The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Meadow Meeder
Healthy Community Specialist 

Coming Events--Community Center in Cathlamet


April 23, 2020

Have you hugged a tree lately? You may laugh, but I’m being quite serious. This might sound silly, but for huggers, this harrowing time of required distance can really do a toll on your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a huge role inside our bodies and helps determine how we feel. Dopamine levels contribute to mood, sleep, focus, energy and memory to name a few. Right now, there is a wide array of feelings amongst individuals and families. Grief, anger, despair, frustration are all byproducts of this unknowing, and they are warranted feelings. However, the more you understand how you are feeling and if you increase your intellectual toolbox with ways to manage those feelings, you will come out of this all the wiser (and healthier). There is a great opportunity for other byproduct feelings to come of this experience too; compassion, hope, perseverance, kindness, connectedness, empathy and appreciation.

Can you really increase your dopamine by hugging a tree? As a deprived hugger, I have been going on hikes just to find the perfect tree to hug for a minute. The hike alone raises my heartbeat and the connection to the tree really does something good to my soul. Regular exercise adjusted to your personal ability is so imperative. Getting your blood pumping--riding your bike every day, walking a loop around the island, an hour of daily yoga practice, chair exercises with your favorite S.A.I.L. instructor or starting a new workout. When you exercise, you release endorphins which act as natural mood enhancers. Endorphins and dopamine aren’t the same thing, but when they are activated together you will notice a difference. Studies have shown that one hour of yoga practice six days a week can significantly increase dopamine levels.

Sweet, sweet music. Classical, jazz, country, classic rock, hip-hop, soul or my favorite, delta-blues--if it makes you feel good, you need to be listening to it. Music is such a gift to humanity; I personally believe we are all wired to certain music for optimal enjoyment. Scientifically, music does release mood enhancing chemicals in the brain. Dopamine is associated with the less-tangible. For instance, like being in love and listening to music you deeply enjoy, chemically makes you feel ‘love’. Studies have shown that volunteers who listened to music that they enjoy had nine percent higher dopamine levels than the folks without music.

My challenge to those out there in wild and wonderful Wahkiakum: How can you help share this knowledge? A great idea would be to think of your favorite senior or single parent or teen or baby. Do they have the ability to listen to music? Do you know for sure that your grandmother who is alone loves classical jazz but wouldn’t know where to begin to download a tune? Do you know someone who lives out of service, but loves to listen to tapes? Maybe you know a teen who needs music to cope, they surely know how to work an iTunes card. The fascinating thing about taking this tool and putting it to work is that it works both ways. The joy of giving someone music is a huge dopamine rush. Thinking about someone and following through with something they are not expecting is strong medicine.

Do I believe that hugging trees and doing yoga while listening to Muddy Waters will save us all from feeling despair and the world will be right again? No. But with all seriousness, I am going to try. I’m honored to be ‘with’ you all weekly. My hope is that you all get a great song stuck in your head this weekend. Be well, Wahkiakum.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” --Robert Nesta Marley.


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