

    -Vince Lombardi

Resuscitate your creative heartbeat with a CPR!

Ukulelewahine_3
It's easy to fall into the routine of daily life.  Making time for your creative expression, whether it's an avocation or a career, can be difficult for some people.  Here is a piece of writing that can help strengthen your vision and resolve by reminding you why you're doing what you're doing.  It's called a CPR, which stands for Context, Purpose, Results. 

Topic:  Pick an area that's meaningful to you, and make that the title of your CPR.

Playing the Ukulele

Results:  Make a list of 10-20 things you want to result from playing the ukulele.  They can range from concrete and specific to abstract and ethereal, but make sure you write them in the present or past tense, as if they have already happened.

  • I learned twelve chords.
  • I can play all my favorite Tiny Tim songs.
  • I really enjoy practicing every day.
  • I don't even mind now that the uke looks so tiny in my hands.
  • People love to sing with me when I pull out the uke, and I feel like a party animal now.
  • The uke really feels like an extension of my body because I play it so much.
  • People call me all the time, asking if I'll bring my uke to their parties, and I make so many new and interesting friends because of it.
  • I really feel self-expressed.

Purpose:  Write why you want to play the ukulele.  Then, think about what you've just written.  And say what that makes possible.  And then, say what makes that possible.  Continue to "ripple out" the effects of your uke-playing to see the largest possible effect it has on the world.

I want to play ukulele because the special plinky sound of the strings makes me feel happy whenever I'm feeling blue.  If I'm truly happy and self-expressed, I will brighten the lives of those around me.  If those around me are brighter, they will touch and enliven their friends, family, and co-workers.  If this many people even spread one small, bright note of authentic cheer to everyone they know, I will be contributing to world peace.  So, my playing ukulele contributes to world peace.

Context:  Write a few words that sum up the kind of person you'd have to be to make each of these things true, i. e. if what way do you need to move around your world to achieve these goals?

playful, disciplined, expressive, open

Take what you've written, and put it on the wall where you can see it (with the Context at the top, then the Purpose, then the Results at the bottom) every day, and let it remind you of what you really, really want.

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     "Hide not your talents.  They for use were made.  What's a sundial in the shade?"

     -Ben Franklin

Your Daily Action Partner

Integrity
In my creativity coaching work, one of the most common things I see is that people have a vision, but they sabotage themselves in carrying it out.  Your integrity with yourself, that is, your ability to think, act, and speak in alignment with your vision is your magic key to carrying out your vision.  When you make an agreement with yourself to do something in line with your vision, you need to guard that agreement with all of your being.  (Therefore, don't make agreements you aren't willing to keep!)  When you break an agreement with yourself, there is a breach in your integrity that must be repaired.

You have to do this for yourself, but you don't have to do it by yourself.  One of the best tools for staying aligned with your integrity is having a daily action partner.  This is a person with whom you make an agreement to call every morning (set a time to call by) and outline what your actions will be for the day.  Each of you take five minutes or less letting the other person know what steps you are taking today.  An action partner can inspire you, fire you up, and hold you accountable for following through on your dreams.  Take turns listening and be compassionate when there is a break-down.  All that needs to happen when you break a commitment is that you speak what happened, what the cause of the breakdown was, and a statement of what you are re-committing to.

        "When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself." 

        -Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements