Posted in Educational, Fibromyalgia

IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY: COPING TIPS FROM PSYCHOLOGY – Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

“Which wolf are you feeding?” By guest blogger and Fibromyalgia London Group member, Dr. Rhonda Gilby, mother of two daughters with Fibromyalgia, and clinical psychologist for over 30 years, helping people cope with the various problems that they are experiencing. Rhonda has taught psychology courses at Western University (UWO) and its affiliates, worked with troubled children and provided psychological counselling to University students. Dr. Gilby recognizes that “it’s not always easy” and writes about how findings and ideas from the field of psychology can be applied to help everyone to cope better in their day-to-day lives.

“Which wolf are you feeding?”

Most people occasionally have thoughts that are unpleasant, worrisome or critical, and those with Fibromyalgia are certainly no exception, quite possibly experiencing even more of these thoughts than others. These thoughts, of course, make us feel bad. When such thoughts occur, despite knowing that they are not helpful, we may feel powerless to control them. There is a conflict between how those thoughts make us feel, and how we would like to be feeling.

This conflict is well-represented in the fable about two wolves. Although there is some question about the origins of this tale, it frequently has been referred to as a Native American legend. One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is negativity, it’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame and hate. The other is positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.”
The little boy thought about it for a while and asked his grandfather, ”Well which wolf wins?” And the grandfather answered, “The one you feed.”

The parable is really about where we focus our attention. It seems that, in general, people tend to spend more time focusing on negative experiences in life than focusing on what is good. In psychology, this is referred to as the “negativity bias”. It is considered to have evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm’s way. In our evolutionary past, our survival depended a lot more on our ability to recognize danger than on our ability to notice the positive. Not noticing a lion waiting in the grass could end your life. Not noticing a field of ripe, wild fruit that you are passing may just leave you hungry for a while longer.
According to clinical psychologist, Rick Hanson, negative stimuli produce more activity in the brain than do equally intense positive stimuli. We have become wired to pay more attention to negative information, and we perceive it more easily and more quickly. Apparently, the brain is good at learning from bad experiences but bad at learning from good experiences. So, many of our good experiences may feel good in the moment, without having any lasting value. “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positives ones.”

Nowadays, having a constant negativity bias is no longer necessary for our survival, and, in fact, increases our stress levels and makes it more difficult for us to cope. Can we train our brains for more positivity? Can we start feeding the more positive wolf? Do we get a choice? According to the most recent neuroscientific evidence, the answer is “YES”. According to Hanson, who calls this “taking in the good”, there are things that we can do to begin to feed the good wolf. Hanson recommends the following three steps to overcome negativity bias:

  1. Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences. For example, let yourself feel good if you get something done, or if someone is nice to you, or if you notice a positive feature about yourself.
  2. Take time (at least 20 to 30 seconds) to pay attention and enjoy good experiences. Don’t just let a positive experience quickly pass. Making positive sensations last longer, solidifies them in our long-term memory.
  3. Focus on and let yourself sense the feelings of those good experiences as they are sinking into you. Imagine that positivity spreading through your body, like a warm glow spreading within you. While you hold the good experience in your awareness, it can become hard-wired into your brain.
    According to Hanson, “Any single time you do this will make only a little difference. But over time those little differences will add up, gradually weaving positive experiences into the fabric of your brain and your self.”

I know that this is certainly not a quick fix, and that looking for the good” is not going to be the remedy for all of our problems. In fact, changing our focus can be harder than it sounds, and making a change in the way we look at our world can take a lot of mental work. But I also know that we don’t have to be at the mercy of a built-in negativity bias that really doesn’t help us anymore. Although we may be struggling with those nasty symptoms that Fibromyalgia has thrown at us, it can be well worth the effort to work to find and focus on those good experiences (e.g., time with our loved ones, a caring FM community, a sunny day or a delicious meal, to name just a few) that are also a part of our lives.
So take care, have an awesome day, and remember to feed the good wolf!

Dr. Rhonda Gilby is the mother of two daughters with Fibromyalgia, and has been a clinical psychologist for over 30 years, helping people cope with the various problems that they are experiencing.  She has taught psychology courses at Western University and its affiliates, worked with troubled children and provided psychological counselling to University students.  She recognizes that “it’s not always easy” and writes about how findings and ideas from the field of psychology can be applied to help everyone to cope better in their day-to-day lives. Contact/Connect: ngilby@rogers.com

Posted in Fibromyalgia

Much Ado About Muffins

I’ve rarely met anyone who doesn’t like the results of baking. They may not like to bake, and/or aren’t good at baking, but they still like the results of the baking. I don’t mean Martha Stewart baking, I mean, umm, less complicated. Those with Fibromyalgia (Fibromialgia), CFS, ME, CRPS, and other chronic pain conditions also love to ‘nom nom’ on baking, but often have special dietary requirements. Feel free to play with recipes to suit your needs. In a series of posts, we’re going to offer up very forgiving recipes, if you play fast and loose with the baking rules (as I and others do). As long as they taste great, who’s the wiser?

So bake someone happy…not just because the results of baking are usually yummy, it’s more than that. It’s giving of your time, your energy, your creativity, your talent and you’re saying to those who receive the baking – I think you’re worth it.

Much Ado About Muffins

Leanne, a Fibromyalgia London Group member who generously offers her home to host the Fibromyalgia London Cards and Company Afternoons also offered this yummy muffin recipe!

These laugh-filled card afternoons are twice a month, next ones are: February 10th and 24th – 1pm-3pm (members of FLG and caregivers welcome). Near St. Joe’s, with some parking in driveway and some free street parking. Also on plenty of bus routes: #1, #15, etc. Check LTC http://www.londontransit.ca/ for more info (Remember the January 1, 2020 fare increase). Also, City of London has an income-related bus pass subsidy http://www.london.ca/residents/social-services/discretionary-benefits/Pages/Subsidized-Transit.aspx – Email: darcyyada@gmail.com for info on cards, blog submissions, buses, bus passes and more! February 10th 1-3pm. February 24th 1-3pm.

And did I mention the snacks? While Leanne kindly supplies us w/ refreshments, more are always welcome! This Gluten-free (but not flavour-free) Carrot/Flaxseed muffin is drool-worthy and healthy (say what?!?).

Prep time (approx): 15 mins. Baking time: 20-30 mins.  

Ingredients

1 medium apple, peeled; 2 medium carrots, peeled; 1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour; 1 1/2 cups flax seed meal (you can use store-bought though many believe it lacks freshness, or grind your own); 1 cup brown sugar; 2 tsp baking soda; 2 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp kosher salt; 2 large eggs, lightly beaten; 3/4 cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1/4 cup whole flax seeds (for the crowning glory).

Preheat the oven to 350º. While it’s heating, in a food processor puree the apple and carrots (set aside).

Use large paper cups, silicone cups, or spray oil to avoid batter sticking to muffin bake ware .

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flax seed meal, and cinnamon in a large bowl – mix well. Combine eggs, vanilla and milk in a smaller, separate bowl then slowly pour into dry ingredients, gently stirring until thoroughly combined then add apple and carrot purees. Do not over-mix.  

Using an ice cream scoop, measuring spoon, or small cup, divide the batter evenly (almost to the top as they are low-rise) between the 6 prepared muffin bake ware. On top of each muffin, sprinkle a few whole flax seeds.

Your oven should be preheated, place bake ware (on middle rack if possible), uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick/piece of uncooked pasta (gluten-free) once inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean or with bits of muffin crumbs on it (not soft, runny pieces). Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from bake ware.

Like most muffin recipes, these muffins will keep in an airtight container for 3 days or can be frozen for up to a month (like they’ll last that long, ha!).

How about it, dear readers, do you have any fabulous muffin recipes (and/or any other baking/cooking recipes) you’d like to share? Drop them in the comment box or a link to them in the comment box or email us: darcyyada@gmail.com (where you’ll find me, Donna Parker, the keeper of this blog and the one solely responsible for the silliness – laughter really is the best medicine – take as much as you want) and we’ll add it in upcoming blog posts!