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June 27, 2013

Revealing Research on Romantic Love and Heartbreak

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

72 SS Heartache Revealing Research on Romantic Love and Heartbreak
The subject of romantic love is so vast and dominant in our lives that it is generally the subject most music, books, operas, poems and plays are about. Romantic love is a major focal point in our culture and has been shown to be what is most often the subject people are discussing or thinking about throughout the day. But I am sure none of this surprises you, as the majority of us are “relationship focused.”

Last month I had an amazing opportunity to interview today’s leading scientist and researcher on the subject of “Romantic Love”, which has been the subject of her groundbreaking research since 2005, when her first book on the subject was published. Helen Fisher, PhD, Biological Anthropologist, is a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Internet dating site, Chemistry.com (a division of Match.com). She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human love, sexuality, marriage, gender differences in the brain as well as how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love.

For those of us in health practices, it is very common to hear from our patients the pain and heartbreak of their romantic relationships and whether or not they feel they can “ever trust or love another person again.” After being this deeply hurt, many of us would like to be able to just “put it behind us” and move on with our lives, but the research of Dr. Fisher and her team of scientists now explains why it is so painful and difficult to bounce back quickly from a broken heart and how difficult and sometimes desperate we can feel during that experience.

Dr. Fisher’s research on romantic love identifies the areas of the brain, the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area, that show romantic love to be far more powerful and urgent that we may have previously believed. She says that romantic love “It’s really a drive that is deeply primordial and primitive.” She explains that romantic love experiences “…are way below the emotional center and in fact are not emotions at all, but rather a powerful drive and need that is shared by all human beings.”

There are additional studies, such as the Tylenol study out of the University of Kansas, College of Arts and Science, as well as the work of Geoff MacDonald, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who is an expert in romantic relationships, that show that “our brain centers cannot tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain.” Dr. Fisher’s work identified this portion of the brain as the anterior insula, location for both physical pain, as well as heartache. The Tylenol study shows that this simple aspirin like compound can lower the discomfort of heartache as well as a headache.

Dr. Fisher’s research has included thousands of imaging studies both in the U.S. and in China. Through these studies, she and her research team has establish just how important it is for human beings to be in relationships where they experience reward for their feelings and efforts toward the significant other.

If you want to understand more about this fascinating subject and how to help yourself overcome the heartache of lost love, visit www.helenfisher.com  where a book list on her research is available. You can also download a free excerpt from the bestselling, multi-award winning book Changing Behavior, by going to www.changingbehavior.org.

http://web.psych.utoronto.ca/gmacdonald/macdonald_social_pain_chapter.pdf

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/227298.php

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May 18, 2013

Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

change your mind life Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?Most people identify themselves as a “glass half full” kind of person.  We don’t intentionally set out to wreck our moods or think ourselves into unhappiness… do we?  However, we can feel like tumbleweeds in the wind, our moods – which can create stress may quickly shift from the impact of a difficult work environment, a nagging spouse, or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.  And all these mood stressers impact us on a physical level too – by increasing the body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol initiates a vicious cycle of food versus mood, wherein we crave sugary, carb-laden foods and shun healthier alternatives like fish and vegetables.  Of course, eating all this garbage makes us feel more depressed and more negative, which floods the body with more cortisol.  But the good news is that you can break the cycle – and it all starts with something as simple as a thought.

As it turns out, the more frequently you have negative thoughts, the more depressed you feel [1].  Conversely, the happier you feel, the more your health and your mood improves.  Classes in understanding happiness have even sprung up on college campuses.  Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D ., an associate of the Harvard Psychology Department teaches the single most popular course on campus – a course about how our levels of happiness and unhappiness are rooted in our thoughts, deeds and words.[2]

But can we really learn to be happy?  A new school of thought put forward by psychologist Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association believes that we can all be happier by recognizing how our thoughts and words contribute to our moods.   The good news is that you can start feeling better today by following a few proven steps that boost your body’s natural “happiness chemicals”.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic,[3] you can quell a bad mood almost instantly by:

·         Holding hands or hugging – A 20 second hug with your spouse releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which in turn helps you relax and feel calmer.

·         Get social – Resist the urge to hibernate in your home alone and grab a pal (or two, or three) for an evening out.  When women are emotionally close to their friends, the hormone progesterone is increased, which subdues anxiety and reduces stress.  Men get the same benefits whether they’re with their buddies or with women.

·         Enjoy more of nature – The fresh air, the trees, the crisp leaves under your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face… getting out into nature revitalizes your body and mind while clearing out the cobwebs of too much time spent indoors.

·         Laugh out loud – Rent a comedy movie or listen to your favorite comedian. Boisterous laughter releases endorphins which help you feel happier and more at ease.

Feeling happier is not a matter of willing your body to do so.  Your brain is smarter than you think, and no amount of telling yourself “I am happy…I am happy” is going to change your mood.  Instead, combine your affirmative statement with a reason – such as:

Today I am going to feel happy BECAUSE…(I’ll finish that big project at work / I’m grateful for my family / I’m taking better care of my health, etc.)

Back to the cortisol culprit – how do you slam the breaks on a seemingly never ending cycle of cravings that can disrupt your mood?  Follow these tips, from the Food and Mood connection by the Mayo Clinic [4]

·         Keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by consuming more whole grains, fruits, and leafy green vegetables

·         Avoid alcohol as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to get a good night’s sleep

·         Eliminate caffeine as you’re likely to experience a “crash” later when your blood sugar takes a nose-dive

·         Consider eating 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 large ones as this also contributes to better blood sugar levels.

Overall, you can learn to improve your mood and well-being by taking these simple steps. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments below!

[1] The Effects of Reducing Frequency of Negative Thoughts on the Mood of Depressed Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/620107

[2] Tal Ben-Sharar: The Secret to Happiness:
http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

[3] The Cleveland Clinic: Mood Boosters: Think Happy Thoughts to Boost Your Mood
http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/mind/moodboosters/Pages/ThinkHappyThoughtstoBoostYourMood.aspx

[4] The Food and Mood Connection:   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Copyright 2013 G. Donadio

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February 26, 2013

How Happy Couples Behave

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

 

wallpaper 968975 1024x640 How Happy Couples Behave

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships is found in how the individuals within the couple treat each other, and in large part it has to do with communication and behavior. Listed below are some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other.

  1. Friends – Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?
  2. Enjoying your friend and partners company – Laughter is not only good medicine but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together is meaningful in good relationships.
  3. Be spontaneous – All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. To be spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and so forth we expand our personal horizons and show respect for our spouse’s or partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together!
  4. Have your own life - Developinga healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic and this can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.
  5. Be Fully, Purely Present to Your Partner – It has been said that there is not greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. By being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.
  6. Show and express affection – Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples will often express that just holding hands or sharing affection with their partner is the very important part of their feeling loved and cared for.
  7. Be caring and kind – It cannot be stated enough that kindness, compared with criticism or complaints, is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind not only do we feel good about our behavior but the person we are in relationship with feels good about our behavior as well.
  8. Be Honest – If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Many times marriages or relationships break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of a all good interactions.
  9. Be committed – When we are committed to someone it means that we are there for them and we can be counted on to support them and be there in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships and in order to get that we need to give that as well.
  10. Communicate – By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they occur. By being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person, this will go a long way is preventing and avoiding conflicts and unmet needs.

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences most of us long for and look forward to. While it is not a complicated process it does require awareness and cultivation, just like raising a child or growing a garden. If we keep the weeds from infiltrating the flow beds we can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of our longed for relationship and reduce the work and wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it. For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships visit www.changingbehavior.org. 

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