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8 Ways to De-Stress at the End of the Day

bubblebath

Photo courtesy of Janet Ramsden

Whether you work in an office building, a home office, or chasing toddlers around all day, it’s imperative that you regularly find time for yourself. Ideally, you should set aside at least 45 minutes to an hour every day and dedicate that time to an activity that relaxes you. If you’re able to – tag team your partner (if you have kids or other responsibilities), so that both of you have adequate down time in order to recharge and face each day feeling refreshed.

On the other hand, if you shoulder a lot of responsibilities yourself with little family nearby to help, consider asking a friend or neighbor who might be willing to offer a hand now and then so you can take a short breather. Another option (if you’re a parent) is to take time for yourself after the little ones are in bed for the night, or in the early morning hours, while the house is still quiet.

Once you’ve found the time, here are some things to do that will help you breathe easier and make it through the rest of your week:

  1. Get your blood flowing. Most likely, you’ve been sitting at a desk for a big portion of the day. Take at least 10 minutes to stretch our your muscles so they don’t grown stagnant from lack of attention.
  2. Gain perspective. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your problems, read some news articles. Suddenly, your life issues won’t seem so bad after all.
  3. Be with others. Socializing during your downtime is a fantastic plan – if it’s realistic. Being around friends, sharing stories and laughing is one of the best ways to loosen up. Pass on the alcohol, though – it will only leave you with a headache in the morning, defeating the purpose of re-energizing yourself.
  4. Look at photos. Sometimes when I’m trying to get myself into a better frame of mind, I set my laptop photos folder onto slideshow and watch as my life scrolls before my eyes. All of those happy memories instantly put me in a good place mentally.
  5. Use humor. A great piece of advice a friend once gave me was to watch videos of cute animals when I was feeling stressed. At the time I thought it was silly, but one day I clicked over to YouTube and watched a bunch of kittens doing funny things. You know what? IT WORKED.
  6. Turn on some tunes. The connection between music and mood has long been established, so play your favorite songs and sing along!
  7. Bathe. Add a few drops of lavender oil and some rose scented bubbles to a bath, and soak your troubles away. Combine this with some soothing music and you’ve got a two-fer!
  8. Hug it out. Research shows us that hugging for just 2 minutes a day does amazing things for our mental state. So, open your arms to your partner, your kids or your friends. Physical contact with someone you love releases oxytocin – the “feel-good” hormone.

Less important than the actual activity is just making the effort to set aside a block of time for yourself. During your “Me” time, shift the focus away from all of the stressors in your life and onto You. Slow down your actions, your intentions and your thoughts throughout your relaxation time. Be mindful of everything around you and within you, and you’ll become more centered and better equipped to handle anything.

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”  ~Lily Tomlin

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How to Let Go of the Skeletons in Your Closet

closetPhoto courtesy of Darwin Bell

We’ve all got dirty laundry. Most of it is stuff we can throw in with the sheets and towels – but what about those stubborn stains that won’t come out?

Just like our laundry, sometimes we all want to “erase” parts of our past – things that we’re embarrassed about or wish we’d never done. If there was a stain remover for past mistakes, I have a feeling it would be flying off supermarket shelves faster than they could stock it.

Alas, no such magic potion exists, so we’ve got to find ways to live with the events that stain our memories and perhaps our self-worth. Whether you’re dealing with some dirty laundry or a full sized skeleton in your closet – you’ve got to open that door and let it out if you’re moving toward finding inner peace. Keeping those secrets with you is a heavy burden that will hold back your momentum. Letting them go means facing them head on, though, and it’s going to be really difficult to open the door that first time.

However, after you’ve opened the door that holds your skeleton(s), you’ll be past the biggest hurdle and onto the healing part of picking up the pieces. A lot of the bones will be really, really old – so ancient you might even forget where they came from, and that’s ok. In that case, just acknowledge it and toss it in the garbage.

Any secrets from your past that have had a deep impact on your psyche will come out into the open now, and it’s important to decide what to do with them. Sometimes, sharing the secret with a trusted friend or family member can take away the power that it holds over you. Maybe the secret is something that needs to be written down and silently bid goodbye. This may be the case if sharing the secret will open old wounds or could potentially hurt someone else. On the other hand, it may be necessary to share something you’ve been hiding from someone in order to fully break free from it.

Additionally, there are times that we hold onto information because we were told not to share it. These secrets can cause a lot of mental anguish for anyone – trying to figure out the “right” thing to do. If sharing a long-kept secret will change someone’s life entirely, you may have to give a lot of thought to the consequences of sharing with that person.

If there are no skeletons and only dirty laundry in your closet that is solely your own, feel free to hang it all out on the line for everyone to see. No harm, no foul – it’s your information to share as you see fit. And, once all of your secrets are aired, what can hold you back from reaching unimaginable heights?

Lighten your load and take the power away from those skeletons wearing dirty clothes – the sooner, the better. Most likely, they’re a lot less offensive than you believe them to be, anyway. It’ll be exciting to see how much easier you move through life without wondering what’s behind that closet door.

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Cool, Calm & Collected: A How-to Guide

fonzie

Photo courtesy of Pat Williams

Throughout my life, I’ve been told numerous times that I always seem to have everything under control. “Cool as a cucumber,” is how I’m described, even when faced with what may seem like an insurmountable challenge.

I attribute my ability to “keep it together” to several very influential factors. First, I have to give a nod to both nature and nurture. My parents certainly have their wits about them and did a good job raising me to be capable and tenacious. Second, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of difficulties - starting at a very young age.

During a crisis or emergency, it’s a normal reaction to feel panicky or to lose control of the situation at hand. Many people struggle to reign in their emotions when the pressure is on. If you’re someone who feels out of control or helpless in complicated or stressful situations, luckily there is hope for you.

By following a few simple guidelines, you can learn how to react more effectively and efficiently the next time a problematic situation arises.

  1. Step outside of the situation. In order to handle crisis situations with aplomb, remove yourself from the equation.  Look at the scenario from a third-person point of view in order to assess what needs to be done, and how to do it.
  2. Use a quiet voice. It may not come naturally at first, but I learned this particular tip a long time ago from one of my teachers, and it’s extremely effective at calming people down.  I always noticed that she spoke quietly whenever chaos was about to ensue, and the practice stuck with me to this day.
  3. Choose your reactions. The power of choice can be quite momentous if you actually put it to use. In situations where your mind and body seem to have an ‘automatic stress response,’ practice choosing a different reaction. Make this happen by becoming astutely aware of the very beginning of stressful situations and your natural reactions to them.  By acknowledging that you are no longer going to react with emotion or panic, you will have taken control over your own behavior.  Your brain will begin to respond accordingly by creating new automatic responses - if you consistently choose to react calmly to stress.
  4. Diffuse with humor. Let me preface this with a disclaimer: Not all situations are joke-appropriate. With that being said, if you can find the funny in the face of a challenge, use positive humor instead of sarcasm, which can have a negative impact on your psyche instead of making you calmer.
  5. Look to the future. A very good friend of mine once helped me through an extremely difficult time, and her tactics really resonated with me. Perhaps the most impactful was that “nothing lasts forever,” and the general sentiment that “this too, shall pass.” This mindset has gotten me through dozens of challenging moments and situations over the past decade, and it can help you, too. Picture yourself in the future – whether that’s tomorrow or next year. The crisis you are currently dealing with will be a thing of the past, and you will have survived to tell about it.

It always helps put things into perspective when you ask yourself, “How important is this to the big picture of my life?” Even though some of the things life throws at us can be messy, complicated, trying, annoying and undesirable – they may not have much bearing on your future at all.

keepcalm

Photo courtesy of Yeseren

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Are You a Shopaholic? 8 Ways to Curb Your Addiction

shopping
Photo courtesy of Valeri Thalen-Passon

I’ll admit it: I love shopping. Although I prefer the convenience of making online purchases, I still absolutely love getting new things: makeup, books, clothing, jewelry, perfume, and most recently – home improvement items.

Unlike many others, though, I’m able to thwart my desire for the items in order to keep my finances under control. I like putting food on the table for my family more than I like the latest shades of eye shadow from Sephora. Even still, the desire to buy is within me.

The technical term for compulsive shopping is ‘oniomania‘ – sounds like an onion addiction to me (which I may or may not also have), but comes from the Greek ‘onios’ meaning ‘for sale.’ The mania part is pretty clear. Even though husbands, boyfriends and fathers everywhere may have a hard time swallowing this – a shopping addiction is a very real impulse control disorder. Related to substance addiction, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, if left unchecked, it can have devastating consequences.

Robert Pagliarini, certified financial planner and best selling author, works to help shopaholics every day in his Orange County firm. He has also collaborated with Dr. Drew Pinsky and other well-known addiction specialists to help shopaholics from vastly different backgrounds. What you may not realize is that being addicted to shopping doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with being wealthy. A true shopping addict struggles to control their spending regardless of the number in their bank account or on their credit report.

At times, family members or close friends may try to shame shopaholics into quitting.  Although it may seem logical to stop excessive spending in order to pay rent or utility bills, anyone with an addiction isn’t thinking logically. Being addicted to buying things is emotional, so making an addict of any kind feel even worse about herself isn’t the best approach, and may even cause the addiction to worsen.

Instead, take a look at the big picture. Whether you’re the friend or the addict, try some of these ideas:

  1. Identify triggers. Pin-point what situations or feelings make shopping inevitable.
  2. Link daily triggers with past issues. Day-to-day triggers can be traced back to deep-rooted psychological issues, such as abandonment, deprivation, absence of familial attachment, lack of affection or abuse.
  3. Seek out a professional. A therapist can help you associate triggers with what is really missing in your life, and how to get what you really need rather than replacing it with shopping.
  4. Re-think gifts. Friends and family members can come up with a system that eradicates the need to shop for gifts for the duration of the shopaholic’s therapy. Agree to homemade presents, or do nice things for each other. This helps the obsessive shopper avoid stores.
  5. Reserve judgment. Whether you’re the addict or the friend of one, seek out help and support without judging. Nearly everyone can improve in one way or another – excessive shopping is just your vice.
  6. Give up control. If possible, hand over your bank account information and checkbook to your spouse or a close family member, and let them police your spending while you undergo therapy. This will take some of the pressure off of you.
  7. Consider medication. Oniomania is a very real compulsive disorder that can be treated with medications that are used by people with a variety of compulsive problems. Medication isn’t the only answer, but it can be a component in your recovery plan.
  8. Form new habits. At times when you would have previously gone shopping, do something else.  What you decide to do matters less than actually doing it.  Shopping may have become habitual, and bad habits are much easier to overcome if you put a good habit in their place.

Lastly, although it isn’t an illegal or physically unhealthy problem, shopping addiction can be extremely embarrassing because it signifies a lack of control over oneself. The most important thing to focus on is the positive changes you can make by taking steps away from compulsive spending. Visualize yourself debt-free and in control of making purchases with cash. Keep your eye on that vision and your hand off your wallet until it becomes a reality.

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Stop Fighting: How to Turn Any Argument Around

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Photo courtesy of Ion-bogdan Dumitrescu

I do my best to steer clear of people who argue more than they laugh, but sometimes interacting with antagonists is just something that can’t be avoided. If you’re unfortunate enough to have someone in your life that loves to use you as a figurative punching bag, you’ve probably tried (and failed) to win at least one argument against them.

Having disagreements with the people in our lives is totally normal, and once we’ve reached adulthood, most of us have figured out some good strategies to calmly resolve differences of opinion. However, this proves to be a little bit more difficult if the person just can’t stand you.

I know what you’re thinking. “What – me? Everyone likes me!” And, while I applaud your high self-esteem, your self-awareness may need a little tweaking.

Even if you do your damndest to say a friendly hello to all of your coworkers each morning, wave a cheery greeting to your neighbors every evening, and try to be the best employee/coworker/friend in between – somewhere, sometime, somehow – there’s probably someone who just – doesn’t like you.

Their distaste for you may be unjustified, or perhaps it’s mutual and the two of you just don’t jive well.  As Charles Colton once said, sometimes “we hate [people] because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them.” In my younger days, I lived less mindfully. I tended to decide whether I liked someone without really knowing them at all.

I later learned (by accident) that if we get to know someone we “hate,” the outcome is often surprisingly pleasant.

Nevertheless, if you’re currently on the receiving end of someone who has taken a strong aversion to you, any exchanges the two of you have are likely causing you a significant deal of anxiety. The more frequently you have to interact, the more distressed you’ll become. Being afraid to go to work every day (or anywhere this person is likely to be) is no way to live. Instead of displaying fearful, nail biting body language or blasting her back when she accuses you of something – stop.

Bullies thrive on intimidating others; antagonists love a good fight, and you are going to be the one to put an end to it.

Do you want to know the absolute, number one way to stop someone from arguing with you?

Simply take away their ability to argue.

Don’t interrupt her, but when she’s finished doling out what she feels is her winning end of a debate – smile. Take a breath, and speak in a low voice. Say something neutral, like, “Ok. I didn’t realize I was doing that. Can you clarify (this or that) for me, so I can work on it in the future?” Smile.

It’s (almost) impossible to argue with someone who won’t fight back. By using low tones, you’ll calm your opponent down, and by not firing back, you’ll be the one who took the high road. While you may not really agree with her, you’ll have diffused the situation while looking like the good guy, and you’ll have conserved your mental energy for someone who really matters.

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Can the Truth Really Set You Free?

Photo courtesy of Tiago Pinheiro

Do you feel like you’re on a search for truth as you make your way through the world, dodging hyperbole as you go?  For a long time it was the opposite for me. I felt like I was blatantly avoiding some hard truths in my own life. I buried my head in the sand, thinking that avoidance would keep me safe and help me hide from the truth.

Looking back, I thought I knew my own truth for a very long time, but only on a subconscious level. Knowing your truth and acting on it are two very different concepts, because when you finally begin to share your truth with others, they will react accordingly. Those who have different truths and beliefs will potentially be hurt or offended.

Staying silent when you know your own truth is perhaps one of the most detrimental forms of dishonesty. It has been called the ‘Disease to Please’ and curing yourself can be quite difficult. If you question your own truth, you may end up trying to please others forever.

But here’s some food for thought – some people who are convinced that they know their own truths may actually be wrong.

Is it possible to be wrong about your own truth?

People in the public eye are the most notorious of all for not living truthfully – we see examples of this in the news, in Hollywood, in politics and in professional sports. Our society seems to be riddled with untruths everywhere we turn. If everybody’s doing it, then why can’t we?

Should we give up on honesty and truth?

We should not give up on truth! It is empowering and liberating, even while it may be complicated. Living untruthfully can ruin just about anything - including your health, according to recent research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.

In order for you to live a truly authentic and (mostly) truthful life, you’ve got to really get in touch with yourself. Having the confidence to live a truthful life is never easy, because it means taking responsibility for all of your actions and decisions. Be able to answer for yourself with self-assurance. What you know to be true for you may not sit well with others, but what matters is that it works for you, and that you feel good about your decisions.

As important as it is to live your truth, remember that others around you are attempting the same thing, and their truth may not look like truth at all to you. Only when you can learn to accept other people as they present you with their truths is when the truth really will set you free.

I’d like to leave you with an open-ended, thought provoking concept today.

Does absolute truth exist?

If everyone’s versions of the truth are ’right’, even if only for them (I imagine Hitler thought his truth was ‘absolute truth’), what then?

My truth, your truth, we all fall down?

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Words to Live by as You Create Your Best Life

Photo courtesy of Nolan Williamson

One of the more popular internet memes at the moment involves creating mock “Hallmark” greeting style cards to share on Facebook. This is made possible by someecards.com – a website with the tagline, “When you care enough to hit send.” Pairing self-penned quotes with images that are consistent with traditional greeting cards has provided millions of social networkers with hours of entertainment.

These self-made cards usually contain deadpan humor that could be mistaken as offensive by someone unfamiliar with their parodic sentiments. Admittedly, a few of the cards have struck my funny bone, but I’ve always had a deep appreciation for more thought provoking (sometimes famous, sometimes not, but always meaningful) quotes and sayings.

When you feel yourself hit a wall or find that you’re lagging behind on attaining some of your life goals, it can be quite helpful to read through a few motivational quotes to move and inspire you. Today, I thought I’d share some of the inspirational quotes that motivate the staff here at TinyShift.  We look to these poignant and eloquent words (and many others) to keep us striving toward living the best lives possible:

You’ll never go anywhere if you never get going! This quote also points to the fact that even the most daunting of tasks can be accomplished as long as we keep moving toward the finish line, taking it one purposeful step at a time.

Photo courtesy of Oprah.com

Have you ever looked up from the chaos of your life and realized that you’ve been meeting everyone’s needs but your own? Sacrificing your life satisfaction only to go on living the status quo, especially if that means you’re lost and unfulfilled – just isn’t worth it. While calculated risk is usually advisable in terms of huge life changes, if you aren’t even sure where you fall on your own “to-do” list, there should definitely be some calculating and risk-taking in your near future.

Photo courtesy of Ginnyire

Instead of allowing yourself to be controlled by the “Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” focus on the here and now - things you can control.  If your present life isn’t exactly playing out how you had envisioned, make the changes you need so that you’re on track to thoroughly enjoy your future.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Coleman

As Shakespeare said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

It’s up to you to discover and explore your passions in this life.  After all, no one has as much of a vested interest in them as you do. When a clear picture of your best life begins to take shape, forge forward into it and determine to make it into your new reality.

 

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Make Fear Less of a Factor in Your Life Equation

Photo courtesy of epsos.de

You know those long e-mail questionnaires we all used to send around to our friends under the guise of getting to know people better? Loaded with questions about our physical characteristics, likes, dislikes, and aspirations – they presented us with the perfect opportunity to talk about our favorite subjects – ourselves.

With changes in technology happening faster than the blink of an eye, email surveys quickly became yesterday’s news. Personally, I found them tiring pretty much from their inception, and I had a reason for my dislike. It was simple, really. I used to be uncomfortable in any situation where I didn’t have all of the answers.

I suppose you might ask why I wouldn’t have all of the answers to an email survey about my height, hair color, and whether I’d rather be a pirate or a ninja. Obviously, those weren’t the questions that tripped me up (ninja, naturally.) It was the deeper questions I never felt like answering, like whether I was in a happy relationship or what I hoped my life would look like in five years.

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in avoiding harsh realities about my life.  In actuality, there are thousands of people trying to avoid facing feelings of discontentment and many other disappointing realities in their lives, and for most of us, the driving force behind our avoidance is the four-letter f-word.

FEAR.

Every day, countless people bury themselves in avoidance because they fear that facing the problem could cause them to experience failure of some type.  Fear is a very powerful emotion that can keep us from shooting for the stars and achieving our ultimate goals that would skyrocket our happiness level.   Allowing our fears to control us prevents us from living the lives we really want.

Fears of abandonment, job loss, going into debt, rejection, intimacy, not measuring up, and even a fear of success itself are all common and natural. Usually, feeling scared keeps us safe and prevents us from doing things that often might end up causing us harm. There are times, though, when it’s in our best interest to feel afraid of something and to pursue it anyway.  The hard part is knowing when to listen to our fears and when to challenge them.

It’s quite possible that, unless you feel quite substantially miserable in your current life circumstances, you’ll be less likely to pursue your dreams due to a fear of the unknown. Even if your life as you know it is far from your ideal life, it’s familiar and safe. Many people have a desire to live a different kind of life, work in a different field, or be married to someone different, but the fear of what it would take to get there is simply too strong.

I’m a prime example of a person who faced a great deal of fear in order to live the life I really wanted. The life I had before wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my ideal existence. It was SO SCARY taking that first step in the journey to where I am now! But once I took the first step, the momentum kept me moving in the direction I should’ve been heading all along.

Will you let fear control your decisions or can you handle feeling afraid of the fall but taking the leap anyway?

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Generation Z: What the Me! Me! Generation Means for You

Photo courtesy of Allen Skyy

Anyone who was born after the late 1990s grew up in the digital era and never knew life before the World Wide Web. Known as ‘Generation Z’, today’s young people started Googling and Skype-ing right around the same time they started peeing in the potty.

Texting, Face-timing, downloading apps – these are all second nature to Generation Z, and they all have a multitude of webpages dedicated to their own self-promotion (think Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, WordPress and LinkedIn.)

Another thing specific to Generation Z is their intense fascination with memes – funny pictures, sayings, and YouTube videos that they share with their friends via email, Facebook or Twitter. Ask any of them what ‘meme’ really means, and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare, but only for as long as it takes them to Google it.

If they did Google it, they’d discover that the word ‘meme’ came from the Greek word ‘mimeme’, and it was determined by biologist Richard Dawkins that a meme is any cultural entity imitated by humans, like nursery rhymes, prejudice, and phrases, like “Where’s the beef?” Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ in his book, The Selfish Gene, but it has gone mostly unused for 30 until now, when, coincidentally what has been dubbed America’s most self-absorbed generation ever, brought it back to life.

Their self-absorbed reputation stems from the fact that these digital natives spend a lot of time alone, ensconced in their digital lives instead of spending time with other people. Although they may have a lot of friends, they communicate with them largely through virtual interactions like texting, Skype-ing, and Facebooking.

Dealing with their “Me! Me!” attitudes and their tech-focused communication skills can take some getting used to. I have two children who are members of Generation Z, and I always try to balance their technology-rich lives with old-fashioned activities like scavenger hunts, card games, and face-to-face talking. If you’re also a parent of a Gen Z-er, it’s important to monitor their technology use and mix it up with real world experiences.

Teaching a classroom full of Generation Z-ers or managing them at work could put your traditional leadership skills to the test if you’re not already parents of tech savvy kids. Constant access to speedy electronic devices has created a generation with a strong desire for instant feedback. Also, although they have tons of information at their fingertips, they sometimes have trouble determining which sources are reliable (evidenced by the recent popularity of Wikipedia for research purposes.)

If you are a member of Generation Z, and you’ve reached early adulthood, real life situations like marriage could prove challenging for you. If your significant other is also a Z-er, and much of your courtship was largely based on Facebook interactions with a little sexting thrown in on the side, make sure you flip down the lid of your laptop and power down your iPhone in favor of some in-person lip service. Although those me!me! messages can be really funny, what’s even better is when she holds your hand while you talk about us!us!

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Sing Goodbye to the Blues: Why Music is Great for Your Mental State

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock

A great appreciation for music is something that many of my family members share – ranging from musical inclinations to having a general love of music. Throughout my life, I’ve often used specific songs to put me into the right frame of mind for certain situations, and I have a sibling who is veritably obsessed with the entire concept of music.

Of course, music has been used for thousands of years to enhance a variety of situations, so I realize that it’s not just my little family that has discovered the amazing benefits of song. Marching bands get fans into the spirit of football games, lullabies tend to soothe and calm fussy babies, and teachers use catchy tunes to help students learn. What I wanted to know was: why?

After doing a little research, I discovered that there appears to be a very real connection in the brain between music and mood. Congratulations to us for being onto something all of these years!

Recent research shows that even the anticipation of your favorite song will give you a rush, but for the full benefits, you’ll have to keep listening until you reach your peak emotional arousal. Sounds worth looking (or listening) into, no?

Dopamine, a neuro-transmitter, is released by nerve cells in response to the feeling of pleasure that we get from external (and usually tangible) rewards like food, money, drugs, sex, and some activities that may signal that one of these rewards is imminent, like falling in love.

However, since listening to music isn’t really thought of as a tangible reward, the brain’s dopamine response to music had not been studied until recently.

The results are impressive.

The levels of dopamine in the brain increased by up to 9% in people who were observed while listening to some of their favorite music.  This is exciting news, because it verifies that “we can release dopamine in anticipation of something abstract, complex and not concrete, such as an aesthetic stimulus,” according to Valorie Salimpoor, co-author of the study.

The study also cemeted the fact that the chills you get during your favorite part of a song are due to the levels of dopamine spiking in your brain.  This moment is also called a musical ‘frisson.’

This tells me that Gloria Estefan was right – eventually, the rhythm is gonna get you – to smile! People have been telling us for years to listen to more music when we’re feeling down. With scientific proof that it works, what’s stopping you?

 

 

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