Jan 21, 2021

Interview With Author Peggy Arndt

We are so happy to share with you our author interview with Peggy Arndt. Dive in and be sure to post your comments or any questions you may have. Thanks for stopping by!

Carol and Stacy:
On your blog
MaxyourMind you share Self-care tips, tools, techniques & neuroscience research for MIND, BODY & SOUL. We love that. It’s right up our alley! How did you get started down the path of neuroscience?

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. 

Carol and Stacy: We see you have a book coming out called, “Neuroscience – Hacking Your Way to Happiness”, Can you share what inspired you to write this book?

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 well-being. 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, or 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?

Peggy: It is a true story about my cat Maui. He lost the use of his back legs. The vet said he would not be able to use them again and even thought he would die. Maui had other ideas. He persisted in trying to use his back legs for over 7 “cat” years and regained the ability to climb, run and jump. I knew that neuroscience research showed that with persistent effort the brain can rewire itself. My granddaughter was 5 at the time and I decided to make a picture book about Maui for her. Then I put her, Lucy, into the book. I thought the book would give children, especially those who struggled to do something, an inspiring example of persistence and faith in their own abilities.

Carol and Stacy: Have you written any other children’s books?

Peggy: The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs was my very first book. After my book was published, I formatted and published the children’s book Judy wrote, The Real Tale of Little Red Riding Hood & the Wolf. I did it as a surprise birthday present for her. I am pleased to say she was not only surprised but delighted.

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.

Peggy: Judy and I went to high school together, then lost contact for decades. After reconnecting we found out that we lived near each other, were both psychotherapists, had similar therapeutic approaches, and were both proponents of neuroscience. I was newly retired and working on Maui’s book. When I showed Judy the pictures I had drawn she was excited about Maui’s story and helped edit my writing. 
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.

When we wrote “Hack Your Way to Happiness” we had already been writing blog posts together. We each get ideas, then edit each other—although Judy has to do most of the editing-she is better at it and has a wonderful sense of humor. Judy mostly created the critters we use, then I draw them in various poses for the blog and the book.
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 others’ 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: While I love to play, I usually delay play until after my work is done. I have been this way my whole life. Lucy taught me that it can be good to intersperse work with play. She takes play breaks from schoolwork often, even if it's for 5 minutes.  She says she will do her work later. And she does. While I still like to relax or play at the end of the day, Lucy has shown me the value of playing a bit along the way.

Carol and Stacy: One thing we encourage on a regular basis is to commune with nature. It’s so refreshing, grounding, and healing. What’s your favorite way to connect in nature? 

Peggy: I love to be outdoors. I garden all the time, and I go outside every day, just to sit on the patio or take a walk. I also hike on nearby trails. My favorite way to connect with nature is to be someplace beautiful that has a water-a stream or waterfall, or beach.  Being near water has always been a favorite long before I knew it was a neurochemical “Happiness hack”.

Carol and Stacy: Thanks Peggy so much for reaching out on LinkedIn and making a connection with us. We love sharing heartfelt children’s books with parents looking to add more conscious parenting books to their libraries. Is there anything else you’d like to share with all of us?

Peggy: I encourage everyone to learn about your brain. It is so important in every part of life. We need to care for our brains-give them sleep, exercise (yes-exercise helps your brain not just your body), eat well, and don’t bang your head.


Peggy Arndt, M.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. 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.

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