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Making Ripples

June 12, 2020

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Welcome to Limby's Positive Brain Bath spa day!

Since reading Donna Jackson Nakazawa's Last Best Cure, (from Annie Hopper's "related reading" list), I adopted an image from Donna's brain chemistry research that she dubbed her "positive floating brain".  This phrase translated and wired into my brain as my "positive brain bath" which inspires this LCC illustration.

Limby's Positive Brain Bath was one of my original quick sketches when I first conceived this series.  I set out with a simple question: "What are the specific chemicals that go into this bath?"  And down the rabbit hole I went!  Celebrating my 6-month DNRS anniversary, I took a whirlwind internet tour of neurochemistry as pertains to brain rewiring projects.  For those interested, here is what I've learned.  (To those less interested in the Fab-4: you may like to skip directly down to "Chocolate".)

To the right of Limby's bath are the molecular symbols for the four "HAPPY HORMONES": Dopamine, Ocytocin, Seratonin, and Endorphin.  Plus, of course Chocolate!  The bubbles floating in the bath water are 3D molecular representations.

These Fab-4, Happy Hormones are the bath we create for Limby every time we do DNRS practice rounds, engaging in elevating thoughts, feelings, and activities.  Important To Note: My very brief descriptions are only thumbnail clippings of thumbnail sketches.  This is an incredibly complex area, and I am certainly no chemist.  Additions and corrections are most welcome.

  • OXYTOCIN

Limby's modesty bubbles are the Oxytocins, (not to be confused with the pharmaceutically addictive oxycodone).  Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the "love hormone," and the “cuddle chemical” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. (I learned that a long, 20-second hug is all that's needed to elevate mood  by stimulating the production of of oxytocin.)  It's a hormone critical to female reproduction from childbirth, to lactation, to mother-child bonding.  Oxytocin is also associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity, and relationship-building.

  • SEROTONIN

Serotonins and Dopamines float merrily on the main surface area of Limby's bath.  Serotonin is a hormone with wide-ranging functions in the body.  Because it significantly contributes to happiness and well-being, it's often referred to as the “happy chemical”.  It's also a precursor for melatonin, the body's sleep-wake cycles, and your internal clock.

  • DOPAMINE

Dopamine has the enormous job of regulating mood, behavior, sleep and cognition.  It also is associated with motivation and reward. Dopamine helps with decision-making and creativity.”   – Livestrong.com

  • ENDORPHIN

The bit of foam floating around the right side of Limby's tub are the Endorphins.  Endorphins are produced, not only in response to pain, but also to aerobic exercise, laughter and touch - with pets as well as humans.  Endorphins improve memory and concentration.  They also prevent  the accumulation of free radicals in the body which produces a positive ripple effect impacting the health of most systems in the human body, including the immune system.

I would be remiss in creating Limby's feel-good experience were I not to include one other chemical component in Limby's spa day:

  • CHOCOLATE  ...okay, PHENETHYLAMINE (PEA):

chocolate's active, feel-good ingredient that correlates with the neurochemical mix associated with “falling in love”.  Every cell of the body produces PEA, particularly in response to exercise. Small amounts in the brain function as neurotransmitters to stimulate endorphin production and increases dopamine. PEA's effect on our nervous system include: increasing [happy] mood, diminishing stress, and boosting energy.

There is much controversy over whether there is enough PEA in chocolate to make a significant impact.  According to

Wikipedia, this is because a significant amount of PEA is metabolized in the small intestines.  Among optimistic proponents advocating for the benefits of chocolate, there is overwhelming agreement that your chocolate must be dark – at least 70%.**

     “ – you want something with minimal sugar and a high percentage of cacao, so look for chocolate with a cacao content above 80%.  

      Anything below this and chocolate tends to veer into hyper-palatable territory. (… essentially just candy – pure sugar.)  Once you 

      find a good 85% bar, you'll notice that just a piece here and there [satisfies] without creating an insatiable [sugar] feedback loop

      that perpetuates until the whole bar is gone.”

                             -Max Lugavere, Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain For Life

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* Credit where it's due: D.S. introduced me to the phrase, "relentlessly positive".

Due diligence turned up three other DNRS retrainer references:

C.C., K.A., D.G., -- each crediting a source they couldn't recall.

A last ditch internet search sourced a half a dozen other references,

including the title for a motivational program, a children's author,

a blogger, and a journalist describing a kid's coach.

** I happen to be a dark chocolate lover.  Since a side effect of DNRS resulted, in my case, to the end of migraines, I can eat chocolate again after 15 years of deprivation!  I learned the semi-sweet chocolate I grew up with was most likely 55-60%.  My preference has always for bitter-sweet -70%.  I'll admit, I found 85% an acquired taste at first, but for the first time I understand people who claim they feel satisfied with just a square or two.  I get it now! Though it may be only placebo, I've experienced a couple of occasions after eating the 85% when I felt my mood elevate in minutes, with no other intervention.