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August 2023

Pain & Pleasure and a bit of Swearing

This months topics, we admit, are a tad self-serving. Peggy has been plagued lately with some neck pain and Judy has been pained with the plague of fibromyalgia/Chronic fatigue . . .


 Inviting people to get together or starting more conversations means you’re “putting yourself out there.” You’ll naturally feel more vulnerable, and as a result, you may feel easily frustrated when things don’t go as you’d hoped.

If someone cancels at the last minute or if you can’t talk because your video chat keeps crashing, remember the bigger picture: making new social connections takes time and patience. Try not to take things personally.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem able to brush off these kinds of frustrations better than others? Why is that? People who bounce back more easily have simply learned how to regroup and recover when facing disappointments — and you can too.

Here’s how.


    When dealing with negative emotions, many of us have been taught to stuff our feelings or convince ourselves they’re “no big deal.” Admitting how you feel will help you move forward in a healthy manner. What’s more, naming your feelings — disappointment, sadness, embarrassment — will help you face the situation more objectively, so you can turn “She said no because she doesn’t like me” into “I’m so disappointed she said no.” This important first step shifts the focus to you, not what you believe the other person thinks of you.


    We all have a harsh inner-critic — that voice that tells us “it’s our fault.” The next time you notice a judgmental tone creeping into your thoughts, remember to have compassion for yourself. Talk to yourself as if you’re counseling a friend. If a friend told you, “I was so stupid for thinking that,” would you agree with them? Of course not. You’d tell them, “You’re not stupid, you put yourself out there and I’m proud of you.” Being a friend to yourself can help you build the confidence to keep building and rekindling the relationships so vital to your well-being.


    People who are resilient — able to recover quickly from difficult situations — tend to view rejection or disappointment as an opportunity to learn about themselves and grow. When they extend an invitation and get turned down, they don’t take it personally. They may simply think to themselves, “Next time, I’ll ask if now is a good time to chat before rushing into the conversation.” If someone was busy, it doesn’t mean you’re not fun to be around. That’s just your inner-critic talking.

Still Nervous About Reaching Out?

John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” So try looking at it this way: When you call someone even though you’re afraid of being rejected, you’re being brave.

Best of all, you’re also working towards building up those social “muscles” that have been proven to help you stay mentally sharp and physically strong as you grow older. Good for you! 




Your Brain on Art 

"That idea — that art has a measurable effect on the brain and its structure — has support from a growing number of scientific studies. s Ivy Ross, who is vice president of hardware design at Google and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us. Ross co-wrote the book with Susan Magsamen, director of the International Arts and Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Magsamen and Ross describe how a person's neural circuitry changes in response to activities like learning a new song, or a new dance step, or how to play a character onstage. They also explain why a growing number of researchers believe these changes result in a brain that is better prepared to acquire a wide range of skills, including math and science. A brain trained to flex Music, dance, drawing, storytelling — all of these have been a part of human cultures for tens of thousands of years. As a result, "we're really wired for art," Magsamen says. And when we make art, she says, we increase the brain's plasticity — its ability to adapt in response to new experiences. The arts also can teach the brain skills that it's unlikely to get in a classroom, Ross says. "I was a dancer for like 12 years and I really think it gave me a sense of form and negative space," she says. Art and music therapy seem to help with brain disorders. Scientists want to know why Dancing also seems to improve mental health, Magsamen says. "Even just 15 minutes of dance reduces stress and anxiety," she says, noting that the activity causes the brain to release "feel-good" hormones like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Measuring art's effects The link between arts and academic achievement has been noted by educators for many years. But it's only in the past couple of decades that technology has allowed scientists to see some of the changes in the brain that explain why. In 2010, for example, scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that professional musicians had greater plasticity than nonmusicians in the hippocampus, an area involved in storing and retrieving information. "The arts provide children with the kind of brain development that's really important for building strong neural pathways," Magsamen says, including pathways involved in focus, memory and creativity."

Despite growing evidence that arts can improve performance in many other areas, activities like music and drawing have fallen out of favor in education and our culture, Ross says. "We optimize for productivity and push the arts aside," she says. "We thought we'd be happy. And the truth is, we're not."


Psychologists reviewed 100 studies on the consequences of cussing, and found it to be a powerful tool

Sheena Goodyear · CBC Radio · Posted: Nov 08, 2022 2:43 PM PST |

As It Happens6:30Swearing feels good — and research suggests it's good for you, too

Taking notes while someone holds their hand in freezing cold water and hurls profanities may seem like an odd way to spend an afternoon, but for Richard Stephens, it's just another day at the office.

Stephens and his colleagues study the psychological effects of swearing. And according to their recent review of available research on the topic, swearing helps people tolerate pain, ease stress, build and maintain interpersonal connections, and in some cases, be more persuasive. 

"I think [these studies are] really kind of putting a scientific stamp on what most people know anyway," Stephens, a psychologist and lecturer at Keele University in England, told As It Happenshost Nil Köksal. 

"People know if they hurt themselves, it's a good idea to swear because it seems to help. People know it helps express frustration."

Stephens and his colleagues reviewed 100 academic papers from different disciplines about the consequences of cussing, including their own research. Their findings were published in the journal Lingua. 

Cursing to make friends and influence people

Several studies over the years have highlighted the social benefits of swearing. They found it can build a sense of camaraderie and solidarity within a group, especially if that group faces adversity or outside opposition.

Other studies have suggested that swearing can help create a sense of trust and intimacy among co-workers, sports teams and friend groups.

It's even effective at forging "parasocial" relationships — one-sided bonds where a person feels close to someone they don't actually know, usually a celebrity or an influencer — according to a 2017 analysis of

Richard Stephens, a psychologist from Keele University in England, studies the psychological effects of swearing. (Submitted by Richard Stephens)

Stephens says swearing's social power stems from the fact that it's frowned upon in many professional and social settings. Cursing, therefore, can feel very intimate and authentic.

"The idea is that if someone is speaking and they're swearing, that they're speaking in an unfiltered way," he said. "They're not managing how they look or sound to other people. And so, you know, theoretically, that should make you think, well, they're being honest."

In some cases, Stephens said, this even helps people to be more persuasive — with some caveats.

"It does seem to depend on what your initial beliefs are, because if you strongly disagree with someone and they start swearing, that gives you a reason to carry on strongly disagreeing. It gives you a reason to dislike them," he said. "So it is a bit nuanced, that one."

The healing power of a potty mouth 

But it's not all social. Some of swearing's power is deeply personal. For example, Stephens says it's a tremendous tool for pain management.

This is Stephens' area of expertise. He and his colleagues have published several studies about swearing and pain.

Most recently, their 2020 study found people can hold their hand in freezing cold water longer if they're repeating a swear word. Repeating a neutral word didn't have the same effect.

"So swearing seems to help people cope with pain," he said.

One of swearing's many benefits is helping people cope with pain, researchers say. (ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

In that study, participants used a swear word of their own choice, Stephens said, because "swearing is quite a personal thing."

That might explain why several studies have found that swearing has a bigger emotional impact when you do it in your first language.

"When people swear in a second or third language, it just doesn't seem to have the same power or emotional impact, whatever you want to call it, as swearing in the mother tongue," Stephens said.

Excessive expletives exempted

Stephens says he has some as-yet unpublished research to suggest that the intensity of the swear word matters too. People are better able to tolerate pain while dropping F-bombs, he says, than something less vulgar, like "bum."

"It does seem to be that the stronger the swear word, the more effect it has," he said. 

But he has a warning for those known to swear like a sailor: Swearing's power has diminishing returns. 

"We found that the people who swear the most in everyday life got the least benefit from swearing," he said. "So, you know, don't overdo it."

Interview with Richard Stephens produced by Chris Trowbridge.


Brain waves can tell us how much pain someone is in

The research could open doors for personalized brain therapies to target and treat the worst kinds of chronic pain. 


Chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts for three months or more, affects up to one in five people in the US—more than diabetes, high blood pressure, or depression. It can sometimes affect people after a stroke or limb amputation. Because we still don’t really understand how it affects the brain, it’s also very difficult to treat. Quality of life can be severely affected.


"Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco:

  • Implanted electrodes in the brains of four people with chronic pain.

  • The patients then answered surveys about the severity of their pain multiple times a day over a period of three to six months.

  • After they finished filling out each survey, they sat quietly for 30 seconds so the electrodes could record their brain activity.


This helped the researchers identify biomarkers of chronic pain in the brain signal patterns, which were as unique to the individual as a fingerprint."


"Next, the researchers used machine learning to model the results of the surveys. They found they could successfully predict how the patients would score the severity of their pain by examining their brain activity, says Prasad Shirvalkar, one of the study’s authors."


The study shows that our brains exist between chaos and stability—a finding that could be used to help tweak them either way.


“The hope is that now that we know where these signals live, and now that we know what type of signals to look for, we could actually try to track them noninvasively,” he says. “As we recruit more patients, or better characterize how these signals vary between people, maybe we can use it for diagnosis.” 


"The researchers also found they were able to distinguish a patient’s chronic pain from acute pain deliberately inflicted using a thermal probe. The chronic-pain signals came from a different part of the brain, suggesting that it’s not just a prolonged version of acute pain, but something else entirely."


"Because different people experience pain in different ways, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling it, which has proved a major challenge in the past. The team hopes that mapping individuals’ biomarkers will make it possible to better target therapeutic use of electrical brain stimulation, a treatment Shirvalkar likens to turning pain on or off like a thermostat."


"The findings could be a big leap in pain treatment and could be especially helpful in treating people with chronic pain who have difficulty communicating, says Ben Seymour, a professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the project."


“This opens a new door to smart pain technologies, so I think this is a really important engineering hurdle that is now crossed,” he says. 

It also demonstrates the intensely personal ways in which people feel pain, and the importance to tailoring treatments to each person, adds Shirvalkar

“It’s clear that pain is so complex—and that individual people are so complex—that the only way to actually hear them and see them is to let them tell their side of the story,” he says.


The research, published in Nature Neuroscience is the first time a human’s chronic-pain-related brain signals have been recorded. It could aid the development of personalized therapies for the most severe forms of pain.

A PJT Creative Tutorial on how to Light Up YOUR Life

Inspired by 8 days of Chanukah*

Can be modified for 12 days of Christmas, 7 days of Kwanza, Thanksgiving 

or your own special celebration. 


1.  Find a vessel that appeals to you.  Any container to hold your "light".
2.  Date 8 separate slips of paper and each day write down:

  • Something kind someone has said to you - it can be as simple as a "Thank You"

  • A quote you find inspiring or meaningful

  • An event you've witnessed, experienced or heard about that is positive or inspirational 

  • Memories you cherish or make you smile

  • The names of family members, friends, pets, or people who you like (love is not even the criteria)

  • An author, famous figure, colleague, you find admirable, inspiring or has done something to make this a better world.

  • The happiest moment of your day


There's no right or wrong, just as long as it's something or someone who lights up the your life


3.  Sharing - Each evening, after lighting your menorah candle* read out loud (even to yourself if celebrating alone or family members) your "light" of that day.

Benefits on mental health

Focusing on the small and large things that are easy to get buried in in the negative news cycles in the media, living in a time of pandemics, famine and war.  Whether consciously aware, negativity, in all its forms can contribute to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and despair - all hallmarks of depression.

This simple exercise can help you Improve overall mental and physical health by releasing "positive neurochemistry" to shift negative mindsets and savor the small things that light up your life.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

- Theodore Roosevelt

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