A Doorway to the Heart

Stare into Each Other's Eyes

Love at first sight? Thousands say it has happened to them, while skeptics just roll their eyes. But what if the adage “there’s more to it than meets the eye” is true about the connection between visual contact and romance?

Research studies show that locking eyes nourishes relational intimacy and is a dominant theme in couples falling in love in cultures across the world. Early theologian St. Augustine described the eyes as “the windows to the soul.” With deep, personal eye contact you are inviting another to look beyond your retinal lens into your thoughts and emotions.

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A Loving Touch

Bear

Everyone knows not to go anywhere near a mama bear and her cubs. The maternal bond is truly fierce, and not just in animals! Human moms share a strong bond with their babies, too (so strong that particularly protective mothers are often compared to their furry animal counterparts!)

There is a biological reason for the ferocity of the maternal bond: oxytocin. During childbirth, the mother’s pituitary gland, which is a tiny almond sized gland towards the back of the brain, produces oxytocin, pumping it throughout the body. As the mother’s brain is flooded with oxytocin, a number of fascinating things happen. Oxytocin acts as a muscle contractor, speeding up labor. It plays a role in preparing the mother’s body to breastfeed. Finally, it fosters an emotional bond between mom and baby that is so strong, researchers say it actually dims the memory of the pain of childbirth.

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Could Your Eating Habits Be Affecting Your Brain?

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Junk Food

We’re not going to tell you junk food is bad for your body (you already know that).

We’re not even going to tell you junk food is bad for your brain (you probably figured as much).

But what you might not know is how junk food is bad for your brain. Turns out, there’s actually quite a lot going on in that head of yours when you fuel your noggin with fatty, sugary foods.

For one thing, a new study suggests that a diet high in fat and sugar (for even a relatively short length of time) changes the chemical activity in the brain. After just six weeks of being fed a diet high in fat and sugar, mice showed chemical changes in the brain associated with depression. The mice also showed signs of anxiety, and higher levels of stress hormones, as well as higher levels of a molecule associated with patterns of reward and withdrawal.

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Classic Case of Christmas Brain

XmasThis time of year may be filled with Christmas cheer and holiday goodwill, but there are other seasonal factors that can have a less-than-pleasant impact on your brain. How can you keep your brain happy and healthy through the holidays? Here are five seasonal dangers and how you can avoid them:

1. Not Enough Sunlight. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about 11 million people each year. Despite the colder weather, getting outside and into natural sunlight can help your mood. Taking vitamin D—known as “the sunshine vitamin”—and other supplements can also help beat those blues.

2. Too much food.  Let’s be honest, over-eating is a time-honored tradition at Christmas time. And while our holiday favorites are delicious, no one likes that groggy, full feeling hours after. To enjoy the holidays and be kind to your body and brain at the same time, treat your sweet tooth in moderation, choose beverages wisely to limit sugar and alcohol, if you eat out consider splitting a meal with someone, and try to manage your overall stress level so you’re not as drawn to the comfort food. Remembering these tips can help keep your energy high (and that top button on your jeans comfortably fastened).

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Can Napping Resolve Some of Your Problems?

taking-a-nap

When Todd was five, the neighbor’s cat went ballistic and gave him a really bad scratch. Twenty years later, Todd still steers clear of cats. In fact, areas of his brain involved in emotion and fear light up, and Todd starts to sweat and feel anxious, if someone even mentions cats

Can Todd train his brain to react differently? But now Todd has fallen in love with a woman who owns several cats and can’t imagine her life without her feline friends.

For years, people have sought relief from fearful or painful memories by exploring them in the safety of a psychologist’s office. There’s something about activating the regions of the brain involved in those memories—in settings where the anticipated outcome never materializes—that creates new associations. In other words, if Todd racks up enough scratch-free experiences talking about cats in the safety of a counselor’s office, seeing cats safely from a distance, or petting cats without consequence, the link Todd’s brain makes between cats and scratches will begin to weaken.

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