Peggy: I was a psychotherapist in private practice and I would read books and articles to keep up with the current science on therapy. After reading a book on biology and violence, I realized there was a lot of research on the brain that I had missed. I began avidly reading neuroscience. I used what I learned both with myself and with my clients.
Peggy: After my fellow psychotherapist Judy Westerfield and I retired, we decided to write the blog MAXyourMIND to share information on mental and emotional well-being we had used in a combined 60+ years of practice. We also focus on current neuroscience research.
We learned that when our clients understood their depression, anxiety and other symptoms were neurochemically based and not a character flaw the “healing process” was remarkable.
Max Your Mind is for the general public and most posts give a synopsis of the neuroscience research and short, easy exercises that can increase wellbeing. We had so many blog posts on accessing, or “hacking”, the neurochemistry of “happy” we decided to combine them into a book. The book has now been published on Kindle. We are at work on a paperback workbook version.
Carol And Stacy: What is one hack you can share with us now as we shift into a new year?
Peggy: One Happiness Hack is WATER! Falling water, to be exact.
Moving water creates negative ions which increase oxygen flow to the brain, and in turn raise serotonin levels which are instrumental in feeling happier, more alert and more energetic.
The Hack: Sit or stand by a fountain, visit a waterfall, take a shower, walk in the surf, play under a lawn sprinkler. #happineshack
Carol And Stacy: You have a children’s book out called The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs, available in ebook and paperback. The main character Maui, a cat loses the use of his back legs. It’s an encouraging tale of a cat learning how to persevere and never give up. Such an important message! How did this book come about?
Carol And Stacy: Have you written any other children’s books?
Carol And Stacy: What a great gift and surprise! Tell us a bit about Judi and how you two began writing together? We’re curious since we’ve written individually and as a team for over ten years.
Judy had been blogging on Curious to the Max, for fun for many years and when she retired we decided to create Max Your Mind to share neuroscience and how we applied it to help others.
Our partnership has been a good one as we each have different strengths with a shared weakness for the technical! As a result of us being psychotherapists we have an understanding of other’s behavior and don’t take things personally. Being “old” helps, too.
Working together is fun—we laugh a lot, do not fight over who gets credit or get upset if one of us changes the other’s writing, critiques pictures- or says “no, we are not doing that". In addition to Max Your Mind we are also collaborating on Judy’s original blog Curious to the Max where we post our own “curious” creations and things we find amusing and interesting in the world.
Carol And Stacy: We see you are a proud grandmother as we are too. What has been your biggest lesson learned from your grandkids?
Peggy Arndt, M.A.
I am a retired therapist (Licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist) and lifelong artist.
Always an animal lover, I spent hours drawing horses when I was a child. Now I like to draw playful cartoons to illustrate my ideas.
As a therapist I worked at a hospital helping people with severe mental illness manage their symptoms and their moods. I love to read about science, especially biology and psychology. Since discovering the book "The Neurobiology of Violence "by Debra Neihoff, I read everything I can find on neuroscience.
I share what I have learned about lifting moods, staying calm, and how the brain works on Max Your Mind, a playful blog about wellness (peggyarndt.com). I learned much about perseverance from my cat Maui, a real cat who never gave up.
When I retired, one friend started writing a children's book, another friend was giving exhibits of her artwork, and others were writing books on law and music therapy, or had a blog (this would be Judy, who was blogging long before I joined her). I needed a project. My granddaughter was 5 at the time and I decided to make a picture book about Maui for her. I thought I might be able to do this because my cat, Maui, had done something amazing. All I had to do was tell his story. He was an example of the magic of neuroplasticity. I had read "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge, which described work with people who had had strokes or injuries, and had lost the use of their arms or legs, and with guidance and hard work, had gotten better. I saw how Maui was able to do this for himself.
I love to play. Even when I was being a serious professional I used playful and fun activities that improved mental health, like drawing stick figures to show goals and creating songs and designs to keep positive beliefs in mind. Now I play by traveling, especially to waterfalls, going to the beach, hiking, fishing, biking and drawing.