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Rat Park

By: Michael Blankenship |

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

– Brené Brown

Good morning!

Did you know that people work less hard toward their goals if they make a backup plan beforehand? Having a plan B might make us feel more safe… but it also seems to hamper how hard we work for the things we want. The solution? Figure out what to do if things don’t go as planned… after things don’t go as planned.

– Mike & Alec

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. 

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.

This Week’s Image

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 Journaling Prompt

Spend some time to journal your answer to the following prompt…

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.

Riddle Answer: A pencil.

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