Friday, September 18, 2015

yin and yang

Hot and Cold, Anger and Calm, Adrenaline and Serotonin......there are extreme opposites that exist to emphasize and support each other.  Can't have one exist if there weren't the other.  So if you think about the majority of reasons people show up to the ER being linked to the stress response it would be valid that teaching the relaxation response would keep our ER's empty!!!  Ah but no one learns this relaxation response until catastrophe occurs and then the mad scramble to find a healthy lifestyle.  Granted there are the few who I meet in yoga class/at a retreat/on the trail/in sanctuary/watching a sunrise a beach sunset that were blessed to have experienced the Serotonin High (click for link) at a young age and continue to chase the feeling for a lifetime.  You know when you meet the lucky ones, just seems like they are so magnetic, at peace, and just living and enjoying-(downright enviable!)  And here's the cool thing; human brains are hardwired to be attracted to people, events and circumstances that emulate this.  Genetics decided that the species will survive with love as a group so it is built into the DNA to feel very "on top of the world" when you accidentally place your "experiential toe" in the pool of happiness.

It's the ego that we entertain in youth (and sometimes into adulthood), that convinces the brain that the experiential thing that pulls us to share/smile/do things for others - isn't as important as getting something and keeping it, not giving back or contributing.  It's the ego that contemplates that you are the center and all things happy are placed on earth to serve you.  This self serving tendency makes you want to accumulate and horde, you are separate from others, "you are number one", "you deserve a break today", "this Bud's for you".....but the pseudo-rush-feeling one attains from the Adrenaline High is very fleeting and usually leaves you feeling kinda charged but at the same time- kinda needing to get recharged or more as the feeling isn't fulfilling for long.

This is the difference between material happiness and experiential happiness.  Both will work to trigger an emotional wave but usually the experiential thing (like me hitting the summit of Half Dome (click for link) will far outlast the purchase of a sports car or a big screen tv.  In fact there is something called the Hedonic Treadmill where you accumulate more "things" to keep the happy only to find the "thing" you purchased doesn't reward your DNA for long- resulting in a temporary fix making this unsatisfied spiritual nomad seek out another material thing.  Even in economics, the Easterlin Paradox says increased income does not correlate with increased happiness.

I believe that those who haven't tasted the nectar of the serotonin high will go for the next best short term easy emotion that even a child can cultivate....anger/stress.  I think deep inside most Americans will seek out terrifying news, "jump scare scenes" in horror movies, big noise, flashy lights...shock value stuff that is hard to look away from.  There is a definite rush associated with reckless behavior-but again....fleeting.   And to extend this concept to food, people who want fast emotional reward will also find it comes easily with smell and taste.  Processed food will usually give the same rush as shock tv  = rapid emotional turn on followed by a feeling of empty and the need for another "hit".

The built in "lysine contingency" (from Jurassic Park) to humans is -if the individual is exposed to an environment of continuous stress/anguish/hostility/poor calories....the species' DNA says surroundings are not supportive for prosperity so the individual will develop disease and die early.
(Please see my last post The Walking Dead -click here)

Has stated in the title, both extremes have to exist.  The Adrenalin Rush is a useful thing,  but not sustainable ......and for a good reason in that the species can use it to fight off saber tooth tigers, run from fire, seek shelter in thunder, move away from spiders.  Fast and furious response, then off.  In contrast, the Serotonin High makes people come together (literally) help others, provide service ........everyone gets a lump in the throat and a sheds a tear when watching young kids get reunited with parents that have been away a long time.   Having an act of kindness done to you generates massive amounts of serotonin and oxytocin.  Even witnessing the previous act of kindness will make you generate serotonin.  Ever wonder why a person coming home from vacation or a retreat is on cloud 9 for a long time after the experience has finished.  It is hardwired into our genetic code to to seek serotonin inducing activities and places that will allow the best odds for the species to survive.

So why don't we teach this to people as a form of "preventive medicine"?  China did this centuries ago in the form of large industry stating everyone that has a job must practice a form of serotonin inducing activity during the work day-Qi Gong/Tai Chi!!!  The end result was to have a more peaceful work environment, efficient workforce, healthy employees-less sick leave!   That was along time ago but if you even pass by an Asian household now, you may be witness to a grandparent doing some type of "swimming in the air" movement while standing in the driveway.  That is the old Asian guy getting his daily dose of serotonin!  Because he was blessed in younger years to experience the Serotonin High, he continues practice well into his 70's and 80's.  It makes him feel good most of the day, its easy to do, no side effects and requires no copay.

So is it worth carrying high adrenalin levels and suffering the side effects of the reflux medicine, the blood pressure medicine, the anxiety medicine, the palpation medicine, the IBS medicine, the headache medicine?  NO! ..NO!..NO!

More importantly, is it worth keeping daily serotonin at a therapeutic level using refreshing sleep, yoga, qi gong, meditation, hiking, exercise, laughter, healthy food?    Yes! ..Yes!.. Yes!