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Rat Park, Resilience, & Kid’s Games

By: Michael Blankenship |

Anxiety and excitement feel the same, but how we interpret and label them can determine how we experience them.

– Brené Brown

Greetings from LA and Oahu!

This week we’re discussing how rats only become drug addicts when they’re in lonely and boring environments, why resilience is a key ingredient for a happy life, and what games you can play with your kids (that are actually fun). 


Today’s post is sponsored by New World Same Humans

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Rat Park

Unsurprisingly, if you put rats in a cage and give them the option between drinking normal water or water laced with heroine or cocaine, the rats will return over and over again to the drug-infused concoction until they’ve killed themselves.

The Psychiatric Times explains

“Researchers had already proved that when rats were placed in a cage, all alone, with no other community of rats, and offered two water bottles-one filled with water and the other with heroin or cocaine-the rats would repetitively drink from the drug-laced bottles until they all overdosed and died.”

But how much did the rat’s dull environment (a cage) contribute to their addiction? 

They didn’t have anything else to do, after all, so perhaps they kept returning to the drugs for stimulation they weren’t able to get elsewhere. 

That’s the question that American psychologist, Dr Bruce Alexander, set out to answer with his experiments in the 1970s. 

His results were profound. 

Here’s Psychiatric Times again… 

“To test his hypothesis, he put rats in ‘rat parks,’ where they were among others and free to roam and play, to socialize and to have sex. And they were given the same access to the same two types of drug laced bottles. When inhabiting a ‘rat park,’ they remarkably preferred the plain water. Even when they did imbibe from the drug-filled bottle, they did so intermittently, not obsessively, and never overdosed. A social community beat the power of drugs.”

What does this have to say about addiction for humans? 

Well, addiction isn’t all about the drug… it’s also about the environment. 

Loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness are all known to increase the chances of substance abuse. 

And naturally, a person’s environment has a large impact on their mental wellbeing and even the prevalence of their mental disorders. 

Furthermore, if positive environmental changes can reduce drug addiction, how much more easily can it reduce negative habits? How much can it help us to build new, better habits?

The reality is… you’re never going to be better than your environment allows you to be. 


The description for Resilience by Eric Greitens is as follows… 

In 2012, Eric Greitens unexpectedly heard from a former SEAL comrade, a brother-in-arms he hadn’t seen in a decade. Zach Walker had been one of the toughest of the tough. But ever since he returned home from war to his young family in a small logging town, he’d been struggling. Without a sense of purpose, plagued by PTSD, and masking his pain with heavy drinking, he needed help.

Zach and Eric started writing and talking nearly every day, as Eric set down his thoughts on what it takes to build resilience in our lives. Eric’s letters — drawing on both his own experience and wisdom from ancient and modern thinkers — are now gathered and edited into this timeless guidebook.

As we’ve been reading through this book over the last few weeks, we’ve found it incredibly honest and inspiring. 

Here are some of our favorite quotes so far…

“The first step to building resilience is to take responsibility for who you are and for your life. If you’re not willing to do that, stop wasting your time reading this letter. The essence of responsibility is the acceptance of the consequences—good and bad—of your actions.”

“One of the reasons you are suffering right now is precisely because the purpose of your struggle is unclear. What are you working toward? What are you fighting for? Who are you going to be?”

“Courage overcomes, but does not replace, fear. Joy overcomes, but does not replace, pain.”

“Smiling and breathing. These are simple things. Exercising and serving. These are simple things. Being grateful and gracious. These are simple things. Acting with humility. Acting with courage. These are simple things. Some people try to make this business of living too complicated.”

If you’re going through a difficult season — or even if you just want to build more resilience in your life — we highly recommend reading this book. 

Kid’s (& Adult) Games

Kids have an endless desire to play.

But, as the parent, it is sometimes difficult to find the energy or motivation to play with your kid — even when you know you should. 

Especially when they want to play the same game you’ve played 100 times before. 

Our first piece of advice here would be to focus on the child… not on the game itself. 

Notice how your child is engaging with the game, ask them questions about it, and let them lead the way. We promise: your child is far more interesting than whatever game they want you to play. Focusing on them will help you stay present and engaged. 

Additionally, if you need ideas for things to do with your kids, here’s a list of board games to consider. And here’s a list of non-board games you can play

Extra Stuff

Here is some other random stuff we found interesting this last week!

Books We’re Reading

Here’s what the tribe is currently reading (let us know books you’re loving and we’ll include them in future emails!)…. 

  • 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think“In her second compilation of published writing, Brianna Wiest explores pursuing purpose over passion, embracing negative thinking, seeing the wisdom in daily routine, and becoming aware of the cognitive biases that are creating the way you see your life. This book contains never before seen pieces as well as some of Brianna’s most popular essays, all of which just might leave you thinking: this idea changed my life.”
  • Atlas of The Heart“Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.”

This Week’s Image

Peter Nicholls / Reuters

“Legoland modeler Freya Groom places a model of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in a vehicle near a model of Buckingham Palace, at Legoland in Windsor, England, on May 31, 2022.” via The Atlantic

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

As a stone inside a tree, I’ll help your words outlive thee. But if you push me as I stand, the more I move the less I am.

What am I?

This Week’s Question

Answer this question — either privately or by replying to this email. If your answer inspires us, then we’ll ask for permission to include it in a future email!

How do you need to change your own environment to be healthier and live happier? 

This Week’s Challenge

Kids are a great source of joy. But as adults, it’s easy to get lost in the busy-ness of life. This week take some time to play with your kids and really embrace the moment. If you don’t have kids, then take some time to play with a nephew, a grandchild, or a cousin. Maybe this means taking them out to ice cream, going to the park, or just calling them on the phone.

Until next week, 

Mike & Alec

Riddle Answer: A pencil.

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